A former employee of electronic voting booth maker VoteHere has filed a civil suit against the firm, claiming that the company's digital balloting systems contain error-laden software which has never been properly audited.
Daniel B. Spillane, whose job at VoteHere was terminated in the summer of 2001, claims that the company's voting software contains severe programming errors which could lead to massive deletion of ballots, among other problems. The company's touch-screen voting booths have been sold in a number of districts.
Spillane says that auditors from an Independent Test Authority (ITA) failed to properly review the voting booth software prior to giving it their seal of approval. ITA is the name of a technology auditing process licensed to contractors by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED).
Spillane also claims that VoteHere undertook measures designed specifically to thwart the ITA review process. He initially took his concerns to VoteHere executives, but those actions led to his dismissal just hours before a crucial company meeting with ITA auditors and the U.S. General Accounting Office, which at the time was reviewing the ITA process.
A grant proposal for election modernization was released by NASED shortly after Spillane's dismissal, requesting a federal grant "burdened by very few conditions." In a transparent denial of the challenges of secure digital balloting, the proposal scoffs at the concept of new mechanisms which might assure that new systems comply with federal election laws. "All conditions [of the grant] should be concretely related to specific, demonstrated issues with our current election administration process," it reads (emphasis added).
Spillane is not the first engineer to question the wisdom of such electronic balloting systems. Noted Bryn Mawr Bohemian Dr. Rebecca Mercuri wrote in November about Sequoia Voting Systems, an outfit seeking to install electronic voting booths in Santa Clara County, California. Most of Sequoia's machines provide nothing in the way of receipts or physical audit trails which would facilitate a recount, ripening the prospects for electronic election fraud. She and other experts have also been barred from examining Sequoia's product, because it is sold under restrictive trade-secret agreements.
Spillane, Mercuri, and 453 other technologists have endorsed a "Resolution on Electronic Voting" which warns of the dangers inherent in electronic voting systems that keep only digital records of ballots cast. The resolution states that programming error, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering are serious risks which call for a voter-verifiable audit trail -- a permanent, physical, tamper-resistant record of each vote which can be checked by the voter before casting their ballot, and retained afterward.
Despite the resolution, Santa Clara County made its final decision on Tuesday to spend $20M on 5,000 touch-screen voting booths made by Sequoia, most of which will not include a printed audit trail. Sequoia has a history of involvement with government corruption, including the pay-off of Louisiana election official Jerry Fowler.
Spillane filed his suit against VoteHere on the same day, claiming $475,000 in lost wages and other damages.