Election Board Ire as EAC Fails to Disclose 'Soiled Laundry' on Failure to Accredit Voting System Test Lab
By Michael Richardson on 1/26/2007, 9:35am PT  

Guest Blogged by Michael Richardson

Tom Wilkey, former executive director of the New York State Board of Elections, and now the executive director of the Election Assistance Commission, has refused to answer questions from New York election officials about the non-accreditation of voting machine test lab Ciber, Inc. A letter from a state election official describes the lack of response for requested information as "truly outrageous and scandalous." That refusal "to open the curtain that hides their soiled laundry," may lead to subpoenas by the State Board.

The ongoing secrecy, and apparent duplicity, of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) surrounding the failure of Ciber to be given federal accreditation to testing voting machines began last summer causing an unknown number of voters around the country to vote on improperly tested electronic voting machines in last November's election. The EAC failed to notify elections officials or the public about what they had already discovered concerning the poor state of testing conditions and procedures by the lab.

The EAC secrecy has been particularly troublesome in New York where Ciber has been testing equipment specifically under contract with the state. The EAC was created by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 and is charged with accrediting "independent testing authorities" to examine and certify electronic voting machines. Ciber failed to gain interim accreditation when the testing duties shifted from the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) to the EAC last July.

As discussed in a report yesterday --- which included a series of 'very friendly' notes between Wilkey and the current chair of the EAC, Donetta Davidson --- Wilkey’s silence may stem from his role as chair of the Voting Systems Board at NASED prior to his position at the EAC. The failures of Ciber to properly conduct and document security testing of voting machines that led to the denial of interim accreditation occurred during Wilkey’s watch at NASED where he served with his "Sis", Davidson, as he referred to her in the emails between the two.

Davidson was on Wilkey’s NASED certification board along with "ex officio" member Shawn Southworth of Ciber, Inc. Wilkey and Davidson’s silence about the failures of Ciber has angered election officials around the nation who had relied on Ciber’s certification of their voting machines in the November 2006 election.

As also recently reported, the delay in the public disclosure of the problems at Ciber, conveniently allowed both the firm's founder and its CEO the time needed to unload $1.7 million of company stock before the news would eventually be reported by the New York Times earlier this month.

New York, unlike the rest of the states, did not rush into purchase of new, expensive voting machines without public hearings and more thorough testing and ended up being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for HAVA non-compliance. Commissioner Doug Kellner of the New York State Board of Elections has reacted to the EAC stonewalling about Ciber with a call for a subpoena in hopes of getting some answers.

In an email announcement on Wednesday, Kellner expressed his outrage in no uncertain terms...

On January 4, 2007, the New York State Board of Elections voted to suspend Ciber from further testing of voting systems submitted to the New York State Board for certification pending a thorough review of Ciber’s accreditation status. We also addressed requests to both the Election Assistance Commission and to Ciber for all of the relevant documents and reports concerning Ciber’s application to the EAC for accreditation as a testing laboratory.

Much to our surprise (well, maybe I’m not really surprised), EAC has still not provided any of the background documentation that we have requested.
This failure to provide relevant information to a state agency, the first in the country to require testing to the 2005 standards, is truly outrageous and scandalous.
While there is general agreement at the New York State Board that we should be looking to the EAC to assist and guide us in our investigation, we also made a formal request to Ciber for the same information. After all, they do hold a $3 million contract from our agency. There has been nothing but similar stonewalling from Ciber. Ciber’s last communication regarding our information request was that they were trying to coordinate a response with the EAC.

What is going on here? Both the EAC and the unaccredited testing lab are refusing to open the curtain that hides their soiled laundry.
I have also become increasingly annoyed with Ciber’s use of the label "confidential competition-sensitive" on reports that they have prepared for our agency at our expense….[and] at Ciber’s efforts to stifle discussion of the issue by improperly claiming confidentiality.

A vote on Kellner’s subpoena request is scheduled for the next meeting of the State Board on February 7, 2007. Closely following the drama is Bo Lipari of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, a non-partisan Election Integrity watchdog group.

Lipari was quite blunt about the matter as well in a recent email to fellow Election Integrity advocates, concerning his assessment of the secrecy surrounding the EAC/Ciber affair:

Ciber has consistently shown they are incapable of providing the level of competency we demand. New York State, by requiring compliance with the highest current standards and through the oversight of a truly independent security review team, has exposed the dirty little secret of the voting machine vendors and the testing labs—their shoddy work does not serve the interests of voters or the public good.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the U.S. Senate Rules Committee, which has oversight over this matter, recently sent a letter to Davidson demanding information and documentation from the EAC concerning their accreditation procedures and the lack of disclosure concerning the Ciber incident.

Stay tuned...