Monday, April 17, 2006

More Reason To Question Election Vendors And Election Officials

AI recently wondered whether, in light of recent problems with several automated election system vendors here in Indiana and elsewhere, we can truly trust the automated voting systems state and local governments have invested in heavily following the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida. Yet another disturbing report comes from a report at Taking Down Words on the experience a TDW blogger's "better half" had while voting absentee today in Marion County. As TDW reports:

He asked for a Democratic ballot, but where the Democratic state convention delegates should have been listed, the ballot instead included the header for Republican state convention delegates. The election official on duty printed a couple more ballots out, and each one bore the same glaring mistake.

Enter Robert Vane, the Marion County Election Board Administrator, who assured Mr. TDW that it would be okay to use the screwed-up ballot because there were no candidates on either the Republican or Democratic side for state convention delegate. He said he'd just gone and looked it up to double-check.

And then he excused himself, leaving the bipartisan ballot in Mr. TDW's hand, to go call his election software vendor.

Secretary of State Todd Rokita recently announced he intended to hold public hearings in light of the many problems association with two of the state's election software vendors, including Elections System & Software. Rokita told the Star that the problems in Marion county "have combined to quickly escalate already disturbingly poor service at the county level into what could be a significant violation of state election law." Rokita indicated he was prepared to hold the election vendors accountable, including imposing the highest civil penalty allowed under state law, which is $300,000 per violation.

While the election vendor is contractually liable for printing an accurate ballot, AI wonders where the Marion Co. Clerk's office figures in all of this. Marion Co. Clerk Doris Sadler has been highly critical of the vendor, which she should have fired after their first election fiasco in the 2003 municipal election. It is hard to imagine how a system which is supposed to generate ballots by party for a primary election could actually generate a ballot for one party which contains candidates for the opposite party. The fact that the system is capable of making such a glaring error is quite disturbing. But doesn't Sadler's office bear responsibility for checking the accuracy of ballots which the system generates before they are approved for use? Obviously her office didn't catch the error, or the problem the TDW blogger experienced would have never happened.

But Sadler tells the AP that testing today went smoothly for the ES&S software. The AP writes, "A test of voting equipment and ballots by a vendor under fire for software problems and missed deadlines went smoothly Monday with no problems found in any of the machines, Marion County's clerk said." The testing appeared to be focused on the system's accuracy in tallying votes, but that is little comfort if it doesn't prepare accurate ballots on which voters can cast their votes.


Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, someone commented on that thread that a similar issue arose in Hamilton County with Democrats showing up on the GOP ballot.

Oh, and Mr. TDW doesn't write for the blog. He's just the guy who's crazy enough to want to walk down the aisle with my sorry self.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for the correction--taken care of--and the new information.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Abdul is also reporting at Indiana Barrister that Sadler concedes there were problems with the ballots for school board races in Decatur and Washington Township: