Friday, April 9, 2004

Some votes miscounted in primary, officials say

By Luis Monteagudo Jr. and Helen Gao, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 8, 2004

New troubles have arisen in San Diego. Diebold's optical scan software designed to count the county's paper absentee ballots misread thousands of votes in the races at the top of the ballot. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that "miscounts occurred in the Democratic presidential race, in which 2,747 votes cast for John Kerry were incorrectly credited to Rep. Dick Gephardt. In the Senate race, in which Bill Jones won, 68 votes cast for Barry L. Hatch were credited to candidate Tim Stoen, and six votes cast for James Stewart were credited to Stoen."

More excerpts below:

County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard said his confidence in the system has been "dampened." Meanwhile, a state official raised the possibility for the first time that the system could be dropped for the November election.

"All options are on the table, including decertification," said Doug Stone, a spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office.


The miscounts occurred because multiple scanners simultaneously fed the absentee ballot data into the computer tabulation system. The large number of ballots and candidates on them overwhelmed the system.

Diebold spokesman David Bear said the company has provided a software fix to the county for the new problem.

Ekard wants Diebold to have all its equipment tested and certified before November.

"These performance failures are unacceptable," Ekard wrote. "Having a reliable and trouble-free voting system is absolutely essential to the county. Your failure to provide such a system in the March election was extremely troubling and any issues that remain must be fully resolved long before the November election."

Ekard has appointed Mikel Haas, the county's former registrar of voters, to oversee efforts to ensure that all Diebold equipment is certified for November and to evaluate other systems that could be used as an alternative.

Alex Martinez, a county deputy chief administrative officer who is leading an internal investigation into the electronic voting problems, said the county has not yet paid Diebold for the 10,200 touch screens used March 2.

"We are not about to pay Diebold any amount of money until we are totally satisfied with the performance of the system," he said.


County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said if the problems can't be fixed, "we need to change to a new system to make sure we have a reliable and trouble-free voting system in place by the November election."

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