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Washington HAVA Complaint Against Certification Of Sequoia Edge I and II with Audio Box 5.0 PDF  | Print |  Email
By John Gideon, and VoteTrustUSA   
June 26, 2006
The following is an example of a HAVA complaint that has been filed with the Washington Secretary of State. Washington state laws mentioned in the complaint are different from other states laws. This is meant as an example only. While all states are required by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to provide a complaint process the states may have differing rules on how to regulate the process. Section 402 of HAVA gives specific mandates on how the process must be handled by the state and voters. All complaints must be sworn to, signed, and notarized prior to sending to the state. The complainant also has the right to a hearing on the complaint if they so choose.



Address etc.


A.     Summary of Complaint - I allege that the Sequoia AVC Edge I and Edge II voting system (N-1-07-22-22-001) as certified by the Secretary of State of Washington on April 10, 2006 fails to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), Section 301(a)(1)(B) and 301(a)(3). I ask that this system be decertified or conditionally certified so that it cannot be used as a voting system to meet the accessibility mandates of HAVA.

B.     This complaint is made pursuant to Section 402(a)(2) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), P.L. 1070252 and Washington Administrative Code, Chapter 434-263. Briefly, these sections say, " Any person who believes that there is a violation of any provision of Title III, including a violation which has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur, by any state or local election official may file a complaint with the secretary under this chapter." Also, pursuant to Section 402(a)(2) I request that a public hearing, on the record, be conducted on this matter.

C.     Legal Authority Governing Voting System Certification – The Help America Vote Act of 2002 mandates in Section 301(a)(1)(B)(i) and (ii) that each voting system used in an election for Federal office shall meet the following requirements: In general - the voting system (including any lever voting system, optical scanning voting system, or direct recording electronic system) shall—
            (i) permit the voter to verify (in a private and independent manner) the votes selected by the voter on the ballot before the ballot is cast and counted;
            (ii) provide the voter with the opportunity (in a private and independent manner) to change the ballot or correct any error before the ballot is cast and counted (including the opportunity to correct the error through the issuance of a replacement ballot if the voter was otherwise unable to change the ballot or correct any error)

HAVA Section 301(a)(3) also states:
(3) Accessibility for individuals with disabilities.--The voting system shall—
         (A) be accessible for individuals with disabilities, including non-visual 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.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") provides that "no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity." 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (2000). Only a "qualified individual with a disability" ("QID") -- defined as "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable modifications to rules, policies, or practices, the removal of architectural, communication, or transportation barriers, or the provision of auxiliary aids and services, meets the essential eligibility requirements for the receipt of services or the participation in programs or activities provided by a public entity," § 12131(2) -- is protected by Title II.

RCW 29A.04.037 as enacted at the time of this filing, defines a "Disabled Voter" as  any registered voter who qualifies for special parking privileges under RCW 46.16.381, or who is defined as blind under RCW 74.18.020, or who qualifies to require assistance with voting under RCW 29A.44.240.

RCW 29A.46.130 requires compliance with federal and state requirements, to whit; "In-person disability access voting must be conducted using disability access voting devices at locations that are acceptable and comply with federal and state access requirements."

D.     Factual Background and Analysis – While Sequoia Voting Systems attempted to meet the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 with the subject voting system they, in fact, failed to do that. This system includes an add-on device, Edge Audio Unit 5.0 or Audio Box. This new addition has been described as:
"The Audio Box provides additional support for voters with disabilities when attached to the Edge. The device features four large keys of different colors and shapes for navigating the ballot and recording vote choices. It has a jack for headphones to provide audio instruction for visually impaired voters. Finally, the device features an interface for sip-puff devices for those with physical limitations."

It is through this new device that the state determined that the voting system in question meets the requirements to allow it to be used as an accessible voting system for all elections in the state.

However, it is this new device that, in fact, makes the Sequoia Edge I and II not comply with HAVA and thus not comply with state law.

A report produced by Freeman, Craft, McGregor Group Inc., consultants for the California Secretary of State, describes the system thusly:
"The implementation of a Sip and Puff device requires the voter to use an audio
ballot. The instructions provided to the voter are for the operation of the audio
ballot with the audio ballot keypad. Accordingly, the system provides
inappropriate and unusable instructions to the voter. The screen is blanked out
because the machine is in audio ballot mode. When the ballot is printed, the voter
has no option to reject the ballot. The voter using the sip and puff device has no
access to the help screens. To navigate the ballot, the voter can only go forward,
either through the races or through the candidates within a race. At the end of the
races or candidates, the voter can go forward and loop back through the items."

A staff report was prepared for the California Secretary of State. In this report the following was stated:
"The audio ballot mode presumes the voter is blind and always blanks the Edge
video display. This is the interface that is used for mobility-impaired voters using
the sip-puff interface. This means that these voters, or sighted voters who prefer
the audio ballot instructions for language support, must depend exclusively on
audio cues and instructions to navigate and vote their ballot. Additionally, the
VeriVote does not give these voters a chance to confirm or reject their ballot on
the assumption that they are blind. Instead, it simply prints the ballot on the paper
audit trail and finalizes the ballot, scrolling it out of view. This should be
corrected in future versions of the system."

In other words, the voter with disabilities has no option to review their vote prior to casting it; a violation of HAVA. The voter also has no option to reject a ballot and begin again; another violation of HAVA. And, a voter with mobility or cognitive disabilities has no chance to enjoy the same opportunity for access and participation. In fact, those voters are further handicapped in the voting process because they cannot use the monitor and must use audio which may not be a normal technology for their disability.

The idea that voters with disabilities other than blindness will now be forced to use audio instructions has been addressed by A. J. Devies, Florida Fair Elections Coalition, Board Member and Webmaster and Member, Daytona Beach Mayor's Alliance for Persons with Disabilities and a voter with multiple disabilities:
"This is an issue for many who are visually-impaired but not totally blind.  People who still have some vision have not acclimated to a "sound only" way of thinking like people who are totally blind have.  It takes time for the brain to re-wire itself to listen instead of look.  When I tested the IVS Vote-by-Phone earlier this year, as did several other people who had various degrees of visual-impairments, those of us who have some degree of sight had difficulty following the synthesized voice.  Everyone complained that it "spoke" too fast.  Except for the people who were totally blind; they complained the speech rate was too slow.  I was completely flummoxed the first two or three times I tried the system.  I realized I was being distracted by visual cues and sounds from outdoors.  I wasn't focused on the voting.  Once I wrote down the candidates or ballot issues, and the keys for navigating the ballot, I could follow along just fine.  I had my audio and visual inputs synchronized.

"People with brain injuries from trauma, stroke, tumors, birth defects or other cognitive impairments will have trouble with just audio.  Many of these people need synchronized audio AND video to process information.  Creating a "crib sheet" like I did won't help, it will hinder by distraction.  People who understand a spoken language, whether it's a "foreign" language or because of illiteracy, also need the synchronized A/V.

"We've beat the "one-size-fits-all" systems for disabled people to death."

In arguments before state legislature committees this year the Secretary of State's representatives attempted to open early voting for blind and sight impaired voters only. Speaking contrary to that were advocates for the disabled community who insisted that early voting needed to be inclusive of a larger portion of the disabilities community. The Secretary of State agreed with the advocates and the legislation was amended to be inclusive of voters with disabilities. Now, the state has, by certification of the Sequoia Edge I and II (N-1-07-22-22-001), reverted back to a position that will potentially disenfranchise voters with disabilities and certainly will not allow them to vote as guaranteed by the Help America Vote Act; unassisted and in private.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 and the Americans With Disabilities Acts are inclusive of voters with a wide range of disabilities. The Secretary of State, by certifying a voting system that provides technology for only the blind and sight impaired voters, has taken an exclusionary stance that will ensure a wide range of voters with disabilities are left out of the independent and private voting experience; an experience that they were mandated to receive with the signing of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
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