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Sequoia Edge II e-voting machines' "accessibility" fails - 6 for 6
VotersUnite Exclusive Report

February 5, 2008, by Noel Runyan

Hi All,

If my own experience is any indication, the California Secretary of State's conditions for use are not being met and Sequoia voting systems are seriously failing again.

The following are some notes about my February 5th Primary election experience in Santa Clara County, trying to vote on Sequoia Edge II DRE voting machines.

I arrived at the polling place sign-in desk at 2:27, and was told that the voting machine was broken.

Martin was the tech for the Sequoia Edge II voting machine. He said that the machine wouldn't start up when the polls opened, because the printer was low on paper. A field representative helped them to replace the printer, but they still couldn't get the system working. By 2:49, when I left, the machine had been dysfunctional all day and had not been fixed or replaced.

Upon my offer to help, Martin set the voting system back up, and I confirmed that the keypad and printer were plugged in properly. I noted that there was no cover cap or seal over the built-in RJ-47 plug that is sometimes mistakenly assumed to be the keypad cable plug. When rebooted, the system came up and hung after displaying the message: "Printing zero proof report. Please wait. February 5, 2008."

According to Martin, this is the same thing it had been doing all day.

After waiting 10 minutes, we gave up on the system. I also noticed that the system was not positioned properly to minimize exposure to potential eavesdroppers. Foot traffic was going in and out the door next to the voting machine, as well as behind me, when I was positioned at the front of the unit. When I mentioned this problem to the poll workers, they were surprised and seemed to have never heard that eavesdropping was a concern they should address by proper machine positioning.

Because of the failure of the Sequoia machine, the poll workers suggested that I might be able to go to some other polling place and vote provisionally, but they did not know whether the voting machines were working at the other polling places.

In the end, I was not able to vote privately and had to have someone mark my ballot for me.

It was 2:49 when I was finished voting and dropped my paper ballot in a flimsy cardboard ballot box. Apparently our polling place was making no attempt to provide overvote checking with precinct optical scanners.

I did try calling up the other polling place our poll workers recommended and was initially told that they did not have any voting machines in their polling place. When I persisted patiently and asked to speak with an actual polling official, eventually, a pleasant and helpful polling official named Terry came to the phone and said that their Sequoia voting machine had not been working, but that they had switched to a new card activator. She thought that their machine was then ready to vote on, but said that it had not been tested by anyone actually trying to vote on it. They were apparently unaware of the Secretary of State's conditional certification requirement that requires that at least five voters should vote on the Sequoia DRE before the close of the polls.

Unfortunately, this election marks the sixth opportunity I've had to vote on the Sequoia DRE voting machine in a real election and it was the fourth time the poll workers were not able to get the machines working, despite their being nice folks who were making a sincere effort to get the machines to function properly. I cannot fault the poll workers for the failures of these Sequoia voting systems.

This frequent and repeated failure of the Sequoia voting systems to provide accessible voting should be considered completely unacceptable!

This would seem to be a clear demonstration of the inequities that can come along with segregated ballot systems.

If any California counties are not going to cooperate and assure that the conditional certification requirements for their voting systems are met effectively, I hope the California Secretary of State will move rapidly to force those counties to acquire proper voting systems.


Noel Runyan
Personal Data Systems


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