Sequoia voting machines debacle in New Jersey: unguarded machines and broken tildes

Adam sez, "Ed Felten of Princeton University followed the news coming out of NJ during the recent (non-presidential) primaries. Some of the Sequoia machines couldn't handle a name containing a 'n' with a tilde, but more surprising of all, voting machines were left unattended overnight in schools and churches all around Princeton, NJ. You would think, after all the reports following the California and the Ohio review and of course Ed Felten's own work on voting machines, counties and cities would be more responsible with this sensitive equipment. Ed Felten took photos of the exposed machines, which are available on his blog. Thankfully, he is one of the good guys, and photos is all he took."

Third, voting machines were left unguarded all over Princeton, as usual. On Sunday and Monday evenings, I visited six polling places in Princeton and found unguarded voting machines in all of them – 18 machines in all. The machines were sitting in school cafeteria/gyms, entry hallways, and even in a loading dock area. In no case were there any locks or barriers stopping people from entering and walking right up to the machines. In no case did I see any other people. (This was in the evening, roughly between 8:00 and 9:00 PM). There were even handy signs posted on the street pointing the way to the polling place, showing which door to enter, and so on. Here are some photos of unguarded voting machines, taken on Sunday and Monday:
Link (Thanks, Adam!)


  1. It’s disgraceful. Here in the UK an increased focus on postal voting has caused (surprise, surprise) an increase in electoral fraud. The UK government is also investigating using voting machines, and if I remember correctly, Diebold came up as being one of the front-runners.

  2. Those machines look to be in some sort of naughty conga line. I don’t think that’s altogether inappropriate given the context.

  3. @#2

    They look more like a row of robots designed to deliver punches to the groin. Which, in essence, they are.

  4. See? If we all needed a “camera license” there’d be no more photos of unguarded voting machines. Problem solved.

  5. Oh Princeton, what will you screw up next? I live about ten minutes from there, I wonder how my local voting machines are being kept.

  6. “I’ve never understood what is so wrong with a piece of paper, a pencil and an X?”

    But raw ballot stuffing is such an inelegantly crude way to steal an election… /sarcasm>

    I hear you, Scary UK, I hear you. I’m not even thrilled by those advocating “printable” ballots from these monsters; Elections are important enough to do it low tech. Take a couple of days to count the results if you need to…Democracy is more important than up-to-the-minute breathless news coverage of the election results, heretical as that might seem to opinion-makers who decide these things.

    BTW, Daniel Hopsicker’s expose on voting machines is disturbing and goes way beyond the questions surrounding the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Well worth viewing on DVD.

  7. Those machines have clearly been compromised. I mean, someone took PHOTOS of them. Anything that is photographed is a target of terrorism!

  8. Three cheers (each one verified by signature) for vote by mail like we have here in Oregon.

    From this WWashington Post article

    While many states were embroiled in fights over touch-screen voting machines and provisional ballots and struggling to find enough people to staff polling places, Oregon once again quietly conducted a presidential election with record turnout and little strife.

  9. I’ve been a precinct inspector on election days in San Francisco for the last few years. Voting machines are routinely left overnight at the polling place by election officials so precinct teams can set them up the next morning before the polls open. It’s the only practical way to do it. Polling places, which are usually private garages, schools, or a few places like Starbucks are simply not open all night for delivery of equipment during the wee hours.

    I can’t say what the security measures are for the machines at Princeton, but here, the electronic “Edge” voting machines (also by Sequoia) are tamper-proof sealed at various key access points so that any attempt to break into them would leave a clear trace. The clerks are required to check all the seals and confirm that they are unbroken and have the same serial number as noted in the inspector’s notebook (which s/he picks up directly from the Dept of Elections and keeps in his/her possession until the end of voting). The paper ballot tabulator, which reads and records the paper ballots that are cast and stores that information on a removable memory pack, is also sealed at the key access points, even inside the locked access panel to which only the inspector and DOE officials have the key.

    It’s a pain in the butt frankly for us to have to go through the security verification process in the morning, but those are the procedures our Sec. of State implemented after she got into office (one of her campaign biggies was Secure Voting and she laid the smack down on a few voting machine companies after she was elected).

    In any case, it’s not clear to me whether these machines are similarly tamper-protected but I’d bet they are. Might be good to check with the local Dept. of Elections to find out what the security measures are for those particular machines before assuming the worst.

  10. Thanks, Noah, for the insight.

    I was simply going to ask if the machines are left unguarded with the software/record cards in them. If not, it’s not such a big deal. Same as a computer with a removable hard drive.

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