Under the Dome

Despite Republican push, state sticks with original plan for voting machines

The State Board of Elections will not re-calibrate all voting machines ahead of Election Day, as the Republican National Committee requested last week.

John Phillippe, chief counsel of the RNC, sent a letter to North Carolina elections director Gary Bartlett and officials in five other states requesting an array of changes because some groups on the right have raised concerns that people intending to vote for Mitt Romney saw  Barack Obama show up on the screen.

Bartlett has fired back by saying that miscast ballots caused by machine error are almost nonexistent.

To be exact, 24 of the more than 100,000 votes cast in Guilford County – the source of most media reports about flipped votes – were called in as complaints to the state. Almost all were corrected with the help of a poll worker, and they favored Obama and Romney at a similar split.

What has happened, more often than not, has largely been attributable to people not properly using the machines.

If someone is too short or tall, for example, they may see through the angled glass in a way that distorts what exactly they're selecting on the screen; or if someone has shaky hands or doesn't know how to use a touch screen device, they may also have trouble.

But those problems and most others can be called over simply by calling over a poll worker.

In addition, Bartlett said the state has neither the resources nor the need for extra technicians on Election Day, which the RNC also requested. Bartlett said the plan they have in place already is adequate: there will be three highly-trained "super technicians" and 13 other technicians spread around the state.

"Even at the extreme ends of the state, we could have someone there in no more than an hour and a half, and most places much less than that," Bartlett said.

A few facts about the voting machines and calibration:

  • The touch screen devices at the center of the controversy are called iVotronic, and they record all votes in print and digitally on three memory cards stored separately on the device.
  • Roughly 40 percent of ballots cast in N.C. are expected to go through iVotronic machines.
  • In order to submit a ballot, you have to select your preferred candidates and ballot initiatives, then review your choices to confirm everything is as intended, so you would have to choose the wrong candidate twice in order to get your vote wrong.
  • If there is an inconsistency among any of the memory cards in the choices present, the machine immediately shuts down and becomes unusable until the problem has been addressed.
  • Every step is recorded digitally and in print. For example, if someone first selects Barack Obama and then switches to Mitt Romney, the original selection is noted and your final choice counted; this helps back-track to make sure the software is working properly and gives a reference point in case someone claims their vote went through wrong.
  • What "re-calibration" means is often non-technical – turn the machine off then back on again – or extremely simple: check if the touch screen is registering touches properly with a simple program that displays "X" marks that are pressed to confirm everything is in working order.


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Touchscreen Machines are so yesterday!

Touchscreen machines are passe, out-of-date, out-moded - and well beyond their sell-by-date.  Get rid of them and return to a simpler and more accurate system that is not susceptible to hacking.  Save the state money and reclaim the most fundamental operations of any democracy by rejecting the tabulation of voting by private companies or any form of electronic tabulation that could be manipulated by saboteurs.

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