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VotePA Statement on Allegheny County Software Testing
New from States - Pennsylvania
By VotePA   
October 22, 2008
For more information visit VotePA.
Click here for PDF of this statement

On Monday October 20,, Allegheny County announced that it had tested and verified the firmware on a random sample of eighteen of its ES&S iVotronic voting machines. The tests were said to be conducted at the County's elections warehouse on Saturday and Monday under the supervision of County Election officials following protocols developed in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The County said the actual testing was done by SysTest Labs, which is the private consulting firm that performed the original testing of the iVotronic to the 2002 "federal" standards, allowing its current certification in Pennsylvania and other states.

While VotePA commends officials in Allegheny County and at the Pennsylvania Department of State for at least making an effort to help assure that this software-dependent voting equipment is ready to accurately record votes in this historic election, we believe these tests were limited and flawed by several problems with the way they were performed.

First and foremost, all testing of voting equipment should be done publicly, but the public was never informed of Allegheny County's software testing or permitted to observe it in any way. This is wrong. Citizens have a right to see and follow the process of how our elections are run. Tests of voting machines that are done in secret as these were, with citizens having no knowledge or opportunity to observe, simply do not inspire public confidence in the electoral process. At worst secret testing may even undermine the public's trust in election results.
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North Carolina: Attorney General Cooper Wins $100,000 from Voter Group for Robo Calls
New from States - North Carolina
By North Carolina Department of Justice   
October 22, 2008
Some voters confused by Women's Voices Women Vote robo calls

A group that made political telemarketing calls that did not comply with North Carolina law has agreed to pay $100,000 in penalties and is barred from operating in the state before the November election, Attorney General Roy Cooper said Wednesday.

The group, Women's Voices Women Vote, began calling people in North Carolina shortly before the May primary election.  The prerecorded calls, also known as robo calls, told people that they would soon receive voter registration forms in the mail, which they should fill out and submit.  But the deadline to register by mail had passed, and some call recipients already were registered to vote, causing confusion.

Political robo calls are prerecorded telephone calls made by candidates, campaigns and advocacy groups using automated dialers.  Under state law, political campaigns and non-profits making prerecorded calls must identify who is making the call, the nature of the call, and provide contact information for the group that makes the call.

The calls did not identify Women's Voices Women Vote or tell how to contact them, so people who were confused by the robo calls were not able to ask for clarification.
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Attention Voters: Here's What You Have to Do to Make Sure You Get to Vote
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet   
October 21, 2008
Voters should verify their voter registrations are current and then vote early to avoid Election Day delays at polling places.

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

Ignore the partisan attacks on new voters and voter registration groups. Call your county election office to ensure your registration information is correct. Vote early to avoid Election Day delays, or use an absentee ballot if you know how to fill one out.

For those voting on Election Day, know where your polling place is located, what ID to bring (especially new voters) and expect lines. Call an election protection hotline if there is trouble. But be confident that you will vote if you have followed your state's registration laws.

These are the messages from voting rights advocates as the partisan attacks on 2008's newest voters and voter drives continue with two weeks to go before Election Day.

"People should not be worried," said Tova Wang, vice president for research at Common Cause, "but they should educate themselves. For the overwhelming majority of people, there will be no problem ... But people should not let any tactic that is intended to discourage them from voting stop them."

"I would verify my registration," said Gerry Hebert, executive director of Washington's Campaign Legal Center and a former Voting Section chief at the Justice Department. "I would vote early… I would consider absentee voting. The only caution against that (means of voting) is if you make a mistake, you might not get to correct it."

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New York Times: The Acorn Story
New from National Issues - Voting Rights
By New York Times   
October 18, 2008
This editorial appeared in the New York Times on October 16, 2008.

In Wednesday night’s debate, John McCain warned that a group called Acorn is “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history” and “may be destroying the fabric of democracy.” Viewers may have been wondering what Mr. McCain was talking about. So were we.

Acorn is a nonprofit group that advocates for low- and moderate-income people and has mounted a major voter-registration drive this year. Acorn says that it has paid more than 8,000 canvassers who have registered about 1.3 million new voters, many of them poor people and members of racial minorities.

In recent weeks, the McCain campaign has accused the group of perpetrating voter fraud by intentionally submitting invalid registration forms, including some with fictional names like Mickey Mouse and others for voters who are already registered.

Based on the information that has come to light so far, the charges appear to be wildly overblown — and intended to hobble Acorn’s efforts.
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Insecurities and Inaccuracies of the Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.00H DRE Voting Machine
New from Vendors - Sequoia Voting Systems
By Andrew W. Appel, Maia Ginsburg, Harri Hursti, Brian W. Kernighan, Christopher Richards,Gang Tan   
October 18, 2008
The AVC Advantage voting machine is made by Sequoia Voting Systems and has been used in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and other states. Pursuant to a Court Order in New Jersey Superior Court, we examined this voting machine as well as its computer program code. On October 17, 2008 the Court permitted us to release to the public a redacted version of our report.

Public Report: Insecurities and Inaccuracies of the Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.00H DRE Voting Machine (click here) This report was originally submitted to the Court on September 2 in the form of an expert-witness report by Andrew W. Appel. The Court has released this redacted version to the public. The version we release here, linked in boldface above, is the same as the Court's redacted version, but with a few introductory paragraphs about the court case, Gusciora v. Corzine.

Videos: Videos will be available soon, pending approval by the Court.

Frequently Asked Questions

What you need to know:

The AVC Advantage contains a computer. If someone installs a different computer program for that computer to run, it can deliberately add up the votes wrong. It's easy to make a computer program that steals votes from one party's candidates, and gives them to another, while taking care to make the total number of votes come out right. It's easy to make this program take care to cheat only on election day when hundreds of ballots are cast, and not cheat when the machine is being tested for accuracy. This kind of fraudulent computer program can modify every electronic "audit trail" in the computer. Without voter-verified paper ballots, it's extremely hard to know whether a voting machine (such as the AVC Advantage) is running the right program.

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South Carolina Attorney General Asked for Opinion on Emergency Ballots
New from States - South Carolina
By SC Progressive Network   
October 17, 2008
At the urging of the SC Progressive Network, state legislators have requested that SC Attorney General Henry McMaster issue an opinion on the state statute regulating emergency ballots at polling places.

"After the failure of many of the voting computers in Horry County during the January 19, 2008 Republican presidential primary, where many voters were turned away from the polls, we found that no law requires precincts to have emergency paper ballots," said Network Director Brett Bursey. Horry County election official Lisa Bourcier reported that "80-90 percent" of the county's more than 300 machines malfunctioned. Voters in many of the county's 118 precincts were told to come back later, on a cold and rainy day, because emergency paper ballots ran out shortly after the polls opened and the machines failed to operate.

Rep. Tracy Edge, a McCain campaign official, reported that his mother-in-law was only the 12th person to vote in her precinct, and that she was given a blank piece of paper because they didn't have emergency ballots. State Election Commission spokesperson Chris Whitmire was widely quoted as telling people to vote on "paper towels" if necessary.
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Rep. Holt Statement on New Jersey Voting Report
New from Vendors - Sequoia Voting Systems
By U.S. Representative Rush Holt   
October 17, 2008
U.S. Representative Holt commended the New Jersey Superior Court for releasing today a redacted copy of the voting machine inspection report, "Insecurities and Inaccuracies of the Sequoia AVC Advantage 9.00 DRE Voting Machine."    

"As I indicated last week when the report was withheld at the request of New Jersey's voting system vendor, if it indicated that the voting equipment was reliable Sequoia would have been eager to see it published," Holt said.  "Now we know why the vendor wanted the report suppressed." 

Among other things, the report concluded that:

*    "Anomalies noticed by County Clerks in the New Jersey 2008 Presidential Primary were caused by two different programming errors on the part of Sequoia, and had the effect of disenfranchising voters."

*    "New Jersey should not use any version of the AVC Advantage that it has not actually examined with the assistance of skilled computer-security experts."

*    "The AVC Advantage's susceptibility to installation of a fraudulent vote-counting program is far more than an imperfection: it is a fatal flaw."

*    "The AVC Advantage is too insecure to use in New Jersey. New Jersey should immediately implement the 2005 law passed by the Legislature, requiring an individual voter-verified record of each vote cast, by adopting precinct-count optical-scan voting equipment."
    
"The State should take whatever action it can to detect and remedy these and other vulnerabilities and to provide back-up measures in time for the November election," Holt said.

Holt previously has urged the Secretary of State to deploy emergency back-up ballots to be used and counted as regular ballots in the election.

The emergency back-up paper ballots would be offered to voters if there is an apparent malfunction of the machines on Election Day. If an error is subtle and undetected, the voter would not be given the alternative
of an emergency back-up paper ballot. The voter can avoid using suspect voting machines by requesting and using an absentee paper ballot, by mail or in person, per regular absentee voting procedures.
States Get Mixed Reviews on Readiness for Voting Machine Problems
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Common Cause, Brennan Center, Verified Voting   
October 17, 2008
Citing Improvements, Election Experts Call for Backup Measures to Secure the Vote on Nov 4th

With millions of Americans expected to confront an array of voting technologies on Nov. 4, today election administration experts from the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and Verified Voting issued a 50-state report card that grades each state on its preparedness for election system breakdowns and offers concrete steps election officials can take in the weeks before the election to make sure every vote is counted accurately. The report, Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008, finds that many states have made dramatic improvements in their voting systems, but nevertheless urges election officials to have backup measures in place – like emergency paper ballots and sound ballot counting procedures – to ensure the integrity of the vote.

“There’s no question that in the last few years, election officials around the country have made dramatic improvements that will make it much less likely that voters are disenfranchised due to voting system failures,” said Lawrence Norden, director of the Voting Technology Project at the Brennan Center. “Unfortunately, there is still much work to be done to ensure that every voter will get to vote and every vote will be counted if something goes wrong with voting systems on Election Day,” he stated.

Is America Ready to Vote? evaluates each state by four criteria: procedures for issuing emergency paper ballots, reconciling ballot tallies, providing paper records of votes cast, and post-election audits. The report reveals a broad range of preparedness across the country to address Election Day voting system meltdowns.
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Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacker? Wurzebacher? Wurzelbacher?
New from States - Ohio
By Maggie Barron, Brennan Center for Justice   
October 16, 2008
This article was posted at the Brennan Center's Blog and is reposted here with permission.

Joe the Plumber appeared in last night's debate as a symbol of Ohio's "everyman." He is also now a symbol of the "everyman" whose name is misspelled in government databases. Or, for voter-fraud enthusiasts, an example of yet another type of voter who should be challenged or removed from the rolls.

After his debut on the national stage as a skeptical swing voter, reporters checking up on Joe could not find his voter registration record. That's because his last name, Wurzelbacher, is misspelled in state databases.

According to the latest ruling from Ohio, the 200,000 newly registered voters whose names do not match government databases will have their names turned over to local election officials, where they will be at risk of being illegally removed from registration lists, or challenged at the polls on Election Day.

These 200,000 voters make up one third of all of Ohio's new registrations since January.

Normally, when new registrants' information does not match, the state takes further steps to verify them and correct errors. This ruling bypasses that process and delivers lists of mis-matches directly to local elections offices. According to today's New York Times, "[o]nce the local officials have the names, they may require these voters to cast provisional ballots rather than regular ones, and they may ask partisan poll workers to challenge these voters on Election Day."

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has filed an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court.

Fortunately, Joe has voted before, so his registration appears not to be at risk. But for the 200,000 others, these data-entry errors could mean they may face major challenges on Election Day.
Thirty-four Counties in Kentucky to Use New Voting Equipment
New from States - Kentucky
By Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson   
October 14, 2008
Voters in thirty-four counties across Kentucky will vote for the first time during a general election on new digital scan voting systems.  The system provides a voter verified paper record, something Secretary of State Trey Grayson has encouraged counties to consider when they adopt voting systems.

“This new equipment is user-friendly and provides voters with a very important tool in today’s elections—a voter verified paper record,” said Secretary of State Trey Grayson.  “I applaud the County Clerks and Fiscal Courts in these counties for taking the lead in moving to these systems.”

Seven counties first used the new systems during the May primary election and the reviews from voters, precinct officials, and county clerks alike were outstanding.

The equipment, called eScans, is a precinct-based voting system that digitally captures voter selections on printed ballots and integrates vote totals from absentee-by-mail and electronic voting systems to produce a single set of election reports.  In fact, over 90 counties in Kentucky already use the machines for absentee balloting.  The new systems should help reduce the time for unofficial vote totals to be tabulated on election night.
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