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Group records more than 1,100 e-voting glitches

US voters have reported more than 1,100 separate incidents of problems with electronic voting machines and other voting technologies.

In more than 30 reported cases, when voters reviewed their choices before finalising them, an electronic voting machine indicated they had voted for a different candidate.

E-voting backers called the number of reported problems minor in the context of almost 50 million US voters projected to use e-voting machines.

In a majority of cases where machines allegedly recorded a wrong vote, votes were taken away from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, or a Democratic candidate in another race, and given to Republican President George Bush or another Republican candidate, said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

In all the cases of misrecorded votes reported to Voteprotect.org, the voters were able to change their votes back to the candidates they wanted before casting the final ballot, Cohn said. But in some cases, voters had to correct their ballots multiple times, and in other cases, voters may not have noticed that their votes were miscast, Cohn said.

The reports of misvoting happened on a variety of brands of e-voting machines, Cohn said. In some cases, e-voting machines may have misread voter intentions when the voter accidentally brushed the computer touch screen, she said.

The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), representing e-voting machine suppliers, called the number of reported e-voting problems insignificant compared to the millions of voters using the systems during the election.

Unlike with some other voting systems, such as paper ballots, voters using e-voting machines were able to catch misvotes before casting their ballots, said Bob Cohen, senior vice-president at ITAA.

"The machines helped them catch the error," Cohen said in response to the reports. "With other forms of equipment, that probably can't happen. It's a great credit to the technology."

Most complaints during the election referred to long lines and other problems not related to e-voting technology, Cohen added. Most reports "have very little to do with the performance of the voting machines themselves", he said.

Among the problems reported were e-voting machines not working in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, which caused polls to open several hours late, said the EFF's Cohn.

The EFF and other groups filed a lawsuit in Louisiana to keep the polls there open later, she said.

Multiple telephone calls to the Orleans Parish Board of Elections were not answered, and the telephone line to the Louisiana Secretary of State's Office was busy.

Elsewhere, 21 ES&S iVotronic machines in Broward County, Florida, failed during the day, said Gisela Salas, deputy supervisor of elections for the county, which was at the centre of a presidential election controversy in 2000.

However, the county had 5,283 iVotronic machines in place, and the county was prepared for a small number of malfunctions, Salas said. The votes on the malfunctioning machines were recovered, she added.

Doherty and other e-voting critics watching the growing number of incidents suggested that only a small fraction of voters with problems reported them to Voteprotect.org. It may be a number of days before e-voting critics know the extent of the problems, said Ed Felten, a Princeton University computer science professor.

Voters may not know for days about problems such as voting machine numbers not matching the number of voters counted at a precinct, Felten said. E-voting critics may file open-records requests after the election to look for those types of problems, Cohn said.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service


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