October 29th, 2008
07:32 PM ET

Flipping out over vote flipping

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/10/29/voting.lines.jpg ]

Ian Inaba
Co-founder, Video the Vote

With early voting all the rage in 2008, voters have already been casting ballots – and encountering problems – for weeks. One of the biggest concerns we’ve seen at Video the Vote is vote flipping: voters choose one option (e.g., Ralph Nader) and the electronic machine records a different choice (e.g., John McCain). Written reports of vote flipping have emerged from Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and elsewhere. So we headed to Jackson County, West Virginia, to get a first hand look.

What we found was concerning:


County Clerk Jeff Waybright showed us how an uncalibrated machine flips votes. But then, the machine appears to malfunction even after the machine is calibrated. Not surprisingly, the video has caught fire online, being viewed more than 250,000 times.

We have since been told by West Virginia officials that the machine was actually working correctly: When Mr. Waybright pressed Ralph Nader for president and then pressed a straight Republican ticket, the machine kept the vote for Nader to maintain voter intent. In software terms, it’s a feature, not a bug.

Despite statements by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s office to the contrary, Mr. Waybright never directly corrected himself in the video. However, for transparency’s sake, we’ve posted the entire unedited interview so voters can see for themselves:


If Mr. Waybright misspoke, we think it only reinforces the problems with these machines. When the head election official in Jackson County needs two tries to explain how the machine functions, what do we expect will happen to average voters who don’t get a second chance to cast their votes?

But Jackson County aside, there’s a broader point here that goes beyond a two-minute web video. Voters are clearly experiencing problems with touch screen machines, particularly the iVotronic made by Election Systems & Software (ES&S), and the problems are not limited to a handful of votes. In the 2006 Florida 13th District Congressional race, in which was decided by 373 votes, iVotronic machines registered more than 18,000 undervotes in Sarasota County – meaning one in every six voters didn’t have a vote counted on the most important race on the ticket. This discrepancy was never adequately explained.

As long as these very real problems persist, the use of touchscreen machines will continue to erode American’s confidence in our election systems. And given what’s happened in recent years, it can’t get much lower.

Ian Inaba is an award-winning director and producer whose credits include the Sundance-award-winning American Blackout, the controversial pre-election music video for Eminem's "Mosh," and the book True Lies.

AC360 on Thursday will have a special report on early voting, and how it's reshaping the election. Tune in at 10PM.

Filed under: 2008 Election • Early Voting • Raw Politics
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Alex (Aliso Viejo, Ca)

    I am pretty sure there is a better way to make these computers or voting process easy, user-friendly and hack-free. We are considered the best country in the world (for goodness-sake) who is leading in the 21st century technology advances. I do not expect perfection but I expect a far-better election/voting process. If we consider ourselves as the guardians of Democracy, aren't we supposed to exemplify above-average performance in our voting process. "Dealing with what we have" is a lame excuse, i daresay.

    October 30, 2008 at 12:42 am |
  2. Nelson

    Few days left for the big Vote
    Obama........no way I'm going to let you spread my wealth. They have children singing a song to Obama, the media will not allow the truth come out on Obama, media is all Obama propaganda, spread the wealth.......isn't this what is done in China, North Korea, Venezuela.........

    For you ladies who hate Palin because she is pro-life.....get your facts.......she's against the Roe vs Wade because it allows for abortions to be done at any stage of the pregnancy and paid with our tax money. Palin does not want this to be a constitutional right.......she wants each state to vote on it and support it or not.

    Something to watch ladies: http://www. durarealidad. com/

    October 29, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  3. rotto rutter ralf

    And then there is Mickey Mouse. I only hope that voters really under stand what McCain said on Larry King tonight. McCain says government spending is what has run up our national debt. Trickle down tax cuts where created and named by Hoover Before the great republican depression. Reagan used them and they failed him and Bush 41. They have been a dismal failure for Bush 43 and have been the biggest expense to our government over the last 8 years never producing jobs or revenue to replace what has been freely given away. They have not worked for the 4th time yet republicans blame other spending. The difference between Bush and Clinton is the trickle down tax cuts. Why else would the first thing done by republican majority is to discontinue the national debt. Can not comment much on voter fraud because I am in Oregon and away went troubles like these years ago down the drain. It is hard to guess if I should laugh or cry on the way to the mail box. Poor Joe the plumber republicans have flushed his kids future down the drain with these tax cuts that can only be called redistribution of debt. Like socialistic.

    October 29, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  4. LeRoy Mugumbo

    While the machines are one problem, voters are another.

    We have the most uneducated people in our DEMOCRACY doing the voting...

    What do you expect from a population that largely can't read beyond the 6th grade level are swayed by rock star power and live at home with mommy and daddy and have never held a real job.

    That's the problem with a DEMOCRACY: the dumbest of the population elect the dumbest of the politicians!

    This election cycle would be best served if only Senator Obama’s name was inserted into every slot and every ballot; then we could all be sure that America’s Savior would win…

    October 29, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  5. Paul G Jenkins

    I voted today here in Virginia. I had to use this machine that required me to touch a circle beside the candidate that I was voting for. I did not feel comfortable using it because of the problems reported about these machines. I hope that my vote will count.

    October 29, 2008 at 10:16 pm |
  6. Annie Kate

    It sounds like to me that the software is doing what its suppose to and that the problem is the voter. If you vote Nader and then check the All Republican straight ticket you have overridden your Nader vote – All Republican or All Democrat means exactly that to the software – the ballot will only have all GOP or all democrat candidates on it. The assumption behind this would be that the voter changed their mind on voting for Nader and decided to vote for all the GOP candidates; if the voter didn't want to do that then the all GOP ticket shouldn't be chosen. Maintaining the paper trail as to voter intent is a good backup safety feature and hopefully the voter receives a copy of their ballot to keep to show how they voted in case a question arises.

    Software can only do what its programmed to do. The requirements of the system under different voting patterns need to be looked at and the software retested to ensure that it does what it was required to do – if it is then perhaps the requirements for the software were not as comprehensive as they needed to be.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    October 29, 2008 at 9:00 pm |
  7. Leong Andrew

    Dear Sir,
    Politics is known to be dirty. You get a woman on the ticket, it becomes dirtier – instead of debating on issues like how best to serve the people, she starts digging up dirt on personalities and gossip, also spending taxpayers' money on wardrobe and makeup. What a hockey mum!

    October 29, 2008 at 8:07 pm |
  8. Cindy

    Nothing is perfect but this electronic method of voting is better than some. You can stop and go get someone to fix the problem you don't have to keep going and vote who you don't want to vote for.

    No one said voting was easy or has to be a split second in and out process. Nothing is perfect and probably never will be with any voting method. We just have to deal with what we have.


    October 29, 2008 at 7:54 pm |
  9. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    I don't think it is a mystery that our voting machines malfunction.......Hey Florida............please vote carefully.....:)

    October 29, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  10. Larry

    Are those the ones where people are pressing near the very top of the selection and they are actually pressing on the one above it? Folk should just press on the middle of the selection. However, if they are pressing the area of where there is no doubt ( not a reference to Gwen Stefani's old band) and its giving a vote to somebody else then yeah, there should be some kind of verification like 'you voted for x confirm y or n'

    October 29, 2008 at 7:42 pm |