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Fayette County Board of Commissioners adopts new electronic voting system, Commissioner and Chair, Angela Zimmerlink, reportedly says she "received surprisingly little public comment during the selection process"... (Herald-Standard, March 23, 2006 County to buy voting system )

Activists Absent... not in Fayette County... Vote Fix (Citizen Mom) asked a series of questions at meetings in January to each of five vendors of voting systems who demonstrated their products to judges of election, poll workers, and commissioners, and the public.  (material posted:  http://dirtline.tripod.com/citizenmom/id4.html
 
When commissioners were scheduled to choose a system (3/23/06) an opinion was posted online, and made known in email to the board of commissioners (to wait to choose a system until after all systems under review by PA state were no longer Pending certification status)  See Opinion None of the Above
 
Here, we continue to present information that will enable others to form an independent opinion and make that opinion known to state legislators and the local board of county commissioners.

Continue tracking costs that will be needed to implement federal mandate of replacing lever machines with HAVA compliant systems
 
Fayette County set aside $250,000 reserve of Fayette monies for use for voting systems
 
Minutes are posted only after approved at a Commissioners Meeting which is normally the following month
 
 
February 23, 2006 meeting minutes
 

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.

http://www.hartintercivic.com/innerpage.php?pageid=98

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.

http://www.hartintercivic.com/innerpage.php?pageid=53

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

https://verifiedvoting.org/article.php?id=5142

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."

http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2004-02-20/pols_feature.html

 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).

http://www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html

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.

TRIBUNE-REVIEW
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

http://www.co.fayette.pa.us/fayette/cwp/view.asp?a=2139&q=521160

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribune-review/trib/fayette/s_436808.html

 

 
 

...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

see HAVA

http://www.co.fayette.pa.us/fayette/cwp/view.asp?A=2139&Q=506985

See Vote Fix None of the Above for commentary and opinion

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 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," 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
. (03/23/2006 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.

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 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," 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. 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."

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. Vicites said the bill might never come out of committee
...
 
More...  http://www.heraldstandard.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=16356432&BRD=2280&PAG=461&dept_id=480247&rfi=6

 
By Chris Foreman
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
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 process.

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.

News Breaking
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 e-Slate
 
Demo online:  Hart InterCivic's e-slate.
 
Streaming video
 
032206

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. 

CUT PACK

OUTRO - 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. 


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