Saturday, November 06, 2004

Computer Loses 4,500 Votes in N.C.

Computer Loses 4,500 Votes in N.C.:
"More than 4,500 votes have been lost in one North Carolina county because officials believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. Scattered other problems may change results in races around the state.

Local officials said UniLect Corp., the maker of the county's electronic voting system, told them that each storage unit could handle 10,500 votes, but the limit was actually 3,005 votes. "

Expecting the greater capacity, the county used only one unit during the early voting period. "If we had known, we would have had the units to handle the votes," said Sue Verdon, secretary of the county election board.

Officials said 3,005 early votes were stored, but 4,530 were lost.

Jack Gerbel, president and owner of Dublin, Calif.-based UniLect, said Thursday that the county's elections board was given incorrect information. There is no way to retrieve the missing data, he said.

"That is the situation and it's definitely terrible," he said.

In a letter to county officials, he blamed the mistake on confusion over which model of the voting machines was in use in Carteret County. But he also noted that the machines flash a warning message when there is no more room for storing ballots.

"Evidently, this message was either ignored or overlooked," he wrote.

The loss of the votes didn't appear to change the outcome of county races, and President Bush won the state by about 430,000 votes in unofficial returns. But that wasn't the issue for Alecia Williams, who voted on one of the final days of the early voting period.

"The point is not whether the votes would have changed things, it's that they didn't get counted at all," Williams said.


Two statewide races remained undecided Thursday, for superintendent of public instruction, where the two candidates are about 6,700 votes apart, and agriculture commissioner, where they are only hundreds of votes apart.

How those two races might be affected by problems in individual counties was uncertain. The state still must tally more than 73,000 provisional ballots, plus those from four counties that have not yet submitted their provisionals, said Johnnie McLean, deputy director of the state elections board.

Without a paper trail, with no way to verify that your vote was even recorded , is confidence in our elections possible? You tell me.

http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1759,1713242,00.asp?kc=ewnws110504dtx1k0000599
con·cept: Computer Loses 4,500 Votes in N.C.