Corporate Control of Voting Equipment Certification: How Did The Sequoia VeriVote Printer System Get Qualified And Then Certified In California?
by John Gideon*
The voting systems qualification and certification process is broken. The vendors appear to manipulate the system in order to be certified by an Independent Testing Authority (ITA). A quick look at the voting systems that have been qualified this year shows that a vast majority of the hardware and firmware is only certified to the 1990 standards; while some of the software has been qualified to the newer and more stringent 2002 standards. This process of qualification seems to be almost capricious, as though it is done to the benefit of the vendors.
Corporate Control of Voting Equipment Certification
A good example of this broken process is seen in the events surrounding the qualification and certification of the new Sequoia VeriVote vvpat printer. Sequoia developed this new add-on to their Sequoia AVC Edge electronic voting machine under pressure from the state of Nevada. The new printer was qualified, as part of a complete system, by an ITA, and the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED) gave Sequoia its „System ID Numberš on October 24, 2004.
The problem is that there are not now, and never have been, any standards developed by the Federal Elections Commission or the Technical Guidelines Development Committee for qualifying a vvpat printer. And, instead of turning to the newer, more stringent, 2002 standards, Sequoia chose to qualify their printer system hardware and firmware to the older 1990 standards.
Below is a snapshot of the NASED qualification details for the Sequoia voting system that includes the VeriVote Printer. Notice that the WinEDS software is qualified to 2002 standards but the voting system itself is only qualified to the 1990 standards.
Brian Hancock is the ITA Secretariat for NASED; so I sent Mr. Hancock an email and asked, „From the snap-shot of the applicable portion of the qualification list, can you tell me what standards were used to do that qualification? Is it qualified to 2002 or 1990 standards? Also, and more specifically, what standards are in effect for the qualification of VVPAT printers?š
Mr. Hancock responded to my email with the following:
But wait! There is more. Remember that the EAC is the keeper of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). They have overall responsibility, via NASED, for ensuring systems meet the federal standards as well as ensuring that all systems comply with HAVA.
HAVA Section 301(a)(3) states that „the voting system shall be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.š
In a Department of Justice finding, Sheldon Bradshaw, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel, found that (highlighting added):
Why is this important? On January 14, 2005 the state of California refused to immediately certify the Sequoia VeriVote printer for use. Why? The Secretary of State‚s Elections Division found that the Sequoia VeriVote printer did not meet the state‚s „Accessible Voter Verified Paper Audit Trailš standards, and stated the following (highlighting added):
Second, and nearly as important, within one week the California Election Division did exactly what they suggested they might. They modified their standards and certified the Sequoia VeriVote printer. Essentially they turned their backs on federal law in order to allow Sequoia to sell its system in the state.
Presently a committee chartered and sponsored by the EAC and under the auspices of NIST is finalizing a new set of federal guidelines that will include standards for a vvpat printer. We should not expect that these new standards will be any more comprehensive or stringent than the 1990 and 2002 standards. In fact the vendors have had a hand in writing those standards.
What is clear is that the testing and certification system is set up in the interest of the vendors, and the public interest takes a backseat. It is even to the point where federal and state governments are willing to allow the vendors to violate the law just so they can sell their wares. The Sequoia VeriVote printer system is clearly in violation of the law and should not be used until the source of the audio ballot-verification is taken from the printer itself.
Instead of forcing the vendor to make a good product, those who are supposed to be ensuring the public interest, are turning their backs on the public. The vendors are being allowed to sell voting systems that clearly do not meet the law and they are being allowed to do this by all of those who are supposed to be ensuring that the public interest is protected -- the ITAs, NASED, the EAC, and the state.
John Gideon is the Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA and for VotersUnite.Org.
Copyright © 2005 Vote Trust USA