Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Friday, August 13, 2004 8:55 pm

“The paper trail worked flawlessly”

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 8:55 pm

From Wired.com, a report on what happened when voting-machine maker Sequoia tested a new touch-screen machine with voter-verifiable paper ballot for California officials last week:

… the machine worked fine when the company tested votes using an English-language ballot. But when the testers switched to a Spanish-language ballot, the paper trail showed no votes cast for two propositions.”We did it again and the same thing happened,” said Darren Chesin, a consultant to the state Senate elections and reapportionment committee. “The problem was not with the paper trail. The paper trail worked flawlessly, but it caught a mistake in the programming of the touch-screen machine itself. For some reason it would not record or display the votes on the Spanish ballot for these two ballot measures. The only reason we even caught it was because we were looking at the paper trail to verify it.”

The article goes on to quote a company official as saying that ballot-design error, not programming error, was to blame, and that such an error “would never happen in an election environment because of all the proofing that election officials do.”

State Senate aides watching the demonstration and Chesin “could not confirm this, however, since the company did not show them evidence of the digital votes stored on the machine’s internal memory.”

No voting system is foolproof. There’s no way to be 100% sure of preventing malfunctions, bad programming or even fraud. All you can do is create an audit system that makes it close to 100% sure that any discrepancy will be noticed. That’s the voter-verified paper ballot, the so-called “paper trail,” in a nutshell.

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