E-Voting Gone Awry: Watch This Controversial Video

With a stock market in upheaval, a faltering economy and a myriad of other national and international problems continuing, we all really needed one more thing to worry about.

But here it is.

In an online video yesterday on the liberal blog, The Daily Kos, a contributor named Snud posted a two-minute video that purports to interview an unidentified West Virginia election worker who is demonstrating an electronic touchscreen e-voting machine to show off its performance and ease-of-use.

What the unconfirmed video shows is interesting as the election worker explains how to select a candidate with his fingertip on the ballot screen, then watches as the machine records a selection for a completely different candidate on the ballot.

The clerk then explains the "vote-flipping" problem away by saying it must need to be recalibrated. He then does that by inserting a special recalibration card, which is designed to ensure that when touching a particular spot on the voting machine screen, a specific candidate is chosen. The calibration is supposed to align the touch points on the screen to the ballot choices, according to the e-voting machine vendors.

Snud's blog post describes the video as "a West Virginia County Clerk inadvertently showing just how UNreliable these voting machines really are."

"Despite repeated 'calibration' attempts, they just don't seem to work properly or reliably," the post continues.

The video comes a week after West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland held a news conference in Charleston to give her response to such "vote-flipping" problems allegedly experienced by at least two voters when early voting began in that state on Oct. 17. Ireland said that immediate investigations showed that the machines were working properly and she directed all state elections officials to recalibrate the machines and watch over their operations vigilently until the polls close on Election Day.

[NEWS UPDATE at 12:52 EDT: Since this blog post went live late this morning, the West Virginia Secretary of State's office called Computerworld and disputed the video clip, calling it "fraudulent" because it was edited and not shown in its entirety.

The election clerk in Jackson County shown in the video acknowledged that he made an error in his description of the process and then corrected his error, said Sarah Bailey, a deputy secretary of state. That footage is not shown in the video, making it inflammatory, she said. "It's just not true," Bailey said of the video. "It's false."

Computerworld is looking into her claims and will file updates as soon as possible.]

Well, as a reporter covering these technologies for Computerworld, I hear all sides of this issue.

E-voting machine critics say the machines can and will do exactly what is shown in the unconfirmed video, by switching a voter's choice to another candidate by mistake.

Vendors usually say that the machines are reliable and work properly and that any problems:

*can be spotted before a voter actually records their ballot, giving them the opportunity to correct their selections via a review screen.

*are usually caused by a voter, whose finger or clothing might accidentally graze a wrong spot on the ballot screen, causing an incorrect candidate selection.

*have never affected the results of an election.

All of that may be arguably true, but for some people, it still is disconcerting when you see such a video with your own eyes.

(This article first appeared as a blog at Computerworld)

Subscribe to the The Advisor Newsletter

Comments