Kevin R. McCarthy for Jefferson County Commissioner

Port Arthur Election and Vote Tally Process

I was asked by a candidate to be their representative at the Port Arthur vote tally. I believe this was the first time Port Arthur did it’s own election with electronic voting machines. I have several things that I want to cover… not in any particular order

1. Technical Aspects of Machines
2. Possibility of cheating on the machines
3. The after poll closing process

First, let’s talk about the equipment themselves. Other than the ladies from the company that Port Arthur rented the equipment from, I was probably the most technically adept person there. The machines are pretty impressive technically. Each one has three different memory devices for storing the vote, plus an internal thermal printer for a printed vote record. The primary device for the votes is a PCMCIA card. This is the device that is used to transport the votes from the polling location to the central counting location.

Each of the three storage devices are encrypted. That means, you can’t just pop them into any PC and look at the votes. If you don’t have the right code, it will take you years to figure out the information on the card. Even if you break the code on the card, it won’t match the data on the hard drive, the memory or the paper printout. The paper printout is done when the machine is closed after all voting is over. So, to answer the second bit, cheating with this equipment is pretty much impossible.

The process was pretty impressive too. The machines were ‘closed’ and the PCMCIA cards and printouts were transported to the counting location (The Bob Bower Civic Center) and then the PCMCIA cards were read. Once the cards left the voting location, no one except the employees of the company touched them. They are the ones that read the cards and tabulated the voting results.

Finally, each machine that was used in our election will remain as it was at 7PM today (Saturday, May 10) for 60 days before the machine is formatted and ready to be used again.

I really enjoyed the experience, the election officials were friendly, yet very particular about the process. They were also well organized. The staff from the company were excellent, fast, efficient and intelligent. I hope that will answer any concerns about the potential for vote fixing during this election. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try to answer them.

May 11, 2008 - Posted by | Politics, Port Arthur

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