Monday, March 19, 2007

State Never Certified NoCo Voting Machines: Too Busy Plowing Snow?

When Northampton County voter registration employee Howie Erney demonstrated the WinVote system to our citizens' election panel on February 7, he smugly told them it's easier than those pesky levers, and is getting "better and better." But then Erney made a mistake. He was willing to answer questions, even from the people like me in the peanut gallery.

Unfortunately for Erney, I had spent that afternoon looking at documentation obtained from BlackBox Voting. I already knew the Pennsylvania Department of State had reluctantly certified WinVote Version 2.0.2 in February, 2006, noting twelve specific problems. But when Howie Erney confidently booted up his system, I was shocked to see that the system we had used was WinVote Version 2.0.3 instead of the certified version. When I started questioning this, the elections office suddenly didn't want any more questions. Fortunately, citizen panel co-chair Russ Shade had the same questions. And he wanted answers both from the state and vendor Advanced Voting Solutions. "They have this nasty habit of not returning phone calls."

In addition to this software problem, there are allegations that what we see is not what we got. According to BlackBox Voting, machines with identical appearances have completely different components "under the hood." Cheap Chinese hardware may have been substituted for what was approved.

When the panel met again on February 13, 21 and 28, there still was no response from our state apparatchiks. I know they weren't busy plowing snow. Astonishingly, HRH DePaul actually insisted at one point that the state would only speak through her. Fed up, the citizens' election panel finally sent a letter to state elections commissioner Harry VanSickle, asking to see "the certification of the specific machines used in the last two elections. The Committee wants documentation that the hardware shipped by Advanced Voting Solutions is, in fact, what was approved."

Instead of speaking through his oracle, HRH DePaul, or just answering the damn questions, the state elections commissioner ran to the Morning Call editorial board in an obvious effort at damage control. It was beginning to appear that we had voted with machines that were never state certified.

Now, thanks the The Express Times, we know that is so. VanSickle has finally answered the county elections panel, and guess what? The machines used in November's election were never certified by the state. For all the state cares, we could have been voting on copy machines. Let's face it. A state bureaucracy willing to strand pregnant women for over twenty hours on a freezing highway could care little about whether our elections are run properly.

The state elections commission couldn't even be bothered to list campaign finance reports for online viewing until well after the election, completely defeating the very reason for online access. Government has no problem posting all kinds of personal information about us on the net, but can't be bothered to let voters know who is funding a candidate until after an election, when it is too late to do any good.

Elections? We don't need no stinkin' elections!

Problems in the land of midnight payraises extend well beyond its legislators. An arrogant and unresponsive bureaucracy, on both state and local level, is increasingly becoming the norm. Our Lehigh Valley delegation to the state house and senate should be all over this. Why, for example, is PennDot Secretary Biehler still on the public payroll? Why is VanSickle still at the public trough after permitting an election to occur with uncertified voting machines? What gives him the right to ignore calls from a county executive? Why can't he get expense reports online until after an election is over?

Attitudes like these are what make Katrinas possible. New Orleans is not the exception.


Unknown said...

I think about the only reasonable response to that is 'wow.'

I think Buddy Christ would have done a better job running the election.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, this is just the tip of the iceberg. you really have no idea how hostile the entrenched Hburg bureaucracy is to taxpayers, at least in certain agencies.

Anonymous said...

One more time: It was Northampton County Executive John Stoffa who insisted on buying the touch-screen machines, not Deborah DePaul, over the strenuous objections of Northampton County citizens like yours truly.

When is the buck going to stop with these chief executive officers

Though he is legally blind, Palmer Township resident John Todaro, whom you have taken to calling John "Turdaro," would have made a far better county executive than either Glenn Reibman or John Stoffa.

And don't forget. It was Stoffa who, though as a Northampton Area School District director could not carry his cohorts to support Act 71 and its corollary Act 72 - the empty promise of school property tax relief from the revenue of Act 71, not the first penny of which has materialized, and won't, what with all the court challenges, even if the defeat of the Scylla and Carybdis of Act 71 and Act 72 has to come from the Supreme Court of the United States.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is fair to blame DePaul in anyway for the Touchscreen debacle, and customer service issues and attitude aside,
Stoffa didn't pass HAVA either, but he had to abide by it. Quit your bitching, lets fix the problem, and move on.

Anonymous said...

The touch-screen voting machines with their unauditable paper trail and casino slot machnes do in fact pose a Scylla- and Charybdis-like threat - not just to the Christmas City of Bethlehem in Northampton County and Pennsylvania but to the entire country as well.

Gambling mania has swept the country until only two states remain, Utah and Hawaii, whose governors and legislatures have not "legalized" casino slot machne gambling.

We in Pennsylvania must now re-double our efforts to reverse this trend by repealing Act 71 and its specious corollary, Act 72.

And, for the purpose of keeping this comment OT, we must insist on reliable voting machines with an auditable paper trail.

Anonymous said...


Just because I titled my July 16, 2006, blog posting "Just Stop Trying to Bulls-t a 73 (now 74)-Year-Old Bird-Turder from Alabama (Post #130), don't you take liberties and call our mutual friend John Todaro John "Turdaro," please.

You will only feel embarrassed when we all including John and Ron Angle meet at TicToc every first and third Thursday of the month following the Northampton County Council meetings.

Volvo Driving Soccer Mom said...

Looks like Billy Givens has been drinking again.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Billy Givens is the anonymous poster at 8:45, 10:13 & 10:39. He may be the anonymous poster at 9:56, too.
"It was Northampton County Executive John Stoffa who insisted on buying the touch-screen machines, not Deborah DePaul, over the strenuous objections of Northampton County citizens like yours truly."
This is completely fabricated. Givens never addressed council before it decided to purchase the AVS machines although he now retroactively claims to have been the spearhead of opposition. The decision to purchase from AVS was made on 1/19/06, only a few days after Stoffa was installed as county exec. And the decision was made by a unanimous county council, based on the recommendation of a selection committee. The resolution authorizing the purchase came from Charles Dertinger.

Givens' recollection of what happened is factually challenged.

Unknown said...

I think Billy is nuts. I understand we're debating the machines here. Where in the devil did he bring gambling into this? That's absurd.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 9:56, I don't believe I did blame DePaul for AVS. Nor did I blame Stoffa. But this "bitching," as you call it serves quite a useful purpose here.

As a result of this "bitching," we now know we voted on machines that the state never certified. Perhaps that's not so important to you, but it means pretty much to me. You say fix the problem and move on. But for the bitching, we would not know this problem even existed.

Anonymous said...

Someone knew, or should have known, that the machines were not the same. Whether that person is Depaul or someone from the state, there needs to be some accountability.
I know that the machines are inspected by several people, including the heads of the poltiical committees, before being sent to the polling place. No one noticed that the wrong version was being used. I cannot buy that.

Anonymous said...

For the edificaion of rising sun at 11:32 AM, the nexus between the AVS voting machines and slot machines is that the latter definitely fixed to pick the players' pocket and the AVS voting machines could conceivably have been fixed to make some pre-selected political candidates winners and others losers.

Anonymous said...

I just thank God that there is someone like you Bernie O'Hare.

Unknown said...


You're kidding right? You actually think gaming interests bought the election by rigging machines? I hope you have a concrete reason to think that.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:44, Your check is on its way.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Billy is drinking, i think he's just nuts! Perhaps a "Legend in his own mind" LOLOL!

Chris Casey said...

I think Buddy Christ should have inspected the machines. That way we never would have used them without his "Blessing!"

Anonymous said...


The BIG CHEESE behind Advanced Voting Solutions is a man called Arthur Kania, a partner of the PA law firm Kania, Lasack and Feeney.

Kania is the money and controlling interest of AVS.

Funny you should liken the WINvote to a slot machine, as I hear that Kania himself owns casino's !

So you might be a hell of a lot closer to the truth than you think ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Kania is also a mega contributor to political campaigns. One of the Pa. counties using AVS, Lackawanna, actually has a school named after him.

Anonymous said...

Givens, I can state authoritatively that Stoffa did NOT want to buy these machines, that he was FORCED into it by the Feds - how many times do I have to tell you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I'll be doing a post about this in a day or so. I have all the notes from the selection committee to explain how we ended up with WinVote.