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Is the Federal Process for Qualifying Voting Systems Broken?
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Contributed by By John Gideon, Information Manager, www.VotersUnite.Org and www.VoteTrustUSA.Org
August 17, 2005
In the past month two separate incidents took place that call into
question whether the present voting systems qualification process is
functional and whether the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) knows
what is going on around them.
The most recent incident,
and probably the most troubling, is the sudden appearance on the
Election Assistance Commission webpage of a document entitled, “Testing
and Certification Process for Voting Systems”. This undated and unsigned document is a testament to the EAC’s misunderstanding of what is happening on their watch.
This document talks about the history of the
qualification/certification process, how the process functions, and
what the future is for the process. It makes the following claim:
"Today, voting systems are tested by ITAs (Independent Testing
Authority) against the 2002 Voting System Standards” It is apparent
that the authors of this document have never looked at the “NASED
(National Association of State Elections Directors) Qualified Voting
If they had they would note that, as of this date, and since December
5, 2003, 34 voting systems have been qualified, 27 of which were
qualified to standards written and accepted in 1990. So far this year
there have been 8 voting systems qualified and only 4 of those have
been qualified to the standards the EAC seems to think are the only
standards in use.
But it’s not just the ITAs that are
participating in this travesty. There is a buffer between the ITA and
the final qualification of any voting system by NASED. As stated in the
subject document, “After the ITA determines through testing that a
voting system meets the 2002 VSS, the Technical Subcommittee of the
NASED Voting System Board reviews the test report to validate ITA’s
findings.” Why is this subcommittee, which is supposed to be reviewing
the ITA documents, allowing voting systems to continue being qualified
to the 1990 standards when the EAC clearly thinks that only the 2002
standards are being used?
The other recent incident sheds
additional light on the sham that is called the “federal qualification
process.” On July 29, 2005 the Secretary of State of California
announced he was rejecting a request by Diebold Elections Systems Inc.
(DESI) for state certification of their TSx Direct Recording Electronic
voting system. This report was followed on August 3, 2005 by another article
that amplified the information in the first article and told of an
absurdly high failure rate in a mock-election held by the state.
tested 96 voting machines in the mock-election over a seven-hour period
and with over 10,000 votes cast. Close to 20% of the machines had
failures including crashes, blue screens, and error messages, resulting
in the need to reboot; and over 10% of the machines had their voter
verified paper audit trail printers jam, which resulted in the loss of
paper ballots for audits.
While the machines that failed
the mock-election were not, at the time, completely through the process
of federal qualification, they were reportedly approved by the ITAs.
They only awaited a review of the paperwork by the Technical
Subcommittee and the final stamp of approval by NASED, which controls
the process with assistance and some oversight from the EAC. These
machines are the first DRE voting system produced by DESI that has
passed ITA testing to the 2002 Voting Systems Standards, the standards
that the EAC thinks are the only standards being used.
ITAs are supposed to be certified to do the testing; they are supposed
to be performing rigorous testing to ensure any qualified voting system
will operate with no problems; they are supposed to be testing systems
to the highest standards available. Is seven hours of testing by the
California Secretary of State, who is not a federally certified ITA,
more rigorous than the testing conducted by the ITA? It is extremely
bothersome if the reports are true and the ITA tested and approved this
failed system. It also points to a complete failure of the
qualification process and demands an answer as to whether any
previously qualified voting system should be used without re-test and
It is obvious that the process of
qualifying the Diebold TSx voting system that failed should have been
stopped. The testing must be redone. However, before starting that
testing, the ITAs need to be investigated to find out why they allowed
the Diebold system to be qualified. The EAC must also publish a warning
to all states who are considering the purchase and use of the failed
Diebold TSx voting system. Mississippi, Utah, Ohio, and other states
are lined-up to buy these machines even though they failed the simple,
functional testing in California.
In defense of the ITA
testing process, a person close to the federal process revealed that
vendors, at times, put their “best” machines through the ITA process
but sell something less robust at the state level. While this statement
points the finger directly at the vendors and their internal quality
assurance programs, it also points to further failures of the federal
oversight process that endorses a tested product and then leaves the
quality assurance of the field products solely in the hands of the
Diebold also manufactures and sells ATM
machines. How long would they be in business if their ATM machines
failed 20% of the time or if their receipt printers jammed 10% of the
time? The banking industry would be up in arms. Why are those who are
responsible for testing and qualifying our voting systems not saying or
doing anything to rectify this unacceptable situation?
we have federal commissioners who have no idea what standards are being
used to test voting systems. We have a voting system qualification
process that is so poorly managed it has allowed a severely flawed
voting system to be given the NASED, and soon, the EAC, “Seal of
Approval”. And we have no way of knowing whether the systems that are
to be used in the field are even as “high” a quality as those that were
tested and approved.
Clearly the federal qualification
process is broken, and the states that rely on it to protect their
citizens’ votes are trusting in smoke and mirrors.
“E-voting machines rejected after state tests”, by Jennifer Coleman, Associated Press, 29 July 2005;
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