Voter Action Press Release

Pennsylvania Voters Seek Injunction to Block Purchase of Electronic/Touchscreen Voting Systems

Jan 25 2008 | Cite Machines’ Inability to Verify Votes, Secretary’s non-compliance with law

For Immediate Release:  
PHILADELPHIA – January 25th | Pennsylvania voters filed a motion today to block the purchase of electronic voting equipment citing Pennsylvania election code that requires all voting systems produce a “permanent paper record”. Three Pennsylvania counties, Lackawanna, Northampton and Wayne, must replace the voting system they were using, the AVS WINVote, because the Secretary recently decertified it for use in Pennsylvania after it was discovered the vendor had misrepresented the systems to testing authorities.  The motion for preliminary injunction was filed in Commonwealth Court as part of a pending lawsuit, Banfield v. Cortes, originally filed in August 2006 which names Secretary of State Pedro Cortes as defendant and challenges the legality of all electronic and touchscreen voting based on the Pennsylvania election code.
Petitioners are seeking to prevent the future purchase of the 6 models of electronic voting systems at issue in Banfield v.Cortes until the legal challenges raised in the suit are decided.   The six voting systems record voter’s choices directly to the computer; according to the suit, such “direct recording electronic” (DREs) voting systems do not create a permanent physical record of each vote and are not capable of a meaningful audit, both requirements of the Pennsylvania Election Code.
The AVS WINVote was decertified after it was discovered that the system violated several provisions of the Pennsylvania Election Code. The Secretary has told the three counties that it will reimburse them up to their original purchase price of the AVS WINVote system, approximately $4 million. If the Secretary continues to allow the these counties to purchase one of the DRE systems at issue in the lawsuit, the counties may have to discard yet a second electronic voting system after a trial on the merits in this case. “This motion aims to prevent the wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars on voting systems that do not have any way of verifying the votes cast on them,” said Marian K. Schneider, a Berwyn lawyer who represents the petitioners.

Petitioners assert that the Secretary’s process of examining voting systems and approving them for use in Pennsylvania is inadequate because it fails to detect flaws. Indeed, the original complaint catalogues numerous security and accuracy problems as well as violations of the Pennsylvania Election Code and the Pennsylvania Constitution. Recently, the states of California and Ohio subjected their DRE voting systems to rigorous and thorough testing by outside computer science and electronic voting experts. In both states, the testing teams found severe security, reliability and workmanship defects. As a result, California has already decertified its DREs and Ohio’s Secretary of State has recommended that only paper ballots be used in the upcoming elections.

“The California Top to Bottom Review and the Ohio EVEREST report conclusively destroy the myth spread by voting system vendors that their systems have undergone thorough and painstaking testing,” said Doug Jones, a nationally known expert in computer science and electronic voting systems. “The truth is that seriously defective voting systems have remained in the marketplace for more than a decade.” Dr. Jones is serving as an expert witness in the case. 

Dr. Dan Lopresti, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Lehigh University, is also serving as witness for petitioners and agrees that the Secretary’s certification process is inadequate and the DRE systems have security vulnerabilities. “Fortunately we have a readily available and cost effective alternative system   already certified and in use in several Pennsylvania Counties. Voter-marked paper ballots which are optically scanned and manually re-countable provide an acceptably secure alternative, provided an effective audit is performed after the election,” Lopresti said.

“We shouldn’t be forced to trust unknown programmers or anyone else who might have access to the machines.   With paper ballots, we can verify the results. Without paper, it’s faith-based voting,” Says Alan Brau, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit and a resident of Northampton County.

The suit is brought with the support of Voter, a national non profit focused on election integrity issues and with pro bono legal services of Mary Kohart of Drinker Biddle & Reath, Michael Churchill of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Marian Schneider, a lawyer from Berwyn, Pa. “Voter Action is pleased to support this important lawsuit representing the interests of the voters of Pennsylvania. Across the country, more and more states are determining that that electronic voting systems are too unreliable for continued use in elections”, said Holly Jacobson, Director of Voter Action.