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Voting machine software glitch affects DuPage County
By Jake Griffin | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 8/23/2008 12:00 AM

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The DuPage Election Commission wants answers from the manufacturer of the county's voting machines about allegations a software glitch can cause votes to be lost.

The commission's executive director said "discussion of legal action is not off the table" if he doesn't like what he hears.

"When you're partnered with a company, you expect to get all information in real time and anything short of that will not be tolerated," Bob Saar said Friday. "We're concerned because The Washington Post article claims this problem persisted for 10 years."

The problem is that software flaws in the voting machines potentially drop results as they are being uploaded to a central tabulating machine. This problem occurs if multiple machines are uploading simultaneously, Saar said. An investigation uncovered the glitch in Ohio voting machines.

Opponents of electronic voting machines and critics of the election commission said they have been warning about the flaws for years.

"In August of 2004 the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning on their Web site that the Diebold tabulator was a national security risk because of the backdoors in the software," said Jean Kaczmarek, co-chair of the DuPage chapter of the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project.

Saar contends there is no evidence that any of the voting machines in DuPage ever dropped results. He said audits are done after every election to compare the number of voters to the number of ballots cast. No audit has resulted in more than a two-hundredths of a percent difference, he said. The discrepancies are usually caused because voters make mistakes and have to start over. The machines are always tested before a vote as well, he said.

"Our tests have always come up spot on," Saar said.

Kaczmarek's colleague, Melisa Urda, said she believes the software glitch did occur in DuPage County.

"I found in the 2004 election an entire precinct in York Township showed zero for all races and that was not caught until the next day," she said.

Saar said there's no way "forensically" to determine if that instance was caused by the software problem, but it was something rectified by the auditing process before the results became official three weeks later.

The county has been using optical scan voting machines since 2001 and added touch-screen machines in 2006, commission officials said. The county used federal grant funds to purchase the machines that are tested at both the federal and state level.

Saar said the state's board of elections has been notified of the situation, but admitted it's unlikely the voting machines will be out of action in November. There are no backups.

"We're way too close to the election," he said. "I see no viable option for the commission but to go ahead and use the system we have."

Kaczmarek said the county should dump the electronic machines and go back to paper ballots.

"A pen, paper and a clear plastic box with a slit on top," she said. "The voting system should be something that everyone can understand. It may take a little longer to count, but I don't think I'm the only one who would be willing to wait a little to make sure the right person wins."