Washburn's World

My take on the world. My wife often refers to this as the WWW (Weird World of Washburn)

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Location: Germantown, Wisconsin, United States

I am a simple country boy transplanted from the Piehl Township in northern Wisconsin to the Milwaukee metropolitan area who came down "sout" in 1980 for college and have stayed in the area since.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Washington County Voting Machines Lose Votes

It turns out that the voting equipment used in Washington and Ozaukee counties has possibly been dropping votes for more than ten years.

The voting equipment used in all municipalities in Washington and Ozaukee county is the AccuVote OS optical scanner, the AccuVote TS touch screens, all tied together with the GEMS application on the county central server. This equipment is sold by Premier Election Systems (formerly known as Diebold Election Systems).

Last week, after vendor-independent testing by the state of Ohio, Premier (aka Diebold) admitted to the state that the GEMS system loses votes contained on removable memory packs as the votes on those removable memory packs are uploaded to the central GEMS server. The GEMS server is the application which prints all those nice municipal and county level summary reports.

In their own words, here is the description of the problem provided by Premier in three correspondences to Office of the Secretary of State of OhioThis vote-losing defect has been in the GEMS system for more than 10 years.

The GEMS system was "tested" no less than 19 times under the NASED/ITA process between 1998 and 2006. Not once did the "rigorous" testing performed by vendor-funded, NASED/ITA labs discover this problem. Here is an excellent article which ties together these two threads, significant flaws and NASED "(non)testing". [Disclaimer: I am quoted in this article].

The scariest aspect to this story is:
  • The Butler County, OH officials discovered this defect by accident. They were examining the data base on an unrelated matter when they discovered the record counts did not reconcile. The scary part is that upon further investigation by the State of Ohio it was discovered that least 8 other counties in Ohio had similar vote loses which went unnoticed. Only Butler County, OH officials noticed. The certified results in at least 8 other Ohio counties were incorrect and none of the election officials in those counties noticed.
The detailed time line from the Ohio Secretary of State is found here

Since, the records of past elections are gone, one must have faith that county clerks, Brenda Jaszewski and Julianne Winkelhorst have never certified results where this defect lost votes on them. The evidence from Ohio suggests, odds are 8 to 1 against this proposition. Let's hope our two counties have won this bet for every election in the last ten years.

State law, WI Stats. 5.91(10), requires all voting systems be:
"suitably designed for the purpose used, of durable construction, and is usable safely, securely, efficiently and accurately in the conduct of elections and counting of ballots."

My questions are:
  • How is a system, which loses votes without any notice to the municipal or county clerk, "designed to accurately conduct an election" as required by state law?
  • Is the GEMS application illegal to use in Wisconsin?


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