Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 election debacle in North Carolina | Opinion:
"'NC has the worst election problem in the country right now.' -- Computer scientist Dr. David L. Dill of Stanford University
"'A Florida-style nightmare has unfolded in North Carolina in the days since Election Day, with thousands of votes missing and the outcome of two statewide races still up in the air.' -- AP Newswire, Nov 13"

This is a story which has gotten surprisingly little attention. Most post-election stories have focused on attempts to question the validity of Bush's win in Ohio and the perpetual recounting of the votes in the very tight gubernatorial election in Washington.

What brought this to my attention was the report today that the NC state election board's 3-2 Democrat majority had - on a straight party-line vote - ordered a new statewide election for the post of agriculture commissioner because over 4,000 votes are missing due to computer problems in Carteret County and the Republican candidate's margin at the end of counting was substantially less. Republicans had argued for a new vote in Carteret only, and the election board appears to have violated the law which requires four votes to order an entire new election. The statewide re-vote is expected to cost the state about $3 million.

But, in researching that story, I turned up this op-ed from the website published a month ago which indicates significant problems in several counties. The problems reportedly include:
Gaston County - one entire precinct of 1,209 votes missing and 12,000 more votes not reported.
Guilford County - 22,000 vote discrepancy in presidential race.
Craven County - 11,283 more votes cast for president than there were voters voting (same election software as used in Guilford).

The truly scary thing about this is that, so long as we rely on computers, having the number of voters on the machine match the pollbooks and all the totals looking reasonable won't mean that the results are correct. If I was inclined to a more pessimistic view of life, I might think there was a conspiracy afoot to make elections meaningless exercises. I don't, yet; but for those so inclined, there is plenty of evidence.


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