Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 08/30/04)

Missouri. November, 2004 Scenario.
Fax failures disenfranchise unknown numbers of military.

Two months before the election, Missouri officials decided to experiment with the military vote in the crucial November election by turning fax machines into voting machines.*

Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt announced this week that military members serving in combat areas overseas can complete their absentee ballots, then scan and e-mail them to the Department of Defense, which will forward the ballots via fax to the appropriate local election officials.

Thousands of military men and women gave up the secrecy of their vote to expedite the return of their ballots to election offices in Missouri, rather than take a chance on the U.S. postal service. The unprecedented load on fax machines throughout Missouri caused so much confusion that officials say they are unable to determine the correct tally.**

Among the many problems encountered by election offices across Missouri:

- Fax machines ran out of paper, causing line errors. Officials were unable to tell if all the transmitted faxes had been received.

- Identically-voted ballots were received near the same time, and officials cannot tell if they are duplicates or different ballots.

- Line errors occurred, causing officials to questions whether ballots were lost in transit.

- In two counties, fax machines were overstressed and broke down. In the scramble to hook up new fax machines, officials say they may have missed some transmissions.

Lawsuits have been filed by the Democratic Party in 12 Missouri counties and by the Republican Party in 17 other counties.

Thirty-seven lawsuits claiming intimidation by a superior officer have been filed by family members of the military who voted by email/fax.

* Security experts raise concerns about e-mail voting. Kansas City Star. August 27, 2004. By Kelly Wiese, Associated Press.

** The rest of this story is a fantasy projection.

Intellectuals solve problems,
geniuses prevent them.
~ Albert Einstein