|Truth, Lies, & Politics
When is a coincidence too much of a
coincidence to be one?
Fiction Stops Here
|The U.S. House of Representatives dismissed the contest of 2006
Sarasota's District 13 election with its missing 18,000 votes. As
they should since GAO testing, "obtained increased assurance, but
not absolute assurance that the ES&S iVotronic DREs used in
Sarasota County's 2006 general election did not contribute to the
large undervote in Florida-13 contest." (1)
Does this mean nothing's wrong with the iVotronic system? No.
While the GAO's study was extensive and revealed a disturbing absence of
good business practices on the part of Florida's Secretary of State and
Sarasota's Supervisor of Elections, in the end GAO proved only that standard
basic ballots work on working systems. A number of potential problem areas
have as yet to be pursued comprehensively.
iVotronics Peripheral "Gear" Not Tested:
The iVotronics touchscreen system is comprised of a plethora of
interacting and reacting parts and pieces that tell the iVotronic what
to do, alter the software, the ballot and also interpret what the iVotronic says
it counted at the end of election day. A PEB or personalized electronic ballot
device activates/initializes the iVotronic with the appropriate ballot
information for each and every voter. Four independent flash memory
modules contain program code and ballots. The VOTE button casts the ballot
and records the information into flash memory. And a compact flash card is
used for updating the machines firmware/program code, and for loading
sound files. This same compact flash card is used to receive voting data at the
end of the day when ballots and audit information are copied from the
machine's internal flash memory to the compact flash card.
There is no indication that these components were put through
rigorous systematic testing. Moreover, it is problematic that any
component with capabilities to alter program code is also used to
capture data at day's end. As for the central computer vote tabulation
processes and data transfer upload functions, GAO believes these work
correctly within the ES&S Unity Election Management System.
Only a Token Number of Ballots Tested:
GAO determined 100 trillion possible voting combinations were
propagated by Sarasota's 2006 ballot configurations of from 28 to 40
contests, as presented in various permutations. Of the 100 trillion
combinations, GAO developed 224 test ballots based on their
analysis of 112 common ways voters cast their ballots, (1). Though it
would be impossible to test 100 trillion ballot voting patterns,
concentrating on "common" configurations is much less likely to
expose errors in any system. It proves only that the common
"working" ballots get counted. Invariably the uncommon
idiosyncrasies that get us.
It would be very interesting indeed to rigorously test
District 13 in combination with the statewide Attorney General's
race, the uncontested race where the iVotronic's undervote
rate was more than 5% higher than any other voting
machines, even ES&S's own optical ballot scanner.
Had these same voters cast paper ballots on ES&S's optical
ballot scanners, their votes might have been counted. In
other words, if the 1.5 million ballots cast on ES&S iVotronic
touchscreens had been paper ballots cast on ES&S ballot scanners,
the undervote rate would have been more in line with 3.04% or 48K
undervotes, instead of 8.65 % or 137K undervotes. 89,000 would
not have been lost.
Only Two Working Touch Screens Tested for Screen
It would also be interesting to conduct a more thorough
test of miscalibrated touch screens. Instead, GAO tested 10
miscalibration patterns using 39 ballots on TWO properly
functioning iVotronics machines. Testing defective machines that
registered high undervote counts election day might have
produced more conclusive results. Especially since some iVotronics
registered 39 undervotes out of a maximum of only 121 ballots per
machine on election day. The median number of ballots per machine
was 66. 39 undervotes out of 66 ballots cast? A comparison of
undervotes by precinct, that's all the votes tallied on all of the
machines within each precinct, ranges from 0 to 41 percent.
Screen Functions Not Comprehensively or Systematically Tested:
Another area of interest is that of iVotronic interactive
screen functions, such as page forward and backward.
Some of us cringe recalling our own lost data using these functions in
the business world of beta inventory, accounting, sales. GAO refers
to usage of these functions as "voter behavior." There was no
systematic testing of varying combinations of voter behavior in
relation to ballot configuration. Instead GAO randomly determined
which behaviors to use, such as: one-touch or two-touch method to
change a ballot, varying pages forward and backward to review or
make changes, casting ballots from the review screen. Rigorous,
concise, targeted testing might have produced different results.
GAO Acquits iVotronics of Wrongdoing...Without Absolute
After a year's investigation and speculation, GAO acqitted the
iVotronics wrongdoing. Still GAO assures us, "Absolute assurance
is impossible to achieve because we are unable to recreate the
conditions of the election in which the undervote occurred.
Although the test results cannot be used to provide absolute
assurance, we believe that these test results, combined with the
other reviews that have been conducted by the State of Florida,
GAO, and others, have significantly reduced the possibility of that
the iVotronic DREs were the cause of the undervote." (1)
An inconclusive conclusion at best. If you don't find
it, 'never mind' it. Now, about those other missing
89,000(2) votes across the state of Florida.
What the GAO really said about Sarasota's lost 18K votes.
What they didn't say about Florida's lost 89K to 137K
Missing votes across Florida.
If the tests can't find it, never mind it?
|This article was orgininally published in OpEdNews in its entirety.
(1) Elections: Results of GAO's Testing of Voting Systems Used in Sarasota County in Florida's
13th Congressional District, GAO08-425T. GAO-08-7T and GAO-07-1167T were also used for
information in this article.
(2)The actual number of undervotes recorded on the ES&S iVotronic DREsreported is 137,415.
The 89,000 missing votes cited here assumes an undervote rate of 3.04%, the highest undervote
rate recorded on any other Florida voting machine in the 2006 election.
We are indebted to Florida Fair Elections Coalition for the extensive research and data collected
as presented their comprehensive, "Florida's Vanished Votes Reports." The reports can be found
on www.floridafairelections.org and www.VotersUnite.org.