Expert: Palm Beach's New Voting Machines Have Problems

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Expert: Palm Beach's New Voting Machines Have Problems
By Jill Barton
Associated Press Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - The voting machines that replaced butterfly ballots and hanging chads are checked by an "Enron-style of auditing" and don't provide voters any assurance that their votes are being cast, an expert testified Tuesday.

Rebecca Mercuri, a computer science professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, said questions remain about the $14 million machines Palm Beach County purchased to improve its voting system because they are designed to audit themselves.

"The problem with the self-auditing machines is if it's broken, how can it tell you that it's broken?" Mercuri said.

Mercuri's testimony provided the latest criticism of a county still embarrassed by the 2000 election debacle. She was called in a Tuesday afternoon hearing to bolster a Boca Raton man's claims that he lost a City Council election in March because the new machines malfunctioned.

Former Mayor Emil Danciu's suit seeks to have the results overturned and a new election held.

The suit includes affidavits from eight voters who said they had trouble casting ballots on the ATM-style machines and says voters should be given paper receipts to confirm their vote was recorded.

It also seeks to allow an independent review of the voting machines and related software and security features.

Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore says such a review would void the machines' warranty and that they've been reviewed twice by labs appointed by the federal government and also by a state worker.

She says most of the information the plaintiffs are seeking is filed with the state Division of Elections in Tallahassee and even if it were available, she couldn't provide it because it includes trade secrets of Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., which manufactures the machines.

"I'm not willing to let anyone take a machine and take it apart," LePore said. "I don't think the taxpayers would appreciate them taking apart a $3,500 machine and voiding the warranty."

LePore has said the only problems reported to her office following the March election were screens temporarily freezing when voters chose between English and Spanish, which did not prevent voting.

She said the machines further demonstrated that they work Saturday when the county held a mock election in supermarkets and shopping malls allowing voters to try out the machines.

AP-ES-07-16-02 1756EDT

This story can be found at: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/florida/MGAIFTWBQ3D.html
 
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