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Alaska Lt. Governor Seeks Independent Review of State’s Voting System PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation   
October 09, 2007
Joining the ever-growing list of states that are initiating voting system reviews, the Peninsula Clarion has reported that Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell has asked the University of Alaska to conduct a review and recommend possible changes to the state's electronic voting system.

According to the Clarion article Parnell wrote a letter to University Chancellor Fran Ulmer, a former lieutenant governor and overseer of the Division of Elections herself noting the stringent security measures established by the California Secretary of State as a condition for the use of electronic voting equipment. Parnell claimed that Alaska already met or exceeded the measures undertaken in California but wanted to consider additional measures to improve voting system security.

Alaska employs a paper ballot optical scan system manufactured by Diebold Election Systems statewide, with one Diebold TSX touchscreen voting machine in each polling place to provide accessibility for voters with disabilities. These systems were included in the California review and were found to be “vulnerable to malicious software, was susceptible to viruses, failed to protect ballot secrecy”, and lacked “adequate controls to ensure that county workers with certain accesses would not exceed their authority.”
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Division of Elections Refuses To Release 2006 Election Records PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Alaska Democratic Party Press Release   
November 28, 2006
The Alaska Division of Elections is violating the public records law and should immediately release copies of the electronic records of the 2006 election results so they can be examined before the election is certified, Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe said today.
 
"Once again, the Division of Elections is flaunting the law with excuses and delays by refusing to release critical public records," Metcalfe said. "Judge Joannides has already ordered them to make copies of each version of the 2006 GEMS database, so it is no burden on them to just release those copies that they are already making. Why won't they release the records and give the public access to them as they are required by law to do?" Metcalfe said.
 
On Nov. 7, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides ordered the Division of Elections to preserve backup copies of the state's 2006 electronic computer database and subsequent tallies of the election results. The Division of Elections had refused to make backup copies of the Diebold computer GEMS database in response to a request from the Alaska Democratic Party, which then sought an emergency court order requiring that copies be preserved of these election records. The Judge agreed with the Democratic Party and issued a temporary restraining order stating that the Division must make backup electronic copies on disk of the GEMS database as it existed on election night and again at the conclusion of each day in which the Division of Elections entered votes manually into the system.
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Alaska: Judge Orders Division of Elections To Preserve Copies of Election Records PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Alaska Democratic Party Press Release   
November 07, 2006
Democrats Successfully Sought Emergency Court Order

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides today ordered the Alaska Division of Elections to preserve backup copies of the state's 2006 electronic computer database and subsequent tallies of the election results.
 
The Division of Elections had refused to make backup copies of the Diebold computer GEMS database in response to a request from the Alaska Democratic Party, which today sought an emergency court order requiring that copies be preserved of these election records.
 
"The people of Alaska have a right to have all the public records related to our election. We are pleased that the court has ordered the Division to preserve these records," said Jake Metcalfe, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party.
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Alaska: Struggle For 2004 Election Data Continues PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Jake Metcalfe, Alaska Democratic Party   
October 17, 2006

The Alaska Democratic Party recently obtained the electronic General Election Management System (GEMS) database for the 2004 elections by suing the state's Division of Elections in State Superior Court. The Division of Elections had refused for more than nine months to release the public records, but did so late last month just before a hearing was scheduled to begin in the case. An examination of the database reveal that modifications were made to the database on July 12 and July 13, 2006. On October 6, the Democratic Party filed new public records requests asking for a copy of the GEMS database as it existed before the changes made in July, 2006, and for the name and affiliation of each person who did any manual modification to the 2004 General Election GEMS database at any time, what data that person entered manually, and why those changes were made or those data were entered manually. The Division of Elections responded that they would not meet the Democratic Party's request. The following letter was sent to the Whitney Brewster, Director of the Alaska Division of Elections on October 12, 2006.

 

Dear Ms. Brewster:

 

I have received your letter of Oct. 10 denying the Alaska Democratic Party's request for public records, in which you state that you are unable to provide a copy of the 2004 GEMS General Election database as it existed before July 2006. Your letter further states that no public records exist, other than the audit log already produced, that would show the name and affiliation of each person who did any manual modification to the 2004 General Election GEMS database at any time, what data that person entered manually, and why those changes were made or those data were entered manually. You state that the request for public records is denied because the "requested records have either already been produced or do not exist."

Your response raises a lot of questions and indicates serious security breeches. Concerning the 2004 GEMS database as it existed before July 12, 2006, are you saying that you have only one copy of this database, which was subject to entry and potentially to manipulation by Division employees, and that no separate copy was kept in archives in a secure location? Why was an accurate, unmodified copy of the database not retained as a record of the election? Were any prior copies of this database destroyed?

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Alaska: 2004 Electronic Election Data Was Changed in 2006 PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Kay Brown, Alaska Democratic Party   
October 05, 2006

Division of Elections Asked to Explain Changes

The Alaska Democratic Party today asked the Division of Elections to explain why changes were made in July of 2006 to the electronic database that contains the results of the 2004 General Election.
 
A review of the audit trail of the GEMS database for the 2004 elections shows that modifications were made to the database on July 12 and July 13, 2006.

 

The Democratic Party recently obtained the electronic GEMS file by suing the Division of Elections in State Superior Court. The Division of Elections had refused for more than nine months to release the public records, but did so late last month just before a hearing was scheduled to begin in the case.
 
"We do not understand why 2004 election results would be manually modified in 2006 after the complaint was filed asking that you produce the database," Jake Metcalfe, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, said in a letter to Division of Elections Director Whitney Brewster. "Data from the 2004 election may have been altered," Metcalfe said.
 
One of the modifications made in 2006 appears to alter data for House District 5. In that district's race for the State House, Democrat Tim June lost by 59 votes to Republican Bill Thomas. [see audit log of GEMS database]
 
The Democratic Party also questioned the 293 manual entries that were made to the electronic file between 11/2/04 and 12/2/04. [see attached audit log of GEMS showing examples]. According to the same audit log, the Primary Election for 2004 had 17 manual entries.

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Alaska: Public Records From 2004 Election Will Be Released PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Alaska Democratic Party Press Release   
September 20, 2006

State Decides Security Not Threatened

 

The State of Alaska agreed today to give the Alaska Democratic Party (ADP) an electronic database containing votes from the 2004 General Election, in response to a lawsuit the Democrats filed last April.
 
"The Alaska Democratic Party has successfully proven that the GEMS database is a public record and that the public is entitled to have it," said Jake Metcalfe, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. "We have fought for the release of these public records since last year so that the people of Alaska can be assured that their votes in the 2004 elections were counted correctly."
 
The electronic database will be delivered Thursday to David Shoup, the ADP's attorney. A hearing in the case had been scheduled to begin Monday in Superior Court in Anchorage.
 
Shoup said Darrell Davis, the Chief Security Officer for the State of Alaska computer system, changed his mind and decided that release of the records was not a threat to security after all. Davis had previously advised the Division not to release the database because of security risks.

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Alaska: Diebold Failures Mar Primary Election PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 27, 2006

Another primary election has been marred by voting technology failures. As usual, election officials were quick to defend the technology and the integrity of election results, eagerly dismissing any concerns. According to an Associated Press article problems with Alaska's Diebold TSx touchscreen voting machines forced elections officials to hand count and manually upload vote totals from several precincts across the state. Touchscreen machines in Kodiak, Nenana, Healy, Tok, and Unalakleet counties were unable to upload their vote totals to the Division of Elections' central computing system.

Division of Elections Director and former Mrs. Alaska Whitney Brewster (pictured at right) noted "just because they're not being uploaded doesn't mean they're not being recorded accurately." Of course there is no reason to assume that they were recorded accurately either.

State Democratic Party spokeswoman and former state representative Kay Brown was quoted in an Ars Tecnica post "there are many systematic problems with Diebold machines that have been identified in many contexts," and feels that the occurence of "technical glitches with the machines is not surprising." Brown has been a vocal critic of Diebold's technology since a 2004 election in which a catastrophic hardware malfunction caused the company's machines to miscount votes and report inexplicable 200 percent voter turnout in just under half of Alaska's House districts.

 

Brown has written several articles criticizing Diebold, including one posted earlier this month on VoteTrustUSA in which she observed that Diebold's hardware may have been certified fraudulently, and is therefore illegal according to Alaska state law.

While Brewster was defending her machines Brown pointed out that the slowdown caused by the touchscreen machines is indicative of larger problems with the machines. “I can say there are many systematic problems with Diebold machines that have been identified in many contexts. That there were technical glitches with the machines is not surprising, and it’s one indication of the kinds of things that can go wrong with the machines and it’s something to be concerned about.”

 

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Alaska Voting Must Be Made Secure PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Kay Brown   
August 11, 2006

AAlaska's vote-counting system has flaws that could threaten the integrity of upcoming elections, according to voting technology experts.

 

A report on how to protect elections in an electronic world was issued in June by a task force on voting security at the Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law. This nonpartisan think tank's report details how Diebold's optical-scan and touch-screen machines could be attacked and votes manipulated (www.brennancenter.org).

 

The task force found more than 120 security threats that affect the three most common electronic voting systems. Alaska has two of these systems -- 1) Diebold optical scanners and 2) Diebold touch-screen machines with voter verified paper trail, to be used here for the first time in August.

 

The touch-screen machines are particularly unreliable, insecure and vulnerable to attack. Diebold's ubiquitous optical scanners also are vulnerable.

 

In Alaska, questions remain about the vote counts from Diebold's optical scanners that showed a massive misreporting of votes in Alaska's 2004 general election, with turnout reported at more than 200 percent in 16 of the 40 State House districts and other anomalies. The Alaska Democratic Party has sued the Division of Elections in an effort to get public records from that election. A court hearing will begin Sept. 25 that will determine whether the state must release the electronic database containing those votes.

 

Since Walden O'Dell, Diebold's former chief executive, infamously told Republicans in an August 2003 fundraising letter that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year," questions have mounted about the reliability of Diebold's voting systems. (For an eye-opening account of what happened in Ohio in 2004, see the article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the June 1, 2006, Rolling Stone magazine.)

 

Aggressive action is needed to restore Alaskans' confidence in our election system. What can Alaskans do?

 

Reforms Democrats support include:

 

• Banning wireless components on all voting machines.

 

Machines with wireless components are particularly vulnerable to attack. Wireless components make it possible for an individual to insert malicious code from a portable digital assistant.

Unfortunately, Alaska's new touch-screen machines are designed to accept a wireless Ethernet card and have built-in software to use it. Every touch-screen machine should be audited and all wireless components disabled before any are used in our upcoming elections.

 

• Making verification procedures transparent and publicly observable.

 

In 2005, Rep. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) authored an amendment that requires significant hand-counting of ballots, which will be done for the first time this year.

 

The Division of Elections should implement this law with transparent and publicly observable procedures. Independent auditors should be assigned immediately before the hand counts, and these should begin immediately after the election. In addition to precinct counts, the division should hand-count absentee, early and questioned ballots, which were misreported by the Division in 2004.

 

• Testing machines on Election Day.

 

Another safeguard Alaska should implement is "parallel testing" while voting is under way, by taking randomly selected machines off line for testing.

 

• Addressing evidence of fraud or error. Alaska should adopt detailed procedures to deal with any problems found in the hand counts and audits.

 

• Making source code public.

 

Source code is the set of instructions that run the voting machines and tabulators. Alaska should prohibit any election contracts that rely on "proprietary" processes or programming. We should require open publication of a vendor's source code, or "open source" programming, for all election-related computers and software.

 

More must be done to restore public confidence in our voting system. To keep vote counting honest and under constant public scrutiny, changes are needed now.

Alaska: Touch Screen Voting Too Risky For Upcoming Elections PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Kay Brown, Alaska Democratic Party   
August 11, 2006
Diebold's Federal Certification May Not Be Valid

 

The Division of Elections should not use Diebold touch screen voting machines in upcoming elections due to reports that Diebold fraudulently obtained certification, the Alaska Democratic Party said today.
 
Alaska's electronic voting machine vendor, Diebold Elections Systems, may have defrauded the federal certification process for its touch screen voting machines by withholding source code from review, according to a report published by Vote Trust USA, a national non-partisan, non-profit group devoted to ensuring the integrity of elections.
 
Under Alaska law, voting machines and vote tally systems must be in compliance with the voting system standards approved by the Federal Election Commission before they can be used in a state election.
 
Given the potential that Diebold’s touch screen machines depend on software that has been reviewed by no one except Diebold, and the potential that federal certification requirements have not been met, the Democratic Party urged the Division of Elections not to use its Accuvote TSx touch screen machines in the upcoming elections.

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