Mismanagers of Florida Voting Machines in Charge of Sarasota Audit

Original Content at http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_press_re_061124_more_questions_a...

November 22, 2006
Press Release
CONTACT: Nick Berning or Josh Glasstetter
202-467-4999 / media@pfaw.org

Questions About Competence and Impartiality of Sarasota Voting Machine Auditors

One member of the auditing team, Bureau of Voting Systems Certification chief David Drury, previously authorized the illegal distribution of uncertified voting machines in Florida

SARASOTA COUNTY-Doubts are arising about a second member of the team assembled to audit the voting machines implicated in Sarasota County's massive 13th Congressional District election undervote.

Audit team member David Drury is in charge of voting machine certification for the state and has a vested interest in finding that the machines he certified functioned properly. Additionally, according to a complaint filed by the Florida Fair Elections Coalition, questions about Drury's competence have been raised by his decision earlier this year to authorize the illegal distribution of uncertified voting machines.

Drury is the second person whose participation in the audit raises concerns about conflict of interest. Last week, PFAW Foundation criticized the selection of Alec Yasinsac-a political partisan and avowed opponent of voting machine paper trails-to help lead the state's audit.

"What we've learned about the members of this audit team is deeply troubling," said PFAW Foundation Legal Director Elliot Mincberg. "Floridians deserve an impartial audit that will get to the bottom of this mess. Instead, they're getting a biased and potentially incompetent investigation. We agree with the editorial board of the Palm Beach Post that more credibility is needed in this audit so we can all find out what went wrong with these machines."

The problems presented by Drury's appointment to the audit team are twofold. First, Drury, who is the chief of the Florida Bureau of Voting Systems Certification, certified the machines in question. More troubling,
according to the Florida Fair Elections Coalition complaint, earlier this year, Drury provided a letter to a voting machine manufacturer giving it permission to ship uncertified voting machines to its Florida customers, but
Florida law clearly requires all machines to be certified.

"Drury's the guy who said the machines were okay to use in the first place, and now he's being asked to investigate himself?" Mincberg asked. "It just doesn't make sense. And that's before you even get to the
questions raised by his decision to tell one machine manufacturer that it could ignore the law and send out uncertified machines. Voters deserve better."

In addition to PFAW Foundation, the ACLU of Florida has expressed concern about the decision to involve Yasinsac in the audit. And today, the
Palm Beach Post weighed in with an editorial calling for a more "credible" and "impartial" audit.

Check of Touchscreens Needs More Credibility

Palm Beach Post Editorial
Wednesday, November 22, 2006

So much about the District 13 congressional recount of 2006 seems like the presidential recount of 2000 - right down to Gov. Bush making this clash just as partisan.

The governor likes to say that he took no active role six years ago, but the apparatus of state government acted on his brother's behalf. This year, the governor picked the wrong expert to insert into the Sarasota County recount dispute.

To help determine whether there was anything wrong with touch-screen machines that produced an abnormally high number of no-votes in the five-county District 13 race, Gov. Bush tapped Alec Yasinsac, a Florida State University professor. A week before the Supreme Court decided the 2000 race, Mr. Yasinsac proudly proclaimed, "I'll never be a passive political participant again'' while wearing a "Bush Won" button. More recently, he supported Republican Tom Gallagher for governor.

Gov. Bush defended his choice by noting that Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho once hired Mr. Yasinsac to review computer code, The Miami Herald reported. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Sue Cobb, however, told the Herald that Mr. Yasinsac had been hired because "he was 'based locally,' has strong credentials and approached the office to be a vendor."

Mr. Yasinsac is supposed to assure the accuracy of touch-screen machines that some voters question because no paper records exist to document results. Voters expect impartial work, but an acquaintance of Mr. Yasinsac's who works for the liberal People for the American Way called him "a strong advocate for electronic voting machines and a vociferous opponent of requiring a voter verifiable paper trail."

Gov. Bush and the Cabinet certified Republican Vern Buchanan the District 13 winner Monday after a recount showed him 369 votes ahead of Democrat Christine Jennings. She promptly sued for a revote - remember that from 2000? She's upset because more than 18,000 ballots in Sarasota County, which she won by 53 percent to 47 percent, showed no vote. Other races did not experience such high undervote counts. Fittingly, her attorney is Kendall Coffey, who represented Al Gore in 2000.

The courts didn't grant a revote then, despite a confusing Palm Beach County ballot. This time, a revote would not have national implications, but it will be more challenging to prove machine error, not human error. Still, if the state is going to allow touch screens, the state and the counties that use them are obligated to make sure that the machines function properly. A critical, impartial review of the touch-screen machines is in the public interest, but the choice of Mr. Yasinsac makes it less likely that the public will get a credible one.