TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Computers Hijack Vote in State of Washington

Computers Hijack Vote in State of Washington

Curt Woodward (
Tue, 11 Apr 2006 19:53:47 -0500

Computers Hijack Wash. Quarter Design Vote
By CURT WOODWARD, Associated Press Writer

Talk about your two-bit schemes.

Robotic computer programs stuffed the online ballot boxes in a contest
for Washington's official state quarter design, forcing technicians to
suspend voting.

State officials overseeing the balloting realized something was fishy
when the contest, launched last Thursday, swelled to more than 1
million votes over the weekend. They stopped Web-based voting Monday
so technicians could retool it.

The opinion poll reappeared Tuesday afternoon, but the earlier results and
an up-to-the-minute vote tally were abandoned. Computer users attempting to
cast a second vote were greeted with a message thanking them for their
earlier participation.

The State Quarter Advisory Commission assumes some technical minds
will figure out ways around the new setup, but they'll be watching for
chunks of votes from similar Internet addresses, spokesman Mark Gerth

"We'll be doing a number of different things to make sure the
automated voting isn't counted in this next tally," he said Tuesday.

The quarter commission initially allowed an unlimited number of votes
from a single Internet address so family members sharing a computer
could each make a pick, Gerth said.

But that philosophy was abandoned after the weekend's voting, which
showed some computers casting repeated choices for a quarter design
faster than humanly possible.

"You could sit there and watch 200 votes appear over the course of a
couple of minutes, obviously going a little too fast," Gerth said.

"We hadn't counted on, I guess, the over-enthusiasm of people," Gerth

Stefan Sharkansky, a computer software consultant and conservative
blogger, noted the online vote's susceptibility Sunday after getting
tips from readers.

The three quarter designs featured on the Web site are finalists to
grace the back of Washington's official quarter, which the U.S. Mint
expects to release next March.

The choices are:

_A leaping salmon breaching the water in front of a conifer-trimmed
Mount Rainier.

_An American Indian-style drawing of a playful killer whale, spouting
water and raising its tail flukes.

_A salmon, apples and Mount Rainier within an outline of the state.

The advisory commission plans to consider the online vote when it
submits a design recommendation to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who has the
final say.

The orca design was winning before officials pulled the plug on the
balloting, and technicians searched unsuccessfully for ways to purge
only the clearly invalid votes from the totals before resuming.

Earlier votes sent by traditional mail will still be counted in the
final tally, Gerth said.

On the Net:

State quarter:
U.S. Mint:

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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