News Items updated and archived here
Just thought this deserves revisiting for the "inscumbent" factor...
By Brad Bumsted
STATE CAPITOL REPORTER
May 26, 2006
HARRISBURG - Fat political war chests, traditionally an advantage for incumbents, weren't the determining
factor in many key primary races for House and Senate seats, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review analysis shows.
Armed instead with a powerful message -- opposition to incumbents' support of a 16- to 54-percent legislative pay raise
in July -- many challengers were able to compete and, in some cases, win with a lot less money than their opponents.
Republican Mike Folmer's campaign spent $2 per vote to defeat one of the most powerful state lawmakers in Pennsylvania.
Senate Majority Leader David "Chip" Brightbill, R-Lebanon, spent $75 per vote and lost to Folmer on May 16 by almost a 2-1
Still, outsiders like Folmer for the first time in recent memory collected significant contributions from conservative
groups and influential GOP contributors upset with the direction of Pennsylvania's Republican Party and its legislative leaders...
Money didn't make a difference for Jubelirer and Brightbill, whose races were two of the three most closely watched at
the Capitol. But in House Minority Whip Mike Veon's heavily Democratic Beaver County district -- where economic issues trumped
the pay raise -- campaign spending remained a factor.
Voters outraged over the pay raise defeated 17 legislative incumbents last week -- 13 of them Republicans. But the pay
raise was only one factor in their losses, said former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, president of the national Club for Growth.
"Rank-and-file Republicans were upset with the leadership of Republican legislators," Toomey said. "The pay raise was one
of the catalysts. It was definitely not the whole story." ...
By Lara Brenckle
May 26, 2006
Election night tallies from Allegheny County's first use of electronic voting machines did not include about
2,300 absentee and optical-scan ballots, officials said Thursday.
Of the 4,000 absentee ballots cast during the May 16 primary, 750 went uncounted on election night because of errors by
poll workers. Additionally, 1,571 optical-scan ballots were not run through counting machines until Wednesday for the same
The discrepancies were discovered during the county Elections Division's reconciliation process, which takes place after
each election. The process counts recorded votes, and provisional and absentee ballots against the number filed election night.
If the numbers differ, the county investigates.
To comply with federal law, the county switched from lever-style machines to electronic touch-screen machines made by Nebraska-based
Election System & Software, and used optical-scan equipment as a backup. Some poll workers, who had 39 days to learn how
to use the new machines, struggled to follow procedures...
By Lara Brenckle
May 23, 2006
Allegheny County Elections Director Mark Wolosik said Monday he isn't sure when he'll be able to certify
the results of the May 16 primary, even though he was given extra time to do so.
The slow review means candidates in close races are reserving judgment on calls for a recount.
Allegheny County's Election Returns Board began matching up the number of voters to ballots cast Friday, and Wolosik said
the work is proceeding more slowly than in years past. Part of the challenge is working out problems related to the county's
switch to a touch-screen voting system and its use of backup optical-scan machines for paper ballots.
"We have the optical scans, and many local boards did not place the absentee ballots in the voting box. They left them
in their envelopes, and we had to find them," Wolosik said...
Greene officials confident in new voting machines
Schuylkill, Carbon bolster security efforts after glitch found.
Alerted late Tuesday that new electronic voting
machines that many counties bought are vulnerable to tampering, election officials in Schuylkill and Carbon counties say they
will keep the equipment locked up tight until the May 16 primary.
A ''potential security vulnerability'' in machines
sold by Diebold Election Systems Inc. of McKinney, Texas, could let ''unauthorized software to be loaded on to the system,''
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortez said in a warning issued to the counties...
Wednesday, May 03, 2006 By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gaze
As a backup, the county will also print fill-in-the-blank optical scan ballots for this election. Voters at sites with
long lines will have the option of using the ballots...
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
By Paula Reed Ward, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A blind man testified at a hearing in federal court yesterday that the voting machines chosen by Allegheny County for the
upcoming primary election are the worst he's tested for accessibility for disabled people.
And a lawyer who has worked on voters' rights issues in Philadelphia for decades said the county lacks enough time in the
20 days before the May 16 primary to properly educate poll workers and voters on how to use the new machines.
Both men were called to testify as part of a lawsuit filed this month seeking to block the use of the new iVotronic touch-screen
The county agreed this month to purchase the machines for nearly $12 million, to be paid through a federal grant to comply
with the Help Americans Vote Act. If they are not in place by the primary, the county faces legal action and could lose the
U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster, who is holding a hearing on the matter, must decide if the primary can go on with
the new machines or if the county will have to continue to use its old lever machines...
Allegheny County voters try to bar new machines Lawsuit cites lack of training, accessibility Thursday, April 13, 2006 By Ryan Haggerty,
A group of Allegheny County residents and the national People for the American Way filed suit in U.S. District Court yesterday
to block the county from switching to touch-screen voting machines and paper ballots for the May 16 primary election.
The group is seeking an injunction to require the county to continue using its lever machines instead of the iVotronic
machines the county agreed to purchase last week from Election Systems & Software, or ES&S, for $11.9 million. The
ES&S machines were the county's second choice after machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems failed to pass state
The lawsuit, with local community activist Celeste Taylor as the lead plaintiff, claims there isn't enough time to train
poll workers and voters properly on the use of the new machines, and that the new machines are not fully accessible to voters
with certain disabilities.
Two plaintiffs are people who use wheelchairs...
The Allegheny County Elections Board on Friday night approved Chief Executive Dan Onorato's
plan to buy new touch-screen voting machines from a Nebraska company to replace the lever-style machines voters have used
since the 1960s.
The plan is to have the new machines in operation for the May 16 primary -- a goal that's beset with potential obstacles.
"It's impossible to get everybody trained. It's going to be a mess," said County Councilman John DeFazio, D-Shaler, one
of the three members of the elections board.
Even so, DeFazio voted with Onorato, also an elections board member, to approve the deal to buy 4,700 iVotronic touch-screen
machines from Omaha-based Election System & Software for $11.9 million, which would be reimbursed by the federal government.
Saturday, April 08, 2006 By Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The county elections board voted last night to authorize a contract with Nebraska-based Elections Systems & Software
to buy or lease 4,700 iVotronic touch-screen voting machines, 1,300 of which must be in place for the May 16 primaries.
The move comes just one week after Secretary of State Pedro Cortes told Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato that
the Sequoia Voting Systems machines the county had planned to buy would not be certified because of software problems.
The state decertified the lever voting machines the county has used in the past. Also, the state requirement that these
changes be made so close to the primary prompted a pre-vote venting from elections board member John DeFazio: "This is not
right, this is not fair and it's going to be a catastrophe."...
...Board member Dave Fawcett, R-Oakmont, amended Mr. Onorato's motion with a lease option. He was the dissenting vote on
the motion. The board is made up of Mr. Fawcett, Mr. DeFazio and Mr. Onorato.
Mr. Fawcett does not approve of the iVotronic because it does not allow a voter to verify his ballot on paper before committing
it; the print-out of votes on each machine -- which is randomized -- is done only after voting is closed.
As a back-up during the primaries -- specifically to keep voters from having to wait if a line forms in polling places
-- voters will have the option of committing a paper ballot into a precinct scanner. That will only be used in the May election,
said Mr. Onorato.
About 25 people attended a hearing last night, during which debate centered on whether the county will be in compliance
with new standards of the Help America Vote Act by using the touch-screen machines. The law was codified in 2002, but its
standards were updated last year.
Paul O'Hanlon, an attorney with the Disabilities Law Project, said the iVotronic is not accessible based on the Help America
Vote Act standards ratified late in 2005 and, because of that, the county could forfeit $12 million in HAVA funds to pay for
Mr. Onorato, visibly frustrated, waved a color-coded map of Pennsylvania counties and said, "I'm sitting here with 22 counties
with the same machine, and the secretary of state tells me it's HAVA compliant.
"I'm trying to play by the rules they gave us and balance all these issues," he said.
April 4, 2006 State wants to again pull leversMeeting with Justice Department to seek use of old voting machines. Members of Pennsylvania's congressional delegation
hope to persuade the U.S. Justice Department today to let counties use their old voting machines one final time without forfeiting
millions of dollars in federal aid earmarked to help them buy new electronic machines.
Expected to attend the meeting
in Washington, D.C., are U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum as well as U.S. Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick, R-8th District,
and other members of the delegation...
Monday, March 13, 2006
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In Allegheny County, everyone seems to want a veepat.
County Chief Executive Dan Onorato wants it. All 15 County Council members, both Republicans and Democrats, want it. And
VotePA, a group of impassioned voting rights activists, desperately wants it.
The "veepat," or VVPT, is a voter-verified paper trail, a printed record that voters can check before casting their choices
on electronic voting machines.
Because of the federal Help America Vote Act, electronic machines are making their debut in thousands of voting precincts
across Pennsylvania in the May 16 primary. But many won't have a paper trail for voters, a distinction that puts Pennsylvania
in a shrinking minority.
More than 30 states already use or have legislation requiring some form of VVPT for electronic machines, according to Pamela
Smith of California-based Verified Voting.
"The issue with paperless voting is that you have no way to see that your vote was recorded or accurately counted," Ms.
Smith said. "The question is: Do you want integrity in your elections or not?"
Two bills that would require paper trails currently are before the Pennsylvania Legislature. Both, House Bill 2000 and
Senate Bill 977, have stalled in committee.
State Rep. Paul Clymer, R-Bucks, chairman of the state government committee, said he currently has no plans to try to move
the VVPT bill, which was first introduced last year in the House by Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill. It has 57 co-sponsors.
State Sen. Joe Conti, R-Bucks, is the author of the Senate bill, which has 16 co-sponsors. The Senate's State Government
Committee considered the bill at a meeting in December and likely will hold a public hearing on it this month, said Cynthia
Thurston, the committee's executive director.
Mr. Clymer said he is worried about the potential extra cost for counties that already have started buying machines without
paper trails. He also echoes concerns put forward by state officials who say a paper trail could violate a voter's right to
Allegheny County officials dismiss those concerns.
Last month, the county's elections board approved an $11.8 million contract to buy 2,800 AVC Advantage machines from Sequoia
Voting Systems Inc. For an extra $2.2 million, those machines can later be equipped with "cut-and-drop" paper printers that
more effectively conceal a voter's identity.
At their meeting last week, County Council members said they would insist on spending the extra money if the state allows
Saturday, March 11, 2006
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It's a three-way trade involving Chicago, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh -- and almost $70 million.
But the commodity at the center of this web isn't a group of star athletes. It's voting machines, all manufactured
by Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. of Oakland, Calif.
As part of the deal, Allegheny County is getting approximately 2,000 pre-owned, deeply discounted, electronic push-button
machines from Clark County, Nev., where some units have been in use for almost 10 years.
The Nevada county, in turn, is getting about 4,000 almost-new touch-screen machines from Chicago and Cook County, Ill.,
which will then receive a brand new version of the touch-screen unit.
Larry Lomax, Clark County's registrar of voters, said Allegheny County voters had no reason to worry about the reliability
of the machines they are getting, the AVC Advantage.
Unlike touch-screen models, which require voters to scroll through a ballot on an ATM-like computer module, the Advantage
allows users to see the entire ballot at one time. They press buttons to make their choices.
"I think they'll like this," Mr. Lomax said. "I've had no complaints."
The cross-country exchange is part of a nationwide scramble to meet the stringent requirements of the Help America
Vote Act, a law passed by Congress after Florida's 2000 election debacle...
Friday, March 10, 2006
By Brian David, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Beaver County commissioners yesterday approved spending $1.4 million on electronic voting machines from Election
Systems and Software, although most of that purchase price will be paid by the federal government.
The ES&S machines were not the county's first choice.
Beaver bought the Unilect Patriot system in 1998, was happy with the machines and would have saved money by upgrading
instead of replacing them. What's more, when the county brought in several other machines for voters to try last year, the
voters overwhelmingly favored the new Unilect system.
The commissioners would have liked to have gone with Unilect despite recent problems -- its machines were decertified
last year by the Pennsylvania Department of State after problems cropped up in other counties using Unilect equipment in the
2004 general election.
Unilect's new equipment, however, has not gotten state certification, and with deadlines looming for federal funding
under the Help America Vote Act, the county was forced to choose from the handful of certified systems.
Federal funds will pick up $1.13 million of the cost...
Thursday, March 2, 2006
Pennsylvania's highest court has overturned a lower court decision blocking Westmorland County from purchasing electronic
voting machines to comply with a federal mandate...
Court: Pa. County Can Switch Voter Systems © 2006 The Associated Press HARRISBURG, Pa. — The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a county may
switch voting systems without voter approval.
A lower court judge had stopped Westmoreland County from buying new touch-screen machines, saying counties
must follow the state constitution and get voter approval.
The 2002 federal law requiring improvements to voting systems applied only to federal elections, the
"We're very happy with the decision," said Allison Hrestak, spokeswoman for the state agency that must
certify which voting machines meet the federal requirements. "It reinforces our position all along _ that the federal law
supersedes state law."
The ruling applies only to Westmoreland but has implications for many of the 67 Pennsylvania counties
that also are upgrading their voting systems...
Thursday, March 02, 2006
State high court clears way for electronic voting machines
By Jerome L. Sherman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today overturned a lower court's ruling that said Westmoreland County must hold a referendum
before purchasing electronic voting machines.
The order now clears the way for two dozen counties, including Allegheny and Westmoreland, to replace their aging lever
machines, a requirement of the federal Help America Vote Act...
The high court's decision today invalidates Judge Pellegrini's order. The court has not yet issued an opinion in the case.
The ruling also should reduce the likelihood of a federal lawsuit against Pennsylvania and Westmoreland County. Last week,
the Justice Department threatened such action if the county and the state failed to move on voting machine purchases...
A Commonwealth Court judge has refused to change his ruling preventing Westmoreland County from
buying federally mandated electronic voting machines, thrusting a question of voters' rights into Pennsylvania's highest court
with the primary election drawing near.
Notice of appeal to the state Supreme Court was filed on Thursday as one question remained unanswered in Commonwealth
Court: whether Judge Dan Pellegrini's ruling this week applies to other Pennsylvania counties scrambling to buy new voting
machines to comply with the Help America Vote Act. ...
|By Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell
|February 20, 2006 |
At a President's Day event at the National Consitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell
(pictured below at right) announced his veto of HB 1318. The following message was delivered to the House of Commonwealth and posted on the Governor's website.
Attorney aims to get voting machine
case to high courthttp://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/trib/westmoreland/s_427212.html
Friday, February 24, 2006
An Armstrong County attorney said he is working to prevent the federal government from gaining a court
order that may have Westmoreland County voters casting ballots on electronic machines that would be bought without a constitutionally protected voter say-so.
Charles A. Pascal Jr. represents
a citizens' group that was successful in convincing a Commonwealth
Court judge last week to block Westmoreland's planned purchase
of iVotronic touch-screen machines for the county's 306 polling places.
As both sides prepare for the
case to go before the state Supreme Court, a letter from Assistant U.S. Attorney Wan J. Kim was sent to county and state officials
notifying them that the Justice Department is planning to intervene.
Kim's letter says that a federal
injunction will be sought to ensure that all Pennsylvania counties comply with the Help America Vote Act, a federal law passed in 2002 in response to the
vote-counting problems during the 2000 presidential election.
The Justice Department is charged
with enforcing the voting law, which requires many counties throughout the nation to upgrade voting equipment this year. In
Pennsylvania, the deadline is May 16, the day of the general primary.
Pascal said he questions why
the Justice Department decided to get involved now. His lawsuit was filed in early January and argued in court in early February.
"The Justice Department had
the opportunity to intervene in this litigation. It did not do that," Pascal said. "If they had something to say, they could
have done it in a timely way."
Kim's letter was made part
of the record in the state Supreme Court case. Pascal filed a response yesterday asking that the justices disregard it. He
also said he's researching what avenue he has to intervene in the suit that the Justice Department is planning.
As of yesterday, there was
no ruling in state Supreme Court, and the Justice Department's federal lawsuit had not been filed.
In filing suit against the
State Department and county, the Justice Department is seeking to solve a problem without including the very people who brought
it to light, Pascal said.
"It would seem to me that this
letter is specific to the lawsuit. It's clear there were conversations between the state and the Justice Department," he said.
"I wish there were some third party that would come into my cases at the last minute and declare me a winner."
County officials say the law
prevents them from using the levered machines that have been at the polls for 50 years. In December, the county commissioners
voted unanimously to contract with Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software Inc. to provide the touch-screen machines.
No contract has been signed.
In 2003, the State Department
directed county officials to forgo a referendum under the logic that the federal voting law superseded a state law calling
for a ballot question before switching to electronic voting machines.
Those who sued the county say
they are fighting a states' rights issue. They further argue that there are better options on the market than the iVotronic
and voters should be able to choose.
Westmoreland County stands to lose at least $977,000 in federal funding, with another $2 million in question, if new
machines are not in place by the primary.
Old-fashioned ballot boxes
have been discussed as a last resort, but the Justice Department letter noted that paper ballots do not comply with the Help
America Vote Act.
Feds threaten action in Westmoreland vote machine case
Thursday, February 23, 2006 AP
The Justice Department plans to intervene in a lawsuit over voting machines in
Westmoreland County, which could affect other counties in the state.
Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim sent a letter to state and county officials
warning that a federal lawsuit will be filed within 10 days, county officials said yesterday.
A citizens group successfully sued in Commonwealth Court to stop the county from
buying new touch-screen voting machines because the county didn't first hold a referendum to let voters approve the new machines.
That's required under the state constitution, but federal officials -- and the county commissioners -- argued that was superseded
by the Help America Vote Act...
Feds plan ballot lawsuit By David Hunt
Thursday, February 23, 2006
The U.S. Department
of Justice is stepping between Westmoreland County and a citizens group to end a court battle calling into question whether
voters have a say in how they will cast ballots.
Assistant Attorney General Wan J. Kim notified state and county officials in a
letter this week that the Justice Department plans to file a federal lawsuit against them within 10 days in an effort to overpower
any lower court rulings. The letter says the action seeks to ensure that all Pennsylvania counties comply with the Help America
Vote Act, a 4-year-old federal law passed in response to vote-counting problems in the 2000 federal election.
Westmoreland County officials say they are required under the law to replace the
county's 50-year-old levered machines by the May 16 general primary.
In December, the county commissioners voted unanimously to select Nebraska-based
Election Systems and Software Inc. to supply iVotronic touch-screen voting machines for Westmoreland's 306 precincts. No contract
has been signed.
In January, a group of citizens joined by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny County,
sued Westmoreland County, arguing that state law requires a referendum before such a purchase can be made. Commonwealth Court
Judge Dan Pellegrini sided with the citizens, but his ruling is being appealed in state Supreme Court.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit call their fight a state's rights issue and further argue
that there are better machines on the market than the iVotronic.
That federal officials are preparing to step in is "startling," said plaintiff
Marybeth Kuznik, an election inspector in Penn Township.
"Why should our state be forced to comply and toss out our state Constitution?"
Kuznik said. "I think it will garner national attention, and hopefully it will draw attention to this whole process that's
really starting to run amok."
State and county officials welcomed the Justice Department to ask for a federal
injunction, despite being the prospective defendants.
"The letter merely serves to reinforce our belief that we have chosen the correct
course of action since the beginning," said State Department spokeswoman Allison J. Hrestak.
"It's going to move this forward," said Westmoreland County Commissioner Chairman
Tom Balya. ..
According to today's editions of the Pittsburgh Tribune Review and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspapers, Commonwealth Court
Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled for a group of eleven Westmoreland County residents who "filed suit on grounds that the
state constitution requires a referendum before voting systems can be changed."
According to the Post-Gazette: Westomoreland County cannot buy electronic
voting machines unless voters say they want them... Westmoreland will have
to use paper ballots for federal elections until voters choose another HAVA-compliant system, Judge Pellegrini wrote."
Commonwealth Court ruled Monday that Westmoreland County's plans to purchase
federally mandated electronic voting equipment must remain on hold until voters decide by way of a referendum that they want
In a 30-page opinion handed down yesterday, Judge Dan Pellegrini sided with a group
of citizens joined by state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny County, claiming Westmoreland County would be violating voters' constitutional
rights by purchasing electronic voting machines. State election code calls for counties using levered machines to pose a ballot
question so that citizens can decide whether they will use an electronic version.
STUNNING UPSET: PENNSYLVANIA JUDGE RULES VOTING REFERENDUM IN COUNTY MUST PROCEED FOR VOTERS TO DETERMINE
REPLACING LEVER VOTING MACHINES WITH AN ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEM. There are serious Implications for all counties which
are in the process of replacing lever machine systems (and others, such as punch-card and paper). Many counties are
considering replacing current systems with direct recording electronic systems. The lawsuit entered by Westmoreland
residents focused on the state Constitution requirement for a voter referendum on a switch from a non-electronic system to
electronic systems. State officials claimed the federal Help America Vote Act mandated the change, and also negated
the need for voter referendums in the counties altering from one system to an electronic system.
County studies requirements
The lawsuit was dismissed.
Libertarian's lawsuit targets electronic voting machines
by Bill Winter
LP News Editor
A California Libertarian who filed a potentially groundbreaking lawsuit
against "touchscreen" voting systems is now waiting to learn whether an appeals court will hear oral arguments in the case.
Susan Marie Weber, a resident of Palm Desert, California, said she hopes
to get word any day from the Ninth Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
"We are awaiting the court's decision," she said. "If they say yes, then
I will appear in court. If they decide to hear the case based on documents only, we will be notified to that decision. We
check mail every day, having no idea when they will advise."
At stake in the case is whether the government can use Direct Recording
Electronic (DRE) touchscreen voting machines in Riverside County, California. The machines use an electronic voting system
that produces no paper ballots.
Weber said the case is important to Libertarians "because nothing else matters
if we have no vote."
"Without transparency in elections, and the ability to see a document to
recount, we'll never know for sure" how many votes Libertarian Party candidates receive, she said.
"All Libertarians should be incensed that there is absolutely no way to
verify any election that is on an electronic voting system. For a recount, the election officers merely put the cartridges
into the counting machine and push the buttons. That is their 'proof' that the count was correct. Anybody who knows a smidgen
of programming knows how manipulatable this system is."
A ruling against DRE voting systems could halt their distribution in California,
said Weber, and create a legal precedent that could slow their acceptance around the USA.