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'Vote flipping' was not unexpected  (KS)

DUANE SCHRAG   Salina Journal    10 April 2009

The electronic voting machines that recorded votes to the wrong candidates in Salina on Tuesday are of a type that has a history of erratic behavior. In fact, the state of Kansas was warned in October 2008 that the problem might occur.

Saline County Clerk Don Merriman said Wednesday that he believes the misrecorded votes were the result of a calibration problem. He believes the problems were caught by voters as votes were cast and did not affect the outcome of any races.

However, Merriman plans to see if he can replicate the problem. He also plans to look at the paper log to see if it reveals any anomalies.

"We'll pull the real-time audit log," he said. "I'm going to do a test on them next week and see what happens."

Voting machine errors were reported at Trinity Lutheran Church, Ninth and Crawford streets; Christ the King Lutheran Church, 111 W. Magnolia; and at a church in Kipp, Merriman said Tuesday.

The iVotronic machines used in Saline County are sold by Elections Systems and Software. In October, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law notified 16 secretaries of state, including Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh, that the machines are known to record votes to the wrong candidate.

"You may be aware of recent press reports of problems that voters are having during early voting with the iVotronic voting machine in West Virginia and Tennessee," said the letter, which was written by Lawrence Norden, counsel for the center, and Pamela Smith, president of verified voting. "Specifically, voters have complained of 'vote flipping,' where they vote for one candidate or party, but another shows up on the review screen."

The letter explains that election officials in West Virginia were addressing the problem by recalibrating voting machines each day they were used.

"There is a real chance that voters using iVotronic machines in your state will experience 'vote flipping' similar to that experienced by voters in West Virginia," the letter said.

Merriman said he isn't aware of any problems with the machines in Saline County in the November election, but he did receive one report in 2007.

Saline County election officials calibrated the machines before they were used Tuesday, Merriman said.

"It's a process we do on every machine," he said.

But in conversations with ES&S on Thursday, he was told that the calibration might change during the day.

"What they've seen is calibration drift on a unit," Merriman said. "They're fine in the morning, but by afternoon they're starting to lose their calibration."

The phenomenon is described in a federal lawsuit filed in November 2005 by Bergquist Co., which makes touch screens for ES&S. The complaint was filed against Hartford Insurance, Bergquist's insurance carrier, to recover $1.2 million in losses related to the recall of the faulty screens. It described how air pockets between layers of the screen and residual acid in an ink compound were causing the touchscreens to malfunction.

"Bergquist continued to receive information into the fall of 2003 that many of the touch screens that had been installed in voting machines were defective and were failing to hold calibration shortly after being calibrated," the complaint said. "Ultimately, Bergquist determined that the dielectric ink, which had caused the sudden 'out-of-calibration' problems, had been used in 22,619 touch screens sold by Pivot and incorporated in voting machines, and thus every screen had failed and required replacement."

Merriman said Saline County purchased the iVotronic machines in 2006.

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