Not the AV after all

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Turns out that the AntiVirus software on Premier's EMS wasn't the cause of miscounting after all:
The error occurs when multiple memory cards are being uploaded at the same time, and it is more likely to occur in jurisdictions that have several voters and use touch-screen voting systems, said Premier spokesman Chris Riggall.

Allen, Texas-based Premier, a unit of North Canton-based Diebold Inc., supplies touch-screen voting systems as well as scanners for paper ballots. The problem is more likely to occur in touch-screen systems because they use more memory cards, one for every touch screen.

Premier said in its product advisory that the problem can be corrected as long as officials monitor whether the memory cards are being uploaded, and if they are not, reload them until they are.

Joe Hall has the details. The Premier reports aren't that clear. Here's the "technical background".

The GEMS poster works by receiving concurrent uploads from the memory cards and then saving that data in temporary files for posting to the election databse in a serialized manner, i.e. one at a time. This design is used to optimize the database access performance as well as the upload data performance.

The issue identified is a logic error that allows the poster to attempt to post a file that is still being received when two or more files are received in sequence, and the first file takes longer to save than the second file. If a sharing violation occures, the posting of the first file is the one affected. Note that files typically take very few milliseconds to save, whereas large files, with large number of votes, can take up to 100 milliseconds.

This kind of race condition isn't exactly uncommon in concurrent systems. On the other hand, if there's one race here, perhaps there are others. It's worth asking if there are ways where the file would be marked successfully uploaded but the votes get lost.

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