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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Other polling places in the Bronx voided about 1 percent of the votes cast there for voter error or other circumstances. The South Bronx location had to void almost 20 percent of its votes.

The over-votes were spread out among the candidates, not all cast for just one.

Many of the over-votes were due to confusing layouts that made it look as if voters had to mark their votes for governor in two spots rather than the actual single location.

Thirty-two percent of districts in the Bronx had over-votes greater than 1 percent of their total during 2010. Other boroughs also had overtove percentages in double digits, but at around half the rate as in the Bronx.

Andrew Cuomo, 52, son of one-time New York Governor Mario M. Cuomo – won the governor's seat comfortably with almost two thirds of the popular vote.

The errant machine in the South Bronx didn't have any real impact on that race because of the wide martin. Cuomo's nearest rival tallied 32 percent of the vote.

The Brennan Center is pushing for statistical analysis of voting patterns in other precincts in order to catch other potential errors or identify other machines that should be tested before inaccuracies in vote counts have an impact on a close race, Norden said.

"One of the fortunate things about this problem in the South Bronx was that, where those machines were used, there were no close elections so it didn’t have an impact, but there’s no question that, in a close election, it would," Norden said.

The debate that raged during the past few years over whether to rely on electronic voting machines whose vote counts could be corrupted or potentially hacked and manipulated by outsiders isn't really a part of this event.

The ES&S machines just scan paper ballots and count the result, as similar machines do at thousands of polling places across the country. Considering how many tens of thousands of similar machines calculate SAT scores, standardized aptitude scores and often regular classroom tests across the country, you'd think the technology would be well enough known that something as important as a vote-counting machine wouldn't go haywire from the heat in a middle-school gym.

Apparently it's a lot harder than you'd think, at least if all those extra votes were an accident rather than an attempt at automating civic processes as well as those in business.

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Election Systems & Software

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