Finally 3/20/07 some news on these printers! the NY Times “Suit Prompts NJ to Reinvent Voting Systems” by Ronald Smothers:
From this article it looks like NJ is on the verge of doing some really good things in time for May 07 primaries:
1-Having a paper record or ballot for the Sequoia voting machines used in most counties.
2-Random Audits, not yet required by federal law but the NJ State AG’s office wants them.
In addition to providing a reliable paper trail, the new certification process would require random auditing of the machines and testing to make sure they can hold up under intense use. Until now only the federal government has required such certification, and adherence is voluntary
And Ms. Milgram, first assistant to NJ State Attorney General, promised Judge Fienberg that the protocols for audits and certification requirements would be established the first week in April and that public hearings will be held in regards to the new auditing procedures and the new printer add on to the Sequoia voting machines.
Ms. Milgram said that the company currently providing voting machines had gone through four approaches to retrofitting its equipment (for paper trail/ballot), but that the state “was not pleased with them.” The latest and fifth version held more promise, she said.
Sequoia is on the 5th try? Are these printers ever going to work right?
These machines need to work and work hard- I for one look forward to larger and larger voter turn-out. If they can get the Sequoia to work with the VVPT and a system of audits we will be in good shape but if not we should consider another system all together. And when our Officials start talking about price they should compare the expense of storing the voting equipment, moving it to the polls and what the costs of keeping these machines safe will be. This is part of the price. There are other voting systems that are less bulky less costly and even less prone to tampering mischief.
Also reported in the Star Ledger last weekend,
and mentioned in the Times article, there is an investigation involving Essex, Bergen and Union counties in regards to the initial purchase of the Sequoia machines. This inquiry by the State Commission of Investigation may turn up other reasons to scrap the Sequoia machines ASAP before we invest in the printers and the new training to operate them.
February 28, 2007
New Jersey is in the process of testing and buying printers for the Sequoia touch screen voting machines that were purchased in 2005 to comply with the Help America Vote Act- sponsored by non other than Bob Ney of Ohio. In the rush to buy these machines we may have not selected the best kind. It is crucial that the State get a secure reliable voting system because this is how we deliver democracy to the people.
We need to know if the printers are working well and will not break down constantly. We need to know that the VVPT (voter verified paper trail) is legible and well designed; A large sample voters, from all walks of life, should review sample VVPTs and see if the design is clear and easy to understand. We need to know that there will be sufficient audits of the VVPT to ensure that paper tallies correspond to machine tallies. And we need to have good protocols for the storing and delivering of the machines and for how election workers should proceed if fraud is suspected.
New Jersey should also use the experience of other states as a guide. In Feb. 2007 Gov. Crist (FL) announced plans to abandon the touch-screen voting machines bought in 2002, to adopt instead a statewide system of casting paper ballots counted by optical scanners. In Mar. 2006, Gov. Richardson (NM) signed a bill requiring optical scan, saying “Paper ballots serve as the ultimate back-up for our elections, providing secure and permanent verification of the will of the people.”
If Sequoia is unable to produce a reliable printer for the VVPT on their touch screen machines we should consider a switch to a paper ballot optical scan system. Other states have abandoned these machines fearing for the security of their elections. Or if we have enough confidence in the Sequoia with the new printer we might consider the example of Virginia: This month Virginia passed a bill to phase out the machines as they wear out, and replace them with optical scanners.
Over half of American voters already cast paper ballots read by optical scanners. The technology is secure. It’s accurate. It’s accessible. It’s verifiable. And it’s cost-effective. Voters must have confidence that their vote has been accurately recorded and counted and that election results can be examined and confirmed. The State of New Jersey must do everything possible to provide these guarantees.
We may be better off if we adopt a single statewide system using paper ballots, precinct based optical scanners, and accessible ballot marking devices. Along with auditing protocols for verifying that the optical scanner count conforms to the count of paper ballots. And a bi-partisan approved system for ballot design and protocols for storing and transferring the optical scan machines as well as procedures for the detection of fraud.