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Electronic votes mysteriously vanish in Ohio election

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Electronic voting machines made by Premier Election Solutions have once again been caught dropping votes during the November elections, this time in Ohio's Montgomery County.

The missing five votes failed to register during the original count and again during a recount, according to The Dayton Daily News. They probably never would have been discovered had it not been for a special statewide spot check mandated by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, who has long been skeptical of the accuracy of electronic voting.

The votes only materialized when a memory card was put back into the voting machine that used it on election day. That practice isn't typically followed when tallying votes.

The account is troubling to electronic voting opponents because it suggests the bug is particularly difficult for elections officials to spot.

"This looks bad," said Bev Harris, director of BlackBoxVoting.org, a nonpartisan group that works for fair and accurate elections. "You've got an error that erases itself, which is the worst of all worlds because it can cover itself up."

Representatives from Premier didn't return a call late Friday seeking comment. A company spokesman told The Daily News it had not "seen this particular condition anywhere else in Ohio or anywhere else in the country."

It's at least the second discovery of vote-dropping by a Premier voting machine in as many weeks. Last week, a four-year-old glitch in a vote tabulation system made by the company formerly known as Diebold Election Systems silently wiped out 197 votes in Northern California's Humboldt County. That error was only discovered thanks to a volunteer outfit that used an off-the-shelf scanner and open-source software.

In August, Premier admitted that for 10 years its software has contained a critical programming error that can drop votes. It was unclear if the error is what caused the missing votes in Ohio.

Montgomery County, which is where Dayton is located, uses Premier's AccuVote-TSX (PDF) touch-screen voting machine. The lost votes were among 166,903 cast on electronic machines there. ®

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