Election Board Response to ERN Study on Vote Discrepancies: "We're Happy"
Six weeks ago the Election Reform Network released a study of 2008 general election results in Montgomery County that uncovered widespread disparities between machine counts and voter records at the polls. At that time the Election Board indicated concern and vowed to investigate and respond publicly.
Their response last Wednesday might be described as a heaping helping of outright dismissal with a sprinkling of concern and willingness to do better. The attorney speaking for the Department of Voter Services,characterized ERN results, which included disparities in three-quarters of county election districts, as "not for you (the Election Board) to do anything about." He went on to say that
despite disparities of up to 47 in one election district and 47 districts in which there were mismatches< between the numbered poll list and the machine count of nine or more, "we're confident, happy and comfortable" that everything is fine!
Somehow, despite their ringing endorsement of the status quo, especially of their allegedly error-proof and tamper-proof Sequoia electronic voting machines, the Election Board has decided to take some steps to minimize future disparities. Chairman Bruce Castor even asked if the ERN would be willing to sit down to discuss additional measures (we agreed, but won't hold our breath). At this point, the county apparently plans to add news story.
However, when we asked why the county did not abide by the ballot reconciliation requirement in the PA election code, the response was<, well, creative, saying that electronic vote machines are just plain exempt.
One thing that seems pretty clear is that we have the county's attention regarding the lost vote or "fleeing voter" issue. The problem is that the disparities, reflecting the potential loss of votes, not to mention the possibility of more votes than voters ("phantom votes"), are likely due to a
The ERN also released its new study on staffing levels at the polls for the 2008 general election on Wednesday. We found that of the districts with the greatest disparities, five out of the top six election districts were understaffed and 25 percent of those with disparities of nine or more also lacked staff based on state requirements.
Staffing is just a piece of the puzzle, but it does argue that the numbers we've uncovered amount to more than voters leaving a button unpressed. There's a related factor, which is that machines can fail to get reactivated after study of our Sequoia machine explains it in detail (see Part III), but the problem is that when voters make their choices
After 14 years with the Sequoia machines, too many voters are still confused and poll workers still make blunders. Either we're just stupid in Montco or the machines aren't designed well to work with humans. Will our county officials investigate to get to the root of the problems? Sorry, they're just too happy.