Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 08/03/04)

United States.
Human errors cause election miscounts and other problems.

Many proponents of paperless voting defend the use of computerized voting machines by attributing electronic election disasters to human error.

Since voting systems are designed by humans, manufactured by humans, programmed by humans; as well as tested, installed, configured, set up, operated, and voted on by humans; it is difficult to think of a type of machine failure that might not be attributed to humans.

Here's a smattering of recent election problems and the humans whose errors may have caused the problems.

Human error by ...

  Election problem ...

Ballot programmer,
and tester

  Ballot programming error declared landslide victories for two losing candidates.

software programmers,
and/or tester

  Poll workers were unable to start up encoders.

User interface designer,
and poll workers

  Poll workers had difficulty using the system and gave the wrong ballots to 7000 voters.

Hardware design engineer
and/or manufacturer,
and tester

  Hardware failed, voters couldn't get the machines to record their choices.

Software programmer
and tester

  Ballots won't print correctly if data is imported too many times during the setup process.

User interface designer,
firmware programmer,
tester and/or voters

  134 ballots were blank in a one-race election.

Hardware design engineer
and tester

  A malfunction with one machine caused all nine machines in the polling place to go down.

Firmware programmer
and tester

  Two lines of code in the wrong order corrupted the audit log when a low-battery message was recorded to the log.

Tally software programmer
and tester

  Software couldn't read data from the secondary audit log.

County elections staff

  Elections data, lost in machine failure, had not been backed up. Later, a backup CD was found.

User interface designer,
and/or developer,
and tester

  Accessibility features for the blind weren't helpful.

Every electronic election is a beta test,
without the industry-standard
error-reporting procedures.
~ Ellen Theisen