Feds tell e-voting testing companies to watch their images

SysTest president accepted candidate's invitation to come to Florida to watch recount. Election Assistance Commission faults him for accepting, scolds companies to avoid appearances of bias.

Companies that test voting machines are coming under increasing fire. As we noted earlier this month, the federal Election Assistance Commission banned Ciber Inc. from testing more machines until it starting meeting the government's QA requirements. New York state was also leaning hard on Ciber to clean up its act. And there was more:

And speaking of conflict of interest, Brian T. Phillips, president of SysTest Labs, another machine certification company, recently was hired by the victorious Republican candidate in Sarasota County, FL, to monitor the state’s examination of whether there had been a malfunction in the voting machines. Taking work from a candidate in an election contest being challenged on the accuracy of e-voting machines hardly speaks well for the independent integrity of the for-profit certification system.

On Thursday, the commission called out Phillips for, essentially, hurting e-voting's image, The Denver Post reports.

"When there's a conflict over an election, like there was in Florida, we don't want (these companies) to be hired by one party or another," said Donetta Davidson, formerly Colorado secretary of state and now chairwoman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

"We want them to represent the strength of our election process," she said, "and obviously, we want everything to be on the up and up."

The commission sent letters to SysTest and Wyle Labs, the only other company certified to test machines. Ciber is not yet approved; that company says they can address the EAC's concerns and get certification shortly.

Naturally, Phillips is ready to comply with the commission's request but doesn't agree that there was a conflict of interest.

"I would argue that that did not create a conflict of interest. I observed a public test, which anyone could have observed. I never met the candidate, and the only people I dealt with were with a legal firm. I'm not being paid by any political party."

SysTest doesn't contribute to political parties, but Ciber does - mostly to Republicans, the Denver Post found.

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