PA Danaher Re-Exam: Blame the Pollworkers!

By Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA

danaher1242small.jpgNovember 2, 2005 -- Eclipsed by late-night theatrics in the Pennsylvania Assembly over a controversial pay raise legislators voted themselves last summer, the citizen-petition re-examination of the Danaher 1242 voting system received little attention in the Pennsylvania press.

The 1242 Machines, first certified for use in Pennsylvania in 1984, failed to count votes in a number of precincts precincts during the May 17 Primary Election in Berks County. A re-examination of the Danaher system was called for by the petition of Berks County voters and filed by Sheila Green of Beaver County.

During the re-examination, held in Harrisburg on November 2, Danaher Vice President Matthew Lilly blamed Berks County pollworkers for causing the problem. He said that the pollworkers did not follow training and pushed a red button more than one time to start the machine when the polls opened.

Placing blame on pollworkers was a tactic applied before in re-examinations of Pennsylvania voting systems. Jack Gerbel, president of the UniLect company, also blamed pollworkers for the failures of his Patriot DRE machines during re-examinations of that system last Spring. The Patriot was ultimately twice decertified for use in Pennsylvania by the Department of State. A "new and improved" model of the Patriot failed PA certification on October 21.

Citizen observers present at Wednesday's Danaher exam expressed concern that the something as simple as pushing a button one extra time should not cause the loss of an entire election's results. They were concerned that the Danaher 1242 was not designed with more fail-safe measures built into it.

"Whatever system we have it has to be robust against people making mistakes because people make mistakes," said Dr. Stephanie Frank Singer, who observed the examination.

During the re-examination Lilly stated he was "pretty confident" that procedures will be followed and votes will be recorded and counted properly in subsequent elections.

"He said, well, we're going to be careful, and we're going to follow procedures, but they followed procedures before, " commented Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, who also observed the re-exam.

The re-examination of Danaher was called by a petition signed by over 100 Berks County voters, as well as voters from other areas of Pennsylvania. The petition and re-exam fee was delivered to the Pennsylvania Department of State in mid-June, but the event was re-scheduled several times before finally being held less than a week before the November General Election.

Press coverage was confined to a TV News segment on WFMZ-TV Channel 69 in Allentown / Reading, and a 500-word article in The Reading Eagle by Kori Walter, headlined "Vote Machines Will Work Well, Supplier Says" with a subhead, "Votes will not be lost Tuesday as 111 were in the May primary if poll workers follow a checklist, state election officials are told."

The article went on to report Mr. Lilly's confidence in the Danaher machines and said that Pennsylvania Department of State Officials "seemed satisfied that the Danaher machines could be used without problems Tuesday." Brian McDonald, a State Department spokesman, was quoted as saying, "The appropriate steps have been put into place to make sure these errors will not happen again."

Mr. Walter wrote a total of only five sentences about the citizens' petition that was filed to call for the re-examination, voter concerns about Danaher machine accuracy, and the need for a Voter Verified Paper Ballot.



Author's notes: 
Here is a link to the WFMZ-TV coverage:

Links to the Reading Eagle article from November 3 have expired unless you have a paid subscription to their archives. You can reach Mr. Walter at 610-371-5022 or I spoke with him at the re-exam (as did most of the citizens present) and he seemed quite interested in writing about citizen concerns as to how the electronic machines are not reliable and how we need Voter Verified Paper Records and routine random manual audits. I was rather dismayed that his written piece turned into something of a whitewash, repeating Danaher's excuse that pollworkers caused the problem and not their machine.