News for Public Officials and the People They Serve

California Voters Sue to Ensure Promised Testing of Voting Machines  

October 07, 2006

Voters in Alameda County, California have filed a lawsuit against the county to ensure testing of Sequoia E-Voting systems are properly tested against hacking attack before November 7, 2006.

The County Board of Supervisors mandated “security vulnerability testing” by a third party but the contract defers to Sequoia on testing and County Counsel can provide no proof that the system is not vulnerable to manipulation by hackers. 

A group of Alameda County, California voters, coordinated by the nonprofit Voter Action, filed suit October 5th in Alameda County Superior Court to block the use of the county’s new Sequoia touch screen electronic voting system in November and in future elections until the system has passed independent, expert security vulnerability testing.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to require thorough, independent vulnerability testing as a condition before payment – but the county’s contract with Sequoia, from after the board’s vote, defers to Sequoia on which tests to conduct and does not stipulate that the testing be done by a third party.

According to Robert Friese, attorney for the plaintiffs, "The Registrar of Voters has the charge to ensure election security. Alameda voters are demanding the right to a fair election – one that ensures that the candidate with the most votes wins."

Friese is partner in Shartsis Friese, LLP , which is providing pro bono legal support on the suit.

“Alameda County’s current Purchase Agreement with Sequoia appears to have been signed on June 16th; little more than a week after the Board of Supervisors added the provision for the independent security test.  This provision was not included in the final purchase contract, and, based on the evidence we have gathered, the necessary testing has still not been performed nor is it planned,” Mr. Friese said.  “It is hard to understand why the Registrar of Voters would not test the Sequoia touch screen system when he has the support of the Board of Supervisors and when serious questions have been raised about the system’s reliability and trustworthiness.” 

“The Supervisors’ mandated security testing of the Sequoia touch screen system is of great importance for Alameda County, and for the rest of the country as well,” said Lowell Finley, Esq., co-director of Voter Action and co-counsel in the lawsuit.

“While several independent security tests have been conducted on Diebold electronic voting machines, which found them to be vulnerable to hacking in multiple and undetectable ways, none have been conducted on the Sequoia system."

This is troublesome, as both Diebold and Sequoia have a history of lost and switched votes and breakdowns that cause long lines and disenfranchise voters at the polls.

Voter Action is supporting similar efforts in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, and other states.

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