Monday, March 26, 2012

Palm Beach County’s New Voting Disaster

(March 21st, 2012) A new voting scandal erupted in Florida’s Palm Beach County when authorities incorrectly certified two candidates as winners in the Wellington Village Council elections.

Due to a suspect program flaw that seemingly got overlooked in the software supplied by Dominion Voting, the results that were certified and announced by the Palm Beach County Elections Office gave the victory to the wrong candidates.

This serious incident is reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election, when voting authorities and service providers were incapable of deploying efficient solutions and over two million votes were invalidated in what has become known as the Butterfly Ballot disaster. Palm Beach was among the counties using the obsolete technology that allegedly induced voters to make mistakes, either selecting the wrong candidates or making more than one vote in the ballot.
Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Office Susan Bucher is now blaming Dominion Voting, the company providing voting and tabulating equipment to the county, for the recent electoral fiasco. She stated that software errors were the root of the problems. The company is disputing her argument and claims to be "investigating the source of the anomaly”.

Regardless of where the blame will fall, Palm Beach County’s electoral authorities need to guarantee the success of elections soon to come. It is imperative to better train poll workers and election officials; and to perform sufficient testing and auditing before, during and after each process. Only a few weeks ago, and while facing all sorts of difficulties in the testing stages, Dominion offered modems to reduce the time to produce results. In the field tests they found out that the modems were incompatible with the county's phone lines. In light of the software & hardware know-how and experience now available in the market however, errors of this type are unacceptable. 

It has been almost ten years since President Bush signed the Help America Vote Act into a federal law. HAVA was the response to the controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential elections in which he was reelected President. The law brought positive changes such as the creation of the Election Assistance Commission, mandating the replacement of obsolete technology (punch cards and lever-based voting systems), and setting a minimum of election administration standards. 

Electronic voting has surpassed manual voting when clear rules and experienced, competent authorities are met with a technology provider capable of delivering up to the expectations. Around the world, electronic voting has been steadily implemented with excellent results. Moreover, it has proven key in contributing to bring stability to nations with politically turbulent atmospheres. 

Unfortunately, Palm Beach County, home of paradisiacal beaches and full of vacation resorts, has a sad record of voting scandals, and this new incident, where Dominion Voting and the Palm Beach County electoral authorities have been the protagonists, has not helped to make it any better. 

Overall, it's obvious that the United States of America, a foremost economic, military and technological world power, needs to step up and set more rigorous standards in its voting practices. Voting is the fundamental act of a nation’s core values, Democracy.