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The End of the Line for AVS in Pennsylvania? PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
November 28, 2007
The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today announced that it was terminating the application of voting system manufacturer Advanced Voting Solutions (AVS) for certification its WinWare 2.0.4 election management system. As a result it appears unlikely that AVS can meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth for state certification, which has left three counties in the state without equipment for the 2008 elections. State election officials have made it clear that the AVS system would not be allowed for use in elections in the state without successfully completing federal certification testing and it appears unlikely that AVS will initiate a new testing process at this point.

AVS was formerly Shoup Voting Solutions (SVS), resurrected from the Shoup family business that had left the voting machine manufacturing business in 1992, after a century of family involvement in the voting machine industry. In 2001, SVS was already marketing the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine that eventually became the AVS WinVote. The software was developed by a Canadian company EnfoCom International. WIN stands for “Wireless Information Network”, emphasizing the system’s use of wireless technology to facilitate the transmission of ballot definitions as well as vote totals. In 2002, SVS became Advanced Voting Systems.

The WinVote’s debut in the 2003 Fairfax County, Virginia elections was inauspicious. The problems encountered, including the mysterious subtraction of every 100th vote from one of the candidates, are detailed in Operation Ballot Integrity, a report produced by the Fairfax County Republican Committee. The WinVote is still used in 28 counties in Virginia. Under state law enacted earlier this year, however, counties can no longer purchase DREs when replacing voting equipment, so there is no longer a future market for the WinVote in that state. WinVote is also used in Hinds County, Mississippi.

The bad news for AVS began after they submitted their WinWare 2.0.4 system for certification under the new EAC testing and certification program last Spring. In July, iBeta, the laboratory engaged to test the AVS system, informed the EAC that it was suspending the testing process because AVS had failed to meet the contractual requirements for payment. In the letter, iBeta also noted that 1,946 source code review anomalies and 26 documentation anomalies had been uncovered in the testing process up to the point that testing had been suspended. Significantly, iBeta revealed that the motherboard submitted for testing differed from the motherboard that had undergone environmental testing in 2006 (under the now defunct NASED/ITA testing process). The EAC has indicated that they will publish the reports on the testing conducted by iBeta, now that the testing and certification process has been terminated.

According to the letter from iBeta, “at AVS’ request iBeta subcontracted an assessment by Wyle [the laboratory that had done the environmental testing] to confirm AVS’ claim that the hardware was unchanged since environmental testing in 2006. Upon inspection by Wyle it was determined that the drawings submitted by AVS did not match the hardware submitted for assessment. Finding that a major hardware component, the motherboard, had been changed, Wyle assessed that all environmental tests must be repeated. AVS submitted a letter to us stating that this changed hardware was used in recent production and was tested by Wyle in 2006. Further research on our part failed to find any evidence to support the AVS claim that this version of the hardware had been submitted for environmental testing under the NASED program.”

AVS has continued to deny that the motherboard has been changed.

The iBeta/EAC correspondence prompted the Pennsylvania state officials to suspend the use of the AVS WinVote in August, with further use in elections contingent on the completion of federal testing and a subsequent state level review. The AVS 2.0.3 system had undergone testing by Ciber Labs as part of the NASED/ITA process and certified for use by Pennsylvania, but at the state’s request, AVS had made engineering modifications to address the state’s cross endorsed voting and other ballot preparation issues resulting in a new version, 2.0.4. In accommodating the state’s requirement for federal certification, AVS had submitted version 2.0.4 for EAC testing and certification in February, the old NASED/ITA system no longer being available. However, AVS balked at the expense involved in testing the entire system, as required by the EAC, rather than merely the modification, as would have been possible had the earlier testing regime still been in place.

When it became apparent that AVS would not complete this process in time for the November elections, the three counties that had purchased the AVS equipment, Lackawanna, Wayne, and Northampton, had to make arrangements to use different equipment. Two of the counties leased optical scanners and one, Northampton, pulled their lever machines out of storage. Northampton County last week announced their intention to sue AVS for alleged breach of contract, and seeking compensation for expenses incurred by the county in running the November election.
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