Schedule Slips and Slippery Slopes

Voting Machines Can’t Meet NY Standards in Time for 2009

It’s become obvious that New York State’s new voting systems will not be able to complete New York State certification testing in time for the scheduled 2009 rollout. The state sets the highest bar in the nation for approval of voting machines, one that vendors have never been required to meet before. Their performance in New York demonstrates that they are a long, long way from understanding that the public will not stand for poorly designed, badly tested and outrageously overpriced equipment, and a business philosophy of let the customer be damned.

In its July 24 status report SysTest, the contractor performing the state’s testing noted the serious problems and risks to the testing schedule, and cite the reasons that “NYSBOE’s ability to meet its court-mandated timeline for complete and thorough testing is at significant risk for the reasons described below”. Some of the reasons demonstrate the complete lack of quality control on the part of the vendors before they send systems out to New York’s certification site. It’s unbelievable that these machines, which cost upward of $12,000 apiece, could be delivered for approval with the kind of problems cited in the report:

“Numerous documentation discrepancies, caused in large part by missing information from both Vendors’ documentation, prevent us from finalizing the test procedures in all of the test cases”.

“There is a significant risk, given the remaining allotted time, that the Vendors will be able to address all of the expected discrepancies and SysTest Labs will have sufficient time to regression test the fixes”.

“…the election setup procedures do not match the documentation”.

[Download the full Systest report here.]

It goes on like this. The problem is that the voting machine industry has thus far been able to get away with selling expensive equipment that frequently breaks down, failing at a rate that we would never, ever accept for toaster ovens, let alone a machine that counts the vote. But now New York State comes along, and prodded by citizen advocates demanding high certification standards, sets the bar higher than it’s been before. But rather than act like a company that has just signed a multi-million dollar contract and wants to make sure that their products meet all the customer stated requirements prior to shipping it out, the vendors take the same old broken approach – a quickly thrown together, poorly designed product; not validated by user testing; manufactured in haste with no discernable quality control standards; let the buyer beware.

The question now is what will the State Board of Elections do – allow the schedule to slip or compromise the regulations? At their meeting on July 22, there seemed to be agreement that New York should not allow any system to be used that does not meet all of the state’s standards. But there was also talk that the Board of Elections could perhaps overlook what was described as “unimportant” discrepancies from the New York regulations.

This would be a dreadful mistake, for once you start down this slippery slope, there’s no going back - and what was once a shining example becomes a muddy mockery. New York must not reward the vendors for this typically abysmal performance. The State Board of Elections must protect New York’s voters – they must not approve any machines that do not meet every single one of the State’s requirements.

3 Responses to “Schedule Slips and Slippery Slopes”

  1. So if the new voting machines will not be certified in time for the election, will NY counties be able to use the old tried-and-true lever machines they’ve been using for years? If not, how do we vote?

  2. Presumably we’ll keep using lever machines until new machines are certified.
    The question is will the Judge Sharpe and the DOJ allow NY to delay using the machines until all it’s certication requirements are met, or will they force us to use machines which haven’t met state standards?

  3. To whom does Judge Sharp report? Clearly, this is an individual who has never learned to respect knowledge
    from sources he considers beneath his exalted seat. It cannot be true that this person is empowered to be the final dfeterminer of whether my vote is counted as I intend it to be counted.

    Tell me who is this man’s immediate boss, and I will be delighted to write to whomever is necessary to at least make this voter’s expectations perfectly clear. The
    idea that judges can stay in office as long as they live is absurd to begin with, but having one of them wield
    the power to ignore physical reality as well as simple
    logic - in an apparent fit of petulence - is incredible!

    I may be the only citizen who feels this way, but I think
    others could possibly share my disrespect for anyone who would treat me and my Constitution so callously.

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