The coming storm, our first serious winter weather, posed no obstacle to Northampton County's citizens' election committee yesterday. Russ Shade, Jack Bradt and Greta Browne conducted their fourth meeting in as many weeks. This determined group appears to be coming to a consensus that our electronic touchscreen voting system is inferior. But embattled voter registrar Deborah DePaul has at least one defender - committee member Jack Bradt. During yesterday's meeting, Bradt told DePaul, "Your office should be commended, not condemned, for the work you did."
These are just a few of the things Dr. Alan Brau told the committee yesterday. Dr. Brau, a local physician, insists these touchscreen machines are unreliable and advocates a voter-verified paper trail. Nearly a year ago, he was spurned by the Department of State when he asked for re-examination of the WINVote system. He is part of a nonpartisan group that has challenged the state's certification in Commonwealth Court.
When asked about his motivation, Dr. Brau simply responded. "I'm a citizen. I'm a voter."
In addition to general concerns about the lack of a paper trail, Dr. Brau is concerned about the specific WINVote system. He reiterated BlackBox voting's allegation that AVS pulled a bait and switch. After getting its hardware certified, AVS is accused of shipping a cheaper internal hardware system, manufactured in China.
Amazingly, AVS has yet to answer these very serious charges. If these accusations are baseless, AVS should say so, and publicly. But it has sent no representative to answer these charges.
Committee co-chair Russ Shade believes these allegations "need to be explored. We need confidence that these machines are properly certified." Committee member Jack Bradt agreed, and went one step farther. He believes the entire system is inadequate, most significantly because there is no paper trail. An optical scanning system, which combines modern technology with a paper trail, might be our future. "If we have to go to another system because the state misled us, someone's going to have to pay for that."
Bradt Defends Embattled Elections Office
Director of Administration John Conklin explained the steps he's taking to make sure our next election goes off better than the previous two. His goal is to ensure that unofficial results are available by midnight. He plans to have a manual backup ready.
At this point, Jack Bradt came to the voting registrar's defense. He's run a successful business that underwent automation. And last night, he blamed that automation for elections office problems. "I do not see a need for changes in the office. They've done a very good job."
I respect Bradt. Perhaps he's right. But I don't believe the automation has a damn thing to do with the problems in that office. It's a mess. And its leadership is inadequate.
"I have tried to go through official channels, but Deb DePaul has been an effective stone wall in her role as registrar. ... I could not notify Deb DePaul since she blocks emails from me."
Does this sound like a responsive registrar to you? I forwarded this email to DePaul for a response. Nada. (Oops. I'm speaking Spanish.)
Or how about this? Ross Nunamaker at NewsOverCoffee puts together a nonpartisan "resident to candidate" forum, asks the registrar to drop by, and gets this.
"You did not state a date and I have numerous business and personal commitment but if somehow I am available I would try to attend. Within my office I have a fairly new staff and do not have any one else here within the office that would be beneficial."
Ross provided the date but heard nothing. Nada. (Oops, there I go again). And when Ross stopped in to pick up materials, here's what he noticed.
"It was clear to me that the office is on pins and needles when the request for a petition to a non-candidate requires the head of the office to be excused from a meeting with a representative of the company with the voting machines in light of those issues."