Vote of No Confidence

In the face of rampant quality lapses, will your ballot count?

It’s one of the tenets of democracy: One person, one vote. But as the presidential election looms, one of the nation’s largest providers of voting equipment has revealed that, in recent years, the phrase hasn’t always rung true.

Premier Elections Solutions, based in Allen, TX, recently admitted that an election-computer glitch could result in servers failing to count vote totals from entire precincts when collecting data from multiple memory cards. The problem has been present in its tabulation software for a decade, leaving open the possibility that some voters’ voices were never heard.1

The company has supplied 1,750 jurisdictions nationwide, all of which were alerted to the problem. They might still be in the dark, however, if not for the diligence of voting officials in Ohio.

As the votes from the state’s March presidential primaries were being tabulated, officials discovered that about 1,000 votes had been dropped briefly as the e-voting machines from Premier—formerly known as Diebold Election Systems—uploaded voting data from memory cards to vote-counting servers.

Premier initially placed blame on a conflict between the machines and McAfee antivirus software, but it later admitted the problem stemmed from a logic error in the source code of Premier’s Global Election Management System (GEMS), which is the software that, according to the company’s website, allows clients to "easily and completely manage every step of the election process."

In a letter to Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, Premier President Dave Byrd wrote, "We now have reason to believe that the logic error in the GEMS code can cause this event when no such antivirus program is installed on the server. We are indeed distressed that our previous analysis of this issue was in error."

Prior to that admission, Brunner filed a lawsuit that claimed, among other things, the touch-screen machines made by Diebold and used in Ohio could delay or bring to a screeching halt election proceedings, and that they aren’t adequately protected against hackers or others who would seek to derail the electoral process. All told, $83 million was spent to put Diebold’s touch-screen systems in 44 Ohio counties in 2006.2

As if the possibility of votes vanishing into the ether during the upcoming election isn’t enough to send the country back to the days of scrawling an X next to a candidate’s name, the reality of the situation is that Premier’s problem is merely the latest entry in a laundry list of faults that have sullied the electoral process:

  • In November 2007, during local elections in Cuyahoga County, OH, Diebold’s GEMS server crashed twice. When recounts were needed for 10 races, it was discovered the backup printers had jammed, affecting 20% of the machines involved in the races requiring recounts.3
  • In a May 2006 primary election, also in Cuyahoga County, Diebold touch-screen systems were used for the first time. A later audit revealed that with 72.5% of the audited machines, the paper system that recorded voters’ choices didn’t match the digital count.4
  • In 2006, officials in Sarasota County, FL, discovered that 18,000 voters—13% of the turnout—failed to cast a ballot for either candidate in the race for the 13th Congressional District. The issue was never resolved, and the Republican candidate declared victory by a 369-vote margin. The county used Election Systems & Software’s iVotronic machine.5
  • When New Jersey officials double-checked the results of the state’s April presidential primaries, errors were found in 60 machines provided by Sequoia Voting Systems. Company executives claimed the problems "were caused by poll workers inadvertently pressing the wrong buttons on the control panels."6
  • Pennsylvania and Colorado have decertified major portions of their electronic voting systems, while Alaska, California, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Tennessee and New Mexico have scrapped theirs altogether.

But the biggest failure of all might be with the oversight group that allowed equipment makers to run roughshod over a process that was meant to prevent problems such as Premier’s latest vote-counting snafu.

According to a report from McClatchy’s Washington Bureau, from the mid-1990s to 2005, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) oversaw a voluntary testing process that tagged the majority of U.S. voting equipment as "qualified."7 In reality, however, NASED had little to do with the testing, instead relying on Independent Testing Laboratories.

Meanwhile, the report continues, "vendors secretly negotiated payments with the labs, helped design the test, got to see the results first and only share their codes driving their software with three NASED technical experts who signed nondisclosure agreements."

With lab endorsements in their pockets, the vendors sold almost $1.5 billion worth of voting equipment, including the touch-screen machines and optical scanners voters will use in November. Subsequent independent testing of that equipment on behalf of California, New York, Ohio, Florida and Connecticut revealed performance defects and security gaps, leading many states to dump their systems entirely.

In 2005, the Election Assistance Commission assumed testing responsibilities.

Since then, not one of the machines deemed "qualified" by NASED has been certified, and the commission’s chairwoman, Rosemary Rodriguez, has said none will be in time to be used in the November election.


  1. Grant Gross, "E-voting Vendor: Programming Errors Caused Dropped Votes," Network World, www.networkworld.com/news/2008/082208-e-voting-vendor-programming-errors-caused.html.
  2. Greg Gordon, "Did Washington Waste Millions on Faulty Voting Machines?" www.mcclatchydc.com/election2008/story/48508.html, Aug. 15, 2008.
  3. Clive Thompson, "Can You Count on Voting Machines?" The New York Times, Jan. 6, 2008.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Gross, "E-voting Vendor: Programming Errors Caused Dropped Votes," see reference 1.
  6. Diane C. Walsh, "Control of Elections Shifts From the AG to State Department," Newark Star-Ledger, April 1, 2008.
  7. Greg Gordon, "Warning on Voting Machines Reveals Oversight Failure," www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/50485.html, Aug. 24, 2008.

—Brett Krzykowski, assistant editor

Voice of Educators

Educators can tell the next president what they think are the highest priorities in K-12 education by taking a short survey on ASQ’s website.

Results from the three-question survey will be tabulated, and a "must-do" list will be developed following ASQ’s National Quality Education Conference, Nov. 16–18 in Reno, NV. ASQ then will send a letter about the survey and the results to the new president.

"The decisions made by our next president will have a significant impact on the future of all our children and the quality of education they receive, so it’s vitally important that educators take the opportunity to make their voices heard," said Roberto Saco, president of ASQ.

To access the survey, visit http://vovici.com/wsb.dll/s/133dbg35b4a.


Feigenbaum honored as leading innovator

Often mentioned in the same breath as other quality giants such as W. Edwards Deming and Joseph Juran, Armand V. Feigenbaum joined them in another exclusive club recently, when he received the National Medal of Technology and Innovation—the highest U.S. honor for technical achievement.

On Sept. 29, Feigenbaum stood in front of President George W. Bush and accepted the medal for his work pioneering the concept of total quality control, an effort with roots that reach back almost six decades.

"I was of course greatly honored personally," Feigenbaum said of his reaction to the news. After reflecting with his colleague and brother, Donald, he added that it became clear "this medal is also recognition for the many men and women in ASQ, throughout America and, indeed, parts of the world whose work in their companies and organizations has been making total quality control a key to effective quality leadership in their activity for systematic and constant improvement of quality."

If anyone is qualified to extol the virtues of a consistent approach to quality, it’s Feigenbaum, who was still a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management when he published his first book on the subject in the 1940s. But it was his 1951 offering, Total Quality Control, that identified him as one of the field’s foremost thinkers.

A fourth edition of the seminal work was released in 2004, and in the nearly six decades since its original printing, it has been translated into more than a dozen languages. Now, it has earned him recognition as one of the country’s leading innovators and has put him among company with whom he’s quite familiar: Deming and Juran, who received the medal in 1987 and 1992, respectively.

Feigenbaum said he realizes the individual accolade is only a part of a much larger landscape in which quality and innovation both reside.

"Quality in this total quality control sense has now become recognized as a rapidly developing and major systemic field of technology and of innovation throughout business and industry, education, science, medicine, government, and other important organizational and corporate areas," Feigenbaum said. "Our experience has made clear that quality and innovation are very strong and essential partners for the success of organizations in today’s brutally demanding and competitive global marketplace."

—Brett Krzykowski, assistant editor

Date In Quality History

QP looks back on an event or person that made a difference in the history of quality.

Oct. 18, 1919

George E. P. Box was born on this date.

Many consider Box one of the most influential statisticians of the 20th century. He is a pioneer in quality control, time series analysis, design of experiments and Bayesian inference, a statistical approach to problem solving.

A native of Gravesend, England, Box earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and statistics. While pursuing his master’s degree, he began work at Imperial Chemical Industries and eventually became head of the statistical techniques research section of the company. He later served as visiting professor at the University of North Carolina and worked at Princeton University as the director of its statistical research group.

Box encouraged the creation of a journal devoted to statistics and statistical implications. ASQ and the American Statistical Association responded to his encouragement by creating Technometrics.

In 1960, Box moved to Madison, WI, where he was professor and first chairman of the statistics department at the University of Wisconsin. His accomplishments in the field of statistics earned him ASQ’s Shewhart Medal in 1968. Box has published numerous articles and papers, and he is the author or co-author of many books. Today, he is professor emeritus at UW’s Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement.

Source: www.asq.org/about-asq/who-we-are/bio_box.html.

Online On Paper

Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take a short, informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"Which of these companies is the most innovative in the world today?"

  • Apple 39.2%
  • Google 31.4%
  • Toyota 19.3%
  • 3M 5.6%
  • Microsoft 4.3%

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question posted:

"Which presidential candidate would do more to advance quality?"

  • John McCain
  • Barack Obama

Treasure Trove Of Tools

Uncover summaries of nearly 1,000 products and tools featured since 1999 in QP’s popular department QP Toolbox. Peruse the various products and tools available to quality professionals.


ANSI, Toy industry Group Form Partnership

The Toy Industry Association (TIA) has formed a pact with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in support of the accreditation program of TIA’s toy safety certification program (TSCP).

This comes two months after President Bush signed the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act into law. The TIA called it "the most sweeping toy safety legislation in decades."

ANSI will be in charge of the assessment of the competence of product certification bodies. This will be determined by requirements in the international standard ISO/IEC Guide 65, General Requirements for Bodies Operating Product Certification Systems, the associated International Accreditation Forum Guidance Document, and program requirements for the TSCP.

In a prepared statement, Elizabeth Borrelli, executive director, said: "The Toy Safety Certification Program goes beyond what is required by the new federal legislation and identifies and remedies problems before toys enter the supply chain. ANSI’s involvement lends credibility, strength and rigor to our system."


New Standard Provides Security Guidelines

A newly published standard, ISO 27799:2008, Health Informatics—Information Security Management in Health Using ISO/IEC 27002, explores the area of personal health information and how best to protect its confidentiality and integrity while ensuring its availability for healthcare delivery.

ISO 27799:2008 applies to health information in all its aspects—whatever form the information takes and whatever means are used to store and transmit it. The standard specifies a set of detailed controls for managing health information security and provides health information security best practice guidelines.

By implementing this international standard, healthcare organizations and other custodians of health information will be able to ensure a minimum requisite level of security appropriate to their size and circumstances. An important consideration in ISO 27799’s development was the adaptability of the guidelines, bearing in mind that many health professionals work as solo health providers or in small clinics that lack dedicated IT resources to manage information security.

ISO 27799:2008 is a companion to ISO/IEC 27002:2005, Information Technology— Security Techniques— Code Of Practice for Information Security Management.

ISO 27799:2008 is available from ISO member institutes, including the American National Standards Institute, www.ansi.org, in the United States, and from the International Organization for Standardization at www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/catalogue_tc/catalogue_detail.htm?csnumber=41298.

Who’s Who in Q

Name: Manu K. Vora.

Residence: Naperville, IL.

Education: Doctorate in chemical engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago.

Introduction to quality: In 1985, Vora worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories to initiate a quality planning and implementation project in its switching systems division for the systems engineering area.

Current job: Since 2000, Vora has been chairman and president of Business Excellence Inc., a global quality management consulting firm. He is an adjunct professor at the Stuart School of Business at IIT, teaching quality management since 1993.

ASQ activities: He joined ASQ as a member in 1987, became a certified quality engineer in 1988, and became a fellow in 1995. Vora has been highly active: a member of the ASQ Chicago Section Executive Board since 1989; vice chair of technical program and recognition at Northern Illinois Quality Conference since 1998; adviser to ASQ Information Integrity Interest Group since 2003; contributor to various international initiatives in the Caribbean and Central and South America since 2000; ASQ certification board member (1989–1994); ASQ fellow process coach since 2002; and past ASQ vice president (2000–2002) and national director (1996–2000).

Published works: Vora has been published in more than 40 professional journals and given more than 210 presentations around the world.

Recent honors: Second Asian American Community Leadership Award, Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, 2008.

Quality quote: "Respect your employees, worship your customers and improve your processes—the rest will automatically fall into place."

ASQ News

FOOD SAFETY PODCAST A three-part podcast series on food manufacturing safety featuring ASQ subject matter experts was released last month. The series covers hazard analysis and critical control point certification, the food supply chain, and quality tools and standards. Visit www.asq.org/manufacturing to connect to these podcasts.

MONTHLY ASQ CONTEST Books and magazine subscriptions are up for grabs for those ASQ Weekly readers who answer quality-related questions in a new contest. Watch for the questions in the weekly newsletter, distributed via e-mail to ASQ members each Wednesday.

PHARMACEUTICAL EXAM SLATED ASQ has developed an exam for those who want to become certified pharmaceutical good manufacturing practices professionals. The first exam, which consists of 150 multiple choice questions, is scheduled for June 6, 2009, at all ASQ section and international sites. For information on requirements and other details of the exam, visit www.asq.org/certification.

DIVISION HOSTS ASQ COURSE IN DUBAI ASQ’s Audit Division will provide the certified quality auditor (CQA) exam refresher Nov. 11–12 at the International Conference of Auditors and Lead Auditors in Dubai. The course helps experienced auditors prepare for the CQA exam. For more information about the conference and the course, visit www.icaconf.com.

CAREER CENTER EXPANDS ASQ has enhanced its online career center by joining with 17 other science and engineering associations on the Engineering and Science Career Network. This increases the number of openings that job seekers can consider and expands the reach of employers looking for job candidates. Visit www.asq.org/career/index.html.

Short Runs

THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY Action Group (AIAG) has developed training for automotive supply chain organizations to address the rules under the European Union’s (EU) REACH regulations. REACH requires manufacturers and importers of chemicals to EU member states to identify and manage risks related to the substances they manufacture and market. The AIAG training includes traditional classroom courses, workshops, a webcast and a web-based e-learning course. For registration information, visit www.aiag.org.

A POSITION STATEMENT ON SUSTAINABILITY has been issued by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). ISM says supply management professionals should have a comprehensive understanding of their organizations’ sustainability and social responsibility subjects and policies. Visit www.asq.org/social-responsibility for details on ASQ’s involvement in developing an international social responsibility standard.

FOUR HOSPITALS HAVE BEEN RECOGNIZED for leadership and innovation in quality, safety and commitment to patient care by the American Hospital Association and McKesson Corp. They are: Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, MI; the University of Michigan Hospitals and Healthcare Centers in Ann Arbor; Avera McKenna Hospital and University Health Center in Sioux Falls, SD; and Saint Vincent Health Center in Erie, PA.

Web Watch

This month’s Web Watch focuses on benchmarking. For more quality-related websites, visit www.asq.org.

The Business Performance Improvement Resource is a tool for performance improvement. There are four different paid membership levels on this site, but there is plenty of free information regarding benchmarking, best practices, performance measurement and business excellence. This link also includes free access to newsletters, and an interactive forum is coming soon.

Best Practices LLC is an online membership database of more than 3,000 business improvement techniques for a variety of industries and functions. The database is clustered into five main subject areas: sales and marketing, HR, business operations, customer satisfaction and knowledge management.

The Benchmarking Exchange offers comprehensive information on benchmarking, knowledge management, best practices, and quality and process improvement.

This site provides individuals in large corporations or government organizations access to a free monthly e-mail newsletter that can be useful in supporting internal benchmarking efforts. In addition, an extensive list of links, including benchmarking organizations representing various industries, is included.

The Telecommunications Benchmarking International Group’s site includes membership information, studies and information about the group’s annual meeting. Many links to other benchmarking sites are listed.


Education Conference Set

The 16th annual National Quality Education Conference (NQEC) will be held Nov. 16–18 in Reno, NV.

The conference will include educational and informational sessions on topics such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, continuous improvement and professional learning communities.

Keynote speakers scheduled for NQEC are:

  • Terry Holliday, superintendent of Iredell-Statesville School District in North Carolina.
  • Lee Jenkins, former public school educator and superintendent turned author.
  • Mike Schmoker, author and former administrator, teacher and coach.

Conference presenters will focus on accountability, developing and aligning strategy, and planning for results, critical thinking, information management, working beyond teams and innovation.

For more information, visit http://nqec.asq.org/.

Quality by the Numbers


The number of schools and districts that have recently joined ASQ as K-12 members.

They are:

  • Community Consolidated School District 15, Palatine, IL.
  • Beech Grove City Schools, Beech Grove, IN.
  • Kamehameha Schools, HI.
  • Metropolitan School District of Washington Township, Indianapolis.
  • Gimnasio Los Caobos, Columbia.

K-12 membership gives school districts access to ASQ’s professional education and its comprehensive body of knowledge. Twenty-four schools and districts now belong to ASQ as K-12 members. For more information about this membership category, visit www.asq.org/membership/organizations/k-12.html.

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