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California



“Top Two” in California PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Bob Bauer   
February 23, 2009
This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Now a single legislator, key to the California budget deal, has moved California closer to a decision to hold a nonpartisan “top two” blanket primary.  All candidates would compete in the primary and all voters would choose among them:  the top two vote getters, regardless of party (or no party) affiliation, would compete in the general election.  The California governor and his legislative ally believe that this will give the California more nonpartisan and therefore “centrist” or “moderate” choices conducive to better government.

Not everyone is so sure (see here and here), and California political observers caution that only time and experience will tell.  But wherever else disagreement is found, one conclusion seems fair:  there is more unknown here than admitted, and good reason to carefully scrutinize the assumptions behind support for this type of electoral arrangement.

One belief popular with supporters of this type of structural change is that a change in elections will produce a change in arguably problematic politics.  Change the rules of the game and the scores will change with them:  a whole new breed of champion will have been engineered, called the “moderate”, nonpartisan politician.
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California Issues Emergency Election Audit Regulations PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Joe Hall   
October 11, 2008
This article was posted at Ed Felten's Freedom to Tinker Blog and is reposted here with permission.

The Office of the California Secretary of State has issued a set of proposed emergency regulations for post-election manual tallying of paper election records. In this post, my first at FTT, I'll try to explain and contextualize this development.

Since her election to office, California Secretary of State (CA SoS) Debra Bowen has methodically studied the shortcomings in California's election equipment. She first initiated a Top-To-Bottom review (TTBR) of California's voting systems that found them to be of poor technical quality and vulnerable to a myriad of security vulnerabilities, accessibility flaws, reliability issues and inadequate documentation and testing (a number of FTT regulars participated in the TTBR). For this year's presidential primary in California, Bowen worked to mitigate these problems by decertifying this equipment and then recertifying it subject to a list of about 40 different conditions. One such condition is that the usual 1% manual tally under California law -- counties must randomly choose and hand tally ballots cast in 1% of precincts -- would be modified to include escalation that would mandate increased tallying for close races (where even small amounts of possible fraud and/or error could make a difference in the outcome of a contest).

Bowen issued these additional requirements (the "PEMT Requirements") under her authority as CA SoS to regulate election technologies (here are the original PEMT Requirements). Unfortunately, the Registrar in San Diego County sued Bowen arguing that she 1) didn't have such broad authority and 2) that, even if she did, she could only issue the PEMT Requirements through the California regulatory procedure (specified by the CA Administrative Procedure Act). A state Superior Court found in favor of the CA SoS but a Court of Appeal found that the PEMT Requirements did indeed betray characteristics of regulations and should therefore have gone through the regulatory procedure (for the legal eagles out there, see: County of San Diego v. Debra Bowen (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 501).

By the time the Court of Appeal had made its decision on August 29, there was no time to follow the normal regulatory process, which takes about four months. Instead, the CA SoS had to follow the process for adopting an emergency regulation which applies when a regulation "is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, or general welfare."
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Preliminary Findings on Non-Partisan Ballots Cast in Losa Angeles County PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Dean C. Logan, Acting Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk, Los Angeles County   
February 12, 2008
At the Board meeting on February 6, 2008, upon motion by Board Chair Yvonne Burke, your Board instructed the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (RR/CC) to:
“…take all steps necessary as authorized by law, including but not limited to working with the Secretary of State, to ensure to the greatest extent possible that non-partisan votes are counted where the voter’s intent can be clearly ascertained and where the voter attempted to cross-over and affiliate with either the Democratic or American Independent Party, but may not have completed the ballot by marking an additional bubble relating only to party affiliation.”
Consistent with your instruction and my public testimony at the Board meeting, I directed RR/CC staff to conduct a review and analysis of all non-partisan ballots cast in precincts selected for the required one percent post election manual tally. The intent of conducting the review on a statistically relevant sampling was to quickly quantify the occurrence of non-partisan voters who more likely than not intended to cross-over and cast a ballot for a Democratic or American Independent Party Presidential candidate – and to differentiate those ballots from those where the voter clearly elected to vote an exclusively non-partisan ballot.

In conducting the review and analysis, three central findings have emerged. First, although any quantification is significant, the universe of ballots impacted by the cross-over issue has been found to be much smaller than the number that has been reported in the media since Election Day. Second, the limitations of our voting system and the ballot design impede an ability to determine voter intent on those ballots that were impacted; and third, a clear need exists to immediately modify the ballot layout and voting procedures to facilitate cross-over voting in a manner that does not require additional steps on the part of the voter.

We have analyzed the ballot layout to determine whether the ballot design would allow us to make a determination of voter intent with certainty. The ballot layout and voting instructions inherent to our voting system significantly limit our ability to make a clear delineation of voter intent with certainty on those non-partisan ballots where a cross-over party selection was not made by the voter.

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California: San Francisco City Attorney Sues ES&S PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera   
November 20, 2007

Herrera Sues City's Elections Vendor, Alleging Fraud, False Claims, Breach of Contract In Litigation Against 'World's Largest' Voting Systems Provider, S.F. Seeks Damages, Penalties and Costs That Could Reach Into the Millions of Dollars

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the City's voting systems vendor today, charging Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software, Inc. with a panoply of wrongdoing that includes fraud, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and multiple violations of California's Elections Code, False Claims Act and Unfair Competition Law.

 

In a 23-page civil complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning, Herrera detailed a months-long pattern of misrepresentations and voting system problems by ES&S that caused California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to impose stringent conditions on the City's use of the company's voting machines to conduct its municipal election earlier this month. Because of those restrictions, San Francisco election officials were forced to tabulate ballots centrally; to remake thousands of ballots by hand; and to borrow equipment from another county. City elections officials were unable to release election results from the polling places on election night as is the ordinary practice, and do not expect to announce final results for San Francisco's municipal election until Dec. 4, 2007 -- fully four weeks after Election Day.

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Secretary of State Debra Bowen Sues ES&S Over Sale of Unauthorized Equipment to California Counties PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Media Release   
November 19, 2007
Secretary seeks at least $15 million in penalties and reimbursement for counties

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today filed suit against Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) for nearly $15 million after a four-month investigation revealed the company had repeatedly violated state law.

Secretary Bowen is suing ES&S for $9.72 million in penalties for selling 972 machines that contained hardware changes that were never submitted to, or reviewed by, the Secretary of State.  Furthermore, she is seeking nearly $5 million to reimburse the five counties that bought the machines believing they were buying certified voting equipment.

“ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught,” said Bowen, the state’s top elections officer.  “California law is very clear on this issue.  I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into this state, ignore the laws, and make millions of dollars from California’s taxpayers in the process.”
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Secretary of State Debra Bowen Sues ES&S Over Sale of Unauthorized Equipment to California Counties PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Media Release   
November 19, 2007

Secretary seeks at least $15 million in penalties and reimbursement for counties

 

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today filed suit against Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) for nearly $15 million after a four-month investigation revealed the company had repeatedly violated state law.

Secretary Bowen is suing ES&S for $9.72 million in penalties for selling 972 machines that contained hardware changes that were never submitted to, or reviewed by, the Secretary of State. Furthermore, she is seeking nearly $5 million to reimburse the five counties that bought the machines believing they were buying certified voting equipment.

"ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught," said Bowen, the state's top elections officer. "California law is very clear on this issue. I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into this state, ignore the laws, and make
millions of dollars from California's taxpayers in the process."

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Ranked-Choice Voting and Flawed Ballots Tax San Francisco's Election PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Kat Zambon, electionline.org   
November 09, 2007

Rules requiring hand-inspection, confusion over ranking could delay results for weeks


This article was posted at electionline.org and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

Rules requiring manual checks of every ballot before counting stemming from concerns over vote counting systems were expected to make this city's municipal elections more complicated than usual. Maybe not quite this complicated, though.

 

Because of high numbers of ballots needing to be remade before they can be tabulated, getting official results in this week's vote could take weeks.

 

John Arntz, the city's election director, said at a press conference this week that officials have had to remake 94 percent of absentee ballots cast before they can be counted, because of casting errors, confusion about ranked-choice voting, incorrect pencil or ink and other problems. An informal survey of poll workers indicated that ballots cast on election day at precincts could be similarly flawed.

 

When a ballot needs to be remade, election officials pull it aside and one election official fills in a new ballot while another official watches. Those two election officials then give the old ballot and the remade ballot to a different pair of election officials who ensure that the new ballot reflects the voter's intentions and code the new ballot so it can be traced back to the original.

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E-Vote: Vendor May Have Sold Unauthorized Voting Machines to California Counties PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Government Technology News Report   
October 12, 2007

Download the California Secretary of State's ES&S/AutoMARK Public Hearing Report

 

The California Secretary of State's Office will conduct a public hearing to examine whether Election Systems & Software Inc. (ES&S) sold unauthorized voting machines to as many as five California counties.

 

The ES&S AutoMARK Version 1.0, also known as Phase One, is an electronic ballot-marking device that a former Secretary of State certified for use in California in August 2005.  Fourteen counties use the AutoMARK to comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requirement to provide at least one machine in each polling place so voters with disabilities can cast ballots independently.  However, said the Secretary of State's Office in a release, it appears ES&S sold nearly 1,000 AutoMARK Version 1.1 machines, also known as Phase Two, to five of those counties (Colusa, Marin, Merced, San Francisco and Solano) in 2006.  ES&S failed to notify the Secretary of State of the Phase Two modifications before selling the machines.

Under California law, no voting system or part of a voting system may be changed or modified without written notice to, and authorization by, the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State must hold a public hearing before seeking any penalties against a vendor. According to the Secretary of State's Office, those penalties could include monetary damages up to $10,000 per violation; a refund of all money paid by a county to the voting system manufacturer; decertification of the voting system in question; and prohibition of the manufacturer from doing any elections-related business in the state for up to three years.
California Secretary of State Bowen Comments on Field Poll About Voter Confidence in Elections PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By California Secretary of State Debra Bowen   
August 31, 2007

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (pictured at right) commented on a Field Poll released today measuring 402 likely voters’ confidence in California elections and voting methods. The Field Poll, (download) available at , shows less than half (44%) of the likely voters surveyed have a “great deal of confidence that their votes are being accurately counted.” Another 52% of the likely voters surveyed have only “some confidence” or “only a little confidence” that their votes are being accurately counted.

 

“I am surprised that so few people are firmly confident in the accuracy of our elections,” said Secretary Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer. “My goal is to ensure all Californians believe their votes are counted accurately and the people who are in elected office are the ones who received the most votes.”

The Field Poll also reported a correlation between voter confidence in accuracy and voter confidence in specific voting systems. Voters who have less confidence that their votes are being counted as they were cast have less trust in touchscreen systems than they do in paper-based optical scan systems.

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California: Voters' Group Declares Victory In Electronic Voting Case PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By VoterAction   
August 29, 2007
Plaintiffs Applaud California Secretary of State's Recent Action on Voting Systems

Case Challenging The Use of Diebold Electronic Voting Machines Is Withdrawn

 

A group of California voters who filed suit challenging former Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's 2006 certification of Diebold electronic voting machines for use in California announced today that they were withdrawing their court case following Secretary of State Debra Bowen's recent decision to decertify the Diebold system and to only allow limited use of that system under strict manual recount conditions. The voter plaintiffs said that Secretary Bowen's action constituted a vindication of the concerns raised in their lawsuit concerning vulnerabilities and inadequacies of the Diebold machines, and that Secretary Bowen's actions answered nearly all of the concerns outlined in their original complaint filed last year.

 

"We thank Secretary Bowen for her leadership and her courage," said Dolores Huerta, one of the voter plaintiffs in the case. "Her decision is a victory for democracy in California. It marks a major step forward in protecting the integrity of our electoral process."

 

In March 2006, a group of 24 California voters, including Huerta, social justice activist and co- founder of the United Farm Workers of America, filed a lawsuit in state court against then-Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and various county registrars to halt the use or purchase of the Diebold TSx electronic voting system. The lawsuit alleged that the Diebold TSx voting machines did not meet requirements of California law with regard to security from tampering and vote manipulation, accessibility to voters with certain disabilities, and auditability, and that the machines were unsuitable and unsafe for use in California elections.

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More Uncertified Voting Systems in California? PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Joseph Hall, Univeristy of California, Berkeley   
August 23, 2007
This article was posted at Joe Hall's Not Quite a Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

In 2003, the California Secretary of State found that DESI (Diebold Election Systems, Inc.) had marketed and sold voting systems in California that were running software uncertified by the state. In a déjà vu moment, ES&S (Election Systems and Software) was recently found to have sold uncertified hardware (and possibly software) to a number of jurisdictions in California.

 

 

People frequently point back to the 2003 DESI situation in passing when talking about the current ES&S developments. For example, Kim Zetter of Wired, an amazing journalist whom I respect immensely, said in a Threat Level post ("ES&S to be Rebuked, Fined and Possibly Banned in CA?"):

ES&S is not the first voting machine company to have sold uncertified equipment in CA. In 2003, the state discovered that Diebold Election Systems had installed uncertified software in machines in 17 counties.

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California: The Top to Bottom Review PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Barbara Simons   
August 13, 2007
This article will appear in the September issue of The Voter, monthly newsletter of the League of Women Voters of the Los Altos-Mountain View Area. Reprinted here with permission.
…In many ways, I think voters and counties are the victims of a federal certification process that hasn’t done an adequate job of ensuring that the systems made available to them are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible. Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act, which pushed many counties into buying electronic systems that – as we’ve seen for some time and we saw again in the independent UC review – were not properly reviewed or tested to ensure that they protected the integrity of the vote. That’s what my decisions are about – protecting the integrity of the vote.

- Secretary of State Debra Bowen, quoted in the California Progress Report, August 4, 2007.*

Just before midnight on Friday August 3, Secretary of State Debra Bowen made the dramatic announcement that she was decertifying all of electronic voting systems tested in her Top to Bottom (TTB) review, as well as the ES&S InkaVote system that was submitted too late for testing. She conditionally recertified all except the InkaVote, but some of the conditions are quite arduous.


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California: Secretary Bowen's Clever Insight PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University   
August 08, 2007

This article appeared on Avi Rubin's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

On Monday, our NSF ACCURATE center held its second annual EVT conference. It was a smashing success with packed attendance and great papers. Today, we held our Principal Investigator (PI) meeting consisting of the PIs, graduate students and some of our advisors. To all of our amazement, Debra Bowen, the Secretary of State of California, who is on our advisory board, showed up for both days. This is particularly incredible given that last Friday she created a firestorm by decertifying most of the electronic voting machines in her state after the top to bottom review that she ordered showed tremendous flaws in the machines.


Secretary Bowen was an active participant in both our workshop and our PI meeting. Today on a panel of our advisors, she said something that really struck a chord with me. It was a simple comment, but it showed great insight into the computer software process as well as the election system certification process. Bowen's observation was that the certification process is not well suited to software. Most election officials defer to staffers or to academics such as us about technical issues, but Secretary Bowen sounded as much like a computer scientists as a state official this afternoon. She rattled off technical terms that she was completely comfortable with and made arguments based on a level of understanding of technology that I have never seen from a non-computer scientist. It is no wonder that she was able to put together the team led by David Wagner and Matt Bishop to study the machines and to appreciate their findings.

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California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Moves to Strengthen Voter Confidence in Election Security PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By California Secretary of State Debra Bowen   
August 04, 2007

Moves Follow Top-to-Bottom Review of Voting Systems

 

Certification documents detailing Secretary Bowen’s decisions are available for download here.

After two months of unprecedented analysis of California’s voting systems and related security procedures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced some of those systems can continue operating in 2008 in California while others are too flawed to be widely used.

Each of the systems that went through the top-to-bottom review has been legally decertified, and then each of them has been recertified with the addition of a number of conditions. The primary reason for taking this step is for clarity, ensuring that everything associated with a particular system is in one single recertification document that is easy for the public, elections officials, and others to follow and understand.

The Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia direct recording electronic (DRE) systems were all decertified. The Diebold and Sequoia DRE systems were recertified solely for the purposes of conducting early voting and to allow counties to have one DRE machine in each polling place on Election Day for the purpose of complying with disability access requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Furthermore, these DRE systems will be required to comply with increased security and post-election auditing procedures. The Hart InterCivic DRE system was also recertified but will only be required to comply with increased security and post-election auditing procedures. The Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia optical scan systems were all decertified and recertified, and will be required to adopt increased security and post-election auditing procedures.

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More California E-Voting Reports Released; More Bad News PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Ed Felten, Princeton University   
August 03, 2007

This article appeared on Ed Felten's blog Freedom ro Tinker and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

Yesterday the California Secretary of State released the reports of three source code study teams that analyzed the source code of e-voting systems from Diebold, Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia.

All three reports found many serious vulnerabilities. It seems likely that computer viruses could be constructed that could infect any of the three systems, spread between voting machines, and steal votes on the infected machines. All three systems use central tabulators (machines at election headquarters that accumulate ballots and report election results) that can be penetrated without great effort.

 

It’s hard to convey the magnitude of the problems in a short blog post. You really have read through the reports — the shortest one is 78 pages — to appreciate the sheer volume and diversity of severe vulnerabilities.

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