2008 — Various News Reports


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E-voting train wreck: The Horry County, South Carolina Republican primary disaster

Colorado state elections director resigns amid Ethics Watch investigation

What can happen when transparency exists


E-voting train wreck: The Horry County, South Carolina Republican primary disaster


Guest Blogged By John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

ES&S iVotronic touch-screens (DREs) fail in 100% of the county's precincts during Republican primary.
Voters reportedly being turned away without being able to cast a vote.
Virus-vulnerable voting machines had been sent home with poll workers on "sleepovers" prior to primary election.

January 19, 2008 — Local media and CNN are reporting that Horry County South Carolina's ES&S touch-screen voting machines 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 machines are 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 voting machines 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 AM, 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."

This is happening in a state where election officials were recently asked about their paperless ES&S iVotronic touch-screen (DRE) voting system and the fact that other states have found the machines to be insecure, poorly designed, inaccurate and not accessible for voters with disabilities. These officials have all said that they anticipated a smooth voting process for both the Republican presidential preference primary on January 19 and the Democratic primary on Jan. 26 in South Carolina....

Prior to the reports of the mass failure of their voting machines, Horry County had released their plan on how they were going to conduct two primary elections on two straight Saturdays.

Late in the week poll workers picked up the iVotronic machines that they are using today. They took them home on voting machine "sleepovers" and then set-up the poll sites for today's primary.

Today only the Republicans are voting.

When the polls close this evening all memory cards, machines and supplies will be returned to the county election office.

The tallies will be done and results reported. The machines will then be prepared to be picked-up next Thursday by the same poll workers who will take them home and repeat the "sleepover" process for the Democratic primary next Saturday.

This plan seems to be a welcome mat for security problems, since the machines are highly susceptible to tampering, and even short periods outside the view of the public and election officials can be a recipe for disaster. Also in question is whether memory cards will be saved between the two primaries, as per federal law. This train wreck will probably throw a locomotive wheel into the counties plans.

This article will be updated as more news comes in...

Update: Noon Pacific: While Donna Mahn, Georgetown County elections director said,

"...before the iVotronic machines go out to precincts, they must be tested and calibrated by elections staff members. The state provides a set of rules for testing, and Mahn said everyone is careful to follow those to the letter."

Apparently Ms. Mahn misspoke because Chris Whitmire, public information officer for the State Election Commission has made the following statement to explain the problem:

Whitmire said the problem came when election officials, who test the machines by placing dummy votes and checking that they are recorded, forgot to complete the last step of the test in some cases. That last step clears the machines in preparation for actual voting.

And what do the voters have to say about the situation? While county officials are minimizing the impact of the meltdown by telling the media that no one was sent home without voting and there were paper ballots available, the voters were telling a different story:

In an email to News13, Steve Rabe wrote, "This is not true. Everyone is being turned away. There are no paper ballots. We were just turned away along with many of our neighbors. We were told the only place we could vote was in Conway. They did not know if they would get ballots later today. We were told to check back later...in the rain. This is a crisis."

Tom Reynolds wrote, "I voted by paper ballot at the Socastee library and saw them run out of those while I was there at 10am. I went to the Forestbrook precinct with a neighbor, picked up some paper ballots there and took them to the Socastee library. They told me they had 'turned away' 20 voters in the time I was gone! Turned away?! That's not supposed to happen according to the Horry county elections commission. They said they are supposed to send them to another precinct."

Update: 1:15PM PST: The McCain campaign has now announced that they will ask for the polls in Horry County to stay open an extra-hour beyond the scheduled 7PM EST closing. However, a circuit court judge has to issue the order and it is Saturday.

Update: 3:15PM PST: It appears that the CNN source for the story about McCain's campaign wanting to hold the polls open an extra hour may have been jumping the gun. Later news reports are that McCain's handlers are behind closed doors trying to decide what to do.

It is also being reported that voters in polling places all over the county used scraps of paper, note book paper, and even paper towels would be accepted as a ballot. The county is expecting to hand count over 1,500 pieces of paper tonight.


Colorado state elections director resigns amid Ethics Watch investigation


© 2008 Colorado Ethics Watch

September 5, 2008 — State Elections Director Holly Lowder resigned Thursday without an official explanation. Lowder's resignation occurred shortly after Ethics Watch served a Colorado Open Records Act ("CORA") request on the Colorado Secretary of State's office seeking documents regarding state contracts with voter database consultant John Paulsen, who purportedly leased a condominium to Lowder.

John Paulsen is identified on the secretary of state's website on a list of key personnel involved with the Statewide Colorado Voter Registration and Election ("SCORE") system and the registered agent for two businesses known as LEDS, LLC and Proscan. He is also the owner of a Denver condominium that was apparently leased to Holly Lowder, the State Elections Director who resigned Thursday. Ethics Watch launched an investigation into whether Lowder leased a condominium from Paulsen and the extent of Paulsen's business relationships with the secretary of state's office, and whether the relationship constituted an improper conflict of interest.

To that end, Ethics Watch submitted a CORA request on the secretary of state's office on August 29, 2008, seeking documents regarding contracts between the State of Colorado and Paulsen's two businesses. On Thursday, September 4, the date the secretary of state's office was required by law to respond to Ethics Watch's CORA, Lowder abruptly resigned from her position as Elections Director.

The documents obtained by Ethics Watch show that Paulsen's company, LEDS, LLC, has received $183,800 in contracts within the last year from the State of Colorado to provide election-related consulting services for the Elections Division.

Colorado law and State Personnel Board rules prohibit state employees from engaging "in any...activity which creates a conflict of interest with his duties as a state employee."

Lowder abruptly resigned amid Ethics Watch's investigation to determine whether she had a conflict of interest by leasing property from a person receiving contracts from the Elections Division, which Lowder directs. Her resignation strongly suggests that an improper conflict indeed existed.

This would not be the first time Secretary of State Mike Coffman tolerated conflicts of interest by Elections Division employees. In December 2007, in response to an audit request made by Ethics Watch, the Colorado State Auditor released a performance audit that found that Dan Kopelman, an employee in the Elections Division, improperly operated a partisan political consulting business in conflict with his duties as a state employee. The audit also concluded that Secretary Coffman was not adequately ensuring compliance with mandates related to possible conflicts of interest of his staff, and that he was legally accountable for failing to do so. To correct these problems, the audit formally recommended that Secretary Coffman "adopt a proactive management approach to ensuring compliance with state law and personnel rules related to employee conflicts of interest..."


What can happen when transparency exists


by John Gideon

With the assistance of Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich, the Humboldt County, California, elections office partnered with local advocates to duplicate all paper ballots after they were originally counted. The images of those ballots were then put on line for research by the public. In conjunction with the "Humboldt Election Transparency Project" software was written that allowed researchers to recount the ballot images. This recount was just completed after the election was certified.

The results of that recount were the discovery that a batch of 197 ballots that had been fed into the county's Diebold optical scan machines were deleted after the totals were input on the GEMS software. The county went back and checked and verified this problem. It then took the county several phone calls to Diebold/Premier to discover that the vendor knew about this problem and had known about it since 2004. It is reported that they neglected to notify the county and, according to one article, the state was never notified of this problem.

Carolyn Crnich and the advocates of Humboldt Co are to be congratulated for excellent work. Diebold/Premier, on the other hand, needs to be investigated for violations of the Help America Vote Act Section 301(a)(5) by the Dept. of Justice.



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| Chapter 14 — Voting Problems In The 2008 Elections |

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Added January 20, 2008

Last updated 6/14/09