E-Voting Machines Run Into Some Problems

This AP article has been making the rounds on the Internet.

Super Tuesday voters in Maryland, Georgia and California encountered scattered technical problems Tuesday, largely blamed on human error, as electronic voting machines got their biggest U.S. test so far.

Dozens of machines in California’s San Diego County failed to boot up properly, forcing voters to wait until they were fixed or to go to another polling spot to cast paper ballots.

Other glitches involved devices called encoders that are inserted into touchscreen voting machines to customize them for a particular election and location. One Maryland precinct received a neighbor’s encoders by mistake, while a Georgia county apparently forgot to program them.

A record number of voters were expected to cast e-ballots for the first time as 10 states held Super Tuesday primary contests.

Advocates of electronic voting say paperless ballots save money and eliminate problems common to old systems. But the technology brings a new breed of security concerns, including software errors and hackers, that critics say could render the results unreliable.

“Somehow, some way, people have always found a way to get into computer systems,” said Kim Parrish, a 46-year-old insurance company worker who voted in Brooklyn Park, Md.

In California, new security measures range from random tests of touch-screen machines by independent experts to a recommendation that poll workers prevent voters from carrying cell phones or other wireless devices into booths.

The problems reported in California, though, were more basic.

When some San Diego poll workers plugged in machines, a screen for the Windows operating system and not the voting program appeared. Officials spent more than two hours getting all machines operating.

The problem, which apparently was triggered by a power fluctuation, affected between 10 percent and 15 percent of the county’s 1,611 precincts, said Mike Workman, a San Diego County spokesman.

Officials said they were unsure how many voters had to leave for work before the problem was fixed.

In Maryland and Georgia, voters were able to use paper ballots on the spot while the machine encoders were fixed. Early voters in an Atlanta precinct also were given paper ballots because of machine malfunctions.