Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 08/17/04)

Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. November 1995 and April 1996. Microvote.
Malfunctions, uncertified software, lawsuits.

The paperless voting machines shut-down haphazardly, causing the current voter's vote to be lost. The scroll motors emitted power surges that caused the machines to go into power-fail mode and shut down to protect the circuitry.*

Thus, when a voter pushed a button on a DRE to scroll to the next page, the scroll motor would activate, and the machine might randomly shut down in front of the voter.

The MEMS accumulation software — which was not certified in Pennsylvania — malfunctioned, causing Microvote employees to report the wrong "unofficial results" to the press.

Microvote’s on-site manager in an internal memorandum also noted "serious problems" with the MEMS software. The software problems were not detected by pre-election testing because Microvote was making changes in the software up to the day before the election. Under the contract and Pennsylvania law, the system, including the software, should have been tested and certified prior to the election. MEMS, however, was not certified in Pennsylvania.

Microvote sued the County for $1.8 million, alleging that the County orally promised to buy more machines, and that the problems during the elections were the result of the County not having purchased the promised number of voting machines. The court dismissed the suit.**

The County then sued Microvote, Carson Manufacturing Co. (the distributor), and Westchester Fire Insurance Company (which posted a performance bond). Carson settled with Montgomery County shortly before trial for approximately $587,500. The jury returned a verdict against Microvote and Westchester for in excess of $1,048,500. Microvote and Westchester appealed. The Third Circuit affirmed the jury verdict and the judgment of the District Court on all issues.

* Montgomery County v. Microvote Corporation; Carson Manufacturing Company, Inc.; Westchester Fire Insurance Co., Inc. February 26, 2003.

** ER&S wins in U.S. Court of Appeals, Affirming Multi-Million Dollar Settlement and Jury Verdict. Law Offices of Elliott Reihner & Siedzikowski, P.C. July 20, 2003.

See: Microvote in the News

There's really no way
that I could prove to a voter,
post tally, that their vote
exactly counted the way that they voted it.
~ James M. Ries Jr.
President of Microvote