The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Susan Greenhalgh, (917) 796-8782
Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

Election Watch Dogs Warn Equipment Could Lose Votes;

Precautions Must Be Taken


Today, three voting rights watch dog groups, the Brennan
Center, Verified Voting, and Common Cause released an advisory to
election officials warning that voting systems in specific states may
not total votes correctly if proper procedures are not followed, and
stressing that all vote totaling should be manually checked. The
warning cited an August 19, 2008 product advisory notice issued by
Premier voting systems, formerly Diebold, which acknowledged that the
voting system does not always aggregate machine totals correctly when
it is compiling votes from multiple polling locations.

"What this means is that votes are intact in the machines, but when
they are all compiled by the Premier tabulator at the county level, a
number of them may be lost." said Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause.
"To guard against this loss, election officials must manually check the
math of the central tabulators by adding up the precinct votes
themselves with a calculator."

The defect may be in place in as many as 31 states that use Premier
voting systems in some or all of their counties. The states include AK,
MS, NH, OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI and WY. All of these states
use the Premier equipment, but the product advisory from Premier
indicated that states which use GEMS tabulator versions 1.20.2 and
earlier are definitely vulnerable to the flaw.

Officials in Butler County, Ohio, raised the problem with the Premier
equipment when 150 votes from a memory card were dropped following the
March primary earlier this year. Eight other Ohio counties experienced
the same problem during the March primary. Fortunately, no votes were
irretrievably lost in any of these counties because election officials
caught the error before the primary results were finalized. However,
the Ohio Secretary of State is suing Premier for breach of contract
related to these events.

In August of this year, Premier issued a Product Advisory Notice
outlining the major defect. According to the advisory issued by Premier:

"Premier Election Solutions has determined that a sharing violation may
occur in the GEMS poster during simultaneous uploading of results from
multiple memory cards resulting in the contents of the affected memory
card(s) not being posted to GEMS. Note that in this situation, the
AVServer console will indicate the affected upload of memory card(s)
has been successful, (green arrow), when the upload has not, in fact,
been successful."

The advisory letter recommended certain procedures election officials
could take to guard against the loss of votes. It also recommended that
election officials engage in a rigorous post election reconciliation
process as part of the canvass.

"This is a solvable problem, but if it is ignored, it could have a huge
impact on the number of votes that are counted. Every vote matters.
When our equipment is known to malfunction, election officials really
must step in and make sure they are doing everything they can to verify
electronic totals." said Larry Norden, Director of the Voting
Technology Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of
Law. "Thorough ballot reconciliation practices will catch these kinds
of errors and restore integrity to the process."

The organizations caution that all jurisdictions should manually
reconcile the aggregated totals and check the results to ensure they
have been compiled correctly, noting that errors were found in a
results report from the September 9, Washington, D.C primary. Sequoia
Voting Systems supplied the equipment that generated the erroneous
report which included 1500 invalid, "phantom" votes. The D.C. city
council is still investigating.

"These steps are part of best practices for any
voting system," cautioned Pamela Smith, President of Verified Voting
Foundation. "Although this problem has been identified in one
particular system, it doesn't mean it may not affect others, so
adhering to these safeguards - and carrying out post-election audits
where possible - will go a long way to preventing and resolving

The letter can be found here:

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process.

(202) 833-1200