14 August 2005
Mr. Neil W. Kelleher, Chairman
New York State Board of Election Commissioners
40 Steuben St.
Albany, NY 12207-2108
Dear Commissioner Kelleher,
As you had insisted during our brief exchange at the board meeting 8 August 2005, I will herewith enumerate the concerns and questions I would have addressed to the whole board, had you allowed me to do so.
My first concern relates to what seems to be an orchestrated effort to discredit a particular voting system, the Paper Ballot/Optical Scan option (PBOS). I have been paying close attention to the voting machine question for the past year and communicating with other concerned citizens more recently. It has come to our attention that there is a remarkable uniformity of message concerning the alleged shortcomings of PBOS systems emanating from Board of Elections officials across the state. Local BOE officials in Schoharie County stated that the paper ballots are "just too difficult for the elderly and infirm to fill out accurately" and that they "will become confused and flustered when the scanner rejects their ballot". A second message piece concerns the alleged high cost of printing paper ballots. My contacts in several counties report the same "messages" being voiced by their local election officials right down to the $.75 per ballot printing cost fallacy. Just this past week Mr. Daghlian is quoted in the Oneonta Daily Star saying "ballots for scanners will cost just under a dollar apiece" and a Deputy Election Commissioner in Otsego County, Sheila Ross, is quoted "ballots for optical scanners might be very expensive, and counties will be stuck with recurring bills"
At first we thought that the vendors were spreading these misleading and incorrect messages, however, at the July 15th meeting of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors, Rules & Legislation Committee, Election Commissioner L. Wilson stated, in response to my offering that a local printer estimated such ballot costs at $.18 to .25, "Oh no! It's $.75 a ballot. The state said so". Now, what does this mean? Who is the state? Given the context; a legislative committee meeting with an agenda totally devoted to the voting machine issue, a committee which had as many election officials as legislators in attendance, I believe it's a fair assumption that the 'state' Mr. Wilson referred to is the New York State Board of Elections. It seems obvious that your board and/or your staff have disseminated these and other misleading messages with the intent to dissuade the local boards from choosing Paper Ballot/Optical Scan systems.
Given that there is a great deal of misinformation out there, and recognizing that there are many, many New York citizens who know the truth and trust PBOS systems, and believe as I do concerning the State Board of Elections complicity, it is incumbent upon you to take some positive action to undo the damage that has been done.
So, please sir, advise what action the Board of Election Commissioners will take to correct the misinformation which prevails, and to rebuild the trust of the New York voters. I do not ask that you simply take my word for it. You and your staff should expeditiously undertake your own investigation. I can point you toward an excellent starting point. New Yorkers for Verified Voting is an independent citizen's group with no interest or affiliation with a voting machine manufacturer or vendor. Go to www.nyvv.org to find documents and links to other sources of independent research which will provide the data you need.
A second issue of even greater significance concerns the voting machine certification process. During a recent telephone conversation with your Pubic Information Officer, Mr. Lee Daghlian, I was advised that only one machine had been submitted for certification testing. He confirmed that the machine was "the Liberty" (more accurately, the LibertyVote marketed by Liberty Election Systems LLC, 11 Sand Creek Rd., Albany, NY). When I asked if the machine had been equipped with the required Voter Verified Paper Record (VVPR) printer, he replied yes. When I asked Mr. Daghlian to send me a picture of the machine with the printer attached he referred me to Liberty Election Systems. I inquired if any other manufacturer had expressed an interest in submitting their machines or indicated their intention to submit, Mr. Daghlian seemed puzzled by the question and asked what I meant. After I rephrased and explained the question he simply stated "If a vendor wants to sell his machines to NY they need to submit it for testing and certification. If it's not certified they're not going to sell it". Mr. Daghlian's comments evince a strangely passive position with respect to getting machines submitted for certification testing.
I subsequently called Election Systems & Software in Omaha, NE, a company which markets a paper ballot scanner, and spoke with Mr. Will Wesley, their NE client representative. I asked if ES&S intended to submit their model 100 scanner/tabulator for certification in New York. I was astounded by his reply; "New York has not asked us to submit the optical scanner." Obviously, if both parties to a potential transaction are this reticent the result will be inaction.
So, Mr. Chairman, why would a machine vendor be so disinterested when presented with an opportunity to sell $200,000,000.00 worth of equipment? Why would your agency not reach out to a manufacturer of a well established and trusted voting system? A system which is in use in over 25% of the election districts nationwide, a system which will cost the taxpayers less while at the same time engendering greater voter confidence? Please sir, explain why this passive/passive stalemate is blocking certification of the only existing voting system which can currently satisfy the NY requirements?
One last question; I return to Mr. Daghlian's statement to the effect that the LibertyVote machine which has been submitted for testing has been equipped with a Voter Verified Paper Record. (I use the word "record" here because a machine printed record of a voter's intentions is only that. It is not a ballot which has been cast by a citizen).
After speaking with Mr. Daghlian I called Liberty Election Systems seeking a photo image of the LibertyVote machine with a VVPR printer attached. Mr. Robert Witko, a LES marketing person, acknowledged that they had indeed supplied a machine the NYS BOE for certification testing, but that it was not equipped with a VVPR printer. He went on to say he really didn't want to send me a photo because all they have now is a prototype and it is probably not what the final design will be. He went on to explain that the BOE was going to start the certification testing and go as far as they can. Then "we'll get the printer to them as soon as it's ready". It is significant that this conversation took place on 1 August, 2005, a full week before your August board meeting. More on this later. Witko continued describing how the engineers (at Nedap, the manufacturer) are considering two types of printers with differing paper record storage schemes, saying "It'll be a couple of months before we know for certain which type of printer we'll use". Later in our conversation he revealed that the people at Nedap believe this current demand for a printer will go away in the near future. It appears Nedap, notwithstanding the New York State requirements, would prefer to continue to sell their machine without the added VVPR printer and might be reluctant to incorporate the VVPR printer into the machine. Mr. Witko spoke of the possibility of the VVPR printer being in a module which would be transported separately. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised when one of your staff raised the question of beginning certification testing, to the old standards, for an unnamed vendor during the meeting. It seems that Liberty Elections is counting on the message they have been putting out (as early as 1 August in my personal experience) will be transformed into the truth by the actions of your board on 8 August. It sounded to me like you gave them just what they wanted.
Please advise how you will prevent Liberty Election Systems from boasting that their machine has been accepted for certification testing by the New York State Board of Elections? How will you get the truth out to the various county legislatures that the LibertyVote has no chance of being certified until it is submitted with a VVPR printer? (some of them actually believe the LibertyVote already has a working VVPR printer.) How will you get the word out to the New York citizens so they can help their elected officials with the decision-making?
I will welcome your responses to these questions. If I can be of any further help please feel free to call me at 518-287-1463 or email me at email@example.com .
In support of New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the Peacemakers of Schoharie County,
108 Southmeadow Dr.
Summit, NY 12175
Cc: Commissioners E. Aquila, H. Donohue, Deputy Executive Director P. Kosiniski,
Comptroller A. Hevesi, Attorney General E. Spitzer, J.Odato Times-Union