• Electronic voting concerns are aired
     | November 05,2012

    MONTPELIER — A retired lawyer from Plainfield and a Norwich University faculty member who is a Washington County State Senate candidate expressed their concerns Friday and Saturday, in emails to Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, over the possibility of electronic voting problems on Election Day..

    Alexandra Thayer, the Plainfield lawyer, and Norwich technology professor Jeremy Hansen both sent emails to the Secretary of State's office, offering recommendations to ensure that checks and balances are in place for any issues with optical scanner memory cards and Accu-Vote tabulators.

    Condos said he thought most of the recommendations were already being implemented by the state. He also said the concerns were brought to his attention with fewer than two business days remaining before the election, and he questioned why the issue wasn't addressed sooner.

    Thayer said it doesn't take any time to ask that town clerks first report any concerns they might have during Tuesday's voting to the Secretary of State's office, rather than doing so with the company that operates the equipment, LHS Associates.

    “This is not rocket science in terms of how you want to run things,” said Thayer. “If it were your own business and you had branches all over the state … you would want to know if different branches were having some kind of problem. You would want to know in real-time. You wouldn't want them just calling the vendor.”

    Recommendations ranged from real-time reporting improvements to follow-up checks. One recommendation was that the state suspend the use of optical scanners at any municipality or even statewide if problems reached a certain threshold. Another recommendation asked the state's elections division to submit a report the Friday after an election about the functionality of memory cards and optical scanners, including any problems encountered and corrective actions taken.

    Condos said the electronic voting company has a representative in the Secretary of State's offices on Election Day who can reach any LHS staffer if there's a problem. LHS Associates will have staff members on duty throughout the state on Tuesday. Those staffers will also keep a record of any problems as they occur, he said.

    Thayer had sent an email last Tuesday, but Condos said that original message went into his spam folder, and he didn't check the spam folder until he received Hansen's Friday email. Thayer sent a brief follow-up email to Condos and to a Secretary of State's office administrator on Saturday.

    In his own email message, Hansen said that he and two colleagues at Norwich endorsed the eight recommendations that Thayer presented. Joining Hansen in support of the recommendations were Michael Kabay, another technology professor, and Peter Stephenson, the director of the computer research center at Norwich.

    Hansen, who is an independent candidate for one of three state senate seats from Washington County, also wrote that he and his colleagues want the state to realize the ramifications of not implementing the measures.

    Hansen previously discussed the issue during a recent interview with Jim Hogue on the community radio station WGDR/WGDH. Hansen said he spoke in general about the risks of large-scale fraud with electronic voting if appropriate precautions aren't in place.

    Condos said that when he was a member of the state Senate he introduced an audit policy for electronic voting machines. He said he's also been committed to overseeing the audits as secretary of state.

    And he said he isn't finished with the process.

    “I want to work with the Legislature to actually improve those audits and frankly make them requirements,” Condos said.

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