And the Score is – Machine 2 – Human 0

By Patricia L Johnson

Beep, beep, beep…

Beep, beep, beep…

Beep, beep, beep…

Over and over again the electronic ballot box rejected Mike’s ballot.  After the 5th rejection the election judge provided him with a new ballot to complete and upon completion we once again heard:

Beep, beep, beep…

Beep, beep, beep…

Beep, beep, beep…

As a former election judge I accompanied Mike to the early polling place this afternoon just to take a look see at what procedures were in place and see how much action our newly implemented early voting was getting.

When the second ballot was rejected I advised the person working with Mike that the screen on the optical scanner should provide him with information on why the ballot wasn’t accepted.  Since the election worker wasn’t familiar with the information indicated on the screen he telephoned the election office to be advised that the machine was telling him the ballot was being placed in the wrong ballot bin.

During an election ballots are coded for each precinct.  The early voting polling location covers several precincts so there were many optical scanning ballot boxes in place.  Even though the election judge told Mike to place his ballot in the second machine, after the machine scanned the ballot it knew it was in the wrong bin and rejected it.

Score – Machine 1 – Human 0

Upon arriving home I was bombarded with newspaper headlines reading "NH Recount Finds Irregularities" – "NH Recount Finds Vote Count Errors" as well as a blog headline that I won’t repeat because that would encourage the nonsense.  As you might guess the blog article is extremely popular and had a count of 179 on Digg. 

What is unfortunate about the blog article is the fact they are claiming huge errors were made by Diebold in counting the votes.

All ballots cast in New Hampshire are paper ballots, with some counted by Diebold Optical Scanning devices.  This is the basically the same technology that is used to scan your ATM card when you go to the bank, scan bar codes on purchases of merchandise in department stores, and the same technology that was used to let the election worker at the precinct know that the ballot was being placed in the wrong bin.

The recount is being done by hand and minor discrepancies found were due to human error.  Some voters didn’t follow instructions properly resulting in improperly marked ballots that could not be read by the scanning devices.  Not much room for error when it comes to optical scanning.

The exception to the minor errors found were in the Manchester Ward 5 where larger errors were found.  Clinton’s total dropped from 683 to 619 and Obama’s total went from 404 to 365.  Other candidates totals dropped as well.  However,  once again, the error was made by a human, not an electronic counting device.

New Hampshire voters may vote for a Vice-Presidential candidate on their ballot and some voters wrote their choice for president in the Vice-Presidential space.  The clerk posting the totals erroneously added in the Vice-Presidential votes to the totals for the Presidential candidates resulting in overcounts.

Humans make errors on a regular basis, machines seldom do.

Score – Machine 2 – Human 0

What is incredible about this whole mess is we have 291 more days until the actual election.

Voting irregularities have made all of us more conscious of what is going on at our polling place, which is good for the country as a whole, but all of us must remember that humans are far more error prone than machines.

According to the New Hampshire WMUR article "Human Error, Not Machine, Found During Recount" hundreds of people have e-mailed New Hampshire Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, calling him a "liar", calling the election process a "sham" or threatening to have him arrested for "rigging the election".

Most of the irregularities found in voting tabulations over the past several years have been due to human error of some sort, but you generally don’t hear that because it doesn’t sell newspapers.  What sells newspapers and what gets peoples attention on the Internet are the articles that claim there is a conspiracy going on to steal your vote, or there is some sort of fraud.

This country needs a voting system that is standard from one county to the next, one state to the next, from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  We need election officials that are well trained in procedures and can concentrate their efforts on helping the voter get in and out of the polling place as quickly as possible.

And the one thing we need more than anything else is electronic voting machines that allow the blind, the disabled and the non-English speaking public to vote without assistance.

The reason HAVA passed was due to the extraordinary number of votes that were lost in prior elections. 

Standard voting procedures, standard voting machines and trained personnel limit the number of lost votes. 

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