The New York Times

January 5, 2007


New York State May Suspend Tests of New Voting Machines



ALBANY, Jan. 4 — New York State elections officials said on Thursday that they would consider suspending the testing of new voting machines in the state, after learning that the laboratory hired to perform the tests was temporarily barred by federal authorities last summer from accrediting new state voting systems.


The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., is among the nation’s top testers of voting machines. Ciber has a $3 million contract to help New York test proposed systems from five manufacturers to replace its aging lever machines.


Officials at the federal Election Assistance Commission delayed accrediting Ciber in July, after detecting problems in Ciber’s quality-control procedures. The company has long been criticized by voting watchdog groups, but some state elections officials said on Thursday that they learned of the federal commission’s decision only after details of it were published Thursday in The New York Times.


“If we had known that, and if we had seen the report from them, we would have known why they were decertified, and maybe we wouldn’t have hired them to begin with, or maybe we would have made some remedial changes,” said Lee K. Daghlian, a spokesman for the New York State Board of Elections.


Mr. Daghlian said the board had requested a copy of a report prepared by the federal commission and would review it before making a final decision.


“It may not delay use of the new machines,” he said. “If this report comes in and it’s something really bad that we didn’t know about, we may have to start all over again.”


A spokeswoman for Ciber could not be reached for comment.


The potential delay was the latest setback for New York’s efforts to comply with federal requirements that states modernize their voting systems to deal with concerns stemming from the 2000 election. The state has faced sanctions from the federal government for failing to comply with the new federal standards, which required new voting machines by last fall’s elections.


Since the state board established new and stringent voting machine standards in April, the process for acquiring new machines had been continually delayed, in part because machines being tested have failed to meet the new standards, said Bo Lipari, executive director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, a state voting watchdog group.


Ciber has also been criticized by a second company, Nystec, which was hired to oversee Ciber’s efforts.


“I think what we’re seeing now corroborates what Nystec has been saying, and that is that Ciber is not up to the task of testing voting systems in a way that protects the interests of voters,” Mr. Lipari said.


Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company