Diebold Admits to Decade-old Voting Machine Bug

The denial finally ends, and the vindication of critics begins. Premier Election Solutions Inc. has admitted that Diebold voting machines in 34 different states have, for the past 10 years at least, contained a programming error that makes the machines prone to dropping votes. While they deny that this would cause election results to be distorted, they now retract their bogus excuses that either there was no error, or -- risibly -- that anti-virus software was to blame.

It remains that the error did have an effect on Ohio elections, the subject of a lawsuit filed by the state of Ohio against PES.

Via AP by way of the Washington Post, as well as WaPo's political blog, "The Trail":

The error occurs when multiple memory cards are being uploaded at the same time, and it is more likely to occur in jurisdictions that have several voters and use touch-screen voting systems, said Premier spokesman Chris Riggall.

In Ohio, the dropped votes were discovered within several hours by election officials who noticed the memory cards weren't being read properly. Workers re-fed the cards into the server until they worked, and the votes were added to the overall vote totals.

As recently as May, Premier said the problem was not of its making but stemmed from anti-virus software that Ohio had installed on its machines. It also briefly said the mistakes could have come from human mistakes. Further testing by Ohio elections officials and then high volume tests by Premier uncovered the programming error.

"We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error," Premier President Dave Byrd wrote Tuesday in a letter that was hand-delivered to Brunner.

"I can't provide odds on whether dropped votes were not recognized" during the decade GEMS has been used, Rigall said, "but based on what we know about how our customers run their elections and reconcile counts we believe any results not uploaded on election night would have been caught when elections were being certified."

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has said no Ohio votes were lost because the nine Ohio counties that found the problem caught it before primary results were finalized.

This is one of those reasons why electronic voting software should be transparent and open source, so that many thousands of eyes can search through the code to find obvious errors. Voting machine companies should welcome that kind of scrutiny, because think what kind of reputation credibility they get when they promptly fix the errors and publish clean code that passes muster.

You can spend millions of dollars publishing outlandish denials and fighting lawsuits instead, I guess, but I don't understand why that makes good business or public relations sense.

This is a positive development. Admitting you have a problem being the first step and all of that.