Touchscreen Voting Problems

The Problems With Touch Screen Voting Machines (Direct Record Electronic)
The letter from RNC chief counsel John R. Phillippe, Jr. asks that states do four things to head off problems:
1. Re-calibrate all voting machines on the morning of Election Day before the polls open, or, if necessary, the day before the election.
2. Make arrangements for additional technicians on Election Day in case of increased calibration problems.
3. Issue guidance requiring polling place officials to prominently post a sign reminding voters to double-check that the voting machine properly recorded their vote before final submission. This sign should also note that poll workers should be notified and can assist in the case of a voting machine error. (See, e.g., North Carolina State Board of Elections Numbered Memo 2012-24.)
4. Issue guidance requiring polling place officials to remind voters to double-check that the voting machine properly recorded their vote before final submission, and to note that poll workers should be notified and can assist in the case of a voting machine error. (See, e.g., North Carolina State Board of Elections Numbered Memo 2012-24.)

And one final bit of history. The Republican-lead General Assembly twice rejected attempts to draw down $4.1 million in federal funds that would have been used to prepare for this election. Much of that money would have gone toward…wait for it … re-calibrating voting machines, arranging for additional Election Day technicians, and poll worker training, such as was requested in the RNC letter.

Letter from Republican National Committee  November 1, 2012   rnc_letter_re_voting_machine_errors_nov_2012
Voting machines flipping votes in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada
More voting problems reported in Jamestown, Pleasant Garden
(several videos about voter problems and warnings in North Carolina)
October 24, 2012   Now, some voters are concerned about polling locations in Jamestown and Pleasant Garden.
On Tuesday, voters who cast their ballots at the Bur-Mil Park polling location said when they attempted to vote for Mitt Romney the machine chose Barack Obama.
Similar problems have been reported in Jamestown and Pleasant Garden.
Faurest Stum says she voted at the Pleasant Garden Town Hall location. Her vote was for Mitt Romney, but the machine cast the vote for Barack Obama.
“I thought this might be a one-time glitch in the machine. I had no idea this might be happening somewhere else. This is when I called (FOX8) and said this needs to stop,” said Stum.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director George Gilbert says the problem is the machines needed to be re-calibrated.

Burke voting machines recalibrated  (sorry dead link and no archive)
Morganton News Herald October 25, 2012
The Burke County Board of Elections has recalibrated all its voting machines after it received complaints Wednesday and Thursday about the machines.
Three voters told the elections office when they selected Mitt Romney for president, the machine changed their votes to Barack Obama.

Guilford Co. voters say ballot cast for Romney came up Obama on machine
Oct 23, 2012 (Video at link)
One of the voters, Sher Coromalis, says she cast her ballot for Governor Mitt Romney, but every time she entered her vote the machine defaulted to President Obama.
“I was so upset that this could happen,” said Coromalis.
Guilford County Board of Elections Director George Gilbert says the problem arises every election. It can be resolved after the machine is re-calibrated by poll workers.

Federal Judge Rules in Favor of NC GOP in Touch-Screen Vote Flipping Complaint .News 14. Oct 30, 2010.  Orders ‘voter alert’ posted at polls, programming materials, records retained…

North Carolina’s touch screen counties do not have a reliable voter verified paper ballot. They are also susceptible to mis-calibration errors that can cause the machine to change a voter’s choices.  At this time, there are no touch screen machines that do provide a reliable paper ballot. In 2004 & 2005 we urged lawmakers to ban this type of voting machine, in favor of optical scan systems, that do have a reliable paper ballot. Without a voter verified paper ballot you can not do honest and accurate audits or recounts. 
Documentation of Problems With Touch Screen Printers in North Carolina:
ES&S discusses printer jams in it’s product slick, it in effect admits to the fact that the printers DO jam. They are proud of how their printers will jam less than other vendors’ printers.  (Maybe they do fail less, Ohio is reporting a 20% failure on Diebold touchscreen printers).From page two about it’s VVPAT printer (Real Time Audit Log) ES&S advises:
“For the election worker, the Real Time Audit Log requires less paper than a printed voter receipt, resulting in fewer paper jams and malfunctions.”  That product slick es_sivotronicslick

NC had so many paper jams that the SBOE issued a memo on how to deal with it:

Nov.  2006 The NC State Board of Elections issues a memo on Procedures for Recounting Damaged VVPAT  procedures_for_damaged_rtal_paper_rolls

NC: Printers Fail on Touch-screens  – 9% Failure Rate in Guilford County in the  Nov 2006 General Election:
“The system meant to produce a paper backup of votes cast on Guilford County’s electronic voting machines failed in many cases during the election Nov. 7.
and original link

Touchscreen printers are not fail safe like optical scan ballots:You get no printout at all if officials put the paper in wrong:

May 4, 2006 Few Voting Glitches Pop Up  10 touchcreen machines failed to print voter verified ballots in Mecklenburg County NC. Workers put paper in wrong way.  Charlotte Observer.
Eminent Computer Scientist Criticizes ES&S  Touch-Screen Paper Trail
“The Real time Audit Log places high cognitive burdens on the voter, is extraordinarily error prone for the auditor,and is possibly illegal in states that are strict about voting privacy.”

From Mecklenburg County Trouble reports for the May 06 primary and Nov 06 general election
the types of problems, by category. Open the link to see the quantity of problems, 6 pages for the November election, and 3 for the primary.

Paper jams, screen freezes, programming errors etc listed.
Panel would not charge.
Screen freeze.
Out of calibration.
Printer folding edge of paper.
Flash error/CRC error
Power shut down.
Printer frozen/power issue
Half of screen missing.
“Locked up”.
CJ could not open panel
Battery low.
Printer door won’t lock.
Corrupted flashcard – message.
Pct wkrs could not change paper roll.
RTAL not found – message
Panel beeping, screen frozen.
Chirping, but dead.
4 panels had printers not working
No response on 3 machines

Broken leg.
Panel fell/release latch won’t work.
Panel would not accept Master PEB.
Ballot will not display.
Goes directly to Party Select when Master –
ADA programmed wrong.
Paper roll on backwards
Can’t make selections when press screen.
ADA problem, audio tried – blank screen.
Time setting is off by 1 hour

Mecklenburg BoE 2006 Trouble Report mecklenburg_2006_trouble_report


Experts and citizens warned the North Carolina State Legislature ahead of time:
May 28, 2004. A bill to study whether all touch screen or direct record voting machines should produce a voter verified paper trail and to place a moratorium on paperless touch screen/DRE machines until July 1, 2005.  This study bill was sent to the “rules” committee and died. 
Jan. 7, 2005.  Dr. Rebecca Mercuri advised NC lawmakers to get rid of touch screens for reasons including flawed paper trails printers: rebecca_mercuri_jan_7_2005
Aug 10. 2005. Computer expert Dr. Justin Moore told the House Election Law Committee:
With regard to the paper roll that Mr. Gilbert brought out, that is one of the available systems that are out there. There are systems out there that create independent ballots, independent pieces of paper like more traditional optical-scan, and those are actually the systems that are supported by the verified voting community. We definitely opposed these ballot-on-a-roll systems.”      


What do we do to protect the vote in North Carolina’s touch screen counties at this time?  Our best bet with this short time frame is to mitigate the risks:
Follow the example of Franklin County Ohio.  This county has the same kind of touchscreens as North Carolina, the ES&S iVotronics.  Franklin County officials instructed their poll workers to check the touch screen printers periodically throughout the day. They also had their poll workers educate the voters to notify them if the printers had any problems.  This kept Franklin County from permanently losing any voter verified paper records.  

We should require election workers to calibrate machines each day and check touch screen printers periodically throughout the day. Additionally, we should put signs ON the voting machines to instruct the voter to verify their paper printout, and to notify the poll workers if there is a problem.

NC Counties using touchscreens on Election Day:
Alamance, Alleghany, Brunswick, Burke, Caswell, Cherokee, Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lenoir, Madison, Mecklenburg, Pamlico, Pender, Perquimans, Polk, Rutherford, Surry, Transylvania, Warren, Wilson.