In Radio Interview, Demonstrates New Sequoia Touch-Screens, Secret Software, Asks Voters to 'Trust Him' on Accuracy and Reliability!
Brad Joins Him and Peter B. Collins for Remarkable Hour on KXRA 540-am...
By Brad Friedman on 10/24/2005, 9:22pm PT  

I just finished a radio appearance a couple of hours ago with our friend Peter B. Collins on KXRA 540AM up in Monterey, CA. Peter was joined, in studio, by Tony Anchundo, the Registrar of Voters in Monterey County, CA for a demonstration of a brand-spankin' new Sequoia DRE (touch-screen) voting machine that Achundo was very proud to announce would be in use for the first time in the special State Election coming up out here on November 8th.

Achundo walked Peter through the use of the machine, which prints out a "paper record" (as Achundo referred to it) that voters are to "verify" before leaving the voting booth. That "paper record" is printed on a small thermal-ink roll of paper, akin to what you get with a credit card purchase, and stays behind plexiglass, never to be touched by the voter.

The votes, however, are counted on a "memory cartridge" in the machine, not on the "paper record." This raises the question (which I attempted to ask many times, in many different ways) as to what good that "paper record" actually is in the first place...beyond giving the voter a completely false sense of security and confidence.

I was able to get Anchundo to confirm that the entire technology used to count votes in Monterey County, California will have to be "faith-based". We'll just have to "trust" him, and his 30 years of experience as Registrar, that everything is fine and that votes will be counted accurately.

Peter has asked me to to join him by phone for the hour to help ask questions of Anchundo. I was happy and honored to do so. The results of the hour, I believe, are astounding.

The audio of the full hour is here in MP3 format. I think BRAD BLOG readers will find it as enlightening --- and troubling --- as I did.

[UPDATE] Here is a full transcript of the hour! It should be very useful to have a "paper record" of the conversation for the future. Perhaps for November 9th.

As the front page of Monterey County's website says, "The most serious threat to our democracy is the notion that it has already been achieved. The quality of our leaders and the direction of our Country depends on the participation of our people." I've therefore include Contact info for the Registrar's office at the end of this post, so you folks can participate as you see fit.

Amongst the many highlights (based on my short-term memory) of the hour just spent with Peter trying to get direct answers from Anchundo on a variety of related issues (and you'll likely come across many more yourself)...

  • Anchundo feels that this technology is as safe and secure as necessary, given that it's been approved, certified and gone through much testing from both state and federal authorities.
  • He's happy to make the results of the county's own elaborate testing available to the public (any readers in Monterey may wish to hold him to that!)
  • As Anchundo has worked with Sequoia for 30 years, he's come to know that their machines are the best and so, apparently, no other bids were taken for the contract in Monterey County.
  • The machines cost $4,000 a piece
  • He's willing to see how things go, before worrying about the many problems that have been reported with these machines in other precincts.
  • He's aware of, but not concerned about the lawsuit filed against Sequoia and Snohomish County, WA for problems with Sequoia Voting Machines in last year's Presidential Election.
  • When asked about the non-partisan GAO report released last Friday, confirming that electronic voting machines have myriad security issues and certification standards are fall below acceptable, Anchundo said he's "aware of all those reports."
  • Since Monterey plans to use the machine count, apparently, instead of the "paper record" to determine their totals, I asked how voters can know that the electronic record would be the same as the "paper record" that the voter verified. Anchundo's response is that voters would just have to "trust" that the machine recorded it accurately.
  • In the event that there is a discrepancy between the machine count and the paper count, there is no standard or regulation or rule or law in place, apparently, to determine which total will be used. We'll simply have to "trust" Achundo to make the right decision in that case...After the problem occurs. He repeated that point several times as I attempted to press him on it.
  • At the very end, when I asked about the procedure for auditing the paper against the machine count (he had earlier said that there was such a procedure to ensure the validity of the vote count) he said two remarkable things: 1) There is a "third way" to measure the accuracy of the vote, and that is by checking what he referred to as a "CPU Report". In other words, that would be a report of what the machine count has already told us, apparently. 2) He said --- and now it's on record --- that Monterey will be counting 100% of the "paper records" by hand during their final vote canvas. While that's good news on its face, remember there is apparently no procedure in place --- aside from trusting Achundo to make a good decision --- in the event of a discrepancy between the paper and electronic vote tallies! I'll also remind you, that had just 6 votes in each precinct in Ohio gone for Kerry, instead of Bush last November, Kerry would have been the official winner in that state.
  • There is, I believe, much more there that you folks will likely want to listen for. I recommend listening to the full hour if you can. Let me know if you are as astounded as I am.

    Monterey County
    Tony Anchundo, Registrar of Voters
    1370 B South Main Street
    PO Box 1848
    Salinas, CA 93901
    Phone: 831-796-1499 (Toll-Free: 866-887-9274)

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