Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 07/23/04)

DeKalb County, Georgia. July 20, 2004.
Diebold TS paperless voting machines and County election procedures.

Over 150 Georgia citizens volunteered as poll watchers in the Tuesday primary. They observed machine malfunctions and insecure election administration procedures. Here are excerpts from one observer's report.*

When the polls opened ...

We had a poll watcher in every precinct, informed and trained with the things to look for and how to address the problems the moment they cropped up. We insured the law was followed to the letter.

The calls from the poll watchers began promptly at 7:00 AM with every irregularity, improper behavior and machine malfunction they saw reported to the attorneys.

One precinct reported almost upon opening of the polls that all machines (10) were failing. Voters inserted the access card and the card was immediately ejected. The pollwatcher reported that voters were offered provisional paper ballots, but they were prepared with only 25 of these ballots and ran out within 10 minutes. It took almost 2 hours to rectify the situation even though our HQ personnel reported it to the County office immediately.

Attempting to observe at the election office ...

I was badged as a NAACP Pollwatcher as was another member of our team. We arrived at the Election Supervisor's office at 9:00 AM and asked to observe the operation throughout the day. The employees were disconcerted by the request and we were asked to repeat it several times. 20 minutes later, the Elections Supervisor explained to us that we would not be granted access because the center was "too small and there just isn't room for you." Our response was that we would do anything necessary to stay out of the way and make ourselves unobtrusive. We also offered to have only one observer in the room at a time, trading off throughout the day. The Elections Supervisor refused every alternative and offered us a 10 minute tour, but we would have to leave.

... The end result of the negotiations with the attorneys was that we would not be granted access until the polls closed at 7:00 PM so we returned to our HQ location.

When the machines overheated at the polls ...

At 4:15 we received a call from one of the precincts. The poll manager had announced to the pollworkers that all the DREs were malfunctioning because the polling place was unairconditioned and unventilated.

We arrived at the polling place and asked to speak to the Poll Manager who explained that they were experiencing some problems but they had a technician on the way.

Our Pollwatcher had asked the technician to note the problems on his forms. He signed his name, wrote in the time (1:00 PM) and noted "All machines running hot."

We spoke with the technician and he explained that the machines were behaving erratically. Because of the heat, when a voter placed their hand on the touchscreen, their chosen candidate would change (the red X would jump all over the screen) and voters would have great difficulty casting their vote for the candidate of their choosing. He informed us the problem began occurring at 12:15 and was getting progressively worse as the environment in the polling place was heating up with the daytime heating.

Voting continued on the overheated machines until the polls closed at 7:00 PM.

At the election office after the polls closed ...

Modem communications are not monitored by anyone at any time. No one is assuring what is being moved between the computers, nor that someone might be connecting to the GEMS server inappropriately. One can hear the modem connections being made, see the screen on the GEMS server moving lines of text, but no one is monitoring it.

As poll workers bring the reports and PCMCIA [memory] cards back to election center:

1. HQ Poll workers receive the envelopes, checking the seal.
4. At no time during this process does any HQ poll worker check, monitor or verify the serial numbers or any other identifying information on the PCMCIA cards.

5. HQ Poll workers return to the envelopes and check off that it contains "tapes." The tapes are not removed from the envelope, they are not read, they are not documented and the envelope is dumped into a bin with other envelopes. These "tapes" contain the Zero Total Report and the End of Day Precinct Totals.

Talking to the Elections Director ...

One of the questions we asked involved the 13 overheating machines and she repeated the "human failure" response saying it was the humans who overheated and overreacted. She went on to explain that the Diebold DREs were "certified to operate to 200 degrees" and the humans weren't.

* Wish us luck! Poll Watching in Georgia. National Ballot Integrity Project Discussion Forum. Posts by Roxanne Jekot. July 20-22, 2004.

See: Diebold in the News

It was a very ordinary primary election day.
~ Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox
July 20, 2004