Federal Oversight Agency Continues Refusal to Notify Election Administrators About Known Failures in E-Voting Systems...
By Brad Friedman on 11/13/2007, 11:57am PT  

By Brad Friedman from Richfield, Utah...

If there's a more ineffective federal agency than the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), we're unaware of it.

The EAC was created in 2002 by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), in large part to oversee federal certification and maintenance of e-voting systems for the entire country. One of their key mandates was to be a "clearinghouse" for information concerning such systems. Though they have been twice reprimanded by the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) for their failure to set up such a clearinghouse of information concerning known problems with voting systems, another news report over the weekend confirms that they are more determined than ever to avoid any such responsibility.

Incredible comments given by EAC spokesperson Jeannie Layson and EAC Chairwoman Donnetta Davidson to the Daytona Beach News-Journal underscore the agency's hellbent efforts to avoid any and all responsibility for alerting election officials to known failures of electronic voting systems made by private corporations such as Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia, and others.

The BRAD BLOG has chronicled the short, but storied, history of the EAC's failures, compromised nature, and unwillingness to do their job over the years, but the latest comments --- and subsequent lack of action --- as reported yesterday by M.C. Moewe in the News-Journal are nothing short of astonishing...

Two weeks ago, the News-Journal reported on massive memory card failures discovered in Diebold's voting machines, as found across the state of Florida, and even confirmed by the company. We covered the voting machine company's latest failure, and noted that, as with other critical failures previously confirmed, the EAC had once again refused to inform Election Officials in other states and counties, who are using the same equipment, of the confirmed failures.

The BRAD BLOG has, nearly-exclusively, chronicled similar situations over the past many months. One example is the case of a state-commissioned study at Florida State University which revealed the ES&S iVotronic touch-screen voting system was vulnerable to a vote-flipping virus. In that report, we detailed EAC spokesperson Layson's remarkable written refusals, on behalf of the EAC, to notify other jurisdictions that used that same system, across 16 different states, of the critical problem discovered by the computer scientists at FSU.

Moewe has now advanced the story of EAC's failure to meet their clearinghouse mandate by questioning the agency on their continuing refusal to notify states of such problems.

Remarkably, instead of speaking to their failure to notify jurisdictions of such known problems, Layson and Davidson, the former Secretary of State of Colorado who oversaw the certification of voting systems that were subsequently decertified by a state judge for lack of any credible testing procedures, avoided the question repeatedly. They insisted, instead, that they do not have a mandate to regulate state voting procedures. That much may be true, but it wasn't the question.

"EAC does not have any regulatory authority over states with respect to the voting systems they use," Layson wrote to the paper in response to a series of questions they had sent. Never mind that the question was not about regulation, it was about notification.

In 2005, the GAO filed their first report [PDF] noting the EAC's failure to meet their federal mandate, stating:

The continued absence of a national clearinghouse for voting system problems means that segments of the election community may continue to acquire and operate their systems without the benefit of critical information learned by others regarding the security and reliability of those systems.

In 2006, a followup report [PDF] submitted to a congressional panel, they declared the situation had not improved since their earlier report.

As Moewe reported yesterday concerning the latest problem found with Diebold memory cards, which could result in lost votes on thousands of machines across the country, "Officials with the Election Assistance Commission said it would not disseminate the information about the 25,000 optical scan machines unless an official agency such as a state or county requested the action."

So only if a state or county requests that other states and counties be informed will the EAC disseminate such information. And, even in those cases, the agency has forced such jurisdictions to jump through incredible hoops.

For example, the News-Journal reports that though Florida had notified the EAC about findings from their recent state study on voting systems, the state "has been asked to resubmit it under the commission's new clearinghouse policies" before they will even bother to post a link to the study on their website.

Most astonishing of all, perhaps, are the comments reported at the end of Moewe's article from EAC Chair Davidson, stating (incredibly enough) that they are waiting for Diebold to notify them about the confirmed failures that might effect 25,000 voting machines across the country in the 2008 elections...

Donetta Davidson, a commissioner with the Election Assistance Commission, said her agency could let supervisors know about the connector problem if a reliable source would give them the information.

"If the manufacturer sends us a letter we will put up a letter," Davidson said.

No doubt, Diebold --- which has already refused to release information on the extent of the recently discovered voting system malfunctions, citing its collected data as "proprietary business information" --- will waste no time in requesting that the EAC notify states and counties that Diebold voting machines have critical flaws in them.

Once again, it has become clear that the EAC is an extraordinary failure from top to bottom. Congress needs to take action immediately, though we're not holding our breath for that either.

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