Update on Voting Machine Conspiracies in NY-23

The “Gouverneur Times,” a publication looking more and more like the official mouthpiece of Doug Hoffman’s failed congressional campaign, continued today to post falsehoods about the course of voting in the 23rd congressional district. Among the misrepresentations:

Voting machines did not undergo re-certification pursuant to N.Y. Elec. Law § 7-202: the Times cites § 7-202 as requiring re-examination of any modified machine. Put down your WestLaw passwords; the citation they’re looking for is § 7-201(2), which does require such re-examination. However, the re-examination did occur, contrary assertions notwithstanding.

Voting machines were capable of internet connectivity, in violation of N.Y. Elec. Law § 7-202(1)(t): the Goveurneur Time argues that the presence of a USB port on the Sequoia machines permits machine hijacking, or the attachment of a portable internet device. This could be true, except that the Times’ own quotes demonstrate that the one USB port on the machines is externally sealed and disconnected from the computer hardware. You could break the seal, and plug in a USB key, but if it’s not wired to anything, it can’t do anything. Oh, and the Times got the cite wrong again — don’t go looking for § 7-201(t), because it doesn’t exist.

An external slot on the machine’s ballot cabinet permits ballot-stuffing: false. I’ve seen the damn things; it’s not possible. And the State Board, again, debunked this rumor, explaining that the slot was physically closed in every machine last year.

Machines in many counties rejected valid ballots: true. But that’s a feature, not a bug. Federal law (Help America Vote Act of 2002, § 301) requires that compliant voting machines notify voters when their ballot is improperly marked. New York’s optical scanner machines comply with that feature by refusing to accept a ballot that’s “over-voted” — where the presence of stray marks by the voter would risk confusing the machine. This is an important way of making sure every vote is counted, and results in more, not less valid votes, because voters always have an opportunity to re-vote. Machine notification of a failed vote is preferable to the old lever machines, which could not give notice of a failed vote.

“In Broome County, hand counts revealed the ImageCast ballot scanners in five voting districts had miscounted votes”: this is an inflammatory way to characterize a mundane problem (see previous post). Optical scanners are wired to read only a filled-in box as a vote. Often, some voters, especially older voters, will “check” a box, or circle a candidate’s name, rather than fill in the box. The machine is deliberately programmed not to read these marks as votes, because 99% of the time, they aren’t. Hand-audits will catch mismarked ballots, and credit the voter’s intent accordingly, but when this occurs, it’s a problem of voter education and (maybe) ballot design, not machine malfunction. NY officials are considering redesigning the ballots to make the instructions clearer.

“In Fulton County, ImageCast ballot scanners were impounded after it was found they were not working properly”: no. Machines were impounded by court order generated before Election Day, and it had nothing to do with machine error.

More updates as they come. I’ve not been able to substantiate the allegations of machine malfunctions in all the counties the Times lists, but note that many of the counties they document as having experienced problems aren’t in NY-23 (Broome, Cayuga, Seneca, Steuben).

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