Moving On

After five years as Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting (NYVV), the time has come to pass the baton on to others. As before, I remain intensely interested in Election Integrity and fully intend to remain an active and passionate advocate for the movement. I’m leaving my current role at NYVV in order to focus on national Election Integrity issues and to pursue several projects I’ve had on the back burner for a long, long time.

The position of NYVV’s Executive Director will be taken over by my friend, colleague and frequent co-author Wanda Warren Berry. I know that NYVV couldn’t be in better hands than Wanda’s, who has been a leader in Central New York and a long time member of NYVV’s Board of Directors.

Our work is far from over, and I will carry on monitoring and commenting on New York State’s transition to new voting systems and other Election Integrity issues.  To this end, I’ll continue to serve as NYVV’s Technical Advisor and Media Representative. I will also continue as the League of Women Voters of New York State’s representative on the Citizen Election Modernization Advisory Committee (CEMAC). By law, the Committee’s mandate is to:

“… have access to each machine or system submitted for examination and assist the state board of elections in the examination of the voting machines or systems pursuant to this section by recommending which machines or systems meet the requirements of section 7- 202 of this title and the federal Help America Vote Act…”

Founding and leading NYVV for these last five years has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I was inspired by the thousands of New Yorkers who took up our cause and spoke out for auditable, verifiable elections, and stuck with it for five long years as we fought and won against seemingly impossible odds.

I am very proud to have been part of this awesome grassroots citizens movement that proved, once again, that a small group of thoughtful people can indeed change the world.

On Election Day

Things you need to know in New York State

Here’s some information and advice for New York State voters this Election Day. Because turnout is expected to be unusually high, and the new computerized voter registration database may well have many voters incorrectly removed from the voter rolls, there are four things you need to know:

1) Bring identification to the polls.

2) Know your rights.

3) Be prepared to wait in line as long as necessary.

4) Numbers to call if you have a problem.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these.

1) Bring identification to the polls - Voters who have newly registered by mail or online will be asked to show identification when they sign in to the polling place. Because of the transition to the new computerized voter database, it is possible that even a voter who as voted before may be asked (incorrectly) to produce identification. I strongly recommend that ALL voters bring ID with them to the polls whether or not you have voted before.

Download a list of acceptable forms of ID in New York State here.

2) Know Your RightsNo one may be turned away from the polls without voting. However, it is possible that a voter who believes that they are registered to vote may not be listed in the poll books. In this case, there are specific steps that must be taken by election inspectors (New York’s name for poll workers) to attempt to resolve the issue so that you can vote on a lever machine or Ballot Marking Device.

Download a flow chart of how to resolve issues you may face when checking in at the poll site here.

If the election inspectors cannot determine that you are registered to vote, you have two options:

a) Voters who have been removed from the rolls incorrectly have the right to have a judge hear them and order that they be allowed to vote on a machine. On Election Day there’s a special Court in each county which hears voter complaints. If the voter’s plea is successful, the Court will issue an order instructing poll workers to allow the voter to vote on a machine. These cases are often processed quickly, and it is far better to vote on a machine than the other alternative, an ‘affidavit’ ballot. If you decide to go to the special Court, election inspectors are obligated to find out and inform you where the Court hearing Election Day pleas is located.

b) Affidavit ballot – Any voter whose name is not in the poll books has the right to vote on an affidavit ballot (called a ‘provisional’ ballot outside of New York State). This is definitely better than not voting at all, but affidavit ballots are only counted after the county Board of Election conducts an investigation to determine that the voter was properly registered and in the correct polling place. It may take some time before the investigation is completed, and it will certainly be after Election day. Even worse, I know of instances where affidavit ballots are never counted at all. If all else fails, insist on your right to use an affidavit ballot, but do this only after exhausting other options - it’s definitely better to vote on a lever machine or BMD.

One other important note on Affidavit Ballots – you must be in the correct polling place or the ballot will not be counted! Double check before you go to the polls that you’re at the right polling place, and remember that election inspectors are required to look up whether you are in the correct polling place if they find you are not listed in the poll books.

3) Be prepared to wait as long as necessary – All over the country, unprecedented numbers of voters are expected to turn out in the 2008 election. In addition, complications due to problems with the new computerized voter registration database could cause bottlenecks at sign in tables. All of these factors may contribute to making long lines and lengthy waits at the polls next Tuesday a very real possibility.

Allow plenty of time to vote this year. If possible, try to go vote during the off peak hours between 9am to 12 noon, and 2pm to 5pm. If you’re taking time off from work allow for the possibility that you’ll be away for several hours. If at all possible, arrange child care for children who may not be able to wait in line for many hours with you.

4) Numbers to call if you have a problem – If you have a problem on Election Day, or want to report a problem you have witnessed, there are several numbers to call to report the incident and get advice:

1-866-OUR VOTE

1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en espanol)

In New York City, call NYPIRG’s hotline at 212-822-0282.

Above all, get out and vote! Remember, the only way to guarantee that your vote won’t be counted is to not vote.

EAC suspends SysTest

New York State Could Halt Voting Machine Testing - Again

The US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) announced today that the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) has suspended SysTest’s accreditation. SysTest is the testing vendor currently performing New York State certification testing of two ballot scanners selected by New York State counties. SysTest was suspended “due to numerous non-conformities with the NIST Handbook 150-22 Voting System Testing, which sets forth the procedures, requirements and guidance for the accreditation of testing and calibration laboratories by the National Voting Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). Non-conformities included failure to create and validate test methods, improper documentation of testing and unqualified personnel.”

New York State has been here before - in December 2006 the state halted testing when it learned that its testing contractor, CIBER, had been denied accreditation by the EAC. SysTest was hired after the State Board of Elections canceled its contract with CIBER after it too failed to receive EAC accreditation.

It is likely that New York State will again suspend certification testing of new voting machines as one of the conditions of SysTest’s contract with the state requires that it maintain federal accreditation. So far, the voting systems being tested have had numerous problems during testing and have been unable to pass many of New York State’s rigorous standards.

Of course, the reaction of the Department and Justice and US District Court Judge Gary Sharpe to this development remains to be seen, as this virtually guarantees that machine certification to New York’s high standards cannot be completed in time for rollout in the September 2009 primary, as currently called for by the Court ordered schedule.

Once again we see how broken the electronic voting industry is – from system vendors who produce flawed products which fail at alarming rates and can’t meet New York’s standards, to the testing contractors that have facilitated acceptance of this alarmingly low level of quality and security.

Read the EAC announcement here:

Over 1,500,000 NYS Voters Purged

Have you been purged from New York State’s database?

As I wrote about in my last blog, HAVA required substantial changes to the way voter registration lists are managed, requiring that all states maintain a single statewide database, and that voter registration records be purged of incorrect records. But depending on how database name matching is done, this can result in many legally registered voters being removed from the rolls or set to “Inactive” status, which means on Election Day their names will not be in the poll book, and they will not be able to vote.

But a question has remained, how many voter records have been purged from New York State’s voter rolls? Now we have an answer. I submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for all records in New York’s NYSVOTER voter registration database. Early in October, I received a copy of NYSVOTER records from September 23, 2008. I wrote a program to analyze the 12,010,045 voter records and can now report the number of voters who have had their status set to “Purged” or “Inactive” in the Empire state, and the reasons given for the change.

The data reveals that New York State has moved 1,661,244, or almost 14% of the voter records, from “Active” status to “Purged” or “Inactive”, meaning they will not be in the poll books on Election Day. Whether or not these changes are valid is anybody’s guess, and there’s no way to know for sure how many of these have been incorrectly removed from “Active” status. But I’ll wager that a significant number of these records are actually legally registered voters who should be allowed to vote on Election Day, but won’t be.

I’ve provided two spreadsheets which break out the analysis by individual New York State counties, totals for New York City(which includes the counties of New York (Manhattan), Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, and Richmond (Staten Island), and the state as a whole. The first sheet (Xl format here; PDF format here) shows the total number of records, the number of “Active” status voters, and the number set to “Purged” and “Inactive”, and the percentages these represent of the total. The second spreadsheet (Xl format here; PDF format here) breaks out the reasons given for each record set to “Purged” and “Inactive”.

This second spreadsheet reveals some interesting patterns. For instance we can see that the New York City Board of Elections has set over a half a million voter records to “Inactive” status because they did not respond to a letter from the Board saying they intended to cancel their registration (NYSVOTER lists this reason as “MAIL CHECK”). I guarantee that some percentage, likely very large, of these New York City voters are legally registered who never saw the Board’s letter. They’re going to show up on Election Day and be turned away from the polls.

We also find the top counties which have been removing voters from the rolls – Sullivan County (30%), Allegany County(24%), Tompkins County (23%), Westchester County (21%), Rensselaer (19%) and Erie (19%). We find that Erie, Cortland, Seneca, Sullivan and Lewis counties have all “Purged” over 7% of voter records. And Sullivan, Allegany, Tompkins, Westchester, Manhattan, Rensselaer and the Bronx have each set over 13% of their voter records to “Inactive” status.

My analysis program can only work the data that’s in the records, so I can’t determine how many of these voter records have been legitimately changed, and how many are legally registered voters whose status should be “Active” but is no longer. There’s only one way to know for sure – call your County Board of Elections and ask if you are registered to vote, if your status is “Active”, and if your name will appear in the poll books on Election Day. If it is not, there is still time, although not much, to correct the error.

By the way, if you find that you are not in the poll books on Election Day, you have the right to demand and receive a “provisional” ballot (called an ‘affidavit’ ballot in NYS), which you can vote on. Provisional ballots do not guarantee that your vote will be counted however, as the county must first conduct an investigation to see if you were indeed legally registered. Only then will the provisional ballot be counted. While this is better than not being able to vote at all, it’s a stop gap measure, and I urge you to call your county Board and check that you are registered and can vote on Election Day.

Are You Registered to Vote? Really?

Don’t assume anything, confirm your registration

With all the attention that voting machines have received over the last few years, many people don’t realize that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) addressed more than just voting equipment. HAVA also required substantial changes to the way voter registration lists are managed, requiring that all states maintain a single statewide database:

“…each State, acting through the chief State election official, shall implement, in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner, a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list defined, maintained, and administered at the State level that contains the name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the State…”

HAVA also describes, together with the National Voter Registration Act (better known as the Motor Voter Act) the critically important conditions which determine whether a voter can be removed from the voter rolls. This means that in New York and other states using the new computerized voter lists for the first time that there could be many thousands of voters showing up at the polls on Election Day assuming they are registered to vote who will find to their dismay that they are not.

There’s various reasons that a voter might be flagged for removal – clerical errors, data transfer errors, address mismatches with DMV databases, a matching death record in the Social Security database, a match against New York’s felon list, duplicate registration records from multiple counties (this last one could easily happen if you have moved from one county to another in the past, and didn’t explicitly deregister from your previous county).

If your registration has been flagged, the local County Board is required to send you a written notice that a problem has been detected and you are at risk of being purged from the voter rolls. But if this notice is sent to the wrong address, or you don’t notice it among the pile of junk mail and toss it, you could find on Election Day that you have been ‘purged’ from the rolls (in which case, you have the right to a provisional or “affidavit” ballot, but these ballots will not be counted on Election Day and may not be counted at all). So what can you do to ensure that you are indeed registered to vote in this important election? You’ve got to be proactive.

As required by HAVA, New York State provides an online “check your registration” page. This is alright as far as it goes, and will tell you whether your current status is ‘Active’ or ‘Inactive’ (active means you are registered and can vote). But unfortunately it does not tell you if your record has been flagged as needing review and has not yet been processed by the county. So it is possible that you could check the page today and see that your status is ‘Active’, but find out on Election Day that it has changed to Inactive because the county processed your flagged record after you checked it and decided you were not legally registered.

Given this potential, NYVV is recommending that voters take the following steps to confirm that you are registered to vote this year in New York State:

1) Click here to check the online voter registration page. If your status is ‘Inactive’, or the page tells you “No Matches Found”, you are not registered to vote. In this case, CALL YOUR COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS IMMEDIATELY and make sure you straighten this out (even if it means re-registering).

2) Even if your status is ‘Active’ on the online page, you need to call your county Board of Elections and confirm that your record is not flagged as unresolved. Call them today and ask them three questions:

a) Am I registered to vote?

b) Is my name flagged for review?

c) Will my name be in the poll book on Election Day?

Insist on getting an answer, even if the folks at the County Board are very busy. And while you’re at it, confirm that your address is correct, because we’re hearing of data transfer errors that are mangling addresses.

We’ve got to let the public know about this. For starters, Click here to download a flyer you can post alerting the public to the problem and the need to confirm your voter registration.

I’ll have much more to write about in the days and weeks ahead about this vital issue, including the New York City Board of Election’s illegal decision to purge all voters from the rolls who do not respond to an ‘Intent to Cancel’ letter which states “If you do not appear or answer by mail within 14 days after the mailing of this notice, your registration will be canceled. All written responses must be in English”.

Good News for New York

The Process is Working

New York State’s new voting systems are failing certification testing. The two systems undergoing testing for use in 2009 are showing large numbers of defects against New York requirements, have as yet unresolved design and manufacturing issues, and during the initial stages of my source code review I found a software back door that would allow a rogue program to load from an inserted memory card. What’s not to like?

Now, you may be thinking that these all sound like bad things. And of course, on one level they absolutely are. As I’ve written about in earlier posts, what gall vendors have providing New York’s voters with such flawed equipment, sold at astronomical prices, and which have apparently not undergone basic quality assurance testing before being shipped. So what’s the good news? The good news is that we’re identifying problems prior to use in an election - the machines are failing New York’s tests.

Unlike the situation in so many other states, where inadequately tested machines are approved by private companies working for system vendors with no independent review, New York State has changed the rules of the game. Here, we require rigorous testing to the highest standards. Here, we have independent review of not only the machine vendors, but of the vendor performing the testing. Here, we have a Citizens Advisory Committee which has access to the systems and provides advice and analysis to the State Board. Because of this, New York State will not use these machines until such time as they meet the standards required by law and regulation. In other words, the process is working.

There are three reasons why New York’s certification process is breaking new ground: high regulatory requirements, independent review of the machine and testing vendors, and independent review of the source code by citizens.

High Regulatory Requirements – New York requires compliance with the Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) of 2005. While far from perfect, using the 2005 guidelines as the standard is a far higher bar than the vendors have ever had to meet before. And as we are now seeing, they came ill prepared to meet it. Clearly they thought the process in the Empire State was going to be business as usual – throw any old iron over the wall, keep the testing and results secret, and ignore any problems found. They are now finding out that’s not the way it works here.

Independent Review of the Testing Process – New York is not simply accepting the results reported by SysTest, the vendor performing testing for the state. One of NYVV’s recommendations adopted by the state in 2006 was for an independent review of the certification process. The State Board contracted with NYSTEC (New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation) a private, not-for-profit technology company. To date, NYSTEC has analyzed, critiqued and improved test plans, has pushed for strict interpretation of VVSG requirements, and has not been shy about challenging the business-as-usual practices of the testing vendor. I have not agreed with every opinion that NYSTEC has issued, but all in all I think they are taking the role of independent review very seriously and performing it well. This review of SysTest’s performance for New York is vital, especially when the questionable practices of this testing vendor are now coming to light.

Independent Review of Source Code – As a member of New York’s Citizen Election Modernization Advisory Committee (CEMAC) I have access to all technical data provided to the State by the vendors, including the proprietary source code. As the only CEMAC member with a software development background, I’ve begun an independent review of the software source code provided to the state. Now, there is a caveat here – I am doing this review alone. In the few other states where source code reviews have been performed entire teams of programmers have been appointed. And believe me, a team is what is really needed. A single person can’t possibly review all the source code of the two systems being tested here in the allotted time, so what I can accomplish will be limited. However, within 8 hours of beginning my code review I found two major problems, neither of which had been caught by SysTest, the vendor performing the ‘formal’ source code review! Because I’m under a non-disclosure agreement, I can’t reveal publicly more than has been disclosed in the August 4 State Board of Elections meeting [the discussion takes place from 14:50 to 18:07 on the recording] – that one of the problems I found is a software backdoor which under certain conditions would allow a rogue program to be loaded from a memory card while bypassing all internal security controls. I of course immediately report any problems I find to the State Board, SysTest, and NYSTEC, and I’ll insist that these, and any subsequent problems I find, be fixed.

Is New York’s process perfect? Of course not, there’s lots we could improve. But it’s still a far tougher regimen than any other state has attempted before, and the fact that we are identifying problems before the new systems are allowed to be used, and not after, is good news for New York.

Tell it to the Judge

State Board informs Court of schedule delay

As I reported in my last post, problems encountered during New York State’s tough certification testing has caused the timeline for the 2009 rollout of state’s new voting machines to slip. Now the State Board of Elections has notified the Court that it will not be possible to complete testing on schedule and deploy the new machines in time for the September 2009 primary, as the Court has ordered.

The state, in its July 25 Status Report to Judge Gary Sharpe for the first time gives formal notice that:

“Overall, activities and progress toward HAVA compliance are in jeopardy…”

“For the first time, and after affirmatively representing that the time line for certification testing could still be met as recently as July 17, 2008, the most recent weekly status meeting, on July 24, 2008 SysTest admitted that it was behind schedule and would not make the October 1, 2008 certification testing completion date.”

Why did this happen? The Board confirms that ongoing problems with the machines vendors have supplied for testing continue to delay progress:

“In the July 24, 2008 weekly status meeting SysTest announced that the vendors were not ready for testing at this point in time due to various issues, among them: documentation issues, testing machines supplied which did not function, lacked harddrives and or USB ports and therefore could not be tested.”

Both vendors, ES&S and Sequoia, continue to demonstrate significant problems, even in these early stages of testing:

“As of July 24, 2008 the timeline allowed only 16 days for the run for the record test by SysTest and when the Sequoia software was loaded up for a test pass, it crashed.”

Missing and/or malfunctioning equipment and/or peripherals from this vendor [ES&S] continue to be an issue.”

But it’s not just the vendors. Even SysTest, the contractor hired by the state to perform its certification testing, seems unable to understand what is needed to test voting machines to a meaningful standard:

“SysTest’s response to this development, which it reported for the first time on July 24, 2008, was that it was not prepared for the amount of test planning and the complexity of the testing.”

Back in January 2006, New Yorkers for Verified Voting submitted recommendations to the State Board of Elections for tough voting machine certification standards. Much of our advice was adopted in state regulations, a significant victory for citizens in their demand for the highest testing standards in the country. But those hard fought standards could now be tossed aside by the Judge.

The Department of Justice, along with the vendors, will argue that since all other states are using equipment that doesn’t comply with current federal standards, New York can’t be allowed to be an exception. This argument essentially says New York can set any standard it wants, but it has no right to actually enforce that standard - even when the vendors demonstrably can’t meet it.

If the Court rules that the new systems must be rolled out in 2009 whether or not they’ve passed state testing, the vendors will have been given a big giant pass – a judicial blessing allowing them to continue raking in millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars while supplying bad equipment; a slap in the face for the public’s right to require accountability and quality from those who would profit off our vote.

Schedule Slips and Slippery Slopes

Voting Machines Can’t Meet NY Standards in Time for 2009

It’s become obvious that New York State’s new voting systems will not be able to complete New York State certification testing in time for the scheduled 2009 rollout. The state sets the highest bar in the nation for approval of voting machines, one that vendors have never been required to meet before. Their performance in New York demonstrates that they are a long, long way from understanding that the public will not stand for poorly designed, badly tested and outrageously overpriced equipment, and a business philosophy of let the customer be damned.

In its July 24 status report SysTest, the contractor performing the state’s testing noted the serious problems and risks to the testing schedule, and cite the reasons that “NYSBOE’s ability to meet its court-mandated timeline for complete and thorough testing is at significant risk for the reasons described below”. Some of the reasons demonstrate the complete lack of quality control on the part of the vendors before they send systems out to New York’s certification site. It’s unbelievable that these machines, which cost upward of $12,000 apiece, could be delivered for approval with the kind of problems cited in the report:

“Numerous documentation discrepancies, caused in large part by missing information from both Vendors’ documentation, prevent us from finalizing the test procedures in all of the test cases”.

“There is a significant risk, given the remaining allotted time, that the Vendors will be able to address all of the expected discrepancies and SysTest Labs will have sufficient time to regression test the fixes”.

“…the election setup procedures do not match the documentation”.

[Download the full Systest report here.]

It goes on like this. The problem is that the voting machine industry has thus far been able to get away with selling expensive equipment that frequently breaks down, failing at a rate that we would never, ever accept for toaster ovens, let alone a machine that counts the vote. But now New York State comes along, and prodded by citizen advocates demanding high certification standards, sets the bar higher than it’s been before. But rather than act like a company that has just signed a multi-million dollar contract and wants to make sure that their products meet all the customer stated requirements prior to shipping it out, the vendors take the same old broken approach – a quickly thrown together, poorly designed product; not validated by user testing; manufactured in haste with no discernable quality control standards; let the buyer beware.

The question now is what will the State Board of Elections do – allow the schedule to slip or compromise the regulations? At their meeting on July 22, there seemed to be agreement that New York should not allow any system to be used that does not meet all of the state’s standards. But there was also talk that the Board of Elections could perhaps overlook what was described as “unimportant” discrepancies from the New York regulations.

This would be a dreadful mistake, for once you start down this slippery slope, there’s no going back - and what was once a shining example becomes a muddy mockery. New York must not reward the vendors for this typically abysmal performance. The State Board of Elections must protect New York’s voters – they must not approve any machines that do not meet every single one of the State’s requirements.

Open Letter

In the past week several articles and series of emails have circulated on the Web which have accused me of lying and willful misrepresentation of facts; of intentionally deceiving New York State citizens on election integrity issues; of having no understanding of the problems and challenges presented by computer technology in elections. I write this open letter not only to those who have posted these hateful sentiments to websites and mailing lists around the country, but also to those who in the past have similarly accused my friends and associates in the election integrity movement of terrible actions and motivations.

Those of you who accuse my friends and I of lying and deceit and foolishness seem to feel there is only one version of the truth, and anyone who does not accept that version of the truth must be assailed, berated and beaten down until we capitulate or are destroyed. But truth is not always so simple. Certainly there is absolute truth – the Sun rises in the East, the Moon orbits the Earth, all of us now alive will someday be dead. But there are other things that while true for some, are not true for others – the best restaurant in town, the meaning of the Second Amendment, our choice of voting systems. I ask you to acknowledge that there are many of us in the election integrity movement who have worked hard and sacrificed much to better democracy and improve our elections, even if we disagree with your version of the truth.

What are your motivations? Why would you intentionally divide what has been one of the most successful grass roots movements in a generation? Why do you pursue confrontational tactics which discredit us all and tear our fragile young movement apart with internal division? I remember my anti-war work, 40 years ago, where we learned the hard way that those who called for ultra-radical solutions and fomented chaos within the movement often turned out to be agent provocateurs who were there for one reason – to bring the movement down. Perhaps you’re outraged I would suggest such a thing, so let me apologize to those of you who are not working undercover. But I ask you to consider, are the results of your actions any different than if you were?

I thought I was used to this kind of abusive behavior, but it hurts a whole lot more when it comes from people who ought to be on your side. When my efforts to prevent DREs from being the ‘done deal’ that every vendor, election official, and legislator in New York State assumed they were started gaining traction, I got plenty of abuse from voting machine vendors and election officials. They accused me of all manner of things – lying, secret agendas, Rasputin-like powers of persuasion, you name it. But nasty as these attacks were, I understood it and was little bothered by it because I knew I was a thorn in their side–challenging the authority of election officials and their choice of touchscreen voting; challenging the vendors and placing millions upon millions of dollars of anticipated DRE profits at risk.

You seem not to consider that those of us who have worked hard and achieved much in our election integrity work are real people. Perhaps it’s easy to forget the boundaries of reasonable debate because our movement is a virtual one, where one rarely sees a face but only words exchanged on the Web. But let me assure you, we are people just like you. We get tired and are terribly worried for our democracy, just like you. When we cut our fingers with a knife, we bleed on the outside; when those who should be our friends call us liars and deceivers, we bleed on the inside.

I’ve spent far too much time responding to slanderous attacks this last week, time that I really needed to spend on critical issues for my state – election audits, voter registration database problems, trying to stop a New York county from using uncertified scanners this year. I won’t let you distract me again. In the future, when you call me or my friends liars, when you question our integrity, when you try to turn other advocates against us, I will ignore you. No more responses, no more taking up precious time to call attention to your right wing talk radio tactics of selective editing and over-the-top distortion, no more trying to track down all the corners of the Web where you’ve posted your poison. Go tell the world I’m a liar and a swindler - just like the voting machine vendors did before you when I got in their face and fought with all my heart for the integrity of our elections. That fight is far from over and needs my urgent attention. This is the last you’ll hear from me on this topic - I’ve got important work to do.

Not Ready for Prime Time

Nassau County Refuses to Accept More Failing Systems

You would have thought that since there have been so many documented problems in other states over the years that voting machine vendors would have gone out of their way to make sure new systems being deployed in the Empire State were thoroughly tested, met all state requirements, and worked flawlessly.

At a minimum, you would expect that any business fulfilling a enormous, multi-million dollar contract to a new client would make sure the systems were, well, at least operational. But, incredibly, you would be wrong. The machines which ES&S and Sequoia are providing to New York State are failing initial testing at a rate which would astound anyone – unless you’ve been following the voting machine industry for the last 10 years.

I discussed these problems on my July 2, 2008 Voice of the Voters radio program with my guest, Bill Biamonte, Election Commissioner of Nassau County, the second largest Board of Elections in the state which serves over 870,000 voters. In a letter to Judge Gary Sharpe on June 26, who ordered New York State to complete its Help America Vote Act implementation by 2009, Nassau County reports the unbelievably high failure rates they’re finding in the systems they’ve received:

“…of the 156 BMDs [Ballot Marking Devices] received by Nassau through June 26, 2008-after the SBOE 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.”

On the radio show we broke an important story – on July 1 Nassau County wrote a second letter to the Court explaining that they will refuse to accept any more systems until the vendor resolves the huge number of problems with the systems:

“In view of the foregoing, Nassau respectfully requests this Court to order the SBOE to demand that its vendor Sequoia immediately make arrangements to repair or replace the damaged or defective BMDs so that Nassau has adequate time to implement the BMDs in time for the September primary elections - elections that are now roughly two months away.”

“Nassau believes it has no sound alternative but to postpone delivery of its remaining BMDs until the problem is addressed. We believe this is the only sensible course of action, given the strong likelihood that damaged BMDs will either have to be replaced or shipped elsewhere for repair and then shipped back to Nassau County, wasting precious time immediately before the primary elections.”

As I said, if you’ve been following the voting system industry over the last few years it won’t surprise you to hear of colossal failure rates, and $12,000 machines that won’t even start up. This is why it’s vitally important we continue our work towards citizen oversight of elections.

As part of this job, New Yorkers for Verified Voting, along with League of Women Voters and many others worked long and hard in 2006 to get the state to adopt regulations that are among the most rigorous voting system certification requirements in the country. It is due in great part to these regulations that it has been so difficult, and continues to be difficult, for the shoddy merchandise that the voting machine companies are foisting on us to be approved in New York State.

Now let’s hope that Judge Gary Sharpe agrees that it would be a travesty of justice to force New York State voters to vote on broken systems, and that he turns a hard eye on the voting machine vendors who are taking our taxpayer dollars and selling us - let me be blunt - nothing but crap.