June 6, 2011 -- When it rains in Venango County, does it pour into the voting machine storage room? Perhaps so, given the public statements of Chief Clerk Denise Jones at this evening's meeting of the Venango County Election Board. Jones admitted that the county's ES&S iVotronic voting machines are located in a damp basement room where water collects on the floor.
"When it rains, there is no french drain so it gets wet, so maintenance needs a key," Ms. Jones said. In response to concerns from citizens about storing computerized voting machines in the wet room she added, ""They are up on racks, they are on wheels, so water doesn't actually hit them. It never comes up that much. Water gets on the cement back there. It's not like it's two inches or anything. You can go back there and look at it; you can go in there and see what I am talking about."
Ms. Jones' statements came during discussion of who has keys to the supposedly secure room containing the voting machines and related equipment ordered quarantined by the Election Board on May 26, following reports of vote flipping, missing candidates, and other problems during the Primary election earlier that month. The Election Board subsequently ordered a forensic examination of the iVotronic voting system during a public hearing on June 1.
Security concerns were prompted by a June 3 directive regarding access to the voting equipment and the planned forensic exam issued by two of the three County Commissioners currently running as candidates for re-election in 2011.
In addition to insisting that multiple parties must have keys that could be used to open the room where the election equipment is currently quarantined, the Commissioners' memo claimed that ES&S informed them of a whopping $1750 charge for four hours of a technician's time to "reinstate the warranty" for each of the five and half year-old iVotronics "if the independent contractors open the machines and/or damage the equipment" in the course of the coming forensic examination. While there may be ES&S maintenance contracts still in place in some Pennsylvania counties, VotePA knows of no actual warranty on ES&S equipment lasting over one year. Brand new iVotronic machines, if still available from ES&S, reportedly cost between $2500 and $3000.
The Venango County Election Board and various citizens present expressed concern that as current candidates for re-election, County Commissioners have no authority to issue directives controlling access to election equipment, nor could they order who must be present at any examination of the voting system. Pennsylvania election law removes any current candidate for office from election administration and from membership on Election Boards during the time he or she is running.
In its initial business of the evening, the Venango County Election Board certified the entire Primary election result "under duress," remarking that Pennsylvania election law gave them no choice to do otherwise, even in light of the ongoing investigation into problems reported with voting equipment during the election. It also tabled a request from the Libertarian Party of Venango County to permit major party candidates who were left off some Primary ballots by the iVotronic machines to run as Libertarians in the fall. The Board remarked that once a candidate has filed nominating petitions for a major party's Primary election, the PA Election Code prohibits him or her filing nomination papers for that office for a minor party or as an independent candidate later in the year.
The Election Board meeting
was attended by an overflow crowd that included numerous citizens,
two Pennsylvania Department of State officials who traveled to
Franklin from Harrisburg, and a young lawyer from the Pittsburgh
office of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, the law firm selected
by Governor Tom Corbett's administration to replace Hangley Aronchick
Segal & Pudlin as the state's defense attorneys in the Banfield v.
Cortés voting machine case (now called Banfield V.
Aichele due to new Secretary of the Commonwealth.)
To view video of the meeting
in its entirety, go HERE.
BACK TO VENANGO COUNTY STORIES HERE
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