Oh, Flori-duh! County Notorious for Hanging Chads Still Has Trouble Counting Votes

A Palm Beach County elections worker inspects a potential hanging chad following the 2000 presidential election. (Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida.)

By Howard Goodman
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Twelve years after Bush v. Gore, Palm Beach County still faces serious problems with its voting machines.

A Palm Beach Post investigation reveals that although Palm Beach County has spent more than $20 million on electronic voting systems to replace the discredited punch-card ballots of hanging-chad infamy, its current high-tech equipment cannot be fully trusted to perform the most basic tasks: count votes correctly and keep them secure.

This is the conclusion of computer scientists in California who tested the equipment, which was created by Sequoia Voting Systems but now owned by Dominion Voting Systems, the Post found.

Flaws weren’t confined to the laboratory. Four times in the last four years, ballot-counting went awry in local elections that used the Sequoia equipment:

  • In a West Palm Beach City Commission special election in June 2008, almost 700 votes from three precincts — or 14 per cent of the ballots cast — were not counted. “Memory cartridges had been read by machines twice instead of once during pre-election testing. So when actual votes were entered, a tabulating system prevented them from being counted, placing them in a special file. Election staff did not know to look at the special file.” The snafu didn’t change the election’s outcome.
  • In a county judicial election in August 2008, two voting machines counted the same number of paper ballots and came up with different totals. First, William Abramson led by 17 votes. After a machine recount, Richard Wennet led by 60 votes. Then nearly 3,500 votes “disappeared” — a combination of a faulty memory cartridge and human error. When the missing votes were found, Abramson was declared winner by 61 votes.
  • In the Indian River County presidential primary in August 2008, more than 10,000 votes were counted twice.
  • In Wellington village elections in March 2012, results were swapped among two council seats and the mayor’s race, causing two village council seat losers to be declared winners. “The elections supervisor blamed the software; the software maker denied responsibility.”

With Florida shaping up once again to be a major swing state in a presidential election, these flaws are of more than local interest.

“Wellington better be a wake-up call,” Ion Sancho, Leon County’s elections supervisor and an outspoken critic of the state’s election procedures, told the Post. “We should not take this process for granted.”

Reporters Pat Beall and Adam Playford say it is impossible to know how many problems have been corrected — Dominion Voting Systems declined to answer questions, saying only that the system has improved. The company doesn’t have to talk. Its processes are considered business secrets — one of the downsides of turning over the public’s elections machinery to private hands.

Unfortunately, the state’s problems with its voting machinery are much more complicated than a few upgrades, the Post reporters write:

  • The California study found that other systems were equally flawed. And experts’ scrutiny of voting software has unearthed problems with virtually every technology and product, even as a federal agency established to provide oversight is so weak that its White House-appointed board has no members.
  • Paper ballots are widely considered better than both punch cards and touch-screen equipment. Yet this is largely true only because the original votes can be counted again – and Florida law sharply restricts audits and recounts.

The Post pursued the story after investigative reporter Beall became curious about what had caused the Wellington snafu. She started digging and found a California study highly critical of the Sequoia equipment — a study that had been published months before Palm Beach County bought the system. She teamed with Playford, an investigative reporter and computer programmer.

Their series, which began on Sunday, continues in the Post‘s print editions Monday and Tuesday.

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One Response to “Oh, Flori-duh! County Notorious for Hanging Chads Still Has Trouble Counting Votes”

  1. SB says:

    @John Russell, we must also ensure that the ranks of those charged with overseeing Florida’s election process are filled by people of the highest integrity. Currently the system is ripe for corruption that is largely facilitated by all of the seemingly unavoidable mayhem that is part of the election process. That being the case, everything that can be finely tuned should be finely tuned…the inherent problems are enough to deal with. Having stated that, the citizenry should be aware that a corrupt public servant has been intentionally entangled in the administration of Florida’s / America’s 2012 election process. Take a look at the below portion of this message (information was updated on 05/07/2012). The comment was posted elsewhere previously, however it is fitting that I share it here. The public should be aware.

    —————————————————

    Next stop Gainesville, Fla. (i.e. “Gator Country”). “Why specifically?”, you ask.

    Because in Alachua County, within recent months, numerous and egregious violations of law have been committed that warrant multiple criminal prosecutions and other severe government sanctions. These crimes have had all types of deleterious effects including, but not limited to, once again placing the integrity of Florida’s election results (for 2012) in jeopardy. A few of the things that are central to this issue are:

    1
    David P. Kreider [Mr. Kreider, a proven criminal, is a corrupt Alachua County Court judge. This criminally-corrupt judge also happens to be both (a) one of the circuit's former prosecutors and (b) a former Division Chief for the State Attorney's Office.]

    2
    Robert Roundtree, Chief Judge for Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit (he recently replaced the embattled Martha Lott who resigned from her chief judge post subsequent to becoming embroiled in this scandal which has started to implode; her resignation was announced on 04/09/2012 and was reported to have gone into effect on 04/05/2012)

    3
    Spencer Mann, Chief Investigator for the State Attorney’s Office of Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit

    4
    William “Bill” Cervone, State Attorney for Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit

    5
    The conspiracy / scandal related to the “Gibson Case”

    6
    The two irrefutable reports and extensive corroborating evidence that is in the possession of agencies, including those within Florida’s 8th Judicial Circuit (and the aforementioned Spencer Mann and Chief Judge’s office). The comprehensive reports and evidence span a total of more than 100 pages and in-depthly detail criminal activities carried out under the color of law by criminal/judge David P. Kreider and various other co-conspirators.

    http://www.complaints.com/2012/march/14/Corrupt_Judge_David_P._Kreider_now_taints_the_ele_264712.htm
    (updated 05/07/2012)

    This is the gateway to serious corruption and a major cover-up attempt.

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