The company now known as Premier Election Solutions —formerly Diebold, long criticized by election integrity activists for unverifiable, unreliable touchscreen machines (achieving maximum notoriety when its chief executive said he would “do anything” in his power to win Ohio for Bush in 2004)—, has acknowledged that its machines have been “losing votes”, malfunctioning, and providing erroneous counts for more than a decade, affecting elections in 34 states.
Premier notified officials in 1,750 jurisdictions across the United States that its machines might have serious recording, tabulation and/or security flaws that could undermine the integrity of elections. The specific glitch Premier warned about in this recent acknowledgement causes “larger precincts” to lose votes when multiple memory devices feed their information into one broader count. Public information on how and why this occurs is sketchy, and observers are pressing for information about a number of other serious software flaws uncovered by test teams.
One report, by Miller-McCune research solutions, notes that:
An analysis has yet to be done, but anecdotal evidence suggests that larger precincts disproportionately exist in urban centers, where minorities and those more likely to vote Democratic are concentrated.
Bev Harris, of BlackBoxVoting.org, which has commissioned advanced computer scientists to examine and test Premier/Diebold software and machines, has expressed concern that the errors are not the result of lack of attention to detail or honest mistakes:
What it looked like to us is that the program was literally Swiss cheese in terms of the holes and problems in it… From everything I’ve seen in these systems over the past five years, they were designed for tampering.
In fact, legislation designed to help protect against elections being swayed by such errors also created a standard for testing e-voting machines. Unfortunately, a body to perform the testing and certification, using a “voluntary” process was never established, so the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) began “certification testing” in 2005, 3 years after it was created to avoid the sort of confusion and disputed ballots seen in the 2000 presidential election.
Flaws in voting machines used by millions of people will not be fixed in time for the presidential election because of a government backlog in testing the machines’ hardware and software, officials say.
The flaws, which have cast doubt on the ability of some machines to provide a consistent and reliable vote count, were supposed to be addressed by the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that oversees voting. But commission officials say they will not be able to certify that flawed machines are repaired by the November election, or provide software fixes or upgrades, because of a backlog at the testing laboratories the commission uses.
No machine currently in use has been officially certified as producing verifiable results, being clean of glitches that could produce erroneous counts, or being secure against tampering. The result is there are tens of millions of voters across the country who may cast their votes on machines that cannot be guaranteed to produce accurate secure counts. Perhaps more shockingly still is the kind of action planned in response:
Cuyahoga County, the most populous county in Ohio, plans to use a type of optical scan machine that lacks safeguards to prevent election officials from tampering with the ballots and affecting tallies, said the Ohio secretary of state, Jennifer L. Brunner. Those safeguards do exist on a later model, she said, but it remains uncertified.
Ohio was plagued with vote-dropping, mis-tabulation and candidate-switching problems in the 2004 and 2006 elections, and in primary elections this year, the flaw acknowledged by Premier/Diebold was a widespread problem. Though it was caught and reportedly “corrected” —it is not clear what action was taken or how to restore lost votes accurately, and whether there were legally prescribed methods for doing this—, the issue remains a serious stain on the integrity of the Ohio elections process.
One of the companies hired to perform tests on voting machines was found to have used flawed methods and had its certification for certification-testing suspended. Though it may now be on track to begin testing again, another testing firm is under investigation by the EAC, and there are serious doubts about the integrity of the entire process for testing e-voting and touchscreen machines.