Why We Need Audits and Recounts: AccuVote Missed 0.4% of Ballots in Aspen Elections

The reason we need paper ballots, audits and recounts is to verify that citizens’ votes are counted accurately. How do we know that our Dieblod/Premier/Dominion AccuVote-OS voting machines count ballots and votes accurately in each election, in each polling place?  Maybe sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

In Aspen, Colorado they did not, missing 11 ballots out of 2544. Premier AccuVote Machines Missed 0.4% of Ballots in Aspen Elections <read>

On May 5th 2009, Aspen (CO) held municipal elections for mayor, two city council seats and a ballot measure. Pitkin County’s Premier (formerly Diebold) AccuVote optical scan voting machines failed to register 11 (0.4%) of 2,544 ballots, which was discovered due to the ballots also being counted on Election Day at a central location with a separate system. Premier is one of the three largest providers of voting equipment in the United State…

To underscore the importance of the missing 11 ballots, it is not uncommon for manual recounts of optical scan elections to find new valid votes that were discounted by the optical scan voting machine, either because the machine detected a stray pen mark as an over-vote (voting for more candidates than allowed), or because a voter marked a choice too lightly or outside the designated spot on the ballot, such that the machine detected an under-vote, or skipped race. Such “found” votes are common in manual recounts where humans can recognize a voter’s intent that the optical scan machine could not. In the recent Aspen election, the independent scanning of ballots did indeed allow election officials to find at least one such valid vote missed by the AccuVote voting machines.

However, this problem is unrelated to the discovery that nearly a half percent of ballots – 11 ballot cards in all – went entirely unrecorded by the AccuVote machines. According to Aspen City Clerk Kathryn Koch, both the poll book record of the number of voters who voted and the TrueBallot record of ballots processed agree that there were 2,544 ballots. The AccuVote machines, however only recorded 2,533 ballots

Unfortunately, differences in counts between humans and AccuVote-OS optical scanners in Connecticut audit reports are routinely dismissed as human error rather than potential scanner errors to be investigated. See the Coalition Audit Reports.

This is also why CTVotersCount stands for stronger audits and actual recounts in very close elections in Connecticut.  We also are strongly support auditing by machine in Connecticut, with systems like the one used in Aspen by TrueBallot, and others by ClearBallot, and TEVSystems – provided Connecticut implements such systems in ways that are transparent, provide for public verification, and confidence.

Sadly these same ballots are being withheld from public scrutiny to verify this result.

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