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E-ballot device for presidential vote has bugs, report confirms

An optical scanner to be used for the presidential election this year is prone to recording the wrong vote or none at all, according to a government report. But the manufacturer says problems are fixed.

The DS200 Precinct Scanner and Tabulator Electronic Systems & Software

An e-voting machine that is to be used for the presidential election this year has been found to have "anomalies" such as failing to record votes or logging the wrong vote and freezing, according to a government report.

The Formal Investigative Report issued late last month by the Electronic Assistance Commission (EAC), which certifies electronic voting equipment, issued a notice of noncompliance for the DS200 optical scanning device manufactured by Electronic Systems & Software (ES&S), but did not decertify the machine.

The report found three anomalies:

  1. Intermittent screen freezes, system lockups, and shutdowns that prevent the voting system from operating in the manner in which it was designed
  2. Failure to log all normal and abnormal voting system events
  3. Skewing of the ballot, resulting in a negative effect on system accuracy

Specifically, the DS200 failed in some cases to record when the touch screen was calibrated or the system was powered on or off, failed to read votes correctly when a ballot was inserted at an angle, and accepted a voted ballot without recording the ballot on its internal counter and without recording the marks, according to the report.

ES&S says the version referenced in the EAC report is used only in Ohio and Wisconsin, Computerworld reported.

ES&S said in a statement to Computerworld that it has fixed the problems. "All reported issues have been addressed in a new version of software, Unity, which, upon certification, will be made available to every jurisdiction that currently uses Unity," ES&S said.

The EAC launched the investigation after The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in April 2010 about freezes and shutdowns with the machines in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, during pre-election testing.

"The EAC has concerns about the Quality Assurance practices of the manufacturer based on the recurrence of certain anomalies and the fact that fixes provided for certain anomalies created additional issues with the DS200," the report said.

The DS200 reads paper ballots that have been filled in, records and tallies them, and then prints them out afterward. The paper ballot allows for recounts and audits.