Courthouse News Service
Thursday, April 01, 2010Last Update: 9:41 AM PT
County Challenges Electronic Voting System
By ADAM KLASFELD
MINEOLA, N.Y. (CN) - Nassau County and its Republican and Democratic Elections Commissioners sued New York State for requiring that pull-lever voting machines "trusted" for more than a century be replaced with "computerized voting technology that is notoriously vulnerable to systemic hacking, tampering, manipulation and malfunction."
The county challenges the replacements mandated by the New York Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005.
Last year, the State Board of Elections certified an electronic voting system made by ES&S, which is fighting a federal antitrust lawsuit.
Since it acquired Diebold, ES&S controls the voting machines used in more than 68 percent of U.S. election precincts, according to the complaint.
Nassau County claims the state board approved the company's DS200 model based on "vendor promotional materials" alone and did not even get a test model until weeks after the vote.
Investigations by the St. Petersburg Times showed that the DS200 system repeatedly malfunctioned during the 2008 elections in two Florida counties, according to the complaint.
The county claims that a transition to computerized systems would subject New York to the "worst security vulnerabilities of both nineteenth century paper balloting and twenty-first century computer technology."
The 50-page lawsuit, which recounts a two-century history of voting fraud in America, claims that the paper balloting of the new system invites the same kind of vote tampering once practiced by infamous "Boss" Tweed.
Lever systems, invented in 1892 and used in New York for about a century, eliminated the reliance on "easily manipulated and destroyed" paper ballots, the county says. It adds that tampering with lever machines can usually be detected by the "trained naked eye," and a jammed machine "remains true" and accurate until the time it malfunctions.
Manipulating computerized systems, however, "can be perpetrated in a way that evades detection by even the most sophisticated testing protocols and scrupulously followed security procedures." Electronic systems also are "susceptible to ... computer viruses, malware, moles, worms, time bombs and Trojan horses."
The complaint cites Rice University computer security expert Dan Wallach, who said: "This is a classic computer security problem. Whoever gets into the machine first wins."
After passage of the state's Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005, electronic voting machines regularly failed state inspections for 4 years, until the DS200 passed certification on Dec. 15, 2009.
Even after that vote, State Board of Elections Commissioner Douglas A. Kellner acknowledged that the machines had "technical security and documentation issues," although he dismissed the problems, according to the complaint.
Nassau County says the new systems will take at least 10 months to be installed and tested, yet "the September primary elections are less than six months away."
Nassau County wants the New York Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 declared unconstitutional, and wants the DS200 system decertified in New York State. It is represented in Nassau County Court by County Attorney John Ciampoli.