lumpocoal3.jpgDecember 26, 2005 -- Immediately before closing up shop for the long weekend last Friday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Department of State uploaded a holiday present to its HAVA website that left election integrity activists and many voters in the state thinking they had just been whacked in the head with a lump of coal.

The lovely little Christmas package actually put quite a few lumps in Keystone State stockings -- including the announcement of yet another examination go-round with Jack Gerbel and his UniLect Patriot DRE. Pennsylvania state certification documents were also uploaded for ES & S and Diebold paperless touchscreen DREs.

The UniLect Patriot was listed as scheduled on January 4 for its fourth re-examination in less than a year by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law allows what appears to be unlimited attempts by a decertified or denied vendor to demand re-examinations at what is at least partial taxpayer expense.

Also listed for January examinations are products by Sequoia, including the "Edge 2, Update", the "Advantage Full face", and the "Insight Optical Scan". The Sequoia Advantage is already in use in several Pennsylvania counties and no word has been received by citizens there as to how or when their current Advantage systems can be made HAVA-compliant.

In the way of new certifications, the Friday Department of State upload announced several, including Pennsylvania certification for Diebold's TSX touchscreen system and GEMS software. The TSX / GEMS system received two restrictions and three recommendations from the Secretary of State, including the notation that the machine examined had no VVPR attachment and the restriction that Diebold's VVPR system would have to be disabled or removed on any machine sold in the state. This Pennsylvania restriction on single-roll VVPR systems is based on Constitutional concerns for the secrecy of the vote.

The Diebold central and precinct count optical scanners were all denied certification, based in part on Harri Hursti's findings regarding Diebold memory cards.

ES & S received Pennsylvania certification for its iVotronic touchscreen with six restrictions and five recommendations from the Secretary, including a similar restriction on the "real time audit log" VVPR roll-paper printer that was on the ES & S machines tested. No word came through on the status of the AutoMARK ballot marker and ES & S optical scan systems, other than that the scanner M100 is scheduled for a demonstration on December 29.

All these announcements and uploads came hot on the heels of a memo from Harry VanSickle, commissioner of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, sent out on Tuesday the 20th to all county commissioners and election directors in the state as "simply a reminder to the county boards of elections that the Secretary of the Commonwealth has not yet certified an electronic voting system that is equipped with a VVPAT component that is compliant with State Law." According to officials at the Department of State, the memo was in response to newspaper articles that suggested some counties were considering electronic voting systems based solely on the fact that such systems were equipped with the ability to produce voter verified paper.

Election Integrity activists have been unable to locate any of these alleged news articles, but sadly, many county officials and others have been very publicly quoted in Pennsylvania media as repeating the message that no system producing voter verified paper records is as yet legal in the state.

With at least one vendor reported as being very close to having modifications ready for certification that will satisfy the secrecy requirements of the Pennsylvania Constitution, with others well into the design phase, and with new optical/digital scan systems close to certification, these "reminders" are viewed by many activists and voters as a bald-face attempt to push the paperless electronic voting agenda at the expense of accurate counting of the Pennsylvania vote.

There are two bills pending in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to require voter verified paper records on all voting systems with routine audits of all elections, HB 2000 and SB 977. Activists in the state have long been advocating that in light of these bills and the need for voter confidence and an accurate vote count, Pennsylvania counties should consider the ability to produce a voter verified paper record or ballot, and the quality of the paper record or ballot likely to be produced, as a big factor when purchasing voting systems with their HAVA money.

Pennsylvania counties have generally been reported as meeting the HAVA deadline by passing resolutions by December 31 that will encumber their HAVA funds to buy some sort of voting system, without having to actually name what they are choosing at this time. Counties choosing to "delay" their purchase via this method will still need to meet the May Primary deadline to have their systems up and running as required by HAVA.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Voting System Examination schedule, click HERE.


Links written out:

Exam Schedule and Status of Voting Systems:

Diebold PA Certification for TSX / GEMS:

ES & S PA Certification for iVotronic: