Sequoia's Optical Scan Vote Counting Machines Giving Different Results Every Time

from the well-that's-reassuring dept

Remember the election mess in Palm Beach, Florida from last month? The one where votes seemed to be randomly disappearing, and each recount came up with different results? Originally the blame was put on the fact that different scanning machines from e-voting firm Sequoia, would somehow count the votes differently. That seemed scary enough, and Sequoia protested, insisting that it was all human error. However, when human errors happen every time the machines are used, it’s time to suggest that the real problem is with the machines.

Wired is running a long, and somewhat scary, report about the ongoing situation in Palm Beach, where every time the votes are counted, a different vote count comes out. A test was set up by the local newspaper to scan a sampling of ballots, and every time the results of those tests were different — sometimes in extreme ways. Quite often, the machines seemed to count perfectly marked ballots as invalid, while at other times it accepted votes from invalid ballots. In other words, the machines basically don’t work. And we’re relying on them in many areas for the election coming up in a month. Isn’t that comforting?

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Companies: sequoia

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Comments on “Sequoia's Optical Scan Vote Counting Machines Giving Different Results Every Time”

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Ferin (profile) says:


I’d say at least the machines leave a paper trai, but it seems like the election officials can’t even manage to keep those in order. How the hell is it that IRaq can conduct an election that the world certifies as free and fair using lockboxes, ink, and paper, and these idiots can’t manage to deal with a primary with all the high tech gizmos in the world at their disposal?

Paul says:


The error doesn’t appear in the tallying portion of the equipment, but instead the optical scanning portion.

The optical scanner has problems reading valid ballots AS WELL AS problems accepting invalid ballots as valid. AFATAIC the equipment is tallying the results after the optical scan correctly.

If we’re having this much trouble in the optical scanning of ballots, it makes me wonder if my uni tests are properly scanned!

WarOtter (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I honestly think you are an asshat.

While the ACORN scandal deserves intense scrutiny, so does this. The nearly criminal handling of the extreme failures by Sequoia should be making national headlines right along side the election. But because so many people so high up have screwed up, there is no real accountability. Many areas will be voting on these flawed pieces of crap that actually have a very significant chance of adversely affecting the election, and very few people will actually be aware.

Simon says:

Makes me wonder about those grade school tests....

Because of all the uproar from the various voting machine issues that are now coming to light, how accurate are those tests that we had to take in school. You remember the Iowa test, and such. Makes me wonder how accurate they were. I mean if filling in a little circle on a ballad is so difficult to get accurate readings what about this scholastic test, hell, even the SATs and ACTs and such. If there is such a margin of error why are they used for testing? If they are accurate, why aren’t they used for voting.

There is one answer….MONEY and who can get more of it.

McCain and Tits McGee says:

Re: Re:

Oh, Obama great savior of our world, please save us from the evil maverick and liberate our flawed voting machines.

How can you say something like that when McCain walks onstage today and addresses the Masses as
“My fellow Prisoners”?

Hah! They are now sourcing from Tina Fey, and Loren Michaels! How much longer before there’s a remake of the timeless Wolves Ad of 2004?

The wheels have fallen off of the straight talk express.
Prisoners? Bah!

Shhhhh! says:

Oh no!

Take this off your site, puh-leeze! I am from the Philippines and if this news ever reaches us, our cheat of a president might buy all of these machines for next year’s elections. She will then scrap the digital counting and revert to manual where they can again switch the city and town tallies on the way to the provincial capitols and then again on the way to Manila.

For those who don’t know, she was bugged by intel officers who leaked the tapes to media. “Will I still lead by one million?” she said. The Election commissioner on the other end replied, “We will try, ma’m”. That was one of about fifteen calls she made.

NeoConBushSupporter says:

I thought DIEBOLD was cheating?

Hey wasnt it DIEBOLD all you hippies said was in the tank for Bush? What say you now? Looks like Pat Buchannon may have actually had alot of support among elderly Hebrews in Palm Beach after all. Two national elections, countless recounts and even a Supreme Court decision and you guys still cant face that you got spanked fair and square. Americans dont want your big government, complicated plans full of numbers and hard to pronounce words . . . we want to stop gays from getting married (and tax cuts, those always go over big)!

VOTE McCain 2008 – Just incase the machines are actually working this time!

Didn't Count says:

I wonder how the election officials would feel about it if it was one of their votes that someone cavalierly threw out because it was too much trouble to count it properly. Many of us go to great extents to research the candidates, understand the issues and cast our votes with thought and diligence. Why? It may be miscounted, thrown out because the pen I used skipped or because some programmer dweeb was to lazy to run the calibrations. 3000 ballots out of 100K isn’t many statistically but if it is one of yours it is 100%

What if the banks worked that way …. oh wait … maybe they do!

Kevin C. says:

NeoConBushSupporter – Is this a joke? I HONESTLY can’t tell if you’re just hyperbolically expressing the right, extreme view or you’re just a stupid d*ck. “hard to pronounce words??” ‘Me think you dumb and redneck’. I can dumb that sentence down for you a LITTLE more if need be but not much.
“we want to stop gays from getting married.” It is pointless to explain to you why this position is wrong-headed and I will never be able to change your mind but from one heterosexual to another, you are truly a bad person. I know you’ll just shrug it off and espouse more hateful crap but I just wanted you to know that there is one more person in the world that KNOWS you’re kinda evil. So go on, don’t think about it, don’t think that maybe you’re been self-righteous or that you’re trying to dictate how people, that are not you, should live. Tell everyone why those d*mn gays should all stop wanting ‘special rights’. It wouldn’t hurt if you threw in a little ‘god hates fags’ rhetoric.

dm says:

Re: The Technology is Sound

That is an excellent point. For some reason we don’t hear complaints from people gambling – those machines seem to work flawlessly.

Mind you – each gambling machine produces $$$ for its operator, while voting machines are brought out once every few years.

Seems to me that when there’s money involved, in ATMs or gambling machines, everyone gets their shit together.

Perhaps if we charged $2 for every vote, then there would be some attention paid to security etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Thoughts and considerations

Optical scanners seem to work well enough in the areas of education- Consider SAT/ACT tests, among other standardized tests. They have been used for over 20 years.

Being a College Teaching Aide years ago with some time on my hands, I decided to play around with one of the “academic” versions of these machines, manufactured by ScanTron and was quite surprised at the accuracy– a small pin-sized pencil dot made with 7mm mechanical pencil would be picked up by one of these machines.

This runs absolutely opposite of the accepted reliability in academia of these machines. But if ScanTron can make these machines so reliable, how can we have 3rd parties doing it and failing so badly?

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