Voting Machines in One Pennsylvania County Inadvertently Flip Ballot Responses

Voting Machines in One Pennsylvania County Inadvertently Flip Ballot Responses

Published Nov. 07, 2023 6:11PM EST

Voting machines in one Pennsylvania county inadvertently flipped voters’ responses to a ballot question about retaining state judges, officials said—though they insisted that the error would be easily fixed and everyone’s votes would be counted as intended. They blamed the issue on a coding error, according to the Associated Press. The question about whether Pennsylvania Superior Court Judges Jack Panella and Victor Stabile should get additional 10-year terms reportedly switched “yes” and “no” votes for each judge. Every machine in the county was affected, but only the question about the judges had a malfunction. Officials say the votes will be tallied as they were intended when votes are counted and added that Election Systems & Software, the company that manufactured the machines, took ownership for the mistake.


(damn it folks!: paper (mark-sense) ballots! software can always be diddled with (it’s what makes software usefully malleable) paper cannot without a whole lot of concerted effort)


Northampton County.

Fortunately, they did have paper records.


But only paper records produced post-facto. It’s the ballots themselves which ought to be essentially immutable paper not just the print out. Once the software is in the mix then purposeful or accidental changing of votes becomes a relatively easy prospect. Of course one may still be glad that these print-outs allowed the error to be more easily detected; but they might not the next time (e.g. print out one thing record another)

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My machine has a touch screen to vote and on the right is a clear plastic panel with the paper copy of your vote.

You have to approve the paper copy before your vote is counted- it then gets automatically deposited in the machine.


That’s better than the average touch-screen set-up to be sure. But it still accumulates the votes primarily via a software count. That is, your vote appears to be duly recorded and you’ve ‘certified’ against a paper output; but there is no pile of original immutable mark-sense ballots for a potential recount. If candidate B was declared to have won, when you voted for candidate A they would just ‘push a button’ for a recount and candidate B would be again ‘proven’ to have been the winner. Whereas if there were a stack of hand marked mark-sense ballots then one could run them through a (hopefully air-gapped, and possibly alternate) counting machine and have a helluva lot more sense that alterable software was not intervening. The voters’ original intent should be recorded on a not easily mutable or hidden form.

There’s an old axiom in computer security which tends to serve in cases like these: “Apparent convenience is inversely proportional to security”

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