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Virginia e-voting machines truncating candidates' names

Evan Blass
October 24, 2006
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We're not sure what the bigger story here is: the fact that some Virginia e-voting machines have been "broken" since they were purchased four years ago, or the fact that Diebold wasn't the manufacturer. It seems that three jurisdictions in the state -- Alexandria, Falls Church, and Charlottesville -- use machines made by Austin's Hart InterCivic, all of which cut off candidates' names and party affiliations on the summary screen used to verify a voter's choices before the ballot is cast. Since names are displayed properly on the pages of the individual races, this is admittedly not the world's greatest threat to democracy, but it does highlight the ridiculous amount of red tape required to fix a problem with these devices -- in this case, making adjustments for the larger font size being used. Even though this flaw was evident as far back as 2002, secretary of the State Board of Elections Jean Jansen said she only recently became aware it; meanwhile Hart InterCivic can't touch the machines until it performs a system-wide firmware upgrade next year, and even that is contingent upon certification from state regulators. The good news is that recent publicity about the issue has seemingly jostled Jansen out of her stupor and encouraged her to go on the offensive, as evidenced by her comment on the likelihood of fixes being in place by the 2007 elections: "You better believe it. If I have to personally get on a plane and bring Hart InterCivic people here myself, it'll be corrected." Hey, we're all for kidnapping programmers to fix these problems too, but bragging about it in the Post seems like a surefire way to get your felonious plans thwarted.





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