May 31, 2009
May 28, 2009
Bucks machines get negative vote
To the Editor:
The assumption in your editorial, "Learning how to vote," that it is the responsibility of voters to know how to vote on a voting machine, is flawed. Tests of mental acuity, literacy or mechanical ability cannot be used to determine who can vote, and therefore, the voter cannot be required to know how to vote on a machine.
The Danaher voting machine we use here makes counting the votes easier for the election officials, but it places obstacles in the way of voters having their intended votes accurately counted.
The use of the write-in function is only one of the obstacles. The voters may not know that there are write-in instructions because they are on the left side of the machine, instead of next to the write-in mechanism itself, where voters might see them, if they are tall enough. If the voters do master the write-in function, after they finish pushing the buttons for all their candidates on the ballot, they also need to remember to push the "vote" button at the bottom of the machine to cast the ballot.
But the biggest problem with this voting machine is that there is no way to know if the voters' intended votes have been accurately counted, as there is no permanent paper record of these votes, external to and independent of the machine's software programming. Ironically, only the handwritten write-in votes can actually be seen and counted.
Bucks County commissioners need to discontinue the use of this Danaher voting machine and replace it with an easier and more accurate method of voting. Voters need to mark their votes themselves on a paper ballot so that a permanent record of all their votes exists for an accurate count, and recount if necessary.
May 24, 2009
1 vote, 2 vote, 3 vote
To the Editor:
The problems with write-in votes in our recent primary were not, as the Bucks County Board of Elections and your recent editorial suggest, exclusively the fault of voters failing to follow instructions.
I attempted to write in a vote at my poll and followed the instructions to the letter. When the door lifted for me to enter my vote, a previous voter's mark was already there.
Attempting to rectify the situation, the judge of elections joined me inside the booth while speaking directly to the Board of Elections. He reset the machine as instructed, marked the paper indicating the reset, and we repeated the write-in process. This time when the door opened, the judge's signature was visible where my vote should have gone.
For my third attempt, I was led to a different machine, where I repeated the process again and was finally able to cast my vote. Meanwhile, the first machine was closed down as inoperable. It remained that way for at least an hour until the machine technicians arrived and replaced the paper-feed mechanism. When they tested the replacement, it also failed before any voter had been near the machine. They replaced it again with a third device before fixing the problem.
The electronic machines purchased by the county continue to have significant problems, especially with write-ins. And, of course, we still remain at the mercy of the software inside the machines - absolutely unable to verify whether the final vote totals accurately reflect the voters' actual selections.
What we still need is an optical-scan system employing paper ballots that are marked by the voters' own hands, counted electronically for efficiency and retained securely for recounts and random auditing of machine accuracy. Until then, we will continue to disenfranchise voters and frustrate their will in the birthplace of democracy. What an embarrassment.
And, for the record, I have no idea if I cast one or three votes for all the other races on the ballot last Tuesday, and no one else knows, either.
The writer is vice chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Committee.
Note: This webmaster DOES have sympathy for those voters who were confounded by the Danaher machines when they tried to write in a candidate. This voter was likewise frustrated by the total absence of a user-friendly, intuitive interface. Commissioner Cawley likes to think of 25-year-old technology as tried and true. The fact is that 25-year-old technology is by definition obsolete. We've traveled light years since this machine was designed. The Danaher is a dinosaur.
May 23, 2009
May 21, 2009
May 20, 2009
Election night turned chaotic in five municipalities as some voting machines were reported either broken or jammed late Tuesday.
Bristol, Wrightstown, Falls, Tullytown and Morrisville all reported voting machine troubles.
County spokeswoman Stacey Hajdak said the Board of Elections will be looking into this problem immediately.
I can't tell you the exact problems of each machine until a technician examines it. Those answers should be available [today],'' she said.
In Wrightstown, two of the three machines in the township were jammed with paper, described as write-in ballots, said Supervisor Chairman Chester Pogonowski.
In Falls, two machines were broken at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School, said Democratic Supervisor Jonathan Snipes.
Two machines were reported broken in Bristol and one each in Tullytown and Morrisville.
Morrisville, Tullytown and Bristol were able to retrieve the votes from the malfunctioning machines. . . .
May 17, 2009
Wilkes-Barre — English is the only language on the ballots for this Tuesday’s primary election in Luzerne County, but that may change after the 2010 U.S. Census, Director of Elections Leonard Piazza said at Friday’s election board meeting.
The growing Hispanic population, especially in Hazleton, will likely force the county to generate bilingual ballots after the 2010 census is done, Piazza said. If the U.S. Census shows that at least 4 percent of the voting-age population in a polling precinct is not proficient in English, then bilingual ballots for the entire municipality are required, Piazza said.
Piazza predicts a few precincts in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre and Pittston Township will reach the qualifying percentage. But even if it’s one precinct only, all voting machines in the county will be equipped with the Spanish ballot; Piazza said the county can’t buy the Spanish ballot software for just one area. . . .
May 15, 2009
ACLU press release re report.
May 9, 2009
When 197 absentee votes disappeared from an electronic voting machine in California, officials were baffled. When the machine's log showed no trace of the votes -- neither cast nor erased -- they were shocked, even angry.
The company that sells the machines said the vote-counting software in the California machines was flawed and would be fixed in a newer version. Outside California, no problems involving actual reports have been reported.
But Premier Election Solutions' search for California's problem uncovered a potentially more troubling flaw in every version of the company's software, which also is used in machines in Lehigh and eight other Pennsylvania counties. The affected machines scan paper ballots -- generally absentee votes -- and upload them to a central server.
The problem: Deleted votes do not register on the audit log in all instances and could potentially go unnoticed -- and thus uncounted -- by county election officials.
Lehigh County Clerk of Elections Stacy Sterner, who oversaw a test run of the optical scan machines in November, said she is comfortable that safeguards are in place to ensure no votes are lost. Election employees count the number of absentee votes and would be aware if a large number did not register in the final tally.
But Sterner acknowledged that a small number of missing votes might be missed by employees and, without the log showing the deletion, might not be recovered.
"If we were missing a large chunk, we would know that right away,'' Sterner said. ''But if we were missing only a small amount, that might go unnoticed.''
Formerly sold by Diebold, now known as Premier , the optical -scan machines as they as they are known, scan paper ballots -- usually absentees -- and upload vote totals to a central computer. Whether the issue uncovered in California affects Premier's touch-screen machines, used in at least 16 counties in the state, including Lehigh and Carbon, remains unclear. [continued>>]