Does Your Vote Count?
I’m Not So Sure
I’ve heard the complaints about “electronic voting machines”, and the stories about vulnerabilities in the software. Wasn’t that impressed. Given that no vote counting system is going to be perfect and that paper ballots (the kind used until 2004 in Maryland, for instance) are less perfect than most, I thought that electronic machines would be more secure and less error prone, eventually, than paper ballots. One should remember, paper ballots were used in 2000 in Florida.
The famous Bush-Gore margin in Florida in 2000 was 537 votes out of almost 6 million votes cast, a difference of less than 0.1 percent. How likely is such a close election? Assuming an equal distribution of Republicans and Democrats, if a sample of six million votes is taken from the population, the margin will be less than 537 votes about one-third of the time. The 2006 margin in Sarasota was 0.15 percent, far lower than the most optimistic estimate of system error rate for any voting method in existence.
This story by Brad Friedman tells me that “eventually” is going to be a very long time.
The ES&S electronic voting system that I used to try to vote on yesterday, ended up flipping a total of 4 out of the 12 contests and initiatives for which I had attempted to vote.
Right before my very eyes, the computer-printed ballot produced by the voting system I was using, incorrectly filled in bubbles for four of the races I was voting in. Had I not been incredibly careful, after the ballot was printed out, to painstakingly compare what was printed to what I actually voted for, I’d have never known my votes were being given to candidates I did not vote for.
Had I been a blind voter — as the system I was using is largely intended for use by the disabled — I would have cast my ballot without having a clue that a full 40% of the votes I’d tried to cast for various California Superior Court judges were flipped to other candidates…
It’s not clear to me if that 40% is in addition to the four-out-of-twelve (33%) he mentioned, but either way, that kind of error rate is more than disturbing. It should be considered criminal.
While the machine is being sequestered for examination — and one wonders if the same swift action would have been promised to someone not as well known to both the Registrar’s and Sec. of State’s office — we’ll call that point the “good news” for the moment.
In addition to the stunning error-rate of the failed ES&S InkaVote Plus voting machine I had tried to use, my day at the polls yesterday additionally revealed an amazing number of apparent violations of federal law, the California state Election Code, and a number of local, Los Angeles County provisions.
Criminal is the word.