E-voting system awards election to wrong candidates

Electronic voting system
Flickr / jugbo CC-BY-NC-ND

ComputerWorld reports that an e-voting machine produced incorrect results in a New York municipal election in March. The type of voting machine involved, an optical scanning machine, examines paper ballots and uses Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) technology to determine which box the voter crossed (but, critically, it does not determine the name of the candidate, only which box was highlighted).

In this instance, the candidate names on the paper ballot were in a different order to that programmed into the voting machine. Thus, when a cross was detected for candidate 1, it was awarded to a different candidate (and so on). The error was later noticed – after the “winners” had been announced, and a court mandated recount was performed.

This case is a great example of just how hard it is to perform the seemingly simply job of getting a machine to count votes. It also highlights that not all technology problems result from hardware or software issues: here, the simple configuration of the machine caused the problem (Garbage In, Garbage Out). Similar machines are used in over 300 municipalities across the US.

Source: ComputerWorld article

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