-- By Brad Friedman and John Gideon
New Jersey's Department of State, which at the beginning of this month took over all state-wide election duties from the state Attorney General's office, may be celebrating its new duties by sipping down a few glasses of Sequoia Voting Systems-flavored kool-aid in regards to the continuing saga of the Sequoia AVC Advantage touch-screen voting systems which failed during, and after, the state's Super Tuesday primary.
In a press release issued late last week --- which Sequoia was all too happy to selectively feature on its website --- the NJ Dept. of State made a couple of curious, and indeed misleading, announcements. Among them:
That, despite the finding of a NJ judge last Tuesday declaring that failed voting machines in some six different counties were to be subpoenaed by plaintiffs and subjected to mandatory independent review in order to determine the reason why at least sixty machines reported voter totals on their end-of-day paper tapes which disagreed with the internal numbers reported by the machines.
After the judge's order last week, Sequoia quickly moved to try and quash the subpeonas [PDF, 82 pages], despite the fact that they are not actually a party to the long-running court battle between the state of NJ and citizen plaintiffs suing them in hopes of getting rid of the touch-screen systems altogether (or, in lieu of that, have paper-trail printers added to them).
As Pennsylvania prepares to use the very same flawed Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machines in next week's crucial primary, we've tried to sort out what is --- and isn't --- going on in this New Jersey mess. We've also tried to determine who is reading the disputed paper tapes correctly, since a Princeton scientist seems to read them one way, while the SoS office and two of the NJ counties (which had originally read them as the Princeton Prof did) have suddenly decided to read them another way.
What we can tell you indisputably, however, is that if it's debatable as to what those paper tapes actually say, then those voting systems are in violation of the federal law which mandates "a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity" that "shall be available as an official record." If there's a question about what the "paper record" from each machine actually says, than it certainly can't be used as an "official record" for auditing purposes.
To sort out the mess, we've touched base with the plaintiff's attorney in the case, as well as with the NJ SoS. Sequoia's spokesperson, VP and part-owner (for the moment) Michelle Shafer, on the other hand, doesn't seem to want to talk to us anymore for some reason...