Christine Stuart photo
Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz pictured (Christine Stuart photo)

During the ceremonial crushing of an old lever voting machine Monday, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz assured members of the media that the new optical scan voting machines are safe and secure.

But in order to create an additional level of security for the new machines, Bysiewicz for the first time announced that 100 randomly-selected memory cards – which she described as the “brains” of the new machines – will be tested by the University of Connecticut’s Voting Technology Research Center both before and after the election to ensure that they weren’t tampered with at any point during the process.

“We believe we are the only state in the country to do this with the memory cards,” Bysiewicz said.

LHS Associates, the Massachusetts company that sold Connecticut its new Diebold AccuVote machines, programs each of the memory cards before they’re sent to the Registrar of Voters in each town. Bysiewicz said the registrars will then send the cards in a tamper-proof envelope to UConn.

UConn is expected to send the cards back before the election, also in tamper-proof envelopes. Although today’s announcement about the card auditing protocols came less than 24 hours before the polls are to open, the “before” audit of the cards already has been completed, according to Bysiewicz spokesman Derek Slap.

So what happens if a machine fails Tuesday?

Bysiewicz said each polling place will have one machine and a back-up will be available if it fails. She said if the second one fails then voters will continue to fill out paper ballots, which will be placed in a locked box and hand counted at the end of the night.

She said no changes are made to the machines without both registrars present. An investigation by Talk Radio host Dori Smith found that during the 2006 election, employees of LHS stepped in to fix machines when they malfunctioned. Deputy Secretary Lesley Mara said it was wrong for them to do that, and new protocols issued by the Secretary of State’s office should make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“LHS has nothing to do with our elections except that they program the memory cards,” Bysiewicz said. She said the LHS employees are allowed to advise the registrars, but are not allowed to touch the machines.

Mara said that when they wrote the new election protocols, they tried to take into consideration all the possible situations poll workers could experience on Tuesday. She said LHS Associates, as is required by its contract with the state, are only there in an advisory capacity for the first two elections with the new technology.

Towns that already have used the technology for two or more elections will not have LHS Associates personnel standing by to help. There are general elections in 163 Connecticut municipalities tomorrow.