As the Washington Legislature continues to debate election reform in the wake of the our gubernatorial hoo-hah, they should keep in mind this cautionary tale from yesterday’s Miami Herald:
Three years after spending $24.5 million to install a controversial touch-screen voting system, Miami-Dade County elections officials have been asked to study scrapping the system in favor of paper-based balloting.
The request from County Manager George Burgess follows the recent resignation of Elections Supervisor Constance Kaplan and the revelation that hundreds of votes in recent elections hadn’t been counted.
What was it Slippery Slade said about King County clearly having “the worst election administration” in the nation?
Miami-Dade is considering whether optical scan technology — like that used in King County — might produce more accurate results at a lower cost. (Caltech/MIT concludes optical scan is more accurate.) County officials say the electronic machines have tripled election day costs.
”It’s a confluence of bad facts,” said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, head of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition and a longtime critic of the elections department. “You have lousy technology that doesn’t inspire voter confidence combined with outrageous costs for that lousy technology.”
Burgess’ April 4 directive came just days after Kaplan resigned amid revelations that a coding glitch in the county’s iVotronic touch-screen machines tossed out hundreds of votes in six recent elections.
A “coding glitch,” huh. While the word “glitch” implies that these errors were unintentional, the St. Petersburg Times reported last week that a computer programmer who claims he developed software to alter the results on electronic voting machines, has passed a lie detector test, administered by the retired chief polygraph operator for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Clint Curtis swore in an affidavit, and testified before a congressional sub-committee, that he developed the software at the request of U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida).
The Times reporter is clearly skeptical, but the allegations are taken much more seriously by a local blog that has been covering the story in great detail. (Sound familiar?) I don’t have an opinion one way or the other, but the allegations of fraud and conspiracy sound at least as plausible as those coming from the aluminum hat boys over on (u)SP. And they certainly deserve being looked into in light of the allegations of illegal vote shifting on Snohomish County’s electronic voting machines.
Anyway, what we do know is that electronic voting machines have been proven to be error prone, and none in Washington state currently provide a voter verifiable paper trail.
Republicans want to ram election reforms through now, while the politics are hot, but I hope we take the time to learn not only from our own mistakes during the last election, but also from the mistakes of election officials in other states. In the words of Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson: “Sometimes, lessons are expensive.”