Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Get on this, Democrats, before it spreads.

WEST PALM BEACH -- Because they don't give receipts to voters, Palm Beach County's new touch-screen voting machines offer "an Enron style of auditing," a critic of electronic voting testified Tuesday. The remark by Bryn Maw College computer Professor Rebecca Mercuri came during a court hearing on a losing Boca Raton candidate's request to examine programming codes and software related to the county's new machines.

Former Mayor Emil Danciu, seeking a new election because he claims Boca Raton's March vote was tarnished by machine problems, also wants permission for a computer expert to examine one of the county's $3,100 Sequoia Voting Systems machines. Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore testified that the state Division of Elections -- not her office -- has the code and software information Danciu wants.

Examining the internal workings of one of the county's voting machines, LePore said, would damage the machine and void its warranty. Mercuri, a prominent critic of electronic voting, said that without some type of receipt, there's no way to verify touch screen machines internally record votes the way they appear on the screen. "These machines being self-auditing are, in their own way, sort of an Enron style of auditing. Their trust is in themselves," Mercuri said.

"I'm going to have a courtroom full of experts (to defend touch-screen voting) when we get down to this part of the case," Assistant County Attorney Leon St. John said. Even if LePore's office had the information Danciu is seeking, St. John said, much of it is protected as a "trade secret." As for the request to examine a voting machine, St. John said, "they can go to Sequoia and buy one for $3,500 or whatever."