Electronic Voting Machines to get Legal Challenge
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - February 11, 2007 -- Voter-rights activists plan to mount a legal challenge to the use of electronic voting machines in 18 of New Jersey's 21 counties, saying the machines were never properly tested and are susceptible to fraud.
Newark attorney Penny Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic, filed legal notice Friday claiming that some 10,000 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines were never certified by the state.
"There is zero documentation - no proof whatsoever - that any state official has ever reviewed Sequoia machines," Venetis told The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark.
The state Division of Elections on its Web site states that it certified the Sequoia machines in Aug. 1987, but Venetis said officials furnished no proof when she asked for it.
A Princeton University computer science professor told the newspaper that he bought five Sequoia machines from a government auction Web site that are virtually identical to the ones used in by the state.
Andrew Appel said a Princeton student was able to easily pick the machine's lock and remove chips containing the machine's computer software.
"We can take a version of Sequoia's software program and modify it to do something different - like appear to count votes, but really move them from one candidate to another," Appel said. "And it can be programmed to do that only on Tuesdays in November, and at any other time. You can't detect it."
Appel said the machines are often left unattended at polling places. But a spokeswoman for Sequoia said tampering is unlikely.
"It's not just the equipment," Michelle Shafer said. "There are people and processes in place in the election environment to prevent tampering and attempts at tampering."
Mercer County Assignment Judge Linda Feinberg will decide whether to pull the plug on the machines. If she does, the state would have to find a way to recertify them, or perhaps go back to pencil-and-paper ballots, in time for April school elections.
Warren County is the only county in New Jersey that uses electronic voting machines that feature paper printouts that can be recounted if disputes arise. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has cautioned that electronic voting machines can't be made secure without a paper trail.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
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