Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 08/09/04)

Florida. November 2002. Optical scan vs. Touch screen.
Undervote rate is much higher on touch-screen voting machines.

Eighteen months ago, the Florida Division of Elections analyzed the November 2002 gubernatorial election. Their report showed that the undervote rate (races for which no vote was recorded) was 2 to 3 times higher on Florida's touch-screen machines than on its optical scanners. Since touch-screen machines warn voters of undervotes and optical scanner don't, these results are contrary to what logic would suggest.

The undervote rate varied from 0.31% to 0.58% on optical scan machines. The rate varied from 0.92% to 0.93% on touch screens.

The overvote rate (votes for too many candidates in a single race) on optical scan machines varied from 0.01% to 0.31%. Overvotes are impossible on touch-screen machines.

So, while touch-screens warn of undervotes and disallow overvotes, and precinct-based optical scanners only warn of overvotes and blank ballots, the total rate for both types of errors was higher on touch screens (0.93% max) than optical scanners (0.89% max).

In its report, the group cited a CalTech/MIT study that found that optical scan machines had lower error rates than touch-screen machines, which its authors attributed to the difficulties some voters had dealing with high-tech equipment.

"The differences in error rates among various kinds of voting systems are much too high to be accounted for solely by uneducated, uninformed or disinterested voters," the report said.

Notwithstanding these recommendations, election machine manufacturers, hiring top lobbyists, successfully sold the state's largest counties on the touch-screen machines, which cost several times as much as optical-scan units.

* Optical-scan beats touch-screen in '02 voting study. Palm Beach Post. August 7, 2004. By S.V. Date.

News stories make it rapidly apparent that
electronic voting is not reliable, accurate, or secure.
Any one who claims otherwise is either ignorant or deceptive.
~ Joseph Holder