Monday, December 04, 2006

The question raised by Westmoreland County's voting machine programming of the wrong date glitch should be: How can anyone trust the election results? Nationwide, voting watchdogs/activists warned of just such "problems" on election day with the potential for tampering when machines are removed or software "adjustments" become necessary.

The point isn't that people were delayed in access to voting in Westmoreland County because the software had to be re-programmed. The point is that on election day, voting machines in Westmoreland County had the absolute potential for tampering.

So again, how can voters in Westmoreland County trust the November 7, 2006 election was legitimate.

The Westmoreland County situation should be investigated. As noted in a previous piece on Net the Truth Online, Westmoreland County had some really odd unofficial election results.

CASEY, BOB JR (DEM) 69,657 53.6%
SWANN, LYNN ( (REP) 69,778 53.8%

We are to believe that almost the same amount of voters voted for Republican Lynn Swann for Governor of Pennsylvania as voted for Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. for U.S. Senator - and the percentage margins are almost identical.

Then we are to believe that by an almost identical margin voters did not vote for Republican Rick Santorum for U.S. Senator and did not vote for Democrat Ed Rendell for PA Governor!

SANTORUM, RICK (REP) 60,390 46.4%
RENDELL, ED ( (DEM) 60,018 46.2%

In a county in which every single electronic voting machine shut down because of an incorrect date programming error, voters voted for a Republican Governor(Swann) and a Democrat for U.S. Senate (Casey) by nearly the same amount of voters?

Yet, there is no mistrust of these results.

In Allegheny County, as bad situations occurred. Print-outs of the beginning of the day's zero vote tally were not able to be made. The regulations stipulate that those machines which didn't produce the zero vote tally should be removed. So if machines were removed because of this failure, how can we be assured the replacements were not tampered with?

We can't. Yet, there is no mistrust of Allegheny County's election results.

Vote watchdogs warn of system failure
David M. Brown
Monday, December 4, 2006

Western Pennsylvania entered the age of electronic voting with only random glitches, elections officials say, but critics warn the systems in use could cause major problems in future elections.

When the Allegheny County Election Board meets today to certify results from the Nov. 7 election, members of VotePA -- a statewide volunteer group advocating secure and accessible voting -- plan to express concerns about potential failings of the systems in Allegheny and surrounding counties. The board meets at 10:30 a.m. at the County Courthouse, Downtown.

The biggest concern centers on Pennsylvania's reluctance to allow the electronic machines to generate paper trails to ensure accuracy in reporting vote totals. Efforts are gaining steam in the state Legislature and in Congress to require such audits, advocates say.

"It's kind of like a time bomb ticking away. One of these days, we're going to have a serious problem, like they are having in Sarasota," said Mary Beth Kusnic, a Westmoreland County poll worker and a member of VotePA.

In Sarasota County, Fla., where the outcome of a congressional race hangs in the balance, officials are auditing vote results to determine why about 18,000 ballots cast recorded no choice in the hotly contested 13th Congressional District race -- an "undervote" rate more than six times greater than in the district's other four counties.

The Sarasota County voters used iVotronic touch-screen machines -- like those in Allegheny, Westmoreland and several adjacent counties.

"This time we were lucky," Kusnic said. "As far as we know, there weren't any votes lost. But if it happens that a machine malfunctions, without a voter-verified paper ballot, there is no way to know the results of an election."

Many election jurisdictions nationwide began using electronic equipment this year to comply with the Help America Vote Act, a federal law passed in 2002. All 67 Pennsylvania counties have switched from outmoded voting equipment to touch-screen or optical scan systems.

Election officials in Western Pennsylvania reported scattered problems with the equipment.

The worst occurred in Westmoreland County, where a programming error that affected nearly all voting machines left people standing in long lines at some polls and using paper ballots in one Jeannette precinct.

"This was a hidden problem that was impossible to recognize until election morning," said Paula T. Pedicone, Westmoreland County's director of elections.

A software glitch that caused more than 800 touch-screen machines to act as though it was not Election Day created confusion and prompted some computers to shut down early. Pedicone said it "was an easy fix" once election officials realized the problem.

"We learned, and it won't happen again," she said.

Kusnic, judge of electionsin Penn Township, Westmoreland County, said the malfunction had a serious impact.

"In Jeannette, they couldn't vote for over an hour. That's not a glitch. That's a failure," she said. ..

also see:

Pa. lacks paper backup to voting electronically
Monday, November 27, 2006

By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania is one of a shrinking number of states that doesn't require its electronic voting machines to have some type of visible paper backup, a feature that has frustrated scores of voting rights activists and computer experts.

That could change when Democrats take control of Congress next year.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., said this month that he expects the new majority to quickly enact his bill mandating the use of "voter-verified" paper trails in every election system in the country, compelling many local governments, including several Western Pennsylvania counties, to purchase costly upgrades for their equipment.

It would be the first major change to the federal Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, a law that grew out of Florida's 2000 presidential fiasco and authorized billions of dollars in aid for high-tech voting machinery.

Nationwide, one-third of all voters used new machines for the first time this year. The results pleased many election officials, but some activists point to significant mishaps as proof that electronic voting is far from perfect.

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