Exclusive: E-voting puts vote accuracy at risk in four key states
It lays out many of the concerns about the use of paperless voting machines. Deliberate tampering with results is not the only concern; in recent elections, thousands of votes have been lost due to equipment failure with paperless machines.
* In 2006, some 18,000 votes were electronically "lost" by e-vote systems in a single Florida congressional race with no paper backup or ballots available to review.
* In May 2011, voters in Pennsylvania’s Venango County complained that paperless electronic touch-screen machines were "flipping their choices from one party to another," according to a report by Verified Voting, a nonprofit group in Carlsbad, Calif., that tracks voting machine use nationwide. After an inconclusive audit of election results, the county simply decided to use paper ballots counted by optical scanners in future elections.
* In March, an e-voting system in Florida’s Palm Beach County experienced a "synchronization” problem in a municipal election. The election software attributed votes to the wrong contest and the wrong candidates won. Thankfully, paper ballots existed. After a court-ordered recount, results were changed and two losing candidates were declared winners.
More than 1,800 voting machine problems were reported to election protection hotlines during the 2008 general election, according to Verified Voting. Such election failures mattered far less in 2008 because Barack Obama won by a landslide. But this year, the loser might be likely to demand a recount if the winning margin is small. In states that still use Direct Recording Equipment (DRE) – touch-screen voting equipment that lacks any paper verification – that could be a problem.
"Without a paper trail there's no opportunity to check, so then you just have to rely on faith that the software is functioning properly and capturing votes properly," says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting. "Maybe the machine is working OK right now. But if there is a bug or glitch, there's nothing to go back to."
This is certainly shaping up to be a close election. Most electronic voting machines are found in states where the outcome isn't expected to be close, so failure of a few machines probably wouldn't swing the results much. But in several close states -- including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado -- there's the potential for a nightmare scenario on Election Day.