California eVoting: Push Here to Vote (Again)

Voting systems activists in California have revealed a little-known feature
of AVC Edge electronic voting machines that allows a single person to vote
multiple times.

The feature, a yellow button located on the back of the units, is supposed
to be used as a back-up for use by poll workers in case their smart-card
activators fail to boot the machine.

It can be used at any time while the machine is in operation.

Once the yellow button is pressed, poll workers — or, activists claim,
anyone intending to electronically stuff the ballot box — can switch the
machine to manual operation and then vote as often as they like.

The unit will be widely in use in California, as well as in other states
throughout the country, in next week’s general election.

California election officials acknowledged the problem and said they have
asked the vendor, Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, Calif., to address
this issue.

A Sequoia official told that it would address the
problem after next week’s election, and then resubmit the system for

But Michelle Shafer, vice president of communications for Sequoia, said it
was wrong to characterize the feature as a flaw.

“It’s a deliberate back-up feature to prevent the Edge from having a single
point of failure — an inoperable card activator — at a polling location
and preventing voters from casting their ballots.”

Shafer added that the machine issues a loud beep when the yellow button is
pressed, which would alert poll workers that someone was trying to hack the

She also said that jurisdictions can disable this feature if they want to.

“This flexibility has always been present in Sequoia’s election management
system and gives our customers options to activate or not activate per their
determination and election procedures.”

Ashley Giovannettone, a spokeswoman for California Secretary of State Bruce
McPherson, said that her office had issued instructions telling poll workers
to listen for the tell-tale beeping sound.

Giovannettone added that the jurisdictions running the polling places
confirmed that they are implementing safeguards to make sure voters couldn’t
abuse the system by using the button during the election on Nov. 7.

“Using that button is not a simple task for ordinary voters, and the loud
beeping makes it impossible to have it go unnoticed,” Giovannettone told

She said that the electronic voting machines offer tremendous improvements
over traditional paper-based machines.

“They provide the opportunity for voters with disabilities to vote privately
and independently for the first time,” she said.

According to Bev Harris, president of Black Box Voting, an activist group
favoring more stringent standards and testing of e-voting machines, the fact
that the Edge machines were certified demonstrates the problem with the
certification process.

“Why is this noticed by citizens and not the people who certify the
machines? It’s an example of the failure of the testing and certification
process,” she told

Harris said she chose to bring the issue to light because other states using
the Edge machines are also at risk.

“Other states haven’t issued security warnings,” she said.

Colorado, Florida and New Jersey are other states using the Edge machine,
according to Harris.

Another activist group, Voters Unite, provides a more comprehensive list of which units are
in use in various states.

According to Shafer, Sequoia is the third-largest vendor of voting machines
in the country, and the second largest vendor of electronic touch screen
machines such as the Edge.

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