Government Technology

E-Vote: Ohio Secretary of State Defends Voting System Testing



September 17, 2007 By

Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner posted the following statement on her Web site:

Today, in the Columbus Dispatch, Franklin County Board of Elections Director Matt Damschroder commented on the Secretary of State's proposed comprehensive test [of] the state's voting systems. In response to the fact that three of the four leading academic researchers proposed for Ohio's voting machine study participated in the recent California voting machine study, Damschroder stated, "It demonstrates an inherent bias that would likely color any report that they give."

Secretary of State Brunner has responded with this statement:
There should not be a Republican or Democratic view to ensuring the integrity of Ohio's voting systems. This test is about fixing our election system in Ohio so we are prepared to run a clean and efficient 2008 presidential election.

The testing of the state's voting machines is a plan devised to allow testers from both ends of the scientific spectrum, corporate and academic, to conduct parallel, independent testing, allowing for collaboration as needed. All of this is to be managed by the Battelle Memorial Institute, an Ohio research institution with the highest reputation for integrity and objectivity.
It should be pointed out that the California study of voting machines did not include the type of voting machines used in Franklin County and nine other counties. It's baffling why anyone would not want a thorough test of all of the voting machines in Ohio.

The California study of voting machines was conducted using only the academic end of the testing spectrum. That, or the results of that study, do not automatically render the academic researchers who participated in that study suspect. The results were scientific results that are subject to review and thorough testing. Just because some did not like the outcome does not render the researchers biased, especially when new testing parameters are established in Ohio's test that include the consideration of operational procedures that may mitigate risk. Those who discount the researchers' participation on the fact alone that they participated in the California study, expose themselves to the same claim of bias that they assert.

I am not pleased about the comments made by Dr. Matt Blaze of the University of Pennsylvania on his personal blog about electronic voting machines, and I am conferring with other academics on whether or not these comments disqualify him from participating in the study, despite his impeccable academic credentials.

I have discussed the study of the state's voting machines with all four of the state's legislative leaders and the Governor's Office over the last two weeks. The crux of our discussions has been that a bipartisan approach is necessary in handling the results of the study. I am meeting tomorrow with the legislative committee of the Ohio Association of Election Officials to recruit a core group of election officials representative of the diverse systems and areas of the state to assist in my office's review in early December of the testing results and to jointly make a recommendation to the Governor and the Ohio Legislature -- despite the statutory responsibility laying with the Secretary of State and not the boards of elections to test the machines to ensure they continue to meet standards.

Bipartisan cooperation at all levels is essential to a process that will result in decisions that will allow the voters of the state to have confidence in their elections. I will do all necessary and possible to ensure that the state's voting machine test is fair, unbiased and objective, providing the truth to Ohio voters, so that next year's presidential election is a successful process for Ohio.


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