Karl Gallagher (selenite) wrote,
Karl Gallagher

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Still a Few Bugs in the System

My county had some brand new software for running this election. And like any new software, it had bugs. Noticably one really big bug. Causing it to report three times as many votes as were actually cast. It looks like it's probably just a one line fix, though.

The problem was that the officials would run a "current total" of votes to see where the candidates stood in the votes that had been counted so far. They did this every hour or so to monitor the results. And the totals kept getting bigger and bigger. Turned out the software was supposed to report:

currentTotal = sum( precinctVotes )

but instead reported:

currentTotal = sum( precinctVotes ) + currentTotal

Count the same votes over and over and the totals just mount up. No real damage was done, since they had the real precinct results to go to. Presumably a coder at Hart InterCivic has already changed that routine to reinitialize variables as needed.

What bothers me about this is that it's such a blatant bug that any real full up test--such as a dress rehearsal of an election--should've caught it. So the county is just accepting delivery and using the stuff in blind faith. Meanwhile the vendor has demonstrated that they don't deserve any trust if they're letting stuff like that through.

Can I have a paper ballot next time?
Tags: engineering
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