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

paperballot2.jpgJanuary 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.

The poll worded the question like this:
Following are three statements about electronic voting. Please tell me which statement comes closest to your point of view ­ A, B, or C?

Statement A: Electronic voting is efficient and trustworthy. It will make voting easier, count ballots quicker, and avoid the problems associated with counting paper ballots.

Statement B: Electronic voting is okay only if there is a paper trail, much like ATM machines which provide you with a printed receipt. That way voters can verify that their vote is recorded correctly and there is no risk of the electronic records being lost, hacked or manipulated with no verifiable record.

Statement C: There should be no electronic voting. We should only use voting machines which use paper ballots or old, reliable lever machines.

The poll results showed:
1. A 11.6%
2. B 73%
3.C 11.6 %
4. None/other 1.3%
5. Not sure 2.5%

In other election integrity questions, 67% supported government ownership of voting technology and software as opposed to 21% supporting ownership by private corporations. 80% supported government ownership and maintenance of voter records and determination of voter eligibility, compared to 13% supporting allowing privately held corporations to perform such "outsourced" work.

In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Department of State and county officials seem to continue flying in the face of voter concerns as a state-wide headlong rush to certify and purchase paperless electronic voting systems continued last week in the Keystone State.

At a mid-week meeting with the Pennsylvania House State Government Committee, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortés stated emphatically that he and the Department of State are not against voter-verified paper records, but went on to point out glaring examples of how he believes that current VVPR systems do not comply with the Pennsylvania Constitution in regard to secrecy of the vote. The Secretary made no statement as to how close VVPR systems are to being compliant, and no mention of the fully legal optical scan ballots, used in 28 Pennsylvania counties in Pennsylvania as of 2005, other than to include three scanners in his list of currently certified systems for Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania activists learned that Diebold Election Systems has suddenly entered the fray as a big contender in twenty or more counties with a new price offering that is discounted 50% or more from its already-discounted price originally submitted to the state COSTARS purchasing program. The Diebold price discounts on the TSX system undercut all other manufacturers and have election integrity activists worried that the company is deliberately dumping machines in Pennsylvania, perhaps even below cost. The offering is being made to and through the secretive, ad-hoc "10-County Coalition" of PA election boards, which has now ballooned to a membership of over twenty.

Activists in Allegheny county, the state's second largest county which includes the City of Pittsburgh, learned late Thursday of an early-Friday morning County Election Board meeting at which board members were apparently all set to move ahead to a vote to purchase 5600 Diebold machines under the discounted offer. Through passionate remarks and the presentation of facts, the citizens were able to convince the Allegheny County Election Board to delay the vote and continue the meeting this coming Tuesday morning.

Reports are coming in from many other counties of Diebold offering them this same discount package which is tough to refuse.

The attractive Diebold price offering is yet another blow to the movement for voter-verified paper records or ballots in the Keystone State, as the Diebold TSX was tested and certified in Pennsylvania as a paperless machine without its roll-paper printer.

Many Pennsylvania counties have been turning away from the optical scan option due to the lack of a state-certified accessible ballot marker to go with the scanners. The Automark has been forced to go back through the federal ITA testing process due to one line of code that had to be changed to comply with Pennsylvania's requirements.