According to Saturday's Post-Gazette, Allegheny County is a bind:
Allegheny County has until Tuesday to place an order for 5,600 touch-screen voting machines or it risks forfeiting a deeply discounted purchase price, the county Board of Elections was told yesterday.
But the three-member board, which includes county Chief Executive Dan Onorato, put off a final decision because of concerns that the machines won't come equipped with paper printouts that voters can use to check their choices.
Diebold Inc. of North Canton, Ohio, has offered to sell the machines, which resemble ATMs, to the county for $11.9 million, almost $4 million less than a price put forward by Election Systems and Software Inc.
That price also is significantly lower than the $20 million set aside for new machines in the county's 2006 capital budget and could be covered almost entirely by a federal grant. Diebold officials told the county, however, that the $11.9 million price was guaranteed only until the end of the month.
Under the federal Help America Vote Act, legislation that grew out of the disputed 2000 presidential election in Florida, local governments across the country must buy machines that meet strict standards and have them in place by the May primary.
Both Mr. Onorato and County Council have said they want machines with paper trails, already a requirement in many states.
But Pennsylvania's Department of State, which oversees elections and must certify all voting machines, hasn't yet approved any touch-screen machines with that feature.
"This is outrageous that we've been put in this position," said Councilman Dave Fawcett, R-Oakmont, a member of the elections board. "Harrisburg has totally dropped the ball."
Allison Hrestak, a spokeswoman for the Department of State, said it's up to the state Legislature to mandate the use of paper trails, something legislators have been considering.
In the meantime, Mr. Onorato said, the county needs to move forward.
"I believe in voter verification. I'd like to see it, immediately," he said. "But if we don't move, we lose $12 million. It's a pretty tough situation to be in."
Critics also accuse Diebold of being too close to the Republican Party. People affiliated with the company have contributed significant sums to Republican candidates since 2000, according to The Associated Press.
From a list I'm on:
"The AccuPoll company (whose electronic voting machine I liked when I saw it demonstrated) has now decided not to distribute in the state of Pa. The only other machine that has been certified by the state is made by Diebold, which (according to the commissioner) is the one that about 30 Pa counties have decided on buying. And now it looks like any other counties that were considering a non-Diebold purchase will have no other choice."
UPDATE Dec. 16: Volusia County (FL) joins Leon in dumping Diebold. Due to contractual non-performance and security design issues, Leon County (Florida) supervisor of elections Ion Sancho has announced that he will never again use Diebold in an election. He has requested funds to replace the Diebold system from the county. On Tuesday, the most serious “hack” demonstration to date took place in Leon County. The Diebold machines succumbed quickly to alteration of the votes. This comes on the heels of the resignation of Diebold CEO Wally O'Dell, and the announcement that stockholder's class action suits and related actions have been filed against Diebold by four separate law firms. Further “hack” testing on additional vulnerabilities is tentatively scheduled before Christmas in the state of California.
Finnish security expert Harri Hursti, together with Black Box Voting, demonstrated that Diebold made misrepresentations to Secretaries of State across the nation when Diebold claimed votes could not be changed on the “memory card” (the credit-card-sized ballot box used by computerized voting machines.
A test election was run in Leon County on Tuesday with a total of eight ballots. Six ballots voted "no" on a ballot question as to whether Diebold voting machines can be hacked or not. Two ballots, cast by Dr. Herbert Thompson and by Harri Hursti voted "yes" indicating a belief that the Diebold machines could be hacked.
Pennsylvanians want voting machines with a paper trail (by 73%).
From the Committee to Elect William Sargent's website (Sargent has been staying on top of this), here's info for the relevant Allegheny County people to contact:
Dan Onoronto - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (412) 350-6500, Fax: (412) 350-6512
John DeFazio -email@example.com
Phone:(412) 350-6516, Fax: (412) 350-6499
Dave Fawcett - firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: (412) 350-6520, Fax: (412) 350-6499
Urgent! Calls needed now!
The Protect Our Vote Coalition has learned that the Anti-Voting Rights Act (HB 1318) is on the calendar and may be voted on as early as Tuesday 1/31.
Last year, your activism helped fend off provisions of this legislation that would have imposed an ID requirement on Pennsylvania voters and rolled back the voting rights of former felons. But now the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is rumored to be trying to revive them.
It is imperative that you call your legislators now and tell them that if HB 1318 includes restrictive voter identification requirements and rolls back the voting rights of former felons they must oppose the bill!
TELL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO VOTE NO ON HB 1318. You can look up your representative's phone number at www.legis.state.pa.us .
Check out the voting record below to see if your representative voted NO against this Bill the last time it was in the House. You might be surpried. Call them and urge them to Vote No this time and thank those who alredy Voted No and make sure they are voting NO again.
Use the talking points below to aid your discussion with your legislator:
There is no need for photo identification at the polls because it does not prevent the kinds of fraud that this bill seeks to remedy. Further, it makes lines at the polls longer, resulting in more confusion. Felons who have been released from prison get jobs and pay taxes, and should be able to vote as well. Disenfranchising former felons after they leave prison is unfair and discriminatory. It is unthinkable that in 2006, we would be discussing the legalized discrimination and disenfranchisement of free Pennsylvanians. It is time to enact meaningful election reform, which will remove barriers to voting, increase voter turnout and eliminate voter disenfranchisement.
Get on the bus! We need to stop this now. We have a plan and we need your help.
On the morning of Wednesday, February 1, buses will carry you and other activists from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to the State Capitol in Harrisburg.
If you can get to the Capitol on your own, meet us in the East Rotunda between 9:00 and 10:00 AM. Please email email@example.com to let us know you're coming.
The day will begin with a training on the bus about HB 1318. From 9:00-1:00, you'll visit legislators' offices. (If you're driving to Harrisburg on your own, we'll train you when you arrive.) At 1:00, meet for a brown-bag lunch and a meet-and-greet with legislators who support our work. (Please bring lunch or money to buy lunch. Lunches can be supplied for those of limited resources).
Buses from Philadelphia will leave at 7:30 AM from Project H.O.M.E ., 1515 Fairmont Ave., and return at 5:00 PM.
To RSVP, call Jennine Miller, (215) 232-7272, ext. 3042.
Buses will leave at 5:30 AM from The Hill House, 1835 Centre Ave. in the Hill District
At 6 AM from Allegheny County ACORN, 5907 Penn Ave. in East Liberty.
To RSVP, call Celeste Taylor, (412) 628-7867.