St. Petersburg Times
The state says the machine maker sent terms for a review
of the Sarasota race but it ignored them.
By ANITA KUMAR
Published March 27, 2007
The maker of the voting machines used in the disputed
Sarasota area congressional race sent a letter to state officials dictating the
terms of a state-funded audit of its machines.
State election officials initially said Monday that they
agreed to abide by the parameters set by the manufacturer, Electronic Systems
& Software, but hours later called back to say that was not correct.
Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for the state division of
elections, said the letter arrived too late to affect the study, which was
already under way, and even if it hadn't, the state would not agree to those
Republican Vern Buchanan was sworn in to the U.S. House in
January, but Democrat Christine Jennings refuses to concede, disputing her loss
in the Florida courts and in Congress.
The three-page letter from ES&S listed more than two
dozen terms, including that the review should not include statements about
"potential" situations, what "might" have occurred and
"The review is not a search for doubt but rather needs
to be a search for conclusive evidence of error or fraud," according to
the letter. "If no conclusive evidence is found, then all other statements
are not necessary."
The letter stated that the researchers should assume that
the "best election administration practices and procedures have been
used" and the physical security of all equipment had been maintained.
Jennings' campaign said it learned about the Dec. 15 letter
from ES&S vice president Steven Pearson to David Drury, the chief of the
state's Bureau of Voting Systems Certification, through its lawsuit.
"It's appalling that ES&S would go to such lengths
to prevent a fair and thorough review of their voting system," Jennings
spokesman David Kochman said. "It's obvious that they're more concerned
about protecting their profits than protecting people's right to vote."
The letter dictated that the company review the report first
and that any copies of the report that violate the agreement be destroyed and
The state paid independent researchers to look into why more
than 18,000 people, or 13 percent of all voters, did not record a vote in the
race, a rate higher than in other counties in the congressional district. The
state concluded last month that the machines were not faulty.
Alec Yasinsac, a Florida State University computer science
professor and project leader, said the group was never given a copy of the
letter nor did it agree to any of the terms. He also said their official
statement deviates significantly from the guidelines.
"The report doesn't reflect anything like that,"
he said. "There was no impact."
State election officials originally said Monday that they
agreed to abide by the ES&S letter because the company demanded compliance
before allowing private researchers to have access to their voting machines'
hardware and software.
This was the first time in Florida history a private company
had turned over its machines for review so the state had no guidelines for an
But in the end, Sterling said, ES&S did not give the
researchers the source code - the internal workings of the touch screen
machines - because the two sides could not come to terms. Instead, the state
gave the researchers the code directly, and ES&S' requirements were ignored.
Staff writer Anita Kumar can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-463-0576.
- No statements about "potential" situations.
- No statements that discuss what "might" have
- No statements about possible "vulnerabilities."
- No statements about the "style" of the source
-No statements about conditions not determinable or
indeterminate conditions. If the result is not able to be determined, then such
statements are not to be included.
- No statements commenting on the use of less desirable
techniques, instructions or constructs.
- No statements rendering opinions on proper use, improper
use or correctness of source code.
- No statements rendering opinions on security techniques
employed or not employed.
- No statements discussing presence or absence of
cryptography or other security methods and technologies.
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