2006: The Help America Vote Act Brings New Voting Systems to Pennsylvania









    Please check back as we complete the review of this busy year, and add to our collection on this and other pages! 




Present_Court_House.pngJanuary 6, 2006 -- Ten Westmoreland County Voters, along with State Senator Jim Ferlo, filed suit in Westmoreland County Court today based on the failure of Westmoreland County to hold a referendum allowing voters to decide whether or not to accept new electronic voting machines. The Pennsylvania Constitution and and the PA Election Code provide that electors have the right to make this decision at the ballot box prior to moving to electronic voting.

In addition to Senator Ferlo, who represents part of Westmoreland County, plaintiffs include other elected officials and regular voters of four political parties. The citizens are being represented by attorney Charles Pascal, Jr. of Leechburg PA.

Majority Inspector of Elections Marybeth Kuznik, a plaintiff, said that it is important the voters receive the protections guaranteed them by the Pennsylvania Constitution. "The citizens should have the right to choose how we vote in our state. We need the most open, auditable, and acccurate voting sytems, or our democracy is done for."

The Westmoreland County Commisioners voted unanimously at their December 29 meeting to buy paperless iVotronic touchscreen machines from The ES&S company of Nebraska using funds that include money provided by the Help America Vote Act. County solicitors stated that they believe that the four year-old federal Help America Vote Act has the power to override the Pennsylvania State Constitution, and were told to ignore the referendum requirement by the Pennsylvania Department of State. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning January 11 at 9 AM.



January 11, 2006 -- Judge William J. Ober signed an order to transfer the lawsuit filed by ten Westmoreland County voters and State Senator Jim Ferlo to Commonwealth Court with the Pennsylvania Department of State and Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes added as an indispensable party. The suit requests that Westmoreland County follow provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution and Election Code that provide citizens the right to choose whether or not to move to a new electronic voting system by holding a referendum at a regular primary or election.

Preliminary Hearing on Westmoreland County Lawsuit -- January 19, 1 PM
Court Room #1, Fifth Floor, Irvis Office Building, Harrisburg




January 13, 2006 -- Dr. Itzi Metzli of the Butler County D-PAC and 10-County Citizens' Coalition for Voter Verified Paper Records addressed the Butler County Commissioners meeting today to warn that if Butler County Selects ES&S for its Electronic Voting System, then County Taxpayers can Expect to pay Almost $1.4 million More than What HAVA is giving the county.

Dr. Metzli was cut off before his remarks were concluded, however you can read the full text of his speech HERE.



CENTRE COUNTY: Concerns aired over paperless voting

County urged to not rush into electronic system
By Lara Brenckle, Centre Daily Times (excerpt)

BELLEFONTE, January 18 -- A group of people that included elected officials, a poll worker and a member of the League of Women Voters called on county commissioners Tuesday to resist pressure to rush to buy electronic voting machines.

They asked the county not to buy an electronic voting system unless it would provide a paper trail that would allow votes to be audited.

The problem is that Pennsylvania rules won't allow counties to use electronic machines that leave a paper trail. And the county has only a little time left to choose a new voting system if it is to comply with a federal law that aims to eliminate punch card ballots by the May 16 primary.

Commissioners Chairman Chris Exarchos said the county is investigating the possibility of leasing optical scan equipment, an older technology but the only one certified by the state that permits a paper trail, as a stopgap measure.

320px-Centre_County_Courthouse_Apr_09.jpgFormer county administrator Jon Eich, State College Borough Councilwoman Elizabeth Goreham, poll worker Mary Vollero and League of Women Voters Co-president Lydia Vandenbergh all urged commissioners Tuesday to fully involve the public in the process of selecting a new system, and to not give in to the federal and state rush to get new systems in place.

Goreham said the uncertainty created by lack of a paper trail "is a nightmare. It really begins to unravel our confidence in the system."


Making Diebold "Okay" For Pennsylvania (And The Rest Of The Country Too?)

By John Washburn and Roxanne Jekot, VoteTrustUSA Voting Technology Task Force   

January 22, 2006

Last week the Department of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released a report confirming the certification of the Diebold TSx touch screen voting machine and reversing an earlier decision to deny certification for the Diebold OS central count optical scanner. The state continued to deny state certification of the Diebold precinct count optical scanner. The report reveals how the Department of State of Pennsylvania and their expert consultant worked together with Diebold to fabricate a justification for state certification of machines that contain prohibited code and have the same potential of being hacked undetectably that was demonstrated in a well publicized test in Florida last month.

[More at VoteTrustUSA]



But Diebold Dangles Deep Discounts to Grab HAVA Contracts in Keystone State
By Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA

paperballot2.jpg January 30, 2006 -- By overwhelming majority, Pennsylvania voters want the security and accuracy of a voter-verified paper record or ballot, according to the most recent / Zogby People's Poll. Zogby International conducted interviews of 850 likely Pennsylvania voters online on January 26th and 27th. The poll consisted of over 70 questions, including questions on privatization of electronic election technology, voter registration, and more.

One of the most stunning results showed that only 11.6% of respondents viewed electronic voting as trustworthy. Approximately 85% want some form of voter-verified paper record to protect and preserve their vote, with 73% supporting Electronic voting with paper records and 12% supporting paper ballots or lever machines only. [MORE]


New voting machines a crazy idea

By Sally Kalson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Say the toilet in your home has worked fine for 40 years with a few tweaks here and there. But now the U.S. Congress, mindful of serious plumbing problems in other parts of the country, passes the Help America Flush Act, requiring everyone to install modern toilets.

The feds set a deadline of May 2006. Meet it and they'll help foot the bill. Don't meet it and they just might fine you.

Shockingly enough, problems ensue. The state says you must choose toilets from its approved list, but that list only has a few models, none of which you'd want in your house. Meanwhile, a lot of the modernized toilets turn out to be backing up and springing leaks all over the place.

What do you do? Face penalties by holding out for a model that actually works the way it should? Or follow orders and pick from the approved choices, even though they may flood you out of house and home?

This is the dilemma Allegheny County faces on the issue of new voting machines, which are at least as critical to our democratic system as indoor plumbing. And while I hate to compare voting apparatus with toilets, I do so because the wrong equipment risks flushing our ballots straight into the sewer. [MORE]


Activists Fight Hard to Save Voting Rights at Lobby Day in Capitol
By Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA

AcornbyPACapitol.jpgFebruary 2, 2006 ­ Dozens of activists from Pittsburgh, Allentown, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Franklin County converged on the Pennsylvania Capitol yesterday to urge State Representatives to defeat HB 1318. Many groups and organizations were represented on the buses arriving from both sides of the state. Citizen-lobbyists visited offices of state representatives, senators, Governor Ed Rendell, and Lt. Governor Katherine Baker Knoll to call for the defeat or veto of this restrictive bill that, if passed, may prevent many honest people from voting. The citizens also observed debate on the bill in the state House of Representatives, and held a rally with numerous representatives and senators participating.

Unfortunately, despite the good work of all the citizens and activist groups, HB 1318 was passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives yesterday 106-95, and returns to the Pennsylvania Senate for a new round of consideration. [MORE]


Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) Co-Sponsors HR 550murphy.jpg

By Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA   
February 02, 2006

Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) has signed on as a co-sponsor of The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550). Rep. Murphy represents parts of Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, as well as parts of Westmoreland and Washington Counties.

Voting systems and their auditability are currently hot issues in Rep. Murphy's district and throughout Pennsylvania. Both the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County passed resolutions last year in support of voter verified paper records on voting machines with routine random manual audits of all elections, and of bills pending in the state legislature to require them. Earlier this month, Ten Westmoreland County Voters, along with State Senator Jim Ferlo, filed suit based on the failure of that county to hold a referendum allowing voters to decide whether or not to accept new electronic voting machines. A recent statewide poll showed that 85% of Pennsylvanians want the security and accuracy of a voter-verified paper record or ballot.

The Allegheny County Board of Elections has voiced frustration over the lack of state certified voting machines that provide a voter verified paper record. Meanwhile concern has been raised about the security of Diebold machines that the state has certified and the alarmingly low prices that Diebold is offering to many counties in the state for equipment that other states are relunctant to purchase.

Rep. Murphy is the 161st co-sponsor of HR 550.



Westmoreland County Lawsuit Has Hearing in PA Commonwealth Court
Will citizens get their say on electronic voting machine referendum?

February 7, 2006 -- Attorneys representing a group of Westmoreland County voters, the Westmoreland county commissioners and election board, and the Pennsylvania Department of State began duking it out in Commonwealth Court on Tuesday in a lawsuit. At stake is a Pennsylvania constitutional issue, and whether or not citizens should have the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the move to electronic voting under the Help America Vote Act.

The object of the lawsuit filed by the voters is a provision in the Pennsylvania State Constitution that requires a referendum be placed on the ballot prior to a county moving to voting by machine. The Pennsylvania Department of State and other entities have taken the position that the referendum is not needed because HAVA, as a federal law requiring that older lever machines and other systems be replaced, overrides state law.

"Not so fast," the voter/plaintiffs who filed the suit are saying. The Help America Vote Act, as a federal law, may trump a normal state law in regard to federal elections, but getting into whether or not it can trump a state constitution is another matter. Charles Pascal, Jr. of Leechburg PA is representing the multi-partisan citizens group which in addition to regular voters includes several precinct election officials, a school board member, and state senator Jim Ferlo who represents part of Westmoreland County. Similar lawsuits have been filed in at least three other Pennsylvania counties. [MORE]


chuck.jpgPennsylvania Citizens' Right To Choose Voting Machines Upheld In Court!

February 14, 2006 -- Voters in Westmoreland County will get the chance to exercise their constitutional right to choose how they will vote in future elections, according to a decision announced late yesterday in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Judge Dan Pellegrini issued the ruling in response to a suit brought by a multi-partisan group of citizens, elected officials, and state senator Jim Ferlo, who represents part of Westmoreland County.

Filed last month against Westmoreland County, and subsequently the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the action was in response to a late December decision by county officials to replace lever voting machines with electronic touchscreens without holding the voter referendum required by the Pennsylvania Constitution. Many organizations and individual citizens have expressed concerns about the electronic machines, which have a history of problems and would not produce any paper record to allow voters to verify that their choices are being counted correctly.

At issue in the lawsuit was whether or not the federal Help America Vote Act, which was passed in 2002 and is providing partial funding for the new machines, could override the Pennsylvania Constitution and mandate the purchase of electronic voting systems without giving voters the opportunity to decide to accept or reject the machines.

"The Pennsylvania Constitution's Declaration of Rights guarantees that the people will be the ultimate decisionmakers on changing voting systems," said attorney Charles Pascal Jr., who represented the citizens' group. "This case upholds that guarantee, and affirms that the Secretary of the Commonwealth cannot unilaterally determine that the state Constitution should be ignored and given no effect because of the requirements of HAVA."

Members of citizen-alliance group VotePA, applauded the decision as a victory for voters everywhere. [MORE]




February 28, 2006 -- Westmoreland County citizens responded strongly today to Secretary of State Pedro Cortés' recent memorandum that stated their court case has impeded the progress Pennsylvania counties are making toward buying new voting machines to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act by the May 16 primary election. 

Ten Westmoreland voters filed a lawsuit last month along with state senator Jim Ferlo who represents part of the county, seeking to preserve the right to choose a voting system under the Pennsylvania Constitution and approve any change from lever machines to electronic voting by referendum. Earlier this month Commonwealth Court judge Dan Pellegrini ruled in favor of the citizens, but Westmoreland County and the Pennsylvania Department of State have appealed that decision to the State Supreme Court. In the meantime, Secretary Cortés' memorandum was sent to all county officials and appeared on Governor Ed Rendell's web site over the weekend. [MORE]


Dark Day For Democracy      
By VotePA   
VoteTrust USA -- March 05, 2006
Citizens' Lawsuit to Protect the Pennsylvania Constitution - And Our Right To Decide How We Vote - Tossed Aseide By State Supreme Court 

With less than 24 hours deliberation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday against Westmoreland County citizens who were suing to preserve their state constitutional right to choose their voting system by referendum. The state Supreme Court decision vacated Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini's order for injunctive relief and reversed the portions of his order granting relief on the portions of the order granting relief on the action for Declaratory Judgement and the Complaint in Equity. The order, which consisted of three short sentences, basically paved the way for Pennsylvania counties to move forward and buy the paperless, unverifiable voting machines that threaten the core of our Democracy.

Shockingly, Governor Ed Rendell (who to his credit has gone on record saying that Pennsylvania will have a paper ballot, and has taken other actions to protect our vote) issued a press release COMMENDING the court for this action that apparently tossed aside our State Constitution. And this same week, his Secretary of State, Pedro Cortés drew national attention when he made a public statement dismissing the need for the protection of Voter-Verified Paper Records on Pennsylvania voting systems.

Shame on you, Governor Rendell and Secretary Cortés! Please take the next step to protect our vote NOW -- call for public hearings on Voter-Verified Paper Records (as recommended nearly a year ago by your Governor's Task Force on Election Reform) and support the passage of SB 977 / HB 2000 to protect our vote with voter-verified paper records on all voting systems and routine audits of all elections.

Between the PA Supreme Court, the Governor, the Secretary, and the federal government, who is bowing to what kind of politcal pressure here?

The Supreme Court's order said, "Opinion to Follow." Given the speed that the court deliberated and reversed the decision that favored the Westmoreland County citizens, we hope that likewise this document will be posted soon. The citizens deserve to see that opinion and to know why their rights under our State Constitution appear to have been tossed away.


Pennsylvania: What Can They Possibly Be Thinking In Allegheny County?

By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
March 12, 2006
In a move that has left election activists across the country scratching their heads in disbelief, Allegheny County Pennsylvania’s second largest, approved an $11.8 million purchase of 2,800 Sequoia Advantages. That's $4,214 per machine for 10 year old USED computers!

As reported in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:
As part of the deal, Allegheny County is getting approximately 2,000 pre-owned, deeply discounted, electronic push-button machines from Clark County, Nev., where some units have been in use for almost 10 years.
The Nevada county, in turn, is getting about 4,000 almost-new touch-screen machines from Chicago and Cook County, Ill., which will then receive a brand new version of the touch-screen unit.
What are these people thinking?

These machines are not certified to 2002 standards as required by Pennsylvania election code. These machines are not even scheduled to begin the state certification process until March 28. These machines do not meet the disability access requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). These are the same machines that had a 5.28% presidential undervote rate in New Mexico in 2004. 

These machines are 10 year old computers. Who buys a 10 year old computer?  In operating systems terms that would be Windows 3.1 - not even Win 98!

No wonder Clark County wants to get rid of them. [MORE]

'New' voting machines aren't

County gets used units from Nevada
Saturday, March 11, 2006

It's a three-way trade involving Chicago, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh -- and almost $70 million.

But the commodity at the center of this web isn't a group of star athletes. It's voting machines, all manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. of Oakland, Calif.

As part of the deal, Allegheny County is getting approximately 2,000 pre-owned, deeply discounted, electronic push-button machines from Clark County, Nev., where some units have been in use for almost 10 years.

The Nevada county, in turn, is getting about 4,000 almost-new touch-screen machines from Chicago and Cook County, Ill., which will then receive a brand new version of the touch-screen unit. [MORE]

Letters to the editor, 03/15/06
Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You are getting a raw deal on voting machines

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, Nev., 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.

Coordinator for NC Coalition for Verified Voting
Winston Salem, N.C.

Read more:

Governor Rendell Signs Veto Message

Protecting Fundamental Right to Vote of PA Citizens,
Says Bill Places Unnecessary Burden on Voters
HARRISBURG, March 15, 2006: ­ Governor Edward G. Rendell today formally vetoed House Bill 1318, calling the bill an unnecessary burden that will result in some Pennsylvania residents losing their right to vote.
In taking action to veto the bill, Governor Rendell said, "I am vetoing this bill because I believe it violates the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  It also places an unnecessary new burden on electors that will result in some losing their right to vote, and I will do all I can to make sure that actions like this cannot happen on my watch."
"With voter participation in our country dropping to alarming levels, the government should not be taking action that will turn away bona fide voters from our polls," the Governor said. [MORE]



sequoiaAdvantage.jpgMarch 29, 2006 -- With the second and third largest counties in Pennsylvania having chosen the Sequoia AVC Advantage push-button DRE to comply with the Help America Vote Act, the system failed during its state certification exam held in Harrisburg on March 28 & 29. The WinEDS software, which tabulates the votes from the AVC Advantage and other Sequoia products, crashed numerous times, failed to initialize cartridges for the AVC Advantage, and most importantly. allowed vote totals to be changed via simply changing the database file.

State examiner Dr. Michael Shamos halted the exam about 1:30 PM on the 29th saying that it would not be useful to continue with the exam of WinEDS because it is not stable.  He said that "for my confidence, that of the voters, and that of the press" the vendor needs to go away for some period of time and correct problems. A date for the re-exam is not officially scheduled at this time.

During the two-day examination, the Sequoia system displayed some bizarre behavior, which Dr. Shamos duly noted. When clicking on a "PRINT" button at one point caused the WinEDS software to crash repeatedly he quipped with the vendor, "Why don't you just change the label on this from "Print" to "Press Here to Crash"?    [MORE]



MARCH 27, 2006 -- 
With the all-important May 16, 2006 Pennsylvania Primary election only fifty days away, many Keystone State counties are desperately scrambling to obtain voting machines that will allow them to comply with the Help America Vote Act.

Although many Pennsylvania counties have yet to sign a contract , most of the vendors who have voting systems certified for use under HAVA in Pennsylvania have bluntly stated that at this point they will be unable to supply the necessary voting machines and training for county staff and pollworkers in time. Those who are still accepting orders have been cutting supplies of machines to the counties (meaning that there may be inadequate numbers of machines and long lines to vote in May), and there is speculation afoot that some vendors are using the desperate "seller's market" to negotiate contracts that will be less than favorable to counties, voters, and taxpayers. [MORE]

VotePA Spearheads Letter to Rendell

Many PA counties simply will not be ready with new voting machines and trained workers by our primary election on May 16. The following letter will be sent to Governor Ed Rendell later this week, urging him to do all in his power to negotiate a delay in the HAVA deadline for our state. Please contact VotePA if you would like to add your organization to the list of co-signers.


Dear Governor Rendell:

The undersigned organizations are writing to urge you to contact the United States Department of Justice to request that our state be given until the November 2006 federal election to comply with Section 102 of the Help America Vote Act.

The official deadline of our May primary election is unreasonable and unworkable for Pennsylvania. Due to the late formation of the Election Assistance Commission, and back-ups in the Independent Testing Authority process of testing machines to the 2002 federal standards, as of now several voting systems were still awaiting their first certification examination by our Pennsylvania Department of State in late March.

There is no conceivable way that systems still being tested in late March can be delivered to the counties and reliably be up and running by May 16, especially when you consider both the logistics of delivery and all the training required to prepare county and precinct election officials. Things will be vastly different and more complex than the machines these people have used for decades and the local and county workers need to be properly prepared. Without time for counties to choose their machines carefully and train workers thoroughly, we could be heading for an electoral disaster. [MORE]


Lawsuit Filed In Allegheny County Seeks To Stop Purchase of iVotronics

By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
April 12, 2006

Download the Full Complaint 

Associated Press is reporting that a group of Allegheny County residents along with national nonprofit organization People for the American Way, have filed suit today in federal court in Pittsburgh against county, state and federal officials.

The news story explained that:

The lawsuit filed today says that decision risks chaos on Election Day because of the lack of time to train election officials and educate voters about the change from lever machines which have been in use for 40 years.

“This rush to a new and flawed technology just weeks before the election threatens to sow chaos in the primary and compromise the fundamental rights of thousands of voters for years to come,” says Harry Litman, the former United States Attorney in Pittsburgh and an attorney for the plaintiffs. “It’s a bad deal for Allegheny County, and, we believe, a violation of federal law.”

The suit, Celeste Taylor v. Dan Onorato asks the court to prevent use of machines manufactured by Election Systems & Software until the County has spent the time necessary to identify voting systems that are secure; reliable; and accessible to voters with disabilities.
Complaining that the federal Department of Justice has pressured Allegheny to buy ES&S iVotronic or be forced to return $11.9 million in federal funding, the group is seeking an injunction to require the county to continue using lever machines instead of using touch-screen machines the county agreed to purchase last week from Election Systems & Software for $11.9 million. The machines were the county's second choice after machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems failed to pass state certification tests.

The defendants in the case are the Pennsylvania Secretary of State; Dan Onorato, Allegheny County Chief Executive; James Flynn, County Manager; and senior officials at the federal Department of Justice.

Two new co-sponsors from Pennsylvania

LobbyDays2006-Capitol.jpgApril 13, 2006 -- A group of Pennsylvania voters from across the state visited Washington D.C. as part of the "I Count" Lobby Days to get support for HR 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005.

"I Count Lobby Days was organized by the HR 550 "I Count!" Lobby Days Coalition -- Common Cause, Electronic Frontier Foundation,,, VoteTrustUSA, and Working Assets. VotePA participated as an affiliate, organizing meetings with PA Congressional members and staff.

Two new co-sponsors, Jim Gerlach (R) of the 6th District and Tim Holden (D) of the 17th, signed on to support the bill for voter-verified paper records and routine audits of all elections.

With several hundred citizen-lobbyists from all over the USA, overall nine new co-sponsors nationwide, bringing the total support to about 180 members of Congress.

0420pvote-b.jpgMajor Lawsuit in Allegheny County Ends in Loss for Citizen Group
by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA   

May 01, 2006

Seven registered voters of Allegheny County PA joined People for the American Way to filed a large and well-organized federal lawsuit challenging the use of the ES&S iVotronic and M650 central-count scanners in the upcoming May 16 Pennsylvania primary election and the general election in November 2006. The 44-page complaint, which was filed on April 12 in Federal Court in Pittsburgh PA, claimed that use of the iVotronic and M650 electronic voting systems would violate the plaintiff’s rights under United States Constitution, HAVA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

Some of the issues raised by the suit involved Allegheny County’s last-minute decision to purchase the iVotronic system to comply with HAVA (which was their third choice after several other systems were not feasible) and the lack of time to properly train and prepare poll workers, public officials, and voters for the use of a new system. The federal Department of Justice’s uneven treatment of Pennsylvania compared to certain other states (threatening a federal lawsuit in the case of Pennsylvania) to pressure the decision here was mentioned. The lack of adequate features to accommodate voters with various motor disabilities on the ES&S iVotronic was also included in several counts.

As the hearing began on Tuesday April 25, the federal courtroom in Pittsburgh was quite full, although most in attendance were involved in the case in some way. There were no less than sixteen lawyers seated at counsel tables in the courtroom with numerous plaintiffs, witnesses, public officials, and rank-and-file voters in attendance. [MORE]

New Fears of Security Risks in Electronic Voting Systems

New York Times

CHICAGO, May 11 — With primary election dates fast approaching in many states, officials in Pennsylvania and California issued urgent directives in recent days about a potential security risk in their Diebold Election Systems touch-screen voting machines, while other states with similar equipment hurried to assess the seriousness of the problem.

"It's the most severe security flaw ever discovered in a voting system," said Michael I. Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who is an examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania, where the primary is to take place on Tuesday. [MORE]

Diebold voting systems critically flawed
Robert Lemos, SecurityFocus 2006-05-12

“ It is like the nuclear bomb for e-voting systems. It's the deal breaker. It really makes the security flaws that we found (in prior years) look trivial. ”

Avi Rubin, computer science professor, Johns Hopkins University



Michael Shamos remembers that the call came late at night, during the last week of April.

The call--from election watchdog a critical vulnerability in Diebold Election Systems' touchscreen voting systems that could allow any person with access to a voting terminal the ability to completely change the system code or ballot file on the system. As a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and adviser to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on electronic voting, Shamos realized that, at the very least, a workaround for the flaw needed to be in place by Pennsylvania's next election--at the time, less than three weeks away.

"This one is so bad, that we can't do just nothing," Shamos told the state's election officials at the time. "Any losing candidate could challenge the election by saying, 'How do I know that the software on the machine is the software certified by the state?'"

[Snipped, Full Article At LINK]

"It is a feasible exploit," Shamos said. "You don't have to dip into the realm of science fiction to figure out how someone could make use of this."

Shamos, as often a critic of BlackBoxVoting as not, said the organization did well to approach election officials quietly about the flaw rather than go public with the details.

Based on the findings in the report, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issued an order last week to election officials to sequester any systems until a statewide election on May 16 and reload the machines with an authorized copy of election software to be provided by the Department of State for Pennsylvania.

Already, Iowa and California have warned their election officials of the flaw, according to the Associated Press, and Shamos expects more to come.

"Once Pennsylvania does something, then the other states have to follow," he said. "The dominoes have started falling. States cannot sit on this forever." [MORE]

May, 2006 Directive on Use of Diebold Voting Machines by PA Secretary of the Commonwealth 
(note: This problem was never corrected and this Directive is still in effect as of August 2014 - eight years later!)


VotePA_PressConf_Pgh_6-1-2006.jpgJune 1, 2006, by VotePA Allegheny

Serious procedural, operational, and design issues call into question the results from ES&S iVotronic voting machines used in Allegheny County in the May 16th primary election
Poll-worker statements and post-election analysis of voting-machine printouts from the election reveal that electronic voting machines ran program code not legally certified for use in Pennsylvania. It also appears that two different models of the ES&S iVotronic machine were used, one of which was not legally certified. Other print-outs demonstrate operational problems at many polling places and serious problems with the integrity of the iVotronic "zeroprint" function, which is supposed to ensure the public that electronic "ballot-box stuffing" does not occur. The Allegheny County chapter of VotePA calls on County election officials to immediately and conclusively remedy these concerns and upgrade or replace systems as necessary to provide voters the assurance that every vote is accurately recorded and counted.
At a joint press conference in downtown Pittsburgh, VotePA took the lead with other concerned citizen groups, including People For the American Way Foundation, B-PEP ­The Black Political Empowerment Project, and the League of Young Voters in urging Allegheny County to implement an open and cooperative "culture of assurance" throughout the voting process so the integrity of the vote can become evident to all citizens.  [MORE]




By Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA

June 26, 2006

Centre County represents the heart of Pennsylvania in more ways than one.

A physical and cultural crossroads, and a meeting point, Centre County is something of a microcosm of the Keystone State in general. Nestled between mountain ridges and located at the geographical center of Pennsylvania, Centre is home to the main campus of the Pennsylvania State University along with much new industry and development. But in contrast, the county also contains thousands of acres of fertile farmland and traditional ways from the past. Centre County citizens and voters encompass the youthful energy of the Penn State students, progressive ideals of many faculty members, and traditional conservative views of rural residents. The diversity, cultural mix, and climate of knowledge and learning found in Centre County reflects the legacy and true spirit of William Penn's 'great experiment.'

Perhaps more than any other county in the state, Centre initially seemed ideally poised to make the wise choice of a paper-based, verifiable optical scan system after its citizens became involved in the process of voting machine selection. But sadly, after months of advocacy and educational work by active, concerned voters and poll workers, the Centre County Election Board voted to buy paperless iVotronic touchscreens last week in a 2-1 party-line vote. Centre County will now 'join the masses' of counties nationwide that trust their democracy and their sacred right to vote to the accuracy of the privately-held ES&S Corporation's proprietary counting software.

The Centre County voting machine saga took a turn in late November 2005 when pollworker Mary Vollero tuned into "Washington Journal" on C-Span and caught a segment with Mark Crispin Miller, author of the book "Fooled Again" about the 2004 election and the serious problems with voting in our country.

In the course of the interview, Mark Crispin Miller referred viewers to the website, which Vollero subsequently visited. Through a link on she reached and the VotePA alliance of groups and individuals working for election integrity and accurate voting systems in Pennsylvania.

After connecting with VotePA, Vollero swung into action. Within days, she and other volunteers had organized a forum called "Counting Every Vote!" sponsored by The State College Peace Center, the American Association of University Women, and the Centre County League of Women Voters. Although there were warnings of a blizzard to start later that evening, over 50 citizens turned out at the State College Community Building to watch the Special Edition of the movie Votergate and to hear VotePA founder Marybeth Kuznik talk of her experiences with the Ohio Recount and why it is so important that we protect our democracy with voter-verified paper records or ballots along with routine audits of all elections. [MORE]

Sequoia Advantage Recertification Exam

by Steve Strahs, Montgomery County Election Reform Network

October 11, 2006 -- At long last, just a month before the election and after at least three postponements, Sequoia came in for its recertification test last week in Harrisburg for the Advantage AVC vote machine and - especially - its Win EDS software.  Win EDS, the ballot installation and vote tabulation software, had flunked the test last March and wasn't used to tabulate the votes for the May primary.  This time around the examination went much more smoothly for Sequoia, although there were still some problems.   Marybeth Kuznik and I attended, wearing our white hats.

All in all, though, examiner Michael Shamos, while not issuing a recommendation on-the-spot, seemed pleased and praised Sequoia for the enormous effort that he said went into making the software improvements.  More tellingly, perhaps, was the cheery disposition of the four Sequoia staffers, including VP Paul Nulty, upon conclusion of the exam.  Despite some pretty anxious moments, the Sequoia people and the Secretary of State's office staffers walked out happy.  Shamos estimates his official report will take about two weeks to issue, but Montgomery County has already started upgrading the machines, downloading the software and starting on the Logic and Accuracy tests.

Two big questions loom: 1) How significant are the problems that did arise (see below) and when and how will they be addressed? 2) What about the questions that Shamos didn't ask?  On the latter, election integrity activists know very well that experts have been able to demonstrate how to hack into some of the same vote machines that Shamos has approved for PA.  Then when these security threats surface based on vulnerabilities that Shamos never tested for, he professes shock and grave concern.  Or he has the SoS issue some directive with apparent little effect.  This report - highly non-technical - is in the interest of keeping the process as open as possible and helping others who are taking on such questions. [MORE]

 A Good Show, But Questions Remain: Sequoia AVC Advantage Recertification Exam by PA Office of Secretary of State

by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA 

sequoiaAdvantage.jpgOctober 11, 2006 -- Entertaining showmanship was the order of the day as Pennsylvania voting system examiner Dr. Michael I. Shamos cast his eye over the Sequoia AVC Advantage and its WinEDS ballot installation and tabulation software in Harrisburg last week The testing was being redone after the WinEDS software failed so badly in March, 2006 on the AVC Advantage machine that the examination then had to be suspended in the middle. Dr. Shamos noted that Sequoia had advanced the software approximately 60 revision numbers since March, and had added features as well as claiming to have corrected problems.

Dressed in a colorful orange polka-dot tie and orange and white striped shirt, Shamos strolled about the exam room, posturing frequently in front of a large LCD projection of the screen under scrutiny newly added for those in attendance to observe. At one point he even rendered a mime of a bound Harry Houdini escaping from chains to make his point that locks on a voting machine do not equate with security. The effect was not so much of a thorough scientific examination, but rather that of a polished performance designed to show an audience how thoroughly the testing was being done.

After a rather rough beginning for Sequoia with cartridges early-on failing several times to correctly load the software, the updated WinEDS program did appear to display some improvement although questions remained. One glaring problem was that event logs could be altered to remove evidence that file changes had been made or tampering had been done. Another problem showed up when an audit trail printed out from two different memory sources in the system looked very different each time it was printed. [MORE]

Movie Review: "Man Of The Year"

by Marybeth Kuznik,

"Man Of The Year" is a somewhat dark comedy in which a computer software "glitch" (FAILURE!) causes national TV comedian Tom Dobbs (Robin Williams) to get elected President of the United States. The story begins when a fan suggests a run for the White House during Dobbs' TV show, and a subsequent national grassroots internet movement gets him onto the ballot in thirteen big states as an independent candidate. After an invitation to participate in the National Presidential Debate, Dobbs gets revved up with dynamic anti-major-party and vote-for-change rhetoric that hints at a totally over-the-top version of our movement's own David Cobb on the Green Party campaign trail. Or perhaps Dobbs evokes Kinky Friedman, now running for Governor in Texas, who has one of his real-life quips on gay marriage actually used by Dobbs in the film.

Dobbs' total honesty and jabbing humor resonate with enough voters that, although he is not expected to win, results coming in his favor from the thirteen states on election night seem plausible enough to cause his election to be ultimately accepted by the American public. But in the meantime, an honest employee of the Delacroy Voting System Company (supplying all machines nationally to the election) learns of the software problem that in reality threw the result to Dobbs. Will she be able to get the word out? And should she?

As the tale unfolds, "Man Of The Year" portrays the voting machine company as creepy, greed-laden, negligent, and willing to lie, cheat, steal, or even hurt or kill to sell their product and cover up their problems. "It's the PERCEPTION of legitimacy that's important, not the real thing," says lead Delacroy lawyer Alan Stewart, portrayed by Jeff Goldblum (native Pittsburgh actor and jazz pianist extraordinaire) as a smarmy Diebold executive type but with a frightening and evil streak. Some other choice phrases: "Voter Confusion" is mentioned repeatedly when describing non DRE voting systems and past elections, and "...although the machines do not have a paper trail...It appears that exit polls are flawed..." intoned by a news anchor discussing unexpected results on election night in a deja vu of 2004.

Although nothing in the film is real (as in real names, other than Chris Matthews and some other TV personalities playing themselves), a lot about this film feels really familiar and in many cases a bit scary to this election activist watching it late at night. The inability of the whistleblower to be heard or taken seriously evokes a female Clint Curtis (or maybe us all!), and repeated suspenseful scenes in bedrooms and hotel rooms brings "suicide" victim Ray Lemme eerily to mind. Black pickup trucks on the Beltway and Delacroy private planes on the tarmac at BWI recall some of the most far-out fears and claims tossed around during the Ohio Recount and elsewhere. And the Delacroy DRE and voting booth itself looks like a cross between a futuristic iMac and a colorful lime green version of the ES&S iVotronic on its four-legged stand. One has to wonder how much homework and lurking in our own movement was done by the screenwriters and directors.

"Man Of The Year" does not address the enormous constitutional problems that this totally plausible scenario would create in a real Presidential election, nor does it get into too many of the nuts and bolts of electronic voting. But the voting scene, where Tom Dobbs casts his vote for himself, purposely gives pause in the pace of the film as if the movie is wondering along with the rest of us whether Tom's vote -- or anybody else's -- is really being counted. And the ending is as "right" as we all could wish for in real life.

This film is a great opportunity for our movement. Even after midnight, people were talking about voting as they left the theatre. If our member groups would do meaningful flyering outside theatres, with flyers giving links to state and national Election Integrity sites, and other sources of good information, I believe we could educate many about the problems with electronic voting and gain many new allies from the public.

IMDB movie site HERE: