Wednesday, Aug 29, 2007
Posted on Tue, Aug. 28, 2007
Origin of voting machines traced to Philippines
By DUANE MARSTELLER
A Filipino factory assembled the touch-screen machines that Sarasota County voters used in last year's disputed 13th Congressional District election, the manufacturer has confirmed to federal election officials.
In a letter sent to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission last week, Election Systems & Software Inc. said its iVotronic machines have been assembled at a sub-contractor's Manila factory since 1998. ES&S also said more than a dozen other contract manufacturers, including one each in China and Taiwan, make various related components.
"There was never any intent by ES&S not to disclose or to misrepresent" the Manila facility's involvement, the company said.
The commission, recently empowered to certify voting systems, said it didn't know about the plant until a television news report raised questions about it. That prompted the agency to demand ES&S supply the locations of all iVotronic manufacturing and assembly facilities within 30 days or risk suspension.
While regulators said they are satisfied with the company's response, the company insisted the Manila plant was no secret. It long had been "widely reported to federal authorities" and frequently inspected, as part of the National Association of State Election Directors' voluntary certification program, the ES&S letter said.
The company said it contracts with Pivot International, based in Lenexa, Kan., to manufacture the machines. Pivot, in turn, subcontracts the final assembly to Philippines-based Teletech Telesystems Inc.. ES&S previously informed the election agency of Pivot but not Teletech.
ES&S also asked the agency to further clarify the reporting requirements and criticized its handling of the issue.
"In this situation, the process through which you first posted a notice on your Web site and distributed it to election officials across the country, without contacting us first for explanation, created confusion and could undermine voter confidence in the entire field of elections," the company's letter said.
In a reply letter, the commission said it "felt it had to act in an expeditious, proactive and transparent manner." It also said it would clarify the reporting requirements.
Sarasota County is junking its 1,500 iVotronic machines after they registered more than 18,000 blank votes in the congressional race between now-Rep. Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings. She is challenging official results that she lost by 369 votes, saying the machines malfunctioned.
Congress is investigating her claim.
Duane Marsteller, transportation and growth/development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.
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