The Digital Signage Insider

Miami-Dade loses touchscreen voting information

Published on: 0000-00-00

As a resident of South Florida, I've mentioned before how I felt about the handling of the 2000 elections.  Forget for a moment how something as amazingly not complex as a paper ballot could confuse and befuddle people down here, and instead focus on the aftermath of recounting and recounting.  For about two weeks, we had a different recount result every day, and that was with nearly 100% availability of paper records.

Fast forward 4 years, to a point where apparently nobody has learned anything.  Florida has some kind of touchscreen-based e-voting kiosk system in place that has caused at least one county to skip general elections last year because they were too expensive, and here we are just months away from the presidential election.

And that's when I read this article. (The Miami Herlad article it points to is here, but you need a subscription).  Apparently Miami-Dade county lost a lot of data, has no way to retrieve it, and no way to conduct formal audits because of that.  Oh, and of course these are the machines that will be used in the upcoming election, and no provisions are being made for paper backups or any other kind of "hard" audit trail.

But the best part is a quote from Seth Kaplan, a spokesman for the election department.  He says, that the problem can't happen again and  the data is now immune to computer failure, because they are now backing it up to tape.

While a lot of my irritation about this subject has focused on Diebold and their awful, awful kiosk software in the past, in this case we saw a failure in the management and processing of the data -- something equally important as gathering the votes, that up until this point has never had to be considered.  Managing votes in times past meant keeping boxes of paper ballots and then incenerating them when finished.  Tallies could be kept on a few sheets of paper and backed up into a computer.

So there was a big gaping hole in the Miami-Dade system, they acknowledged it, and because of that they are now impervious to any other problems.  I think it's safe to say that these people have never run any mission-critical infrastructure before.  I think it's probably also safe to say that they've never actually tried restoring something from an old tape.

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