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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, August 20, 2007

Old Faithful - Those Lever Machines

As state elections officials try to come up with a solution to the latest problems caused by Advanced Voting Solutions (AVS), it's worth remembering that we still have perfectly functioning lever machines, collecting dust at Gracedale.

Unlike the touchscreen voting machines supplied by AVS, there's no need to have a new software version tested by the feds and certified by the state before every election. They hold up under power failures. They can't be hacked. No parts are made in China. There's even a privacy curtain, ensuring that your vote is a secret ballot.
A friend of mine took pictures of these machines before they were last used. The picture on your left is especially enlightening as it shows the internal counters that must be transcribed to paper by the poll workers when voting precincts close. Few people have any idea what these things look like on the inside, so I thought I'd share his pictures.
Update: The Express Times tells us Northampton County exec John Stoffa will decide today whether the lever machines can be used in November's election. Unlike Lackawanna, Northampton County retained its lever machines for exactly this possibility. I don't know, but believe, the county won't make this decision withour consulting the Department of State.


A.J. Cordi said...

Perhaps this is a reason for the new casinos in Pennsylvania - people missed pulling levers...

Bernie O'Hare said...

There 'ya go!

Anonymous said...

I agree these machines were great and lament the fact that they are not being used. Besides the Feds rushing everyone into new electronic machines I understand there was another problem. It was my understanding that no one either manufactured or made replacement parts for the old lever machines. If anyone knows if thats accurate I would love to know.


Sir Dude

Bernie O'Hare said...

Sir Dude,

I remember that claim being made during the citizen elections committee hearings. Can't be sure, but I think the claim came from Howie Erney. I distinctly remember Erney claiming these new touchscreen machines are vastly superior, blah, blah, blah.

But then again, he conducted an entire election with a software version that had not been certified, and didn't even know it.

I don't trust the touchscreen voting machines. TYhe lever machines, when ytou come right down to it, have no voter-verified paper trail, either. But we have confidence in the lever system, and that's all the paper trail is designed to promote.

The lever machines violate the ADA, bt I see no reason why exigent circumstances can't justify their use. But this is the state's problem, not the county's.

Larry Kisslinger said...

Old Faithful-Those Lever Machines
is the very correct title. Let's face it: government forced us to get rid of them by throwing the baby out with the bath water when Florida exposed their chads. You know the one about "them being from the government and they came to help us." They do it every time, whether we like it or not, with "our" tax money! larry@kisslinger.com

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed voting with the new machines, much simplier, everyone i talked to liked them to ! the new technology is great. lets hope the kinks can get worked out .why not look at ways of solving problems rather than pointing fingers. they didn't put them out ther to fail. does this mean the past election must be re done?wonder what the outcome of that would be.

Bernie O'Hare said...


It's also simple to flush a toilet, but that doesn't cast any ballots now, does it?

Last November, we voted with machines that had not been certified. Because no one filed a complaint and state elections officials certified them later, those elections stand. In May, the software version was certified, but a new version intended for this November had to be tested and certified.

Federal testers have not been paid by AVS. They have found thousands of software anomalies. They have found documentation errors. They're not even sure if the hardware being used by AVS is the same hardware that was originally certified. Under these circumstances, it's safe to start pointing fingers.

I don't care how "easy" it may appear to cast a ballot. I have to have confidence in the reliability of the system being used, and AVS has made it very difficult for me to be confident. 28 state legislatures have already voted against using machines w/ no voterverified paper trail.

I can trust the lever machines, even without the paper trail, because they have proven themselves over the years. But the AVS machines have presented problems in all but May's election.

Voters must have confidence in the elections system. Our whole system of government depends on it.

Anonymous said...

the elderly as well as the handicapped liked the new machines SOME PEOPLE NEED SIMPILIER!!! it was about time technology advanced . HOPEFULLY yhe bills will get paid and the problems solved.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 12:23,

The problems well extend beyond unpaid bills. Thousands of software anomalies are nothing to sneeze at. Nor are documentation errors or substituting cheap hardware for the system that was certified.

It matters very little how "easy" it is to use a system if you can't be confident in the final product, i.e. the vote tally.

I agree the technology should be advanced. But it shouldnt be shoved down a county's throat with no time to prepare for problems. Most states eneded up using these touchscreen machines and there have been numerous problems.

That's why 28 states now insist on a voter-verified paper trail. That's why NJ recently rejected certification in 20 of 21 counties.

The New Jersey Voting Machine Examination Committee has rejected immediate certification of voter-verified paper record systems for electronic voting machines in use in 20 of the state's 21 counties, recommending a number of fixes before the machines could be used in elections. The committee said the systems met core criteria, but certain shortcomings needed to be corrected before approval.

Attorney General Anne Milgram accepted the committee's findings, declaring that before certification the voting machine vendors will have to correct problems identified by the committee and scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology who independently tested the machines earlier this summer for the attorney general and the Division of Elections.

You can be thankful we kept those lever machines because we at least have a back up system until the tech companies can get their act together.

MAD AS BATS said...

Why don't you let Blogger handle the voting? We can get by with 5 candidates! Everybody wins! Oops! maybe I shouldn't give Bush boy any ideas for 2008!

Anonymous said...

As a person who has been there when the votes are tallied at a precinct I have no reservations about the integrity of the old lever machines. While mistakes are made at that level they are found when the count is officially done at the county. Maybe nothing new here but it is my springboard to a request that those of us interested in politics step up and volunteer to actually work an election. It can be tedious to sit there all or most of the day but it's worth it and we need to move the average age of poll workers down from 65(?)

A.J. Cordi said...

Anon 12:23 -

My experience was a bit different than yours. The elderly people that I saw using the machines - a few of them - all had trouble operating them.

I agree that they are easy, but that's because we understand touch screen technology. As stupid as this is to believe, the elderly people just couldn't figure it out when the screen said "touch here to start."

The lines were held up for far longer than they should have been. Some of those people have probably never even heard of a touch screen.

Even worse, they were asking for some people to help them, and nobody "was allowed" to.

As simple as these new machines are for us to use, it was pure hell for them. Lines never moved that slow with the levers...

Dice_Mittman said...

a.j. I got somethang for ya to pull on.........OH!

Larry Kisslinger said...

Old Faithful-Those Lever Machines
is the very correct title!!!

We need to spend some more time in the election process on election day and then you will know how valuable those "65" year old
workers have been serving us for years on end with lever/mechanical machines and no mistakes whatsoever is my experience. bring back the lever machines now! larry@kisslinger.com

Anonymous said...

Larry Kisslinger for President.

Anonymous said...

a.j. cordi, my experence was similar to yours in that they weren't familar but once they finished they commented on how easy it was. getting them over using a touch screen wasn't easy at all. one thing about our elderly they reconize the importance of voting and came out to vote new machines and all. old habits die hard but they were proud of themselves having done it.

river said...

A.J. Cordi said...
"""Perhaps this is a reason for the new casinos in Pennsylvania - people missed pulling levers... """"

AJ... If we bring back the old machines,and perhaps a free buffet covered dish table, we could probably get the voter turnout from previous years of 15 percent to 90, or 100 percent. :):):):):):): AJ, you had a great idea there... why not make voting more fun and you will see the benefits tenfold.

river said...

I never had or saw any complaints about the old lever machines. However the new machines caused confusion. The second or third page had a screen come up saying if you want to place a full party line ticket. It even confused me for a few seconds. I don't think that they sould have had that page in the computor at all, and I did see complaints about it also in the newspaper. We are lucky we still have the old machines. Not that long ago some were put up for auction to be sold as novelties ot historical items. But they didn't get any worthwhile bids so none were sold. And don't worry about repair parts. I am sure that the county still has boxes full of extra parts. And if you can make a part years ago, you can sure make the same thing now. I like the old machines with the paper trail. What scares me about the new machines is, it is too easy for a person to "hack" it to change votes. That means a lot to me because the local election board has a guy named Walter Gavin. About a year ago Walter had a radio show on WGPA radio that was called "Checks and Balances" by Wally G. Election board personel are supposed to be impartial, but "Wally G" spent an entire hour reading off a script that was nothing but pure hatered for anything or anyone that was a republican. And he also refused phone calls. Before I heard Wally G's obnoxious blowhard remarks, I thought the biggest blowhard on the radio was Rush Limbaugh. anyway, with people on our election boards that none of us know and voting machines that are not guarenteed foolproof, we can not afford another fiasco like Florida in 2000. For a state that takes in Billions of dollars in tourism to have such a junky voting system was insane. I thought all states had the same machines as we did. Lets stick with what we know, I like to flip that little leaver becaise I can look and see exactly how I am voting without having to flip a few pages back. Since those two companies can't figure out who is paying who, do you think they could care less about the voters untill they get that precious check in the mail? $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ ching ching$$$

Anonymous said...

Larry 8:09
I chose 65 to be nice. And they are valuable and dedicated and deserve our undying thanks. But if you are over 40 you know how the eyesight starts to go and errors get made in reading the sheets from the back of the machines. I like the machines for their paper trail but we need some younger people to volunteer. Say people who have time to read a couple or three blogs a day

Larry Kisslinger said...

bring back lever machines and get
"more" people to work the polls who are interested in good govt! I was an election commissioner when NorCo finally raised the pay for poll workers to half of what NJ poll workers receive. nobody should have to work the polls for an entire day at less than minimum wage! 65's do it but youngers who have a committtment to USA need to be recruited! Can you get them signed up? no matter what: bring back lever machines were/are flawless, is my opinion!

Anonymous said...

Larry Kisslinger for President.

river said...

Bernie, do you know if PA is going to be dumb enough to follow all those other ststes lead to have a primary in February?? Our biggest voting bloc is that of seniors. Why should they or anyone else be forced to go out in the ice and snow with a good chance of not even being able to find a parking spot so Big ,fat,political bosses like bloated blowhard Ed Rendell can brag about having an early primary to "Keep Up With The Joneses"??? What would happen if we had another Valentines day storm on election dah and some voters were stranded in their cars for 24, 36 or even 48 hours. They would have a ligitimate right to call for a revote. And why should anyone have to risk a broken ankle or broken hip just because some big fat cheesesteak guy wants to brag about how his is the best and earliest to get in some votes. For years I have heard crying about low turnout at the polls. 15% 18% 20% if you are lucky. If we have a February those numbers will plunge, just like Congress' approval rating. Is that something to brag about? Thanks Bernie.