County clerk refuses to conduct election with Diebold machines
|Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk accepts the Diebold voting machines on Dec. 27, 2005. He is disenchanted with the machines and possible problems with them.|
What started as a routine Emery County Commission meeting on March 21 ended in a flash of anger from Bruce Funk, Emery County Clerk. The drama began last November when the Emery County Commission approved the use of Diebold Election voting machines. The state of Utah voted to use the Diebold as the machine of choice statewide. The state agreed to foot the bill for the purchase of the machines for the counties.
Emery County took delivery of the Diebold machines on Dec. 27, 2005.
At the Feb. 7 commission meeting, Funk reported to the commission on the testing of the Diebold election machines with Diebold personnel. At that time he reported that six of 40 machines had failed and two of those had been repaired and the other four sent back to Diebold. Funk said the state was supposed to have tested the machines before sending them to the county. Bad batteries and jammed printers as well as machines with old elections stored on them were among the problems cited. The state was supposed to send new machines to the county.
During the citizen concerns portion of the meeting on March 21, Funk presented new information regarding the machines. He said as the county clerk it is his duty and responsibility to make recommendations to the commission and that is not an easy task. During the past year he has done a lot of research regarding the Diebold machines. He was willing to be part of the plan if the technology was good for Emery County.
He said on Jan. 31 Diebold sent four people down to do the testing of the Emery County machines. Of the 40 machines tested, Funk rejected six machines. Diebold repaired two machines on site and took four machines back with them. With one of the machines the paper track was off which causes paper jams.
Funk said he took one of the machines to the clerk's office so his staff could become familiar with the machine. This machine was among the ones rejected. Funk also said with the machines being unplugged for two weeks, he wanted to check the battery capacity of each machine and also check the paper feature to make sure it was working properly. He completed this process on 36 machines. Also he checked the machines for backup storage. Some of the machines contained seven megabytes of backup storage. The machines should hold between 25-28 megabytes of storage. Seven of the machines had eight megabytes of storage or less. Jeff Guymon, technology technician for the county checked the machines and cleared out past elections and increased the storage space from seven to 11 megabytes.
Funk was concerned about the past elections being on the machines, which he said proved the machines are not new.
Funk said he has talked to many organizations who have concerns about the Diebold election machines. He has read the reports of what happened in Florida. He was in contact with Black Box voting and brought in technical experts to assess the machines and reach determinations as to the accuracy of the Diebold machines.
Funk also told of a report from California called the Berkley report where in looking at the software no problems presented themselves, but when they looked at the hardware there were problems.
One of Funk's main concerns was whether the operating system can be breached and tampered with which destroys the integrity of the election. Reports allege that the systems are not tamper proof.
Voters are issued a voter identification card which is inserted into the election machine. If someone were to illegally insert a voter identification card of their own making a virus could be introduced to the machine and machine results could be altered or destroyed.
Funk made the recommendation that the county conduct the next election with the optically scanned ballots they have used in the past and order nine AutoMark machines for the handicapped which would meet HAVA requirements for handicapped voters. The cost of the nine machines would be approximately $44,000, which Funk said he has available in his budget and would include a five year lease/purchase agreement.
"I don't feel comfortable with the machines," said Funk. Funk said he would not accept or use the Diebold machines as the election official for the county. The ballot provider who has been used in the past said they can't provide the ballots for Diebold machines.
Funk said he doesn't blame Diebold for the deficiencies, but rather the state for the mandate they have placed on the counties.
Commissioner Ira Hatch said if the county is not HAVA compliant then it risks being sued. Funk said with the AutoMark machines for the handicapped it would bring the county into compliance.
Commissioner Hatch said, "If the machines didn't measure up, did you send them back."
Funk said two of the four had been returned to Diebold. He feels he has eight questionable machines.
Commissioner Hatch asked again if Diebold had the chance to fix the machines. Funk said no. Funk replied that he is not accepting the machines as official for Emery County.
Commissioner Hatch said, "Have you given Diebold the opportunity to fix the machines? If we don't have enough machines to run the election we will have to contact Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert."
Commissioner Gary Kofford wondered if the county is required in the contract to use the Diebold machines in the election. County Attorney David Blackwell was given the assignment to review the contract with the state to see what obligations the county is under in regards to the election machines.
Commissioner Kofford said he too thinks Diebold needs the opportunity to fix the machines and satisfy the problems. He said he had been keeping track of the machines Funk said had problems and calculated 13 machines which Clerk Funk wouldn't accept. Funk said he would not accept any of the voting machines.
Commissioner Hatch said he thought the machines needed to be given a try. How can the county approach the state about problems with the machines without giving them a try?
Commissioner Drew Sitterud said he had attended a large voting machine testing event and at this event the Diebold people packed a machine out, but the AutoMark machine also had a failed machine which was packed out. Also when the Diebold machine crashed, not one vote was lost.
Funk said the opportunity to purchase the AutoMark machines would be lost if they weren't purchased that day as AutoMark has oversold their machines.
Commissioner Hatch wondered what is acceptable memory space to hold an election. Funk didn't know that answer. Diebold will have to answer those questions.
Commissioner Kofford said training is needed for the loading of the machines for an election. This program training will be held in June and July. A different corporation does the training on the voice activated machines. It is 90 days to the first election and Emery County is not trained. Three or four people are going for training in the next week or so for three-four days. The election judges need to be trained. The question was raised if current election judges are capable of the training involved. Commissioner Kofford wondered how far the trained people can be stretched on election day with machines in nine locations. He also thinks the state hasn't addressed a lot of the questions involving the machines.
Commissioner Sitterud said that Diebold personnel were going to be here for the primary elections.
Attorney Blackwell said he felt Funk had tapped into a group, Black Box Voting, that's anti-electronic voting in general. Diebold needs to address and answer questions. "You've pushed the commissioners into a corner and it's not fair to them. We've not heard the other side," said Blackwell. Funk said that as the election official who runs the election, he is overwhelmed. He questioned Blackwell, "As county attorney representing all of us, am I wrong in what I'm requesting."
Blackwell said he's not sure it's reasonable because, Funk has not given Diebold or the Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, a chance to fix the problem.
Sheriff Lamar Guymon said, "I cannot believe that with knowing how Bruce Funk feels about the Diebold machines, that Lt. Gov. Herbert would send defective old, used machines, I just can't believe that Lt. Gov. Herbert would send any faulty machines to the county. Lt. Gov. Herbert has promised to have people available to help with the election."
Commissioner Hatch said that they need to get Diebold down here to explain and deal with the problems. He then called for action on the item brought up by Funk on purchasing the AutoMark machines. None of the commissioners made a motion to take action on the item.
Later on in the meeting, Funk came back before the commissioners and said he was turning over stewardship of the Diebold voting machines to the commissioners. He gave them the key to the courtroom where the machines are currently being stored. He said he would prefer not to be involved in any dealings with Diebold in the future because of his hostile feelings and he can't be positive. Commissioner Hatch said they needed the information about each of the machines provided to them, so they can meet with Diebold concerning the faulty machines. Commissioner Hatch said the key to the room where the machines are stored will be locked in the safe. Commissioner Hatch said that Funk as the county election official can't just walk out on the election.
Editors note: In speaking with clerk Funk on Friday, he said he didn't want stewardship over the machines and that is why he turned the key back to them. He has given the commissioners a letter since then explaining what he feels is wrong with the machines. He suggested they could use some of the Diebold machines to meet the HAVA requirements and still use the optically scanned method. He feels the training is overwhelming and the optical scanned method is so much easier. He feels he is just a messenger to get possible problems with the machines addressed. Funk feels he is within his rights as the official county election clerk to have the machines tested. The commissioners weren't aware that any testing was going on, but Commissioner Sitterud came upon two women in the storage room with their computers hooked up to the county's election machines. Funk also transported two of the machines to Salt Lake where they were tested by personnel from Security Innovations Inc. Their personnel were only available for one day so Funk made the call to transport two of the county machines to be tested. Black Box Voting videotaped the testing session. The report from these testing sessions is due out in two-three weeks. Funk stated that the Utah Diebold company has been excellent to work with. Funk feels it is essential to get the report out from the independent testing to confirm or deny any problems with the machines. Funk said he has not cared to talk to Lt. Gov. Herbert about the situation as he feels Herbert is too close to the election process. Funk said he feels totally comfortable with what he's done and he has offered to pay for any damages he may have caused. "I have every right to check the machines if I have concerns," Funk said. He wants to know what any problems are before an election. He said the training for the Diebold machines is so overwhelming. Funk is proud of his track record as the election official and has been conducting the elections in the county for the past 23 years. He said he has nothing political to gain in the next election as he is not running for office again. He feels he has conducted the elections with high integrity and security controls in place through the years. He feels they are in a tight spot with getting the proper training to operate the Diebold machines and then training the election judges.
The money Funk proposed to use to purchase the AutoMark machines was put into his budget for the operations of the 2006 election.
Commissioner Kofford said the extra money was put into the budget because it is the first year with the Diebold machines and they weren't sure of the associated costs with the new election machines.
In an interview with Lt. Governor Gary Herbert he expressed concern about the confidence the Emery County people have in the election process. In light of recent allegations from County Clerk Bruce Funk about the reliability and integrity of the Diebold machines, Lt. Gov. Herbert is very distressed about Clerk Funk's recent actions.
"The Emery County Commissioners made the decision to be part of the statewide system. Mr. Funk didn't like the brand change and he is angry with the commission who decided to go with the new touch screens. There are people out there who think anything electronic is the devil's tool and that outcomes of elections are in jeopardy. They have a conspiracy theory. They don't like the technology, they don't like the brand. They think Diebold is a Republican tool and how George Bush got elected.
"Diebold is a very good company. We have had no problems with them in the other 28 counties. There have been some hiccups and it is a learning process. We have a transition help desk with highly trained people working there. We have weekly conference calls and updates. Never, not one time were we contacted by Bruce Funk. It is distressing he hasn't called with a question. Lt. Gov. Herbert said they wanted to also have a paper trail in addition to the electronically counted vote and the Diebold machines also have the votes recorded on paper. The person using the machine can check to make sure their vote is recorded according to their wishes before they submit the ballot. Any system is not perfect any computer can be hacked into, but the election machines are to be kept in a secure double locked room.
"The integrity of any election system is dependent on the integrity of the Clerk's office involved.The sky is falling mentality and the scare tactics of some of these websites involve people with their own agenda and Mr. Funk has bought into these conspiratorial attitudes.
"We cannot trust the election machines that have been tampered with. They will all need to be recalibrated and tested. These Diebold machines were all under warranty. Diebold would fix any defect or replace the machine under warranty. But we didn't receive not one call involving any defective machines from Mr. Funk," said Lt. Gov. Herbert.
A special commission meeting was held on March 27 where the whole election issue was discussed. Emery County Clerk Bruce Funk resigned his office. More details will be in the April 4 issue of the Emery County Progress.