AVS in Contract Dispute with 'Independent' Test Lab After 'Thousands of Irregularities' Are Discovered in Company's 'Upgraded' Software
Does Issue Augur Similar Concerns for Other States, Near-Bankrupt Companies?
By Brad Friedman on 8/18/2007, 11:39am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from St. Louis...

Three Pennsylvania counties are considering pulling their old lever voting machines out of mothballs for this November's general election. The counties' "Plan B" comes in the wake of a refusal by e-voting machine company Advance Voting Systems (AVS) to pay the bill to federal "Independent Testing Authority" (ITA) lab iBeta Quality Assurance which has, according to NJ's Express-Times, found "thousands of source code irregularities and 24 documentation irregularities with AVS machines."

A problem in AVS's currently certified systems in PA makes them impossible to use as is in the upcoming elections.

iBeta is one of the private testing labs recently given approval by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) to test voting systems at the federal level. The labs, however, are still paid by the voting machine companies themselves.

The EAC's letter [PDF] also indicated that iBeta discovered AVS machines, contrary to the submitted documentation, used a different motherboard than those on the machines submitted for testing.

It's unclear, according to some of the reports from the PA papers, whether lever machines may legally be used in their elections, or if the counties may have to move to....wait for it...paper ballots in this November's municipal elections.

The Express-Times reveals the extraordinary arrogance of the voting machine companies, who, until heat has recently been brought to bear on both the EAC and the companies, had for years received a rubber-stamp for qualification of their systems by federal testers --- no matter how poorly the systems were built. After the EAC notified the company that certification testing was being suspended at iBeta due to lack of payment, "Howard Van Pelt, Advanced Voting Solutions president, maintained the machines are certified, regardless of what the commission says," according to the Express-Times.

Van Pelt, however, is wrong. But he, and the others like him, are used to receiving a free pass from the EAC and other Federal and local authorities for so many years that they may still be under the impression they can do whatever they want, despite what the federal government tells them and despite what the law says.

Yet AVS may not be the only voting machine company we may soon find unwilling --- or unable --- to pay for testing of voting systems, which could subsequently plunge elections in other states and counties into danger of not being carried out at all...

The issue points up another potential problem for every state and county in America. As the federal test labs are paid by the companies themselves, what happens when, say, Diebold/Premier refuses to pay the price for the certification tests of their next upgrade? Diebold just spun off its election division from the corporate parent, after being unable to find a buyer for it, and renamed it "Premier Elections Solutions." As well, a buyer has long been sought for the beleaguered Sequoia Voting Systems company as well, but they've found no suckers willing to take on their mountains of liability after a so-far 8-month search.

As damage-control and desperate PR efforts finally prove unsuccessful at changing reality, these companies all may well find themselves filing for bankruptcy at some point in the not-too-distant future. They may then begin to refuse, or simply be unable, to pay for testing of their systems. What happens then to those states and counties that bought into long-term contracts to use their systems, at a cost of hundreds of millions in tax-payer dollars?

Long ago VelvetRevolution.us (an election watchdog organization co-founded by The BRAD BLOG) sent letters to all 50 Secretaries of State warning them of this possibility and suggesting they be very careful about which companies they enter into long term contracts with, given the likelihood that all of these companies may be facing financial difficulties in the not-too-distant future.

None of them listened to us at the time.

Let's hope all of these states have yet to send their lever machines to the scrap yard. They may be needing them in a sudden pinch. Or better yet, they could go to the stationery store, buy some paper, some pens, and a clear plastic box for the voted ballots before taking them out and counting them by actual human beings. Thus ending this madness of Ballots in Wonderland. Just a suggestion...