Friday, March 21, 2008

NJ election officials call for evoting investigation

A ComputerWorld article by Robert McMillan reports that a group representing county clerks in New Jersey has asked the state's attorney general to step in and investigate voting discrepancies observed in e-voting machines used in last month's presidential primary election.
"We want to know what the problems were and how do we fix them," Michael Dressler, the group's president, told IDG News Service.

Clerks from a half-dozen New Jersey counties reported discrepancies in the voting tallies generated by approximately 60 of the state's Sequoia Voting Systems AVC Advantage e-voting machines during last month's election. In most cases the discrepancy involved a one- or two-vote difference between the paper tape logged by the machine and the number of votes stored in the computer's memory cartridges.

Sequoia blamed the discrepancy on pollworker error and said the problem could be fixed with a software update, but state clerks wanted a third-party investigation.

Last Tuesday, Dressler's group asked Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten, a respected critic of e-voting systems, to examine the Sequoia machines. That plan was abandoned, however, after Sequoia threatened legal action against Felten and the county that offered to provide the systems, saying that such a review would violate the company's licensing agreement...

According to Joanne Rajoppi, the clerk with Union County New Jersey that had offered Felten the systems, Sequoia's explanation is not good enough. Her county has been using the Sequoia machines for about a decade, without incident. "We never had this problem in 10 years," she said. "Why did this problem never occur in another primary?"

Because only five or six counties double-checked their e-voting results, it's unclear how widespread the voting issues really were in New Jersey, Rajoppi said.
Updated to add: Ed Felten gives a very clear explanation of the nature and seriousness of the problem.

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