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Sequoia Voting Systems 
Response to DC Board of Elections and Ethics on errors in the September 9, 2008, primary election
September 22, 2008




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SEQUOIA Voting Systems
717 17th Street, Suite 310 
Denver, CO 80202

September 22, 2008

Mr. Errol R. Arthur
Board of Elections and Ethics
Government of the District of Columbia
One Judiciary Square
441 4th Street NW
Suite 250 North
Washington, DC 20001   

VIA E-MAIL TO: boee@dc.gov

Dr. Mr. Arthur:

Enclosed, please find Sequoia's response to your letter dated September 12, 2008 regarding your questions surrounding the election in the District of Columbia on September 9th.

We hope that our report assists the Board in more fully understanding the issue that occurred on September 9th and how it can be alleviated in future elections.

As we have expressed to the DCBOEE throughout out long-term service to your jurisdiction with our equipment and support, we stand ready to assist you in any way possible and we look forward to working with your team in preparation for the November 4th general election.

In further support of our findings and to help our team in working with the DCBOEE staff so everyone is in full understanding of this situation, we ask that you please provide us with any and all results reports of any sort provided to outside parties on Election Night, 9/9/08 at your earliest convenience.

We are also requesting an electronic copy of the WinEDS database containing the errant precinct 141 results, after precinct 141 was loaded into WinEDS but prior to that precinct's results being removed and re-entered after discovery of the precinct results error.

If you have any further questions after reading the attached, please do not hesitate to contact me at mshafer@sequoiavote.com or 800.347.4702.


Michelle M. Shafer
Vice President, Communication and External Affairs

CC: Sylvia Goldsberry-Adams, Acting Executive Director, DCBOEE 
Dan Murphy, Interim PIO, DCBOEE 
Jack Blaine, CEO, Sequoia Voting Systems 
Peter McManemy, CFO, Sequoia Voting Systems
Edwin B. Smith, Vice President Quality, Compliance & Certification 
Waldeep Singh, Vice President, Operations, Sequoia Voting Systems 
Howard Cramer, Vice President, Sales, Sequoia Voting Systems 
Joe McIntyre, Senior Project Manager, Sequoia Voting Systems 
Adolph Romei, Esq. Beattie and Padovano 
Arthur Chagaris, Esq. Beattie and Padovano


Report to the District of Columbia Board of Elections & Ethics

September 22, 2008

Sequoia Voting Systems is submitting the following report in response to a request from our customer, the District of Columbia Board of Elections & Ethics (DCBOEE) dated September 12, 2008 from Mr. Errol R. Arthur, Board Chairman. This request is included as an attachment to this report for easy reference.

Following in the next four bolded paragraphs is Sequoia's initial written analysis of the situation surrounding the DCBOEE's September 9th election that we previously shared with the DCBOEE on Thursday, September 11, 2008 after discussing the situation with the DCBOEE in great detail after the election:

Sequoia Voting Systems technical personnel have examined the election database for the District of Columbia September 9 Primary Election. Our technical staff members have found no anomalies or irregularities in either the data or the internal event logs that can be identified as having caused or contributed to the issue experienced election night. The database that was examined is a copy of the final database from election night after an returned cartridges had been tabulated and unofficial results generated and reported.

Due to the lack of any database irregularities or event log indicators, a determination by Sequoia Voting Systems as to the cause of the tally issue on one machine cartridge is difficult to characterize. Endemic hardware and software failures have been ruled out as the cause.

There are multiple possibilities for failure to properly read the data, including a transient malfunction of the MPR (Memory Pack Reader) unit, the cartridge not being sealed properly in the MPR socket, accidental manual ejection of the cartridge prior to completing the cartridge reading process, or some type of electrostatic discharge that might have taken place while reading or ejecting the cartridge. None of these instances would be recorded in the voting system event logs, making it impossible to provide a more definitive answer.

The District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics identified the issue through their established, standard procedures and acted quickly to resolve the discrepancy within minutes of auditing the unofficial results. The final, unofficial results released by the Board on election night were accurate. Sequoia Voting Systems will continue to work with the Washington DC Board of Elections and Ethics to prevent this issue from occurring in future elections.

This initial response above should serve as a summary for this longer response to specific questions from the DCBOEE, and we note that this initial analysis stands after further examination of this situation by our staff members.

1. The methodology you used and an explanation of the process you employed to analyze the data provided to you:

Sequoia response: Initially, Sequoia staff members onsite in the District of Columbia worked with the DCBOEE staff to examine the cartridge for Precinct 141 by inserting the cartridge in an Eagle III precinct-based optical scanner, turning it on and producing another results tape. That tape was compared to the results tape originally signed by the poll workers when the polls were closed and both tapes matched. The cartridge for precinct 141 was then reprocessed in WinEDS (Sequoia's election management system) using the same Memory Pack Reader (MPR) that had been used all evening for tally. Then a precinct report was printed and compared to the results tape from the machine. Both matched, and a new district-wide summary was produced. This summary contained the correct results. Again, this was a transient issue due to one or more of the following: improper seating of the cartridge in the MPR, premature ejection and reinsertion of the cartridge while processing that cartridge's votes, electrostatic discharge, etc. The cartridge itself was not defective, nor were any errors noticed or documented regarding the MPR.

Additionally, Sequoia's technical personnel have examined a copy of the election database for the District of Columbia's September 9th Primary Election in our Denver offices. The examination included scanning all log entries in the system for any error conditions. In addition validations were conducted on all data in the system. Our technical staff members have found no anomalies or irregularities in either the data or the internal event logs that can be identified as having caused or contributed to the issue experienced election night. The database copy that was examined is an exact copy of the final database from election night after all returned cartridges had been tabulated and unofficial results generated and reported.

2. An explanation of the cause of the cartridge misread of the data on Election Night:.

Sequoia response: There are multiple possibilities for failure to properly read the cartridge data, including a transient malfunction of the MPR unit, the cartridge not being seated properly in the MPR socket, accidental manual ejection of the cartridge prior to completing the cartridge reading process, or some type of electrical or static discharge that might have taken place while reading or ejecting the cartridge. This scenario would be similar to positioning a CD in a CD ROM drive. The CD must be seated properly and should not be put in the drive or taken out while the player is running or it may not run properly, or at all. None of these instances would be recorded in the voting system event logs, making it impossible to provide a more definitive answer.

The critical point in this matter is that the cartridge for precinct 141 was not corrupt, nor was the MPR showing any signs of malfunctioning. When the cartridge for precinct 141 was re-read in this same MPR, it was able to be read with no problems. If the cartridge was corrupt, it would not have been able to be read by any MPR. Regardless of third party comments to the contrary, Sequoia did not and does not contradict the Board's assertion that the results reporting issue on Election Night is due to more than one results cartridge.

As stated previously, this reporting issue was a process issue that was not noticed by the DCBOEE until after they had already submitted their preliminary election night reports to the media. They realized the mistake and what happened within five minutes of handing the interim report to the media, immediately took action and corrected the report.

3. Information regarding this kind of error and if it has previously been suspected or known to have occurred in the past:

Sequoia response: This is not a problem with Sequoia's software or hardware. This is a matter of human interaction with a mechanical device (the MPR) and a cartridge with data, combined with a process issue in the DCBOEE not thoroughly reviewing their reports before releasing to the media. Since our customers conduct the actual elections - not Sequoia - we do not have any way of keeping track of such incidents, nor is it our responsibility to do so. As an aside, the Eagle Ill optical scan equipment currently employed by the DCBOEE - which worked extremely well in this election as it has for the DCBOEE in numerous elections over the years - is over eight years old and very few of these units remain in the field. However, heir track record over these years is excellent.

4. Recommendations on what specific steps should be taken to curtail the risk of a recurrence of such issues in the future:

Sequoia response: This is a mechanical process that must be done precisely with exact seating of the cartridge in the MPR - and noticing if something goes wrong. This situation can be mitigated by ensuring proper seating of the cartridge in the MPR and by taking note of the read to make sure it is processing properly. Sequoia is aware of no errors being reported or documented by DCBOEE staff while reading cartridges on election night.

Also, to curtail the risk of a recurrence of this issue in the future, Sequoia recommends that those DCBOEE staff members working in the evening on vote tally not report to work on Election Day until sometime after noon instead of 6:00am. A large part of this critical job is mental, inserting, reading, and removing cartridges is tedious, and after putting in a 15 hour day by the time cartridges arrive for tabulating, the workers are both mentally and physically tired, which can obviously lead to mistakes being made, and some being made without the workers even realizing it. In addition, we also recommend that results reports not be rushed to the media before taking the necessary time to review, cross reference to previous results summaries and make sure everything is in proper order. The issue on election night was glaring and quite obvious and would have been caught easily with a simple review prior to handing the unofficial results to the media.

Additionally, Sequoia staff members are preparing a special Product Bulletin for the DCBOEE. We will be providing it by October 2, 2008 so that it may be utilized for the November election preparation cycle.

5. Any other pertinent data or information regarding your analysis and findings:

Sequoia response: While Sequoia is happy to answer questions on this matter and provide what information we can to assist our longstanding customer - the DCBOEE - to prevent this and other issues in the future, it is important to note that this was an extremely minor issue that was not machine or software related and not otherwise related to the performance of Sequoia Voting Systems and its staff members. We believe this was a simple, human error that went undetected because a process was missed, that being the process of verifying an interim summary report. Had that report verification process taken place, this issue would not have received the disproportionate amount of attention that it has garnered to date.

The election was coded by the DCBOEE, not Sequoia, and everything related to the programming, testing, machine certification and voting on Election Day was nearly as perfect as any election could be. The DCBOEE should be commended for the outstanding job they did as very, very few telephone calls were received during the day and machine problems were nearly non-existent.

Furthermore, all of the DCBOEE's precinct optical scan machines and their first generation Edge I non-VVPAT touchscreens for accessible (audio-only) voting were in excellent condition and performed very well on Election Day. Sequoia supplied the DCBOEE with eight (8) field support technicians on September 9th and it was an extremely quiet day for those technicians.

In the future, the DCBOEE staff members handling the Eagle optical scan and Edge touchscreen cartridges as well as the cartridge readers or MPRs, must be precise in their actions and should immediately notify a supervisor when they suspect a cartridge misread or see questionable results on a printed report. If the error is not noticed and the report is printed, a thorough review of the report is needed prior to distribution. By not doing this, a jurisdiction is effectively putting speed and the intense pressure of the media and candidates above accuracy and thoroughness. Rushing to report results, whether prematurely removing a results cartridge while it is being read, or failing to verify an interim results report is in the opinion of Sequoia Voting Systems, the root problem, and this problem is easily correctible.

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