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The Approaching 2006 E-Voting 'Train Wreck' - Are We Making Headway or Losing The Battle?

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Message John Gideon
Guest Blogged by John Gideon, Executive Director for VotersUnite.Org and Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA.Org

It is a fact that this primary season is proving to be a disaster.

The locomotives of the voting machine vendors and unwary, naive elections officials are headed down the same tracks, straight towards each other, in many states. The vendors only have the bags of government provided cash in sight and they don't seem to care about anything but putting those bags into their coffers. They don't seem to care about signing contracts that they know they cannot meet. They seem to be under the impression that "act now and apologize later" is good business. They seem to understand that the only criteria for getting paid for contracts with the government is having signed the contract.

As for the elections officials well, they are blinded by the lights of the fast approaching locomotive and many can only apologize and cover for the vendors. They just don't seem to know, or care – or acknowledge that they either know or care -- that the same story is playing out in the next county over and in the next state over. Ignorance is supposed to be bliss, but it also spells chaos for elections.

But wait, all may not be lost. This past week we have seen a bit of progress toward stopping the chaos of ES&S in Indiana and Oregon, while West Virginia just doesn't seem to know or care what is happening to them. As well, New Jersey may be making headway against their bad acting vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems…

Indiana Investigates MicroVote and ES&S

MicroVote is a fairly unknown voting machine company outside of their home state of Indiana. If they continue with their lack of work ethic they soon won't be heard from in Indiana anymore either. Recently the state found that MicroVote had installed software uncertified by both the fed and the state in voting machines of 47 Indiana counties.

As reported by the WISH-TV I-Team, MicroVote management was invited to be sworn in and testify as to why they knowingly sold and installed uncertified software on the Infinity voting machines in those 47 counties. VoteTrustUSA reports that MicroVote has just now sent their software to a federal Independent Test Authority (ITA) to be tested and qualified for use. The state will then have to review the paperwork and certify the software for use in Indiana. All of this with less than two weeks before the Indiana primary.

In the meantime counties have been put into a position of having to make a choice. Do they use the potentially still-uncertified software or do they ignore federal and state law and simply not provide a voting system for voters with disabilities? Some counties are choosing to ignore state law and use the uncertified machines. Others will make that decision next week.

Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) is now reportedly "groveling" and apologizing to state officials for not having done any better in the state. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal some counties are still awaiting delivery of memory packs for the iVotronic Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines. Thirteen of the memory packs received by Harrison County had mistakes in programming and needed to be returned. Meanwhile officials in other counties are inspecting and testing their machines and peripherals. In many cases those officials are not sure they can be ready. WTHR-TV relates:

"It will be a miracle. We are going to have to work around the clock. They are going to have to work around the clock," said Jill Jackson, Johnson County Clerk.

"They" are ES&S, Election Systems and Software. While frontline personnel were busy checking PEB's (personal electronic ballots), their boss, John Groh, was groveling before Indiana's Secretary of State.

"In situations where we have not performed up to our own high expectations we apologize. Personally I apologize for that," Groh said at an informational meeting called by Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita.

"But apologies may not be enough for Rokita, who is considering levying fines against the Omaha, Nebraska company for delays and inaccuracies in their voting systems. It's already caused major problems in Johnson County where the county commissioners invested in 459 Ivotronic voting machines which were not ready for absentee voters on April 3. As a result, the county set up temporary voting booths.

"County Clerk Jackson is very concerned."I am not in the habit of missing statutory deadlines, but I feel like this was out of my control. I relied on the vendor to meet the deadlines when they sold us the service. They need to make sure they are not missing deadlines.""

Both MicroVote and ES&S face $300,000 fines for each violation of Indiana state election laws. One can only hope that the state protects the voters from unethical voting machine vendors like these two.

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John is the Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org
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