Monday, March 26, 2007

State Apparatchiks Won't Certify Norco Voting Machines In Time For Primary

Last week, I told you Northampton County's elections last November were conducted with machines the state never certified. Incredibly, it's about to happen again! Advanced Voting Solutions, the county's voting machine vendor, has just realized now that it needs to install a "patch" to its software. Reason? The current design simply lacks the capacity to handle the large ballot for all those municipal offices in this Spring's primary. This requires changing the source code in the software, and that requires a recertification from the state. Take a gander at this email from Rip VanWinkle, 'er Harry VanSickle, the state's elections commissioner.

[A] "patch" is proposed by Advanced [Voting Solutions] to cure a capacity problem when the ballots are huge, such as the election coming up in May 07. This would require a change in the source code which by law must go to an ITA, now known as VSTL, and be recertified by the state. There is no way that could be accomplished in time for the May, 07 election, and we at the Department will not certify a version change without it first being qualified at the federal level. I will be happy to discuss this with each of you. The company disagrees with the Department and feels we should allow the change without federal approval, but our law will not allow it and the Department does not know what other areas this change in code will affect. AVS is going to go through the federal process in time for the fall election and we feel it is prudent to include this patch in that build. . . .

The Department and Advanced are both striving to help counties make each election better than the preceding one. We may not always agree, but we never shut down the lines of communication.
VanSickle is the communicative dude who ignored so many calls from the citizens' elections panel and county executive they finally had to send a registered letter. If state bureaucrats can't certify our voting machines in time for an election, they don't belong in office. They mock our most important right - the right to vote.
Update: The Express Times has an outstanding report, with more details on this latest elections mess.

8 comments:

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

You're not going to like this, of course, but once again I'm dumping this AVS voting machine mess squarely in the lap of Northampton County Executive John Stoffa - and County Council if it approved the purchase.

Also, contrary to what you say, I have complained about these machines on any number of occasions.

In fact, I have been bitching about the voting process in this county, which everyday resembles increasingly a banana republic, sine the fraudulent elections of 2000 right up through those of 2006 including - especially includeing - those of 2004, which as far as I'm concerned was not more than a 2000 revisited.

An article in yesterday's NYT describes the shabby, shameless treatment that loyal, patriotic American citizens were subjected to by our gendarms when millions of us marched on our cities and Republican Conventions in places like Philadelphia, where our democracy was born, NYC, our country's first capital, and Washington, D.C., in protest of these rigged, corrupt elections, and the Iraqi War.

I thank a merciful God that He (or She) is giving me back my strength so that I can resume my campaigning for public office - a pursuit I was forced to abandon for the "elections" of 2006 - this time for the one at-large seat up for grabs on County Council.

I'm also happy I'm running as an independent, skipping the primary, so that I can incorporate reliable voting machines with a verifiable paper trail before the general elections in November.

Rising Sun said...

I want to know how Billy is going to incorporate reliable voting machines with a verifiable paper trail before the general elections? He's a challenger, what is he going to do to make this happen???

What will I do in Iowa without a Billy Givens on the ground to make things fun?

Anonymous said...

A paper trail allows for the selling of votes. We do get a tape out of the machine at the polling place and poll watchers get results instantly at the polling places and you can see if more people voted than signed the book etc...

There is also a provisional ballot measure so if people get turned away they can preserve their intent.

Billy makes a good point about Stoffa and the Council who bought the machines being blamed, but who would have gone with Deibold over AVS last year. Lehigh County took a big risk when they did that. It paid off, but I would have gone with AVS a year ago if I was the exec or council.

It is tough, but it is scary that there is not going to be certified machines for the May primary election. While there are uncontested primaries there are some primaries that have contests and the loser in a close race has instant grounds to appeal the results of the election and they will win that case.

Alan Brau said...

My suggestion: get rid of the DRE's (touchscreen computers), demand a full refund from AVS (breach of contract- the machines are not and cannot be certified) and run the election on paper ballots.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:55,

A paper trail does not allow for the selling of votes. What you're thinking is that someone gets a receipt like at an ATM machine and steps outside and picks up some fast cash for selling his vote. But that won't happen. A voter-verified paper trail is for the voter only. Once he or she verifies they have voted as intended, the paper receipt would be placed in a box for later review in the event of a contest. It does not leave the polling place. This is opposed primarily by elections officials because it will demonstrate just how badly the computer is doing in accurately tabulating results.

The paper tape you're talking about is nothing like a voter verified paper trail. It merely is an echo of the results tabulated by the computer.

As far as Stoffa and the council are concerned, I will be posting exactly how AVS was selected sometime later this week. Stoffa had next to nothing to do with the decision, and council was relying on the report of a selection committee. That committee was formed long before council or Stoffa came on board. And contrary to Billy's rants now, he never said a word at the time AVS was selected. Neither did I. Dr. Alan Brau spoke against it, as did members of the Coalition for Voting Integrity, but I stayed away from it because I thought we had no choice. I can't criticize Stoffa or council.

AVS was probably the worst selection that could have been made. Only 3 of Pa.'s 67 counties endeed up w/ AVS. Hindsight is 20/20, but it was a poor decision. Both Diebold and ES&S are better.

Thanks for your comment.

Billy Givens said...

Bernie,

No one has done more than either you or Dr. Alan Brau in exposing the matastasizing melanoma that has long since penetrated the skin and now ravages deepest cavities and most vital organs of Northampton County's body politic.

The intervention and corrective remedies striven for by the two of you include the radical and invasive surgical procedure of legal action - in the case of your's against the year 2000 $113 million megabond, which you won, and the re-worked 2001 $111 million version that you lost, but only through the pervasive corruption infecting every level of Pennsylvnia's gangrenous system of justice; and the law suit of Dr. Brau. the outcome of which is still uncertain, but that we must now all gather around him and the operating table to help improve the chances of an outcome that is positive.

Chris Casey said...

Better call BVU! Billy Lives!

Anonymous said...

The Givens sez....


"No one has done more than either you or Dr. Alan Brau in exposing the matastasizing melanoma that has long since penetrated the skin and now ravages deepest cavities and most vital organs of Northampton County's body politic. "

Really, Billy?.... well, I guess you're just going to have to accept that you do NOT know the full story. Pleasant dreams!!