New Jersey Judge Rules Public Can See Voting Machine Test Results
In a victory for democracy and clean, transparent elections, a judge in New Jersey has reversed her previous ruling and will allow computer experts from Princeton University to publicize the results of tests being conducted on electronic voting machines manufactured by Sequoia.
In Judge Linda Feinberg's original ruling, she ordered the results of the tests kept secret, claiming that releasing the results would compromise Sequoia's trade secrets. (However, as we learned from a news story broken by The BRAD BLOG, Sequoia, according to Sequoia CEO Jack Blaine, has no claim over the intellectual property rights for Sequoia's voting machines.)
The American Civil Liberties Union convinced the judge that questions about the reliability of voting machine components is a matter of great concern to citizens and that the test results should be made public.
Penny Venetis, a professor at Rutgers Law Clinic, said, "This is a historic moment. This is the first time a court has recognized the public's right to examine voting computers."
Read on to learn about more problems with Sequoia's voting system components...
The Princeton University tests began on June 30, and the results will be released in late September, approximately one month before the national elections.
If the tests show there are serious flaws with the Sequoia voting components, it will be too late to prevent the use of these machines in November.
Events that led to the testing of the machines began in April of this year, when subpoenas were issued for the Sequoia machines after clerks in six New Jersey counties discovered discrepancies in 60 machines used in New Jersey's February 5 presidential primary. At the time, Venetis said, "In order to succeed in our case and show Sequoia machines are insecure and can be hacked into, we need to look at these machines."
Sequoia blamed the problems in Jersey on poll workers, claiming that they pushed the wrong buttons, and they resisted independent testing of their machines. But while Sequoia may not like it, at this point the Princeton testing has begun and the results will be made public.
Recently, Sequoia has had still more problems. On June 24, the city of West Palm Beach, Florida used Sequoia's Insight Optical Scan ballot counting machines in an election for city commissioner. There were under 5,000 votes cast, but that was too much for the Sequoia scanning machines to handle. The Sequoia machines left 707 ballots out of the total, which is about 14 percent of the ballots cast.
Election officials did catch the error and re-ran the memory cards from the machines; they now claim that the totals are accurate. On June 28, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Arthur Anderson, who at first claimed no knowledge of the problem because he was busy campaigning for reelection this November, claimed that catching the error "shows how well these machines work."
But on July 4, Mr. Anderson reversed himself and apologized for the miscount, blaming the problem on the county's Sequoia optical-scan ballot counting machines.
We wonder how often this same problem has happened and gone undetected in elections all across the United States? We'll never know.
In a Sequoia press release about the city of West Palm Beach election, Michelle Shafer, the company's VP of Communications & External Affairs, made no mention of the problem with the Insight Optical Scan machines.
But of course there were troubles, with about 14 percent of the votes initially not counted by Sequoia machines. In our opinion, Ms. Shafer told a lie by omission.
And even more recently, in another story broken by The BRAD BLOG (written by Bo Lipari of New Yorkers for Verified Voting), New York State's Nassau County took delivery of 156 Sequoia Ballot Marking Devices [BMDs]. Of those 156 machines, an unbelievable 133 of them are unusable! In a letter [PDF] to Judge Gary Sharpe, who ordered New York State to complete its Help America Vote Act (HAVA) implementation by 2009, Lori Barrett, Deputy County Attorney for Nassau County, wrote:
Fully 85% of the 156 BMDs received by Nassau through June 26, 2008 -- after the SBOE [State Board of Elections] acceptance tested them in Albany -- have substantial operational flaws that render them unusable or that require major repairs. 29 were rejected immediately when they were unloaded from the truck because of obvious physical defects or damages, such as a broken side of the printer. 62 failed diagnostic testing because of problems with the USB cord and the printer. And 42 failed Nassau's acceptance testing for a variety of reasons, such as nonresponsive key pads and battery failure. Out of a total of 156 BMDs, only 23 can be used by voters in the condition they were received in. [emphasis added]
The residents of Palm Beach and Nassau counties should demand a voting system that will count all their votes accurately, as should the residents of any county or state that currently runs elections using secret machines and secret software owned and controlled by private corporations.
The citizens of this nation must stop waiting for the politicians to fix our broken elections for us, because the politicians won't do it; they're too spineless or lazy or ignorant or too corrupted by corporate money or all of the above. It's up to us, the citizens: We, the People.
Americans must DEMAND the following for any and all elections in the United States of America:
1) hand marked paper ballots;
2) counting the ballots by hand at each precinct;
3) citizens allowed by law to observe the ballots being counted; and
4) the precinct results posted publically before being sent to the central tabulator.