Voting Glitches in Ohio

by on November 7, 2006 · 4 comments

Ohio is having problems with e-voting again:

In one elementary school in the predominantly black district of East Cleveland, Ohio, all 12 machines went down when voting opened at 6:30 am (1130 GMT), according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.

The machines were not started up until two hours later and poll officials refused to hand out paper ballots until a lawyer for the watchdog group Election Protection showed up.

“The machines weren’t working and they were just turning people away,” said the attorney, Fred Livingstone. “They are not allowed to do that.”

More than 250 problems were reported at polling places in Ohio soon after polls opened according to an Election Protection watchdog operation run by a minority rights group and other non-governmental organizations.

I see two reasons for concern here. First is the obvious one: one of the basic requirements for voting machines is that they work. Every voting system has problems, but I’m not aware of any situations in which paper ballots refused to boot.

The more serious concern, though, is the possibility that this was the result of deliberate tampering. It’s conceivable (although highly unlikely) that someone programmed those machines to crash in order to reduce voting in precincts thought to be favorable to a particular candidate. I think it’s unlikely–but it’s not impossible. But if someone were trying to steal an election, this is precisely the kind of tactic they might employ. It would look like an ordinary computer glitch, and people would probably think it was just a coincidence that it happened mostly in precincts that heavily favored a particular candidate.

Like I said, this was probably an innocent glitch, not a case of tampering. But it’s very worrisome that we will never know for certain.

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