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The Approaching 2006 E-Voting 'Train Wreck' Continues On Course

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Blogged by John Gideon

In an
last week I pointed to the copious evidence that our elections are headed straight towards disaster; a "Train Wreck". That "Train Wreck," however, may still be avoided. The engineers of one of those trains, as it were, are the elections officials who are allowing themselves to be cowed by vendors like ES&S, Sequoia, and Diebold. The disaster can be avoided, but it will require the election officials to switch their train to a different track - by first acknowledging that there are problems.

In order to begin that process those officials must finally realize that they are not alone. Counties across the country are finding the exact same problems. The bad ES&S memory cards were not just found in Summit County, Ohio; they were also found in North Carolina and probably other counties in other states. ES&S will fail to deliver on contracts for voting machines in many counties all across the country. Does anyone really expect the engineer of the other train -- the voting machine vendors -- to switch tracks? They only see the money bags at the end of the track and not the other train barreling down on them.

The federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) -- created by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 -- has likewise not been doing their job. They seem to be content to just sit back and watch as voting systems across the country are in melt-down. Do they really serve any purpose other than to shovel out HAVA funding for these new systems to the states, who in turn pass them on to the vendors? It appears not. Take a look"


On Wednesday of this week a lawsuit was filed in Allegheny County, PA against the Secretary of State and other state elections officials, county elections officials, a US Attorney and the Attorney General of the United States. This lawsuit, brought by citizens of the county including two disabled individuals, seeks to stop the use of Elections Systems and Software (ES&S) iVotronic Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touch-screen) voting machines.

In part, the complaint [WORD format] argues that the county decided to use their third-choice vendor, ES&S and their machines which are not accessible to people with disabilities as required by HAVA and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The complaint also claims there isn't enough time to train poll workers and voters properly on the use of the new machines. The complaint includes US Attorney Kim and Attorney General Gonzalez for the pressure put on the county to make a decision at the last minute when both Kim and Gonzalez could clearly see that any decision made just five weeks before the state primary elections would surely lead to chaos.

In order to assuage the concerns of the voters in Allegheny County and most certainly to respond to the lawsuit, ES&S and the county announced that for the May primary they will add one DRE voting machine, an iVotronic, at each polling place and install precinct-based optical-scan machines for the use of overflow voters. Previous plans were that just one iVotronic would be used. The county and ES&S also announced that one of the two machines would be equipped with "sip-puff" technology to accommodate voters with mobility impairments.

Neither the county or ES&S has explained how they have previously been able to claim that the iVotronics, prior to this last-minute addition of the "sip-puff" technology, were accessible under the requirements of HAVA - despite the fact that ES&S has been making those claims all across the country for months. They have also not bothered to explain how they can make the required modifications to the machines -- which will include changes to hardware, firmware, and software -- and have those modifications both federally and state certified in a timely way to be used in November"nevermind May.

In an apparent attempt at misinforming the media and the voters, according to The Daily News, a spokesman for Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, Kevin Evanto made one of the silliest statements to date:

"The ES&S iVotronic machines are fully HAVA compliant," spokesman Kevin Evanto said. "They have been certified by both the U.S. government and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The optical scan machine does not have a voter-verifiable paper trail."

Even if it did, Evanto said it may violate state voter privacy provisions.

Unfortunately the reporter did not ask Evanto any follow-up questions about how the machines could possibly be HAVA compliant if they were talking about adding technology to make them compliant or how a voting system that uses a paper ballot as an integral part of that system does not have a "voter-verifiable paper trail." In fact, the paper ballots used with the optical-scan systems are both verifiable and verified by their very nature! Also not explained is how optical-scan systems "violate state voter privacy provisions" and why, if that is true, the county would allow them to be used in the primary at all!

By the way, County Executive Onorato is one of the defendants in the lawsuit and is one of those "engineers" who just can't seem to see the rail switch that might help him avert the "Train Wreck".


The Secretary of State of Indiana, Todd Rokita, announced investigative hearings will be held to investigate possible illegal actions by ES&S and another vendor, MicroVote, in the state. The hearing on MicroVote is scheduled for today and the ES&S hearing is yet to be scheduled. There is a potential fine of $300,000 per incident against both companies.

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John is the Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org
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