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Around the States

Indiana: ES&S Agrees To Pay State $750,000 PDF Print Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 28, 2006
MicroVote Still Under Investigation

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita has announced the settlement of an enforcement proceeding concerning Election Systems & Software (ES&S) in which the voting machine vendor  agreed to contribute $245,000 to help the State fund a Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP). According to the Secretary of State’s office, that program will provide counties and the State with much needed technical support in the use of election equipment and the establishment of voting system standards. In addition to the VSTOP contribution, ES&S has agreed to pay almost $500,000 to the 27 counties it had contracted with to pay for training videos, onsite support and additional services such as ballot layout assistance and voter outreach through the 2007 elections, especially for disabled voters.

The state's began investigating ES&S even before the state’s May 2 primary, when Rokita's office accused it of breaking the law by providing poor service, defective equipment, and uncertified voting system software. The problems included improperly programmed memory packs used to tally votes in machines, mistakes on ballots and missed deadlines. Later, the investigation was expanded to include problems that several Southern Indiana counties had after the polls closed for the primary. Rokita's office had frozen over $300,000 in HAVA payments to counties pending the completion of the investigation. That money now will be released.

The state still is investigating separate complaints involving Indianapolis-based MicroVote General Corp., according to Rokita.

The ES&S agreement resolves the dispute without any fines or judgments and allows ES&S to deny any criminal wrongdoing. ES&S Senior Vice President John Groh acknowledged customer service had not lived up to the company's own standards. According to an Associated Press article, Groh said ES&S had compiled a "bible" of lessons learned from the Indiana situation and was changing some of its business practices as a result. ES&S has doubled the size of its election support staff for all states, adding about 50 workers overall, and is reconfiguring its staff into teams for each state, he said.

A Fort Wayne Journal Gazette editorial pointed out that “by settling, Rokita also insured that Hoosiers would immediately get $750,000 for their troubles. If he allowed the lawsuit to play out it would likely have taken longer and there would not be a guarantee the state would get as much money. The courts could have interpreted the whole case was a single violation of state law rather than several significantly reducing the restitution the state garners from the company.”

The Secretary of State’s press release noted that under a recently enacted law, the Secretary of State's office is authorized to impose civil penalties for each finding that a voting machine vendor knowingly, negligently or recklessly sold, leased or allowed equipment to be used in violation of Indiana law. Over the last few months, as the state's Chief Election officer, Rokita personally conducted a public investigative hearing of the Nebraska-based firm to determine whether complaints reported in the popular press would be substantiated. The agreement settles the matter in full without any formal judgments on the merits of the proceeding. However, ES&S had denied that its equipment violated Indiana law.

An RFP for the Voting System Technical Oversight Program was released this week as well, with bids expected by the end of the month.
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