Diebold and Ohio: Nothing Ever Changes

DieboldOhioCompany.jpgWhile Ohio faces continued problems with their voting machines, one thing is becoming readily apparant: One man, one vote is no longer considered the standard. The AP is reporting a host of new problems with Ohio’s voting system after Tuesday’s primary election:

Election officials had trouble printing ballot receipts, finding lost votes and tabulating election results in Tuesday’s primary. Some election workers were late or did not show up at all in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County, the state’s largest. Others could not figure out how to turn on the machines.

“Ohio’s quickly getting this reputation as most corrupt and maybe most incompetent,” said Chris Link, executive director of the
American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, which fielded dozens of complaints from voters.

Being the one who advised Michael Badnarik to take Ohio to court after the 2004 elections, I’ve been following that state’s response in cleaning up their system. The one thing which is becoming quite clear over time is that the standard for determining if an election result is valid deals with statisitics and no longer relies on the age-old tradition of one man, one vote. Here’s an example:

Glitches were reported across the state, and a few local races remained undecided Wednesday while counting continued. The number of outstanding votes was too small to affect races for governor, Congress and statewide offices.

Columbus attorney Cliff Arnebeck, who handles voting-rights cases, said many of the problems were expected. “You could see in the absence of adequate training, people could just screw up,” he said.

And another:

Cuyahoga County was searching for memory cards holding votes from 74 polling locations. Spokeswoman Jane Platten said the cards might have been left in machines, but she would not discuss details, citing security concerns. The county had reported results from about 98 percent of precincts by Wednesday night.

And another:

Link, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the problems went far beyond minor snags that could be expected, including complaints that voters were sent away by poll workers who were perplexed by the machines. In those cases, voters should have been offered paper ballots.

And another:

Workers failed to open one polling place until 1:30 p.m. Robert Bennett, the state GOP chairman and head of the Cuyahoga Elections Board, said they might have been criminally negligent and referred the case to prosecutors.

And another:

“We’ve had poll workers with the old system who after 10 years still made mistakes,” Damschroder said. “It’s going to be a learning curve no matter what we do.”

See how they excuse themselves from being 100% accurate:

In North Carolina, the state’s election chief also reported a good experience. Gary Bartlett said the machines arrived in February, giving officials two months to test the systems and instruct poll workers. Only minor problems arose in the primary.

“For a first-time rollout, we’ve got to be pleased,” Bartlett said.

Since when is “only minor problems” considered a good experience? The only “good experience” can be the vote of every citizen being properly counted.

Stephen Gordon

I like tasteful cigars, private property, American whiskey, fast cars, hot women, pre-bailout Jeeps, fine dining, worthwhile literature, low taxes, original music, personal privacy and self-defense rights -- but not necessarily in this order.

  1. Stephen — here, I agree and disagree. I agree with you in principle. The goal/result *should* be that every single vote gets counted. And on the surface that seems easy enough.

    Problem, however, is that this is a case of logistics. And as anyone with even loose familiarity with logistical exercises can tell you, there’s no such thing in the physical world as a perfect score over time. It just doesn’t happen.

    What they’ve got now does suck pretty damned bad if they can’t get something as routine as “hey, get the memory card from those twenty machines, would you?” right, though…

  2. I gotta agree with stephen it really doesn’t matter what method of voting is used. The logistics will always have a slight margin of error, and regaurdless of the method you’ll always have some corruption.

  3. If that’s cleaning up, I’d HATE to see what they consider dirty.

  4. ok, so this might not matter if my vote never makes it through the electronic machine but… I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while. What is the possibility of staging a blank ballot campaign in a state using electronic voting systems? Are there any electoral law scholars out there that might have an idea here? What are the legal requirements for write-in votes to be counted?

    Many times voters in foreign democracies (or so-called) will stage blank ballot campaigns as a protest against what they feel is an illegitimate election. What if I feel that my vote is not properly being counted and I want to send a message to our government that IT is becoming less and less legitimate. I hate to say this cause I still want to throw a vote Peirce’s way, but I think this may be a worthy protest to pursue.

    Of course more than getting the attention of the actual vote-counters, it would have to be a campaign driven by exposure in the media and whatnot, but it may be worth a shot.

  5. IanC — so why are we migrating toward systems with a greater level of error and a greater likelihood of being rigged?

  6. I am a software engineer, and for that reason a vote counting company like Diebold really concerns me.

    The fact is making software to properly count votes should be one of the easiest tasks a professional engineering company could run across, but Diebold is always having irregularities, which makes me highly suspicious. There are software processes which any company like this should use which ensure having no errors in code or logic. They are long drawn out processes, but they exist.

  7. Stephen — like I said; I agree and disagree. The way things are now is pretty damned bad and something needs to be done about it.

    But in the realistic side of things, 100%-ism will be self-defeating here. “It only drops the margin of error from 30% to .9%? INEXCUSABLE! EXECUTE THE INFIDEL!!!” … lol

    There are vastly better protocols already in existance that can handle vast amounts of personalized information without making frequent or even infrequent mistakes. The companies using them are called, “financial institutions.”

    It amazes me that people put more scrutiny into where they put their money than where they put their freedoms.

    … perhaps that’s a decent standard? “As Secure And Accurate As Your Bank Account” … ?

    I mean, c’mon. How hard would it *really* be to build a Babbage engine that has a “tamper-proof” odometer for each candidate? Write-ins get hard, but for run-of-the-mill? Easy.

    Like I said. Agree and disagree.

  8. The point of the article is our loss of the one person, one vote standard. Granted, no method will be perfect, but the issue is how close can we get to the standard of one for one without excusing major problems.

    I have been leaning toward PBOS personally, but I can say that if technology today (DRE, PBOS, etc.) is