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National Issues

Senate Rules Committee Statement PDF  | Print |  Email
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
February 07, 2007
The following testimony was presented to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration on February 7, 2007. The video webcast is archived at the Rules Committee website. My submitted written testimony is available here.

Chairman Feinstein, Ranking Member Bennett, members of the Committee:

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you regarding citizen concern about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems. It is an honor for me to participate in this hearing with members of Congress, election officials, and distinguished computer and legal experts to speak on behalf of the primary stakeholders in America’s elections – the voters.

The process through which we cast and count votes has received a greater level of citizen interest and scrutiny in the past few years than ever before in our nation’s history. This public awareness has arisen from personal experiences in polling places, news accounts of election problems, and a series of governmental and academic studies that have exposed the serious security vulnerabilities of electronic voting.

VoteTrustUSA is a national nonpartisan network serving state and local election integrity organizations across the country. These groups are made up of volunteers – dedicated, hard working Americans – Republicans, Democrats, and Independents – who care deeply about the great republic they live in - patriots willing to commit themselves to the cause of transparent elections. While this broad based movement embraces a wide range of proposals and positions, it is unified in the conclusion that the direct electronic recording of votes to computer memory is inimical to democracy. A growing number of Americans have determined that the “consent of the governed” is most accurately and reliably transfered to those who govern through the use of paper ballots marked by voters and subject to robust audits to verify the accuracy of election results.

Many states have made the decision that paper ballot voting systems, with ballots either counted by hand or with ballot scanners, are not only more accurate and reliable also significantly less expensive and less burdensome for pollworkers. Innovative ballot marking devices and other assistive systems have allowed states to retain paper ballot systems while still providing voters with disabilities and language minority voters with the opportunity to cast their votes privately and independently.

Over the past year New Mexico and Connecticut have abandoned plans to purchase touchscreen voting machines in favor of statewide paper ballot systems. Last week, the Governor of Florida announced his intention to replace touch-screen voting machines with optical scan machines in all precincts statewide. Also last week the Virginia Senate passed a bill that would phase out the future purchase of direct recording electronic voting machines. Legislative initiatives have been proposed in many other states that would prohibit paperless electronic voting systems and require mandatory audits of election results.

Much of the distrust of election machinery rests on the lack of transparency of the software used to administer electronic elections. When the counting of votes consists of running proprietary software to process vote data, the correctness of election results depends on the correctness of software – and there is no way to guarantee the correctness of software. For years, the first line of defense against reports of security vulnerabilities in voting systems has been claims that laboratory testing ensured strict conformance of the qualified systems to federal standards. But recently we have learned that the laboratory responsible for testing at least 70% of the voting system software used in the November election was not adequately testing to those standards. The culture of secrecy that has been allowed to exist among the voting industry, the testing laboratories, and the institutions that oversee them has bred a deep level of distrust among voters that must be addressed with a new commitment to transparency before the full confidence of voters can be restored.

While the direst of pre-election predictions may not have been realized on Nov. 7, the range and severity of the problems that did occur serve as a warning that action must be taken to ensure meaningful reform before the next federal election cycle. I have submitted for the record an account of e-voting in the 2006 mid-term elections that draws from surveys submitted by participants in the volunteer Pollworkers for Democracy project, reports from voters who called the Election Incident Reporting System and VoterAction hotlines, and reports collected by VotersUnite.Org from the national and local media.

The report indicates that the promise of easier voting, more accurate tallies, and faster results with computerized systems has not been fulfilled. An increasing number of voters, poll workers, and election officials are finding the election process to be more difficult, not easier, and confidence in the final tallies has been undermined. While hardly comprehensive, this report indicative of the widespread failure of electronic voting systems across the country and how this failure affected the experience of voters.

I am encouraged by the prompt attention that these concerns have received through the convening of this hearing. I deeply appreciate the opportunity to address these concerns to the members of the Committee and look forward to working with you to ensure the accuracy, accessibility, and auditability of our elections.
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