WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Almost half of Florida’s voters will have their ballots counted this November by machines that can malfunction in as little as two hours and start adding votes.
A New York study found that the precinct-based vote-counter added votes in some races on a ballot, which can invalidate some or all of the votes.
Election Systems & Software’s DS200 scanner will count votes in some of the most populous counties in Florida, including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Orange.
State elections officials stand behind the scanner, which they say has been thoroughly tested. Even so, the manufacturer issued a nationwide bulletin warning that the scanner needs to be carefully cleaned to avoid adding “phantom’’ votes.
The addition of extra votes can generate overvoting - instances where two or more candidates are chosen on a ballot in the same race. If a voter doesn’t correct the ballot, his or her vote in that race is thrown out.
In 2008, overvoting rates were so high in Florida counties using the scanner that an estimated 11,000 people lost their vote for president, an analysis by the nonprofit watchdog group Florida Fair Elections Coalition concluded.
Miami-Dade County precincts with large numbers of minority and non-English-speaking voters were especially hit hard.
Ballot design was part of the problem, the coalition said. However, the group requested that the state Division of Elections temporarily remove the DS200 from its list of authorized voting equipment.
That didn’t happen. But the Florida report on the DS200 caught the attention of election watchers in New York who filed suit to stop the hardware from being used there.
While the suit was pending, voters went to the polls for the 2010 elections, and overvoting problems immediately surfaced.
A Bronx precinct recorded especially high levels of invalid votes.