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Computer glitch delays routine voter machine test

By Connie Piloto

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

October 13, 2004

WEST PALM BEACH Ñ — A routine test of Palm Beach County's electronic voting machines was canceled Tuesday because the computer network at the elections office malfunctioned hours before the public exercise.

Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore said the "computer crash" won't affect the function of the electronic touch-screen voting machines during the upcoming Nov. 2 presidential election.

"It has nothing to do with the tabulation equipment," LePore said Tuesday.
The test requires feeding simulated voter data from a computer to the actual voting machine. The information is tabulated by a computer and checked to ensure it matches a predetermined outcome.

During the test, elections employees also manually vote for specified candidates on each machine being tested.

The "logic and accuracy" test was rescheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

"This is very troublesome, that less than three weeks away from a presidential election we have problems with these machines," said Lale Mamaux, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, a critic of electronic voting who masterminded a campaign to oust LePore. "Let's hope that on Friday, she's able to run the test."

LePore, who was defeated in the Aug. 31 by Arthur Anderson, is a defendant in a suit filed by Wexler claiming electronic touch-screen voting machines are unconstitutional because they don't allow manual recounts in close elections.

Before an election, state law requires that a portion of the county's machines be tested publicly to ensure that the equipment will count the votes cast for all the offices and measures on the ballot.

In the county, 86 of the 4,720 touch-screen machines are tested publicly. The rest are tested behind closed doors.

LePore said the file server she had planned to used for the test went off line Monday night before they could back up the system.

The server, a backup storage device — is one of several used to tabulate votes. Even if one of the file servers goes down on election night, LePore said the votes cast on the electronic machines won't be lost and the office would use a backup server.

LePore suspects the malfunction was caused by a power failure during Hurricane Jeanne. LePore said the air-conditioning to the building was shut off after the storm and the temperature in the computer room reached 90 degrees.

"Computer rooms are not supposed to be hot," LePore said.

The generator assigned to the elections building was removed and routed to another county facility for use during the hurricane, LePore said. During Hurricane Frances, the county discovered it did not have enough generators to run all of its sewage lift stations.

County Commissioner Karen Marcus, a member of the canvassing board, said LePore called her Tuesday morning to report the problem.

"She said they were working on it, but had not fixed it," Marcus said. "It has nothing to do with the voting equipment."

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