Overheated vote-counter automates election, places 60K votes itself

More than 60K votes thrown out by short-sighted election board because machine cast them

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The voting machine that cast between 50,000 and 60,000 extra votes for New York gubernatorial candidates in November has a bug that causes it to misread some ballots and add additional votes to others when the machine itself overheats, according to a review by the state Board of Election.

All of the so-called "over-votes" were thrown out after election workers reported an unrealistic spike in the number of votes from the machine, from manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES&S), which apparently overheated during the hour or so the polling location was closed for lunch.

In 2010 NYC's City Board of Elections decided to replace its old lever-driven voting machines, that required voters to flip a lever to register their choices with a newer model from ES&S. Rather than flipping a lever, voters fill in oval spaces on paper ballots, then scan the ballots into the voting machine to register their choices. The machine counts votes automatically; the stored paper ballots remain serve as the source for recounts or backups for lost votes.

The manufacturer has agreed to replace the one machine definitely affected; voting-rights advocates are asking for a broader investigation to satisfy concerns that the other 5,000 ES&S machines used by New York City voting districts may have overvoted less noticeably.

Only the machine from one South Bronx polling station has been confirmed to have developed a problem, but it is also the only machine to have been tested, according to Larry Norden, a deputy director at Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, which has been monitoring the machines for accuracy and sued the state electoral commission in 2010 demanding they be removed after the machine in the South Bronx began displaying confusing warning signs when an error was detected – a ballot with two votes for different people in the same election, for example, according to a story today on WNYC.org.

Often the error notice caused voters to make another error, or confirm the first one, such as voting for two people in the same race

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Election Systems & Software

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