Tuesday, November 16, 2004

N.C. Commission to Study Balloting Problems

Under the Help Americans Vote Act (HAVA), North Carolina was required to set up a standing study commission to examine the reliability of voting machines, but it took the loss of 4,500 ballots in Carteret County to wake the state legislature up and actually kick start that commission into action by appointing legislative members to it. That was done last week, and the commission should begin meeting immediately to examine the disconcerting hodgepodge of voting systems and devices in use across N.C.'s 100 counties, along with the various computer glitches like the Carteret County screwup.

The Carteret County machine, made by UniLect of California, reached its capacity with about 3,000 votes, but county elections officials said they had been assured its capacity was 10,000. "You have to wonder what kind of bonehead would design a computer system that would hit capacity, then continue to take votes and just throw them away," Stanford University computer science professor David Dill said. (Thanks to Alice for sending the N&O story.)

Currently, there's a state-wide recount under way that must be finished by tomorrow ... called for by the Republican candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and by the Democratic Agriculture Secretary Britt Cobb. Both were losing by slim margins in the first returns two weeks ago.

And no decision has been reached about what to do about those lost ballots in Carteret.

UPDATE: "State Sen. Ellie Kinnaird of Carrboro and state Rep. Verla Insko of Chapel Hill want a law they say could prevent another machine problem like Carteret's. They propose that a legislative study commission look at requiring voting machines to produce a paper record, something like a receipt, for voters after they cast their ballots." Amen to that! (Additional N&O coverage here.)

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