Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 07/14/04)

Florida. March 2004.
Sun-Sentinel study of blank ballots cast on electronic vs. paper ballots

A study by the Florida Sun-Sentinel shows an average of 8 times more blank ballots recorded by paperless touch-screen voting machines than the number of blank paper ballots in the March primary. Since voters are alone when they vote, it is, of course, impossible to determine whether voters have been disenfranchised because the paperless machines are difficult and confusing to use or because they fail to record votes.

The study looked for instances in which voters went to the polls and chose no one -- results known in election parlance as "undervotes." The study then looked at which types of voting machines registered the most undervotes.

Undervotes occurred 1.09 percent of the time in counties with touch-screen machines and 0.12 percent of the time in counties that use optical scanning.

In Broward County, which uses ES&S iVotronic paperless machines, and Palm Beach County, which uses Sequoia AVC Edge paperless machines, there was:

... a combination of 458 undervotes in precincts where there was only once choice on the ballot.

On the other hand, Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County:

... stuck with his older optical scan machines. Leon County reported zero undervotes in the March sample.

Additional comments quoted in the article:

"That's frightening. I thought these machines would correct the incredible situation we had four years ago. I'm angry and disturbed." [Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar]

"It was like Florida was trying to change a tire on a car going 100 miles an hour." [Kurt Browning, elections supervisor of Pasco County]

"The information about the machines was all coming from the vendors. There was no independent study about the efficacy of these machines. Every supervisor who purchased one was taking the vendors' word for it on how well the machine worked. And what did the vendors say? 'Trust us. Trust us.'" [Ion Sancho, elections supervisor in Leon County]

"The most important thing to take from the [Sun-Sentinel] survey findings is that both electronic systems and precinct-based optical scan systems dramatically reduce voter error." [Alfie Charles, vice president of business development for Sequoia]

* Analysis reveals flaws in voting by touch-screen. Sun-Sentinel. July 11, 2004. By Jeremy Milarsky and Buddy Nevins, Staff Writers.

See also: Sequoia in the News; ES&S in the News

... the system we have for testing and certifying
voting equipment in this country
is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent.
~ Michael Shamos
to the U.S. House Science subcommittee
on June 24, 2004