By John Gideon, Executive Director VotersUnite.Org
There is, for good reason, much concern and a lack of confidence in the process for federal qualification/certification of voting systems. Independent Test Authorities (ITA), who test the systems against federal standards, are not really 'independent' because they are paid to do testing by the vendors who also provide the test parameters. They look where they are told to look and go no further than that.
The next step in the process is review of the ITA test and the voting system by a panel of 'experts' called the Voting Systems Board Technical Committee. This committee is under the auspices of the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED). One might think that this part of the process would be free and clear of any reason for concern. One would be wrong...
According to a presentation made by Sandy Steinbach, the chairperson of the NASED Voting Systems Board Technical Committee, the three members of her panel are all computer engineers and elections experts. This presentation was made during a conference of federal, state, and local election officials hosted by the California Secretary of State, November 28 and 29, 2005. Slide 10 in Steinbach's Power Point Presentation says:
Voting Systems Board
Oversees the Qualification process
Works with the ITAs to assure compliance with the test standards
Technical committee of 3 people who are both computer engineers and election experts reviews all ITA reports
Those members are Paul Craft, Steve Freeman and Dr. Britain Williams, none of whom are computer engineers. Arguably, none are elections experts either. And, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) knows this and has said nothing about it. In fact EAC Commissioners Donetta Davidson and Paul DeGregorio and EAC Secretariat Brian Hancock sat on the same panel as Steinbach as she gave this presentation.
The Technical Committee of the National Association of State Elections Directors makes all final decisions as to whether a voting system is to be federally certified or not. The committee is responsible to the EAC to review all paperwork from the Independent Test Authorities who actually do the testing, and that review is followed by a recommendation that a voting system be qualified or not. However, it appears that recommendations may originate from others who are not members of the committee and who are even less qualified than the committee members. And the EAC has turned a blind eye to this practice.
Steve Freeman and Paul Craft have joined together in a partnership with another person with questionable qualifications, Kate McGregor, in Freeman Craft and McGregor Group, Inc., an elections consulting company with contracts in California, Illinois, and Maryland. The work history of Craft and McGregor is revealed in an article by Susan Pynchon of Florida Fair Elections Coalition.
Recently, a copy of an email from McGregor to Freeman, Craft, Williams, Steinbach, and the EAC Voting Systems Secretariat Brian Hancock was found during a search of emails provided by the California Secretary of State's office, pursuant to an 'Open Records Request'. This email is copied below:
Sent: Friday, March 10, 2006 1:29 PM
To: 'Brian Hancock'; 'Britain J. Williams'; 'Paul Craft'; 'Sandy Steinbach'; 'Steve Freeman'
Subject: InkaVote Review
I have reviewed the changes to the InkaVote report. All of my concerns have been answered to my satisfaction. Unless anyone else has any open issues, we can go ahead and assign a number to InkaVote.
So, the InkaVote Plus voting system, N-1-17-22-22-002, was given its federal qualification by the National Association of State Elections Directors based on the recommendation of someone who is not a computer engineer, not an elections expert, and not on the board that does that work. In fact much of her career and experience has been gained working in restaurants and bars. The committee chairperson, Sandy Steinbach knew this was happening and allowed it even though she must know that McGregor is neither a computer engineer nor an elections expert. And, the EAC was fully aware that this action was being taken.
Interestingly, McGregor, in her role with Freeman Craft and McGregor Group, Inc., prepared the Supplemental Consultant's Report for the same system for the California Secretary of State's Office. In her report she describes Freeman Craft and McGregor Group:
"Our expertise is in methodologies for examining computerized voting systems, analysis of systems operation, developing measurements of system compliance with established criteria, identification and analysis of system anomalies and collecting evidence of system characteristics and compliance."
Given her lack of qualifications and limited career experience in the field of elections, along with the questionable qualifications of her partners, this claim appears to be an astonishing exaggeration at best.
Why should we have confidence in voting systems that are being accepted by the federal government for use in our elections when the people involved in the acceptance process have no substantive qualifications to do this work? Why should we feel confident in the process when the federal authority for the complete system, the EAC, abandons its statutory responsibility of oversight so easily? Why should we have confidence in our voting systems when information and recommendations from real computer engineers and scientists and real elections experts are being ignored?