Scanning glitch in vote machine test (FL)
Charlotte Sun. October 17, 2009. by Greg Giles, News Editor
A voting machine test this week didn't go off without a hitch.
A handful of individuals were on hand this week at the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections office where Supervisor Kathy Dent and staff tested 16 ballot scanners that will be used in the Nov. 3 city council election.
In one test a ballot with both blue and black ink was unable to be scanned. Officials pulled that scanner from service and substituted another. It didn't work either.
Then they did what any office worker worth his salt would have done: They fooled the machine. They copied the ballot and ran it through the machine successfully.
That's exactly how Dent's office plans on dealing with any blue-ink ballot problems on election day.
Ballot booths will have black felt-tip pens to be used, but just in case you are an absentee voter, she recommends using black ink.
"If the absentee ballots have the blue ink, we will know if the scanner is not reading that and we will duplicate that ballot" to run through the scanner, Dent said.
"At the polling place it will kick the ballot back if it's a blank ballot or if a person over-voted. If it's rejected at the polling place, voters will have an opportunity to redo the ballot."
But what if there is mark in one race but not the other? Sarasota inventor Skip Parish said that could go unread.
Former testing has shown the county's Premier's OSX models have run into this problem before, and it has yet to be resolved, he said.
Parish has patents for high-end missile scanning devices and has served as a computer observer on occasion for the Democratic Party in previous elections.
He said the county's IT department has done a good job of identifying and working around the problem, but says it's up to the state to come up with a permanent solution. Hillsborough and Orange counties have also identified blue ink as an issue in their voting systems.
"Even if county officials identified a solution, they couldn't legally do anything about it," Parish said, "because only the state can effectuate those solutions in the field."
"One big factor is this is an intermittent problem," Parish said. "Until the defect in the pickup of votes is discovered and fixed and then tested to stress levels, you will not have a solution. To do that the state needs to go after the problem and get it fixed."
City Clerk Lori Stelzer, who was at the voting machine test, said that after Dent left a second ballot had trouble running through a scanner. They tried it again and it worked, she said.
Harry Walia, the only Venice council candidate to show up at the testing, said he's concerned the elections office didn't publicize the fact there were glitches.
"I want to make sure the voting machines are 100 percent accurate," he said.
He would have preferred the county mail out black pens with the absentee ballots that were already sent. But that didn't happen.
In lieu of that, it should attach a second part to the ballot; one part would get scanned and the other torn off prior to scanning and put in a lock box as backup to be counted afterward, Walia said.
That's not likely to happen at this late date. Instead, he will have to settle for the Canvas Board being diligent in identifying blue ink problems.