Sunday, February 01, 2004

Fancy That

I do wonder why such little glitches always seem to benefit Republicans. Of course, that's just irresponsible conspiracy theorizing. I mean, it's really complicated to program a computer to take a number and add "1" to it when the right button is pushed.

Poll workers in Alameda County noticed something strange on election night in October. As a computer counted absentee ballots in the recall race, workers were stunned to see a big surge in support for a fringe candidate named John Burton.

Concerned that their new $12.7 million Diebold electronic voting system had developed a glitch, election officials turned to a company representative who happened to be on hand.

Lucky he was there. For an unknown reason, the computerized tally program had begun to award votes for Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante to Burton, a socialist from Southern California.


Alameda County officials still don't know why the computer program failed on election night. In fact, they only discovered the malfunction because they could compare the paper absentee ballots the software was counting to the computer's tally. The rest of the county's voters cast electronic ballots. Nor were election workers aware at the time that their touch-screen machines were running unauthorized Diebold software in violation of California law, as a state investigation later discovered.

``There was something in the software,'' said Elaine Ginnold, assistant registrar of voters for Alameda County. Alameda County officials refused to allow the Mercury News to review the software code used to test its electronic voting system, saying it was a Diebold trade secret.