No e-voting deal without software details

From: Alan Dechert <dechert_at_gmail_dot_com>
Date: Fri Feb 16 2007 - 11:55:32 CST

No e-voting deal without software details
Before The City agrees to use Sequoia Systems' electronic ballot scanner and
counter, officials want more details about its software.

Joshua Sabatini, The Examiner
Feb 15, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO - San Francisco could become one of the first cities to
require an electronic voting company to disclose the details of its software
in an effort to ensure all votes are counted.

Electronic voting machines have stirred controversy as voter-rights
activists say the machines cannot be trusted, especially since the software
used to tally votes is kept secret.

More than 20 voter-rights advocates turned out at a Board of Supervisors
Budget and Finance Committee hearing Wednesday to oppose the proposed $12.6
million four-year contract with Sequoia Voting Systems Inc.

Under the contract, The City would receive 610 optical scan voting machines
(machines that read a paper ballot) and 610 touch-screen voter machines,
intended for use only by the disabled.

"This system is going to be a paper-based system. It's not going to be an
electronic-based system. The voters aren't going to see any difference at
all," said John Arntz, the city's elections director.

Supervisor Chris Daly, chairman of the committee, postponed the vote on the
contract until next week, putting pressure on Sequoia to agree to an
unprecedented commitment to disclose its software details.

"I'm not prepared to move forward with this contract language without some
public disclosure of your technology within the contract," Daly said. "We're
willing to discuss this," said Steven Bennett, representing Sequoia. Voting
machine companies have kept their software private citing proprietary

Voter-rights advocates say that without a disclosure of the technology the
public cannot trust that the machines are correctly counting the votes.

Arntz hopes to have the contract finalized in short order to prepare for the
upcoming November election.

The existing voting machines are old and have posed problems in previous
elections. In the most recent election, 35 percent of voting precincts
required technical assistance, Arntz said. Built into the contract with
Sequoia are penalties if the machines fail. For example, if just 10 percent
of the machines break down on Election Day, the company would have to pay
The City $150,000. "They have the incentive to make sure things run right,"
Arntz said.

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Received on Wed Feb 28 23:17:20 2007

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