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Pitfalls on the Road to an Honest Vote

by Lois Gross

In 1996, despite Clark County’s record population growth, voter participation fell 21 percent under 1992 levels—in large part because of problems with the county’s widely criticized directly recorded electronic (DRE) Sequoia Pacific computerized voting machines. Below, Lois Gross itemizes why many voters doubt the integrity of the county’s system.

Contested count.
DRE will give the same count every time, though that may be the count contested. There is no physical, separate ballot to check against.

Machine may have been damaged in some way not noticeable.
For example, a worker makes a mistake in preparation of machine’s access control buttons on the control on the side of the machine.

Voter presses ENTRY key too soon.
A voter who has not been properly instructed, or does not understand instructions, or is in some way impaired or hurried, can easily make the mistake of pressing the ENTRY key after the first vote, thinking, perhaps, each vote must be so entered. What will happen is that all further votes will not be accepted by the machine, and the voter may not ever know it.

Voter accidentally presses the wrong button.
Voter may know wrong candidate button has been pressed, but nothing can be done. In this case, as well as the one above, the voter using a ballot for the optical scan machine can request and sign for a new ballot and the incorrect one is destroyed.

Voter presses button and nothing lights up signifying accepted vote; no vote accepted.
Voter may not report. Improperly working machine may not be taken out of service or problem corrected. Voter may report and correction may or may not be done.

Voter votes for Candidate A and machine records a vote for Candidate B.
Voter will not know change has been programmed into machine’s computer.

Voter votes and forgets to press ENTRY button.
When the machine is then readied for the next voter, the first voter’s choices are lost. Or, the next voter could effectively make changes to first voter’s selections before pressing "Enter vote," and making his or her own selection.

Software lost, changed or damaged in transit, or just disappears.
With the optical scanner methodology, by comparison, the vote on the physical paper ballot is always available to be rechecked and recounted.

Count of DRE numerical code on tape incorrectly entered and all subsequent counts are wrong.
Numerical code is confusing and in blocks of numbers not easily—if at all—understandable to the layman poll watcher.

Count not taken at precinct.
There is much less opportunity for fraud if counts are taken for each precinct before tape is sent to an area where all precincts are counted. The optical-scan ballot is counted at the second it is slipped into the box by the voter.

Software is tampered with before election.
Software was secretly written to rig the election. Ways to write software to slant an election are limited only by the programmer’s imagination and range from the pedestrian (programmed to pass testing early, then, at a certain hour, or upon certain electronic stimuli, change procedures) to the exotic.

Software tampered with during election, by hacker.
Software tampered with during a "glitch," when no "outsider" is permitted to watch "correction."

Worker enters booth to help voter and votes for voter, who may not know this has been done.

Cartridges exchanged on way to counting.

Files changed during counting.

Hidden modem (internal) accepts electronic messages to control vote from outside.

Software programmed in one or more of many ways that change, manipulate and/or subvert the vote. Example: software can be written to perform correctly for any pre-vote test, but later, when a highly unusual vote is registered by an accomplice, "kick in" to a manipulated vote pattern.

Voter leaves polling place because of long lines.u

Lois Gross is a member of the Nevada Policy Research Institute's Advisory Council.


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