NY Levers

New York Certifies Electronic Voting Machines

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com

NYS Certifies Non-Compliant Voting Machines

Commentary by Howard Stanislevic  
Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Editor's Note:
The NYS Board Of Elections certified both the Dominion ImageCast and the ES&S Electronic voting systems at 1:10 p.m. today (Dec. 15th, 2009),  noting in the process that the machines were still "non-compliant."  The state passed an additional resolution requiring the operations department to work with the two vendors to bring the machines into full compliance.

NY Board of Elections Says Ballot Scanners Switched Votes in 2009 General Election

by Howard Stanislevic

The Help America Vote Act does not require computerized vote counting. But earlier this year in U. S. District Court, the New York State Board of Elections (SBoE) and the U. S. Department of Justice agreed that the Board would certify a new optical scan computerized voting system by December 15, 2009. As that date approaches, the Board is displaying a dismissive attitude toward the risks and problems encountered with the systems they say they will certify.

At a November 12th State Senate Elections Committee hearing in New York City, SBoE Co-Chair Douglas Kellner testified about what he called "glitches" in the programming in one of the new systems that went undetected by Erie County election officials in the 2009 general election. Only after officials noticed some anomalous election results, did they realize their system's configuration files had been compromised.

If future election results are not so anomalous, there is a strong chance such errors will not be detected at all.

Testimony

At the hearing, Commissioner Kellner confirmed our worst fears about e-vote counting (see his testimony below). Kellner stated that in Erie County, during the process of entering ballot programming data, vote switching between candidates had been programmed into the computer (Election Management System or EMS) that, in turn, programed the county's optical scanners. The scanners then proceeded to switch the votes at the polls as the ballots were cast on election day. This real-time vote switching was undetectable by voters, poll workers or other election officials.

Kellner said in this case the vote switching was detected later because the election results appeared to be implausible. The scanners supposedly failed their pre-election Logic and Accuracy test due to the vote-switching problem. That's good, but county election officials ignored the results of their own tests and held the election using the vote-switching configuration anyway

Commissioner Kellner also stated that this county, which uses ES&S systems, was among the best in the 2009 "pilot" elections (held with real voters and candidates). We don't doubt his word that the errors were eventually corrected. But if Erie was one of the best counties, we'd hate to see one of the worst counties that participated in this experiment.

Different Vendors, Same Design

Different vendors employ the same architecture of centralized EMS programming and configuration. Both of New York's new voting systems (including accessible ballot marking devices) are programmed this way for each election. There are no "stand-alone" voting devices in New York, except the lever voting machines. It is disingenuous to claim otherwise.

Even if the Logic and Accuracy testing had been done properly and had not been ignored, there is no guarantee that vote switching would have been detected. Computer scientists have proved that such tests can be rigged to perform correctly at any time, while the machines can be rigged to switch votes during the election without detection. Under such conditions, subtle manipulations of vote counts, whether intentional or not, would not be detected.

NY Sequoia "ImageCast" Machines Have 50% Failure Rate

Original source: http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/07/ny-50-percent-o.html

NY: 50 Percent of Sequoia Voting Machines Flawed

By Kim Zetter | Threat Level | Wired Magazine | July 14, 2008

New York state is in the process of replacing its lever voting machines with new voting equipment, but the state revealed recently that it has found problems with 50 percent of the roughly 1,500 ImageCast optical-scan machines (shown in the video above) that Sequoia Voting Systems has delivered to the state so far -- machines that are slated to be used by dozens of counties in the state's September 9 primary and November 4 presidential election.

Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, expressed frustration with the vendor, saying it appeared that Sequoia was using the state's acceptance testing process to find problems with its machines in lieu of a sound quality-control process.

"There's no way the vendor could be adequately reviewing the machines and having so many problems," he told Threat Level. "What it tells us is that the vendor just throws this stuff over the transom and does not do any alpha- or beta-testing of their own before they apply for certification testing. Then they expect that we'll identify technical glitches and then they'll correct those glitches. But correction of those glitches is an extraordinarily time-consuming process. And its very disappointing that this equipment is not ready for prime time."

One main problem with the machines has been the printers. The ImageCast machines are special optical-scan machines that include an LCD screen, a printer and a ballot-marking device that allows disabled voters to use them. Disabled voters view the ballot on screen or hear it read to them through headphones, then make their selection using special attachments (a device with buttons or a sipping straw), after which the machine prints out a paper ballot that gets read by the optical scanner component.

Multiple Operational Flaws Render Machines 'Unusable'

The printer, Kellner noted, is a core component of the machine. But they malfunction "if you don't feed the paper exactly right or if the buttons aren't pushed just right," he said. They also have trouble handling write-in candidates. If a voter's writing exceeds a certain width, Kellner said the printer shuts down without indicating why it's shutting down. "These are serious glitches that should have been picked up in the vendor's own quality-control process," he said.

But Sequoia isn't the only problem, according to counties who have reported receiving problematic machines from the state Board of Elections after the board was supposed to have tested and certified the machines. The Board of Elections is examining all of the new machines before sending them out to counties.

In Nassau County alone, the largest voting district outside of New York City, officials found problems with 85 percent of the 240 ImageCast machines it received so far -- problems that the county characterized in a letter as "substantial operational flaws that render them unusable or that require major repairs."

The problems include printers jamming, broken monitors and wheels, machines that wouldn't boot up, and misaligned printer covers that prevented the covers from closing completely, creating security concerns. The county rejected 48 machines right at delivery, due to physical damage. Another 58 machines exhibited problems during testing, according to William Biamonte, the Democratic elections commissioner for Nassau County. [New York counties have two election directors -- one each from the Democratic and Republican parties -- to avoid charges of unfair elections.]

Some of the latter machines, he said, shook dramatically when they were running and workers either had to shut them down or the machines shut themselves down from the vibration. Other machines had dead batteries or batteries that wouldn't hold a two-hour charge, as they were required to do.

Another 112 machines produced a "printer failure" error message. Biamonte says this was the result of a change Sequoia made to its firmware. He said that when he received his first batch of machines about a month ago, the machines had "horrific paper jams." To fix the problem, Sequoia loaded new firmware on the systems to speed up the printer, but in doing so disabled the USB port on machines, resulting in the "printer failure" error messages.

Biamonte, who blames the Board of Elections in part for not noticing the problems before forwarding the machines to counties, said a state worker told him he should instruct election workers to just ignore the error message. "How is that acceptable?" Biamonte asked.

"Say you buy a brand new car and it works good but the oil gauge isn't working. They tell you, Just drive it anyway. These are brand new machines. $12,000 each. We cannot in confidence send (them) out to a polling place knowing they have this printer error. How do we know if we really do have a printer failure?"

Nassau County, which has nearly 900,000 registered voters, is slated to receive 450 machines total, but has refused delivery on the remaining machines and has asked a federal court to order Sequoia to repair the machines. It also requested a review of the state Board of Elections' acceptance and testing procedures. That review was completed Thursday by a quality-control firm hired by the Board of Elections.

The firm's report found that the Board of Elections' procedures for accepting and testing the machines were adequate, but acknowledged that some problems may have occurred due to a lack of communication between state election officials and county officials. [Read more info about this report after the jump.]

Biamonte, who respects Kellner and thinks he feels as frustrated by Sequoia as he does, nonetheless called the report "ridiculous" and "disingenuous," saying that cracked screens and jammed printers weren't the result of communication problems.

The ImageCast machines are not actually made by Sequoia but by a Canadian subcontractor named Dominion, which is based in Toronto, and a sub-subcontractor named Jaco Electronics, based in New York. A press release on Sequoia's site noted that Jaco won the contract to produce 4,500 optical-scan machines for Sequoia/Dominion only in April of this year and needed to add 40 to 50 people to its workforce to fulfill the contract.

Nassau County began receiving its machines from the state in June, which suggests that the machines may have been rushed through production too quickly. A Sequoia spokeswoman would say only that the company is working with state officials "to identify and resolve any voting equipment concerns they may have."

The Sequoia ImageCast machines were designed exclusively for New York and are not currently being used in any other state. The machines have not yet been federally certified, though Kellner says Sequoia assured the state last January that federal testing and certification would be completed on the system by April or May, before the state began its own testing and certification of the equipment.

New York Under Federal Justice Department Order

New York doesn't have a choice about using the machines this year. The state was sued by the Department of Justice for failing to meet a federal deadline for having accessible voting machines in place. The Help America Vote Act passed in 2002 requires every voting precinct to provide at least one accessible voting machine for disabled voters by 2006. New York is just now getting the machines in place.

Because the ImageCast machines are still undergoing certification testing by the state, only the ballot marking device -- and not the scanning portion of the machine -- will be used in New York this year. The counties will continue to use lever machines for non-disabled voters until 2009. The printed paper ballots produced by the ballot-marking portion of the machine will be read by hand, rather than scanned.

Broken Security Seals

One interesting tidbit turned up in the quality-control report that examined the state board of elections acceptance and testing process. The report reveals that a voting machine vendor is the first to examine the machines when they arrive to the state's voting machine warehouse from the manufacturer. The vendor representative is supposed to examine the machines for missing or damaged parts. Once the vendor representative has signed off on the equipment, it goes to temporary workers that the state has hired to test the machines. Biamonte says the temp workers are college students, who work under the supervision of board of election employees.

After the testing is completed, a tamper-evident seal is placed on the machines and they're passed back to the vendor representative who is responsible for shipping off the machines to counties. This creates chain-of-custody concerns that Biamonte says are exacerbated by the fact that when he received his machines in Nassau County, a number of the tamper-evident seals on them were cracked. "How do we know this wasn't tampered with?" he said

Volunteer to Save New York's Lever Voting System


Volunteer to help keep NY's voting systems constitutional! Everything you do and learn on this project will be applicable to other, similar projects. That's why we encourage you to join a Working Group that matches your interests, so you can team up with others interested in the same skills and subjects. Learn and work together to build up EI movement's capacity to carry out effective campaigns.
Contact Joanne Lukacher at joanne@re-mediaetc.org to get involved.

How You Can Help

Newshounds - Comb the press for articles on New York's election technology, then post comments and contact the reporters. 

Bloggers - Reach hundreds of New York readers with your commentaries on the case and critiques of mainstream coverage. 

Fundraisers - We only need a half a million dollars to pursue this; totally doable.

Board of Election Monitors - Obtain weekly feedback on how the ballot marking devices are fairing, personnel and training issues, costs, etc. Our county election commissioners need support.

Local Liaisons - Contact local political committees (Dems, Repubs, Greens, Libertarians) and civic organizations (advocacy groups, churches, clubs, unions). Voting matters to everyone!

Teachers/Professors - This is the ultimate civics lesson, defending voting rights guaranteed in the New York constitution. Bring your students to witness.

Court Gallery - Attend court hearings so the judge and newsmedia can see the public's commitment to election transparency.

Pro Bono Attorneys - This is a trailblazing lawsuit and we'll need devoted legal talent to prevail.

Videographers - Document this story as New York sets precedent for the nation, reaffirming the right to vote as the civil right that protects all others.

Save New York's Lever Voting System

Prevent Secret Vote Counting on Theft-Enabling Computers From Becoming A Reality in New York

Tell the New York state judiciary to uphold our constitutional right to a transparent, secure, theft-deterring electoral system. New York voters do not consent to voting on undetectably mutable, software-driven voting machines.

Contribute to the Election Transparency Coalition legal fund

Want to do more?  Volunteer! Click here

To learn more go to Election Transparency Coalition blog.

See what you can do to prevent our birthright from being stolen.


Alternatives to Forced E-Voting Proposed in US Justice v. NY State HAVA Suit

Click here for 12.15.07 Press Release on Amicus Brief Click Here to Download the Amicus Brief

Scroll down for links to all amici declarations and exhibits filed in this case.

United States v. New York State Board of Elections

No. 06-CV-0262, U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York

. • Complaint:
This lawsuit, filed March 1, 2006, seeks declaratory and injunctive relief for the Defendants’ alleged failure to implement the voting system standards and statewide voter list provisions of HAVA. With respect to the voting system standards, the complaint supports its allegation by noting that the State Board failed to (1) approve any voting systems, (2) adopt any final rules or regulations related to voting systems, and (3) obtain any voting systems that comply with the requirements of HAVA.

With respect to statewide voter list, the complaint notes that, among other things, the has failed to (1) publish any rules or regulations governing the statewide voter list, (2) take the necessary steps to contract for the development of a statewide voter database, and (3) establish the necessary agreements with the Social Security Administration to match voter registration information.

• Status:
The U.S. Justice Department sought a preliminary injunction on March 6, which was granted by the court on 23, 2006. The court ordered the State Board of Elections to file a remedial HAVA implementation plan by April 10, 2006, and provided ten days to respond, later extended to eighteen days. State filed its HAVA plan with court on April 10, and Plaintiffs’ responded on April 18th agreeing to the plan. On June 2, the court ruled that the Board’s HAVA plan would bring the state, over time, into full compliance and set a series of deadlines for implementation and reporting. Currently before the court is a motion to intervene by a diverse coalition of civic organizations that is concerned about the adequacy of the state’s plan.

• Parties: This lawsuit was filed by the Voting Section of the Department of Justice against the New York State Board of Elections, its co-executive directors, and the State of York.


All amici declarations filed in this case are available for download from the links you see immediately below this text window.

Syndicate content