A Conversation With Brian Hancock, Election Assistance Commission's ITA Secretariat
Background: AJ Devies is a voter with mobility disabilities who lives in Volusia Co., FL. AJ is the President of Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVOC) and a Board Member, Florida Fair Elections Coalition. Brian Hancock is the ITA Secretariat for the EAC. AJ spoke with Mr. Hancock about several issues of concern to handicapped voters and election activists. Many of her questions were the same questions that have been asked by VoteTrustUSA and others recently. This is a report on her conversation.
As a handicapped voter concerned about accessible and accurate voting, I called the ITA Secretariat Brian HAncock with several questions and certification and accessibility requirements for voting sytems. First I asked Mr. Hancock how Diebold's equipment had been certified in spite of the presence of intepreted code in its software architecture. Mr. Hancock claimed he had no clue how "this" (certification of DREs and op-scanners of past and present generations) got through Independent Testing Authority (ITA) testing. With regard to the California testing and report, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) is finishing up a response to the report. The NASED report will be available within the next week and will be posted on the NASED website. Mr. Hancock would not speculate about NASED's position on decertification of the Diebold equipment.
I explained to Mr. Hancock that my disabilities are such that I cannot vote using any of the DREs on the market. I asked how it is that the DREs were certified under Section 18.104.22.168 of the 2002 VVSS. Mr. Hancock said that "his" 2005 version would "make sure" the problem was taken care of. I pointed out that the 2005 standards have nothing to do with the inaccessibility of DREs currently on the market, all of which were tested and certified after the 2002 standards were published, and none of them meet the 2002 standards.
I pressed some more about how the ITAs could recommend certification of DREs that fail Section 22.214.171.124 of the 2002 VVSS, particularly 126.96.36.199(f).
For a device with touchscreen or contact-sensitive controls, provide an input method using mechanically operated controls or keys that shall:
1) Be tactilely discernible without activating the controls or keys;
2) Be operatable [sic] with one hand and not require tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist;
3) Require a force less than 5 lbs (22.2 N) to operate; and
4) Provide no key repeat function;
At first Mr. Hancock said I would have to contact the ITAs for an answer to that question. I asked how to go about that since the ITAs do not make their reports available to the public under a FOIA request. He didn't know.
I asked if NASED could provide the ITA reports under a FOIA request. He didn't know.
I asked who could provide the reports if the agencies responsible for testing and certifying the DREs couldn't. He didn't know.
I got the point.
I then asked if the ITAs and/or NASED took HAVA 301(a)(1) into consideration when testing DREs or any other devices, such as the AutoMARK. He said, "No testing for disabled access is done by the ITAs." He also said, "Equipment is just certified to the 2002 standards, not HAVA 301(a)(1)."
We then got into a discussion about how to proceed now that he has established that no one at EAC, the ITA or NASED are going to worry about compliance with 2002 VVSS 188.8.131.52(f) for equipment on the market or in the testing pipeline. He told me to talk to my Supervisor of Elections, because she was at fault for purchasing inaccessible DREs. I explained that I had, and she is a shill for Diebold TSx's, which are not accessible. He told me to talk to the State, because Florida certified inaccessible DRE's (Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia,) without regard to ITA testing.
Actually, Florida requires a vendor to have their system tested by the ITA, then have the ITA send their report(s) directly to the Florida Bureau of Voting Systems Certification. Florida doesn't require NASED certification, however. Mr. Hancock is using circular logic here: Florida is at fault for certifying DREs certified to the 2002 standards by the ITA, even though the ITA ignored 184.108.40.206(f).
This was getting me nowhere, so I changed direction by asking how jurisdictions that use DREs to accommodate accessible voting will be able to comply with HAVA now that we have established there are no compliant DREs on the market. He said, "There is no proof that DREs are not accessible to most people. A disability expert says the DREs are more accessible than the AutoMARK. Why don't you ask your Supervisor of Elections to let a bunch of disabled people try the TSx and see what happens." I told him we have an Elections Advisory Board with a blind man and a woman with muscular dystrophy who both tried the TSx, and after initially endorsing the AutoMARK under the previous Supervisor of Elections, have now changed their minds and claim the TSx is more accessible. I said two opinions do not assure the widest possible accommodation required by HAVA, and he (Hancock) had still not answered my question about HAVA compliance with only a DRE available. He said to vote absentee or ask for help with a paper ballot at the polling place. I told him that was a violation of HAVA. He said, "But a prominent disability expert says DREs will work for almost everyone."
At that point I came right out and asked if his so-called "disability expert" was Jim Dickson. Mr. Hancock answered, "Yes. I know Jim has his biases based on his disability, but he does speak for the majority of disabled people." I explained that Dickson makes a lot of false claims and I could not give credence to anything Dickson said. Hancock went silent.
I then asked what proof the EAC or NASED would require to decertify all the HAVA/2002 VVSS non-compliant equipment floating around the country. Mr. Hancock said they would "need proof that the DREs are not accessible." I asked what kind of proof. "For example, if I tried to vote on a DRE and couldn't was that enough proof?" He said no, it would have to be a majority of the disabled people in the country before decertification would be an option. In other words, there must be a groundswell of ADA complaints to take the DREs off the market.
I had called Department of Justice before I spoke with Mr. Hancock, so I was not surprised by his answer. The Department of Justice says they need an ADA Title II complaint filed to "look into the problem."
I know this has not solved anything except to show that Mr. Hancock is uninformed about accessibility issues. He kept repeating that HAVA is "very clear" about what is required at the polls. I kept repeating that lack of compliance with HAVA and 2002 standards doesn't solve anything.
I had already heard what I need to hear from Mr. Hancock, but I asked one more question: "So, the EAC, whose responsibility it is to ensure compliance with the voting standards, has not done their job, and is telling me to vote on equipment that is not compliant with HAVA, and has prohibited interpreted code in it? Isn't it illegal any way you slice it?" He didn't have an answer.
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