2005-10-14: (GA) Software Slows Vote Counting

By February 28, 2014December 16th, 2015ELECTIONS INDUSTRY, PURCHASING

(Original article 10/14/2005) According to a report by the Associated Press1 which raises more questions than it answers, new software was incorporated into Georgia’s Diebold touch-screen voting system in Spring 2005, slowing down the count for as much as 24 hours.

The AP reports:

Ballot-counting in next month’s Georgia elections may be slowed by security software, some local officials say.

The problem involves software given to Georgia by Diebold Elections Systems of Ohio, which has a $54 million contract to supply the state with touch-screen voting machines. The software was added to all voting machines last spring.

The security software is designed to make electronic vote tampering more difficult. But it has caused a slowdown in local elections.

“We may go from five or six hours (counting votes) to maybe getting results in the next day,” Gwinnett County Election Supervisor Lynn Ledford said.

In a June special election in Coweta County, ballot counting went so slowly that election officials first thought something was wrong with the system. A similar delay also occurred in Fulton County in a referendum vote that same month.

Last month in Cobb County, it took more than four hours to tally votes for a sales tax referendum, despite a low voter turnout and the fact that fewer than half the county’s voting machines were in use.

Glitches were expected because of the new security software, said Beth Kish, Cobb County’s elections supervisor. And delays may continue in next month’s elections, she added.

The article goes on to say that then-Secretary of State Cathy Cox led the switch to touch-screen voting. As of 2014, Georgia still uses the electronic system, which provides no ballots and offers no way for the public to authenticate the count. Georgia’s voting system has triggered several lawsuits and numerous investigations which continue to this day. Still a cause for concern: Whether the system met Georgia’s own purchase requirements; who got paid; and how to restore public transparency.

Increasingly, there are indications that DRE “touch-screen” voting machines, at least in some states, have deployed ballot tracking devices which can connect vote choices to voters, violating political privacy.

During 2004, a company called VoteHere was pitching Diebold and other voting system vendors on its ballot tracking software, which it also referred to as security software. While questions in the comments correctly point out that adding encryption for security should not slow down vote counts, since the data accumulates in small-sized files, as aggregated vote totals rather and individual votes. However, if ballot tracking was implemented, that could slow down the process by creating vote-by-vote data connecting votes to the voters who cast them.

The primary issue here is transparency: Because the vote count in Georgia’s touch-screen system cannot be made transparent to the public, attention is diverted to security, requiring trust in administrators and vendors. The public remains in the dark about what specifically was put into the Georgia voting system, and the AP reporter asks questions about how quickly votes can be counted instead of shedding any light on transparency.



  1. Ballot-counting may be slowed by security software; The Associated Press, 10/14/2005, originally posted at http://www.accessnorthga.com/news/ap_newfullstory.asp?ID=66265



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