A University of Iowa computer expert has visited Florida three times this summer to see if voting machines will give an accurate count. Douglas Jones is associate professor of Computer Science at the U-of-I. Joking that he was there “for Hurricane Charley,” Jones says counties must test their voting equipment to ensure it all works, and he was brought in to evaluate Miami-Dade County’s procedure for testing its machines. Despite widespread concern about computer problems, counting errors, and voting-machine company execs who’ve given money to one political party, Jones has good news. They were trying some innovative new testing ideas, some hampered by the state, some in which “their intentions were better than the results,” but he says the testing was responsible. Jones adds he has some recommendations for how they can do better next time. Professor Jones says the machines used there are Ivotronic brand voting machines. Jones says they don’t have a provision to make a “paper trail” to connect a voter’s intention to their vote, but do allow a paper trail for part of the process, from the closing of polls to the final announcement of election totals. The same county had two computer crashes last year that were blamed for losing election data stored on them, but Jones says he helped them recover the information, finding printed data he’d encouraged the election officials to make which had been stored and forgotten.He says any time you computerize any process he says it’s “very important” to have a good backup policy. Jones has become something of an expert quoted often on new touch-screen voting machines. He says though their problems have sometimes been caught and caused concern, that same public skepticism is likely to keep the coming elections mostly honest, fair and well-verified. His visits to Florida were related to that state’s primary, coming August 31.
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