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Chicago Sun Times

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Problems in Penn. with voting firm used here

 

April 7, 2006

BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter

 

The company that provided voting machines for the problem-plagued primary here two weeks ago is under fire in Pennsylvania, where software problems and concerns about the potential for fraud have led one county to shift its contract to a competing firm.

 

Allegheny County was set to spend $12 million with Sequoia Voting Systems for its May primary, but two days of state testing on the voting equipment -- different from what was used here -- raised concerns, officials said.

 

County officials there will have a public hearing on the problems today, as a Chicago City Council committee is set to have its own public hearing on whether to withhold payments to Sequoia because of post-primary problems here.

 

Many election judges struggled to send results electronically after the March 21 primary, causing totals to be delayed for days.

 

Systems 'totally different'

 

Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Shafer said the systems -- and problems experienced -- in Pennsylvania "are totally different" from those in Chicago and Cook County.

 

While voters here used optical-scan and touch-screen machines, officials in Pennsylvania tested push-button machines, said Kevin Evanto, spokesman for the Allegheny County chief executive.

 

But he said a software problem, followed by a computer science professor's ability to manipulate vote totals during testing, caused concern among officials and, with their May 16 primary looming, the move to another voting system.

 

Pennsylvania officials are set to retest Sequoia's system next week to consider it for certification, a state spokeswoman said.

 

spatterson@suntimes.com

 

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