Cumberland County recently replaced computer chips in all its voting machines and completed background checks on five technicians who service them as a safeguard against tampering and inaccuracy. But those upgrades, which are part of a statewide initiative, don’t sufficiently address flaws in the system used to cast votes, according to a woman who says an electronic machine cheated her and her husband in a recent election in Fairfield. The recent upgrades to county voting machines were not related to the Fairfield case. Activists say, however, the Fairfield case just adds ammunition to their argument that New Jersey needs a paper record of election results.
The results of the June 7 election in Fairfield showed Cynthia Zirkle and her husband, Ernest, lost the election for two seats on the county Democratic Committee. Suspecting more people had voted for them than the results showed, the Zirkles obtained affidavits from voters that confirmed their worst fears, they say. Preliminary results showed Vivian and Mark Henry receiving 34 and 33 votes respectively in the election for two committee seats, though only 43 total votes were cast. Cynthia Zirkle said they obtained 30 affidavits from residents who voted for them. As a result of a petition by the Zirkles, Cumberland County Superior Court Judge David Krell ordered the machine impounded.
“Were you to have the paper ballot with the optical scan, that election would have been done and decided in 10 minutes and the Zirkles would not have had to file a lawsuit,” said Irene Goldman, chairwoman of the Coalition for Peace Action, based in Princeton, which is fighting for paper voting records.
Last week, a technology expert from Princeton University, Andrew Appel, who has been critical of the touch-screen machines, was scheduled to evaluate the machine used in the Fairfield election.
“Winning is not the issue,” said Cynthia Zirkle. “The issue is why did this occur, and how do we prevent it in the future?”
Like nearly every county in New Jersey, Cumberland uses electronic AVC Advantage voting ma-chines made by Sequoia Voting Systems. None of the Sequoia machines used in New Jersey produces a paper record, according to the website verifiedvoting.org.
Dominion Voting Systems of Denver, which bought out Sequoia, did not respond to an email request for comment. Cumberland County recently finished replacing three chips in all its 120 machines, except the one that was impounded. The same upgrades are being made to all of New Jersey’s 1,100 electronic voting machines as a result of a lawsuit filed in 2004 by the Coalition for Peace Action and other activists who want machines to produce a paper record.
The upgrades are costing the state $700,000.
New Jersey lawmakers passed a law in 2005 that by 2008, all elections should be verifiable by paper record, but the state lacks the money to follow through.