December 8, 2006
By MARK PAZNIOKAS, Courant Staff Writer
Random audits confirmed the accuracy of new voting machines used in 25 communities last month, allowing the devices to become standard in Connecticut polling places next year, the top elections official said Thursday.
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz said that the optical scan machines counted votes with few discrepancies - and that all errors were the result of improperly marked ballots, not machine error.
The report means the end of the state's mechanical voting machines, which were rendered obsolete by a federal law requiring easier access to people with disabilities, plus a reliable audit trail for recounts.
The new system is a combination of old and new technology: a paper ballot that is read and counted by an optical scanner. In nearly every case in which the machines failed to record a vote, the cause was a voter who failed to fill in an oval next to a candidate's name, Bysiewicz said.
Some voters circled the oval. Others drew an X.
In a race close enough for a mandatory recount, their votes would have been recorded in the recount, because their intentions were clear, she said.
Only one-twentieth of 1 percent of ballots were miscounted, she said.
The audits were based on a hand count of all paper ballots counted by optical scanners in 17 precincts in nine communities: East Hartford, East Haven, Hartford, Middletown, Monroe, Newington, South Windsor, Wethersfield and Wilton.
The audits were conducted by local registrars and the findings analyzed by the UConn Voting Technology Research Center.
"The overall discrepancies between the machine counts and the hand counts are not statistically significant," according to the UConn analysis.
Recounts will become more laborious in the future, as each paper ballot will have to be counted by hand. In the 2nd Congressional District, where the race this year was settled by a recount, that would have meant an examination of about 242,000 ballots.
With the old machines, a recount requires only checking to see if the totals on each machine were correctly recorded on tally sheets.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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