Sequoia

Court Orders Re-Evaluation of New Jersey E-voting Machines

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/02/njs_11k_electronic_voting_mach.html

Source: NJ.com

N.J.'s 11K Electronic Voting Machines Ordered  Re-evaluated to Determine Accuracy, Reliability

By Jeanette M. Rundquist
February 01, 2010, 8:22PM

TRENTON -- New Jersey’s 11,000 voting machines must be re-evaluated by a qualified panel of experts to determine whether they are "accurate and reliable," a Superior Court judge ruled today, in a case challenging the validity of computerized voting machines that do not produce a paper record.

voting-machine-warehouse-belleville.JPG
All voting machines and vote tally transmitting systems must be disconnected from the Internet; all people who work with them, and third-party vendors who examine or transport the machines, must undergo criminal background checks; and the state must put in place a protocol for inspecting voting machines, to ensure they have not been tampered with, ruled Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg in Mercer County.

She did not, however, go one step further and enforce a 2005 state statute requiring that all voting machines in New Jersey produce a voter-verified paper ballot.

 


Technician James Kaufman checks out a back-up voting
in a Belleville warehouse
in this November 2009 file photo. 

"I am disappointed the court did not take the step of mandating a voter-verified paper trail or scrapping the electronic machines altogether," said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Princeton Borough) one of a group of Mercer County residents who brought the suit against the state.

The suit was brought five and half years ago by plaintiffs who wanted to improve election security in New Jersey. The plaintiffs, including a voter who said, after casting her ballot in 2004, she received no indication her vote was recorded, charged the state’s touch-screen machines were vulnerable to tampering that could allow vote fraud.

E-Vendors Dominate "Future of California Voting" Hearing

Source: Capital Public Radio, KXJZ Sacramento, CA

California's Electronic Voting Booths Need An Upgrade But It Won't Be Cheap

Aired 2/8/2010 on All Things Considered Aired
2/9/2010 on Morning Edition


Sacramento, CA -- California elections officials say their computerized voting booths are in need of upgrades, but they can’t afford to make big improvements. Capital Public Radio's Steve Shadley reports: ListenListen to audio

 

CA-SoS-panel-future-voting-020810Two statewide elections are coming up later this year but local elections officials say they’re working with outdated electronic voting booths. 

Private companies that sell the equipment say the state and counties would be better off buying new systems rather than trying to modernize the old equipment.

That would require millions of dollars that governments don’t have right now.


At a public hearing on the issue in Sacramento, some citizens urged the officials to get rid of electronic voting, period.

Photo: Steve Shadley, Capital Public Radio


Tom Courbat is with the Riverside County group Save Our Vote:

Courbat:
“We’re not convinced there is enough security in these voting systems to justify continuing to purchase them. We have seen demonstrations over and over again of machines being hacked...”

Courbat says it would be more secure if voters cast paper ballots that would be counted by hand.  
But advocates for the disabled say not everyone can fill out a paper ballot.



Sequoia Claims Victory, But State Exam May Find to Contrary

http://www.nj.com/mercer/index.ssf/2010/02/voting_machine_ruling_a_victor.html

Source: NJ.com

Voting Machine Ruling a Victory, Says Sequoia

By Meir Rinde
February 02, 2010, 6:26PM

The maker of New Jersey’s voting machines is hailing a Superior Court ruling on the security of the devices as a victory, while the lawyer who sued to have the machines discarded said she still expects state experts to find they have serious flaws.

Sequoia Voting Systems “is exceedingly pleased with the court’s decision that affirms what Sequoia and our customers throughout New Jersey and the United States have long known and experienced — that our voting equipment is indeed safe, accurate and reliable,” CEO Jack A. Blaine said in a press release.

In her ruling Monday, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg acknowledged that New Jersey has used Sequoia systems for over 15 years without finding any evidence that an election has been compromised through manipulation of the machines, the firm said.

_____________________________________

“If the judge thought their machines were really great,
she would not have said a panel of computer experts has to look at them
and has the option of finding them not fit for use” 
-- Penny Venetis, plaintiffs' attorney

_____________________________________

 

The Colorado-based company highlighted a number of other favorable findings. Feinberg agreed that the mere possibility of criminal tampering with the machines was not sufficient to restrict their use, that during normal use they are “safe, accurate and reliable,” and that paperless voting does not violate voters’ rights.

The company said it supports measures Feinberg ordered the state to undertake, including keeping the machines disconnected from the Internet, monitoring them using video cameras or other means and instituting security training for municipal clerks and other officials.

Feinberg also ordered the state to have a reformulated panel of computer experts report on the machines’ reliability within 120 days, a decision that plaintiffs said could still lead to the machines being scrapped or retrofitted to produce an auditable paper record.

Sequoia said it was happy with the decision nonetheless.

“We look forward to the review of the (Sequoia) voting equipment by New Jersey’s expanded certification panel and working cooperatively with this group,” Blaine said.

Two members of the three-person committee that evaluates the state’s voting machines will be replaced to satisfy the judge’s order, said Paul Loriquet, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office, which represented the Division of Elections in the suit.

The court called for “reexamining that committee and hiring two mechanical experts who have expertise in hardware and software,” he said. “The Division of Elections is in the process of finding replacements to carry out this mission.”

Division officials were “delighted” that Feinberg found no constitutional violations and that the machines met legal requirements, Loriquet said.

Penny Venetis, the Rutgers law professor who sued the state in 2004 on behalf of Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Ewing, and other plaintiffs, said Sequoia failed to acknowledge that Feinberg had deferred to the state on the machines’ fate, rather than simply upholding their use.

“If the judge thought their machines were really great, she would not have said a panel of computer experts has to look at them and has the option of finding them not fit for use,” she said yesterday.

Venetis said it was unfair to say the state’s 11,000 voting machines have been free of problems, since the plaintiffs’ experts were only able to examine two of the machines, and then only after a lengthy legal battle.

If members of the reconstituted state panel conduct an objective examination, “they are going to agree with our world-class computer voting experts that these machines cannot be used,” she said.

She also dismissed the Sequoia argument, which Feinberg accepted, that manipulating the machines by installing a computer chip or other tampering would take too long to pose a real threat.

“To think somebody wouldn’t spend six months doing something that is fairly easy to do to alter an election is naïve, considering how much effort is put into placing a candidate on the ballot,” Venetis said.

Contact Meir Rinde at mrinde@njtimes.com or (609) 989-5717.



NY23 Collected Coverage by Northern NY News

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com

Northern NY News
Written by Nathan Barker

Tuesday, 01 December 2009

A Summary of our coverage of the problems and pitfalls in New York's 2009 Special Election.  ImageCast electronic voting machines were used in many districts under a New York State "Pilot Program" causing myriad errors and problems with the election results.  Our exclusive coverage of these issues, in chronological order:

Virus in the Voting Machines: Tainted Results in NY-23 by Nathan Barker

Voting Machines Used were Not Certified by Nathan Barker

Statement from the NYS Board of Elections

Fact Check: The Gouverneur Times vs. NYS Board of Elections

Ghost in the Machine by Scott A. Reddick

Updated December 2nd, 2009: Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23 by Richard Hayes Phillips Ph.D.

First the Impossible, Now the Improbable in NY-23 by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

NY-23, Sequoia, and the Private Corporate Takeover of your Once-Public Democracy by Brad Friedman

Letter to the Editor on NY-23 Election Results by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

December 1st, 2009: Because Your Vote Should Count by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.

December 2nd, 2009: False Vote Counts in Four Counties in NY-23 by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.





Updated 23rd District Election Counts, 11-16-09

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com

Updated 23rd District Election Counts

Northern NY News
Written by Nathan Barker  
Monday, 16 November 2009 15:36

GOUVERNEUR, NY - Today (Nov. 16th) was the final day for absentee ballots to be received in New York's 23rd District Special Congressional Election.  Already three counties have completed the final vote counts, and Hamilton County has already certified those counts to the State Board of Elections.

Updated NY23 Counts* - These counties are reporting final counts with absentee ballots included.

With three counties' absentee ballots included, Doug Hoffman now trails Bill Owens by 2,856 votes.

Our counts as of this afternoon show an additional 5798 absentee votes as yet uncounted.

Jefferson County began counting their 1304 returned absentee ballots this morning.

Clinton and Essex Counties have begun counts and expect to have final results before Friday.

Franklin County, St. Lawrence County, and Oswego County do not anticipate a completed absentee count until early next week.

Fulton County results are now included.

Lewis County Board of Election representatives were unavailable early this morning.

Check this page daily for the most current results available.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 November 2009 16:14

Possible Recount in Questionable NY-23 Contest

Source: Washingtontimes.com

Hoffman Considering Recount Claim

By Maria Stainer

EXCLUSIVE:

Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman said on Friday he is considering filing a recount claim in light of computer irregularities that have been reported. He has until Monday to make that decision.

Mr. Hoffman conceded the New York's 23rd Congressional District race to winner Democrat Bill Owens on Election Night, but has had second thoughts.

Three voting computers were shown to have had a virus and had to be reprogrammed, Mr. Hoffman told The Washington Times' "America's Morning News" radio show.

"If I had this information on Election Night, I would not have conceded," he said

Mr. Owens, a Plattburgh lawyer, won over Mr. Hoffman, a CPA, in a race that captured national headlines after Republican candidate and one-time frontrunner Dede Scozzafava bowed out of the race and threw her support behind Mr. Owens.

"What your listeners need to know is that on Election Night, we're shown to be down by 6,000 votes and through recanvassing, they discovered computers that were giving the wrong information and polling sites that reported the wrong information -- and that lead dropped down to less than 3,000 votes by this week," Mr. Hoffman said, referring to Election Board officials who are investigating.

"And now they are counting the absentee ballots that were scheduled to come in no later than Monday of this week."

Mr. Hoffman said he doesn't think the three voting machines were tampered. He does, however, ask: "Why didn't they look at all of the machines when they knew the three had a particular computer problem."

The WatertownDailyTimes.com reported Friday that with just 3,072 votes left uncounted, Mr. Owens' win is mathematically insurmountable.

"It's a long shot, but we're waiting for every vote to be counted," Mr. Hoffman told The Washington Times.

"We have people that are looking into this and we have until Monday to make that determination and file a recount claim," he said. "At this point, we're still anxiously waiting to find out what the final count comes down to be and, at that point, what the gap is."

First the Impossible, Now the Improbable, in NY-23

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com

2nd in a series
Click NY23 tag to see all related stories.

First the Impossible, Now the Improbable, in NY-23

Northern NY News
by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.  
Friday, 27 November 2009 12:14

Editor's Note: Based on additional information provided by the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections, Dr. Phillips revised this article to improve clarity and accuracy.

CANTON, NY – As reported last week, impossible numbers were found in the St. Lawrence County election results for the special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District.  Ninety-three (93) “phantom votes,” more votes counted than the number of ballots cast, were reported in six election districts, and negative numbers reported for the “blank ballots,” or “undervotes.”

These were not the certified results.  The author deeply regrets having said that they were.  The numbers, which the Board of Elections attributes to data entry errors, have since been corrected.  However, scrutiny of the certified election results reveals numerous districts (precincts) where the results, although not always mathematically impossible, are not credible.
______________________________________
'The court-ordered 'pilot' election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District was an utter failure . .

. . . the time-tested lever machines were much more reliable.'
______________________________________

On Friday, November 6, three days after the election, one of the involved campaigns obtained from the Board of Elections a spreadsheet of the preliminary (unofficial) election results, precinct by precinct.  Absentee ballots had not yet been counted.  This serves as an important “snapshot” with which to compare the final (certified) results.

Onondaga-scannerAs previously reported, voting machine failures at eight polling places in St. Lawrence County caused the Board of Elections to hand count those ballots.  Realistically, there was no other choice but to do so.  According to the Board, the locked voting machines were transported to a warehouse in Canton where the ballots were counted by hand.  The problem with this procedure is that it is illegal under § 9-100 of New York State Election Law, which requires that the votes be counted at the polling place:
§ 9-100  At the close of the polls the inspectors of election shall, in the order set forth herein, lock the machine against voting, account for the paper ballots, canvass the machine, cast and canvass all the ballots, canvass and ascertain the total vote and they shall not adjourn until the canvass be fully completed.

Onondaga County optical scanner

An audit of the poll books and absentee voter lists for three of these eight polling places reveals that the preliminary hand count could not have been correct. In Louisville, there were 885 actual voters at the polls, but only 691 votes were counted for Congress on Election Night.  In Waddington, there were 754 actual voters at the polls, but only 347 votes were counted for Congress on Election Night.  In Rossie, there were 138 actual voters at the polls, but only 94 votes were counted for Congress on Election Night.  53 votes were counted later.  Bill Owens got 50 of them.


Ballots Should Be Counted in Public

One possible reason for the short counts on Election Night is that the Sequoia/Dominion ImageCast machines have two slots and two bins for ballots.  There is a slot which sucks a ballot into the optical scanner, much like a dollar bill is sucked into a vending machine, and after the ballot is scanned it drops into a locked box.  There is another slot in the front of the machine which can be opened when the scanner breaks down and emergency paper ballots need to be segregated and counted by hand; these ballots drop into a separate locked box.  It is possible that the Board of Elections initially counted the ballots from one box but not the other.  But this is precisely why § 9-102.3(b) of New York State Election Law requires that the ballots be counted in public at the polling place, and why § 9-108.1 requires that the number of ballots be cross-checked with the poll books to be sure that all the ballots have been counted.

§ 9-102.3(b)  Paper ballots and emergency ballots cast during voting machine breakdowns which have been voted shall then be canvassed and tallied, the vote thereon for each candidate and ballot proposal, announced and added to the vote as recorded on the return of canvass.

§ 9-108.1  The board of inspectors, at the beginning of the canvass, shall count the ballots found in each ballot box without unfolding them, except so far as to ascertain that each ballot is single, and shall compare the number of ballots found in each box with the number shown by the registration poll records, and the ballot returns to have been deposited therein.

Another problem with these voting machines is that it is mechanically possible to open both ballot slots, and both locked boxes, even while the optical scanner is operating.  This opens the possibility that ballots could be deposited into the wrong ballot box, inadvertently or deliberately, and never be counted.  An eyewitness who voted at the only polling place in Russell told me that she was not allowed to place her own ballot in the machine; a poll worker examined her ballot and placed it into the machine for her.  This caused her to be concerned about both the privacy of her vote and the security of the vote count.

Blank Ballots Beyond Belief

As previously reported, the number of “blank” ballots, or “undervotes,” is calculated by subtracting the number of votes counted for a given office from the total number of ballots cast.  In the Congressional race, the highest percentage of “blank” ballots anywhere in St. Lawrence County was in Russell’s 2nd district.  According to the poll book there were 590 actual voters at the polls, and there were 11 absentee ballots, for a total of 601, in Russell’s 1st and 2nd districts combined.  According to the certified results there were 338 ballots cast, of which 23 (6.8%) were blank, in the 1st district, and 262 ballots cast, of which 27 (10.3%) were blank, in the 2nd district.  It is highly unlikely that 10.3% of the voters made no choice among three candidates in one of the most hotly contested races in the nation.

Virus in the Voting Machines: Tainted Results in NY-23

Source: Gouverneurtimes.com


Virus in the Voting Machines: Tainted Results in NY-23

Northern NY News
Written by Nathan Barker  
Thursday, 19 November 2009 12:44

GOUVERNEUR, NY - The computerized voting machines used by many voters in the 23rd district had a computer virus - tainting the results, not just from those machines known to have been infected, but casting doubt on the accuracy of counts retrieved from any of the machines.

Cathleen Rogers, the Democratic Elections Commissioner in Hamilton County stated that they discovered a problem with their voting machines the week prior to the election and that the "virus" was fixed by a Technical Support representative from Dominion, the manufacturer.  The Dominion/Sequoia Voting Systems representative "reprogrammed" their machines in time for them to use in the Nov. 3rd Special Election. None of the machines (from the same manufacturer) used in the other counties within the 23rd district were looked at nor were they recertified after the "reprogramming" that occurred in Hamilton County.
ImageCast Scanner
ImageCast Scanner
Republican Commissioner Judith Peck refused to speculate on whether the code that governs the counts could have been tampered with.  She indicated that "as far as I know, the machine in question was not functioning properly and was repaired" by the technician.
 
Commissioners in other counties have stated that they were not made aware of the virus issue in Hamilton County.  In Jefferson County, inspectors from four districts claim that "human error" resulted in their "mistakenly" entering 0 votes for Hoffman in several districts, resulting in Owens leading Jefferson County on election night though the recanvas of the computer counts now show that Hoffman is leading.  Jefferson County has not conducted a manual paper ballot recount. 

_________________________________________

'Whether the erroneous results are computer error, or tampering,
significant doubt now exists with regard to the accuracy of the vote counts from November 3rd . . . A manual paper-ballot recount of the vote could resolve computer vote accuracy questions.'

_________________________________________

 
 

In St. Lawrence County, machines in Louisville, Waddington, Claire, and Rossie "broke" early in the voting process on election day.  Republican Commissioner Deborah Pahler said that the machines kept "freezing up... like Windows does all the time," and that they experienced several paper jams as well.  The voted ballots that could not be scanned were placed in an Emergency Lock Box and re-scanned later at the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections.  Election officials in St. Lawrence County were given no advance knowledge of a potential virus in the system.

At least one County official thus far has raised concern that it's possible that ALL of the machines used in the NY-23 election had the 'virus' but only a few malfunctioned as a result.  The counts from any district that used the ImageCast machines are suspect due to "the virus" discovered in Hamilton County, last-minute "reprogramming" by Dominion workers, and security flaws in the systems themselves.  A manual paper-ballot recount of the vote could resolve computer vote accuracy questions.

Frank Hoar, an attorney for the Democratic Party, initially ordered the impound of malfunctioning machines but released the order on Nov. 5th so that Bill Owens could be sworn in to Congress in time to vote on the House Health bill on November 7th.  Pahler said that once the impound order was released they opened the locked ballot box and had the ballots scanned.  Pahler also stated that after they were able to get data from the malfunctioning machines, they did a hand-count of the ballots as well to ensure that the counts matched.  Even though not required to, both commissioners in St. Lawrence County agreed that the manual count was necessary due to the malfunctions

The machines themselves are languishing at the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections until after the election results have been certified to the state on November 28th, 2009.  Pahler indicated that they have not yet been able to examine the machines to determine why they malfunctioned.  A qualified technician would be able to verify the presence of a virus in the computers, but, other than the infected machines, no security precautions were taken to ensure chain of custody on the remaining computerized voting machines utilized in the 23rd district.
 

Riverside RoV Concedes, DREs Are on the Way Out

Riverside County Board of Supervisors

September 29, 2009

(Partial transcript of board meeting)

             Re: November 2008 Election and Electronic Voting – Item 3.66

 Supervisor Buster: It [decertification] was a big blow to many of us who invested in this [$30+ million for e-voting machines] and I think to the public to see most of the use snatched away from us now. And as I pointed out to her now, somewhat inconsistently, if the touchscreens are so potentially dangerous or so potentially unreliable then why is it that the Secretary of State continues to allow one, one per voting place resulting in our 72,000 voters using it as a matter of fact. And then having to do the extra manual tally with all its extra costs and then not getting reimbursed for that. It seems to me there’s a big gulf between the county voters here a growing proportion of them and the representation they are getting from our Secretary of State. She should have come down here and talked to us before she rescinded the use of these machines. And she should be more responsive to the numerous voters, the thousands of them who want to use these machines and she should be explaining to us what now can we do with these thousands of machines that are sitting on the shelf. Shouldn’t we be using those as voters demand and ask for them as evidenced by those 72,000 people crowded in at the one sole machine they were allowed to use? Shouldn’t we try to rework the old system in whatever fashion so we can satisfy this voters’ urge?

 ”…and they continue to be used because the voters choose them in large numbers here in Riverside County. So I think we ought to extend an invitation to Secretary Bowen to come to the county, particularly around election time or during the election and get an idea of what are issues are regarding the continued use of our touchscreen machines, if only to reimburse us for the extra cost of the manual tally.

 ROV Dunmore: “…so the further contradiction is you can only have one per polling place but you can have an unlimited amount at early voting sites. And that early voting program is what really cost the county the majority of the $400,000. In May we did not have early voting sites and I believe that our tally, of course it was a lower turnout, was about $29,000 for which we billed Sequoia also and have not received any payment. But it’s getting more difficult in the arena of electronic voting, and if I may expand for just a moment, what we do for early voting is that we cut up the receipts so we can do a stack and sort method. All these are for one candidate, all these are for another candidate, and then we can count them. New recount regulations that are set to go into effect very soon do not allow us to cut up the tapes anymore. That we have to keep them on a single roll, which will make the 100% manual tally of any early voting unit take much longer than it did in November. I brought this up with the Chief Deputy Secretary of State Evan Goldberg and he said well I’ll make a note of that but it ended up in the recount regulations in any event. So it is getting more difficult for us to use electronic voting in an early voting venue.

Riverside Election Timeline

 Supervisor Buster: Sometimes you have to balance these risks that experts may correctly conclude you face with the public’s desire to try to come up with some kind of a compromise on these machines and that’s what I don’t see occurring here and that disturbs me. Particularly when we’re going to other countries and we’re trying to encourage democracy there and encourage people to vote – it seems to me uh, uh, it’s a real sore spot with me that these machines were I think were peremptorily jerked and banned almost totally from our county, and then, and then to keep our interest whetted in the issue, doled out one of them completely inconsistent too with their scientific findings of a high risk involved. So it doesn’t – what the actual results of the state actions by the Secretary of State’s office don’t make sense from any standpoint if you want to look at them.”

 Chairman Stone: “…What is Sequoia doing as our vendor to adapt their software to the mitigation measures the Secretary of State would like to see implemented in software so we can begin using these machines again? Are they actively engaged with the Secretary of State, are they actively engaged in modifying the software so that we can begin utilizing these machines again?”

ROV Dunmore: “Well the trend of the industry seems to be moving away from electronic voting. I was at the nationwide conference in San Diego in July or August and they have all the vendors out there ES&S, Premier, Sequoia, there’s one other one that is escaping me, Dominion voting was there and they are all moving to precinct-based scan counters similar to what Sequoia now has on the market which is the Insight where you vote your paper ballot, you slide it into a slot, and it counts the marks on that right there, and they are recorded onto a cartridge, similar to our DREs, and the cartridge is brought back to our office and counted, uh, processed.

Now, the twist that the industry is going in right now is that all the new precinct-based optical scanners are taking a picture of the ballot. So not only do you have the ballot, but now it’s taking a picture of the ballot and you have the cartridge and that is Sequoia’s new product, how Dominion Voting is coming at it, and also Premier. And so I think that they have saturated the market with electronic voting units, um, there is no more market for them. I talked with Jack Blain, the president of Sequoia at that particular conference – he was trying to sell me on their new product which is this precinct optical scanner that takes a picture. I said well how much will you give me for my DREs if I take this to my board? He said well there’s not much of a market for those these days. So, so, um, I hope that answers your question. I don’t not believe they have anything in Federal testing at this point to um remedy the software that is currently on them and I believe it’s because across the nation the doors are really being shut toward electronic voting. It’s not – to go through the certification process is a very very expensive process

Chairman Stone: But they’re already certified by the Federal government. Has the Federal government expressed the issues the Secretary of State has with respect to Sequoia software?

ROV Dunmore: Uh, with regards to that, our Secretary of State requires that they go through the federal testing and get a federal cert number before she will even test it here. Any issues that were brought up at the federal level, and I’d have to go research those, if there were any, have been remedied and they were given a cert number for the current software that we’re using. But they don’t have anything, I don’t believe, in the testing at the federal level right now. Again, it’s very expensive and if there’s not a market for it they’re likely not willing to invest in putting that forward.

Chairman Stone: “—the federal government didn’t have any issues with the integrity of the Sequoia voting system, otherwise they would not have given a certification for it. So here we have one person in the state of California that stands in the way of comprehensive, accurate voting devices that have never had any legal challenges that have resulted in a fraud. We’ve had machines that have cut costs, expedited results to the electorate so they can see the results of elections, so because of ONE PERSON we are withheld from using these machines that are federally certified. So, if we have a new Secretary of State, and I believe she’s up for reelection at this time, those machines could be recertified by a new Secretary of State, and we could utilize those machines without any problems, is that correct?”

ROV Dunmore: Yes

Chairman Stone: Thank you Barbara.

 

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

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