Sacramento to tally votes centerally

From the SacBee, Sacramento County machine flaws to delay results:

Problems with Sacramento County voting machines will stall Feb. 5’s election results for hours. Results may not come until well after your morning coffee – the next day, county elections officials said Wednesday.

“It might be slow, but it will be accurate,” offered Brad Buyse, a spokesman for the local election office.

He said the county discovered problems with the equipment used to count ballots in neighborhood polling places a couple weeks ago.

After days working with the ballot printer and election machine vendor to try to solve the problem – and Feb. 5’s presidential primary only days away – elections officials decided to take the faulty machines out of the mix.

So rather than scan ballots at each of the county’s 548 polling places, ballots will be taken back to the central office and tabulated using larger, faster machines that have passed required tests.

Tuesday election results usually come in by midnight. This time around, it could be 9 a.m. Wednesday before all the ballots are counted, Buyse said.


  • An 8 hour delay in knowing election results is not an issue in my view
  • It would be nice to understand what specific issues were found with the machines.
  • In addition to not providing feedback about over/under votes (brought up in the article) there is an election integrity concern with moving from precinct tallying to central tallying. The chain-of-custody of the ballots becomes more suspect and the possibility of tampering while ballots are in transit or storage arises. Most election integrity advocates (who are not pushing for end-to-end verifiable systems) advocate for counting the ballots at the precinct level so that chain-of-custody issues are less pressing. For an example of recent chain of custody issues with central counting, consider the case of New Hampshire’s democratic primary (scroll down to the “Butch” and “Hoppy” part).

6 responses to “Sacramento to tally votes centerally

  1. Kim Alexander on this:

    Given the situation, this is a good decision. In-precinct optical scanners are not a “mission critical” component of Sacramento county’s voting system. The central count scanner and the Automark accessible voting units did pass the logic and accuracy tests and are ready to be used on February 5.

  2. That is total garbage! These folks are unbelievable! We won’t permit the precincts to count the votes by hand, and report the total count at midnight. We”ll have all votes trucked to a secret room, and hold a secret vote count, and report the results the following morning, because we have to run them through proprietary voting systems that enable vote count manipulation that is undetectable. You folks in Sacramento look real foolish, standing in line!

  3. Can we mention that proprietary voting systems are, by definition, unable to be subjected to public scrutiny? Australia demonstrated that, and decided to protect the voters’ right to vote by requiring all electronic voting systems to use open software. They put their elections software on the Internet, and made it freely available for anyone to download, modify, and use for their own elections. Now, why do you suppose the U.S. won’t permit electronic voting systems that permit public scrutiny from being used in our elections? Why does the U.S. insist on having only electronic voting systems that are proprietary, and eliminate the voters’ right to vote? By the way, you voters in Sacramento look real foolish standing in line to vote in an election where your vote is counted in secret by proprietary voting systems.

  4. Requiring open software in voting machines is not enough. There is no good way to be assured that the software running on the machine is the same as the software that was approved.

    For good integrity you need to either have an active public watching every move carefully or to have a system where voters can prove that their votes were accurately represented and counted even in the presence of counters and talliers that are untrusted.

    The later is trivial is a secret ballot is not required. It is possible to have it and preserve the secret ballot as well. See Ben Adida’s excellent presentation on verifiable voting.

  5. Good points, but maybe not the complete picture. Just about anyone can participate in the public scrutiny of electronic voting systems that utilize an approach such as that used in Australia. On the point about verifiable voting, I think it would be worth pursuing, but my personal belief is, to undo the damage done by our present administration who is responsible for eliminating our right to vote.

  6. Pingback: Follow up to Sacramento central tallying « All About Voting

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