Yes Virginia! – No Ballots, No Problems – Trust The Memory

A close election in Virginia with electronic touch screen voting.  They have optical scanners, but they saved some paper and used their expensive touch screen machines.  One machine made an obvious error so they counted the votes in the memory log on the two machines in that precinct and declared the records in memory accurate.  Yet what about all the other machines that counted 89 votes more for one candidate out of 12,000 cast?

Stories in the Washington Post,  BradBlog and LocalTV

According to Brad and the WaPo:

the geniuses who run Fairfax County’s election decided to use only touch-screen systems in the election yesterday, despite having used both paper ballots and touch-screens in last November’s election. The WINVote “is the most widely used touch-screen voting machine in Virginia,” according to the Washington Post story in which explanations are given for why the Republican “narrowly defeated” the Democrat by 89 votes.

Officials are “not yet sure what caused the device to malfunction.”

WaPo’s earlier story — when the Republican John Cook was said to have been leading the entirely-unverifiable election by 69 votes, before the wholly-unverified and unverifiable “votes” from the failed machine were printed out, one-by-one, and then tallied by officials from the machines memory — notes that the race came down to the votes cast in the single precinct where the machine failed.

Brad had the same reaction that I did to a quote in the local TV story:

Voters are mixed. “I think the electronic equipment these days is pretty good,” said Fairfax County resident Julie Stewart. “But paper would be fine if they’ve got a lot of money and they want to spend the time doing it,” said Fairfax County resident Richard Carlson.

…Dear Richard: Paper elections are cheaper, more accurate, and take no more “time” to tally than touch-screen elections. And at the end of the day, it’s possible to know who actually won them.

Maybe it is all mostly accurate.  We have no reason to assume the result is inaccurate.  But, without a voter verified paper record who knows?  Maybe there is a lesson in here for us.  Unfortunately, there is also a lesson here for those looking for ways to game the system in the future.

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