Early voting for the primary began in West Virginia this past week. Many of the state's counties were only able to put out paper ballots because ES&S has failed to provide programming for their voting machines. These machines were supposed to be used to meet the state's HAVA obligation. West Virginia counties are now afraid that the U.S. Department of Justice may take action because they are not compliant. Voters with disabilities are being asked to 'bring a friend' if they come to the polls to vote early according to the Charleston Daily Mail. The disabled-voting provisions in HAVA, of course, were theoretically to allow disabled voters to vote by themselves for the first time.
Meanwhile WV Secretary of State Betty Ireland issued a press release which at times sounded like a press release issued on behalf of ES&S -- which says, in part:
"Voting machine vendors across the nation are faced with the daunting task of servicing all 50 states at one time," the release said.
"Sometimes this can happen when sweeping federal legislation affects all 50 states," Ireland said in the release. "We understand that ES&S is working hard to meet the demands of all its customers. But we still intend to get what we paid for."
In fact, ES&S knew what they were doing as they grabbed every possible opportunity to sign a contract with yet another customer. They completely ignored the fact that they would have actually have to provide service to those customers who they'd promised to service. And now they expect everyone to look the other way as they stumble into another election year unable to do so. With the good PR work from officials like Ireland they might just get away with it, but not until after our elections are affected negatively.
Sequoia Voting Systems Has Problems In New Jersey
The Local Source.Com reported on Wednesday that officials in Essex County New Jersey are concerned that they have not received the voting machines from Sequoia Voting Systems that the company was under contract to deliver. The county is short over 600 Advantage DRE machines and there are only 8 weeks until the state primary election. In a discussion between County Freeholders and Sequoia, the possibility of legal action has now been broached. Sequoia also still owes machines to Monmouth and Passaic Counties.
Interestingly this meeting took place after the county had voted in favor of two contracts totaling over $107,000 for printer cartridges for the machines. But what about those voter verified paper audit trail (vvpat) printers?
New Jersey law requires that all voting machines used in the state must provide a vvpat by January 1, 2008. On Friday, Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg ruled:
"It is "questionable" whether the 8,000 or so Sequoia AVC Advantage machines used across the state can be upgraded by Jan. 1, 2008, Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg said in an opinion this week.
"Feinberg also said the state may have "grossly underestimated" the cost of replacing or retrofitting the Sequoia AVC Advantage machines. The state pegged the expense at $21 million, said the judge, who heard testimony last month."
The Judge's findings now go to a state appeals court, which is trying to gauge whether these machines are so unreliable that they violate voters' constitutional rights. The panel asked Feinberg to determine if the advent of paper audit trails would render the issue moot.
It appears to be clear that Sequoia may have taken a bit too big a bite of the apple and may end up choking on that bite. Time will tell how much chaos will ensue in New Jersey's elections.
Enjoy the ride until next week ...