Court Ruling

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.



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