E-Vote: Voter Verified Paper Record System for Electronic Voting Machines Delayed in New Jersey

State Attorney General remarks on the delay: "To ensure that only the most reliable voting technologies be used to implement the law, my office promulgated stringent criteria against which to test any voter-verified paper record systems that may be used with the direct recording electronic voting machines currently in use statewide."

by / February 22, 2008

New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram released a statement Thursday on the consequences of a delay in federal testing of electronic voting machines and printer attachments to comply with the state's voter-verified paper record law.

The Attorney General's full statement on the issue follows:

In my capacity as New Jersey's Chief Election Official, I wish to inform the public of recent developments concerning the implementation of the voter-verified paper record law, which currently is scheduled to go into effect on June 3, 2008.

To ensure that only the most reliable voting technologies be used to implement the law, my office promulgated stringent criteria against which to test any voter-verified paper record systems ("VVPRS") that may be used with the direct recording electronic voting machines ("DREs") currently in use statewide. We also made the unprecedented decision to retain the New Jersey Institute of Technology ("NJIT") to independently test any DRE with a VVPRS against the State's criteria. The three vendors who currently have DRE machines in use in the State, Sequoia Voting Systems, Avante International Technology, Inc., and Election Systems and Software, submitted DREs with VVPRS attachments for certification. The products submitted were, essentially, those voting machines currently in use in the State upgraded to include a printer attachment to enable voters to verify, on a paper record, their voting selections.

During the Spring and Summer of 2007, each machine with VVPRS was tested by NJIT. NJIT's report for each machine was reviewed by the State's Voting Machine Examination Committee, which also conducted public hearings for each machine. Based on NJIT's report and the subsequent recommendations of the Committee, I declined to certify any VVPRS for use in the State of New Jersey. I want to emphasize that my decision not to certify the VVPRS applied only to the printer attachments and not the underlying voting machines, all of which were previously certified in the State and continue to be used in all New Jersey counties, most recently in last Tuesday's presidential primaries. I note also that my decision not to certify the printer attachments was not based on any concerns about the printers' or the voting machines' core functionality, but rather was based on the findings of NJIT and the recommendations of the Committee that the printer attachments fell short of fully meeting several of our many criteria that address more peripheral issues.

Thus far, two vendors, Sequoia and Avante, have modified their products to address the issues raised during the first round of testing. Sequoia has already submitted its modified products to NJIT for a second round of testing and NJIT has completed its review of those products. However, as an extra safeguard, my office also has continued to require that these modified products be tested against federal standards by an independent voting system testing laboratory accredited by the United States Election Assistance Commission.

Sequoia machines are used in 19 of the State's 21 counties. In September 2007, Sequoia certified to the State both that it would submit all of its modified products to NJIT for a second round of testing by mid-October 2007 and that it expected to complete the federal testing process by the end of the same month. Based on this timeline, we fully expected that both State and federal testing would be completed before the end of December 2007, thus providing sufficient time to certify, procure and have the vendor produce and install the printer attachments by June 2008.

NJIT completed its testing of Sequoia's products in accordance with this timeline. However, Sequoia's products have been delayed in completing the federal testing process. Although Sequoia's initial indications to my office were that this delay would not be lengthy, Sequoia recently informed my office that federal testing remains ongoing and will not be completed until the end of February 2008, at the earliest. At that time, Sequoia also informed my office

that this new schedule will not permit sufficient time to implement the printers by the June 2008 statutory deadline, due to the four months Sequoia requires to produce and install the number of printer attachments that would be needed in the State. No other vendor has yet resubmitted a modified product to NJIT for a second round of testing.

Upon learning of this development, I briefed the Governor and the legislative leadership and informed them of the various options still available to maintain compliance with the June 2008 statutory deadline. Chief among these options was conducting the June 2008 election using exclusively paper ballots in the polling place and having those ballots centrally tabulated by each county's board of election either by a hand count or with technology currently used to tabulate absentee ballots. Either option would have significantly delayed election results, raised substantial ballot security, training, and other concerns, and brought with it the many risks inherent in switching the entire State to a temporary, new voting system in short order.

After reviewing all of the available options, the legislative leadership has proposed an alternative: that the voter verified paper record deadline be extended to January 1, 2009. I support such legislation as the most responsible course of action under the circumstances, and one that will provide the State with adequate time to ensure that only the most reliable technology is certified and that there is ample time to produce and install that technology, as well as to properly educate the election officials and the public on its use.

It is my firm belief that our ground-breaking decisions to issue the VVPRS criteria, to retain NJIT to independently test the VVPRS against that criteria and to continue to require federal testing will ensure the best possible ultimate product for the State of New Jersey. Sequoia has assured us that the federal testing will be completed well in advance of the newly proposed deadline.

Finally, I want to emphasize, as I have throughout this process, that the State welcomes any vendor to submit its products -- whether they be DREs, optical scanners, ballot marking devices, or any other voting system -- for certification.