Premier Election Solutions (aka Diebold) Acknowledges its Voting Machines Can Drop Votes

What good is a presidential election, if the votes are miscounted? This question arose in 2000 results for Florida and 2004 results for Ohio. And it's arising again is the 2008 election nears.

August 21, the Washington Post's blog feature "The Hidden Campaign" included aMary Pat Flaherty's post, "Ohio Voting Machines Contained Programming Error That Dropped Votes." Gordon seemed to take at face value a claim by Premier Election Solutions (formerly known as Diebold) when its spokesman, Chris Riggall, said
I can't provide odds on whether droppe votes were not recognized...but based on what we know about how our customers run their elections and reconcile counts we believe any results not uploaded on election night would have been caught when elections were being certified.
McClatchey's investigative reporter Greg Gordon (email, bio and article archive,) however, noted in his August 31 story, "Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failure,"
Voting experts reacted skeptically to the company's assertion that election workers' routine crosschecks of ballot totals would have spotted any instances where its servers failed to register some precinct vote totals when receiving data from multiple memory cards.

Gordon also details the lack of oversight in the machine's integrity.
Premier's products were declared "qualified" under a voluntary testing process overseen from the mid 1990s until 2005 by the National Association of State Election Directors.

Computer scientists, some state officials and election watchdog groups allege that the NASED-sponsored testing system was a recipe for disaster, shrouded in secrecy, and allowing equipment makers to help design the tests.

Premiere/Diebold had acknowledged in letter August 19 to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, that a 10-year-old error in logic for the Global Election Management System(GEMS) can cause votes to disappear while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point. The system, used in its touch screen and optical scan machines, is supposed to save information from one card at a time to be counted in order as the cards are read by a database. Instead, incoming votes, within milliseconds, can displace earlier votes waiting in the electronic line before they are counted. Company president Dave Byrd wrote,
We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error.
Election officials in Ohio, one of 34 states to use the machines, complained following the March primary. As recently as May, the company had said the problem stemmed from anti-virus software. It also briefly said the mistakes could be attributed to human error. Brunner has said no Ohio votes were lost because the nine Ohio counties that found the problem caught it before primary results were finalized. Premier and Brunner are in an ongoing court battle over the voting machines and whether Premier violated its contract with the state and warranties. Half of the Ohio's 88 counties use the GEMS system. Brunner has been a vocal critic of electronic voting machines.

August 19, the company also issued a nationwide alert with recommended actions to the approximately 1,750 jurisdictions which use the flawed system The problem is most likely to affect larger jurisdictions that feed many memory cards to a central counting database rapidly. While both Virginia and Maryland use the GEMS system, Virginia does not relay its votes to a central counting point, while Maryland does. The mistake is not immediately apparent and would have to be caught when elections officials went to match how many memory cards they fed into a central database against how many show as being read by that database. Each card carries a unique marker.

The Post dutifully reported that Primiers' problem cannot be fixed by sending out a coding fix to its customers because changes to systems must go through the Election Assistance Commission and take two years on average for certification and approval. But, as Gordon wrote,
The federal Election Assistance Administration, created in 2002, took over the testing responsibility in 2005, but has yet to certify a single voting machine. (My emphasis added.)
The help America Vote Act has resulted in $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment sold nationwide since 2003. But, John Washburn, a software tester in the Milwaukee suburb of Germantown, told Gordon, that he predicts most all of the machines will have to be replaced in a process he likened to the early 20th Century Teapot Dome scandal.
as just the epitome of how government money goes down a rat hole.