Despite Charges
Clark County Vote Devices Approved

  copyright 1996, Electric Nevada

Clark County's controversial new electronic voting machines will be certified for continued use, Secretary of State Dean Heller said this week.
The announcement came after the Sequoia Pacific AVC Advantage machines were publicly tested by an out-of-state examiner at the Clark County Government Center July 12.
According to Fred Dugger, information systems manager for the state Legislative Counsel Bureau, the examiner, Michael Ian Shamos, had been recommended by Tom Stown of Henderson, an active critic of the 1,300 Sequoia Pacific electronic voting machines purchased by the Clark County Commission.
Dugger, who described himself as "another pair of eyeballs" Heller had asked to be present for the testing, told Electric Nevada that Stown had endorsed Shamos' independence based upon the examiner's earlier decertification of some Sequoia Pacific machines for Pennsylvania elections.
In that case, said Dugger, the operating software had not been up to the task of managing ballots allowing the voting of straight party lines.
But Republican Congressional District 2 candidate Pat McMillan, who has filed suit against Clark County Registrar of Voters Kathryn Ferguson, denied that Stown, who was out of town and could not be reached for comment, had recommended Shamos.
McMillan called the demonstration at the Clark government center "a farce."
"It was a vender demo sales pitch," he said, contending that Shamos was not truly independent.
"He admitted he was paid by the county, which was reimbursed by Sequoia Pacific," said McMillan.
"I figure he got about $8500 for this appearance. He has a pecuniary interest."
Shamos, an attorney and adjunct faculty member in the School of Computer Science at Carnegie-Mellon University, has been statutory examiner of electronic voting systems for Pennsylvania since 1980 and serves as the designee of the Attorney General of Texas at electronic voting examinations in that state.
Fielding questions from the Government Center audience, he recommended the Sequoia machines be certified for use in early voting.
"The machines passed every test that was conducted," said Shamos, adding that the risk of someone rigging the machines appeared minimal.
"In my opinion it would be easier to rob Fort Knox," he said.
Stown, McMillan and about 50 protesters opposed to the electronic voting machines were present for the examination of the Sequoia machines, as were representatives of the manufacturer, Sequoia Pacific corporation.
Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller announced Monday his office "will issue the certificate immediately."
"The most common complaint voiced is that there is no paper trail with this system," said Heller. "We now know that is simply not true. The ballot images can be printed
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in compliance with state law."
McMillan has charged in a suit filed against Clark County Registrar of Voters Kathryn Ferguson that "The Sequoia machines are devoid of the capability to retain unalterable evidence of the voter's original intent and to maintain an image of each complete ballot cast by each voter."
Rather than Shamos examining the machines, he told Electric Nevada, "We were hoping for Wyle Labs, but Wyle Labs refused to do it because they didn't want them to look at the source code."
However, reached by Electric Nevada, a spokesman at the Huntsville, Alabama testing firm said Wyle Laboratories had decided to entirely leave the business of testing election software, though still continue testing election machine firmware and hardware.
The reason, said contract manager Ed Smith, is the sheer size of the software code involved nowadays in managing electronic voting machines.
"A company wanted us to do one which was 900,000 lines. I mean, it was huge. And we sat down, and we were working on quoting it, and then we said 'Wait a minute,' you know?"
Normally, said Smith, a software program that large would be contracted out by Wyle for review, because "other people can do the work more efficiently."
But he said the company decided that "if this is what's coming down the pike, it doesn't make sense for us to subcontract it out -- it just costs [the client] more and we stay in the loop."
So he said Wyle Labs had informed NASED -- the National Association of State Election Directors - of its decision and recommended that the association contract with one of a number of other companies which specialize in the area of software code review.
Smith denied that the political furor accompanying electronic voting machine software was a factor in Wyle's decision to drop out of that business.

The legal suit against Clark County Registrar Kathryn Ferguson filed by Pat McMillan charges her with a number of unlawful actions involving her efforts to install the Sequoia AVC Advantage Model D electronic voting machines. It also charges her with numerous other election violations under Nevada law.

Clark County's machines were certified for use at regular elections in 1993 by then-Secretary of State Cheryl Lau in an action that was itself controversial. The devices had cost the county $6.8 million.

A 1993 paper by Dr. Shamos, proposing a method of evaluating security measures for countering threats to computerized election systems, is posted on the Web and available at Electronic Voting - Evaluating the Threat.


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