AccuPoll's DRE voting systems includes a verification function that provides voters with a paper record that validated their vote and allowed for manual recounts. Unisys had agreed to market their systems. However, AccuPoll has gone bankrupt. The CEO, Dennis Vadura, has criticized other vendors for spending so much effort fighting rather than implementing voter verified paper audit trail requirements.
AccuPoll source: VoteTrustUSA
Back in 2001, the federal government was creating the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and an eager young man invented a new voting machine system, to fulfill all the requirements of the pending bill, and then some. It would be easy to vote on, lightweight, portable, as secure from hackers as possible. It would be accessible for independent voting even to sip-and-puff users. The source code would be Linux-based and simple, and available for open review.
The creative inventor is Dennis Vadura. As a youngster in the Czech Republic, he watched Russian tanks roll down his street. He lives in the United States now, and enjoys our freedom. Mr. Vadura created the AccuPoll voting system. With a group of investors, the company went public, and began producing machines to sell, just as HAVA was passed in 2002. Some of us saw the system in Spring 2005, and we liked it.
The AccuPoll company contracted to sell and support the machines in the eastern United States with Unisys, a Blue Bell, Pa., international corporation, its office in Allegheny County acting as the AccuPoll base. The company also hired Pittsburgh's Klett Rooney to do their lobbying. (AccuPoll, based in California, seemed to like Pennsylvania.)
Since HAVA was passed, voting machine companies must put their systems through a complex and expensive certification process, but believe me the big companies saw those billions of dollars dangling in front of them and immediately started jumping to try to comply. To gain certification, first they send their machines through an Independent Testing Authority. They pay for this – hundreds of thousands of dollars each time they submit a system to these private organizations. The system is reviewed, and comments made. If it does not pass, they must pay again to resubmit it. If it passes, the company can then take it to individual states for certification. Each state must certify simply that the system will live up to state laws; they have no obligation to certify to HAVA standards. No one yet certifies whether the systems are accessible to those with lesser or differing abilities, so it is up to each county to address that portion of HAVA – and its own values – when selecting a system.
In light of security issues with electronically recorded votes, and looking back to some attempted recounts on DRE systems – in which the full recount consisted of turning on the machine, reading out the final number, and turning it back off (with no evidence of how the computer tallied that total) – AccuPoll made its machines able to produce a paper record of the electronic vote, so the voter could verify the selections and drop the paper into the ballot box for recounts and audits. (AccuPoll machines use 8.5" x 11" paper, standard issue, the type is of a legible size, and a barcode is also printed, which can reproduce the vote when reinserted in any AccuPoll machine - just as added security against tampering with the printed word.) This paper production was good, because to date some 30 states have passed laws requiring such paper be produced from DREs.
In Pennsylvania, which certified AccuPoll systems prior to certifying any other machine, because of the way we record the order of voters and for other reasons, our Secretary of the Commonwealth has not certified any touch-screen machines which produce a voter-verified paper record. (We do get such paper records from optical-scan machines, by default.) Bills were introduced in late summer in 2005 which among other things would mandate paper records. The Pennsylvania legislature is still collectively sitting on those bills.
We mention this particular state situation because once it became apparent that these bills were going nowhere fast in our state, Mr. Vadura created a Pennsylvania modification to his machine – just for us – which would make the paper it produces into a scanned ballot, so we could have our cake and eat it, too. The Commonwealth promised certification after the federal resubmission.
What a perfect system! What complete coverage! Even if in the future we should want to adopt ranked voting like some California counties, we would have that ability, too. And every county that would purchase the machine would be bringing business to Pennsylvania, through Unisys! The machines did cost slightly more to purchase than the other companies’ DREs. For one thing, they would be made fresh for us – the other companies have been reselling their machines all over the country. (Right now we’re paying a few thousand per used computer.) But the costs were only initial outlays. AccuPoll machines are built to use third-party equipment – parts we could buy down the street. Where other companies have counties indentured to them to purchase batteries, supplies, parts, paper, etc., forever, AccuPoll machines would let us run to local suppliers for such. We could set the machines on tables, rather than buy the stands. Because their touch-screen uses eight wires instead of the usual six, the machines would be less likely to go out of calibration on election day (which causes vote-jumping, where you press “Joe Schlump” and the machine checks “Fred Jones”).
There would be no printing costs, except the cost of running the machine’s printer, because it can print provisional ballots or even absentee ballots directly onto standard paper, on demand. So, AccuPoll would cost more at the outset, and be way cheaper in the long run.
The system was, as mentioned above, the first one certified in Pennsylvania under the new rules, way back in August 2005, some four or five months prior to any other system being certified. Had AccuPoll been chosen across the state, all the to-do with troublesome elections and citizens’ lawsuits would have been avoided.
But the fix was out. AccuPoll executives refused to make “donations” to “charitable causes” to buy consideration for contracts. They did not spend hundreds of thousands of dollars wining and dining the national convention of the secretaries of state. They did not send out slick snake-oil types to trash the competition and promise the moon for a contract, regardless of whether the company could deliver it in good time or ever. The AccuPoll folks just simply offered a good, sound investment for any county interested in safeguarding and making accessible its citizens’ votes.
This sounds like a fairy tale, made up to teach us about our political systems, but it’s real. And just when Allegheny County's Chief Executive announced the second of three poorly-considered machine choices – the Sequoia Advantage – AccuPoll was forced to file for bankruptcy. Chapter Seven.
Dennis Vadura had just said to Allegheny County’s Chief Executive, in a public meeting one week prior to that Sequoia announcement, that Allegheny County’s contract would put the company solidly in the black. The Executive did not think it was worth the “risk.” Instead, he, along with commissioners and executives across the Commonwealth and across the country, chose to risk our votes.
Source: Audrey N. Glickman, VotePA [www.VotePA.us], a state-wide Pennsylvania nonpartisan organization advocating secure, accessible, recountable voting.