Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"The dog ate my homework eleven days ago..." #mnrecount 

"...and I had more important things to do than re-write it."
Minnesota uses an optical-scan balloting system that makes the entire process more secure. Not only does this allow for voters to catch unusable ballots before they leave as well as to automate the counting process, it removes human error from the vote reporting to county election centers. The counties of Minnesota spent a lot of money on these systems and explicitly selected the modem option for that purpose.

The machines have wireless modems that have to be pre-programmed with a specific IP address to securely transmit those results directly to the election centers. For some reason, the machines had the wrong IP address entered on the cards. The cards would have needed to be reprogrammed to correct the error, and with a few hundred precincts in Hennepin (which includes Minneapolis), that would have taken a significant effort. However, with eleven days to accomplish this, the failure to take corrective action for a national election is mystifying. The source to whom I spoke said that county officials were aware of this by October 23rd in a meeting with elections officials, and possibly earlier.

Why would Hennepin County refuse to correct such a fundamental failure of the elections process eleven days ahead of what everyone expected to be a close Senate race, let alone a presidential election? To answer this, I spoke with Michelle Desjardin, the elections manager for Hennepin County. She said that the county did know of the failure at about October 23rd, but that they didn�t have enough time to reprogram the 860+ memory cards and meet statutory deadlines for public testing � seven days in advance of the elections.

But here�s the strange part. Desjardin confirmed that the electronic transmission system worked in the primaries. The cards did not get reprogrammed, and the destination IP address did not change from the primaries. There was no reason why the transmission cards should have required reprogramming at all. Desjardin acknowledged that the failure of all 860+ machines to connect was a mystery, but that they have higher priority statutory deadlines to meet before they can begin investigating the failure.
Here's a report indicating how much money has been spent on a system that seems to not work, and that isn't getting fixed. The Wall Street Journal's editorial page also weighs in.
The Coleman team is demanding the tapes from the voting machines on election night, and that's the least [Secretary of State Mark] Ritchie can do. The Secretary of State should also investigate miraculous discoveries like the "forgotten" 32 car ballots. (also from Hennepin County --kb) He needs to show voters, the press and the Coleman team that he's running a transparent process that focuses on previously counted votes, rather than changing the rules after the election is over.

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