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Monday, January 28, 2008

A view from South Carolina

Tom Hatfield of Hilton Head Island, S.C., had this to say about the Enquirer's article titled, Voting debate grows partisan:

"I read your article about Touch Screen Voting Machines and have a comment that you may wish to consider since it has not been widely discussed.

"I have been an Election Commissioner for seven years here in Beaufort County, SC (and its Chairman for three of those seven) and was very involved in switching from punch cards, to paper ballot scanning machines to, finally, touch screen machines.

"I cannot remember the source but what was narrowly reported about voting was simply this:

1- There are NO perfect elections. Mistakes are always made. Most often by the voters themselves.
2- The objective was to reduce whatever errors are made, whether by election officials or voters, to the lowest possible number.
3- The error rates of voting by ballot types are proven to be:
a) Hand counted ballots - over 3 percent (which are also the easiest to cheat).
b) Punch cards - 2 to 3 percent (including hanging chads).
c) Electronic scanned paper ballots - 1 percent (mostly voter error).
d) Touch Screen Voting - 0.5 percent (the most difficult to defraud with the least voter error).

"What is also not well publicized is that most electronic voting machines have a triple redundancy. Which means that you have two EPROM electronic chips built inside the machine that records every vote cast on that machine. Plus a removable 'smart card' that records the same votes. If one fails for any reason, the other two are available for backup and verification.

"Unfortunately, the majority of objectors to Touch Screen Voting have little experience in actually working at the polls or running elections.

To those of us who work at the polls, Touch Screen Voting Machines are the best answer to good elections that we have ever seen."

Does anyone have a differing viewpoint? Feel free to comment here.



at 2:51 PM, January 28, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

The role of the SOS and Elections Officials are to ensure that elections are carried out fairly and the outcomes reflect the will of the people. It appears to me that there are some officials who place the ease of doing their jobs above accuracy. This is both disgraceful and unacceptable!

The GAO Report on Electronic Voting, as well as Ohio's Everest Report have indicated that the machines are not reliable, inaccurate and subject to security issues. This information must guide the public servants who are entrusted to oversee our elections, not party talking points OR ease of the voting process.


Hand Counted Paper Ballots, Counted at the Precinct level WITH FULL PUBLIC WITNESS!

Less expensive, more trusted, and with strict chain of command requirements, MORE ACCURATE!

at 3:03 PM, January 28, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...


ES&S iVotronic Touch-Screens Fail In 100% of the County's Precincts, Voters Reportedly Being Turned Away Without Being Able to Cast a Vote
Virus-Vulnerable Voting Machines Had Been Sent Home with Pollworkers on 'Sleepovers' Prior to Today's Republican Primary...

Guest Blogged By John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

Local media and CNN are reporting that Horry County South Carolina's ES&S touch-screen votingmachines are in a near total meltdown.

CNN reports:

Poll workers in Horry County tell CNN voting machines have been down since polls opened Saturday morning throughout the county — the machinesare not reading an activation card.

Workers have been giving out paper ballots but at least one precinct has run out of envelopes to seal them in (not a sign of turnout — they had just 23 such ballots on hand). Election workers say that officials have told them they are working precinct by precinct to fix the problem and that a few votingmachines may now be running, but some voters have been turned away and asked to check back later.

Three poll workers also tell CNN the county has about 100 precincts and all have been affected. CNN is awaiting a call back from the county's election supervisor.

Further CNN coverage here: "South Carolina primary plagued by bad voting machines"

Malfunctioning voting machines plagued Horry County, which contains the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach, according to poll workers. Workers said the machines have been down since polls opened at 7 a.m., and they are not reading activation cards.

Workers were handing out paper ballots, but at least one precinct has run out --- it had only 23 on hand. Poll workers said the county has about 100 precincts, and all of them are affected.



at 3:28 PM, January 28, 2008 Blogger stillcool said...

"Houston, we have a problem" Why is this 'election commissioner' so ignorant? It looks like its' up to 'we the people' to educate those who are paid to know the skinny on our voting systems.

at 4:37 PM, January 28, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

He can't remember the source of his "statistics"?

Mine say that according to a 2006 Zogby poll, 92% of Americans want to be able to SEE/witness their ballots being counted accurately - partly to avoid having to blindly believe Election Commissioners who throw out numbers as "facts" - even maybe, election outcomes - and to attempt to "prove" such innaccurate concepts as all election officials and computer programmers are to be trusted, but voters are not.
The biggest risks to elections are not the small innaccuracies that may arise through widely observed handcounting; but they're in leaving election officials of many motivations, and computer programmers and sales companies, or anyonem alone to decide and then tell us the supposed outcomes of OUR/the people's elections.

Mr. Hatfield with his comments, again just proved the point - the people need to see that our outcomes are made from our joint will - not cited by an election commissioner who can't remember, and prove the validity of the sources of his numbers he quotes.

at 4:57 PM, January 28, 2008 Anonymous Jo Anne Karasek said...

Tom Hatfield's information in "A view from South Carolina" is incorrect. The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Version 2: March 30, 2001 states that the residual error [overvotes and undervotes] rate from 1998 through 2000 were
Paper Ballots [Hand Counted] ballots, between 1.3 and 2.2,
Optically scanned ballots, . . . . . . . . . between 1.2 and 2.5,
Punch Card ballots, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . between 1.0 and 3.7, and
Electronic (DRE) ballots, . . . . . . . . . . between 1.6 and 3.5.

Overall hand, counted paper ballots and optically scanned ballots error rates were extremely close,
DREs error rates were much higher, and
Punch card ballots error rates were the worst.
It would be a fair conclusion that when the voter can see the ballot for himself, not punches, not partial screens, that there are the least errors.

Also, for instance, in Hamilton County, Ohio, the Hart InterCivic e-Scan is not used to scan for undervotes, so the error rate for that vote scanning machine could be higher than hand counted paper ballots.

The hand counted paper ballot system is not in any way the easiest to cheat. Although fraud can happen with all voting systems, hand counted paper ballot fraud is done ballot by ballot. That takes the most labor by ballot by far; in fact, it is called "retail fraud".

With voting machines, one brief hack can change the count on the votes for an entire voting machine, an average of probably 7,000 votes. And when the voting machines are interconnected, the single brief hack can change the count of dozens of machines. That one brief hack affecting 30 machines can change the count on 210,000 votes. That is called "wholesale" fraud!

As to voting machines having a vote count in up to 3 different internal sources, any party opposing the voting machine count cannot expect to see the results on the 3 different internal sources because they contain programming and so are "proprietary" and withheld from inspection! Further, who decides which one of the 3 to consider official when they differ! And worse yet, hacking can be done such that the evidence of the hack is erased from the machines.

When an election head tells us that the voting machines are the "best answer to good elections", we are not told what are the election head's standards of a good election. In view of California, Ohio and other states' testing of the voting machines, the voting machines are extremely vulnerable to hacking. With so much at stake during elections, hacking can be expected. But an election head that doesn't care about reliability might find voting machines the easiest to administer an election. Easy administration is not my standard and should not be the standard for the voters.

Jo Anne Karasek
Ohio Coordinator for the Ohio Secure Hand Counted Paper Ballots Constitutional Initiative

at 5:01 PM, January 28, 2008 Blogger Jason said...

Is this a national GOP policy that we should ignore all of the studies, scientists, election officials, activists, and citizen reports that point to severe problems with touchscreen voting.

Tom Hatfield, the vice chairman of Beaufort County's Republican Party, should really not be giving advice about Ohio's elections, considering the major meltdown in the South Carolina primary. Mr. Hatfield, how many precincts could not even allow votes at all because of your touchscreen voting machines?

This video show the SC Election Board claiming 100% of problems are because of "stupid voters". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-X6aUyeJo24

Also, as an election official and GOP representative; Mr. Hatfield, please cite any references to your claims about the "proven" error rate and "ease of cheating" these different voting methods.

Finally, just because voting machines make election officials lives "easier", that may not be the best approach. Like your comment about triple redundancy. You do realize your statement about storing the electronic results three places is equivalent to making photocopies of a stack of ballots. It is only useful concept if you know the ballots contain the correct votes in the first place.

at 10:08 PM, January 28, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr Craig,

I hope you will forward Mr Hatfield these comments. It is very telling that this election commissioner appears to be ignorant of the scientific studies which appear to be known by your readers. It appears that officials, like Mr Hatfield, are choosing systems the way some here in Ohio have-based on ease of use instead of accuracy, reliability and security. Maybe Mr Hatfield can spend a little time with the studies suggested here, and possibly work toward correcting the abysmal election system in his own state.

at 10:47 PM, January 28, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please suggest Mr Hatfield review:

"Sarasota's Vanished Votes - An Investigation into the Cause of Uncounted Votes in the 2006 Congressional District 13 Race in Sarasota County, Florida" January 2008 www.FloridaFairElections.org

4.7.7 "Redundant" Machine Memories Do Not Always Match

The ES&S Operator's Manual states (Page 72):
The voter terminals store all voted ballot images in three separate memory chips. Each of those chips contains a complete record of all ballots that were cast on that voter terminal. Whenever a voter terminal powers up (each time a voter begins using it), the images in those three chips are compared to each other. If they are not identical, the voter terminal issue an error message on the display and then powers down to prevent further use.
This prevents large amounts of corrupt data from being stored or transferred in the system.

at 9:57 AM, January 29, 2008 Anonymous Anonymous said...


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