More Dan Rather on voting machines

The trouble with tribbles touchscreens

The full hour of the Dan Rather presents “The Trouble with Touch Screens” is now available online. It is a very interesting show to watch! The name of the show is actually misleading as the show covers three major topics:

  • ES&S iVotronic voting machines issues in the 2000 election (focused on Florida: Sarasota and Lee counties)
  • An interesting interview with Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor who is supportive of voting machines in theory but critical of their use within the US
  • evidence of incompetence or fraud by Sequoia voting systems in the 2000 election paper ballots. In particular accusations and evidence of special changes for Palm Beach Florida where many paper ballot flaws occurred

Some rambling notes about the show are below.

Regarding the ES&S 2000 story:

  • Sarasota county Florida had a 18,402 voter undervote for it’s 2000 House race (12.9% of the people who voted skipped this race). Neighboring counties had only 2.5% undervotes for their House races
  • ES&S had notified Florida of a software problem for the 2000 election but no action was taken on time
  • hundreds of voters complained about their votes for the House race not appearing on confirmation screens
  • reports and documentation presented suggesting that 15000 of the 97000 iVotronic machines in the US have faulty screens that should not have been shipped
  • evidence that ES&S was aware of touchscreen problems in 2003 and sought to replace all screens without attracting press. ES&S claims that screen problems never affected a vote because voters would have noticed
  • Florida is now switching to optical scan machines – also produced by ES&S in Manila, also with serious quality questions
  • ES&S used optical scanners to support a 90’s election in the Philippines. The machines were considered faulty, there was a Philippines supreme court decision, and now the Philippines use a hand counted paper system
  • more discussion on this topic in my last post on the Dan Rather show

Regarding the Shamos interview:

  • Shamos supports electronic voting machines over paper or hand-counted systems
  • ..but he believes that quality execution is key
  • He considers quality control to be more of an issue in practice then fraud. Says reliability of machines in US is deplorable
  • screens fail because they are cheap and of poor quality. Same for paper trail printers.
  • certification procedures are broken
  • core problem is lack of political will to spend money smartly to produce a quality system
  • The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is proof that money alone (3 billion dollars) does not improve quality.

Regarding the Sequoia paper issues in 2000:

  • Sequoia was the manufacturer of the punchcard ballots for 2000 Florida election
  • in Florida 2000, 50000+ ballots were disregarded for presidential vote due to under or over votes
  • 17000+ of those had 3 or more presidential votes punched
  • 10000+ people in Palm Beach Florida had no selection for president
  • ex-Sequoia employees think they know what happened. Dan interviews 8 of them
  • up until shortly before 2000 election quality of Sequoia paper ballots were very high
  • shortly before 2000 election fishy things started happening at Sequoia
  • paper stock supplier changed to (supposedly) Boise-Cascade who was inexperienced with this sort of paper stock
  • paper stock was of lower quality
  • previously rejected rolls of paper stock rerun later
  • pressmen lost the ability to reject poor quality rolls of paper stock
  • quality control process significantly slackened
  • quality control revealed significant hanging and falling chad problems!
  • management ignored reports of problems
  • special orders for Palm Beach ballots to print them short (meaning misaligned) since it was expected that humidity would shrink them. This order was considered extremely unusual and pressman refused to do it until he got signature from the plant manager
  • after Florida 2000 fiasco, management ordered a cover-up; all material related to Florida or Boise-Cascade was destroyed
  • in Fall 2006, Palm Beach country release unmarked ballots for 2000 election. Testing on these reveals significant hanging and falling chad problems when compared to earlier ballots sold by Sequoia to a different county.
  • ex-employees theorize that Sequoia may have intentionally sabotaged the punchcard system so that it can sell more electronic voting machines
  • (From a comment and unverified by me)In 2000, Sequoia was owned by Jefferson Smurfit Co. of Ireland, a big campaign donor of Jeb Bush,…raises the possibility that management of Sequoia was biased

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2 responses to “More Dan Rather on voting machines

  1. Pingback: Did Sequoia intentionally sabotage the 2000 elections? « All About Voting

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