Late last week I spoke at length with Lesley D. Mara, Deputy Secretary of the State for Connecticut, about the procedures that are being put in place to ensure the election is fair and the results accurate. The new voting machines are being used in 25 municipalities this November, and will be implemented statewide by late Spring 2007.
My first inquiry was about the lack of detailed information about the voting machine in Secretary Bysiewicz's press releases (as an aside, even after all the articles I've written about the new voting machines, I still have to look up Susan's last name to spell it properly!). In some of the press releases, the vendor is named, but you have to go to the LHS Associates of Massachusetts web site to find out that the new machines are actually the Accu-vote OS2000 by Diebold.
In fact, I had trouble finding the name Diebold anywhere on LHS's website. I found the model "Accu-vote OS2000" there, then Googled it to find it's made by Diebold.
It's almost as if the name "Diebold" is something of a dirty word.
When I asked Ms. Mara about this, she assured me that it wasn't a deliberate effort to hide the Diebold name. I suggested that voter confidence would be improved if future press releases contained detailed make and model information on the new voting machines, rather than just referring to them as "optical scanning technology".
I then inquired about the procedures for the new machines. She gave me some details about how the voting officials in the individual towns will need to pick up the machines early in the morning on election day, which will eliminate the "sleep over" of the machines at people's homes. Two election officials will be required to pick them up. If the procedures are followed, no single person should have access to the machine at any point. This can help prevent machine tampering.
The Secretary's office will also limit the how close to the election any manufacturer "patches" can be installed on the machines. The University of Connecticut Computer Science department will be given proper time to verify whatever patches or fixes Diebold sends will actually do what it's supposed to, and not install a hack or hidden program onto the tabulators. Ms. Mara also promised to get me the results of the UConn certification report of the machines and also the details on the manditory audits of approximately 5% of the voting machines to verify the results against the paper ballots.
I'd like to thank Ms. Mara for her time. While there are potential problems with any new technology, it's obvious that the Secretary of State's office is very concerned with security in the elections, and we welcome their help in distributing information about the new machines. I will follow up on this before the election, and I invite anyone from the Secretary of State's office to email me if they want to make any statements on this blog.
The Secretary of State's official website, with all their press releases, is located at http://sots.ct.gov