No wonder Craig wants ” Tabulators, Internet and Telephone voting”.. AND NOT RANKED BALLOT!!!

By  | September 29, 2016 | 1 Comment | Filed under: Cambridge Council 2016

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The Computer Voting Revolution Is Already Crappy, Buggy, and Obsolete

Remember when everyone hated hanging chads and wanted computerized voting?

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

 

Six days after Memphis voters went to the polls last October to elect a mayor and other city officials, a local computer programmer named Bennie Smith sat on his couch after work to catch up on e-mail.

The vote had gone off about as well as elections usually do in Memphis, which means not well at all. The proceedings were full of the technical mishaps that have plagued Shelby County, where Memphis is the seat, since officials switched to electronic voting machines in 2006. Servers froze, and the results were hours late. But experts at the county election commission assured both candidates and voters that the problems were minor and the final tabulation wasn’t affected.

That story might have held up if Smith, a financial software developer and church organist, hadn’t been conducting an election night experiment. In his free time, Smith crunches voter-turnout data with programs he’s written to help local politicians target their direct-mail campaigns. Like Smith, most of his clients are black, and he had bet a friend 10 candy bars that the polling place at Unity Christian Church, a black congregation a mile from Graceland, would have a big turnout. The precinct, No. 77-01, is a Democratic stronghold and has one of the largest concentrations of African American voters in a city known for racially fractured politics. Smith’s guess: 600 votes. When the polls closed at 7 p.m., he was at Unity Christian and snapped some photos with his BlackBerry of the precinct’s poll tape—literally a tally of the votes printed on white paper tape and posted on a church window. Since the printouts come directly from the voting machines at each location, election officials consider it the most trustworthy count. According to the tape, Smith’s guess was close: 546 people had cast ballots.

When he got an e-mail a week later with Shelby County’s first breakdown of each precinct’s voting, he ran down the list to the one precinct where he knew the tally for sure. The count for Unity Christian showed only 330 votes. Forty percent of the votes had disappeared.

If you’re an election official, losing votes is a very big deal, but it presents a special problem in Tennessee. Most counties in the state don’t keep paper records of ballots, so there are no physical votes locked in a room somewhere, ready to be recounted.

When underperforming voting equipment in Florida nearly created a constitutional crisis in the 2000 presidential race, officials at least knew what went wrong. The aging Votomatic machines were supposed to be cleaned regularly, which election officials in several counties failed to do. So when voters choosing between Al Gore and George W. Bush inserted their readable punch-card ballots into the devices, they often created a half-punched piece of chaff rather than a clean cut, and entered the term “hanging chad” into the American political lexicon.

Shelby County uses a GEMS tabulator—for Global Election Management System—which is a personal computer installed with Diebold software that sits in a windowless room in the county’s election headquarters. The tabulator is the brains of the system. It monitors the voting machines, sorts out which machines have delivered data and which haven’t, and tallies the results. As voting machines check in and their votes are included in the official count, each machine’s status turns green on the GEMS master panel. A red light means the upload has failed.

At the end of Memphis’s election night in October 2015, there was no indication from the technician running Shelby County’s GEMS tabulator that any voting machine hadn’t checked in or that any votes had gone missing, according to election commission e-mails obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek. Yet as county technicians followed up on the evidence from Smith’s poll-tape photo, they discovered more votes that never made it into the election night count, all from precincts with large concentrations of black voters.

For the members of Congress, who in 2002 provided almost $4 billion to modernize voting technology through the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA—Congress’s response to Bush v. Gore—this probably wasn’t the result they had in mind. But voting by computer has been a technological answer in search of a problem. Those World War II-era pull-lever voting machines may not have been the most elegant of contraptions, but they were easy to use and didn’t crash. Georgia, which in 2002 set out to be an early national model for the transition to computerized voting, shows the unintended consequences. It spent $54 million in HAVA funding to buy 20,000 touchscreen voting machines from Diebold, standardizing its technology across the state. Today, the machines are past their expected life span of 10 years. (With no federal funding in sight, Georgia doesn’t expect to be able to replace those machines until 2020.) The vote tabulators are certified to run only on Windows 2000, which Microsoft stopped supporting six years ago. To support the older operating system, the state had to hire a contractor to custom-build 100 servers—which, of course, are more vulnerable to hacking because they can no longer get current security updates.

After California declared almost all of the electronic voting machines in the state unfit for use in 2007 for failing basic security tests, San Diego County put its decertified machines in storage. It has been paying the bill to warehouse them ever since: No one wants to buy them, and county rules prohibit throwing millions of dollars’ worth of machines in the trash bin.

 

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One Response to No wonder Craig wants ” Tabulators, Internet and Telephone voting”.. AND NOT RANKED BALLOT!!!

  1. mjqsmith@bell.net'
    Maggie Smith October 10, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Interesting – so now we know why Craig & his cronies do not want Ranked Rallots – they are work so good & are less complicated than the last way it was done here in Cambridge. When something good is suggested – but it worries Craig – then it is booted out. Too bad & after reading the above – can see it happening here. In fact, when we have talked to a variety of people – not one has said they voted for Craig – then we wondered how he got in – maybe we now know how…..

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