SECRETARY CORTÉS PROVIDES FACTS REGARDING BANFIELD OBJECTION RULING; VOTING SYSTEMS
WORK WELL IN PENNSYLVANIA
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.