Diebold DRS Jackknifes Folded Mail Ballot (Video)

The Executive's reckless plan to overhaul our elections includes all new hardware for mail ballot processing. We have very significant concerns about the Diebold DRS PS900 iM2 units we intend to buy.

Well. I've got some good news and some bad news. First the bad news.

(more below the fold)

The Bad News

The Diebold DRS PS900 iM2 has known problems with folded mail ballots. (Ballots are folded to fit in the envelopes. They get squished flat before being scanned.)

Scotland just had an election meltdown in May. The Open Rights Group reports that the DRS PS900 iM2 had trouble with folded mail ballots. The DRS company agreed to pay compensation. (Previously blogged as Can Diebold Count Mail Ballots?.)

Cuyahoga County Elections got a demo of the DRS earlier this year. Lou Irizarry, their technical guru, reports that their folded mail ballots got stuck in the DRS. Lou strongly encouraged us to try before we buy, to verify the DRS works with our ballots.

King County Elections also got a demo of the DRS just a few months back. Again, the DRS exhibited a problem with folded mail ballots.

What's interesting is that each jurisdiction has reported a different problem with folded mail ballots.

The Good News

I have video from King County's demo of the DRS. It shows a folded mail ballot jackknifing inside the DRS. It happens at time code 0:52. That's me, sounded like an idiot, saying "unh" when it happens. (I didn't fully appreciate what had happened at the time.)

Here's a higher resolution screen capture of a folded mail ballot jackknifing.

Watch very closely! The Diebold rep knows there's a problem. His hand is in motion before the folded mail ballot jackknifes. So his hand is right there to pick it up when it happens.

The Diebold rep was smooth. If you watch the video, other than my "unh", no one says "boo" when it happens. For my part, it was only after I inspected my video (frame by frame) afterwards that I figured out what happened.

The Appeal

Maybe what I saw is a huge problem. Maybe it isn't.

What I do know is that every jurisdiction we spoke with had some kind of problem with folded mail ballots.

At the very least, we must insist that King County Elections demonstrate that the DRS PS900 iM2 can handle our folded mail ballots before any purchase is made. This must be done in public. 3 or 4 batches (of 200 mail ballots each) is a good start.

Please call your councilmember and insist the DRS is tested before we buy. Thank you.

< Have we got their backs? | Me and Barry McGuire want to know ... >


What's the best purchasing strategy?
Buy, then test? (the Executive's reckless plan)
Test, then buy if it works? (our plan)

Votes: 25
Results | Other Polls
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this demonstration.... for being there.  For all the considerable on-the-ground work you're doing.  And thank you for the reporting, as well.

by noemie maxwell on Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 09:27:10 PM PST

* 1 none 0 *

That was interesting. He says that either the county (1) goes ahead with the purchase and the move to all-VBM or (2) it sticks with the current equipment and dual voting system.

Okay, #2.

by DWE on Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 08:35:59 AM PST

* 2 none 0 *

  • I forgot--Ron Sims' claim by DWE, 07/20/2007 08:40:47 AM PST (none / 0)
    • London by zappini, 07/20/2007 10:21:44 AM PST (none / 0)
  • Wedged by zappini, 07/20/2007 10:37:54 AM PST (none / 0)
Is the TSx DRE that bltfsk talks about in this Washblog diary the same equipment that KC is proposing to use?

by noemie maxwell on Fri Jul 20, 2007 at 12:42:52 PM PST

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there was an article on how state officials all over the country are struggling to overhaul their voting systems by 2008. In many cases the overhaul will be delayed to 2012:

Under pressure from state and local officials, as well as from lobbyists for the disabled, House leaders now advocate putting off the most sweeping changes until 2012, four years later than planned.

Overhauling voting systems before next year's presidential election had once been a top Democratic priority, primarily to allow greater accountability and be certain that all votes registered on computerized touch-screen systems were counted. But state and local elections officials told Congress they could not make the changes in time for the balloting in November 2008, particularly in light of the extra workload involved in preparing for next year's much-earlier presidential primary season.

by DWE on Sat Jul 21, 2007 at 08:09:11 AM PST

* 8 none 0 *

to put a stop to this insanity?  This is something we need to take to court IMO.

by Pen on Sun Jul 22, 2007 at 12:24:36 AM PST

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I personally think the option to stick with the hybrid for 2008 makes the most sense. No one in their right mind would risk screwing up the 2008 presidential and governor's race.  Making any big changes, including moving to VBM in 2008, with or without new equipment, is doing just that.  Can you imagine? The first county-wide vote by mail election.  The first-time roll out of regional voting centers.  The first time requirement that all prov