Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 08/23/04)

Baldwin County, Alabama. November, 2002. ES&S.
Optical scan data packs malfunction.

Tabulation machine initially handed the gubernatorial election to the wrong candidate.*

Initial, unofficial results from Baldwin County showed that Democrat Don Siegelman garnered about 19,070 votes in the county, enough to give him a razor-thin victory over Republican challenger Bob Riley. The next morning, however, officials said those totals were inaccurate and certified returns giving Siegelman about 6,300 fewer votes -- enough to swing the election to Riley.

... Officials have traced the problem to a data pack from the Magnolia Springs voting location. They said the vote-counting machine there printed out accurate results when the polls closed at 7 p.m. But they said the cartridge, which resembles an eight-track cassette, gave bogus figures when it was plugged into the computer in Bay Minette.

...[Mark] Kelley [general manager of Election Systems & Software] said a power surge at the precinct, static electricity or something else may have caused the glitch. He said technical experts at the company's computer lab in Rockford, Ill., may be able to determine the reason.

...He noted that at least three other counties experienced similar glitches on election night. But officials in Madison, Etowah and Barbour counties discovered and corrected the errors, in some cases by manually typing in vote totals.

* Voting snafu answers elusive. The Mobile Register. 28 Jan 2003. by Brendan Kirby, staff writer. Confirmed by VotersUnite! with Sharon Jerkins in the Baldwin County Elections office.

See: ES&S in the News

No one votes unassisted on a computer;
everyone is "assisted" by anonymous programmers.
~ Mark Ortiz
former candidate for U.S. Representative
North Carolina, 8th District