c/o 3548 Beechwood Boulevard
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15217-2767
November 6, 2006
The Honorable Pedro Cortés
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Department of State
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120-0029
By fax: 717-787-1734
Re: VoteAllegheny’s Report on Logic & Accuracy Testing in Allegheny County
Dear Secretary Cortés:
VoteAllegheny wishes to thank you and the Bureau of Commissions, Elections & Legislation for hearing us and continuing to respond to our concerns as we work through the implementation of the various mandates of HAVA with our County.
Attached is a report concerning observation of one portion of the logic and accuracy testing in Allegheny County. VoteAllegheny has registered with the Allegheny County Board of Elections as an organization, to observe the preparation of the voting systems and other matters. We received a letter inviting us to the initial session of machine preparation, which was originally scheduled for October 2nd (Yom Kippur) and then subsequently postponed due to the Green Party ballot issue. When the rescheduling finally occurred, a good measure of difficulty in gaining access occurred, but the observation ultimately took place. (We would gladly provide more information on that observation of the testing of the iVotronics, as we were left not without concern about it, but the subject of this letter is the testing of the M650 optical scanner and other attendant matters.)
On October 30th, we learned indirectly of this further testing to take place. We have in Allegheny County two visitors from Europe who are observing our electoral processes. They had requested a meeting with Mark Wolosik, our Elections Division Manager, but were told by Mr. Wolosik that he had to be somewhere else. They asked where that would be, and he told them about the testing. Subsequently, the folks from Europe were discussing other issues with Celeste Taylor of People For the American Way and the Black Political Empowerment Project. They happened to mention the scheduled testing to Ms. Taylor, who then phoned to alert VoteAllegheny and other organizations. Our representatives rearranged schedules a half-day prior to the testing and attended. This report concerns only that day.
We will be delivering this report to our County officials, but we additionally bring it to your attention due to the troubling nature of (a) the manner in which we learned of the testing; (b) the circumstances and findings of the tests; and (c) the ongoing resistance of our County officials toward permitting our observation. Please read the report – it is only five pages long, but contains a powerful charge of information.
We understand that Allegheny County plans to implement parallel testing, but the Board of Elections will not reveal to us how precincts will be randomly chosen, who the independent contractor is who will be performing the testing, nor where to appear on Tuesday morning for the random selection in order to proceed to the proper precincts to observe. Thus we have little faith even in the small bandaid on our gaping concerns which parallel testing might have provided. (In fact, speaking of independent contractors whom we do not know, “Vigilant Minds,” is also apparently contracted to certify security of the Unity network before and through the election. They are not County employees – how do we know we can trust them with access to our tabulation equipment?)
We remain quite concerned that our County Elections Division is trusting the system it has purchased without sufficient testing. Further, we are quite disconcerted by the County’s exclusion of the public in witnessing the same. Members of our organization are all volunteers, and among us we have quite a range of expertise. Overwhelmingly, the best represented area of expertise is in the computer science field, with six professors and experienced professionals from both CMU and Pitt. Moreover, as a member organization of VotePA, we are connected with groups in other counties, and know that some other counties have been very much more open to public observation and input. We continue to politely press our County with the backing of state law, and have no intention of going away.
The members of our County administration seem to think of us as adversaries. Although virtually the lot of them ignored every statistic, cost analysis, and piece of advice we offered them in selecting machines from early spring 2005 through today, we nevertheless continue to offer ourselves as a resource, and remain committed to helping to safeguard vote security, accessibility, and recountability of the citizens of Allegheny County.
We humbly request your advice in pursuit of observation as provided under the laws of the Commonwealth (which we seem to be quoting often, to little avail), and also most emphatically request your attention to the matters brought to light by our observation and noted in the attached report.
Thank you very much.