News & Politics

New Jersey Report: Sequoia Voting Machine Vulnerable

A court (finally) releases a report on Sequoia voting machines used in New Jersey and five other states detailing security flaws.
A New Jersey Superior Court judge on Friday released a report detailing major flaws with an electronic voting machine used in 19 out of the state's 21 counties -- as well as in all of Louisiana and a few counties in Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

In addition to concluding the machine can be easily accessed by partisans who are interested in tampering with vote totals, the voting machine inspection report, "Insecurities and Inaccuracies of the Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.00 DRE Voting Machine," also described how the machine would fail to record votes unless properly activated. In other words, voters could be using the machine and would not notice that their votes were not being counted unless poll workers properly adjusted its settings.

The report, which had been withheld by the court at the manufacturer's request, adds to comprehensive studies of other voting systems done by computer scientists for the states of California and Ohio.

Voting rights advocates were quick to praise the court's action and the report's findings. They said the report underscored the need to replace paperless voting systems with back-up paper ballots, which can be audited and verified in recounts.

"As I indicated last week when the report was withheld at the request of New Jersey’s voting system vendor, if it indicated that the voting equipment was reliable Sequoia would have been eager to see it published," said Rep. Rush Holt, D-NJ. "Now we know why the vendor wanted the report suppressed."

Among other things, the report concluded:

"Anomalies noticed by County Clerks in the New Jersey 2008 Presidential Primary were caused by two different programming errors on the part of Sequoia, and had the effect of disenfranchising voters."

"New Jersey should not use any version of the AVC Advantage that it has not actually examined with the assistance of skilled computer-security experts."

"The AVC Advantage’s susceptibility to installation of a fraudulent vote-counting program is far more than an imperfection: it is a fatal flaw."

"The AVC Advantage is too insecure to use in New Jersey. New Jersey should immediately implement the 2005 law passed by the Legislature, requiring an individual voter-verified record of each vote cast, by adopting precinct-count optical-scan voting equipment."

"The State should take whatever action it can to detect and remedy these and other vulnerabilities and to provide back-up measures in time for the November election," Holt said.

Holt and others have urged New Jersey election officials to deploy emergency back-up ballots if there is an apparent malfunction of the machines on Election Day. Voters could also request an absentee paper ballot, by mail or in person, per regular absentee voting procedures, Holt said.

Other voting rights activists hope the report's release will prompt the issue of electronic voting malfunctions to be taken more seriously by election protection groups, both inside and outside of the political parties. Most of the public discussion by these groups have avoided plans to ensure the accuracy of electronic vote counts.