Citizens who have been tracking Fayette County's imminent compliance with the so-called HAVA federal mandate have
been in a bind. How could they express a laundry listing of concerns over the purchase of a new "electronic" voting
system when Fayette County's own website urges citizens to contact federal legislators?
In addition, several months of news coverage of commissioner meetings wherein the subject came up about the upcoming
purchases were clear (through board member quotes) that the board felt locked in to a switch or the county would
face potential loss of funding and more recently, the potential for a federal lawsuit.
What would a citizen have conveyed to the Fayette County Commissioners with the outcome - inevitable compliance
- indicated months ago?
Those who have been watching closely knew this day would come in Fayette.
As noted in Citizen Mom Voting Info
vendors who displayed their products during county meetings in mid-January - when asked about the voter verified paper audit
trail - showed an area of the machine where the unit would fit.
The hold-up has been the PA legislators and the state Bureau of Elections hesitation to adopt legislation for implementation
of voter verified paper audit trails - due to Constitutional privacy concerns.
My preference would have been for the commissioners and a groundswell of local citizens to challenge the federal law
from the outset, but that wasn't a realistic expectation.
For now, the best we can do is as activists is become informed on the issue of a Voter (Verified) Verifiable Paper
Audit Trail. Dr. Rebecca Mercuri
contact state legislators and insist on legislation that allows the use of the voter verifiable paper audit trail feature
on the eSlate machine.
See below for Mercuri's site statement.
Board of Fayette County Commissioners chose the eSlate (not a touch screen) direct electronic recording voting system
to replace the county's lever machines.
During meetings in the county in January, five vendors presented and demonstrated their products, with one including
a demonstration of the paper ballot optiscan unit. Hart InterCivic had a unit on display, but didn't demonstrate its
use to the entire audience.
During Hart InterCivic's representative's demonstration of the eSlate, and as other vendors, she was asked several
pointed questions about security, hard-drives, battery backups in case of power outages, and last but not least, Voter Verified
(Verifiable) Paper Audit Trails. Other topics came up, such as life of the machine, poll workers ease of use, how-to
use during Primary and General Elections, etc.
Since the commissioners chose the eSlate, our focus remains on that system.
Dr. Rebecca Mercuri proposed the "voter verified paper audit trail" (VVPAT) and apparently accepts
the "Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (as opposed to the voter verifiable audit trail): http://www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html
Hart Intercivic's eSlate includes the VVPAT - and in addition to that - a random pin number receipt. That is a randomly
generated number that can only be used once. Before accessing the eSlate, the elector has to receive the number (on
a slip) and type in the number on the keyboard on the voting machine. Then, the machine is accessible to the elector.
The process is explained on the eSlate site and the information explains the VVPAT procedure for the voter.
Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT)
Hart InterCivic provides a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) version of our eSlateŽ Electronic Voting System
for those jurisdictions affected by VVPAT legislation or regulations.
The feature Mercuri wanted applies to eSlate - the voter before casting the ballot, is able to review the "paper
record" of the ballot -
What Mercuri wants: Simply adding paper "receipts" to the system is not sufficient. The
voter must be required to perform an action that confirms that their choices have been recorded correctly on the paper, hence
making it a verified (rather than just "verifiable") ballot in a legal sense.
Mercuri: The paper ballot must not provide any feature that could be used to violate voter
privacy or encourage coercion and vote selling.
eSlate has that feature.
Mercuri: These voter verified paper ballots should be used to produce the certified vote totals
and be available for scrutiny in case of election contest or recount.
Yes, eSlate produces the certified vote totals...
Now what is necessary is to get the Pennsylvania state legislators to adopt and pass legislation so
eSlate and others can employ the VVPAT in PA as in other states.
Hart Intercivic eSlate
Other critics even give Hart qualified praise.
"Those touch screens are just utter crap," says Rebecca Mercuri, a research fellow at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy
School of Government and a very prominent e-voting critic. "Even the banking industry had gone away from them years ago, because
they malfunction so badly. It's a smart move on Hart's part to not use that. Also, for the disabled, I think it's a very nice
interface, that sort of wheellike thing."
Who created the Voter Verified Balloting concept?
Rebecca Mercuri did. She first described it in her paper: "Physical
Verifiability of Computer Systems" presented at the 5th International Computer Virus and Security Conference in March
1992, and the concept also appeared in her Doctoral Dissertation, defended October 27, 2000. She coined the phrase in
her comment: "Explanation of Voter-Verified Ballot Systems"in The Risks Digest, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy, Volume 22, Issue 17, July 24, 2002, and an artist's
rendering of a "Mercuri Method" voting system (they need not be so elaborate) appeared in her October 2002 IEEE Spectrum article,
"A Better Ballot Box." This design concept was deliberately never patented by Dr. Mercuri so that it could be
freely incorporated into election systems.
Note that a "voter
verified paper ballot" (VVPB) or "voter verified paper audit trail" (VVPAT) is NOT the same as a "voter verifiable audit trail"
(VVAT). Many vendors and some scientists believe that an audit trail of electronically recorded ballots can be made
secure (possibly through encryption or other mechanisms), but no such systems have yet been validated through rigorous mathematical
proofs, nor can they be independently confirmed for correctness by non-technical poll workers, election officials or ordinary
citizens. A great demonstration showing why electronic audits and pre-election testing are inadequate can be viewed at: www.wheresthepaper.org. Simply adding paper "receipts" to the system is not sufficient. The voter must be required to perform
an action that confirms that their choices have been recorded correctly on the paper, hence making it a verified (rather than
just "verifiable") ballot in a legal sense. The paper ballot must not provide any feature that could be used to violate voter
privacy or encourage coercion and vote selling. These voter verified paper ballots should be used to produce the certified
vote totals and be available for scrutiny in case of election contest or recount. When properly implemented, the "Mercuri
Method" ensures that paper ballots will not be removed from the polling place nor added to the ballot box. Accept no substitutes!
Be sure your systems (and laws) will require a true "voter verified paper ballot" (VVPB) or "voter verified paper
audit trail" (VVPAT).
Mercuri speaks about Mercuri Method
...Mercuri says she has an answer for all those questions – a system she
devised that her colleagues have dubbed the "Mercuri Method."
"There's a script, and all of the election officials have these negative points.
I've heard them before, I've heard her say them," says Mercuri. "I've explained this to her [Mercuri and DeBeauvoir both serve
on the Elections Security Subcommittee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers], and she's heard me explain
this on at least two occasions, so the fact that she's still saying that is amazing.
"That's ridiculous. Nobody ever says that when we're talking about, you know, like
an optical scan ballot: 'Oh, the people are going to leave the polling place with the ballot.' First of all, if a person leaves
with it, then they didn't vote. If you're going to go to that type of system, people need to understand that. Now, if you
go to my article called A Better Ballot Box, you'll see a picture that shows how it could work. ...
The person never touches the piece of paper. ...
When they see the vote on the screen and they're ready to vote, they say OK, print
the paper. It prints it out behind a piece of Plexiglas; they see paper behind the piece of Plexiglas; if they agree that
it's OK, they press the button and it s in the box. So how can they walk out with it?"
As for the disability issue, Mercuri says that visually impaired or even illiterate
voters could use voice-feedback scanners to read the paper ballot...
Exactly what eSlate can employ, if only the PA state legislators and Bureau of Elections would adopt such legislation.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Fayette County government's Web site features links to two demonstrations of the county's
new electronic voting machines.
Commissioners voted unanimously this week to select the eSlate system from Hart InterCivic, of Austin, Texas.
Officials anticipate that $1.1 million in federal grants will cover most, if not all, of the expenses to buy the machines
and train poll workers. As of Friday afternoon, the county had not signed a contract with Hart.
Hart has told the commissioners the machines will be delivered by mid-April. The county will have a voter-education program
before the May 16 primary, Commissioner Chairwoman Angela Zimmerlink said.
The demonstrations can be found at www.co.fayette.pa.us.
DEMO eSlate Voting
...As you may know, the Federal government enacted legislation called Help America Voter Act 2002. This legislation requires
Counties to meet certain requirements by the May 16 2006 Primary Election.
Part of the requirement is to replace lever-type voting machines to an electronic voting system. Fayette County has been
complying with the Federal and State mandates the best we can by applying for Federal funding, earmarking county funds and
researching which electronic voting system would be purchased.
Fayette County will receive $1,119,089.30 in Federal funding. Fayette County estimates that the total cost to be in compliance
with HAVA 2002 will be $1,621,500.00. The County General Fund Budget will be used to fund the balance.
There remains many questions, concerns and issues raised concerning this Federal legislation. There is ongoing court action
as well. Many voters contact the Commissioners Office voicing their views. Please share and voice your concerns to your Federal
legislators as they and only they can make changes to the legislation they enacted.
Congressman Murtha - 1-800-289-2642
Congressman Shuster 202-225-2431
Senator Santorum 202-224-6324
Senator Specter 202-224-4254 For more information
This same refrain echoed for months:
The county was required to purchase new voting machines because of the
federal Help America Vote Act that was passed in response to voting problems in Florida as a result of the 2000 presidential
Vicites reiterated his statement that the county's current lever machines have 20 years left of useful life
in them. "They are good durable machines but the federal government made them unlawful. We were told if we don't comply
by May 16 we will be sanctioned and lose the $1.1 million," Vicites said.
"This mandate has forced
us to act even though we know we have good durable voting machines. We have to comply," Vicites said.
(03/23/2006 County to buy voting system
More of the same refrain
Zimmerlink said with approximately $45,000 in software expenses, the new system
will be costly, but there is nothing that can be done. She said she received surprisingly little public comment
during the selection process, adding it is "difficult to gauge when not getting feedback."
She said the county
must purchase the machines, or face losing the grant funding or a lawsuit. She said all the five systems the county
viewed were essentially the same, but some had more tasks for poll workers than others.
Zimmerlink said she would have
preferred waiting to purchase a new system, but a Congressional bill delaying implementation is in committee
County to buy voting system
For Discussion Purposes:
The Fayette County commissioners Wednesday unanimously approved purchasing a new electronic voting
system for the approximate cost of the grant funds they received to fund it, freeing up $500,000 from the general fund to
use for other purposes.
The commissioners approved the eSlate voting system from Hart Intercivic to use beginning with the May
16 primary. Laurie Nicholson, director of the Fayette County Election Bureau, said the total cost of the contract is "really
close" to the county's grant allocation of $1.1 million.
The total cost of the contract was not available Wednesday afternoon, although the machines will cost
$2,500 each, for a total of $670,000 just for the machines. The company will provide support and training as well as the equipment.
The county previously received $1.1 million in grant funding to use toward the purchase of the machines, and also placed an
additional $500,000 in the 2006 budget to use if necessary.
The decision to enter into a contract with the company
to purchase 268 electronic machines was made relatively simple when it was determined that Hart Intercivic was one of only
two companies that could guarantee delivery by the primary. Voting yes were Chairwoman Angela M. Zimmerlink and Commissioners
Joseph A. Hardy III and Vincent A. Vicites.
A total of 11 vendors sought certification throughout the state. In addition
to Hart Intercivic, the commissioners were also considering Diebold.
To use the eSlate machine, voters must turn a
dial and push buttons to register their choices on the screen. It is not a touch screen system.
Hart Intercivic representative
Molly Terry attended the meeting, and said the company can definitely deliver in time for the election. She said the equipment
"will be here in plenty of time."
Although Terry said she didn't have a definite date, the projected date of delivery
is mid-April. In response to a question about durability of the machines, Terry said the dials have been tested for 1 million
turns and the machines have a life expectancy of 25 to 27 years.
Terry said Lancaster and Bedford counties in Pennsylvania
have also purchased the voting system. She said Hart Intercivic is based in Austin, Texas, and the system promises 100 percent
accuracy, 100 percent of the time. The company will also provide training for election bureau employees and poll workers.
county was required to purchase new voting machines because of the federal Help America Vote Act that was passed in response
to voting problems in Florida as a result of the 2000 presidential election.
Vicites reiterated his statement that
the county's current lever machines have 20 years left of useful life in them. "They are good durable machines but the federal
government made them unlawful. We were told if we don't comply by May 16 we will be sanctioned and lose the $1.1 million,"
"This mandate has forced us to act even though we know we have good durable voting machines. We have
to comply," Vicites said. Prior to the vote, he called eSlate a "solid system." The machines can hold between
250 and 300 votes each. Vicites said the good news is the contract is close to the grant amount.
Zimmerlink said more
good news is guaranteed delivery within two weeks if the state agreement is signed within five to seven days. She said there
is a 20-day training for election staff and 15 days for election and poll workers.
Additionally, Zimmerlink said an
earlier proposal did not include inputting the names of the candidates, but said they will be programmed into the machines
for the primary and general elections this year.
Zimmerlink said with approximately $45,000 in software expenses, the
new system will be costly, but there is nothing that can be done. She said she received surprisingly little
public comment during the selection process, adding it is "difficult to gauge when not getting feedback."
said the county must purchase the machines, or face losing the grant funding or a lawsuit. She said all the five
systems the county viewed were essentially the same, but some had more tasks for poll workers than others.
said she would have preferred waiting to purchase a new system, but a Congressional bill delaying implementation is in committee.
Vicites said the bill might never come out of committee...
By Chris Foreman
Thursday, March 23, 2006
With less than two months before the 2006 primary, Fayette County commissioners said
Wednesday that a Texas company guaranteed it will deliver state-mandated electronic voting machines by mid-April for training
for election bureau employees and poll workers.
Although an order had not been finalized yesterday, county officials estimated that $1.1 million in federal grants
will cover most, if not all, of the county's expenses to switch from the lever voting machines purchased three decades ago.
While the commissioners praised the design of the eSlate system from Hart InterCivic, they reiterated their frustration
that they had to replace the lever machines, which they project to have 20 years of use left.
Commissioners Angela Zimmerlink and Vincent Vicites also criticized governmental deadlines that pushed the county to
buy the new equipment in time for the primary, although some vendors still are going through the state certification
The lever machines were decertified for state and federal elections after the passage of the Help America Vote Act
of 2002, which was intended to fix voting irregularities claimed during the 2000 general election.
"This mandate has forced us to act on this even though we have good, reliable voting machines," Vicites said.
County officials are expected to buy 278 voting machines and 105 judge booth controllers for use at the 105 precincts.
The equipment has a life expectancy of 25 to 27 years and does not require any special storage conditions, said Molly Terry,
a regional sales manager for Hart.
At the polls, voters will use a gray dial to rotate through the choices in each race, then select a candidate by pressing
the "enter" button. A ballot summary page will review the selections before the voter hits the red "cast ballot" button.
After the equipment arrives, the county will conduct a training session for election staff during a 20-day period and
election judges and poll workers during 15 days, Zimmerlink said.
Currently, none of the state-certified machines has a voter-verified paper trail, but Zimmerlink said it might become
an option in later elections if approved by the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Hart's other Pennsylvania clients include Bedford and Lancaster counties. The $2,500 price per voting machine was set
during negotiations with the Department of State.
UNIONTOWN, WEDNESDAY March 22, 2006 posted at 7 PM
According to a http://www.hstvnews19.com/
NEWS 19 Report, the Fayette County Board of Commissioners met at 10 a.m. to choose a new voting system to replace
the county's lever machines in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act.
The three member board, Angela Zimmerlink, Joseph Hardy, and Vincent Vicites chose unanimously Hart InterCivic's
CORINNE - Fayette Co. Voting Systems
INTRO - Because of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 -
all counties in the country are required to purchase new electronic voting machine systems by this May's primary election.
As of yesterday - Fayette County still had not chosen a voting systems, but that changed today.
- The county will now enter into a contract with HART Intercivic. HART told the county that the machines will arrive
by mid-April. Training sessions for judges of elections and poll workers may begin at the end of this month.