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Sequoia's Sinking Ship

By       Message Rady Ananda     Permalink
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"Right now, there is not a single voting system on the market or in use anywhere in the country that meets current federal voting standards, and very few people realize it." ~ Douglas Kellner, New York State Board of Elections Commissioner (AP)  

From New York to New Jersey, from D.C. to Florida, Sequoia Voting Systems continue to fail.  Vendor response is, we're not at fault and don't you dare study our product.  That's because experts tell us in report after report these machines are fatally flawed by design, lacking the most basic security protocols.  Yet, election managers continue to use them, and "voter advocacy" groups continue to support their use.   A recent University of California (Santa Barbara) paper by the Computer Security Group warned that "the very core of our democracy is in danger."

Designed-to-be-hacked is what we discovered in our own investigation.  The physical security of Sequoia's optical scan ballot marking device is designed with a slotted hole that allows up to ten cardstock ballots to be stuffed at once into the locked ballot box.


BMD ballot stuffing slot
   Here's exclusive video. 

New York's state-level election officials also tend to blame election workers when Sequoia's machines fail.  New York tested out its shiny new $12,000 Ballot Marking Device made by Sequoia-Dominion in the September 9th election.  When state election commissioners tried to vote on the machines, the BMDs didn't work.  At the Sept. 17th NY SBOE meeting, Anna Svizzero, Director of Election Operations, advised better training of poll workers was needed. 

Of 3,350 BMDs deployed in the Sept. 9th election, only 1,333 people voted on them.  Only one voter used the BMD in Ulster County – John Decker (D-Highland), who complained that he first watched the 20-minute instructional video and then it took another 20 minutes to vote on the machine.  McClatchy reports: 

"Decker said he couldn't believe that it took him so long to vote and would like to see the county retain the older lever pull machines."

In Nassau County, 126 BMDs were deployed but only twelve voters used them, reported Nassau County Elections Commissioner, William Biamonte.  Making his job even tougher, Sequoia failed to deliver the BMD's privacy materials until the Saturday before the election – after the machines had already been deployed.  Twenty technicians had to be dispatched to deliver and install the materials.   

Faulty design, hackable software, lengthy voting process and an inability to accurately count the votes won't stop the League of Women Voters of New York State from insisting these machines be used, and promoted for use. 

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Tempers flared at the end of Friday's NY SBOE meeting when the NY LWV accused election officials in four counties of dissuading voters from using the new software driven optical scan ballot marking devices.  Naming Buffalo, Binghamton (Broome), Utica, and Albany, they charged: 

"The counties are actively discouraging voters who are not disabled from using the ballot marking devices."   

Phew, smart commissioners, even if they are violating state-mandates that all voters can use the BMDs.  Maybe they're avoiding hand counts.  This year, NY election officials must hand count the ballots cast on BMDs since Sequoia still hasn't been certified for use in NY.  Sequoia admits to hundreds of document discrepancies – that's where they provide one thing but the document says something else; or they provide and document something that New York specifically forbids. 

The League also reported that the Albany County LWV co-president "was asked to produce evidence of disability."  Because she's not disabled, she lied in order to use the new BMD.  Not a smart admission to make in the public record, especially after accusing counties of violating NY election rules. 

The NY SBOE was highly skeptical of the League's reports, prompting another LWV rep to became hostile.  Commissioner Evelyn Aquilla practically called them liars: 

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"We'd like to have that in writing, because, you know what?  We didn't see that anywhere.  Not any place.... To say that every single commissioner did that, across the state, I don't know if that's true or not, because we saw, I saw four different ... counties, and I never saw that anywhere.  I went into at least twelve places."
The New York League of Women Voters wholly supports the use of software driven optical scanners, despite scientific condemnation.  They must have been ignoring the papers, too, that amplified our breaking story on July 1st when we reported that Sequoia's BMD failure rate in Nassau County stood at 85%.  Two weeks later, Wired.com reported a 50% statewide failure rate.  Failure rate be damned, the League wants these machines in use.  But then, the League of Women Voters also supported paperless touchscreen voting systems until June of 2004. 

Sequoia Fails around the Nation 

Florida's Palm Beach County, right now, reports that 12,000 votes were not counted by Sequoia's optical scanners in its unending nightmare of conflicting results from the August election.  That's where 3,400 votes (or 3500, depending on which news article you read) went missing, then were found, and now 12,000 more ballots have been found that the machines didn't count.  This is an ongoing fiasco.  Today's manual recount of 12,000 ambiguous votes "turned up an additional 159 uncounted ballots." South Florida's Sun Sentinel reported that "software issues" with Sequoia's optical scanners were to blame. 

But the Palm Beach Post reports today that election officials will run another recount through the $5.5 million voting system: 

County Commissioner Jess Santamaria questioned the reliability of the machines the county bought from Sequoia Voting Systems. 

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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