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E-voting outfit confesses vote-dropping software bug

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Electronic voting machine manufacturer Premier Elections Solutions has warned government officials of a critical programming error that can drop votes before they are tallied.

The logic error is present on Premier's touch screen and optical scan equipment and occurs when votes are being transferred from memory cards to a central database, according to The Washington Post. In some cases, stored votes waiting to be tallied are erased before they can be counted by other stored votes. The mistake occurs in milliseconds. The problem is most likely to plague larger counties that upload a large number of cards.

The only way to detect the error is for elections officials to track the exact number of memory cards fed into the central database and compare it to the number of cards recorded as being read.

Premier, which used to go by the name Diebold, fessed up to the bug after Ohio elections officials complained of irregularities during primary elections in March. After first blaming the problems on human error and bugs in anti-virus software, Premier now admits they were caused by the logic error. The logic error has been part of the software for 10 years.

"We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error," the company's president, Dave Byrd, wrote in a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner. No votes were lost because the nine counties that experienced the cock-up caught it before the results were finalized, Brunner has said.

Premier is recommending all 1,750 jurisdictions that use its equipment follow procedures that remedy the glitch. Evidently, demanding a refund and moving to paper ballots isn't among the recommendations. ®

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