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Early Voting Irregularities Create Suspicion of Fraud

There are reports of troubling incidents in early voting in Nevada, where Harry Reid is in the fight for his life against Sharron Angle.

Some voters in Boulder City complained on Monday that their ballot had been cast before they went to the polls, raising questions about Clark County’s electronic voting machines.

Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid’s name was already checked.

Ferrara said she wasn’t alone in her voting experience. She said her husband and several others voting at the same time all had the same thing happen. “Something’s not right,” Ferrara said. “One person that’s a fluke. Two, that’s strange. But several within a five minute period of time — that’s wrong.”

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said there is no voter fraud, although the issues do come up because the touch-screens are sensitive. For that reason, a person may not want to have their fingers linger too long on the screen after they make a selection at any time. “Especially in a community with elderly citizens (they have) difficulty in (casting their) ballot,” Lomax said. “Team leaders said there were complaints (and the) race filled in.”

Donald Sensing rightly finds blaming the victims here odd and muses, “Funny, though, that all the shaky, lingering fingers would up accidentally casting a ballot for Democrat Reid and not the Republican Angle.”

Stephen Green notes an unrelated incident in North Carolina:

A Craven County voter says he had a near miss at the polls on Thursday when an electronic voting machine completed his straight-party ticket for the opposite of what he intended.

Sam Laughinghouse of New Bern said he pushed the button to vote Republican in all races, but the voting machine screen displayed a ballot with all Democrats checked. He cleared the screen and tried again with the same result, he said. Then he asked for and received help from election staff.

“They pushed it twice and the same thing happened,” Laughinghouse said. “That was four times in a row. The fifth time they pushed it and the Republicans came up and I voted.”

M. Ray Wood, Craven County Board of elections chairman, issued a written statement saying that the elections board is aware of isolated issues and that in each case the voter was able to cast his or her ballot as desired.

DaTechGuy rounds up other problems in Arizona, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.  And Glenn Reynolds notes some in Texas.

Do I think the Democrats are orchestrating a diabolical plot to steal the election?  No.  But this kind of thing is maddening and undermines voter confidence in the legitimacy of election outcomes — something that’s already fragile in the wake of 2000 and the legacy of recounts and legal wrangling to overturn the original outcome that it spawned.

Reynolds is right that the first step is to do away with electronic voting entirely, going back to paper ballots.  Preferably, the kind where voters are given a marker to fill in a box or oval next to the name of their preferred candidate.    All systems are subject to fraud, of course, but simple, hand-marked ballots provide a paper trail and eliminate the need to guess voter intent.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. alkali says:

    ““Funny, though, that all the shaky, lingering fingers would up accidentally casting a ballot for Democrat Reid and not the Republican Angle.”

    It’s not surprising at all. When my car’s GPS boots up, I get a “Caution” message that I have to clear by pressing an “OK” to get to the map screen. When the map screen comes up, I sometimes find that I have accidentally moved the map cursor to where the “OK” button had been — the same place every time.

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  2. george says:

    Going to paper ballots, which leave a nice paper trail (no pun intended), and which seem to work just fine in most of the world, would fix this nicely. Both the left and the right complain about stolen elections, and if the software is buggy enough that you can get ‘isolated’ incidents like this then obviously it isn’t something you can trust – who knows what other bugs exist?

    Use paper, it’ll keep everyone happy except the people who sell the electronic voting machines.

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  3. Juneau: says:

    Naturally, it’s just a coincidence that these errors all favor democrats. Naturally. Not to mention the tens of thousands of invalid voters registered in Arizona and Colorado, all of which are registered as Democrats. Just a coincidence, surely. Nothing to see here… move along.

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  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    Jim why is it that Republicans alway cry voter fraud when most of the voter related fraud indictments over the last five years have been of Republicans. I’m all for a return to paper ballots but such fraud as has occurred in recent times has hardly been a Democratic problem. Could it be there are signs of some Democratic recovery so alibis are being looked for ?

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  5. James Joyner says:

    @Joe: There are no signs of a Democratic recovery.

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  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Junea…you wouldn’t like to produce some er…evidence to back up your claims of tens of thousands of invalid voters in CO and AZ or can we safely assume it’s your standard nonsense.

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  7. Brummagem Joe says:

    Ask Blumenthal, Boxer or Sestak?

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  8. On some level it’s maddening that we seemingly cannot design a secure and reliable system for collecting and tabulating votes hat doesn’t involve using (in a Presidential election year) hundreds of millions of pieces of paper.

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  9. James Joyner says:

    @Joe: A Sestak win would be a mild upset, although Nate Silver still has that one 84% GOP. Dems beating weak candidates in California and Connecticut is hardly a shocker.

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  10. sam says:

    “or can we safely assume it’s your standard nonsense”

    Waste of bytes.

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  11. just me says:

    I prefer paper ballots, and if the time it takes to count the ballot in large cities is a concern, then the optical scan combines two very good things-a paper ballot marked in a marker that can’t be tampered with that is scanned as soon as the voter enters it into the scanner.

    I am not a fan of electronic voting, although I have only ever voted in one city electronically and it was at a time when people still trusted the machines.

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  12. mantis says:

    Naturally, it’s just a coincidence that these errors all favor democrats.

    Well, if you only get your information from wingnut blogs, what do you expect?

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  13. Tano says:

    I would just criticize your title James. Suspicion of fraud is a standard whine from Republicans (even though they tend to be far more likely to be guilty of it). So these irregularities are not creating the suspicion, they are just feeding an already healthy monster.

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  14. john personna says:

    There is a hybrid system that would be more secure from fraud than either purely paper or purely electronic. Vote electronically, but get a tear-off receipt with your votes a tiny-url. If there is an error on the tear-off you would be required contest it immediately. The tiny-url takes you to a database of processed votes, which should show you the same thing. If it does not, you know there has been after the fact data fudging, and you can contest the discrepancy between the tear-off and the database value.

    Now you’ve cast your vote and guaranteed that it wasn’t lost on the way to the registrar.

    Going back to pure paper would take us back to the bad old days when vote boxes could be mysteriously “lost.”

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  15. john personna says:

    “with your votes [and] a tiny-url”

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  16. Fredw says:

    No need to throw out the baby with the bath water. All thst is needed is for electronic voting machines to generate a machine readable paper receipt for the voter. This avoids marking errors ala hanging chad, and after verifying the choices are correct, would be given to the poll workers as a paper trail to use during recounts or for routine audits. Companies like Diebold, the leader in electronic voting, have resisted paper trails and have kept the code for the machines secret , making auditing elections next to impossible.

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  17. Juneau: says:

    The Yuma County recorder, Robyn Stallworth Pouquette, who is in charge of voter registration, told local news outlets that there’s no evidence of fraud. She told the Yuma Sun that she had received a total of 14,000 permanent early voter list requests this year, and 8,000 were approved. The others were rejected, due to either duplicate requests or because voters were ineligible to vote in the county.

    Approximately 45% (6,000 out of 14,000) of registrations submitted were rejected as invalid. But don’t worry, the Yuma Sun says there’s nothing out of the ordinary going on in this statistic. Apparently thousands of voter registrations get rejected every year – in a county which has a population of a small city, or about 200,000.

    Even though one of the primary reasons for rejection was that the people were ineligible to vote in the county. All of those “registrants” must not be aware that you need to live in a county if you want to cast a vote there, hmmm? Duplicate requests and non-citizens as the cause of rejection. You’re right… this happens all the time in elections, just “because.”

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  18. wr says:

    I guess the Repblicans are beginning to get worried that the wave isn’t going to be as big as they promised. Time to start screaming “voter fraud” — which to them means that minorities are allowed to vote.

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  19. Dave Schuler says:

    All thst is needed is for electronic voting machines to generate a machine readable paper receipt for the voter.

    Funny you should mention this. I was part of the design team of an award-winning design for an electronic voting machine that used exactly this approach.

    One of the complications of the voting machine market is that it’s completely dominated by just two vendors: Diebold and Sequoia. They’ve got the market sewn up. That makes it darned hard for designs that differ from Diebold’s and Sequoia’s to get a toehold.

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  20. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Mantis, how long do you think the American people would stand for a stolen election? What is sad is humanoids like Brummagem Joe and Mantis will believe any sort of lie about a Republican with out a shread of evidence yet defend and deny any truth about a democrat no matter what the evidence. Prove them wrong, Joe, don’t attack the message. Mantis, if you really want to see a Tea Party, just steal the election. Remember what Mao said about where power came from? Democrats better remember than along with their union thugs.

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  21. mantis says:

    Mantis, how long do you think the American people would stand for a stolen election?

    Well, we went along with it in 2000, but I know you’re itching to kill some people, so…

    What is sad is humanoids like Brummagem Joe and Mantis will believe any sort of lie about a Republican with out a shread of evidence yet defend and deny any truth about a democrat no matter what the evidence.

    Says the entity who does little but spew every crazy random conspiracy theory the internet has to offer about Democrats, when he’s not issuing threats of violence, while stridently defending any and all fringe behavior on the right, including the desire to execute said violence against his fellow citizens.

    Mantis, if you really want to see a Tea Party, just steal the election.

    I already did. I’m not telling where I hid it.

    Remember what Mao said about where power came from?

    I know: a gun! I didn’t really even need to read the question. Your answer is always guns.

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  22. [...] Outside the Beltway – Early Voting Irregularities Create Suspicion of Fraud [...]

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  23. TG Chicago says:

    Where I vote, we use optical scan cards, which means you vote by putting pen to a piece of paper. I can’t imagine feeling good using any other method. I’ve used electronic and punch cards before, and the scan cards feel far superior.

    Actually, I had a problem with electronic voting – it put me in the wrong Congressional district. It was surely just an error since neither the district I was in nor the one they tried to put me in were in any doubt. But it’s awfully disconcerting.

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  24. G.A.Phillips says:

    lol I know for a fact the liberal donkanoids cheat their A$$es of in Wisconsin and Illinois and Minnesota, lol who don’t ?

    I think we should use the foot prints of your birth certificate and then you stick your both your feet in a pan of ink that don’t wash off for a week, and match them hoofs up!!!I It’s the only way to be sure.

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  25. This issue always amazes me. We have a credit card system that moves hundreds of billions of dollars, but can’t manage a system that can count votes. It should be simple enough.

    First, provide a touch screen for all of the interaction with the machine. Allow voters to approve their votes before they are submitted. Provide TWO receipts, one that is given to the voter and another that is deposited in a box behind the machine. Hence, we have an audit trail.

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  26. george says:

    “First, provide a touch screen for all of the interaction with the machine. Allow voters to approve their votes before they are submitted. Provide TWO receipts, one that is given to the voter and another that is deposited in a box behind the machine. Hence, we have an audit trail.”

    This seems like a good solution.

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  27. [...] “shenanigans” in a fundraising letter.  Combined with yesterday’s charges that electronic voting machines are rigged to automatically vote for Reid, an already ugly race is getting uglier. As Sharron Angle’s campaign attorney, I am sorry to [...]

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  28. [...] “shenanigans” in a fundraising letter.  Combined with yesterday’s charges that electronic voting machines are rigged to automatically vote for Reid, an already ugly race is getting uglier. As Sharron Angle’s campaign attorney, I am sorry to [...]

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  29. @Juneau:

    Isn’t stopping people who aren’t supposed to be voting a sign that the system is doing what it is supposed to be doing? It is unclear to me how stopping people from registering who aren’t eligible equals evidence of voter fraud.

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  30. Donald Sensing rightly finds blaming the victims here odd and muses, “Funny, though, that all the shaky, lingering fingers would up accidentally casting a ballot for Democrat Reid and not the Republican Angle.”

    The thing is, though, that a) we are dealing here with a handful of stories that are, in turn, being used as political fodder and b) given my own experience with non-tech savvy people using computers, I am not surprised to learn that more elderly voters have trouble with these machines.

    Of course, I have argues for years that the optical scan ballot is the best method and MIT did a study a while back showing them to have the lowest error rates.

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  31. John Burgess says:

    After the 2000 election, with a boost from the concerns about touch screens used in the 2004 election, Florida revamped its process. Now, all votes are on a piece of paper that the voter feeds it into the scanner directly after filling out the ballot.

    Sample ballots are sent out one month prior to the elections.

    State-issued photo ID is required to be shown and matched against the rolls before one can get a paper ballot.

    Since the 2008 election, early voting has been authorized. I like it a lot as it saves me from having to stand in line for something like an hour, as was the case for 2004. This year, I was in and out in under 20 minutes. Early voting takes a load off of parking at the polling places, too. That’s not an inconsiderable benefit as parking lots are not large and there’s next to no on-street parking available.

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  32. TG Chicago says:

    Robert Prather, your suggestion might prevent errors, but it would double wait times at the polls and invite vote-buying.

    If you have to do a touch-screen vote, then wait for a printout, then go back and verify that the printout has all your votes properly recorded (then, if it doesn’t, go back and start all over again), that will take way too long. Why insist on having a computer make the marks on your paper ballot for you instead of doing it yourself by hand? You’re adding an unneccesary and time-consuming step.

    And I don’t understand the value of providing a receipt. How would that help a recount? Would people need to bring their receipts back to the polls? What a nightmare.

    Meanwhile, providing that receipt would greatly incentivize vote-buying. You’ve just handed vote-sellers a way to prove that they voted for the vote-buyer’s preferred candidate. One of the main disincentives to vote-buying is that there’s no way for the buyer to be sure that the seller cast his ballot as ordered. This would eliminate that uncertainty.

    Just stick with optical scan ballots.

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  33. Reynolds Williams says:

    I, on the other hand, do think the Democrats are orchestrating diabolical plots to steal elections.

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  34. TG,

    The copy of the receipt is optional. Remember I said TWO receipts, one of which would be deposited in a box behind the machine. I figured the one for the person would be a souvenir of sorts. It isn’t necessary. That should eliminate vote buying fears and time constraints.

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  35. matt says:

    I don’t really care as long as they get some kind of valid paper trail. Hopefully having the irregularities be against the Republicans will push them to get on board with optical scanner voting systems or at least one with a paper trail…

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  36. [...] Early Voting Irregularities Create Suspicion of Fraud (outsidethebeltway.com) [...]

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