Election “Audit” Discovers Diebold-Known Error

Eureka CA, Diebold error resulted in 179 uncounted ballots. The Times-Standard reports the story of the “Humboldt Election Transparency Project”, similar to a post-election audit <read>

Premier Elections Solutions (formerly known as Diebold Election Systems, Inc.), seems to have known about the glitch at least since 2004.

The Transparency Project is not an ordinary audit, it is partially accomplished by the public:

Crnich said a discrepancy in vote counts came to her attention after the election was officially certified by the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors, while she and volunteers were preparing ballot images for the transparency project.

The basic idea behind the first-of-its-kind transparency project is fairly simple: every ballot cast in an election is passed through an optical scanner after being officially counted and the images are then placed online and available for download.

Software, created by volunteer Mitch Trachtenberg, then allows viewers to sort the ballots by precinct or race to conduct recounts at their pleasure.

The same Diebold GEMS system is used in Massachusetts to program our elections in Connecticut. Unlike Humboldt County, we do not use the GEMS for totaling ballots – but we depend on the GEMS system and Diebold for election results:

After exchanging several calls with Premier Elections Solutions, Crnich said she was told that the software begins counting decks of ballots at zero, and that sometimes when a deck is deleted from the machine due to normal complications, the software also deletes the Deck Zero, which in this case was the vote-by-mail ballots from Precinct 1E-45.

Crnich said she then called the Secretary of State’s Office.

”They were very interested and actually offered great congratulations on this project,” Crnich said.

Crnich said she later learned from the Secretary of State’s Office that two other California counties, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo, use the same version of GEMS elections software (version 1.18.19), as well as several entire states, including Maryland.

The Secretary of State’s Office was not immediately available for comment by deadline and a late call to Premier Elections Solutions was not answered.

Crnich said it appears that Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties had been informed of the software glitch, and were told how to work around it to avoid having any effect on the election counts.

The Secretary of State’s Office, however, had not been notified of the problem despite having conducted a top-to-bottom review of the state’s elections systems in 2006, according to Crnich.

The scariest part of all this, said Trachtenberg, is that the issue would have never been uncovered without the transparency project.

”Has this happened in other counties or other states?” he asked. “How can we know?”

Crnich also said she was informed by the Secretary of State’s Office that this version of Premier Elections Solutions GEMS software was in use in the highly contested 2000 Florida election before the problem surfaced.

If there have been or ever are discrepancies counting scanned absentee ballots in Connecticut, they won’t be found by our current post-election audits – centrally counted absentee ballots are exempt from our post-election audits.

In Connecticut we avoid GEMS by accumulating vote counts by hand, hand-calculator, and spreadsheet. Most of the numbers reported on the Secretary of the State’s web site are the result of at least three manual transcriptions of numbers, added by hand, hand calculator, or spreadsheet to yield the reported/certified results – if our calculations are correct, in the extreme some of the individual reported/certified numbers are the result of multiple additions and transcriptions of up to 256 original number printed by scanners or hand counts of votes by election officials. However, if the images of the original district moderators’ returns and scanner tape were available online, voters, candidates, and parties could at least audit that aspect of Connecticut elections.


One response to “Election “Audit” Discovers Diebold-Known Error”

  1. Building FOSS for Society » Blog Archive » Open source vote counting

    […] and others, has one of the most progressive mandatory auditing systems on the books?  As pointed out by Luther Weeks of  CTVotersCount, the faulty Diebold GEMS system is used by a private company in […]

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