December 29, 2009
December 23, 2009
December 22, 2009
The voters (petitioners) challenging the continued use of electronic voting systems in Pennsylvania won a significant court victory last week in their ongoing litigation, Banfield v. Cortés. A Pennsylvania state court ordered the major voting systems companies in the state (Election Systems & Software-Diebold, Sequoia, Hart Intercivic, Danaher) to produce the source codes and electronic voting machines for an independent expert examination by the petitioners. The companies, as well as the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth, had fought to stop the petitioners from gaining access to these source materials, even under a protective order preserving any alleged trade secrets. The court's order can be found here:
Other filings in this case, including briefing in connection with the motion to compel that led to this court order, can be found here:
December 19, 2009
December 17, 2009
December 14, 2009
December 13, 2009
December 8, 2009
December 6, 2009
December 5, 2009
Republican Ed McGahan can now say he won last month's race for Solebury supervisor by two votes, not just one.
A county judge ruled Friday that two disputed absentee ballots should go in McGahan's column, affirming his victory over Democrat Dennis Mankin.
Judge Clyde W. Waite reversed the Bucks County Board of Elections decision to discount one absentee ballot for McGahan and affirmed the board's decision not to count another ballot for Mankin. . . .
See also "Judge Favors Solebury Republican Candidate in Two Decisions . . ."
December 3, 2009
December 2, 2009
December 1, 2009
November 25, 2009
November 23, 2009
. . . After the 2008 Primary, other national activists came to New Hampshire to observe the election recounts that had been requested by candidates of both major parties. I called them the Women's Brigades, because they were all women and they came to fight a democracy battle on the NH soil.
The Women's Brigade chased after state employees collecting paper ballots from cities and towns for the recounts. They staked out the state office buildings where the ballots were being stored prior to the recount. They filmed, videotaped, and documented everything they saw. And what they saw was shocking. “They're all dirty,” the Brigade Captain told me one evening. “You have to distance yourself from all of them.”
I had never heard her so rattled. I knew that whatever she'd uncovered, it was serious. . . .
When I finally reviewed all the evidence from the Brigade, there was only one conclusion I could reach: She was right. The whole election recount was a dirty and suspect operation. . . .
November 22, 2009
November 18, 2009
November 14, 2009
Secretary of State Pedro Cortes is ordering a statewide recount of ballots cast for four open seats on the state Superior Court.
The recount may cost taxpayers as much as $1.3 million.
Cortes ordered the recount after one of three runners-up in a tight race for the last seat on the court , Pittsburgh lawyer Temp Smith , failed to waive his right to the recount. Cortes had given Smith extra time to make up his mind, but the 4 p.m. Friday deadline passed without any word from Smith.
The other two candidates had previously waived their right to a recount.
Cortes directed counties to begin the recount on Wednesday. The recount must be completed in a week and the results submitted to the state by Nov. 30.
November 11, 2009
November 8, 2009
One is the loneliest number in Solebury, where a single provisional ballot could decide a supervisor's race.
Republican Ed McGahan bested incumbent Democrat Dennis Mankin by one vote, or 1,022 to 1,021, unofficial results show. Election workers on Friday reviewed the vote tallies from the township's four precincts, as Solebury officials and voting rights advocates watched.
The provisional ballot was cast in Solebury, although the voter is registered in New Hope, county elections director Deena Dean said. Commissioners, acting as the Board of Elections on Monday, will decide whether to take Dean's recommendation that the county should not count the voter's pick for supervisor. A public meeting is set for 2 p.m. at the courthouse in Doylestown.
But even after the provisional ballot matter is settled, Mankin could challenge an absentee ballot in which a voter checked his name, but then crossed it out in favor of the other candidate.
October 30, 2009
Commissioners voted, 2-1, Wednesday to pay the annual fees associated with the electronic push-screen voting machines.
The county paid Electec Inc., of Mt. Holly, N.J., $72,675 in software licensing fees and $98,685 for an extended warranty on 765 machines.
Commissioners Charley Martin and Jim Cawley supported the measure; Commissioner Diane Marseglia did not.
Sandy Schiff with the Coalition for Voting Integrity told commissioners during a meeting at Crossing Vineyards in Upper Makefield the county could have saved money on annual costs if they went with another type of voting system.
Commissioner Charley Martin said ongoing costs were taken into account when a committee of county employees recommended commissioners choose the Danaher voting system in 2006.
October 26, 2009
October 20, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 30, 2009
September 25, 2009
September 15, 2009
September 10, 2009
Diebold announced last week that it has sold its United States voting machine division to its main rival, Election Systems & Software.
Given Diebold’s troubling record, it is hard to lament its departure from American elections, but this sale could make a bad situation worse. Regulators should take a hard look at the anticompetitive implications. And Congress, the states and cities need to push a lot harder for fundamental reforms in the voting machine business and the way Americans vote.
Diebold has long been the company that critics of electronic voting love to hate. The company has been accused of illegally installing uncertified software and of making machines that, at least sometimes, drop votes. The company raised serious doubts about its objectivity when Diebold’s then-chief executive wrote a fund-raising letter expressing his dedication to delivering Ohio for President George W. Bush in 2004. Ohio, of course, was one of the states using Diebold voting machines.
The combination of the Election Systems & Software and Diebold American voting machine divisions raises classic antitrust concerns. Election Systems & Software, which has also been criticized for making unreliable machines, would be the nation’s largest voting machine maker by far. And states and cities, which have long complained about the low quality and high cost of the machines, would have less choice or bargaining power. . . .
More fundamentally, Congress, the states and cities should look for ways to have governments own and manage their voting machines, as the reform group FairVote has advocated. It makes no sense to allow private companies to count votes using secret, proprietary software. The federal government and the states should also require that all electronic voting machines produce a paper record of every vote and mandate random hand counts to ensure the reliability of the results.
Even if this business deal deserves to be blocked, it will take a lot more than that to fix the broken voting machine industry.
September 5, 2009
. . . Scantegrity and the government of Takoma Park, Md., partnered to conduct a mock election earlier this year, which went relatively smoothly. And though it might sound unusual in the age of so many electronic-voting machines, the city plans to use invisible ink for its municipal elections in November.
"It might have been kind of a hard sell to their board of elections, this new and untested technology," Collins says, "except that everybody actually recognized it from their own childhoods."
August 26, 2009
August 23, 2009
August 19, 2009
July 19, 2009
July 8, 2009
June 24, 2009
The New York Times just doesn't get it. You'd think, by now, they would. But they don't. And they should print a correction immediately.
In a brief, unbylined editorial yesterday [June 21], headlined "How to Trust Electronic Voting," the paper endorses this year's version of Rep. Rush Holt's election reform bill. The editorial is misleading and, even worse, blatantly (and inexcusably) inaccurate on at least one important point. . . .
June 17, 2009
June 3, 2009
May 31, 2009
May 28, 2009
Bucks machines get negative vote
To the Editor:
The assumption in your editorial, "Learning how to vote," that it is the responsibility of voters to know how to vote on a voting machine, is flawed. Tests of mental acuity, literacy or mechanical ability cannot be used to determine who can vote, and therefore, the voter cannot be required to know how to vote on a machine.
The Danaher voting machine we use here makes counting the votes easier for the election officials, but it places obstacles in the way of voters having their intended votes accurately counted.
The use of the write-in function is only one of the obstacles. The voters may not know that there are write-in instructions because they are on the left side of the machine, instead of next to the write-in mechanism itself, where voters might see them, if they are tall enough. If the voters do master the write-in function, after they finish pushing the buttons for all their candidates on the ballot, they also need to remember to push the "vote" button at the bottom of the machine to cast the ballot.
But the biggest problem with this voting machine is that there is no way to know if the voters' intended votes have been accurately counted, as there is no permanent paper record of these votes, external to and independent of the machine's software programming. Ironically, only the handwritten write-in votes can actually be seen and counted.
Bucks County commissioners need to discontinue the use of this Danaher voting machine and replace it with an easier and more accurate method of voting. Voters need to mark their votes themselves on a paper ballot so that a permanent record of all their votes exists for an accurate count, and recount if necessary.
May 24, 2009
1 vote, 2 vote, 3 vote
To the Editor:
The problems with write-in votes in our recent primary were not, as the Bucks County Board of Elections and your recent editorial suggest, exclusively the fault of voters failing to follow instructions.
I attempted to write in a vote at my poll and followed the instructions to the letter. When the door lifted for me to enter my vote, a previous voter's mark was already there.
Attempting to rectify the situation, the judge of elections joined me inside the booth while speaking directly to the Board of Elections. He reset the machine as instructed, marked the paper indicating the reset, and we repeated the write-in process. This time when the door opened, the judge's signature was visible where my vote should have gone.
For my third attempt, I was led to a different machine, where I repeated the process again and was finally able to cast my vote. Meanwhile, the first machine was closed down as inoperable. It remained that way for at least an hour until the machine technicians arrived and replaced the paper-feed mechanism. When they tested the replacement, it also failed before any voter had been near the machine. They replaced it again with a third device before fixing the problem.
The electronic machines purchased by the county continue to have significant problems, especially with write-ins. And, of course, we still remain at the mercy of the software inside the machines - absolutely unable to verify whether the final vote totals accurately reflect the voters' actual selections.
What we still need is an optical-scan system employing paper ballots that are marked by the voters' own hands, counted electronically for efficiency and retained securely for recounts and random auditing of machine accuracy. Until then, we will continue to disenfranchise voters and frustrate their will in the birthplace of democracy. What an embarrassment.
And, for the record, I have no idea if I cast one or three votes for all the other races on the ballot last Tuesday, and no one else knows, either.
The writer is vice chairman of the Bucks County Democratic Committee.
Note: This webmaster DOES have sympathy for those voters who were confounded by the Danaher machines when they tried to write in a candidate. This voter was likewise frustrated by the total absence of a user-friendly, intuitive interface. Commissioner Cawley likes to think of 25-year-old technology as tried and true. The fact is that 25-year-old technology is by definition obsolete. We've traveled light years since this machine was designed. The Danaher is a dinosaur.
May 23, 2009
May 21, 2009
May 20, 2009
Election night turned chaotic in five municipalities as some voting machines were reported either broken or jammed late Tuesday.
Bristol, Wrightstown, Falls, Tullytown and Morrisville all reported voting machine troubles.
County spokeswoman Stacey Hajdak said the Board of Elections will be looking into this problem immediately.
I can't tell you the exact problems of each machine until a technician examines it. Those answers should be available [today],'' she said.
In Wrightstown, two of the three machines in the township were jammed with paper, described as write-in ballots, said Supervisor Chairman Chester Pogonowski.
In Falls, two machines were broken at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School, said Democratic Supervisor Jonathan Snipes.
Two machines were reported broken in Bristol and one each in Tullytown and Morrisville.
Morrisville, Tullytown and Bristol were able to retrieve the votes from the malfunctioning machines. . . .
May 17, 2009
Wilkes-Barre — English is the only language on the ballots for this Tuesday’s primary election in Luzerne County, but that may change after the 2010 U.S. Census, Director of Elections Leonard Piazza said at Friday’s election board meeting.
The growing Hispanic population, especially in Hazleton, will likely force the county to generate bilingual ballots after the 2010 census is done, Piazza said. If the U.S. Census shows that at least 4 percent of the voting-age population in a polling precinct is not proficient in English, then bilingual ballots for the entire municipality are required, Piazza said.
Piazza predicts a few precincts in Hazleton, Wilkes-Barre and Pittston Township will reach the qualifying percentage. But even if it’s one precinct only, all voting machines in the county will be equipped with the Spanish ballot; Piazza said the county can’t buy the Spanish ballot software for just one area. . . .
May 15, 2009
ACLU press release re report.
May 9, 2009
When 197 absentee votes disappeared from an electronic voting machine in California, officials were baffled. When the machine's log showed no trace of the votes -- neither cast nor erased -- they were shocked, even angry.
The company that sells the machines said the vote-counting software in the California machines was flawed and would be fixed in a newer version. Outside California, no problems involving actual reports have been reported.
But Premier Election Solutions' search for California's problem uncovered a potentially more troubling flaw in every version of the company's software, which also is used in machines in Lehigh and eight other Pennsylvania counties. The affected machines scan paper ballots -- generally absentee votes -- and upload them to a central server.
The problem: Deleted votes do not register on the audit log in all instances and could potentially go unnoticed -- and thus uncounted -- by county election officials.
Lehigh County Clerk of Elections Stacy Sterner, who oversaw a test run of the optical scan machines in November, said she is comfortable that safeguards are in place to ensure no votes are lost. Election employees count the number of absentee votes and would be aware if a large number did not register in the final tally.
But Sterner acknowledged that a small number of missing votes might be missed by employees and, without the log showing the deletion, might not be recovered.
"If we were missing a large chunk, we would know that right away,'' Sterner said. ''But if we were missing only a small amount, that might go unnoticed.''
Formerly sold by Diebold, now known as Premier , the optical -scan machines as they as they are known, scan paper ballots -- usually absentees -- and upload vote totals to a central computer. Whether the issue uncovered in California affects Premier's touch-screen machines, used in at least 16 counties in the state, including Lehigh and Carbon, remains unclear. [continued>>]
May 5, 2009
April 30, 2009
April 8, 2009
April 1, 2009
March 31, 2009
March 29, 2009
March 25, 2009
March 24, 2009
March 20, 2009
March 19, 2009
March 15, 2009
March 9, 2009
"...It's beyond clear now that the Sequoia Voting Systems machines in use in most New Jersey counties -- and some in Pennsylvania, includingMontgomery County -- were an expensive mistake at best...."
March 8, 2009
Bill 'improved' to require paper ballots, but they may be marked or printed by computer devices which offer most of the same dangers as current Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) devices...
Additional concerns remain in the previously-defeated, newly-rewritten draft version of the landmark legislation..."
March 7, 2009
March 3, 2009
"Germany's highest court has ruled that the use of electronic voting in the last general election was unconstitutional. . . . The use of electronic voting was challenged by a father-and-son team. Political scientist Joachim Wiesner and son, physicist Ulrich Wiesner complained that push button voting was not transparent because the voter could not see what actually happened to his vote inside the computer and was required to place 'blind faith' in the technology. . . . German hacker-cum-data-protection group Chaos Computer Club has been spearheading a campaign with the Dutch foundation Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet (We don't trust voting computers) to stop the further spread of electronic voting because of fears about the risk of electronic errors and the potential for abuse."
February 26, 2009
February 25, 2009
February 17, 2009
February 10, 2009
February 9, 2009
By Tom Coombe, Morning Call, January 31, 2009
Northampton County won a nearly $2 million judgment Friday against a company that sold it faulty voting machines in 2006. Just don't look for the county to collect the money any time soon. Following a brief hearing in county court, Judge Stephen Baratta said Advanced Voting Solutions of Frisco, Texas, must pay $1.9 million, plus court costs and interest, to the county. Now the county needs to figure out how to get money from a company that seems to have vanished.
''It's sort of a shallow victory,'' said county Administration Director John Conklin, who attended the hearing. ''It puts it to bed.''
The judge made the ruling after hearing arguments from Christopher Spadoni, representing the county. No one showed up to represent the company.
''Is the other side here?'' one of the judge's staff asked Spadoni before the hearing began.
''There is no other side,'' he told her.
The county sued AVS in December 2007 after the machines -- which contained a glitch that would not allow them to be programmed to handle certain candidates -- were decertified by the Pennsylvania Department of State. The machines have sat unused in a county storeroom since 2007.
The voting machines cost $2.1 million, $1.9 million of which was covered by a federal grant. After the state decertified the machines, the county switched back to its old lever system for the November 2007 election, then spent $1.7 million to buy new machines from Sequoia Voting Systems of Denver. But since filing the suit, the county hasn't been able to contact AVS. Its phones have been disconnected and e-mails are undeliverable.
''My information is that they're not around, if that's a good phrase,'' Spadoni said. It was good enough for Baratta, who said he would sign an order for AVS to pay up. Actually getting the money might be more complicated. Spadoni said the county will ''take all appropriate steps'' to collect the judgment. Conklin said the county may need to hire a collection agency.
''There are many judgments that are never collected,'' Spadoni said. ''The taxpayers got hosed.''
February 1, 2009
Efforts to ensure that all of New Jersey's voting machines produce a paper record of votes generated responses ranging from "too expensive" to "don't fix what ain't broken" last week as the issue played out at polling places, in court, and at the Statehouse.
A year behind a legislative deadline, the state is struggling to find the money and the right technology to back up machine-cast votes with a paper trail voters can see.
Only seven states, including New Jersey and most of Pennsylvania, still use paperless voting systems.
"Why is the state fighting citizens?" asked Stephanie Harris, a plaintiff in a lawsuit over voting-machine security that went to trial in Mercer County last week. "Financial issues have become the biggest obstacle to a voter-verified system."
On Jan. 5, Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells authorized retrofitting machines used in 18 of 21 New Jersey counties with printers that would provide a record in case of glitches or recounts. A small number of reconfigured machines were used with mixed results Tuesday and Wednesday in local elections in Passaic, Monmouth and Somerset Counties.
But legislative and court actions could render the machines' performance moot.
The Assembly's State Government Committee decided Monday that New Jersey could not afford to continue with the retrofitting in the weakened economy. Gov. Corzine diverted $19 million budgeted for the $26 million project back into the state's general fund last month.
Not that it matters, according to Committee Chairwoman Joan M. Quigley (D., Hudson). The technology isn't up to snuff anyway, she said.
In an August demonstration, Quigley said, a manufacturer's representative could not operate the printer that would allow voters to view their choices.
"I'm hoping, while we're waiting for the money to arrive, they can improve the technology," she said.
The Assembly could vote as early as Thursday on a bill to delay machine upgrades until the economy improves.
Also at issue are the security and reliability of the state's Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.0 voting machines. Pennsylvania's Montgomery County also uses Sequoia machines.
Plaintiffs in a four-year-old civil case contend that the Sequoia model is prone to errors and easy to hack. They hope to persuade New Jersey to replace it with paper ballots scanned by computer, which provide evidence for a recount, said Irene Goldman, chair of Coalition for Peace Action in Princeton, a party to the suit.
"Nobody wants to retrofit these machines," she said. "It's just wrongheaded."
Elections Superintendent Laura Freytes, however, said Passaic County had used Sequoia machines since 2005 with no lost votes, evidence of tampering, or other problems.
On Tuesday, the county tried Sequoia machines modified with printers in a school bond election. The printers jammed periodically, and at one polling place all three machines went down at once, Freytes said.
The new process also created longer waits to vote. "And this was just a yes-or-no question," Freytes said.
Adding that new technology intimidated some voters and poll workers, she said, "They should leave the voter machines as they are."
Quigley said she worried that voters' reviewing a long ballot through the printer's small window would significantly slow the process. She also thinks voters will expect a receipt, like the one they receive at an automatic teller machine, which the printers do not provide.
In Monmouth County, school bond voting went smoothly for more than 600 residents who were offered written instructions and demonstrations of the retrofitted Sequoia before entering the booths, said Hedra Siskel, elections superintendent.
But she, too, thinks "the state should leave the machines alone."
Since 2004, six states have passed laws to eliminate direct-recording electronic machines. No state since 2006 has retrofitted such a machine with a printer, said Sean Flaherty, a researcher for the nonprofit, nonpartisan Verified Voting Foundation. New Jersey twice delayed compliance with its voter-verification mandate, in part to give Sequoia time to design a printer.
Most states are leaning toward optical or digital scans of paper ballots, a method New Jersey county party chairs dislike, Quigley said. States report that as many as 10 percent of voters fill the ballots out incorrectly, she said.
An optical-scan system to serve all of New Jersey could cost as much as $122 million, according to the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Services.
In Mercer County, Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg wanted no talk of optical-scan and other systems.
"Is it my role to determine the alternatives or is it the secretary of state's?" she said. "At the end of the trial, I'll give you some of my thoughts on this."
Feinberg pledged on the trial's opening day to keep arguments focused on the security and accuracy of the one Sequoia ADC Advantage model.
The case, which could last four weeks, is based largely on experiments in 2007 and 2008 in which Princeton University computer-science professor Andrew Appel and his team broke into the machines in "about seven minutes, using simple tools," they said. The state defends the machines' integrity with its own expert, Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Michael Shamos.
Voters including Harris, of Hopewell, Mercer County, joined the suit because of experiences at the polls. In 2004, Harris testified, an electronic machine failed to register her vote three times.
After the fourth try, she testified, a poll worker told Harris, "I think it counted." Since then, Harris said, she has voted mostly by absentee ballot.
January 29, 2009
January 28, 2009
January 26, 2009
Sitting in a storeroom at Northampton County's voter registration office are 600 worthless voting machines the county paid $2.1 million to get.
The good news is last month the county won a default judgment against the company that sold the faulty machines. The bad new is it's unlikely the county will collect a cent from Advanced Voting Solutions Inc. of Frisco, Texas.
''We can't find them,'' said assistant county solicitor Christopher Spadoni. ''They don't answer mail, they don't answer phones and they haven't responded to our suit. They're gone. Fade to black.'' (Continued)