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 said.
"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 said.
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.
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