about the Use of Uncertified Election Software in Six Washington Counties
Olympia, WA. Wednesday, September 22. Members of the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee heard testimony yesterday from John Gideon, Information Manager of VotersUnite!, that emergency rules written by the Secretary of State's office allowed six counties to count votes on the consolidated ballots using software that has not received Federal certification.
Senator Val Stevens asked State Director of Elections Nick Handy for reassurance that the Secretary of State's office had not side-stepped state law, which requires Federal certification as a prerequisite for state certification. Mr. Handy told the Committee that the election software in the counties that chose the consolidated ballots would not handle the special features of the new ballots and that state law allows the Secretary of State to make exceptions in emergency situations.
Mr. Gideon pointed out that the same uncertified software would also be used in the November general election, even though the older, certified software could handle those standard ballots. He added that since the emergency situation does not apply to the November election, using the Federally uncertified software for the general election is "setting the State of Washington up for lawsuits and challenges to the election in November by any candidate who loses by one or ten thousand votes," possibly bringing the legislature back into a special session to decide the presidential electors.
Senator Jim Horn asked, "Why not use the certified software, without modification, to count the general?" Director Handy deferred to Paul Miller, also from the Secretary of State's office.
Mr. Miller stated that there wasn't enough time between the September primary and the November election to do the installation and the extensive testing needed to ensure that the same software was installed and configured properly.
Senator Horn replied, "We all have computers. It doesn't seem to us that installing new software is a big issue."
Ellen Theisen, Executive Director of VotersUnite, then testified that manually recounting a significant percentage of the actual ballots and comparing the results to the machine results was necessary to ensure that the uncertified software was operating properly.
"With optical scans, there is a piece of paper filled out by voters," Ms. Theisen said, "but if the votes are never manually compared with the machine count, then we don't know that the machine has counted correctly, and there are an enormous number of examples where the machines have not counted correctly."
Pointing out evidence of the need for such a check in Washington, Linda Franz, member of Citizens for Voting Integrity in Washington, testified about the computer crashes experienced in Snohomish and King Counties during the primary.
The webcast of the hearing is here: (http://www.tvw.org/media/recentevnt.cfm?CFID=230171&CFTOKEN=93326772 )
Members of the press are invited to visit the website, created by VotersUnite! and Concerned Citizens for Democratic Integrity in King County to inform the public about Washington's current use of election software without Federal certification and advocate for some assurance of the accuracy of November election results. (http://www.electionintegrity.com).