Skip to comments.18 new voting machines go missing in Broward
Posted on 10/17/2002 8:17:24 AM PDT by FlaFreedom
18 new voting machines go missing in Broward
By Buddy Nevins and Scott Wyman Staff Writers Posted October 17 2002
The Broward County elections office is missing 18 new touch-screen voting machines worth $3,000 each because of poor record-keeping before the flawed Sept. 10 primary, the new elections chief said on Wednesday.
"We don't know where they are. I don't think anyone does at this point," said Joseph Cotter, who was hired to fix the problems highlighted by the chaotic primary.
The missing machines were not used in the election. They were part of Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant's outreach program and presumably were used to educate voters on how to cast ballots on the ATM-like devices.
But Oliphant had no system to track the machines, Cotter said.
"This is very serious," Cotter said. "This is $54,000 in taxpayers' money that we can't find. ... No records, or very inadequate records, were apparently maintained of who took the machines from the warehouse and where they were going."
County commissioners, already reeling from the elections office's budget deficit and the missteps surrounding the primary, were disturbed to hear about the latest problem. They paid $17.2 million for the machinery last winter to replace the old punch-card ballots and said they would hold Oliphant accountable for the lost equipment.
"Every day there is another surprise," Commissioner Kristin Jacobs said. "I just look forward for this election to be over so we can regroup and start fresh. This is absolutely numbing by now. It's unbelievable that there were no systems in place to track where the machines were."
Cotter predicted the machines would be found "in somebody's trunk or someplace's closet."
The touch-screen machines were handled more loosely than the booths used for the old punch-card ballots. Cotter said he could not remember losing one of the booths in the two decades he worked for Oliphant's predecessor, Jane Carroll.
The machines will be tracked more carefully in the Nov. 5 general election, Cotter said. County workers will pick them up immediately after polls close and deliver them to the election warehouse.
Officials for the county and Election Systems & Software, the machines' manufacturer, said the machines would be of little value to anyone who finds them.
Each machine consists mainly of the touch screen and three small hard drives used to store votes. Most of the technology involved is kept on separate hand-held activation devices.
Because their value is largely limited to voting, Cotter thinks the machines have been misplaced.
"This simply appears to be adequate asset controls not being in place," he said.
Officials doubt the lost machines will have any effect on the November election. The county bought 5,040 machines. In addition, ES&S loaned 250 more for training and will have another 320 on standby on Election Day.
Cotter ordered an inventory of the machines, using their bar codes, shortly after he was hired.
The inventory released on Wednesday found that Oliphant's office kept spotty records of what events the consultants visited or how many machines they used. Cotter said he has assigned a staff member to identify the places where outreach programs took place and contact them to see if the machines are there.
Oliphant's office faced criticism even before the audit for its nonchalant treatment of the machines. Four days before the election, a maitre d' driving to work found three of them lying in the middle of Prospect Road.
Dozens of machines were left at polling places -- in clubhouses, churches, schools and community halls -- long after the election. Oliphant's staffers said they weren't concerned even as people were calling the office to ask why the equipment was still around two weeks after the election.
The last machines left at polling places were recovered in late September. Five were discovered at a fire station at Oakland Park Boulevard and the Intracoastal.
As for machines used for voter outreach, two were left at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel until the paper informed the elections office three weeks ago.
The outreach program, paid for in part by a $603,429 state grant, also has been controversial. Oliphant has been criticized for using it to give thousands of dollars in public money to her political allies.
Outside consultants, many of them friends of Oliphant, were hired to demonstrate the machines to civic clubs and condominium groups, and at fairs and other public events.
Commissioners said they want the elections office to pay for the missing machines or find some other way to recoup the cost through insurance claims.
"It's very sloppy management," Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger said. "This is taxpayer dollars being wasted, and I'm just appalled."
Buddy Nevins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4571.
Copyright © 2002, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
(Excerpt) Read more at sun-sentinel.com ...
"Cotter predicted the machines would be found "in somebody's trunk or someplace's closet."
Those will be machines "returned" that were actually used in the election, that real voters entered their votes on. They will not be counted.
"County workers will pick them up immediately after polls close and deliver them to the election warehouse."
So the continuity of control depends on moving "county workers". Simple enough. Some machines go into the back of somebody's SUV and other ones come out. Party workers have "voted" on the machines that come out - early and often. The non-returned machines then show up as the "found" ones.
Paperwork detailing which machine came from which precinct when will be "messed up", have "bureaucratic errors", which will be "straightened out" by oh-so conscientious county workers pretending exasperation.
Voila, the voters don't get to vote "the wrong way", and instead party activists "vote for them", the "right way".
I can't understand why anyone is crying about the money at this point. $54,000 is only half of Oliphant's annual salary. I would imagine her office furniture and trimmings cost at least as much.
You may not be aware of the investigation going on in South Dakota. It seems to me the Justice Department is investigating potential fraud in several states.
Further, they are keeping an eye on Florida and this "missing machines" story came from somewhere.
I'll admit, I'd like to see some prosecutions. But to say the republicans would look the other way is unsubstantiated, imo.
I can't beleive these comments coming on the same day as an article stating that over $1 Billion has been spent on advertising in this election.
Let's see, I guess it depends on how one defines value. ... Manipulating election so that pro-union/ trial lawyer wins governorship. $54,000.
Protection of procecss for democratically elected republic? Priceless.
Maybe not incompetence. Maybe they're planning outright voter fraud (again).
Remember the Vote-A-Matic found in that Democrat's trunk?
Incompetence would be my last guess.
I think it's important to note that while there's always been a 'whole lotta corrrrruption goin' on here' (thanks, Rush), there is a major difference now. In the past, an attempt was made to keep this under wraps. They are now careless (SD), in-your-face confrontational (NJ), bold (FL) and matter-of-fact (college students in MN).
This smacks of Clinton & McAuliffe....the bigger the lie, the greater the fraud, the more blatant the hypocrisy, the more you dare - double dare - the opposition to say something about it.
While it gets tiresome to continue ranting about the media, this is the ace in the hole of the Dems in every election cycle. If - or when - the Republicans complain or point out the graft and corruption, the media will rush to find an indiscretion or an example of corruption by a Republican. This will then be followed by a smug assertion: they all do it, so why are the mean Republicans picking on the Democrats?
They continue to do this because it works.
It is important that Republicans - conservative, moderate or liberal - put aside their differences and get rid of the RATS.... starting with Clinton & McAuliffe.
Boycott MSNBC - they'll soon be defunct. Boycott CNN - they're marginalized at best. Few here pay any attention to the big 3 networks - keep it up.
Sen. Inhofe was on Fox & Friends this morning and did a fantastic job talking about North Korea. Send him a note and thank him for being blunt and tough. Don't just complain; when you see an elected official do something good, let them know you appreciate it. Remember the bees & honey adage.
The new RNC has developed a spine - but they need our help. We need to put FEET ON THE GROUND ... not just money in the coffers. What the elected officials can't complain about - we can. Write, phone and fax the media - every day - until they're sick of hearing from us.
Somehow I have this feeling they will show up soon .. either that or someone is trying figure out how they can rig the new machines
I pray that you are right...but I have my doubts
I hope I'm wrong .. we don't want those machines showing up .. especially on election day ..
IMO there is a reason these machines disappeared