Thursday, June 05, 2008

Freedom To Vote Without It Necessarily Counting In New Jersey

Today is primary election day in New Jersey, for all races except U.S. President. (The presidential primary was Feb. 5.) Here’s a roundup of the voting-machine-related issues.

First, Union County found that Sequoia voting machines had difficulty reporting results for a candidate named Carlos Cedeño, reportedly because it couldn’t handle the n-with-tilde character in his last name. According to the Star-Ledger, Sequoia says that election results will be correct but there will be some kind of omission on the result tape printed by the voting machine.

Second, the voting machines in my polling place are fitted with a clear-plastic shield over the operator panel, which only allows certain buttons on the panel to be pressed. Recall that some Sequoia machines reported discrepancies in the presidential primary on Feb. 5, and Sequoia said that these happened when poll workers accidentally pressed buttons on the operator panel that were supposed to be unused. This could only have been caused by a design problem in the machines, which probably was in the software. To my knowledge, Sequoia hasn’t fixed the design problem (nor have they offered an explanation that is consistent with all of the evidence — but that’s another story), so there was likely an ongoing risk of trouble in today’s election. The plastic shield looks like a kludgy but probably workable temporary fix.

Third, voting machines were left unguarded all over Princeton, as usual. On Sunday and Monday evenings, I visited six polling places in Princeton and found unguarded voting machines in all of them — 18 machines in all. The machines were sitting in school cafeteria/gyms, entry hallways, and even in a loading dock area. In no case were there any locks or barriers stopping people from entering and walking right up to the machines. In no case did I see any other people. (This was in the evening, roughly between 8:00 and 9:00 PM). There were even handy signs posted on the street pointing the way to the polling place, showing which door to enter, and so on.
Link and photos.

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