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Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Allows Voting Rights Case to Proceed PDF  | Print |  Email
By Voter Action   
December 19, 2008
State’s Highest Court Denies Pennsylvania Secretary of State Permission to Appeal Lower Court Ruling in Voters’ Favor Case Challenging the Use of Electronic Voting Machines Now Moves Toward Trial

Pennsylvania voters challenging the continued use of unverifiable electronic voting machines in their state won another major round on Tuesday when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing their case to proceed toward trial. The state’s highest court, in a one-sentence order, denied the Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s petition seeking permission to appeal a lower court ruling decided in the voters’ favor. In April 2007, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania had ruled that voters have a right under the Pennsylvania Constitution to reliable and secure voting systems and can challenge the use of electronic voting machines “that provide no way for Electors to know whether their votes will be recognized” through voter verification or independent audit. Following that ruling, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Pedro Cortés filed his petition before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and further proceedings in the case, Banfield v. Cortés, had been suspended pending the outcome of the petition. The order issued on Tuesday gives a green light for the voters to pursue their claims.

“We now look forward to moving this case toward trial,” says Mary Kohart, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, one of the lawyers representing the voters. “There is overwhelming evidence showing that electronic voting machines are unreliable and insecure for the counting and recording of votes. We are pleased that our clients will now have the opportunity to present this evidence to the court and to demonstrate why these machines should be decertified in Pennsylvania.”

In their complaint, the voters allege that the electronic voting systems, otherwise known as Direct Recording Electronic voting systems or DREs, have failed during elections in Pennsylvania and in other states by losing votes; registering votes for one candidate when the voter was attempting to vote for another candidate; causing high “undervote” rates; failing to register votes when the ballot contained only one question; counting votes twice; failing to print “zero tapes” to demonstrate that no unlawful votes were stored on the machine prior to the election; printing “zero tapes” after votes had been cast; and reporting phantom votes and other irregularities. Fifty of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties use electronic voting systems without a voter-marked paper ballot.
Lawyers Head to Court On Behalf of Pennsylvania Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
By NAACP-Philadelphia Branch   
November 04, 2008
Philadelphia County Election Officials Fail To Meet Secretary of State’s Orders to Count Emergency Paper Ballots on Election Night - County Claims It Will Count Such Ballots on Friday
Lawyers for the NAACP-Philadelphia Branch and its member-voters are filing an emergency lawsuit against Philadelphia County this afternoon, seeking a court ruling requiring county election officials to count emergency paper ballots cast today at the close of polls. Despite orders from the Secretary of State, election officials have stated they do not plan to count these emergency ballots until Friday.
“This is a direct violation of what the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth has ordered and does not follow the recent ruling issued by the federal court on this matter,” said John Bonifaz, legal director for Voter Action and co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “Emergency paper ballots must be treated as regular ballots and must be counted on election night.  Philadelphia County’s plans to count these ballots on Friday will undermine the fundamental right of voters to have their votes counted equally with all other votes.”
A coalition of Pennsylvania voters and civil rights groups won a lawsuit last week when Federal Judge Harvey S. Bartle III ruled today that emergency paper ballots must be made available when fifty percent or more voting machines fail at polling locations across Pennsylvania.  Judge Bartle, who is the chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued the ruling in favor of plaintiffs who had argued that voters could be disenfranchised by having to wait hours in line due to voting machine breakdowns.
“Voters who cast emergency paper ballots should not be treated differently than any other voters,” said Jennifer Clarke, executive director of the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and co-counsel for the plaintiffs.  “The United States Constitution requires no less.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs include the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Voter Action, and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady.  The firm served as plaintiffs’ counsel in the recent federal court case.
Pennsylvania: Plaintiffs Claim Voting Machine Breakdowns And Long Lines Will Disenfranchise Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
By Voter Action   
October 23, 2008
'A Perfect Storm' Impacting The Right To Vote

A coalition of Pennsylvania voters and civil rights groups, led by the NAACP State Conference of Pennsylvania, filed a lawsuit today in federal court in Philadelphia seeking to ensure that voters receive emergency paper ballots on Election Day when 50% or more voting machines become inoperable at any polling site in the state. The lawsuit, filed against Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes, alleges that voters will be disenfranchised when they face the burden of having to wait hours in line, due to voting machine breakdowns, in order to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

"In Pennsylvania this year," the complaint states, "an unprecedented interest in voting, a record number of newly registered voters, and a well-established history of widespread electronic voting machine failures have converged to create a perfect storm that, left unaddressed, unquestionably will result in the disenfranchisement of substantial numbers of citizens."

The lawsuit follows numerous reports during Pennsylvania's primary election in April of voters facing long lines when electronic voting machines became inoperable at their polling sites. Voters called national election protection hotlines on primary day, including 866-MYVOTE1, reporting that election officials were not providing the safeguard of emergency paper ballots when voting machines malfunctioned. Callers stated that voters were told either to wait in line - sometimes for hours - or to come back later to vote. The reports revealed that many voters left their polling locations without casting their votes.
VotePA Statement on Allegheny County Software Testing PDF  | Print |  Email
By VotePA   
October 22, 2008
For more information visit VotePA.
Click here for PDF of this statement

On Monday October 20,, Allegheny County announced that it had tested and verified the firmware on a random sample of eighteen of its ES&S iVotronic voting machines. The tests were said to be conducted at the County's elections warehouse on Saturday and Monday under the supervision of County Election officials following protocols developed in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The County said the actual testing was done by SysTest Labs, which is the private consulting firm that performed the original testing of the iVotronic to the 2002 "federal" standards, allowing its current certification in Pennsylvania and other states.

While VotePA commends officials in Allegheny County and at the Pennsylvania Department of State for at least making an effort to help assure that this software-dependent voting equipment is ready to accurately record votes in this historic election, we believe these tests were limited and flawed by several problems with the way they were performed.

First and foremost, all testing of voting equipment should be done publicly, but the public was never informed of Allegheny County's software testing or permitted to observe it in any way. This is wrong. Citizens have a right to see and follow the process of how our elections are run. Tests of voting machines that are done in secret as these were, with citizens having no knowledge or opportunity to observe, simply do not inspire public confidence in the electoral process. At worst secret testing may even undermine the public's trust in election results.
Voter Action Requests Extended Polling Place Hours and Paper Ballots in Pennsylvania PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
April 22, 2008
The Philadelphoa Inquirer is reporting that Voter Action, a national voter rights group, has asked a Philadelphia judge to extend voting hours tonight until 10 p.m., and to use paper ballots at all voting places where broken machines have been reported. The city's Board of Elections seems certain to object. The hearing is expected to begin momentarily.
According to the article:

John Bonifaz, Voter Action's legal director, says his organization has received about 150 complaints from Philadelphians today, a rate he says is roughly double what they've seen in primarires elsewhere. Interestingly, the leading local election watchdog, the Committee of 70, has said problems at the polls today have been relatively routine. We'll have more shortly.
In a laterer post Jennifer Lin reported:
Voter Action, which has just asked a Philadelphia judge to extend poll hours until 10 p.m., is making its case with voter affidavits. One Richard Brown, of the 5700 block of N. 12th Street in Philadelphia, swore an affidavit that both voting machines at his polling place were broken when he arrived there at 6:55 a.m. It took nearly two hours for the machines to be either repaired or replaced, according to Brown's affidavit, and more than an hour for election officials to produce paper provisional ballots. Roughly 75-100 would-be voters left before that, according to Brown's affidavit.
There have been hundreds of complaints of malchine malfunctions causing long lines from voters across the state in today's primary.
Pennsylvania’s Election Systems Expected to Be Tested Under Weight of Heavy Turnout PDF  | Print |  Email
By Common Cause   
April 18, 2008
Pennsylvania’s election system will be tested Tuesday during the Democratic presidential primary as election officials brace for unprecedented turnout in a state with a recent history of voting machine problems, and where voter registration and registration changes have surged in recent months.

Some 7 million Pennsylvanians are expected to vote on paperless electronic voting machines that have a history of unreliability, and voters and election officials should be prepared, according to a report released Friday by Common Cause and the Verified Voting Foundation.

“This is an exciting opportunity for Pennsylvanians to have a voice in the process to choose our next president,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. “But we also know there are likely to be problems at the polls and it’s smart to be prepared.”

"Everyone is working for a smooth election, but if problems do occur, voters should report them to the voter hotline,” Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said of the election protection line, 1-866-OUR VOTE.

“Election workers must do everything they can to be sure that all votes are counted as cast,” said Pam Smith, president of the Verified Voting Foundation.
Pennsylvania's Primary: Paperless and Unverifiable PDF  | Print |  Email
By Verified Voting Foundation   
April 15, 2008
 Pennsylvania's Presidential primary on April 22 will be essentially unrecountable, unverifiable, and unauditable - an irony, because state law requires manual audits of a statistical sample of ballots cast in elections.

Over 85% of Pennsylvania's voters live in counties in which paperless electronic voting is the only method of voting at the polling place.  Absentee voting requires an excuse in Pennsylvania, and there is no early voting period, so the polling-place equipment will tabulate the vast majority of the votes in the primary. Pennsylvania's Secretary of State has judged that reel-to-reel paper trail printers compromise voter privacy, and none of Pennsylvania's direct-recording electronic (DRE) systems offer voter-verifiable paper records.

The availabilty of emergency paper ballots is also a cause of serious concern. Current election law does not specify a given amount of emergency paper ballots. The Secretary of State's office has suggested that enough emergency ballots for 20% of registered voters be available. We hope that all counties print sufficient ballots, given the expectation of high turnout.

Pennsylvania: State of Denial, Part 1 PDF  | Print |  Email
By Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA   
March 31, 2008
With the national spotlight on The Keystone State’s April 22 Primary, many heads remain buried in sand when it comes to electronic voting.

In March 2004, Governor Ed Rendell announced a new tourism slogan for Pennsylvania: “The State of Independence”. But with Pennsylvania officials continuing along in what seems to be mindless oblivion to the dangers of paperless electronic voting machines, perhaps Pennsylvania’s slogan should be “The State of Denial” when it comes to elections.

Following the inconclusive Ohio and Texas Democratic primaries earlier this month, the national spotlight turned swiftly to Pennsylvania’s April 22 election as the next battleground. And in the glare of that white-hot national spotlight it is more apparent than ever that there is great risk for electoral disaster in The Keystone State.

With fifty-one of its most populous counties still voting on completely paperless Direct Record Electronic machines, Pennsylvania remains one of the last twelve states to have passed no law requiring every vote to be backed up with a voter-verified paper record or ballot.

Time and time again Pennsylvania has had to replace failed electronic voting machines, bailing out counties and vendors at taxpayer expense. Pennsylvania has been plagued with a rash of problems caused by failures of paperless, unverifiable voting machines. These problems ranged from extremely high levels of undervotes (indicating a large number of voters are not having their votes counted), to faulty programming and ballot preparation, to outright loss of votes due to machines being set up improperly on Election Day.
Major Flaw In Pennsylvania Online Voter Registration Puts User Data at Risk PDF  | Print |  Email
By VotePA   
March 19, 2008
UPDATE on the PA Department of State Online Registration form.

There has apparently been a very bad security hole discovered. This problem apparently made it possible for anyone to view data of others who signed up online. It also apparently could allow a malicious person to print out "second step" forms for these new voters, change data (such as political party), forge a signature, and send the the "second step" form in to County Election Offices to complete a registration change. 

If a fraudulent party change was made without the voter's knowledge, it would have the effect of disenfranchising that voter from the Primary of his or her choice, and of course a fraudulent address change could disenfranchise a voter completely.

The online registration form on the Department of State website has been taken down completely. That page currently reads: "The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania web site that you are trying to reach is either not available or is undergoing maintenance. Please try back later. Thank you for your patience." 

URGENT: In an effort to reach anyone who may have used the online registration form, please spread the word far and wide that a SIGNED, PAPER COPY of the registration form must be RECEIVED at each voter's respective County Election Office by March 24. 

The pdf file of paper form that can be printed out by a voter is still up on the Department of State website and should be OK to use.

VotePA has a page of information HERE:

Voters who register correctly will receive a voter registration card with their political party and precinct number on it. All voters should learn the correct polling place for their assigned precinct prior to election day.
Pennsylvania: Lackawanna County Chooses Paper Ballots PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
March 04, 2008
Reversing an earlier decision to purchase touchscreen voting equipment to replace their decertified AVS WINVote machines, Lackawanna County commissioners have announced that they will purchase a paper ballot optical scan voting system from Election Systems & Software (ES&S).

The county will also purchase AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals to provide disabled voters with the ability to vote privately and independently. The $1.3 million cost tof the contract will be reimbursed by the state.

Election officials were confident that the equipment would be up and running for Pennsyvania's primary in seven weeks.  "So we do have some logistics to work out but we're confident we can do it. Otherwise we wouldn't have given the commissioners assurance that we can make the switch to this new system," said Director of Elections Maryann Spellman Young, told WNEP.

As recently as two weeks ago, the county commissioners seemed determined to resist public demand for a paper ballot system, having entered into negotiations with Premier Election Solutions (Diebold) for the purchase of touchscreen machines.

Lackawanna County was one of three counties that had used the AVS WINVote. The Election Assistance Commission terminated testing of the WINVote last year after AVS withheld payment to the testing laboratory SysTest. Testing had already uncovered 1946 anomalies in the system's software and dozens of firmware flaws. Pennsylvania decertified the equipment in the Fall. The AVS WINVote is still used in Hinds County, Mississippi and many counties and cities in Virginia.

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