Critics sound the alarm on N.J. voting machines

A number of critics are sounding the alarm and claiming New Jersey voting machines may be flawed.

Princeton professor Ed Felten says he has studied New Jersey's electronic voting machines and is convinced they are unreliable.

"If you use computers much, you know, they're flaky," he says. "They sometimes get the wrong answer, they sometimes crash and you don't know why. All that stuff happens with electronic voting machines too."

Felten's fears may not be out of the realm of possibility. Election officials in six New Jersey counties reported irregularities during the Super Tuesday primary vote in February.

Attorney Penny Venetis is suing the state over the systems.

"New Jersey performs no independent testing of any voting machines in any way, shape or form," says Venetis.

Venetis says in addition to reliability issues, the machines can be easily tampered with by replacing a memory chip.

"Computers can be programmed to lie," she says. "Computers can be programmed to switch votes. And voting computers are never, ever inspected."

Sequoia Voting Systems, the company responsible for New Jersey's voting machines, attributes the irregularities to human error. Company reps also say there has never been a documented case of fraud.

The state Attorney General's Office backs up that statement. The office maintains all machines are sealed, and if anyone tried to tamper with one they'd be caught.

The state has ordered election officials to solve the irregularity issue, but the deadline for that solution has been pushed back until after Election Day. Twenty states in the meantime have opted to get rid of e-voting machines.

Felten recommends a system that utilizes both the electronic machines and hand ballots.

"The best system, given today's technology, is a mix of electronic and paper records," he says. "That way you have two different types of records and if there's a problem, we can compare."

An investigation into New Jersey voting machines was launched over the summer, but a judge ordered the final report sealed. Part of that report is expected to be released this week.

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