Vendor blamed for optical scan problems
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08/27/08 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:

Results from yesterday’s primary in Hillsborough County were slow to be released. Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson blames a software issue with the new optical scan machines manufactured by Premier Election Solutions.

Johnson is not the only one critical of the Premier machines. In a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the Director of Government Affairs for Premier Kathy Rogers said her company did not provide adequate documentation for their GEMS software to Hillsborough County to avoid the problem.

In the GEMS software, Rogers said, settings were not aligned between the two types of machines used Tuesday to read ballots that were cast. One machine, called OSX, was used at the precincts to tabulate early voting and Election Day voting. The other one, which made its debut with Premier software in Sarasota and Hillsborough counties, is called PCS and read all the absentee ballots.

The problem was minor, Rogers said, and only affected how fast the results were made public, not the actual results. But Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho calls Premier’s reporting system a “continuing problem,” adding that “the report system is supposed to import the information and present it in an easily understandable method, but it’s never been able to do that.”

“The Premier vote reporting module has never been very good. This is the reason that led us to try to create an after-market reporting module ourselves. Because in fact the reports module for formerly Diebold, well actually, I purchased the equipment from Unisys in 1992, and the very first thing after using it in the very first election in 1992 was hey, your report module is really not very clear to the citizens at all. So this is a continuing problem.”

Premier is a subsidiary of Diebold, whose chief executive in 2003 sent a letter to Republicans saying he was “committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year.” WMNF asked Sancho, if there known problems, why Premier systems were approved for use.

“They’re the only ones available. And the policymakers of the state of Florida and the United States of America have simply gone along with the privatized outsourcing of public voting equipment. Which is a huge mistake. I would like to see voting equipment developed by private entities and owned by the public so that we can have the kind of assurance that we can see it operate. Currently since we have privatized and outsourced elections to private companies, who claim that the vote counting process is a proprietary function, supervisor of elections cannot actually investigate the process of vote tabulation independently.”

But Kathy Rogers from Premier Election Solutions disagrees; pointing out that the GEMS software was not in use until the mid-1990s, and that glitches have been worked out.

Sancho said that when he informed the state of Florida “about the vulnerabilities of the system, they attacked us. And unfortunately the elections establishment is wedded to these private vendors.”

Voter Robert Degennaro said he was the first person in his polling precinct in Sulfur Springs on Tuesday. He told WMNF that his ballot and the ballot of the person voting after him were rejected by the Premier optical scan machine.

“My vote was finally thrown into a bin inside the machine itself, the scanner itself, to be scanned at a later date because the scanner would not take it. ... it seemed that the ballots that were supposed to be perforated weren’t perforated and the poll workers themselves were tearing out these ballots by hand and having a rough go of it."

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said no voters were disenfranchised because of ballots that weren’t torn from their perforations correctly. Johnson promised that November’s election will be accurate, and will likely be speedy as well.

Election Day is in 10 weeks, on Nov. 4. You can register to vote until Oct. 6.

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Diebold Issues

Isn't it amazing that states continue to certify only 3 or 4 vendors, then continue to have issues with their equipment? The latest Diebold issue noted in this article is a case in point. It's business as usual; Sequoia voting has similar issues between BPS and WinEDS. Why not something new? We have a new system for voting based on digital pen and paper; it is paper based and can be hand counted if you want. See details at www.penvote.com. Or, just limp dangerously along with the status quo--the choice is yours.....