Sunday, October 21, 2007

Ballot machines up for court review
By Justin Vellucci
Sunday, October 21, 2007

On Election Day, residents in 19 of 31 Western Pennsylvania counties will vote on the same brand of touch-screen electronic machines widely blamed for skewing a Florida congressional race last year.
Area officials say they haven't encountered major problems since they started using Election Systems & Software's iVotronics in 2006. But critics contend some problems don't get noticed because what voters punch into the machines can't be monitored.

"I don't see how they can say the machines are reliable when they have no way of showing whether the machines are reliable," said Chester County attorney Marian K. Schneider, who took state officials to court last year to ban use of iVotronics and other machines.

The case is before the state Supreme Court.

"Touch-screen machines are bad for voting," said one of the plaintiffs, Danny Sleator, 53, of Squirrel Hill, a Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor. "They're too vulnerable to both machine errors (and) calibration errors ... as well as nefarious manipulation of the vote."
"This is an essential issue for maintaining our democracy," said Jeanne Zang, 58, of Sewickley, another plaintiff in the lawsuit. "We all need to be concerned that our votes are being counted properly."

Electronic machines have caused controversy ever since Congress mandated the transition to electronic voting after the 2000 election debacle in Florida.

Black Box Voting, a nonprofit elections watchdog, reports e-voting glitches -- such as 19,000 voters in one Indiana county somehow casting 144,000 votes in 2003, and the disappearance of 70 ballot "memory cards" in Ohio last year.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., has pushed for a law requiring all machines to produce a voter-verified record. The bill is out of committee and awaiting House action.

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