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CNN's Lou Dobbs Investigates Programming Errors in Iowa PDF Print Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
July 31, 2006

In his continuing series investigating the threat of electronic voting "Democracy at Risk", CNN's Lou Dobbs focused on the ballor programming errors that marred the Republican primary in Pottawattamie County, Iowa on June 6th. The segment featured John Washburn of VoteTrustUSA's Voting Technology Task Force. Here's a transcript of that segmnent of the show.

 

DOBBS: More evidence tonight that the security of our elections, the integrity of our democracy are at risk from electronic voting machines. A county in Iowa has just come close to putting the wrong candidate in office because of a massive programming error.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On June 6th, in Iowa's Pottawattamie County, the early electronic vote tally showed a popular 23-year incumbent losing to a 19-year-old college student. Highly suspicious, the auditors stopped the electronic count and started counting by hand. The electronic machines made by ES&S, one of the three major voting machine companies in the country, had miscounted every race on the ballot.

LOREN KNAUSS, POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY SUPERVISOR: The discussion that we had afterwards as we started doing our review, the company, ES&S, misprogrammed the computers. And then on our side, the tests were not thorough enough. So it was -- we'll just say it was a 50-50 mistake on their side and ours.

PILGRIM: Knauss was running against 10 people in a Republican primary, and according to the voting machines, he was coming in ninth. After the manual recount, he came in first. He says without a paper trail, the election would been completely botched by the electronic machines.

Electronic voting experts have come to a conclusion over what went wrong with the ES&S machines.

JOHN WASHBURN, VOTETRUSTUSA: What happened in Pottawattamie County is that they have a rule that the paper ballots, the names from precinct to precinct, have to rotate. So, while I might be at the top of the ballot in precinct one, I'd be number two in precinct two, number three in precinct three, and so on.

What the machinery did, though, is the programming didn't take into account this rotation on the paper ballots. And so, regardless of whatever name was on the top of the ballot, it would always accrue for a single candidate.


PILGRIM: Computer experts point out in this case how the ballot was programmed was a mistake. But misprogramming ballot tabulation could also be done on purpose if someone wanted to tamper with an election.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PILGRIM: The Iowa secretary of state says the programming by the vendor was done incorrectly. So the state is going to pay more attention to the pre-election testing of the machines.

But ES&S issued a statement saying the issue was not related to the reliability of the machines, rather error in the way the ballots were coded. It was a human error, they say.

All of this goes to prove, you really do need this paper trail.

DOBBS: Went from ninth to number one. If this message is not getting through that's emanating from every corner of the country using these voting machines, I don't know what it will take.

PILGRIM: I know. And when you talk to county after county after county that have these problem, they all come to the same conclusion, you must have a paper record, it seems.

DOBBS: And I love the election officials in these counties and districts, and in some cases states, saying we're going to pay closer attention this time. Wouldn't you pay close attention every time?

PILGRIM: One would hope so. It is an election.
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