Voting machines pass Broward test
Broward's electronic voting equipment passed its first major tests before the Aug. 31 primary election.
Aug 14, 2004
By ERIKA BOLSTAD
Testing of Broward's electronic voting equipment went flawlessly Friday during a public -- yet hands-off -- review of the accuracy of the county's touch-screen machines before the Aug. 31 primary.
Such reviews have always been public, but Florida election officials have asked counties this year to shed even more light on the process to clear up voter doubts about electronic voting.
The tests, known as ''logic and accuracy'' reviews, require technicians to check 2 percent of the machines. The county's canvassing board then confirms that the votes they know were cast match the results spit out by the machines.
''The scenarios were run, they all checked out 100 percent,'' said Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes. ``I absolutely believe that voters will be able to vote with confidence.''
But the testing process in Broward was not nearly as transparent as in other South Florida counties -- despite a campaign by Secretary of State Glenda Hood to open the process to public scrutiny.
Unlike Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, where observers and television cameras were invited in to watch as election workers tested the machines, observers in Broward had to look through a window. The room was packed so tightly with the 120 machines being tested that it would be impossible to allow the public inside, Snipes said.
But during Miami-Dade's test Friday, activists were openly welcomed by the county elections office.
People attending the tests were invited to cast any votes they liked, on 16 of the machines, with scribes recording their choices by hand and video cameras shooting from above. Their choices were matched with the results recorded by the machines.
''They picked machines completely at random for the non-scripted testing,'' said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa hired as a consultant for the elections department. ``What I'm seeing here is some of the strongest preelection testing we've ever heard of.''
Some national advocacy groups have called on election officials nationwide to reassure the public on Election Day by using what's known as ``parallel testing.''
Elections officials would set up test machines in several precincts, and invite voters to cast ballots on the test machine. Observers would record people's votes.
Then, at the end of the day, they would verify that the votes they watched people cast matched the electronic results.
Miami-Dade officials are considering the tests, which have been conducted on electronic machines in California. Snipes has said she's intrigued, but unsure the county could pull off the logistics.
Herald staff writer Joe Mozingo contributed to this report.
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