By John Gideon on 3/20/2008, 6:41pm PT  

By John Gideon VotersUnite.Org

In a press release dated March 18 Sequoia Voting Systems attempted to quench the fire storm that resulted from failures of their voting machines in New Jersey and their subsequent threats of legal action against New Jersey counties and Princeton University scientists if they independently review the problematic voting machines. Unfortunately the press release is full of inaccuracies and obfuscation.

Here are the worst of them...

Sequoia’s Misleading Half-Truth...

Sequoia’s products – and those of all election equipment manufacturers - go through a complete and independent review as part of the Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC’s) federal voting system certification process including rigorous testing and a line-by-line review of the voting system’s source code by EAC accredited Voting System Test Labs (VSTLs).

The Facts – While it is true that there is a program set-up by the EAC for certification of voting systems, NO Sequoia voting system has been EAC certified. In fact, no voting systems have yet completed this process, and two of the eight systems submitted for certification have been in the process for over a year. Furthermore, Sequoia neglected to point out that they chose to have the EAC test their system to the old 2002 Voting System Standards and not the newer, and more stringent, 2005 Voting System Standards.

The inclusion of this statement by Sequoia may, in fact, be a breach of the “EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program Manual” Section 2.3.2. This violation, if confirmed by the EAC, can result in the suspension of Sequoia Voting Systems which could result in the stoppage of all testing of Sequoia products in the testing/certification process. (A Hat-Tip To John Washburn for pointing this out)

Sequoia’s Misleading Half-Truth...

Prior to the EAC’s certification program which was initiated in 2007, voting systems were qualified at a federal level by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) after testing by NASED-approved Independent Test Labs (ITAs). The ITAs also performed a line-by-line review of voting system source code.

The Facts – It is true that Sequoia, and the other vendors, sent their systems through testing by NASED’s ITAs. The testing was done either by Systest Lab or by the team of Wyle and CIBER Labs. Sequoia chose to have Wyle and CIBER test their systems.

When the EAC took over the certification of voting systems in 2006, CIBER Labs submitted an application for interim accreditation so they could continue testing voting systems during the change-over. After reviewing CIBER’s work, the EAC denied their application. One of the reasons for the denial was CIBER’s inadequate reporting of the testing process and the test results. From that report:

“CIBER has not shown the resources to provide a reliable product. The current quality management plan requires more time to spend on managing the process than they appear to have available and it was clear during the assessment visit that they had not accepted that they have a responsibility to provide quality reviewed reports that show what was done in testing.”

Since sometime in 2005, CIBER was responsible for all software testing and inspection on voting systems while Wyle did the hardware testing. In the same report the inspector relates:

"The source code review of software resident to the voting or vote tallying device which had been Wyle's responsibility has actually been performed by CIBER or source code reviewers working with CIBER in the last year or more."

Clearly all testing of Sequoia’s voting systems for NASED qualification is in question. CIBER’s reports did not even reveal what tests were done or what tests were skipped. There is no way that anyone can ensure that a line-by-line review of source code was ever conducted unless Sequoia agrees to release the ITA reports for independent review, and the EAC’s review of CIBER suggests that even those reports would not provide that assurance.

Sequoia’s Misleading Half-Truth...

In addition to the federal certification program, individual states have their own state certification programs which vary state-by-state but most often entail additional testing and review by qualified third party experts.

The Facts – Some states do have a voting system certification process that includes testing and review by experts. However the state in question, New Jersey, has not done any voting system testing since 1987, which is 7 years before the NASED/ITA system was begun and 20 years before the EAC took over the process.

Sequoia’s Misleading Half-Truth...

Sequoia also voluntarily submits its voting system source code to the National Software Reference Library (NSRL) which operates under the umbrella of the federal government’s National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST). The purpose of this is so that Sequoia customers can check the hash codes of their product, as installed, against the certified copies at the NSRL.

The Facts – Sequoia is to be applauded for supporting the NSRL program but to mention it in a discussion of testing is disingenuous, since the program has nothing at all to do with third-party reviews or the testing of voting systems.

Sequoia’s Misleading Half-Truth...

Additional independent reviews of Sequoia products have most recently taken place in the State of California (Secretary Bowen’s Top to Bottom Review of Voting Systems), the State of Colorado and The City of Chicago/ Cook County, Illinois.

The Facts – While Sequoia did submit to these state reviews of their voting systems, none of these reviews included the pushbutton voting system in question in New Jersey, the Sequoia Advantage. Sequoia also neglected to mention that the results of the California “Top To Bottom” review was that Sequoia’s touchscreen voting systems’ were decertified and the recertified with stringent conditions of use. In Colorado Sequoia’s touchscreen voting systems were denied recertification until further testing was conducted.

Yes, Sequoia submitted to these state reviews. However, what choice did they have? If they had refused in either California or Colorado their machines would have been decertified and they would have lost all chance to sell their products in those states.

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Ed Note: After a state association of NJ county election officials voted unanimously to ask the state AG to commission an independent study of the Sequoia AVC Advantage touch-screens that failed in their recent primary, Sequoia threatened legal action against two Princeton professors likely to lead such a technical review. One county backed down earlier this week from plans to independently test the systems due to the strong arm tactics of Sequoia.

It's now up to the state Attorney General to order such a review. The AG can be politely encouraged to do so right here.

The same Sequoia AVC Advantage machines which failed in at least six New Jersey counties on Feb. 5th, will be used next month in the Pennsylvania Primary.