Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 09/22/04)

Muskegon, Michigan. August, 2004. ES&S.
Optical scanners report wrong outcome by failing to detect light marks.

Optical scan machines failed to detect 2% of the votes for Township Clerk because the marks were too light. Originally, the machines reported that challenger Kris Tabler had lost to incumbent Jim Nielsen, 791-786.*

The ensuing canvassing process, which compares the results from the precinct reports to the results produced by the ballot-counting machines, found the same result.

But Tabler paid for a recount in all seven township precincts, and the Muskegon County Board of Canvassers spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday inspecting the ballots by hand. When they finished, the result was startlingly different.

Tabler won the election over Nielsen by two votes, 804-802. Jerry Young, the candidate who finished a distant third, received 258 votes in the recount.

Overall, the recount revealed the existence of 39 more votes cast in the clerk's race than the original count did.

... Obviously the canvassers, counting by hand, were able to read some ballots that the computer "optical scan" machines didn't pick up, said Tom Higgins, chairman of the county board of canvassers. It's also possible that the machines simply read some ballots wrong.

* Election turns around when inspectors 'see the light'. Muskegon Chronicle. September 04, 2004. By Steve Gunn and Lynn Moore, Chronicle Staff Writers.

See: 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