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.


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.

Feinberg’s ruling calls for the voting machines to be reevaluated within the next 120 days by a panel with "a requisite knowledge of computers and computer security." She also said the state should no longer leave voting machines unattended in public places.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt said in a statement that the ruling found "security vulnerabilities are present, to some degree, in every voting system," yet allowed continued use of New Jersey’s unauditable touch screen voting machines. Holt has introduced legislation in Congress requiring paper ballot voting and random audits of vote tallies.

The lawsuit was started by Rutgers Clinical Professor Penny Venetis, co-director of the Constitutional
Litigation Clinic. Plaintiffs are the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action; voter Stephanie Harris; Gusciora; and New Jersey Peace Action.


Previous coverage:

Voting-machine problems crop up in Essex, Somerset and Gloucester counties

Dec. 22, 2008: N.J. voting machine deadline looms with no resolution expected

Nov. 4, 2008: Voters find long lines, voting machine glitches around the nation

Voting-machine malfunctions crop up at some polling places

June 20, 2008: Judge rules public can see voting machine test results

March 11, 2008: Voting machine errors spur independent analysis


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.