Status of GAO's Review of Voting Equipment Used in Florida's 13th Congressional District

GAO-07-1167T: Published: Aug 3, 2007. Publicly Released: Aug 3, 2007.

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Keith A. Rhodes
(202) 512-6412


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

In November 2006, about 18,000 undervotes were reported in Sarasota County in the race for Florida's 13th Congressional District. Following the contesting of the election results in the House of Representatives, the Task Force met and unanimously voted to seek GAO's assistance in determining whether the voting systems contributed to the large undervote in Sarasota County. On June 14, 2007, we met with the Task Force and agreed upon an engagement plan, which included the following review objectives: (1) What voting systems and equipment were used in Sarasota County and what processes governed their use? (2) What was the scope of the undervote in Sarasota County in the general election? (3) To what extent were tests conducted on the voting systems in Sarasota County prior to the general election and what were the results of those tests? and (4) Considering the tests that were conducted on the voting systems from Sarasota County after the general election, are additional tests needed to determine whether the voting systems contributed to the undervote? In our meetings with Sarasota County, we learned the entire process of configuring the election, running the election, and tallying the results, and about the testing the county conducts on the voting systems, such as the logic and accuracy testing. In our meetings with the Division of Elections, we discussed the conduct of certification testing, in particular, the testing conducted on the ES&S system used in Sarasota County, and the conduct of the state audit--how decisions were made to conduct the audit and the processes used to conduct the audit. In addition, we have received and are reviewing and analyzing data and documentation received from both sources, as well as the submissions from the contestant and the contestee provided by the Task Force.

We have identified the voting systems and equipment used in Sarasota County and verified that the systems were approved for use by the Florida Division of Elections. We know that nine different ballot styles were used on the iVotronic touchscreen voting systems and have an understanding of how the ballots were configured and loaded onto the machines. Further, it was also explained to us how votes are tallied and certified, including the conduct of the machine and manual recounts. We have been analyzing the detailed ballot results from the election as well as the incident and technician logs from Sarasota County to identify patterns in the undervote. Specifically, we have examined the undervote by machine, precinct, and ballot style. Patterns in the undervote could provide us insight on specific conditions that could have caused the undervote. However, we have not yet noticed any apparent patterns, but we are continuing our analysis. From our analysis, we have been able to verify that 1,499 iVotronic voting systems recorded votes in the 2006 general election and the vote counts for the contestant, contestee, and undervotes match the vote totals for election day, early voting, and provisional ballots in the Florida-13 race. A total of 17,846 undervotes were recorded in the Florida-13 race out of the 119,919 ballots cast using the iVotronic voting systems--corresponding to a 14.88 percent undervote rate. While we have not yet completed our review of all of the testing efforts to determine whether they provide reasonable assurance that the machines properly reflect in their totals the selections made when the ballot is cast, there are some preliminary observations we can make.

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