After threats, NJ clerks call for e-voting investigation
Thursday, March 20, 2008; 9:19 AM
A group representing county clerks in New Jersey has asked the state's attorney general to step in and investigate voting discrepancies observed in e-voting machines used in last month's presidential primary election.
The Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey wrote to state Attorney General Anne Milgram on Wednesday, asking her office to investigate problems in the state's Feb. 5 election.
"We want to know what the problems were and how do we fix them," Michael Dressler, the group's president, told IDG News Service.
Clerks from a half-dozen New Jersey counties reported discrepancies in the voting tallies generated by approximately 60 of the state's Sequoia Voting Systems AVC Advantage e-voting machines during last month's election. In most cases the discrepancy involved a one- or two-vote difference between the paper tape logged by the machine and the number of votes stored in the computer's memory cartridges.
Sequoiablamedthe discrepancy on pollworker error and said the problem could be fixed with a software update, but state clerks wanted a third-party investigation.
Last Tuesday, Dressler's group asked Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten, a critic of e-voting systems, to examine the Sequoia machines. That plan was abandoned, however, after Sequoia threatened legal actionagainst Feltenand the county that offered to provide the systems, saying that such a review would violate the company's licensing agreement.
Sequoia says it already submits its voting systems to third-party reviews as part of the federal government's Election Assistance Commission (EAC) certification process. The systems have also been reviewed recently by California, Colorado and Chicago.
In fact, Sequoia has now commissioned two independent analyses of the AVC Advantage machines. The analyses are expected to be delivered within the next few weeks to both Sequoia and the New Jersey attorney general's office, according to Michelle M. Shafer, Sequoia's vice president of communications."We'd like it to be an objective third-party review," she said.
The reviews will be conducted by Kwaiden Consulting, a Houston-based consulting firm, and a second EAC-certified organization such asWyle Laboratories.
Contacted before his office had received the clerk group's letter, New Jersey Attorney General Spokesman David Wald would not say whether there was a need for further investigation.
"We think we know what happened," he said. "We have asked the Boards of Elections to confirm the Sequoia analysis of what went wrong with those 60 machines on the presidential primary day."
But according to Joanne Rajoppi, the clerk with Union County New Jersey that had offered Felten the systems, Sequoia's explanation is not good enough. Her county has been using the Sequoia machines for about a decade, without incident. "We never had this problem in 10 years," she said. "Why did this problem never occur in another primary?"
Because only five or six counties double-checked their e-voting results, it's unclear how widespread the voting issues really were in New Jersey, Rajoppi said. In all, 18 of the state's 21 counties use Sequoia e-voting machines, primarily the Sequoia AVC Advantage.
Even if pollworker error was to blame for the voting discrepancy, the issue should still be addressed, Dressler said. "There should be a fail-safe measure so the election workers can't do that."
"This is too important of an issue to be swept under the carpet," he added. "If there is any issue with the Sequoia machines, we should shed a light on it."