Election Integrity News - March 20, 2006

This Week's Quote: "Some of you are going to hate my guts on Election Day," Diebold Sales Representative Dana LaTour to Utah election officials. When asked what she meant, another Diebold Representative explained "We're going to have problems on Election Day, and we're just going to have to work through them."


Actions to Take Now

Lobby Your Representative In Support of HR 550

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

National: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!

Demand Verifiable Elections in Georgia

Iowa - Support SF 351

Maryland: Paper Ballots Now!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977

In this issue ...

National Stories

Voting Systems Batch Test Results Reliability

Diebold: Through the (Plastic) Looking Glass & Behind the Brown Door...

Trust Us: Take This Box and Stuff It

The EAC Another Failure To Follow Their Mandates

ES&S Vote Machine Memory Card Failures Spread to Other States

News From Around the States

California: Humboldt Registrar To Recommend Vote-PAD, Forego Diebold Purchase

Florida: Ion Sancho Receives Unanimous 'Vote of Confidence' from Leon County Commissioners

Florida: Voting Groups Requests That Secretary of State Ensure Audit Integrity

The Battle for Secure, Transparent, Auditable Elections in Georgia

Iowa: Subcommittee Chair Stalls Verifiable Elections

Louisiana: Rally Calling for Election Postponement To Be Held April 1 in New Orleans

Maryland Is Being Misled - Verifiable Voting is Accurate, Accessible AND Affordable

New Jersey: Sequoia Plans to Take Full "Advantage" of Their Monopoly in the State

Pennsylvania: Allegheny County Is Getting A Raw Deal On Voting Machines

Electionline Assists In Covering Up Election Meltdown In Texas


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The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA.

#5 - As reported on Friday by the Washington Post, Maryland Gov. Ehrlich is doing all he can to find the money in the state budget to bring optical-scan voting into the state. The state House has already voted to allow the state to lease optical-scan machines before the November elections. The state Senate, however, has other ideas and they have targeted that money to an electronic poll book adjunct to the Diebold touch-screen machines. In the meantime the Democrat dominated State Board of Elections is doing all they can to not have verifiable elections in the state.

#4 - Meanwhile in New Jersey the reliability of Sequoia voting machines and of the company itself is being questioned in court. As reported on Friday by both The Times of Trenton and The Star-Ledger, Sequoia's Vice President of Sales, Howard Cramer, took the stand to defend his companies product and to respond to questions from plaintiffs attorney, Penny Venetis. Cramer told the court that Sequoia was developing a new printer (to be used on the Advantage DRE?) but under examination by Venetis he admitted that they were still working on bugs in the prototype and they could not guarantee that it would be commercially available. This is a "two-front" court case at this time. The hearing last week was in county court and is limited to whether the state can meet the Jan. 1, 2008, deadline for having voting machines that produce a paper audit trail. Meanwhile, a state appeals court has reserved judgment on whether the machines used at the polls are so unreliable they violate the constitutional rights of voters. Before it rules, it wants to know whether the entire controversy is moot because all machines will soon produce paper trails that can be used to verify the accuracy of their tallies. It ordered the county court to find out. The county court case should finish early next week and the appeals court has scheduled a hearing for 24 March.

#3 - What is a county to do when the state has ordered them to comply with the Help America Vote Act, they have contracts or verbal agreements with the vendors, and the vendors suddenly announce that they cannot provide machines and state required training on those machines in enough time for the state's primary? That is a question being asked all over the state of Pennsylvania. Advanced Voting Solutions, Elections Systems and Software and Danaher have all either told their customers they cannot be ready by the state's May primary or they are not absolutely sure they will be ready. Carbon Co. has been told by AVS that they may not be able to deliver enough machines for the primary. ES&S has told Luzerne Co. that they cannot make delivery of machines for the primary. Bucks Co. has set their minds on Danaher but Danaher is not sure they will have enough machines available to support a May primary election. These are just a few of the counties that may be in a bind because the vendors spent their time selling machines and have not looked at whether they can manufacture the machines they are selling. And, remember that Sequoia told Ion Sancho in Leon Co. FL that they could not provide machines because they were over-extended.

#2 - After reports of failures of ES&S memory cards in Summit Co. Ohio, on March 9 and March 10 the report of failures comes from North Carolina. As reported in BRAD BLOG 1000 bad memory cards were found in the state and the reasons for failure of the cards has changed from just a low or dead battery issue to now being "read back errors" unrelated to the battery issue. And in a side issue the EAC has again decided that it is better to bury their heads in the sand rather than to do their job and force ES&S to warn all of their customers or recall all of their memory cards.

#1 - On Monday, the Secretary of State met with Ion in a meeting that was supposed to have been public but ended-up being "behind closed doors". The Associated Press and Tallahassee Democrat have both filed protests over this issue. Finally, the support for Ion Sancho has been overwhelming. Members of the County Commission received thousands of emails from supporters across the country. So many, in fact, that the commission ended-up giving Ion unanimous support.  


National Coalition for Election Integrity

Tell Congress We Need Verifiable Elections

Many of you have sent emails to your Representatives demanding immediate passage of The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550) as written. Many of you will be coming to Washington D.C. on April 6-7 to make that request in person. during the lobby days, a petition will be delivered to each member of the Committee on House Administration asking them to stop stalling this important legislation. You call add your name to the petition by clicking on the link above. Once you've signed up, give the Committee a call and let them know that you want the safegauards that HR 550 would provide: a voter verified paper record of every vote, mandatory random handcounted audits of a percentage of the ballots, public diusclosure of voting system software, and the prohibition of wireless communication devices in voting machines.

You can make a difference! Here are the numbers:

Committee on House Administration (Majority Office): (202) 225-8281

Committee on House Administration (Minority Office): (202) 225-2061

National Stories

Voting Systems Batch Test Results Reliability
by John Gideon and Howard Stanislevic - March 15, 2006

In the recently released paper, "DRE Reliability: Failure by Design?" by Howard Stanislevic, we learn that the 2002 (and 1990) voting systems standards require all voting systems to have a reliability, or Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), of 163 hours, or a 9.2% failure rate in a 15-hour election day. We also learn that this is a woefully inadequate standard especially when compared to everyday items like an incandescent light bulb, which has an MTBF of 1,000 hours, a standard PC, which has an MTBF of 30,000 hours, and even New York City's aged mechanical lever voting machines.

With this in mind we looked at the results from the recently completed "batch testing" of voting systems manufactured by Diebold, Hart Intercivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems, and put the information from those tests, provided by the California Secretary of State's office, into the MTBF formulae. Read the Entire Article

Diebold: Through the (Plastic) Looking Glass & Behind the Brown Door...
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - March 19, 2006

Diebold's Toilet Paper Democracy -- a Photographic Essay

How America's Votes Will be Counted (or not) in 2006 and Beyond...Unless Something is Done About it

This exclusive article was published on The Brad Blog. It is reposted with permission of the author. 

You've heard the reports of the new Diebold touch-screen voting machines which have recently been updated to include a so-called "voter-verified paper trail."

You may also have heard how the printers they've added to produce these "paper trails" on their previously-paperless touch-screen voting machines are reported to jam up in test after test -- like the one last summer in California [PDF] where some 33% of such machines failed due to screen freezes, software failures and paper jams.

You may have heard that Diebold actually includes a magnifying glass with each machine to help voters see these tiny, virtually unreadable "paper trails."

You may even have heard how the virtually uncountable thermal paper rolls, which scroll back into the machine after supposedly being "verified" by the voter, have turned up blank on some of the busiest machines at the end of Election Day -- as occurred in Lucas County, OH during the November 2005 Election in Toledo.

Now, for the first time, a hands-on examination of actual Diebold Accu-Vote TSx "election-ready" machines in Utah -- where the newly state-approved and purchased machines are just now being delivered across the state -- has been conducted by Security Innovations computer security expert Harri Hursti. The examination was done in Emory County, UT with the approval of the county's elected official in charge of elections, Clerk-Recorder Bruce Funk. Read the Entire Article

Trust Us: Take This Box and Stuff It
by Robert C. Koehler, Tribune Media Services - March 16, 2006

This article was published on Common Wonders on March 16, 2006.

Something fundamental about who we are as a nation is dribbling away, it seems, without alarm or even debate. We torture prisoners - it's out in the open, a done deal. We're fighting an unnecessary war that, well, yes, was launched on a lie, but too late now; we're in, we can't get out. And our neighbor's phone is being tapped.

But the worry that trumps all others is the state of this proud, imperfect democracy. We may be surrendering our power to change the national direction or demand that government be responsive to us. My fellow Americans, our voting machines don't work, at least not all the time. The mechanism of our democracy is in chaos, and almost everyone is going along with it.

Thanks to the allegedly well-intentioned, but disastrous, Help America Vote Act, the country is shifting, county by county, to electronic voting machines, which are not only glitch-prone on a spectacular scale (e.g., 100,000 phantom votes were recorded in Tarrant County, Texas, during the state's primary last week), but work, like God, in mysterious ways, which we're not supposed to question. The results they give us are all too often unverifiable.

And here's the clincher: The process isn't even public anymore.

"The question is, how can a state essentially outsource the most public act? They've outsourced voting to private companies and (the states) have no role to play."

Meet Ion Sancho, election supervisor of Leon County, Fla., outspoken public servant and small-d democrat. He oversees the voting process in his bailiwick and is part of the national infrastructure of democracy. Those of us not in the know assume that impartial professionals like Sancho are the norm, but if they were, there'd be no reason to call him a hero - and his job wouldn't be in jeopardy. Read the Entire Article at Common Wonders 

The EAC Another Failure To Follow Their Mandates
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - March 18, 2006

"The Election Assistance Commission is intended to serve as a national clearinghouse and resource for the compilation of information and procedures on election administration."

"Assessing security and reliability issues and determining their pervasiveness are items that EAC can explore and share in its role as a clearinghouse for information on problems with electronic voting systems." ELECTIONS: Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems Are Under Way but Key Activities Need to Be Completed, Government Accountability Office (GAO-05-956)

In October, 2004 VotersUnite sent a letter to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) volunteering to assist them in setting-up a "consumer union network" of voting administrative issues, including voting systems failures. Thus, counties could be notified immediately, via the network, of any problems, solutions, or ideas from anywhere else in the country. This sharing of information, we thought, was one of the reasons the EAC was formed. To date, VotersUnite has received no response to that letter, or to emails sent to people at the EAC who said they would help get an answer.

Last year the Government Accountability Office presented the report, cited above, to Congress. This report identified that the EAC was to be a clearinghouse of information and that the EAC had failed to fully take this job on. The report also identified VotersUnite as a non-governmental information clearinghouse.

This brings us to last week.

On March 09, 2006, the Akron Beacon Journal reported that officials in Summit County Ohio had found a 30% failure rate on memory cards while testing their Election Systems and Software (ES&S) M-100 Optical Scan voting machines. Upon reading the article this correspondent contacted the reporter, Lisa A. Abraham, and asked whether she had asked ES&S if they had contacted other states who might have the same machines. She responded that she had, in fact, asked that question but had never received an answer. Read the Entire Article

ES&S Vote Machine Memory Card Failures Spread to Other States
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - March 17, 2006

1000 Cards Fail Tests in North Carolina After Massive Failures Discovered in Ohio!

ALSO: Testing Reports Say Voting Machines One-Third as Reliable as Incandescent Light Bulb!

This article appeared on Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of Brad Blog.

As reported on March 9 and March 10 by The BRAD BLOG the folks in Summit Co. OH have discovered massive problems with memory cards on ES&S Electronic Voting Machines in recent tests. Some 30% of the cards completely failed.

ES&S, the largest voting machine provider in the country, attributed the problem to low or dead batteries on the PCMCIA memory cards. At the time, we inquired as to whether other states using ES&S equipment might be expierencing similar problems. The reporter covering the story for the Akron Beacon Journal told us she was able to get no response from ES&S -- but was then given an assurance that ES&S had contacted their customers to inform them about the concerns.

A week ago Tuesday, Texas experienced loads of problems (or "glitches" as Voting Machine Vendors and Election Officials enjoy minimizing them as) in their Primary Elections. Just a few of those reported in newspapers the day after are listed here.

Then yesterday the Akron Beacon Journal reported that, in fact, ES&S had contacted North Carolina. North Carolina, who lost some 4,500 votes completely via an electronic voting machine in Cartaret County during the 2004 Presidential Election, began checking their ES&S memory cards and have so far found more than 1,000 cards that to be bad! Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

California: Humboldt Registrar To Recommend Vote-PAD, Forego Diebold Purchase
by Dave Berman, GuvWorld - March 18, 2006

This article was posted on GuvWurld. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Late Friday afternoon, Humboldt County Recorder, County Clerk & Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich circulated a document intended to be presented to the County Supervisors next Tuesday. The document (.pdf), also posted to the County website in the Supervisors' meeting agenda, is titled "Progress Report of the Humboldt County Elections Advisory Committee March 21, 2006." It concludes with two recommendations:

That the Board of Supervisors approve the purchase of the VotePad system for use in each polling place by disabled voters; That the Board of Supervisors approve the transfer of $213,980 (base price $199,515 plus sales tax) from reserve for contingencies to department 140 for the purchase of the VotePad system. These funds may be reimbursed by HAVA funds as they are directly related to the accessibility issues addressed by HAVA.

Additionally, I would recommend that the department be directed to negotiate with Vote Here regarding the implementation of their "Mail-In Ballot Tracker"” system as a pilot project for the tracking of Absentee ballots from the verification that the correct ballot was mailed to the voter to it's [sic] receipt back in the Elections Department, verification of absentee voter's signature and the final status of the ballot (was it counted or rejected and if rejected, for what reason). The cost of funding this project is approximately $20,000 but may be less considering the status as a "pilot project"”. If it is the decision of the committee that this system should be implemented, I will return to you with more a more detailed proposal from the vendor. This product has yet to be discussed by the Elections Advisory Committee.
As I wrote following the recent Vote-PAD demo, it is a huge relief for Humboldt to abandon its interest (.pdf) in purchasing Diebold touch screen machines. Read the Entire Article

Florida: Ion Sancho Receives Unanimous 'Vote of Confidence' from Leon County Commissioners
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - March 15, 2006

Election Integrity Hero Makes Deal With New Voting Machine Company

This article was posted on The Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author. The overwhelming Support for Ion Sancho made a huge difference. Thank You!

He came in prepared for a grilling, but embattled Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho left the Leon County Commission chambers Tuesday with a unanimous vote of confidence.

The commissioners gave Sancho a green light to pursue a deal with a Louisville, Ky.-based company to provide voting equipment for disabled people. The company, IVS, was the last option on the table that would make Leon County compliant with federal elections law come the September primaries.
As BRAD BLOG readers know, Sancho is the hero who helped discover last December that Diebold optical-scan machines were hackable and could have their results flipped without a trace being left behind. Since that discovery, all three voting machine companies certified to do business in Florida, have refused to do so with Sancho. And Jeb Bush's cronies in the FL Sec. of State's office have been been attacking the 18-year elected Elections Supervisor Sancho ever since, even while acknowledging the grave security flaw he found in their systems. For them.

We particularly enjoyed this nugget from the Tallahasse Democrat coverage from which we've been quoting here:

Commissioner Cliff Thaell, a Democrat, wanted to have the commissioners recognize Sancho as a hero for liberty - an idea that had many members of the public clapping thunderously; Commissioner Tony Grippa, a Republican, drew hisses from the audience when he called Thaell's comments "grandstanding" and asked the audience how many of them were Republicans.

The reply from one woman in the crowd: "How about taxpaying citizens?"
By the way, the Democrat has been doing a tremendous job of covering this story of late! Each of their reports have also included multi-media audio and video in addition to their written reports, so it's worth clicking through to catch some of those. The report linked above also features a short video [WMV] interview with Sancho speaking after the meeting mentioned above.

As well, there is also a very enlightening one-hour audio interview with Sancho speaking to members of the Tallahassee Democrat editorial board concerning the problem he discovered with the Diebold machines in Leon County, attacks on him by both the State and the Voting Machine Companies, and other E-voting problems across the country. Read the Entire Article

Florida: Voting Groups Requests That Secretary of State Ensure Audit Integrity
by Voting Intgrity Alliance of Tampa Bay - March 17, 2006

Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay Requests That Secretary of State Ensure Credibility and Transparency of March 7 Pinellas County Election Audit

Concerned that the audit process requested by the Supervisor of Elections to examine the March 7, 2006, elections in of Pinellas County, will actually be credible and transparent, the Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay (VIA Tampa Bay), has sent a specific request to Secretary of State, Sue Cobb, setting forth the elements that must be contained in that audit.
"We are happy to see that the Secretary of State is conducting an audit, however we are very concerned that the audit process not be a sham," said Pamela Haengel, Executive Director. "We are looking to reaffirm voter confidence in their voting system, but this must be done by telling voters the truth and opening up the process to public scrutiny," she continued. Read the Entire Article

The Battle for Secure, Transparent, Auditable Elections in Georgia
by Donna Price, Georgians for Verified Voting - March 19, 2006

Time is Running Out in Georgia Legislative Session. Let your Georgia legislators know that you want verifiable elections now. Click Here to send an email to your Representative and Senator voicing your support for SB 591 and paper ballots in Georgia.

Senate Bill 500 was introduced this legislative session by Senator Bill Stephens (R- 27th), candidate for Secretary of State in 2006, working in collaboration with Democratic Secretary of State Cathy Cox (D), candidate for Governor in 2006.  When the bill was first introduced, it included a provision for a permanent paper record of votes to be implemented for Georgia’s paperless Diebold DRE voting system in 2007 and for a “pilot program/electronic voting" to be implemented for 2006. A substitute bill was passed by the Senate State and Local Governmental Operations (SLOGO) committee on March 6, 2006, but was stripped bare of the voter-verified paper requirement.

SB 500 as it now stands offers no meaningful legislation to correct the serious flaws in Georgia's voting system or to increase voter confidence in the reliability of the state's elections. The substitute bill calls for pilot testing of a voter-verified paper trail technology in one precinct of each of three counties -- Cobb, Bibb and Camden -- for the 2006 federal election, while the remainder of the state's votes are still to be cast on paperless electronic voting machines. If SB 500 passes as currently written, audited votes for the 2006 election will be somewhere between a low of 1,021 and a high of 5,772, approximately .0017% of the votes, if turnout approaches that of the November 2004 general election.

We have two viable alternatives:

1. In place of SB500, substitute The Vote Count Protection Act (VCPA), SB 591, a bi-partisan  bill sponsored by Vincent Fort, (D-39th), David Shafer (R-48th); Michael Meyer von Bremen (D-12th); Horacena Tate (D-38th), and Steve Henson (D-41st). SB 591 calls for meaningful, voter-verified paper ballots and hand recounts at the precincts on election night to audit the DRE vote count; or

2. Provide for voters to use paper ballots in the 2006 election, that can be hand-marked and tallied by hand counts or optiscan (with random hand-count audits) in accordance with Georgia law, Code Section 21-2-334: "...if a method of nomination or election for any candiate or office, or of voting on any question is prescribed by law, in which the use of voting machines is not possible or practicable ... the superintendent may arrange to have the voting for such candidates or offices or for such questions conducted by paper ballots."  Read the Entire Article

Iowa: Subcommittee Chair Stalls Verifiable Elections
by Carole Simmons, Iowans for Voting Integrity - March 19, 2006

Send an email to Iowa Representative Libby Jacobs  (pictured at right), chair of the State Government subcommittee where SF351 is stalled, and tell her that Iowa needs verifiable elections now.  Her email address is libby.jacobs@legis.state.ia.us (Note - this email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it .) Then follow up with a phone call to her office (515) 223-1225. Let her know that voters all over the country care about the integrity of Iowa's elections.

Iowa House majority leadership is stalling a bill that benefits all voters, and instead pushing a bill that will likely cause more problems than it solves.

With the recent purchase of paperless touchscreen voting machines in over 60 counties, many Iowans will be unable to verify that their votes are correctly recorded. Their “ballots”—in the form of proprietary computer code—are hidden from view.

Iowa needs passage of SF 351 to require voter-verified paper records. This will make meaningful audits and recounts possible, and increase voter confidence in the integrity of our elections. It is a truly nonpartisan measure, and both Democratic and Republican candidates for Secretary of State have spoken in support of it. It passed the Iowa State Senate unanimously.

But instead of taking action on SF 351, House leaders are pushing a bill to require government-issued voter ID cards at the polls. This despite any evidence of a problem in Iowa with people impersonating registered voters. Requiring IDs may lead to delays at the polls, as voters without IDs will have to use provisional ballots. Delays and provisional ballots are known to decrease voter participation and confidence in elections.

Voter-verified paper trails will increase voter confidence. The House leadership should act in the public interest and pass SF 351 now.

Louisiana: Rally Calling for Election Postponement To Be Held April 1 in New Orleans
Press Release - March 15, 2006

Evacuees Have the Right to Return and the Right to an Open, Free and Fair Election

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bill Cosby, Bishop Paul Morton, City Council President Oliver Thomas, former Louisiana AFL-CIO President Sibal Holt, State Senator Cleo Fields, and scores of political, religious, and labor leaders, entertainers, and thousands of citizens will march and rally in New Orleans on Saturday April 1st to demand postponement of the illegal April 22 election and the right to return and rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.

With registered voters displaced in 44 states, the upcoming Louisiana election cannot proceed – especially as the state refuses to establish satellite polling places around the nation, and provide access to voter rolls to candidates, state elected officials or voter-registration groups, says Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

Challenging the legitimacy of the election, Rev. Jackson will lead a coalition of organizations and leaders in a march into the “Katrina Zone” on April 1, 2006, demanding the right to return, the right to rebuild, and above all, the right to vote, “the right that protects all others.”

In early March, the U.S. District Court of Louisiana denied a lawsuit which sought to delay the April 22nd New Orleans municipal elections and allow special measures which would enable the displaced and dispersed residents of New Orleans to vote. Read the Entire Article

Maryland Is Being Misled - Verified Voting is Accurate, Accessible AND Affordable
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - March 18, 2006

According to a Washington Post article, Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is seeking $21.8 million to lease 6000 voting machines for the coming election as part of a $400 million supplemental budget he submitted to the General Assembly on Wednesday. Now based on false information from the state's Board of Elections the bill has risen to $39 million.
Maryland doesn't need 6000 voting machines. According to an article in the Gazette, ES&S agrees:

The State Board of Elections last week requested estimates for 2,000 optical scanners and 4,000 AutoMARK machines used by the disabled, a total of two AutoMARK machines per precinct worth about $19.8 million. ES&S told the board that only half the number of AutoMARK machines would be necessary.

A "reasonable approach" would be 1,900 AutoMARKs and 1,900 optical scanners, said ES&S spokesman Ken Fields, "4,000 would be not necessary."

Reasonable indeed. Based on the what ES&S has charged other states for optical scanners and Automarks, $21.8 Million is more than the cost of purchasing all the equipment Maryland needs. Simple math reveals that Maryland could buy the verifiable paper based optical scan system that the Governor wants for 2006 and years to come for same price requested for leasing and save millions more every year in maintenance costs. An ES&S sales representative confirmed that the price for leasing the machines for one year is the same as the cost of purchasing them!

With momentum building to require a voter verified paper record and her dogged defense of the security of Diebold's flawed touchscreens getting ever more difficult to sustain, state election director Linda Lamone is now arguing that the state's Diebold TS-R6 touchscreens could not be retrofitted with printers in time for this year's elections. The House of Delegates countered by unanimously passing an amendment that called on the state to lease optical scan machines for one year.
Senate President Mike Miller (pictured at right) and some members of the Senate Committee, where the bill was referred, are determined to stand in the way of verifiable elections - no matter what the cost. They voted to use the money intended for accurate, auditable, and accessible equipment and spend it on electronic poll books instead and they're using inflated prices to defeat the move to paper ballots.

Maryland is being fed bad information and Maryland taxpayers will have to foot the bill if these Senators have their way. In a phone conversation with Ehrlich’s office it was reported that Jim Dickson, of AAPD, had told the Governor that Maryland had to purchase four Automark ballot-marking devices per polling place. This is false. The Help America Vote Act HAVA requires that each polling place provide one voting machine that allows disabled voters to vote privately and independently - not four.  The State Board of Elections assertion that two Automarks are needed per precinct is the same tactic used earlier this year in Wake county North Carolina - false information used to scare elected officials away from verifiable elections.

With the paper ballot optical scan system that the Governor is advocating and the House of Delegates voted for unanimously there would only need to be one optical scanner per precinct. Maryland is  anticipating 1900 polling places for it's 2.8 million voters, or approximately 1,500 voters per polling place. That's registered voters - they don't all vote of course. The ES&S M100 precinct based optical scanner that the state is considering leasing can handle 3000 ballots, twice the average number of voters per precinct in Maryland - even if they had 100% turnout.

Based on the prices ES&S is charging for their equipment in North Carolina and other states, each M100 precinct based optical scanner costs $4,995 and each Automark costs $4,950. With additional costs for periferals that’s about $11,000 per precinct. It is prudent of course to purchase 10% more equipment than needed in case of breakdowns, so let’s figure the cost for 1,900 polling places. That would be $20.9 million to PURCHASE the equipment that Maryland is talking about LEASING for $21.8 million. Can you imagine being offered a deal to lease a car for the same price you could buy one? That's just what Maryland taxpayers are being asked to do! Read the Entire Article

Stop the Madness! Contact Maryland State Senator Mike Miller and Senator Paula Hollinger and tell them you want verifiable elections in Maryland!  Send emails to Senator Miller thomas.v.mike.miller@senate.state.md.us, Senator Hollinger paula.colodny.hollinger@senate.state.md.us and the members of the Senate Committee on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs and then call Senator Miller 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3700 and Senator Hollinger (410) 841-3131. Contact information for the entire committee is available here.

New Jersey: Sequoia Plans to Take Full "Advantage" of Their Monopoly in the State
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - March 17, 2006

A court case in New Jersey is challenging the constitutionality of electronic voting. For the moment, the state Appeals court has put the decision about whether direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines are so unreliable they violate the constitutional rights of voters on hold. That question will be taken up again in May.

First they want to determine whether the Sequoia Advantages that most of the state's counties have purchased can actually be retrofitted with printers to meet the state's requirement for a voter verified paper record of every vote in 2008. Hearings yesterday revealed a great deal about Sequoia's plans - and how their sales pitch, as we've seen in states across the country, is heavily based on promises.

It seems inconprehensible that so many counties would purchase the Advantage, which currently does not have a compatible VVPAT printer, when state law will require one in the next election cycle. This decision essentially locks them into a non-competitive situation in which their only option is to purchase as yet undeveloped equipment from one vendor - Sequoia - that can charge as much as they want for that equipment. And Sequoia apparently plans to take full "advantage" of the situation.

Robert Schwanneberg reported in the Star-Ledger

Howard Cramer, vice president for sales at Sequoia Voting Systems, testified its electronic voting machines can be retrofitted to produce a paper record of votes cast by 2008, the deadline set by a law enacted last summer. He said it would cost about $2,000 to upgrade each of the 8,000 Sequoia machines currently used, a total of $16 million.

But under cross-examination by Penny Venetis, a lawyer with the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic, Cramer admitted his company is still working out problems in a prototype of its paper ballot printer and could not guarantee when it will be commercially available.

$2,000 per printer that does not yet exist! In light of Sequoia's lucrative position I suppose its surprising that they aren't charging more. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: Allegheny County Is Getting A Raw Deal On Voting Machines
by Joyce McCloy, North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting - March 15, 2006

Joyce McCloy's letter to the editor was published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It is reposted here with permission of the author. 

Thanks for your March 11 article 'New' Voting Machines Aren't. It looks like Allegheny County is the victim of a very slick sales pitch.

I was shocked to read that officials in Allegheny County are actually going to buy 2,800 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines that have been used in Clark County, Nevada, for 10 years.

Those machines are old technology (only meet 1990 standards) and they are past their date to be scrapped. And, the county is paying $11.8 million to buy 2,800 of those used machines. That's $4,214 per machine.

That is about $1,000 more than the cost of brand-new voting machines that are certified in North Carolina, according to a publicly posted price list.

So, counties in North Carolina will be paying $1,000 less per machine than Allegheny County, and our counties will get machines that meet current federal standards, and have a voter verified paper ballot.

Allegheny County officials should stop this deal before it goes through, and make some phone calls.

Electionline Assists In Covering Up Election Meltdown In Texas
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - March 16, 2006

Electionline's newsletter, read by election officials across the country, led off this week with an article by Mindy Moretti with the upbeat title "Texas primary goes well, state officials say; glitches reported locally". The article reads like a PR piece from the voting machine vendors - it might as well be just that. The primaries in Texas last week were an unmitigated disaster as John Gideon's letter to Ms. Moretti points out. Thankfully we have John's Daily Voting News to let election officials and the voters they serve know what really happened last week in Texas. And just what is it that makes it okay if it was just a "glitch"?

Ms. Moretti,

Thank you for the work you put into writing this article. Unfortunately you probably should have spent a bit more time researching and then telling the whole story.

You mention a couple problem areas, using the typical "glitch" when there were some huge problems. You talk about Tarrant Co. but you don't tell the whole story; 100,000 extra votes added to the total. The county has admitted they really don't know what the results were and now, even after promising the candidates that the county would pay for the recount, the candidates will have to pay for any recounts. In Jefferson Co. ES&S failed so badly that they have volunteered to pay to do the recount.

You mention that voters liked the machines. You didn't speak about the fact that where voters had a choice between paper or electronic, they overwhelmingly chose to use paper ballots. When precincts completely run out of paper ballots and there are e-voting machines sitting there, that seems to point to voters making a choice.

The opinion of the election officials you chose to quote notwithstanding, it was actually pretty bad last week and the problems were not 'glitches'. In many cases they were big problems that are resulting in recounts and possibly worse. Of course, the state who forced the counties to use these new machines won't tell the truth and the counties won't tell the truth. We need to accurately report the facts to let everyone know the truth and not report fluff to cover up what has really happened.

Here are some of the news stories that appeared "locally" over the past week from Texas. Perhaps you need to read the articles and try again: Read the Entire Article

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