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Remarks of Marybeth Kuznik to Westmoreland County Commissioners
December 29, 2005

I speak to you as an elected Majority Inspector of Elections from Ward 4, Precinct 2 in Penn Township. Under the Pennsylvania Constitution, an Inspector of Elections is one of only two elected offices in our state specifically focused on elections, so this is a position I take very seriously.

For the past year or more, I have been studying the issues surrounding the federal Help America Vote Act and the choice of voting systems every county and state in our nation faces under that act. I have also been traveling and speaking extensively about this, and about the need for more citizens to become involved in our electoral process as pollworkers.

Some of my activities have included serving as one of the nine regional coordinators for the Green Party Recount of the 2004 presidential vote in Ohio. In this capacity, I visited election boards in the Eastern Ohio/Pennsylvania Border area, trained volunteer observers, and submitted documents that became part of Representative John Conyers' report to Congress.

Since the recount I was selected to sit on the panel of the Election Assessment Hearing in Houston, TX, representative of an American pollworker. We accepted testimony from many experts as well as regular citizens regarding problems in our electoral system, and our preliminary written report was submitted to the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform. Dr. Robert Pastor invited members of my panel to attend the Houston hearing co-chaired by Mr. Carter and Mr. Baker, which I did.

I have also participated as an organizer or speaker at several major election reform conferences including Atlanta GA, Nashville TN, and Portland OR, and represented the national organization VoteTrustUSA at the summer conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State in St. Paul MN.

On a state level, I twice addressed our Governor's Task Force on Election Reform, and am the founder of VotePA, a statewide alliance of groups and individuals committed to voting rights and election integrity. I have attended numerous demonstrations and exhibitions of voting machines, and also attended at least five of the Pennsylvania Department of State examinations of voting systems conducted in Harrisburg.

And so, it is with all this background that I say to you, Commissioners, that the choice of voting system you are about to make today is a poor one. The iVotronic touchscreen voting system you are considering has a long history of known problems. I have a document here, from VotersUnite.org, with 39 pages of documented ES & S failures in real elections. Many of large jurisdictions, such as Miami-Dade County in Florida, have purchased the iVotronic system and found it to be so problematic and expensive to maintain that their election supervisor and other officials wish to discard it in favor of something else. Indeed, just last week, the Secretary of State of California threatened to decertify the iVotronic due to problems and malfunctions that this machine presented in their November 8 election.

Recently a Finnish computer expert, Harri Hursti, conducted experiments that showed devastating security holes in the memory cards and operating system of Diebold voting machines, with executable code that is illegal under the 2002 Federal Certification Standards. Although we do not know that ES & S's system contains this same type of code, in the words of Dr. Herbert Thompson, "we don't know that they're good, either."

ES & S is a privately-held company, and as such it has little to no public oversight. No one knows for sure who owns it and who controls it. We do know that ES & S's parent company was founded by Bob Urosevitch, who also founded the company that became Diebold Election Systems. The Urosevitch brothers, Bob and Todd, have top positions in Diebold and ES & S respectively.

It is estimated that this private, undisclosed ES & S corporation will control over 60% of our nations' votes next year. Because they are private, they will bring their employees and technicians into our counties and we will have no way of knowing the background or affiliations of these people. In running for my Inspector of Elections position, I take an oath of loyalty and an oath to uphold the laws of this state. These ES & S "technicians" don't have to take those oaths ­ yet they can, and will, come in and handle our votes. Doesn't this scare you?

ES & S recently became the only company to sell voting systems in North Carolina, and it has contracts all over the USA. What kind of service will Westmoreland County get in the midst of all this other business? Who will service these computers for us, for yes these machines are computers, and again who will service them? William Penn Printing? Gentlemen, at the Mercer County Voting System Exhibition I recently observed several officers of William Penn Printing taking approximately 25 minutes to change one paper roll in an ES & S iVotronic. I have zero confidence that printers from William Penn are up to the task of servicing these high tech computers.

And speaking of Mercer, heaven help us that we should end up with a voting system failure such as they endured. The paperless touchscreens used there in 2004 lost an estimated 10,000 votes in Mercer, Beaver, and Greene counties. Voter confidence has been deeply, perhaps permanently, shaken in many areas of those counties. The machine they used has been decertified, but any machine that can not and does not produce a voter verified paper record to preserve and protect our vote is vulnerable to lost votes in the case of machine failure.

My group, and I, have gone on record as wanting a voting system that produces a full size, high-quality, human-readable, easily recountable voter verified paper record or ballot. We propose that a simple piece of paper, on which a voter can look prior to casting his or her vote to verify their choices, will be preserved in a locked ballot box where it will be available to become the official record in the event of a discrepancy, audit, or recount. And we support a random audit of a small but significant portion of these records at every election, comparing them to the machine tallies to make sure that all is functioning as it should be.

I have often been asked what system I would recommend instead of the "black box" you folks are considering today.

My consistent answer has been that a Precinct-Count Optical Scan system is the most secure and recountable. In this system voters would be hand-marking a piece of paper that is scanned by an optical scanner or one of the new digital scanners, and that paper will truly reflect each voter's choice and will be much easier to audit and recount.

Numerous studies have shown that optical scan systems are also in the long run far more economical that the direct recording electronic system you want to buy. A much wiser use of taxpayer dollars, in my opinion, and if you want to buy from ES & S, they do sell Optical Scan systems.

Over the past year, I discussed Optical Scan as a potential choice numerous times with our Election Director Paula Pedicone, and she told me that she refuses to consider it because it is "old fashioned". But the entire state of Michigan, the entire state of Minnesota, all of Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, parts of Iowa, and parts of many other states, big states like Florida and California, are going for new Optical Scan systems with their HAVA dollars. Why not us?

Even New York City, that's right, The Big Apple, had a resolution introduced in their city council recently for optical scan voting systems. I can assure you gentlemen, to say that least, that all these areas considering and buying Optical Scan systems are as modern as Westmoreland County.

But if a touchscreen is desired, there are stronger choices than the iVotronic. The AccuPoll touchscreen machine comes equipped with a very high-quality plain paper printer included in the machine and the price. Right now AccuPoll can be used to print provisional ballots on demand and save money. AccuPoll is also fully Pennsylvania certified for paperless voting now, and with only a few modifications it will be able to be certified for voter verified paper record printing. When pending legislation to require this passes, counties choosing AccuPoll will have a full-size high quality, readable, voter verified paper record to work with, not a confusing "real time audit log" on a thermal roll.

Our research indicates that the AccuPoll system was built from the ground up to address many of the problems inherent in other touchscreens. It is a newer company, true, but does it not make more sense to buy a well-designed product from a newer company than to purchase a machine with a long history of past problems? And AccuPoll is backed in our state by Unisys, a computer-specialist company that is based here and provides jobs to 3600 Pennsylvanians.

HB 2000 and SB 977 are pending in the state legislature to require voter verified paper records. These bills have over one-fourth of the PA House, and one-fourth of the PA Senate as co-sponsors already. Voters want these bills, and they want the confidence that comes with clearly seeing their voting choices on a full-size sheet of paper. We will work to assure that these bills pass.

In closing, I would like to say that in all my travels this past year, as I have met people from counties and states that have endured horrible election problems, I have always felt secure and proud that my own Westmoreland County had a strong Election Office and a great system.

I don't want to lose that, nor do the rest of the voters of Westmoreland County.

Over the past year, I have delivered documents and videos to our Election Bureau. My group has facilitated educational public events in Westmoreland County including at least one meeting where a national expert, statistician Kathy Dopp, came in to speak here. No one from the courthouse attended our events, but please know that VotePA, and I, still stand ready as a resource as do many national sources. I know you all received an e-mail last night from the national expert programmer and white-hat hacker Clint Curtis.

As a resource and as an elected official of this county, I implore you, with every fiber of my being, to give this further study and not to make this poor choice today.

From now on, voting is going to be subject to increasing public scrutiny. The days of people voting on anything the county chooses to put in front of us are past. We are paying attention.

 

 

 

 

(edited slightly for publication from original text, correcting typos and grammar)