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Photo of the illegal Overvote Screen

Data from the Florida Secretary of State

Spreadsheet from Florida SOS

Report from the Florida Fair Elections Center

Voluntary Voting System Guidelines

Letter requesting change in VVSG

Research on Voting Systems


New York Considers the Overvote Problem

Brennan Center blog by Larry Norden, including Paul Malischke's comment, Jan 15, 2010

Letter to the NY State Board of Elections from 10 organizations, Feb 3, 2010

Wisconsin GAB Protects Voters from Spoiled Ballots

On December 17, 2009, the GAB voted to approve new voting equipment, but under the condition that it always immediately return an overvoted ballot to the voter.  This decision was based upon a presentation given by Paul Malischke at the November 9 meeting.  Under the configuration shown at the November meeting, Malischke pointed out that the equipment failed to meet three state statutes.

On Monday Nov. 9, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board voted to delay approval of a new voting system that has a flawed method of handling overvotes.  The DS200 polling place tabulator is part of a voting system offered by Election Systems and Software (ES&S).

The Badger Herald reported on the meeting.  "Overvoting is equivalent to polio in the medical world,” Paul Malischke said. “It can be eradicated and it can be prevented.”  The key to eradication is that optical scan tabulators must immediately return the ballot to the voter.

A 2008 report on overvotes from the Florida Secretary of State was the basis for a 19-page report from the Florida Fair Elections Coalition, and also the data reported to the GAB by Paul Malischke.

  • 12,181 Florida voters who used the DS200 lost their vote for president because of overvoting.
  • For voting on Election Day, the rate of overvoting for the DS200 was 18 times that for the Optech Eagle.

This data persuaded the Board members to back away from the staff recommendation to approve the equipment.

A recording of the November 9 meeting is available on Wisconsin Eye.  Part one has the presentation by Paul Malischke at 27:00; Jody Hanna at 35:00; Diane Hermann Brown at 44:20; the ES&S representatives at 52:00, followed by an equipment demonstration(DS200 at 1:59, overvote at 2:04).  Part 2 has the Board's 75 minute discussion.  At the beginning of part 3 the Board passes their resolution to delay approval.

The GAB members voted 4 to 2 to delay approval, and requested that their staff bring back recommendations on meeting the objections raised. 

Elections Systems and Software recently completed a controversial purchase of Diebold's election unit, giving ES&S about 70% of the market and raising editorial concerns.  An ES&S representative stated that the DS200 has received certification in Ohio, Florida (where they have applied for an updated certification), and that testing is underway in New York

 Paul Malischke's full comments to the GAB:

November 9, 2009

Dear Members of the Government Accountability Board:

Please delay certification of the DS200 precinct paper ballot tabulator until the high rate of overvoting can be corrected.  The ES&S DS200 digital scanner can mislead the voter into casting a ballot with an overvote, thereby losing a vote in one or more contests.

The DS200 fails to meet the requirements of three Wisconsin statutes.

5.91 (6)  “....automatic tabulating equipment or machine rejects any ballot on which votes are cast in the primary of more than one recognized political party ....”.  Instead of rejecting the ballot, the DS200 holds the ballot and forces the voter to make a decision before being able to check the ballot.

5.91 (17)  “... it includes a mechanism for notifying an elector who attempts to cast an excess number of votes for a single office that his or her votes for that office will not be counted, ...”  From the written staff analysis, page 9 of your meeting materials, under 5.91 (12):  “For the DS200, concerns were stressed regarding the overvote or crossover vote notification that prompts the voter to either “accept” or “reject” (sic) the ballot but does not convey to the voter the effects of doing so.”

5.91 (12) “It minimizes the possibility of disenfranchisement of electors as the result of failure to understand the method of operation or utilization or malfunction of the ballot, voting device, automatic tabulating equipment or related equipment or materials.”

In January 2009, the Secretary of State of Florida issued a report detailing the November 2008 overvote rate, county by county.  13 counties used the DS200, and 5 counties used the Optech Eagle.  An Excel file with the data is at http://doe.dos.state.fl.us/reports/pdf/generalOverUndervote08.xls

  • 12,181 voters who used the DS200 lost their vote for president because of overvoting. (Cells Z86 and AB86 of the Excel file listed above.)
  • For voting on Election Day, the rate of overvoting for the DS200 was 18 times that for the Optech Eagle.  (Cells AC86 and AC88.)

The Optech Eagle is currently in use in most of the ten largest Wisconsin municipalities.  The Eagle automatically and immediately returns the overvoted ballot to the voter.  The poll worker then has the opportunity to inform the voter that an overvote results in neither vote being counted.  In order to accept an overvote, it requires a pollworker to use the hidden override button.  Pushing this button activates the override for the next ballot.

The DS200 does not use these basic established techniques for minimizing disenfranchisement.  When the DS200 detects an overvote, it holds the ballot in the top of the scanner, displays  a note that a race has too many votes, and displays two big buttons on the screen for the voter to choose from, ACCEPT and RETURN.  If the voter touches the RETURN button, the ballot is returned.  But if the voter touches the ACCEPT button, the ballot is tabulated for the other contests, but your vote is lost for the overvoted race.  The word ACCEPT should not be used for “lose your vote”.

The DS200 does not immediately reject the ballot to the voter for review and a decision.  Therefore, the voter does not have the ballot in hand so it could be checked for the problem.  While the voter confronts the confusing language on the screen and tries to make a decision, no one else can vote. This puts pressure on the voter to hurry a decision.

The DS200 does not give the voter information about the effect of hitting the ACCEPT button.  The voter is never clearly advised that his/her vote will not count for the indicated race(s) (those with overvotes) if the ACCEPT button is touched.  The voter is also not given any option to change his/her mind once ACCEPT is hit.

Wisconsin had 2.3 million Election Day voters in November 2008, according to the GAB’s “An Examination of Early Voting in Wisconsin”.  Suppose that all these voters used the flawed DS200 and had overvotes at the same rate as did the Florida counties.  There would be 12,595 Wisconsin voters who lost their vote due to overvotes.

The DS200 does not meet the letter nor the spirit of the law, and is not effective in protecting the voter as mandated by our legislature.

In order to meet the requirements of our statues, the DS200 must be modified as follows:

  • It immediately returns an overvoted ballot so the voter can examine it.
  • It displays a message indicating that the voter should request assistance from a pollworker due to the ballot being defective.
  • An override button is sometimes needed for an absentee ballot.  A small override button could be near the top of the display, next to the logo.  It should require an operation such as touch-and-hold for several seconds.  This action would bring up a screen with notification that votes for the overvoted office will not be counted.  It would also include instructions on how to cancel the override.
  • The override would only affect the next ballot inserted.

The flaws in the DS200 are discussed at length in a report by the Florida Fair Elections Center at  http://www.ffec.org/documents/Invalid_Vote_Report_Revised_23June2009.pdf    This report is based upon the data published by the Florida Secretary of State.  The link to this report was given to the GAB staff in an email dated October 1, 2009.


Paul Malischke    malischke@yahoo.com

Last updated Saturday, September 23, 2017