Machine Flipped Your Vote? Sounds Like a "User Problem"

'Sharon Rowe was not able to check the ballot images
because she was forbidden from doing so
by the office of the Texas Secretary of State.'

By Tom Manaugh
EDA Investigations Working Group

In Texas, a so-called audit step involves randomly selecting some computer-generated ballot images and manually determining whether the vote totals are accurate. They always are, according to elections administrators.

But are the ballot images themselves a valid reflection of the voting selections of voters?

Apparently not. In November of 2006 in Collin County, Texas, Marilyn Blankenship noticed that her vote selections were not being accurately shown on a Diebold touchscreen. In several instances, she would touch one name, but another selection was indicated on the screen. In each case, she corrected the selection and proceeded with voting.

After making all her selections, she was presented with the summary screen. It was wrong. Several of the selections shown on the summary screen were different from what she had originally chosen.

Ms. Blankenship made corrections to the summary screen and submitted her ballot. She complained to the precinct election judge about what had happened and then left the polling pace with no confidence that her votes had been accurately recorded.

Ms. Blankenship then contacted Sharon Rowe, the elections administrator for Collin County to report that the election equipment was faulty. She also complained to the office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Sharon Rowe was amenable to checking ballot images to see if Ms. Blankenships voters had been accurrately recorded. That would have been very likely possible because of an unusual selection of candidates that Ms. Blankenship had voted for -- mostly Libertarian, but also Democrats and one Republican. Sharon Rowe was not able to check the ballot images because she was forbidden from doing so by the office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Ann McGeehan, Elections Director at the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, decided that Ms. Blankenship's complaint was unfounded -- that her report of faulty equipment was simply a "user issue." Ms. McGeehan refused to open an investigation. That decision did not change even after she was presented with the information that six other voters in Collin County had also complained about vote flipping during the same election. Ms. McGeehan and her staff never interviewed Ms. Blankenship or any of the other complaining voters.

Ms. McGeehan did suggest that Ms. Blankenship could ask to see ballot images by filing a Freedom of Information request. Ms. Blankenship did that, but her request was denied by Collin County on the advice of the Texas State Attorney General. However, a request could be honored after 22 months -- the time interval during which ballots are preserved before they could be destroyed.

In October 2008, after 22 months, Ms. Blankenship was eventually able to inspect ballot images from her precinct. She found a ballot image that was similar to what she would expect hers to be. However, some of the votes were wrong. That was evidence to her that the equipment had not only flipped her voting selections; it had also misrecorded them.

If the 2008 election is stolen, it will have been done by way of the complicity and/or negligence of officials like the ones found at the office of the Texas Secretary of State.