Vote Trust USA

Pennsylvania and the Unilect Patriot Decision
by John Gideon*

Recently a decision was made by the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth, Pedro A. Cortes, to take the unusual step of decertifying the Unilect Patriot DRE voting system used in three Pennsylvania counties. This decision affected Beaver, Greene, and Mercer counties.


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This decertification was initiated due to the work of voters in the state who knew there were problems with the machines and who spoke loud and long to convince the Secretary to investigate the machines. Secretary Cortes finally caved to the pressure from these voters and had the machines inspected and tested.

A study was accomplished by Grover City College on the undervote rate from those machines. Researchers found that the undercount percentages in each county were: Mercer - 7.29 percent; Greene - 4.5 percent; and Beaver - 5.25 percent. These are inordinately high percentages.

Researchers then tested the machines and found, during the examination on Feb. 15, that the system failed to sense screen touches multiple times, failed to register votes, and did not record votes. The screen also "froze" and stopped accepting touches during the examination. The Department believes these malfunctions help explain why there were more than 10,000 instances where a vote was not counted in the three counties during the 2004 general election.

At the recommendation of Michael I. Shamos, Ph.D., J.D., an expert consultant retained by the Department, Cortes determined that the system's certification was to be revoked. The report issued on April 7 details the reasoning behind the revocation of certification for the system in accordance with relevant sections of the Pennsylvania Election Code that address the decertification of electronic voting systems.

The system was determined not to be "safely and efficiently usable in the conduct of elections" nor is it "capable of absolute accuracy" as required by the Pennsylvania Election Code. The system also was flawed in not allowing the voter to "readily learn the method of operating it." The system was also confusing to voters. Messages displayed on the touch screen and write-in screen were misleading or unclear.

Amazingly the people in two of the three counties who are directly responsible for elections argued in favor of the Unilect Patriot voting machines. The Beaver County Elections Director had already explained away the high Īundervoteā rate as being confusion by the voters with the system or voters simply not voting in the presidential race.

"Are there problems with our machines? The state seems to think so, but I certainly don't," said Pam Snyder, chairman of the Greene County Board of Commissioners. Ms. Snyder says that she is convinced that the machines are flawless.

All three counties argued that the state had certified the system previous to the counties making the purchases in 1998 so they should get their money back. The state has agreed to help the counties with funding.

I am amazed that none of the elected officials in the three counties seemed to really care about their voters. They didnāt care that the Nov. 2004 election was flawed. They didnāt care that many of them, or other local officials, were voted into office or out of office on voting machines that were not working properly.

These officials are the people who are fighting against a voter verified paper ballot and audits of the machines. These are the people who are fighting against a hand-counted paper ballot. These are the people who constantly prove that they donāt want to be inconvenienced by having to work with paper ballots. These are the people who need to be replaced with elections officials who are ready, willing, and able to do what is right for their voters ÷ first.

NOTE: On April 15 the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth announced that on April 22 Unilect would get another chance to prove that their machines should be certified. We will know, from the way the test is conducted whether the Secretary is being honest about these machines. A follow-up to this article will be written when the results of that test are known.

John Gideon is the Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA and for VotersUnite.Org.

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