Friday, July 30, 2004

Report-1 OFFICIAL Test of Election Counting System

Well folks. Here is my first report.

I arrived almost 15 minutes late, to find that the system was NOT operational.

There were many issues, but some of the big ones at the top of my head are these:

The counting system is NOT VERIFIABLE. There is no ballot by ballot way to compare the original ballot to the votes that the computer (as amended by the officials) interpreted from that ballot. We cannot know what the computer decided. It is like using a giant calculator with no “paper tape” to enter hundreds of thousands of numbers, and then pressing TOTAL, and believing the TOTAL without checking it. Who would possibly trust the result?

We are NOT allowed to “test” some portions of the system including: absentee ballot counting, early ballot counting, and provisional ballot counting applications. In addition, the Democrat and Libertarian tests are COMPLETED without testing four of the eight scanning systems (two are broken and two are “maybe” working in Longmont). It troubles me that the official representative of the Democrat and Libertarian parties is a paid Boulder County elections department official. Does anybody believe that this is independent oversight? I felt like I was in a den of Lions.

There is no batch integrity. The system counts as many ballots as are scanned and declares victory. There is no attempt to match the ballots scanned by the machine against the number of ballots cast in the precinct or other voting place. I saw no way for a canvass board to perform its duties.

I saw no mechanisms supporting a security system – for example a history of who decided what and when for each change made to a voter’s votes. Once the decision is made, it is unchallengeable. This means that unless a candidate is allowed to have a watcher at every machine, every minute the machines are being used, there will be no way to check anything.

The operational characteristics of the counting system are extremely prone to human error and it would be nothing short of a miracle if errors are not made under fire. The personnel are working like an airship captain and co-captain. One reads, and one punches button. It is too complex to be followed by fatigued personnel. I anticipate a crisis on election night. And there will be no way to find out what really happened.

Boulder County’s election officials insist on going through the motions of a test and will not take pause to get their act together. As I understand what they told me, they intend to start counting tomorrow with a counting system that FAILED today’s test – it was not able to count the Republican Primary test ballots.

And the thing that I find most alarming – the officials, including the County Attorney, did not expect more from this test. They told me that these types of problems are to be expected. This is the pre-production test of a system that is intended to go live in the morning.

I don’t know what to do.