October 19, 2009

Wow! Diebold scanners are picky about ink colors on ballots

Posted in Diebold, Elections, voting, voting machine testing, voting machines tagged , , , at 10:44 pm by bluebanshee

Yup, you read that right.  Diebold scanners are picky about which color ink is used to mark a ballot — sometimes just can not read blue ink.  Also, sometimes just can not read  marks made with number two pencil.  Everyone who has ever filled out a scantron sheet for an  SAT or GRE or any other standardized test must be scratching your head by now.

Yes, I know, I know …  the official instructions  from Diebold say to use a number two pencil or a pen with blue or black ink (just like those standardized test directions).  But you can’t believe the official stuff because it doesn’t always work.

If you feed your carefully marked ballot through a scanner from Diebold sometimes it just “sees” a blank piece of paper.  And you’ll never know when a Diebold scanner will fail to do its basic job of scanning for filled-in ovals on a sheet of paper.  Sometimes it works just fine and sometimes it doesn’t.  Sometimes your vote will count — and sometimes it just won’t.

How did we learn about this “feature” of certain Diebold scanners?  Well, it was during a routine Logic and Accuracy Test in Sarasota, Florida, that election director Cathy Dent noticed that some marked ballots being fed through the brand new scanners from Diebold were being seen as blank sheets paper by the machines.

Ms. Dent experimented a bit and discovered that the problem was “intermittent” but that it seemed to happen more often with blue ink or number two pencil marks.

What did Ms. Dent do next?  Did she call Diebold and demand they take their defective machines back?  Or, did she perhaps call Diebold and demand they fix them?  Nope, not a chance that she would take the kind of action as the average American consumer whose new toaster failed to turn both sides of the bread an appropriate shade of .. er .. toast.

What Ms. Dent plans to do is photocopy any ballots that are submitted with blue ink.  Plus, polling places in Sarasota will be stocked with an ample supply of black felt tip pens for voters to use.

That’s a temporary fix.  But the long term solution is to fix the machines so they function properly and “read” popular types of inks and number two pencils.  That’s in the hands of the Diebold elections unit (aka Premier) that was recently purchased by rival ES&S. They make these junk machines that can not perform even the most basic function of scanning with consistency.

The next question is whether these machines can actually count.  There have long been suspicions about the accuracy of vote counts on Diebold machines.  A public failure like the one in Sarasota does nothing to instill confidence in these machines — or any software or equipment with the Diebold/Premier label.

Another issue that needs to be addressed:  These machines are used in jurisdictions across the country.  It is not enough to have paper ballots if the machines cannot “read” the marks made by voters who use a pen with the “wrong” (=blue) ink color.    The machine in question is the Diebold/Premier AccuVote OSX Digital Scan Tabulator (Hardware Model A) with Firmware 1.0.2.

If your jurisdiction uses this model Diebold/Premier scanner be sure to use black ink to mark your ballot. And make sure your local election officials know about this documented problem with these machines.

For more information:

http://www.sunnewspapers.net/articles /pnnews.aspx?NewsID=70156&a=newsarchive3/101709/vn1.htm&pnpg=0




  1. Informed Person said,

    Some Corrections:

    1. The Supervisor is required to use only the machines Certified by the State Division of Elections by Law good or bad.
    2. The State was notified by the Supervisor and other Supervisors of problems with #2 pencils and Blue ink months earlier in test reports, but the State Elections division Certification department did nothing to help voters or elections in Florida.
    3. The problem was present from Feb 2008 foward covering other elections such as the NOV 2008 presidential election with OS and OSX models but not documented in an offical test or election till this month.
    4. The problem must be found by engineers of the supplier and documented as there are three elements to its fault, the illumination light, the sensor , or the math in the chip set. This is something either the State of Florida which does its own Certificaiton or the Supervisors can not due or have the means to do.
    5.Varioius inks are suspended in oil, gel, or other substances, all these have properties that can hide the vote based on the elements in #4 above.
    6. The Supervisor in this case found the problem because they tested for it, so should get some praise for best practice in testing on this issue.

    If you want to get better elecitons get it right first, then help to make changes write to the State of Florida Division of Elections, Mr. Don Palmer and ask him why they did not do anything about what they were sent in writing, ask why they did not test fot this problem in their Certification process. Ask why they do not have a real time “bug & fix” site for Supervisors on problems with machines, ask why they do not do their job!

    • bluebanshee said,

      Other scanners do not have the same pickiness about popular ink colors or number two pencils. Some older infrared scanners have problems with red marks but this is the first documented instance of problems with widely used blue ink and number two pencils. This is something so basic you would think the manufacturer would have tested for this before shipping them out to customers. This is a new scanner and should not have these problems right out of the box.

      Note: You might consider using a spellchecker before posting something in a public forum.

    • Laura said,

      It is very hard to send letters to officials based on anonymous comments.

      Perhaps “informed person” has stepped forward?

      All bloggers can do is take information that they can provide a source from and work from there.

      Voting Matters raised the issue that the Diebold malfunctions are not acceptable, nor is the idea of election officials remaking ballots acceptable either.

      As President Obama said, instead of complaining, pick up a mop.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: