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Election Audit Summit Brings Together Statisticians, Election Officials, and Advocates
New from Get Involved - Related Organizations
By Pamela Smith, Verified Voting Foundation   
November 07, 2007

As one of six co-sponsoring organizations, Verified Voting Foundation is very pleased to announce that the Post-Election Auditing Summit was a success that surpassed the considerable hopes of the team that put it together (American Statistical Association, Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, Common Cause, Florida Voters Coalition, and Verified Voting Foundation). At present, while some three-fourths of the states have passed requirements for voter-verified paper ballots -- or obtained voter-verified paper ballot systems even without a requirement to do so -- only about one fourth of all states are doing any audits at all. Yet audits provide an essential safety check by allowing vote counts to be publicly validated.

The organizers of this event saw an opportunity to help improve this situation, and worked to pull together 100 participants, eight panels, and much lively discussion over three days in Minneapolis. The result was lots of good energy, creative ideas, and a spirit of collegial information sharing, with attendees from twenty states, including top state election officials from several states, as well as local election officials from a number of states, and the Vice-Chair of the Election Assistance Commission - and just about everyone actively participated.

Though distinct perspectives were presented on some aspects of how audits can and should be done, the Summit seemed to nurture mutual understanding between the state and local election officials, academic experts from statistics, computer science, and political science, and election integrity advocates who participated. The agenda can be viewed here.

 

Read the Entire Article  at Verified Voting Foundation

Election Day 2007: New ID Laws Disenfranchise Voters
New from National Issues - Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
November 07, 2007

This article was published at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

New state laws requiring photo voter ID in Georgia and Michigan prevented some low-income and minority voters from casting ballots in local elections held on November 6, according to the NAACP.

 

"The experience is that voters in Detroit are angry and confused about the new voter ID law," said Melvin Butch Hollowell, general counsel with the Detroit National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "We are receiving complaints that are 40 percent above of what we see in a gubernatorial or presidential election."

 

"Right now, you can see the early confusion going on," said Edward Dubose, president of the Georgia state conference of the NAACP. "We are very much concerned about it. We have teams in the field. We plan to have a follow-up public hearing on Friday."

 

While the mainstream media is reporting that Nov. 6, 2007 has been a quiet, low-turnout election with few problems, the biggest exception appears to be introduction of the photo ID laws in Georgia and Michigan -- where state officials have said hundreds of thousands of previously registered voters lack the ID now needed to vote. A half-dozen states held statewide or municipal elections on Nov. 6.

Read more...
Voter Intimidation May Plague Election Day 2007
New from National Issues - Voting Rights
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
November 06, 2007

This article was published at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

Tough new voter identification laws, fervent anti-immigrant rhetoric, officials who won't follow federal election law, challenges to college student voter registrations, electronic voting machine failures -- these are problems that voting rights groups and Democrats will be monitoring as a handful of states vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

 

"No election is ever run perfectly," said David Becker, People for the American Way's Democracy Campaign director, which is staffing a national hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE, that will be active on Tuesday to help voters if they run into problems at their polls. "Even if elections are run responsibly, things happen. ... We have to be vigilant."

 

As always in odd-numbered years, there are a handful of state and local races around the country. While not as high-profile as races for Congress or president, these contests can experience numerous voter suppression tactics and deceptive election practices. Some political observers say obstacles that will surface today may be a precursor for 2008.

Read more...
Iowa's Residual Votes Offer a Lesson: Choose Paper for Voting
New from States - Iowa
By Iowans for Voting Integrity   
November 06, 2007
Paper Ballots Better at Registering Votes than Electronic Voting Machines
 
Voters in today's elections have a good reason to choose paper ballots over touch screen voting machines if they have the option.

A review of all statewide races in Iowa's 2006 General Election shows that voter-marked paper ballots read by optical scanners had the lowest rate of residual votes, and that use of touch screen electronic voting machines correlated with a higher residual vote rate.

Experts use the residual vote rate to judge the effectiveness of a voting system. Residual votes are the difference the total number of ballots cast and the number of valid votes for a given race.  Many residual votes are intentional, particularly undervotes in races for lower, “down-ballot” offices, about which many voters may not be as informed or have a true preference. But if residuals correlate with a type of voting equipment, that equipment may not be as user-friendly or as reliable as other technologies.
Read more...
Rep. Ellison Would Ban Photo ID Requirement for Voting
New from National Issues - Voting Rights
By Rep. Keith Ellison Press Release   
November 05, 2007

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) has introduced legislation that would ban the use of photo identification as a requirement for voting in federal elections.

“In America, our right to vote is a sacred right, and a moral obligation,” Ellison stated. “We must do everything that encourages, fosters and facilitates everyone’s ability to exercise that right. While photo ids seem harmless, they are in fact – the modern day poll tax,” Ellison said. Poll taxes were used extensively throughout the South from Reconstruction through the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Black voters. In 1964, Congress ratified the 24th Amendment which banned poll taxes.

The requirement for photo ids in federal elections can impose a burdensome requirement and ultimately disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of voters, particularly low-income, communities of color, senior citizens, women and young people.


Recently, the Chief of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Voting Rights Division, John Tanner confirmed this when stating: “It's probably true that among those who don't [have Photo ID], it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame. Of course...our society is such that minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first."

Read more...
Risks of E-Voting
New from National Issues - General Topics
By David Wagner and Matt Bishop, for ACM   
November 05, 2007

Electronic voting has spread throughout the U.S. and the world without sufficient attention to reliability, security, or transparency. Today's e-voting systems use proprietary code, and vendors have often asserted the confidentiality of this code when independent reviews of certified systems were requested. This confidentiality conflicts with the transparency required for public elections.

 

In order to provide an independent assessment of the voting systems certified for use in California, Secretary of State Debra Bowen initiated a top-to-bottom review of those e-voting systems. She asked us to recruit a team of experts and gave us access to all the equipment, source code, and technical information that the Secretary of State's office had.

 

The results showed that the systems appeared not to be designed or implemented with security in mind. The design and implementation ignored basic security principles, and we found serious security vulnerabilities in all three vendors' systems. The security flaws were systemic and surprisingly similar across the three systems.

 

For example, malicious code could exploit vulnerabilities in the voting software to spread virally from machine to machine. As a result, when the voting machines return results to election central to count the votes, a virus could infect the county's election management systems. At the next election, the infected election management systems could then infect every voting machine in the county.

 

This virus could be introduced at several points in the process. An attacker could tamper with an e-voting machine while it is stored unattended over-night in a polling place. For some of the systems, a voter could introduce malicious code in under a minute, while voting.

 

Read the Entire Article at the ACM Digital Library 

Time Magazine: Voting Out E-Voting Machines
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
By Tim Padgett, Time Magazine   
November 04, 2007

It is hard to believe now what a darling touch-screen voting was seven years ago. After the Florida presidential vote recount debacle — which made traditional paper voting, especially the infamous "butterfly" ballots and hanging chads, look positively Third World — electronic voting was embraced as the way back from America's electoral humiliation. Some 50,000 touch-screen machines were bought in 37 states at a cost of almost a quarter of a billion dollars.

 

The reversal since then couldn't be more stunning — as indicated by a bill in Congress introduced this past week by Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, which would ban touch-screen voting (also known as direct recording electronic voting, or DRE) in federal elections starting in 2012. "We have to start setting a goal on this," Nelson tells TIME. "Voters have to feel confident that their ballot will count as intended."

 

After the initial excitement, it didn't take long for voters to lose trust in the new system, as they increasingly deemed DRE too complex, unreliable and insecure; the only thing worse than a confusing paper trail, it turned out, was no paper trail at all. (It didn't help that the main touch-screen machine supplier, Diebold, was widely accused in 2004 of ties to the Republican Party.) Fifteen Florida counties adopted touch-screen as well, and they learned the pitfalls of it the hard way, dealing with controversies like a 2006 congressional race in the Sarasota district, where an astonishing 15% of the ballots cast registered no choice at all — in a race that was decided by a razor-thin margin of 386 votes.

 

As a result, Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist moved immediately after his January inauguration to scrap e-voter machines and return the state to paper by 2008 — to what he and most voter-rights advocates call the more trustworthy optical scan system. In that method, votes are marked on a sheet (which is retained for auditing purposes) and then electronically scanned. That system got a boost late last year when the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, issued a highly critical assessment of touch-screen in favor of optical scanning." I get a receipt when I go to the bank or get gas," Crist told TIME, urging voting methods that provide a paper trail, "so why not for the most precious thing we have, the vote?"

 

Read the Entire Article at Time.com 

The Colbert Experience, at Law
New from National Issues - Federal Election Commission (FEC)
By Bob Bauer   
November 02, 2007

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

 

So the South Carolina Democratic party has concluded that Stephen Colbert may not appear on the Democratic primary ballot. It did not think his candidacy was a laughing matter, and it thought this precisely because the Colbert candidacy was a laughing matter. Colbert could not be serious, hence not a serious candidate; and yet his candidacy was only viable—it really only made sense—if it was not taken seriously. And yet it was serious enough, this candidacy, that the federal campaign finance laws (and the Federal Communications laws) applied with full force and quite seriously.

 

About the law, there was (serious) disagreement. Not everybody was convinced that the media exemption protected his show. Not everybody was convinced that the exemption helped him much: Colbert’s promotion of his own candidacy, night after night on the corporate nickel, might still yield an illegal corporate in-kind contribution. This was all taken very much to heart, except by Colbert, who appreciated that corporations carrying or sponsoring his show intended no such contribution since his own candidacy was farcical—by design.

 

It got funnier. Colbert first sought the counsel of a fine Republican election law firm (Wiley Rein) and was told to be careful. Then he turned for advice to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP)—the oddest of choices for advice on loopholes. He was told that his cause was hopeless:  to campaign with corporate support, he had to break the law, and that was that. 

Read more...
Rep. Holt Applauds Senators Nelson and Whitehouse for Introducing Companion to his Voting Bill
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
By Rep. Rush Holt Press Release   
November 02, 2007
Legislation Would Mandate Voter-Verified Paper Ballots and Routine Random Audits

Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today thanked Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island for introducing an updated Senate version of his legislation to require voting systems to produce a voter-verified paper ballot and mandate routine random audits.

"Senators Nelson and Whitehouse deserve credit for recognizing the need to give Americans confidence that elections are accurate and verifiable. I look forward to working with them to pass this legislation in Congress and send it to the President for his signature. Congress shouldn't wait to protect voters' rights, ensure the accuracy of elections, and increase the confidence of our citizens in their electoral system," Holt said.

Earlier this year, the Committee on House Administration approved the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 811). Holt is working with House Leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
Nelson and Whitehouse Introduce Bill That Would Prohibit DREs in 2012
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
By Warren Stewart, Verified Voting   
November 01, 2007

Download Senator Nelson's Bill

 

Senators Bill Nelson (F-FL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today introduced legislation that would eliminate the use of direct recording electronic voting machines beginning in 2012. The bill, a modified version of The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt in the House (as HR 811) and Senator Nelson in the Senate (as S 559) in February, reflects many of the changes made in HR 811 as it was reported out of the Committee on House Administration last May.

 

The legislation was filed today by Sens. Bill Nelson and Sheldon Whitehouse, following a meeting Nelson had with Florida’s chief elections overseer Kurt Browning. Florida’s secretary of state, Browning, met with Nelson and other lawmakers in the nation’s capital Thursday. “The bottom line is we have to ensure every vote is counted – and, counted properly,” Nelson said.  “Citizens must have confidence in the integrity of their elections.”


The bill was modeled in part on Florida’s recently enacted initiative to prohibit touch screen voting machines, reflects new concerns about the security, accessibility, and reliability of touch screen voting machines raised in studies undertaken by state officials in California, Kentucky, Florida and elsewhere. In particular, the California Secretary of State's "Top to Bottom" Review undertaken earlier this year demonstrated severe security vulnerabilities vulnerabilities in all the direct recording electronic voting machines studied.

In addition to mandating improvements in voting equipment, the bill would require random post-election audits to verify the accuracy of electronic vote totals and probit the use of wireless communication devices and undisclosed voting systems software and source code in voting machines. It also preserves and enhances the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act, requiring that all voting machines provide voters with disabilities the opportunity to verify the accuracy of a permanent paper record of their vote.

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