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Scutari Blasts Sequoia For Obstructing Independent Inquiry Into Voting Machine Failures; Promises Bills To Improve Election Integrity

LINDEN – Senate State Government Committee Chairman Nicholas P. Scutari today denounced Sequoia Voting Systems for threatening legal action against Union County in order to obstruct an independent investigation into the failure of several of its electronic voting machines during the February presidential primary.

“Evidently, Sequoia believes that maintaining its ‘trade secrets’ trumps the rights of New Jerseyans to have their votes properly recorded in an election,” said Senator Scutari (D-Union). “I call upon the company to submit to an independent investigation as proposed by Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and the Constitutional Officers Association of New Jersey in order to insure the integrity of its machines ahead of November’s general election.”

Failure to comply with this request, Senator Scutari suggested, could result in an inquiry by the State Government Committee: “Elections fall under our purview, and I am certain that the committee’s membership would be very interested in hearing Sequoia defend its policy of preventing election officials from acting to protect our constituents’ right to vote.”

The Senator’s remarks were made in response to media reports that Edwin Smith, an executive with Sequoia Voting Systems, wrote a two-page letter threatening Union County with a lawsuit if Clerk Rajoppi proceeded with plans for an independent study by Edward Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton University.

Senator Scutari additionally promised two new pieces of legislation to improve New Jersey’s electoral processes. The first would require, at the state’s expense, the replacement of electronic voting machines with optical scan paper ballot technology in all 21 counties, should Sequoia and the Attorney General fail to produce a machine with viable Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) technology by January 1, 2009. The second would require that a Voting Machine Integrity Unit be established within the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in order to thoroughly test and certify all new voting technologies before they are implemented. The Division’s Technical Services Bureau is presently responsible for testing all electronic and mechanical games of chance, such as slot machines, before they can be deployed on the floor of Atlantic City’s casinos.

“It’s an embarrassment that we have a far more rigorous and thorough approach to ensuring the fidelity of our slot machines than our voting machines,” said Senator Scutari. “February’s failures underscore New Jersey’s need for a professional unit of experts to vet voting technologies before they are employed in the field. The Division of Gaming Enforcement has a demonstrated reputation for competence and precision that I believe can be tapped for the benefit of all New Jerseyans.”