Saturday, April 15, 2006

IL: Primary Election a Mess; Tallies NOT Correct!

Losing candidates, GOP say tallies still aren't accurate

By Josh Noel, Tribune staff reporter;
Published by April 14, 2006

Claiming that scores of votes from last month's Cook County primary still haven't been accurately counted, a group of Republicans and losing candidates called for several unprecedented fixes Thursday, ranging from an audit of ballots to an entirely new election.

During a news conference in the lobby of Cook County Clerk David Orr's office, the group said it was motivated not by sour grapes, but by the bumbling of election officials.

"This is not Hurricane Katrina. This is not a disaster created by God," said Gary Skoien, chairman of the Cook County Republican Party. "This is a disaster created by our leaders."

At an impromptu news conference to respond, city and county election officials acknowledged many shortcomings on Election Day, but they said the votes, which were certified earlier this week, have been counted correctly. A standard recount of 5 percent of the ballots, done last week, was "right on the money," said Langdon Neal, chairman of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

"Unequivocally, no--there will not be a new election," he said.

In addition to Skoien, a group including Democrats Frank Avila, who lost a race for the Water Reclamation board, and Darryl Smith, who fell short in the primary for the Illinois House's 6th District, echoed criticisms that have been voiced during the last month, including poor training of election judges and faulty voting equipment.

Avila, a lawyer, said he has lined up close to 30 plaintiffs, mostly Democratic primary losers, for a possible federal lawsuit to seek recounts in every race.

Fueled by concerns about "poor management and organizational incompetence," Maureen Murphy, vice chair of the county GOP and a member of the county Board of Review, said she has met with about 200 suburban election judges who detailed a litany of problems from the March 21 primary.

Among the issues, she said, were a touch-screen voting machine that "blew up like an M80" and had to be unplugged; machines showing votes that hadn't been cast; and machines not working at all. In one meeting she asked about 125 judges how many of them were confident that every vote at their polling place had been counted, and no hands went up, she said.

"We tell people every vote counts. But we do not believe every vote has been counted," she said. "This makes what happened in Florida, folks, look like a textbook election," she said, referring to the 2000 presidential election.

Election officials have agreed that faulty equipment led to Election Night mishaps, and they are pledging to withhold $15 million owed to the vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems, until two investigations are finished. One will be conducted by an outside computer analyst, Neal said.

This week, Orr's office released a 10-point plan to improve voting before November's general election. Among the proposals are providing additional training for election judges, designating an equipment manager at each polling place to oversee the machines (as other counties have done), and staging a mock election to test the equipment.

"Our performance wasn't up to par," Neal said. "But everything I've seen indicates the votes were counted accurately."

Lawsuit Filed against PA County, Dept. of Justice!


Guest Blogged on by John Gideon of and VoteTrustUSA

Announced April 12th by KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A group of citizens and People For The American Way filed suit against the Secretary of State; Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Chief Executive; James Flynn, County Manager; and senior officials at the federal Department of Justice. The citizen group includes members of the disabilities community who want to make sure the County purchases machines that are accessible to all individuals with disabilities.

KDKA reports:
The lawsuit filed today says that decision risks chaos on Election Day because of the lack of time to train election officials and educate voters about the change from lever machines which have been in use for 40 years.

This rush to a new and flawed technology just weeks before the election threatens to sow chaos in the primary and compromise the fundamental rights of thousands of voters for years to come,” says Harry Litman, the former United States Attorney in Pittsburgh and an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It’s a bad deal for Allegheny County, and, we believe, a violation of federal law.

The suit, Celeste Taylor v. Dan Onorato asks the court to prevent use of machines manufactured by Election Systems & Software until the County has spent the time necessary to identify voting systems that are secure; reliable; and accessible to voters with disabilities.
The plaintiffs cite elections in Texas, Florida, California, Ohio, and North and South Carolina where ES&S machines failed on Election Day.

A report by the Inspector General in Miami of a 2002 election found that the ES&S machines were not properly prepared; their results could not be audited; poll workers were unable to operate machines; and large number of voters simply gave up as a result.
The complaint alleges that DOJ has pressured Allegheny to buy the new machines by improperly threatening to take back about $12 million that has been given to Pennsylvania for improved voting systems.

These machines are sold and serviced by Elections Systems and Software, the same company that has played a major role in failures of memory cards and is a large reason why this nation is headed for a "Train Wreck" in our primary elections and, if no action is taken, in November.

Monday, April 10, 2006

OH: Preble County Awaits Printer for Absentee Ballots!

April 4, 2006
By Rebecca Helmes
Staff writer, Palladium-Item News;

PREBLE COUNTY, Ohio -- On Wednesday voters across most of Ohio had the opportunity to start casting absentee ballots.

But not here.

Preble County Board of Elections Director Marilyn Jackson said her county is still waiting to receive its ballots from the printer and she doesn't know when they'll come in.

"We just don't have them yet," Jackson said about absentee ballots. "Not everybody's (other counties across Ohio) delayed."

Ken Fields, spokesman for Election Systems and Software -- the company that sold Preble County its optical scan election equipment for this year and is providing the ballots -- said it is his understanding that the county just agreed to the ballot on Monday.

Ginny Weiler, deputy director for the Preble County Board of Elections, said the office found errors on the ballot Thursday and finally was able to speak with ES&S to resolve the issue on Monday.

James Lee, a spokesman for the Ohio Secretary of State, said he anticipates that the Preble County Board of Elections is sending out absentee ballot applications. Applications must be completed before people are allowed to cast absentee ballots.

"I'm confident that the board of elections is doing everything that they can to provide ballots to citizens," Lee said.

Indiana counties started absentee balloting Monday. Wayne County didn't have many absentee voters, but that gave the Wayne County Clerk's Office employees a chance to adjust to a new mandated statewide ballot system.

"We've had I think a few voters in," Wayne County Clerk Sue Anne Lower said. "It's been hectic."

Reporter Rebecca Helmes: (765) 973-4478 or
Originally published April 4, 2006

Indiana: Counties Still Dealing With Ballot Problems!
April 7, 2006
By Vic Ryckaert;

Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler blasted a voting machine company this morning saying it supplied error-filled ballots for next month's primary election.

Meanwhile, clerks in Johnson and Hancock counties, also are upset with the company because it did not deliver absentee ballots in time and failed to program touch screen voting machines.

Marion County's problem, Sadler said, is Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software did not print instructions on ballots for the non-partisan school board elections in Decatur and Washington townships. The error was caught Tuesday, the day after absentee voting began, and Sadler said it means two people are going to have to vote again.

"This particular problem seems now to be fixed and we got away with it only affecting two people," Sadler said during an emergency meeting of the Election Board this morning. "But given the history of the last two weeks, I'm afraid of what will crop up again."

The company supplies the county's optical scan and touch-screen voting machines. The county's elections are complicated, Sadler said. Ballots in the 914 precincts have more than 2,000 variations, depending on where a voter lives and what political party they claim.

Two weeks ago, ES&S delivered its first batch of ballots for this election and Sadler said they were rife with mistakes. County officials found new errors in the replacement ballots and sent those back too. They received the latest batch late last week, Sadler said, and spent the weekend proofreading.

"They don't proof anything before they send it to us," Sadler said. "I would love to fire them. I've had three years of serious issues with this company."

Sadler said she couldn't fire ES&S because there aren't many other options. Few voting machine companies are certified by the federal government, and Sadler said the others have similar problems.

Johnson County received its absentee ballots on Thursday, two weeks after the ballots were supposed to have been mailed to voters who submitted absentee applications, according to Johnson County Clerk Jill Jackson. The ballots, per state statute, should have been mailed to the county by March 18.

ES&S also failed to program Johnson County's touch screen voting machines. Jackson said ES&S technicians are on site and expect a computer disk today to update the machines.

"I guess what bothered us the most is that it's like it's no big deal that they missed a statutory deadline," Jackson said of ES&S. "They're a big company and it's like they don't care, that they'll get (the ballots) to us when they get them done, and that's not acceptable. I'm extremely disappointed in the vendor."

In Marion County, problems first surfaced in 2003 when ES&S provided software that was not fully certified by the Indiana Election Commission. The company compounded the problem by loading uncertified software on the touch-screen machines. It replaced the uncertified software with files that were incompatible with the programs that count the votes.

In fall 2003, the clerk's office had to hand-count more than 9,000 absentee ballots for the City-County Council election because ES&S had not obtained certification for software on a central counting machine.

Last August, the company settled a lawsuit over the problems and agreed to pay Marion County $1.2 million.

Star reporter Jason Thomas contributed to this story.
Call Star reporter Vic Ryckaert at (317) 444-2761.

Copyright 2006 All rights reserved