NM Machine Purchase May Violate State Law
DECEMBER 16, 2005
United Voters of New Mexico
Machine Purchase May Violate State Law
Sequoia Edge Voting Machines Do Not Meet New Federal Standards
Albuquerque – December 16 - Secretary of State Vigil-Giron is set to purchase hundreds of electronic machines that meet 15-year-old standards, but not the current 2002 standards. The machines proposed for purchase, furthermore, don’t produce a paper record of votes as required by state law. Stephen Fettig, a citizen involved in voting issues, says, “Last winter many citizens worked with many legislators to get the state law as it is written. We are asking that the secretary of state purchase only machines that comply with both state and federal law.”
The National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) is the organization that determines when voting machines meeting federal standards. The 17-page list of these machines, dated November 18, 2005 doesn’t list any Sequoia Edge machines as meeting current standards. By “current,” the NASED means standards set in 2002. The list does identify some Sequoia software and firmware that meets the current standards, but no complete Sequoia machines meet the 2002 standards.
Sequoia Edge voting machines have a known history of problems. These machines were the source of vote switching in the 2004 election, where votes were switched from the selected candidate to an opponent. Voting systems using these same machines were responsible for the loss of over 12,000 votes in Bernalillo County, New Mexico in 2002, which may or may not ever have been “recreated” when the vendor took the cartridge back up to it’s headquarter in Denver. These machines also have a history of failing to record Spanish language votes.
“In a state where our Hispanic population is so important to our democratic process, we need to insure that the votes of our Spanish language voters are counted as accurately as English language votes. Having seen these problems, one wonders what else will happen," says Paul Stokes of United Voters of New Mexico.
With the known problems with vote switching, lost votes, and unrecorded Spanish votes, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) added its opinion in a September 2005 report. The GAO report said there were design flaws, poor security, and inadequate testing of electronic voting machines such as Sequoia Edge and others. The report groups all these machines as “DREs” because they are “direct recording electronic” machines and says concerns that they lose or miscount votes have merit.
A week ago, citizen groups from around the state asked Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera and Santa Fe County Clerk Valerie Espanoza to select the AutoMark voting system which is currently certified at both the state and federal levels. Instead, they asked Secretary of State Vigil-Giron to buy some 800 Sequoia Edge machines that are not certified to current federal standards and are in potential violation of state law because they don’t produce a paper record of votes.
What’s driving this seemingly unwise and potentially unlawful action by the Secretary of State - an action that could waste millions of dollars of taxpayers money? We don't know.