Christine Stuart photo
Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz pictured (Christine Stuart photo)

An audit of the November 2007 election, in which voters statewide used optical scan machines to cast their ballots, found that on average the machine count tends to be one vote higher than the hand count, according to a report released Wednesday by the University of Connecticut Voter Technology Research Center.

Asked why the machines tend to over count by one vote, Dr. Alex Shvartsman, director of the voter research center, said he didn’t know. “That’s a very good question,” he said, adding that the center would continue to look into the results.

But Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz was quick to step in and answer the same question for Dr. Shvartsman as she tried to put to rest any lingering skepticism about the results. She said that the machine overcounts may have happened in races with multiple candidates when voters unintentionally marked an additional bubbles on the sheet.

For example, a voter may have wanted to vote for three of five candidates, but accidentally made a mark in a fourth bubble, Bysiewicz said. In such a case, the machine counts the vote, but a poll worker conducting a hand recount may not count the additional vote because to them it appeared to be an inadvertent mark or smudge, she said.

Another issue was that 175 audit reports submitted to the University of Connecticut were “incomplete, unuseable, or obviously incorrect.” About 70 percent of the 958 reports submitted by 70 polling places were complete. The center decided to use about 783 of the reports to complete their audit.

The audit found that 66.4 percent show a discrepancy of 0 to 1 vote between the machine counts and hand counts; 89.4 percent show a discrepancy of 5 votes or fewer; and 31 records, or 4 percent, show a discrepancy of 10 or more votes.

Bysiewicz said overcounts happened in races where candidates were cross-endorsed by two parties. In Waterbury, the audit report shows an overcount of 74 votes, but upon further analysis by UConn, researchers discovered there was only a two vote discrepancy. Dr. Shvartsman said that in this instance, local election officials just did not carefully record the results on the audit form. He said he will be working with the Secretary of State to come up with a better way to record the audit results.

The good news is that the post-election audit of the memory cards showed none of the cards had been hacked or showed signs of tampering. Bysiewicz said eight of the cards tested weren’t programmed with any ballot, meaning the vendor had failed to program the cards. She said she would be asking the vendor, LHS Associates, “to do a better job with quality control.”

One of the 50 memory cards tested after the election was not zeroed out, “indicating that the district tested the card in election mode and did not reset the card,” the report states. That card was not used in the election, but the report points out that it is important for poll workers to print a zero total report prior to the start of the election—“a requirement which cannot be ignored,” the report concluded.

Click here to see the post-election audit of the memory cards. The post-election audit results have not yet been posted on the web site.

Bysiewicz said that in addition to continuing these audits she will be introducing legislation to increase voter privacy. Read more details in this news release.