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Evidence of New Jersey Election Discrepancies PDF  | Print |  Email
By Ed Felten, Princeton University   
March 19, 2008
This article was posted at Ed Felten's Freedom to Tinker Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Press reports on the recent New Jersey voting discrepancies have been a bit vague about the exact nature of the evidence that showed up on election day. What has the county clerks, and many citizens, so concerned? Today I want to show you some of the evidence.

The evidence is a “summary tape” printed by a Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machine in Hillside, New Jersey when the polls closed at the end of the presidential primary election. The tape is timestamped 8:02 PM, February 5, 2008.

The summary tape is printed by poll workers as part of the ordinary procedure for closing the polls. It is signed by several poll workers and sent to the county clerk along with other records of the election.


Let me show you closeups of two sections of the tape. (Here’s the full tape, in TIF format.)

Above you can see the vote totals on this machine for each candidate. On the Democratic side, the tally is Obama 182, Clinton 179. On the Republican side it’s Giuliani 1, Romney 13, McCain 40, Paul 3, Huckabee 4.

Above is the “Option Switch Totals” section, which shows the number of times each party’s ballot was activated: 362 Democratic and 60 Republican.


This doesn’t add up. The machine says the Republican ballot was activated 60 times; but it shows a total of 61 votes cast for Republican candidates. It says the Democratic ballot was activated 362 times; but it shows a total of 361 votes for Democratic candidates. (New Jersey has a closed primary, so voters can cast ballots only in their own registered party.)


What’s alarming here is not the size of the discrepancy but its nature. This is a single voting machine, disagreeing with itself about how many Republicans voted on it. Imagine your pocket calculator couldn’t make up its mind whether 1+13+40+3+4 was 60 or 61. You’d be pretty alarmed, and you wouldn’t trust your calculator until you were very sure it was fixed. Or you’d get a new calculator.


This wasn’t an isolated instance, either. In Union County alone, at least eight other AVC Advantage machines exhibited similar problems, as did dozens more machines in other counties.


Sequoia, the vendor, is trying to prevent any independent investigation of what happened.

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