Voting System Error Gives Bush Extra Votes in Ohio

From Associated Press

Los Angeles Times

November 6, 2004

COLUMBUS, Ohio — An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said Friday.

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct. Bush's total should have been recorded as 365, officials said.

Bush won the state by more than 136,000 votes, according to unofficial results, and Kerry conceded the election on Wednesday after saying that 155,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted in Ohio would not change the result.

Deducting the erroneous Bush votes from his total could not change the election's outcome, and there were no signs of other errors in Ohio's electronic machines, said Carlo LoParo, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell. Blackwell, a conservative Republican, was co-chairman of Bush's campaign in the state.

Franklin is the only Ohio county to use Danaher Controls Inc.'s ELECTronic 1242, an older-style touch-screen voting system. Danaher did not immediately return a message.

Sean Greene, research director with the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project, said that although the glitch appeared minor "that could change if more of these stories start coming out."

In one North Carolina county, more than 4,500 votes were lost in Tuesday's election because officials mistakenly believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did.

In the Gahanna precinct, multiple copies of each ballot were recorded: two on the machine and three to a removable cartridge, said Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections. When voting ended, each cartridge was taken to one of five zones in the county, where the results were loaded into a laptop. Those results were transferred by secure data lines to the county. Damschroder said the malfunction occurred when one machine's cartridge was plugged into a laptop computer and generated faulty numbers in several races. He could not explain how the malfunction occurred. He had, however, ruled out a problem with software at the central vote collection office, as well as tampering.

"We tested if there was some possibility of human intervention and it was not possible," Damschroder said.

Kimball Brace, president of the consulting firm Election Data Services, said it was possible the fault was with the software that tallied the votes from individual cartridges rather than the machines or the cartridges themselves. Either way, he said, such tallying software ought to have a way to ensure that the totals don't exceed the number of voters.

Damschroder said people who had seen poll results on the election board's Web site called to point out the discrepancy. The error would have been discovered when the official count for the election was performed later this month, he said.