Candidate’s rivals bothered by company’s role with voting machines

Update: 10/16 More News From New Britain: Party’s changes in ballots stress election chiefs Apparently Higher Pay does not prevent stress.

New Britain Herold story by Rick Guinness – Are voting machines protected properly? The article and the quotes from individuals involved open more questions than they answer. It is clear that Gerry Amodio is on the ballot and his company is moving the voting machines. The rest of the facts are unclear. And since the actual move has not yet happened, by surfacing the issue election officials will have time to do the right thing, no mater their original intent. <read>

Here is who the Moderator’s Handbook says must deliver the voting machines:

“BOTH Assistant Registrars from EACH polling place, or two sworn election officials from different parties (which can include the Registrars of Voters) or one police officer”.

In my opinion, the law could be satisfied if Amodio picked up and delivered the machines provided every move was watched by the required officials or a police officer. To me that would mean accompanying them in the moving van and assuring that no machines could be opened in the process. (Note: I don’t like the clause allowing a single police officer to take custody of the voting machines. I believe this is a change from past practices and objected to in when provided the opportunity to comment on a draft of the regulations. I would not be satisfied with two police officers since they may not have opposing interests. Most police officers, most election officials, and most citizens are law abiding. The problem comes with those few that are not law abiding.)

“I am sure that Butch and Dorothy would have the memory cards in the vault,” [Secretary of the State, Susan] Bysiewicz said. “If he is just moving the bottoms of the optical scans, that is just a giant piece of Tupperware. The scanners are the brains of the machine. The memory cards are part of the scanner.”

Lets be clear, the bottoms are like Tupperware. The scanners and the cards must be protected, the card sealed in the scanner after pre-election testing. For the entire life of the scanner it should remain protected, even between elections – the scanner is a computer with certified software installed; any access to the scanner could change the software and alter the integrity of elections. Similarly the memory cards must be protected from the moment they are programmed in secret in Massachusetts until they are no longer required as evidence after the election.

[Gerry Amodio said] “All they do is release them to us. There is always somebody there. If the city wanted to have somebody follow the truck, they could.”

Not good enough. They must be in custody as required. I would not accept “following the truck”. No matter what the city wants election officials must comply with state law, regulations, and procedures.

Finally, let me add that I would like to see a study of the real security of the Tamper Evident Seals and the canvass like bags that we must trust to protect our democracy. I have see them, I am not confident they are safe. There is a lot of talk lately that the TV crime and war shows give too much credit to the ability of police, FBI, CIA, and military interrogators to solve crimes or get information; that some of the the things they do don’t work or seldom apply. Yet, I think breaking/resealing the seals, replacing the seals with counterfeit, or cutting into the bag can be done with a little study and practice. There is a reason they are called tamper “Evident” not tamper “proof” and I suspect it would also be easy to pull a fast one if election officials casually go through the motions of sealing and checking. Perhaps I’ll do some research and write more on this soon.


One response to “Candidate’s rivals bothered by company’s role with voting machines”

  1. Robin Hood

    The handbook has little to do if the process is legal. The law is a better place to start..and here is what it says.

    Sec. 9-247a. Candidates and immediate family members prohibited from transporting, preparing, repairing or maintaining voting machines. Exceptions. No candidate, as defined in section 9-601, or member of the immediate family, as defined in section 1-79, of a candidate shall transport, prepare, repair or maintain a voting machine. No provision of this section shall prohibit (1) a member of the immediate family of a candidate from serving as a moderator or (2) a candidate for the office of registrar of voters or a member of the immediate family of such a candidate from serving as a voting machine mechanic.

    Of course, I don’t think Lou Amodio would tamper with the machines, but that is not the point. It’s the law.

    By the way, if someone wants to make a rather lame argument that Amodio is not transporting the machines, but is, rather simply the owner of the company that does, let’s look at the official record to see the motive behind the law… GAE committee public hearing, March 1, 2003:

    “This house bill will address the following situation which occurred in the City of Hartford recently. Where a company owned, by an active politician, who has been a candidate in every election for the past twenty years, was permitted to transport and handle portable voting machines in the City of Hartford, particularly in the Fifth District, where he resides and has been a candidate.”

    “What happened in Hartford, September 1992’s primary is, that the candidate that Madam Kirkley-Bey, Representative Kirkley-Bey was running against, had a contract with the registrar of voters, which you have this contract with you, was allowed to have the contract to move portable voting machines during a primary in which he was the chief candidate against Representative Kirkley-Bey.”

    “My final comment, Mr. Chairman, is that this contract, whether it was in Hartford, or is in Timbukto, should never have been awarded to a company owned by a candidate running against another person in that district where he has an interest, and, and I think it’s unethical.”

    Also, I do not know if these quotes are accurate…

    She also drew a distinction between moving the voting machines and moving them with their electronic memory cards inside, instead of locked away.

    “I am sure that Butch and Dorothy would have the memory cards in the vault,” Bysiewicz said. “If he is just moving the bottoms of the optical scans, that is just a giant piece of Tupperware. The scanners are the brains of the machine. The memory cards are part of the scanner.”

    …but, if they are, it does not seem to make any sense at all that the machines are not voting machines just for lack of the memory cards. Here is the legal definition of a voting machine:

    Sec. 9-1. Definitions. (w) “Voting machine” means a machine, including but not limited to, a device which operates by electronic means, for the registering and recording of votes cast at elections, primaries and referenda;

    Noting in that would lend itself to an interpretation that the voting machine is not a voting machine just because one component was taken out.

    AND… while I would think that Amodio is moving the whole machine, electronics and all, EVEN IF he were just moving the base of the machines, the “giant piece of Tupperware”, it would be unreasonable to say that component is not a part of the voting machine. That is where ballots go once they have been counted by the electronic part of the machine. The concern about this part is potentially even greater than the with the electronics, since it presents the possibility of the age-old ballot-stuffing form of fraud.

    None of this is meant, for a minute, to suggest that Amodio would ever do anything wrong, which I seriously doubt, knowing the guy. But there is clearly good reason for this law. We may know and like Amodio, but how the heck does the public trust the integrity of the voting process, when this kind of situation exists.

    In any case, it would seem pretty clear that the current status of things is in violation of that law.

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