I had a chance to talk technology with Robin Swoboda on Thursday’s Fox 8’s “That’s Life …” this week.
We all have seen what can happen when a computer crashes and valuable work is lost. Many people swear a few curses towards their PCs, but then resolve themselves to the idea that this is just “one of those things” you have to accept when it comes to dealing with computers.
What if, however, those computers are touch screen voting machines and that lost data are votes in a national election?
This is a question that faces Premier Election Solutions, the company formerly known as Diebold Election Systems, which recently admitted that a programming error in their voting equipment has been responsible for dropping votes in some of the Ohio counties that use the devices.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the company had originally claimed the issue stemmed from an incompatibility between software on the voting machines and anti-virus software installed to protect them. However, in August, the president of the company sent a letter to Ohio’s Secretary of State confirming that the problem is with a programming error that under the wrong conditions can lose votes when the system memory cards have their contents uploaded.
Because the admission comes just a few months before the November election season, it’s unlikely that the programming error can be corrected in time. This has resulted in guidelines being issued jointly by Premier Election Solutions and Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to Ohio counties on how to work around the issue in the meantime.
The issues with the touch-screen voting machines raises another issue, though, which is how to handle what is a technical issue using the already understaffed polling station volunteers in Ohio. Equally important is the lack of tech-savvy volunteers willing to man those positions.
This has lead to widespread calls for technically-inclined citizens, especially in Ohio, to reach out to their local Ohio County Board of Elections to help reduce the technology problems that may negatively impact every voter’s right to have their vote count.
This story also serves as a good reminder for all of us to start the discussion in our communities about how much impact technology may play within future elections and how we can help our counties and states overcome those issues.
The September 2008 issue of Reader’s Digest hit newstands this week with an article entitled “13 things your computer guy won’t tell you …”
I supplied several tips and received a name check for it, though I would point out that everything I contributed are absolutely things I tell my clients about.