NY State’s Latest Electronic Voting Machine Debacle


New York State’s new voting machines are failing in mass, two years after a federally mandated deadline for installing the machines for access by the disabled, and eight years after the Florida election recount debacle. Wired’s ThreatLevel blog reports that New York State found flaws in 50% of voting machines supplied by Sequoia Voting Systems. Only certain New York counties selected to use the Sequoia machines, but big problems have turned up when machines have arrived visibly broken, too finicky to use, or mysteriously inoperative. In Nassau County, voting officials found problems with 85% of machines, including visible damage to 20%, which they rejected outright, prior to any testing. Many problems revolve around the machine’s printers, a key component for ensuring access to the disabled.

(New York City selected a different system earlier this year, and ditched Sequoia on a previous voting machine contract in 2000.)

Sequoia has a history of serious problems with their voting machines. Already, optical scan machines like those delivered to New York caused trouble in Florida (where some accuse the company of manufacturing the 2000 ‘hanging chad’ phenomena to sell the more expensive electronic machines), leading the state to sell their machines for scrap.

More recently, and closer to home, Sequoia Voting Systems stirred controversy during New Jersey’s February primaries for misrepresenting voter turnout and failing to start up – problems partially responsible for delaying NJ Governor Corzine’s vote 45 minutes. Since the primary, the company had its website hacked and its voting machines seized via subpoena.

Counties using the machines face a two-tiered deadline to fix potential election-halting flaws—the machines go in to use for disabled voters in 2008 and all voters in 2009.