Voting Machine Mess-up Du Jour (Displayed 09/30/04)

Maricopa County, Arizona. September, 2004. ES&S.
Optical scan recount overturns results of first optical scan count.

The original totals for State Representative in District 20 showed Anton Orlich in the lead over John McComish by four votes, and the close margin required a recount. The optical scan recount found nearly 500 additional votes for the five candidates in the race and changed the outcome, giving McComish the lead by 13 points.

The election was certified in court by Judge Eddward P. Ballinger Jr.*

An attorney for Anton Orlich, the third-place finisher, argued that ballots were mishandled, a tabulation machine malfunctioned and because of these reputed errors, voter intent was not preserved in the recount.

Though Lisa Hauser asserted that the county Elections Department violated statutes by excessively handling and improperly storing the 25,000 District 20 ballots, the clearest error was with the machines.

"The recount can't be trusted because of this anomaly," Hauser said. "Voters can't trust it. Voters of District 20 can't trust it. I don't believe this court should trust it."

...In court, Karen Osborne, the election director for Maricopa County, attributed the mushrooming of votes to the machine's reading of mailed-in early ballots with undervotes, those that indicated a vote for only one candidate instead of two.

"The IV-Cs have a great deal more sensitive technology," Osborne said. "They will pick up marks on ballots."

All early ballots were read by the machines during the primary and on the day of the recount. However, one machine registered an 18 percent variance in reading undervotes, Hauser said.

The mail-in ballots apparently were more susceptible to having small, sometimes imperceptible marks. Or the voter may not have used the correct pencil or pen and the machine picked it up, Osborne said.

"It's never going to pick it up perfectly," said Osborne, who said the machines were tested before the recount.

A representative from the company that makes the Optech IV-C did not provide testimony, although she works in a county building and was issued a subpoena.**

* McComish GOP winner in District 20 by 13 votes, recount shows. The Arizona Republic. September 21, 2004.

** McComish's District 20 2nd-place finish confirmed. The Arizona Republic. September 24, 2004. Nedra Lindsey.

See: ES&S in the News

News stories make it rapidly apparent that
electronic voting is not reliable, accurate, or secure.
Any one who claims otherwise is either uninformed or deceptive.
~ Joseph Holder