Major E-voting problem emerges

July 28, 2004

I’ve said it before: no conspiracy is needed. These are mostly Microsoft Windows based machines and they are prone to crash and are very buggy – just like the machines that most of you use at home and work. The errors that make the news are known errors. What else is lurking out there that may be affecting the vote counts? We may never know, because vendors are allowed to keep their systems super-secret. | 07/28/2004 | Computer glitches lost voting data

Two computer crashes last year destroyed most of the electronic records from recent Miami-Dade County elections, raising fears about the touch-screen technology the county bought to prevent a debacle similar to the 2000 presidential election.

Elections officials say they that have since fixed the problem, and that the crashes occurred long after any potential call for a recount passed. For at least 10 days after an election, they say, the votes are kept in a memory device called a “flash card.”

”Immediately after the elections, the flash cards still exist,” said Seth Kaplan, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade Department of Elections. “They could have done a recount.”

Still, the department has no idea what caused the server to crash in May and November 2003 and erase nearly all of the electronic data from the previous year’s gubernatorial primary and general election.

The November incident happened shortly after a major municipal election. The elections department could not say whether the crash could have jeopardized a potential request for a recount. Luckily, no recount was called for.

The Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, which discovered the problem, said the loss of data highlights the unreliability of a system that has been wracked with glitches since the county began using it in 2002. More ominously, they say, it shows how ephemeral votes can be in an electronic system with no paper trail to rely on for a recount.

”We will never know how good or bad the audit capability because the data is gone,” said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, an attorney and chairwoman of the coalition. “What this shows from a big-picture perspective is that no one knows what’s going on.”

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