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County to check voting machines after whistleblower files suit

Wednesday, April 30, 2008 by Kimberly Reeves

County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said she has no problem looking into the allegations raised about Hart Intercivic eSlate machines in a recent whistleblower’s lawsuit brought to the commissioners’ attention Tuesday morning by the group Vote Rescue.

Not everyone may want to go as far as Vote Rescue would propose — designate the District Attorney to investigate the allegations; return the Hart Intercivic eSlate machines for refunds; and count the ballots by hand in November – but DeBeauvoir said she already has started a point-by-point checklist on those items that former Hart Intercivic employee William Singer raises in his lawsuit.

“I don’t know that I have any comment on the validity or viability of the claims,” said DeBeauvoir, reached on Tuesday evening. “I’ve already read the lawsuit today, and I went through point-by-point and picked out all of the items they are concerned about and started a point-by-point checklist on each of those items. These are questions that needed to be raised, and we need to check them out.”

According to Singer’s claims, Hart wanted a piece of the $4 billion pie created by the Help America Vote Act. Because of that greed, according to the lawsuit, Hart didn’t completely alpha test and didn’t beta test its software at all; it created dummy machines and dummy reports to pass certification in Ohio; and that Hart hid software patches intended to cover up invalid entries to conceal design flaws from customers in Ohio.

Vote Rescue founder Karen Renick, joined by Vote Rescue members Vickie Karp and Jenny Clark, told commissioners that Singer’s lawsuit certainly left room for reasonable doubt as to the reliability of the eSlate system. Renick said there was now abundant evidence that votes could now not be trusted to eSlate machines.

“Travis County should close its purse strings to Hart Intercivic, set aside the machines and make plans to hand county the November elections,” Renick told commissioners, minus absent Judge Sam Biscoe. Commissioner Margaret Gomez ran in the meeting in Biscoe’s absence.

During citizens’ communications, members of Vote Rescue focused on a hand-count of the November election but clearly the imminent situation is the May 10th Council election. DeBeauvoir said she had found nothing in the report that would raise a flag on the May election.

Vote Rescue would be prefer to see hand ballots or an AccuMark system that marks paper ballots. That doesn’t seem imminent in Travis County, although DeBeauvoir promises a thorough review of the concerns over the eSlate.

Clark, concluding testimony for the group, recommended a District Attorney’s investigation and hand-ballot counting. She noted that DeBeauvoir promised then Council Member Daryl Slusher that the eSlate would be a temporary, rather than a permanent, system.

DeBeauvoir said she had received and read the lawsuit on Tuesday. Already, she had created a checklist of concerns, plus information that she had requested from Hart Intercivic. DeBeauvoir said she had worked closely with members of Vote Rescue and would continue to do so.

“I think this is what they would expect me to do, and I do intend to check it out,” DeBeauvoir said. “It’s still very early in the process. We’re just beginning this.”

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