Diebold subsidiary Premier Election Solutions has admitted its voting machine software sometimes loses votes.
The admission, made in a California state hearing on Tuesday and reported on Wired's Threat Level blog, is significant. For years, the company has touted the quality of its electronic voting machines amidst mounting criticism that they were prone to errors and tampering.
The hearing related to last November's election in Humboldt County, California. Nearly 200 votes disappeared from a tally handled by Premier's Global Election Management System (GEMS) software.
Mitch Trachtenberg was one of the volunteer auditors who discovered that the GEMS system had eliminated the votes. Writing as a guest blogger in The Brad Blog, Trachtenberg said that Premier's voting systems, which are used in 34 states, could not effectively handle audits.
"An election system's audit logs are meant to record all activity during the system's actual counting of ballots," he wrote. "Diebold's software fails to do that."
According to Threat Level, "the company acknowledged that the problem exists with every version of its tabulation software".
California officials examined Humbolt's GEMS-created audit logs and could find no record of when 197 absentee ballots were removed from the system, which apparently prompted California's secretary of state to call the audit logs "useless."
Trachtenberg also mentioned the "disturbing revelation that Diebold had been aware of the problem for years." According to an earlier Brad Blog post, dated December 8, 2008, the tendency to delete ballots "was part of a bug [Diebold had] known about for at least four years." The blog reproduced an internal Diebold email about the problem dated 2004.
Reported problems with Diebold products are nothing new. The company was sued by Ohio last year for voting machines that allegedly dropped votes. Earlier this week, the company was forced to admit that criminals have successfully hacked Diebold ATMs.
Follow highlights from ComputerworldUK on Twitter