Election Officials Finally Acknowledge Voting Machines Problems, But Seem Unwilling to do Much About It...
NYTimes Incorrectly Lays The Blame For A Lack of New Voting System Improvements On Federal Certification Process
By John Gideon on 8/17/2008, 11:07am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon, VotersUnite.Org

The New York Times has again given a platform to the voting machine vendors to voice their displeasure with a system that is forcing them to actually provide voting systems that are fully tested and certified. The vendors, and some election officials, seem to want to continue the old system of poorly tested and rubber-stamped voting systems counting our votes.

In his article, Ian Urbina, quotes Jennifer Brunner, who says:

“We need the federal oversight to create consistent standards and to hold the manufacturers to a certain level of quality, but we also have to be able to get the equipment when we need it. Right now, that equipment is not coming, and we’re left making contingency plans.”

If Brunner expects high quality and consistent standards, all she needs to do is look to the vendors and question them on why they put out a product that fails in testing. Her state's recent countersuit of Premier/Diebold was a start, but why did she wait until she was sued by the vendor before taking that step? As we asked recently, why did she ignore the pleadings of Election Integrity Attorneys and computer scientists who counseled her to file a suit against Premier/Diebold for breach of contract for so long?

Brunner also needs to question the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) qualification system (most often referred to as "federal certification" by most officials and vendors) and those involved in the process as to why they allowed non-compliant voting systems to be given their stamp of approval on behalf of the federal government in the first place. If the so-called federal Independent Test Authorities and NASED had done their jobs prior to 2007, the machines used in Ohio and the rest of the nation would not now be constantly failing, and the voters would have far more confidence in the electoral system.

Doug Chapin of the Pew Center project electionline.org must have just come from last week's Election Center conference, where election officials and vendor representatives gather and talk about issues of importance to the lucrative American Voting Industry. He is quoted in the Times with this remarkable comment...

"The problem is that the pace of innovation is outstripping the pace of regulation. Federal certification is intended to help election officials manage voting technology, but right now it’s getting in the way instead.”

The problem is not that "the pace of innovation is outstripping the pace of regulation," but rather that the pace of "innovation" by the vendors has outstripped their technical ability.

If Diebold/Premier had not presented a voting system that had 79 flaws found during testing and 2 of those being fatal flaws, they might have one of their newer systems certified right now. All of the vendors seem to be having the same issues. Product certification testing is not supposed to be a system of doing alpha and beta testing for the vendors, yet that is what is clearly happening.

Alpha and beta tests are to be done by the vendors before the federal laboratory product testing, the final step towards federal certification, takes place. NASED allowed the flawed system in the past, and rubber stamped voting systems approved under flawed testing protocols.

The fact is, as Urbina reports, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has "said the current system left states on their own to discover voting machine problems. The report calls for Congress to revise the Help America Vote Act and provide the commission with the authority and resources it needs to resolve problems with machines that were certified before the commission took over the process."

Urbina reports that Chris Nelson, Secretary of State in South Dakota, told him:

In 2006 the ballot-marking devices used by disabled voters incorrectly marked 50 to 100 ballots, Mr. Nelson said. The machine maker says it has fixed the problem but the state cannot install the fix without certification, said Mr. Nelson, who added that he had also not decided how to proceed.

Why hasn’t the state of South Dakota taken the supplier of the state’s AutoMark ballot marking devices, Election Systems and Software (ES&S), to court for selling them flawed voting machines? Nelson admits that the state has been using those same flawed voting machines in every election to date since they found out they didn’t work properly. Apparently, he must not be concerned as to wether that the state's disabilities community gets to have their ballots accurately counted. And what about every other state that uses those same machines; do they have the same problem? And what have they done about it except to ignore the fact that the problem even exists?

Then Urbina reports this:

In Chicago, election officials say they are frustrated that they cannot upgrade the software that runs their optical scan machines so that it will perform more smoothly for disabled voters. The software change will also more accurately count ballots cast in voting precincts that sit on the fault line between two Congressional or judicial districts.

Besides the obvious fact that no software on optical scan machines will affect the performance of those machines for disabled voters, as compared to non-disabled voters, there is, again, the acknowledgment of a jurisdiction admitting to using a voting system that they know does not accurately count the votes.

Officials in South Dakota and Chicago must be held accountable for knowingly using voting machines that do not accurately count the votes. The vendors must be held responsible for selling systems that do not accurately count the votes.

Yes, many states bought voting systems that need "bug fixes" and software updates. The question must be, why do they needs those fixes and updates? Why wasn't their system working properly when they sold it? Why did the previous qualification system allow faulty voting systems to be put into the "voting market" in the first place? Perhaps someone needs to follow the money trail.

The real solution must be for congress to act on the GAO report and for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to begin to take action with regard to failing voting systems. In the mean time, counties and states need to plan on ensuring paper ballots are available in every polling place, in every election, in place of the flawed voting systems now in use across America.

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