Monday, April 16, 2007

Banfield Press Release


HARRISBURG – Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés today issued the following statement about the Commonwealth Court’s decision to not dismiss the case of Banfield v. Cortés, which is aimed to decertify the use of seven voting systems.

The court denied the commonwealth’s efforts to end the case on legal grounds.
“In a divided opinion, Commonwealth Court narrowly decided that there is a basis for proceeding further with the lawsuit. The court’s decision was not a final determination of the facts of the case,” Cortés said.

“Pennsylvanians should know that testing protocols and electoral procedures are in place to ensure fair, accurate and accessible elections,” he said. “The systems have worked well in the commonwealth, and some counties have used direct-recording electronic machines successfully for 15 to 20 years.”

The court’s 4-3 ruling was made in a procedural matter in the early stages of the case.

On August 17, 2006, the Secretary of the Commonwealth was served with the initial legal action that seeks to prevent the use by 57 counties of direct recording electronic machines that allegedly do “not create a permanent record of each vote.” The action specifically asks the court to direct the secretary to decertify seven systems and to “declare that the use of various auditable and non-auditable voting systems in Pennsylvania violates the uniformity provisions of the Pennsylvania Constitution.” The lawsuit claims the certification of the systems violates the Pennsylvania Election Code, as well as the Pennsylvania Constitution.

In response to this action, the commonwealth filed a preliminary objection asking the court to end the lawsuit because it failed to have any basis under existing law. The court’s decision on April 12 overruled those objections, allowing the case to move forward.

“No merits or facts were presented to the court regarding the issues of the case,” Cortés said. “Unless there are intervening court orders or other events in the coming months, the court will hear evidence, review the facts and make a determination. Until such time, the systems will remain certified.”

Before a voting system is certified for use in Pennsylvania, it undergoes a two-tier testing process. First, as a prerequisite to being certified by the department, an electronic voting system must be examined and approved by a federally recognized independent testing authority, which reviews both the hardware and software components of an electronic voting system to ensure that the voting system meets the applicable federal standards. The electronic voting system must then be examined by experts and approved by the Department of State prior to use anywhere in the commonwealth. The department reviewed 19 systems and certified 13 for use in Pennsylvania. In November’s general election, 11 systems were used, including seven direct recording electronic machines, three optical scan systems, and one hybrid.

In addition to the certification process, specific procedures are in place to ensure election system security. The systems are well secured and the counties have a specific chain of custody that designates authorized individuals to handle the machines. The department also makes sure that each county had back up procedures in place, if necessary.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Apr 4, 2007 Minutes For Citizens' Advisory Committee

In conjunction with
Voter’s Registration Office

Meeting Minutes
April 4, 2007 – 6:30 p.m.

The scheduled meeting of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee was held at 6:35 p.m. on April 4, 2007, in the County Council Meeting Room #307.

Chair Russ Shade welcomed everyone to this meeting.

Roll Call

Mr. Conklin gave the roll and the following members were present:
Jack Bradt Russ Shade Greta Browne (Late-7:00 p.m.)
Richard Benner

Motion to approve minutes from February 28, 2007. Motion seconded. Motion carried.

Courtesy of the Floor

Will Power, currently running for Northampton County Council, gave praise to the Voter Registration Office.

Old Business


Overwhelmingly positive.
Experiences with the Voter Registration Office were very positive.
Issues can be dealt with some different approaches in training, additional personnel, etc.
Summary of Surveys reviewed with Committee
Survey results will be sent to the Voter Registration Office.

Letter to PA Department of State

Sent to Henry A. Van Sickle, Commissioner. He replied with a description of the certification process. Basically, he said the machines were not certified going into the November General election. State afterwards examined the tapes and everything functioned as it should and the General election results were certified.

New Business:

Will these machines satisfy the needs across the County? It will be monitored closely.
Difficulty with the machines due to the large ballot discussed. It takes time to change from Democrat to Republican causing some slowness. Processor upgrade is needed to resolve the issue will be in place for the November General election. This particular upgrade will necessitate required certification at the national and state levels; therefore due to time constraints the State DOS will not permit it to be in place for the Primary election.
This is the last public meeting of the Committee. The Committee will meet once or twice privately to assemble their list of recommendations and write a report for the County Executive.

Courtesy of the Floor

Large ballot issue discussed again.
Pay of poll workers should be addressed or schedule the staff accordingly to allow for dinner breaks, etc.
Suggestion for a greater oversight of wrongdoings instead of it being another candidate’s responsibility to identify the errors. Wrongdoings should be made public.
Suggestion for a document warning “what not to do”. Voter Registration information is sometimes used improperly and it should be exposed when it occurs.
The Green Party candidates and Green Party officials from last year did not receive surveys. It was an oversight and not done deliberately.
Optical Scanner was suggested as a means to address the paper trail issues.
Life expectancy of the new machines questioned.
John Stoffa thanked the committee for all its time and hard work.
Counties should work together in approaching the State.

Meeting Adjourned.

Motion to adjourn, seconded, meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Citizens' Advisory Committee Survey Results Summary


Surveys were mailed out to three groups of individuals: Candidates, Poll Workers and Voters.

Sent out Returned % of Return
300 35 12%
Poll Workers:
700 285 41%
400 50 13%
1400 370 26%

General Observations

1) Not all of the questions were answered on all surveys.

2) Some questions had more than one answer selected.

3) One survey question asked about an election that has not occurred yet.

4) Poll Workers were most responsive.

5) Many positive comments were received regarding all aspects of the process including Voter Registration office, the use of the machines, training, etc.

6) All comments are available for anyone who would like to read them, it consist of 49 pages, which is the reason for this summary.

7) Many people in all categories would have appreciated a self- address stamped envelope for returning the survey.

8) 55 of surveys were returned as undeliverable.

Candidate Survey

1) The overwhelming majority of candidates who responded were either running for Municipal Office (20) or for the School Board (11).

2) All candidates who had contact with Voter Registration in advance of the decision to run for office had either a totally positive (15) or a mostly positive (5) experience.

3) The process of obtaining forms from Voter Registration was totally positive (20), mostly positive (5) and somewhat negative (2) for the candidates.

4) About half the candidates (13) felt tabulations were available in a timely manner. Two felt they were not timely and another thirteen said it did not apply to them.

5) All comments except for two were quite complimentary of the Voter Registration office stating they are very professional, helpful, courteous and knowledgeable.

6) The two negative comments had to do with a candidate being told the incorrect number of signatures needed on a petition and the other was regarding not having forms ready to be picked up after being told they would be available.

7) Several suggestions were made including:

a. Additional copies of forms should be available
b. Use of the website for forms and or availability of candidate information
c. Condense and consolidate petition information but make it thorough and easy to understand.
d. Make voter list available
e. Extend the hours of operation for the Voter’s office prior to petition periods.

8) Other issues/concerns for the Citizens Action Committee include:

f. Committee should remain positive and focus on future elections.
g. Paper receipt of the vote cast
h. Make the process of challenging a petition easier.
i. Petition form could be clearer
j. Recognize mistake will happen and deal with them constructively as they arise.
k. One candidate was unable to get absentee ballots for his campaign.
l. All information made available to public as soon as possible.
m. Review and reject property tax increase.
n. Straight ticket screen changed.

9) Although some of the candidates summated their name and address, only one specifically requested to be contacted. (see attached)

Voter Survey

1) The majority of voters rate level of confidence in Voter Registration as very good (16) or a good (23) experience with Voter Registration. Ten voters selected either good nor bad. No negative comments regarding the Voter Registration office.

2) Two Voters had difficulties with registering to vote.

3) Only 13 voters visited the Registration office in the Wolf Building. Three had neither a good nor bad experience and the remainder had either a very good (8) or a good (5) experience.

4) All the voters who visited the office felt the staff was welcoming, courteous, and helpful and all received the information they were seeking.

5) Twelve voters emailed or called the office and all were attended to promptly and received the information they requested except one. One stated he tried to arrange a class to visit and was responded to in a rather rude response about public access to the sample voting machine.

6) Rating their experience with Voter Registration, 14 were very good, 23 good and 8 were neither good nor bad, no bad experiences reported.

7) The problems the voters encountered were mostly with the machines and privacy issues. Two people had an issue with provisional ballots.

a. Was the vote cast recorded and counted correctly?
b. An individual seems to be "hovering" around voters looking at votes
c. Problem with write ins.
d. Didn’t like the suggestion to vote by party.
e. Form not available for one individual to vote, he was able to cast his vote.

8) Most reported their experience with using the new machines as either very good (16) or good (20). Seven people selected neither good nor bad and four people had a bad experience.

f. Would like to see paper trail.
g. Liked old machines better.
h. Concerns about hacking/inaccurate recording and counting of votes.

9) Most voters (30) are satisfied with the machines. Some (5) are not and some (14) are not sure.

10) Interestingly, 30 voters are satisfied with the machines but only 27 of them are confident their vote was recorded accurately. Two people do not think their vote was recorded properly and 16 voters are not sure.

11) General comments made by the voters include:

i. Upgrade the entire process to make it more appealing to individual to encourage voting.
j. Older children should be allow to accompany adults so they can learn the process
k. Why can vote in Spanish or English when you must pass a test to become a citizen and have the right to vote and the test is in English?
l. Some workers well trained, others were not well trained.
m. Should have included a self-address stamped envelope with the survey.
n. Inadequate parking at polling location, consider new location due to population growth of the area.
o. Stop tax hikes, no reassessment.
p. Make Election Day a holiday to make it easier for everyone to vote.
q. When are we going to move up PA’s primary?
r. What is the upside A?

Poll Workers

1) The overall experience for poll workers was good (139). 96 were very good, 34 were neither good nor bad, 13 bad and one very bad.

2) Specific problems were in the following categories:

a. Voter Registration problems (66)
i. Voters not properly registered.
ii. Could not get assistance for long periods of time when needed.
iii. Decisions made without Voter Registration assistance since they were not accessible.
iv. Early morning and closing times were difficult to reach the office.
v. Add additional dedicated lines to Registration office
b. Machine problems (70)
i. Master machine not accepting USB from other machines.
ii. Old machines easier.
iii. Screens not clear to users
iv. Slow and tricky tabulation process
v. Machines not working/shutdowns/reboots
vi. Not enough machines
vii. Need additional training to handle specific problems
viii. Touch screen sensitivity
ix. Machines should be on legs not tables
x. Hoods over the machines break off.
xi. Machines attached too closely together and the cords cause obstructions for walking.
xii. Cable holding machines together broke.
c. Voter Registration not accessible (50)
d. Lack of Provisional Ballots (2)
e. Privacy concerns (34)
i. Voters would like a curtain around the machine
ii. Screen can be seen when assisting voters.
iii. Other votes could see who voters had selected.
iv. Middle machine had the least privacy
f. Voter not knowing how to use the machine (164)
i. Apprehension of voters
g. Straight ticket "suggestion" was highly opposed by voters who relayed their concerns to the poll workers.
i. Some voters accidentally voted straight ticket when they didn’t want to and it could not be fixed.
ii. Change location of straight party ticket – not on first screen
h. Location issues were prevalent.
i. Sites too small to accommodate number of voters.
ii. Parking and the use of handicap parking
iii. Voters showed up and the wrong polling place
iv. Maps should be made available
v. Motor Vehicle registration sending people to wrong location
vi. Voter not having registration card to verify location
vii. Listing of all voters should be available
viii. Site entrance from the road not clear
ix. People who were registered not in the book.

3) Some positive comments:

i. Knowledgeable staff working together
j. Voters responded well to new procedures after an explanation
k. Smooth, quick process with the new machines.

4) Misc. Comments:

l. Long wait to see the results.
m. Many people commented about this being a new process that takes time and experience for everyone to make it a smooth procedure.
n. People writing in "characters" for the write ins. (i.e. Mickey Mouse, etc.)
o. A practice machine should be available for voters while they are waiting.
p. Poll worker jobs should be spread out more evenly.
q. Voting should be by mail in only, like Oregon.
r. Absentee and write in votes take too long to count at the end of the day, maybe do it sooner?
s. Hours are too long and the pay is too little.
t. Had to wait in line a long time to turn in results at the Courthouse.
u. Not enough people working.
v. Voter books need updated with correct data.
w. Voter’s sign registration book in pencil, permanent ink should be used.
x. District with 2 congressional districts had no written instruction on how to account for both districts when tallying results.
y. One voter’s screen displayed "vote not cast" and was unable to cast another vote.
z. Paper trail needed, give vote receipt to voters.

5) Most (153) felt the tabulation process was mostly simple. 82 people said it was simple, 42 somewhat difficult and only 14 felt it was difficult.

aa. Voter Registration Office was difficult to contact.
bb. Master machine had problems tabulation and recognizing the USB stick.
cc. Absentee count was difficult and time consuming.
dd. Absentee should not be able to change their mind and come in and vote.
ee. Tabulation process difficult and takes too long.
ff. Not always clear how many and what kind of tapes go on each tally sheet.
gg. Instruction sheets not clear and concise.
hh. Count absentee ballots before closing would be helpful.
ii. Workers should be told of any errors so they can correct it next time.

6) Regarding training, 97 workers felt is was comprehensive, 157 pretty good, 20 somewhat sketchy and 9 felt it was difficult.

jj. Refresher course would be helpful.
kk. More hands-on training.
ll. Minimum of 2 sessions should be required.
mm. Pay is too little for the amount of work and the time required.
nn. Training room was a zerox copy room that was inadequate for proper training.
oo. Paperwork and procedures not covering the Judge of Elections training.
pp. Training not taken seriously, too cutesy.
qq. Explanation of what we are allowed to do to assist voters.
rr. Process of depositing correct forms into correct envelopes too cumbersome, should be done at the courthouse.
ss. Training staff should wear ties and look professional. Voting is a serious matter.
tt. Should have a duty list and job description for each worker.
uu. Spend more time on how to resolve problems.
vv. Too many poll workers chose not to go to the training offered and therefore were unprepared and not of much use to everyone else.

7) General Comments and Suggestions:

ww. Self addressed, stamped envelopes should have been included to increase the return rate.
xx. Try to encourage younger poll workers. It is difficult for the elderly to put in such long days
yy. A school principle made an inappropriate comment about the use of the school for voting is a danger and imposition. We should not be teaching this message to our children.
zz. Survey should be sent closer to the election while thoughts are still fresh.
aaa. Voting machines should be tested by a user to avoid problems.
bbb. For the May 2007 Primary, please make sure provisions are in order for Independents to vote on ballot questions (IE. Act I for property tax reduction to fund schools).
ccc. Would like to be contacted. (See attached survey for Info)