March 19, 2008

NJ Digital Voting Machines Can't Count Accurately

Ed Felten tells us about the discrepancies in vote tallies from electronic voting machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems and used in the New Jersey primary election on February 5.

Candidate Totals from Summary Tape
Candidate totals
Party Totals from Summary Tape
Party totals
(image source: Ed Felten)
The summary tape from a Sequoia AVC Advantage digital voting machine shows the individual vote counts for candidates: on the Democratic side, Barack Obama is shown as receiving 182 votes and Hillary Clinton with 179 votes; on the Republican side, Rudy Giuliani has 1 vote, Mitt Romney has 13 votes, John McCain has 40 votes, Ron Paul has 3 votes, and Mike Huckabee has 4 votes. The "Option Switch Totals" section of the tape shows a total of 362 votes on the Democratic ballot and 60 votes on the Republican ballot.

But 179 + 192 = 361, not 362; and 1 + 13 + 40 + 3 + 4 = 61, not 60.

(Felten provides a TIFF of the entire tape.)

Quoth Felten:

What’s alarming here is not the size of the discrepancy but its nature. This is a single voting machine, disagreeing with itself about how many Republicans voted on it. Imagine your pocket calculator couldn’t make up its mind whether 1+13+40+3+4 was 60 or 61. You’d be pretty alarmed, and you wouldn’t trust your calculator until you were very sure it was fixed. Or you’d get a new calculator.

This wasn’t an isolated instance, either. In Union County alone, at least eight other AVC Advantage machines exhibited similar problems, as did dozens more machines in other counties.

Sequoia Voting Systems doesn't understand how to handle a PR crisis. Edwin Smith, Sequoia's Vice President for Compliance/Quality/Certification sent Felten a nastygram stating that if the state of New Jersey presented Felten's group with a Sequoia machine for analysis, the state would be in violation of its contract with Sequoia. Smith goes on with a threat of vaguely-worded legal action if Felten published results from such an analysis.

Yes, that's right: Sequoia's VP for QA is attempting to suppress independent QA on his company's product. Someone should tell him about how Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tampering.

Earlier in As I Please:
Howto: Hack a Diebold Voting Machine (As I Please)
How Not to Talk to Reporters

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Posted by abostick at March 19, 2008 11:12 AM
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