E-Voting Screwup Puts Medical Marijuana Back On The Ballot


It's time for everyone's favorite head-scratcher: e-voting! On the one hand, we all like machines and their ruthless efficiency. On the other, they make it even easier to rig elections without leaving any evidence behind, and the companies who sell them are notoriously partisan and secretive, a bad combination for an election technology.

A Berkeley, California, referendum on medical marijuana in 2004 failed by only 191 votes, so proponents of the measure went to court seeking a recount and access to records and audit logs of the Diebold e-voting machines the election had been conducted on. California law now requires a paper record of every vote, but it wasn't in place at the time, so the vote data only existed in the machines' memory. The plaintiffs eventually got their court-ordered recount, but by then the machines had been returned to Diebold – and the vote data had been erased. According to Wired's Threat Level , election officials lied to the court repeatedly about why they couldn't provide plaintiffs access to the (deleted) data, which is not a smart thing to do. Don't lie in court, kids (unless you're friends with the President, apparently).

In response, the court just tentatively voided the vote and ordered the measure back on the ballot for the next election. (Tentative here means the judge is affording the defendants a hearing to contest her decision before it becomes official.) It also issued tentative sanctions for the county officials, requiring them to pay the plaintiffs' $22,600 recount fee as well as some attorneys' fees. The result? Maybe other counties will be a little more careful with electronic voting records, and a little less trigger happy with the delete key.

Thumbnail image courtesy of Daniel Morrison .

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