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Recount resolved

The recount is over in the City Council District G race, and the winner is the same: Pam Holm, now by 24 votes instead of 27 over Jeff Daily.

After Friday’s recount, final but unofficial results had Holm at 18,412 and Daily at 18,388, said David Beirne, spokesman for Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman.

On election night, Daily trailed Holm by 30 votes in the race to replace Bert Keller in the west Houston district. Keller made an unsuccessful bid for an at-large seat.

The margin narrowed to 27 votes last week after ballots mailed by military personnel and civilians overseas were counted.

No recount has ever changed the outcome on an election in Harris County, officials said.

On Friday, county officials re-tallied the Election Day and early votes cast in the District G race using the county’s eSlate electronic voting system. Those votes did not change.

But Daily made up ground among the roughly 4,000 mail-in ballots, which were recounted by hand by representatives of the county, and the Daily and Holm camps.

“The scrutiny always gets very tight when you have anything that falls within the margin of error,” Beirne said. “Our system can withstand the scrutiny. We feel very comfortable with the eSlate system.”

I suppose it should make everyone feel good about the eSlate system that they got the same totals out of it each time. One does expect the same result when one runs the same program twice, after all. I will continue to be skeptical until such time as there’s an alternate way to verify eSlate results in a close contest like this.

Rob Booth, who’s already given an informative analysis of eSlate and the recent report about its potential weaknesses, makes a good point in the comments to my previous post on this subject. He’s talking about a malefactor attempting to tamper with an eSlate memory card:

The tamperer would have to physically access the [eSlates’ Judges Booth Controller] to accomplish this, which makes it an issue of physical security or election judge integrity. These issues were present under the punch card system and will be issues under any voting system.

True, and something to keep in mind. Not every potential security hole is best solved by more technology. Oversight, and knowing the people involved, will always be of paramount importance.

So, unless Jeff Daily takes this to court on the old-fashioned grounds of fraud, we’ve officially survived our first recount involving eSlate machines. Some day, sooner or later, an eSlate card is going to fail, and then we’ll have hell to pay. Here’s Rob again, from his post this time:

Electronic voting is something that several folks have been blogging on and the one thing we all agree on is that there ought to be a paper trail to go back to. The eSlates ought to print out a receipt that can be used in the event of a recount or equipment failure.

If it were up to me, the eSlate machines would simply be the interface used by the public, with paper ballots being collected and counted via optical scanners. Rob’s suggestion of paper strictly as a backup would be acceptable if not preferable to me. However you slice it, operating without any redundancy in the event of a system failure is just begging for trouble.

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