From a poll worker writer and friend in San Diego's 50th District:
I've given this machine thing a lot of thought, and feel I just have to weigh in with some cautions before everyone gets too carried away. I would never tell anyone not to ask for a recount or hand count, but I think it's a little over the top to assume that the machines were tampered with, or COULD be tampered with, just because they "overnighted" outside the Registrar's Office (is Mike Haas supposed to run around and deliver machines to 1903 polling places the morning of elections?).
First, I didn't pick up or operate the touchscreen machines (we had 2 at our poll, one to make the card that shows the candidates for that party's ticket, which is then put into the second machine where the person actually votes, and where the vote is recorded on a printer) so I can't speak as thoroughly about them as I can about the scanner. But I did have to attest to the fact that the seal on the card of each machine was unbroken before voting began, and that the number on the seal was the same as that of the seal put on by the Registrar's Office. First we had to find the darn thing - it was underneath and not obvious, and was indeed sealed and the number matched that put on by the Registrar's Office.
I did pick up the scanner, along with the ballots, supplies, etc. In my case, because I hadn't expected to work this job, I didn't do this until 6:30 Monday evening, the night before the election. I did it because the person who was supposed to work that job backed out at 3pm that afternoon. A lot of other people were picking up supplies too, and they were still training people because people keep saying they'll work then dropping out.
Once I got the supplies home at 7pm, I then had to check all of them and count 505 ballots, by party. I finally got done and got to bed at 1:00am then got up at 5am to set up and be ready to open by 7am, so darn, I had no time to tamper with the machine. Besides, the card is in a slot that's covered by a metal bar, which is sealed with a plastic seal of a type that, once you break it, you can't replace it; plus it had a number on it that another worker and I had to certify was in place when the polls opened. All of that in turn had a wide piece of clear plastic tape over it. There was no way in hell I could have tampered with that machine even if I'd had a week to do so, because I couldn't have put it all back together.
The first voter checked that the box under the scanner was empty and that the scanner count was 0, plus I'd had to run a "0 balance" report which was still attached to the tape inside the machine; that tape was run at the end of the day with all the votes tabulated. That with the card went in a special bag that was hand delivered to the Registrars Office. And during the day we did have both troubleshooters from the Registrar's Office and poll watchers check us out. So I don't see a break in the chain of custody, unless I'm that break.
We were open at 7:00 but didn't get a voter until 7:30. The fellow who picked up the touchscreen machines, however, couldn't get his machines working until later, but since we had hardly any voters, had paper ballots plus the scanner plus a box for unscanned ballots if the scanner didn't work, we were in great shape. Evidently the touchscreen machines, which had earphones so that the ballot could be read to the voter, were meant mainly for the visually impaired. But we were told others could use them also. We gave people a choice. Some wanted to use them, some didn't, some didn't care one way or the other.
The polls close at 8pm, we had to fold up the voting booths, count ballots, count signatures on the pages, fill out various forms, take down signs, etc etc etc, and have everything, sorted in specific ways, back to the Registrar's office by 9:45. Darn, again we just didn't have time to tamper with the machines - we were lucky to get the tapes run, out, packed, etc. We're only a 5 min drive to the Registrar's Office, and we just barely made it - by the way, I have to take another poll worker with me when I take things back, I have to be followed by the guy with the other machines or have to bring them myself, and another worker besides the 2 of us in my car has to mail a card with the final ballots-cast count, etc.
Is it impossible to tamper with the machines? Nothing's impossible if someone really wants to do it - shoot, they could also come to the polls with a gun and make us stuff the ballot box. Is it likely that the machines were tampered with? I don't think so. Is it possible the machines can miscount? That I can't say. But that's not dependent on whether the machines spent the night in someone's living room.
Just had to clear the air here and ask everyone to take a deep breath. I'm not necessarily in favor of the machines, especially since they've been shown to have problems. But probably no worse results than we had with the punch things and hanging chads. I AM disturbed that Bilbray was sworn in before the election was certified, but his lead is larger than the votes left to count, so he no doubt did win. I may not like that, but if that's what the voters of that district voted for, I have to accept it.
One more note: more disturbing than the machines was the fact that I had to explain over and over to people who have probably been voting since I was in diapers why they could only vote for people in their own party if they weren't registered as non-partisans, that this was a primary and if they wanted to voted for Republicans in a primary, they should change their registration to Republican, and I had a form for them. Didn't want to do that or vote provisional (use the ballot they wanted and put it in a grey envelope to be determine valid or invalid by the Registrar later).
Okay, now I feel better, now that I have all that off my chest.
PS: The CA election machines made McNeil Lehrer News Hour tonight - I got in a little late, but they were explaining all the cross-checks, etc. Wish I'd seen the whole thing, because they were talking mostly about the touchscreen machines.