Secure voting?

Published 8:18 pm Friday, August 6, 2010

A disagreement over an alleged breach of the city’s secure voting machine storage area has led to the creation of new procedures to be followed by city staff when they need access to the area.

David Sylvia, secretary of Suffolk’s Electoral Board, wrote in a June 23 letter to the city the secure voting machine storage area had been breached by city workers on June 14. That day, he wrote, he noticed a truck and several workers by the area. After determining they did not have authority to enter the area, he contacted Gerry Jones, the buildings and capital program manager, and Jones had his employees leave the area.

However, the city does not agree with Sylvia’s assertion it allowed people to access the areas, according to a July 7 letter from City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn.

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“We have verified that at no time on June 14, 2010, did anyone enter the areas where the voting machines were stored,” she wrote.

Reached by phone, Sylvia said he was in the process of drafting a response to the city, and did not want to comment on the situation.

“You know that we can’t have unauthorized access to the voting machines,” he said.

Until last year, the machines had been stored in a leased private building at 425 W. Washington St. for five years. The registrar’s office also was located there.

With the city’s efforts to end costly leases, however, the registrar moved to the city-owned building at 440 Market St. The voting machines now are stored behind locked doors in city hall.

“When the equipment was moved to the current location, security was discussed and we were given to understand that the Electoral Board had the only keys,” Sylvia wrote in his letter. “That is obviously not the case. I was informed by Mr. Jones that his personnel required access due to the building’s mechanical equipment. This situation is unacceptable.”

The city’s response came in Cuffee-Glenn’s letter.

“The City of Suffolk cannot agree that it will never enter the storage areas,” she wrote. “Building systems, such as plumbing, run throughout the ceilings, floors and walls of the building. The City of Suffolk must be able to access these areas in emergencies.”

Cuffee-Glenn added the city will provide notice to the registrar when someone access the storage areas, and will give the electoral board and registrar an opportunity to have an employee present when city employees or contractors access the storage areas.

“We continue the practice followed for the past five years when the machines were stored in a private building and provide notice to the Registrar when access is needed to that area,” city spokeswoman Debbie George said.

Sylvia wrote the electoral board’s designated custodian will inspect the equipment for damage and tampering.

“It has been this board’s contention from the beginning that the current storage facility is inadequate for our purpose,” Sylvia wrote.