Friday, April 11, 2008

Diebold/Premier E-Voting System Miscounts in Butler County, Ohio.

March 2008
Diebold/Premier E-Voting System Miscounts in Butler County, Ohio...

In a letter sent this week from Butler County, OH election officials, it was revealed that on March 4, 2008, the Diebold GEMS central tabulator failed to upload and store 105 ballots recorded on their AccuVote touch-screen voting machines, even though the system reported that all the ballots on the 1,599 memory cards had been uploaded successfully. The elections website of Butler County (which has since corrected the GEMS error) reports that 94,053 ballots were cast in the election.

The 105 ballots missed by the GEMS upload software represent from 0.08% to 0.18% of the ballot positions counted by the system (depending on the proportion of Democratic to Republican ballots stored on the memory card – there were nearly twice as many contests on the Republican ballot). But remember, HAVA allows a maximum error rate of 0.0002%. This means the error rate on the Butler County GEMS server was between 400 and 900 times as high (40,000% to 90,000%) as the rate allowed by federal law.

Now that these facts are known, using New Jersey’s version of the Sequoia Advantage e-voting machines or Butler County’s version of the Diebold AccuVote/GEMS system (v.1-18-24.0) in the November 2008 election would be a violation of federal law.

But the problem may be even more serious. The bugs that caused the miscounts have not yet been found or analyzed. Since software bugs are typically carried forward from one software version to the next unless they are found and fixed, these same bugs may very well be present on all Sequoia Advantage e-voting machines and all versions of Diebold GEMS (which is used to accumulate vote totals from Diebold/Premier's paper-based optical scan systems, as well as from their touch-screen e-voting machines).

So, it is quite possible that any jurisdiction using the Sequoia Advantage or Diebold GEMS could well be in violation of federal law if those same systems are used in November.

These are just two recent examples, from within the last two months, of vote-counting errors on electronic equipment far beyond the the rate allowable by law. Dozens of such incidents, reported all across the country, have occurred in every recent election cycle.

How long will the Justice Department, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and states continue to ignore the mandate of HAVA --- and more importantly, the mandate of democracy --- for accurate vote-counting?

CORRECTION: Due to information discovered after our initial publication of this story, it was necessary to recalculate the error rates reported above. While the initial article had reported error rates as high as "half a million percent," the numbers have now been adjusted to note a somewhat lower error rate, though one which is still far in excess of that allowable by law. Theisen has post a detailed description of how she derived the above numbers in comments below.