Election Integrity News - January 3, 2008

In this issue ...

National Stories

Election Software Lost in Transit

No Barking in the Night About the FEC

Sequoia: A Step in the Right Direction

EAC Releases 2006 Election Day Survey Results

Voting Rights Activists Win Big Cases in Florida and Arizona

News From Around the States

Arizona: Judge Orders Election Database Release

Colorado Secretary of State Wants Paper Ballots in Precinct Polling Locations

Colorado: Secretary of State's Campaign Advisers Also Represent E-Voting Firm

Colorado Voter Group Comments on Secretary of State's Decisions

Connecticut: Bysiewicz To Consider Elimination Of Manual Recounts

Look to Minnesota for Vote-Counting Solution

Ohio Study: Scariest E-Voting Security Report Yet

Memo On EVEREST Report and Sec. Brunner's Recommendations

Large Undervotes in Seven Ohio Touch Screen Counties

Pennsylvania: New Voting System Funded

Tennessee: Laptop Theft May Deter Voters

Republicans in Texas County Reject Paperless Primary

Virginia: Election Advocates Urge New Security Measures

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Voting Activists Urge Presidential Candidates to Reject Unverifiable Primaries
by Iowans for Voting Integrity

South Carolina's Voting System Causes Particular Concern

A group of state-based civic organizations has urged Presidential candidates to call for paper ballots in all 2008 primary elections.

In a letter sent to the major Democratic and Republican candidates last week, the groups Georgians for Verified Voting, Iowans for Voting Integrity, the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting, and the South Carolina Progressive Network offered evidence of the unreliability of paperless electronic voting systems, and expressed special concern about the paperless machines to be used statewide in South Carolina's Presidential primaries on January 19 and January 26 (letter attached).

Many of the world's best computer scientists have concluded that paperless e-voting systems are vulnerable to error and fraud,” said  Brett Bursey, director of the South Carolina Progressive Network.  Last year, a task force that included Howard Schmidt, former chief security officer of Microsoft, called strongly for voter-verified paper records of each  vote cast.   Counties in 14 states stand ready to use paperless electronic systems in their primaries (see attachment “Paperless Primary States”).

South Carolina is of particular concern because of its early position in the front-loaded primary calendar, and because the entire state uses a discredited paperless touch screen system, the ES&S iVotronic.  A review ordered by Ohio's top election offical and published December 14 found found “critical security vulnerabilities” in the iVotronic.  Among the problems was a finding that the iVotronic can be manipulated by a person with a magnet and a personal digital assistant. After the Ohio report was published,  Edward Felten, head of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, wrote that the iVotronic is  “too risky to use” in elections. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has recommended scrapping all touch screens, including the iVotronic. Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified the iVotronic on December 17, and also wants to switch his state to a paper ballot system for the November election.

South Carolina has the Ford Pinto of voting systems, “said Bursey.

Even before the Ohio report, the iVotronic was no stranger to controversy. In November, the Republican Party of Wharton County, Texas decided not to use the iVotronic in the March 2008 primary after reports of vote-flipping in the November 2007 elections.  The iVotronic was the machine used in the  2006 Congressional election in Sarasota County, Florida, where an implausible number of undervotes remains unexplained. The iVotronic was also the subject of reports of vote-flipping in a number of states in 2006, including South Carolina.

South Carolina does require that polling places have paper ballots on hand in case of equipment problems, so the state would not necessarily have to start from scratch if it does not use the iVotronic in the primaries.

We respect the burdens election officials face: switching voting methods on short notice is a very big deal, said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity. But it is not acceptable to run Presidential primaries on systems as vulnerable as paperless electronic machines. America's voters deserve a verifiable nominating process.”

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Rep. Holt Introduces Legislation to Establish National Standards for Counting Provisional Ballots
by Michael Martinez, National Journal - December 10, 2007

The House Democrat behind a stalled election overhaul bill is drafting an alternative proposal aimed at preventing chaos from occurring at the polls next year. Rush Holt of New Jersey is prepared to offer an "opt in" measure to give states an opportunity to upgrade their e-voting systems in time for the presidential election.

The details of the plan are still being finalized. Holt is the author of a bill, H.R. 811, that would mandate the nationwide adoption of e-voting machines that produce paper trails. He has introduced similar bills multiple times, none of which have reached the House floor.

The House Administration Committee approved the current legislation in the spring. But the bill has been stalled as supporters work to settle disputes about funding and whether to force the adoption of machines that are less accessible for disabled voters.

Holt's new proposal would authorize federal reimbursement for states that decide they want to offer paper-based options to voters next fall, as well as conduct audits. His staff discussed the proposal with Democratic leaders this month, and he said in a recent telephone interview that he intends to formally introduce it soon.

According to Holt, there is still enough time for states to have new, secure systems in place before next November. He said there are plenty of examples of states that have needed less than a year to complete comprehensive upgrades. Read the Entire Article

Election Software Lost in Transit
by Kim Zetter - December 20, 2007

This article appeared on the wired.com Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

FederalexpresstruckMore than a hundred computer chips containing voting machine software were lost or stolen during transit in California this week.

Two cardboard shipping tubes containing 174 EPROMs loaded with voting machine software were sent via Federal Express on December 13th from the secretary of state's office in Sacramento to election officials in nineteen California counties that use optical-scan voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems.

But on Monday, two shipping tubes arrived empty to one of these counties.

In San Diego County, one of the empty tubes arrived with no lid on the end of it to close the tube; the second tube had a lid, but it was loosely taped shut.

Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the secretary of state's office, says that the California highway patrol and the Sacramento County sheriff's department are investigating whether the chips fell out of the tubes or were stolen.

The chips contained firmware to run the optical-scan equipment that San Diego uses in its central counting office.

According to Winger, new firmware was being shipped to the counties because previous software had been changed following a top-to-bottom review of voting machine software and hardware that the state had recently completed. Read the Entire Article

No Barking in the Night About the FEC
by Bob Bauer - December 20, 2007

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

The Federal Election Commission, a six member body (now under five in number), may pass shortly, and for all practical purposes, out of existence, it now appearing that the Senate cannot agree on the pending nominations.  But another six member body may soon be born,  to enforce not the campaign finance laws but the House ethics code.  A task force established by the Speaker has now produced its recommendations, and this is the surprise of the season: the reform community has much to say about the ethics process and is virtually silent on the troubles of the FEC.

Or perhaps it is not as surprising as all that. The reform community has decided that the FEC, as currently constituted, is not worth the bother.  Not even the prospect  of the federal campaign finance law left unenforced in the middle of an election cycle has moved the reformers to protest.  In this sense, the reformers have made common cause with Mitch McConnell, each wishing to allow the FEC’s demise to speak loudly to their larger points. The reform community wants to make it clear that the FEC is beyond salvation and that the time has come to consider alternatives.  McConnell would go farther and argue that neither this agency nor a more “effective” or “powerful” version is needed or a force for good.  They agree, it seems, on the proposition of most immediate import, which is that they can do without this agency, at this time.

The reformers have now turned their attention to the proposal to establish an independent Office of Congressional Ethics to supplement ethics enforcement.  Their grievance, or the one they have chosen to highlight, is that the Office will not have independent authority to issue subpoenas.  Their fear (or argument) is that without this investigative authority, the Office will not be taken seriously. Witnesses will “stonewall”; investigations will be superficial; wrongdoing will go unaddressed.  Reform organizations would prefer a process that is more like a substitute for, rather than a supplement to, Congress’ own enforcement of its rules: an independent Director rather than Board decision-making, an independent staff, and independent subpoea power.  Congress would be left with a formal role, more or less relegated to passing on the independent Board’s recommendations at the end of the process and under much pressure to do as the Office asked or to explain, defensively, why it would not. Read the Entire Article

Sequoia: A Step in the Right Direction
by Richard Brand and Ilya Shapiro, The Weekly Standard - December 20, 2007

Last Month, Sequoia Voting Systems, the nation's third-largest electronic voting machine maker, announced that the company had been sold to private U.S. investors. This would be an unremarkable transaction except that the seller, Smartmatic Corporation, is a Venezuelan-owned company close to the government of Hugo Chávez. And the sale was forced by a belated investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). But for the unprecedented unwinding of Smartmatic's ownership--which almost did not happen--Chávez would be in a position to influence the outcome of next year's presidential election.

This is not the first time in recent memory that CFIUS, one of the federal government's most secretive entities, has made the news: The Bush administration's decision last year to allow Dubai Ports World (DPW) to operate several U.S. ports also cast a spotlight on it. Though reasonable people can disagree about whether port management would have changed one iota under the ownership of an Arab ally--actually the British affiliate thereof--the decision proved disastrous politically and led to a very rare thing in Washington: real reform.

The Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 (FINSA) went into effect in late October. This new law, which passed with broad bipartisan support, overhauls the previous rules governing CFIUS, a multi-agency committee chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury and tasked with reviewing certain foreign investments for national security concerns.

This august committee, originally created by President Ford's executive order in 1975, receives notices of foreign mergers and acquisitions and decides whether they should further investigate potential security issues. Unless the acquirer acts on behalf of a foreign government, these notifications are voluntary--an acquirer might want an official imprimatur for public relations purposes--though agency members of CFIUS can also call for reviews. CFIUS can block a transaction, however, only if it finds evidence that the controlling foreign entity might use the takeover to threaten national security.

During the past few years, CFIUS has been widely criticized not only for mishandling Smartmatic and DPW, but also for approving the transfer of advanced nuclear technology to China. FINSA fixes several aspects of CFIUS.

For one thing, the legislation makes clear that the committee's mandate to review risks to "national security" encompasses transactions beyond sensitive technologies with potential military application.

Smartmatic had argued that its acquisition of Sequoia was outside the scope of review because voting machines do not directly implicate national security. FINSA leaves no doubt that CFIUS's authority is much broader--and would cover investigations of foreign purchases of such "critical infrastructure" as ports and voting machines. Read the Entire Article at The Weekly Standard

EAC Releases 2006 Election Day Survey Results
by EAC Media Release - December 11, 2007

The United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today voted to adopt the 2006 Election Day Survey, the largest and most comprehensive survey on election administration ever conducted by a U.S. governmental organization.  The commissioners directed EAC staff to edit the presented document for grammar and style and the final survey is available here.

"The report tells us a great deal about voting and elections practices throughout the country," said EAC Chair Donetta Davidson. "EAC thanks the thousands of election officials throughout the country who provided data for this survey. The American people and the cause of democracy will benefit from their participation."

This is the second time that EAC has collected statistics from the States regarding election practices and voting. The report builds and expands on EAC’s 2004 survey through the use of a Web-based survey. The survey provides critical statistics on voter registration and turnout, voting equipment and locations, and other information about the voting process. Read the Entire Article

Voting Rights Activists Win Big Cases in Florida and Arizona
by Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet - December 21, 2007

Arizona: Activists move closer to proving electronic vote count theft.

Florida: A law disenfranchising thousands of new voters is blocked.

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

A series of court decisions this week supporting voting rights advocates in Florida and Arizona may bode well for more open and accountable elections in 2008.

That is because the cases involve major trend-setting aspects of elections: whether you can block new laws that disenfranchise thousands of new voters because of errors in state databases, and whether you can catch partisans who alter electronic vote counts. In both instances, courts sided with voting rights advocates against state and local officials.

The decisions are part of a pattern of recent rulings where draconian state election laws passed immediately after the 2004 election are being overturned. Those laws, passed by Republican-controlled legislatures to stop "voter fraud," or people impersonating other voters, affected voter registration drives and voter ID requirements. The other piece of this pattern is many states, and now a court in Arizona, are demanding new levels of accountability in paperless electronic voting systems.

"I'm optimistic," said Michael Slater of Project Vote, a national, nonpartisan voter registration and voting rights organization. "If you look at what's happening across the country, I see gains ... It's a story that's not being told." Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Arizona: Judge Orders Election Database Release
by Tom Ryan, Arizona Citizens for Fair Elections - December 19, 2007

Download Court Ruling

After a four day trial, Superior Court Judge Michael Miller today ordered the 2006 Primary and General election GEMS database files, both .mdb and .gbf, be released to the Pima County Democratic Party. The Party brought suit after Pima County denied the public records request.

The judge denied the release of ALL past Pima County database files, as requested by the Party. However, he left open the possibility of releasing more database files after analysis of the released files.

The judge recognized that the political parties have a role in observing election and protecting election integrity, and in Pima County, the Elections Division has made a lot of changes in response to recommendations by the Democratic Party. The judge ruled that the election database is just a document containing data and is not part of the GEMS computer program as Pima County had claimed.

The county tried to show that security would be compromised by releasing the databases. The judge concluded that there is a small risk but it is outweighed by the public interest in having additional scrutiny of the election database. He also noted that prior release of other GEMS databases (e.g. Alaska) has had no detrimental effects.

Colorado Secretary of State Wants Paper Ballots in Precinct Polling Locations
by Al Kolwicz, Colorado Voter Group - December 27, 2007

Paper ballots in precinct polling locations is the Colorado SOS's recommendation for 2008, but, before it can happen, SOS Coffman must first stop the Colorado Legislature from changing the law.

Some legislators support those Colorado Clerks who want to override the people's 2002 vote against mandatory mail ballot elections. For clerks, mandatory mail ballot elections are less trouble. Poll watchers cannot see what is happening, and clerks do not need to deal with pesky election judges and private voting booths. Instead of election judges, clerks get to hand-pick temporary workers to perform the election duties - no questions asked. Pure and simple, this is a battle between the clerks and the voters, between fast and cheap vs. verifiably accurate.

Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon is organizing a public event for January 3rd. He will give the public an opportunity to sound off. There will be no discussion. There will be no answers. Colorado officials have done everything possible to avoid direct confrontation with voting system advocates and canvass boards.

Gordon (Dem) lost to Coffman (Rep) in the 2006 Secretary of state election. Coffman is currently running for US Congress. If Coffman wins, the open Secretary of State position will be filled by Governor Bill Ritter (Dem) who is most likely to appoint Ken Gordon. Is there some conflict of interest going on here?

Colorado Voter Group has submitted a one page framework for the 2008 elections. It calls voting with paper ballots in polling locations, absentee and early voting using paper ballots, minimum number of DRE voting machines with the requirement that the electronic ballots be discarded and the printed votes on the VVPAT be duplicated onto paper ballots. It calls for significantly intensified verification and auditing to support the counting of votes by hand or by optical scan equipment.

We are focusing on transparency and verifiability of every step. By detecting security and accuracy faults, we hope to minimize the effect of faulty DRE and optical scan equipment.

Colorado: Secretary of State's Campaign Advisers Also Represent E-Voting Firm
by Myung Oak Kim and Lynn Bartels, Rocky Mountain News - December 20, 2007

The political consulting company running Secretary of State Mike Coffman's congressional campaign also was working for a voting machine manufacturer when Coffman gave that company's devices his seal of approval on Monday.

Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, was the only one of four voting machine companies to have all of its equipment conditionally approved for use in 2008 elections. Premier hired Phase Line Strategies, a Highlands Ranch consulting firm, in September to lobby on its behalf, records show.

Phase Line also is running Coffman's campaign to take over U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo's 6th Congressional District seat. Coffman said he hired Phase Line in November but has been talking to them since the summer.

"This is an outrageous conflict of interest," said Paul Hultin, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit that resulted in Coffman's certification process. Hultin said Premier's machines are known to be flawed and there was no credible basis for Coffman to certify them. "This explains what was going on," he said.

Coffman and a Phase Line official both deny that Premier got any special consideration in the lengthy review of Colorado's electronic voting systems. "There was absolutely no outside influences that affected any of my decisions on the vendors," Coffman said Wednesday night.

Chris Riggall, spokesman for Premier, said the company found out Wednesday night about Phase Line's connection to Coffman. "That was certainly news to us and of great concern to us . . . and effective tonight that relationship is terminated," he said.

"Oh my God!" said Claudia Kuhns, executive director of the Voter Integrity Project, an advocacy group that pushes for accurate and verifiable elections. "I thought (the certification process) was politically capricious before but now I really do. "When you have a situation where there's the appearance of impropriety, it really causes one to be completely distrustful of the entire process." Read the Entire Article at Rocky Mountain News

Colorado Voter Group Comments on Secretary of State's Decisions
by Colorado Voter Group - December 20, 2007

After being forced to recertify suspect voting equipment by concerned public citizens, the Colorado Department of State decertified four models of paper-ballot vote counting equipment, and three models of electronic-ballot voting equipment.

This decision has created a major problem for county clerks and for electors in the 2008 primary and general elections. Many Colorado counties are affected by this decision.

The Secretary of State announced his intentions to seek changes to get around current Colorado law. These changes would allow him to (1) use California's certification for equipment that failed Colorado's tests; (2) waive the requirement for retesting equipment when "small" changes are made to the equipment; and (3) permit county clerks to request recertification and to appeal certification rejections.

There are several things wrong with the Secretary's plans. Coloradans have no influence over California tests. To bypass testing can be a road to disaster. Colorado electors have been excluded from the discussion to date, and the Secretary made no reference to including them now. Read the Entire Article

Connecticut: Bysiewicz To Consider Elimination Of Manual Recounts
posted at Posted at CTVotersCount.org. - December 1, 2007

Last year the Connecticut Legislature passed PA 07-194 mandating audits of the optical scan machines. Last year, Secretary of the State, Susan Bysiewicz promised advocates that regulations would mandate that recounts be manual recounts and did not need to be included in the law. Now with less than half the mandated audits complete, according to the New London Day she is reconsidering that promise. Just one example of why it is not safe to rely on regulations and procedures to accomplish what should be in the law: <read>

Bysiewicz said if those results continue, she would recommend that future recounts be done by feeding the ballots into a different optical scanner from the one used during the election. Election workers would have to count only ballots that could not be read by the machines.

It seems she may not recommend that change for audits, just for recounts. But don’t voters have even more interest in seeing that their votes were counted as intended in a recanvass?

The audits were specifically designed and specifically mandated to answer the question, how does the voter know the machine counted their vote the way they intended,” Bysiewicz said. “The only way to do that is to hand-count them.

Recall that races involved in recounts are currently exempted from audit. So, without action by the legislature, the most important races to verify would by law be exempted from a hand verification.

Also the current state law does not give audit observers the right to visibly see the ballots such that they can visibly verify that the marks on the ballot are counted correctly. Indeed, how is a voter to know. Maybe by ‘faith’ when the ballots are ‘independently’ counted by the local election staff conducting the election?

“It is important voters have faith that their vote will be recorded accurately,” Mrs. Bysiewicz said, “and that’s why the independent audits are so vital.” <source>

Look to Minnesota for Vote-Counting Solution
by Edwar B. Foley, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University - December 19, 2007

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is concerned that computers used to count ballots at precincts are vulnerable to hacking. In a major report released last Friday, she recommends instead counting ballots centrally at Ohio's 88 county boards of election. Whatever the risk of hacking, however, it is a mistake to eliminate the counting of ballots at local precincts.

Ballots have been known to go missing during transport from precinct to main office. In the old days, ballot boxes sometimes would end up in the river. In 2006, during the much-troubled May primary in Cuyahoga County, election officials misplaced 70 cartridges containing the votes from 200 precincts.

A better way to address Brunner's concern would be to count ballots twice, first at the precincts and then again after they've arrived at headquarters. That way, if ballots were lost en route, voters would not be disenfranchised.

The general point is that we should rely on recounts, or audits, to address our concerns about potential counting errors, including those caused by software sabotage. There are different types of recounts, machine and manual, as well as different types of audits. A mandatory audit of 10 percent of precincts, no matter how close the margin of victory, is obviously stricter than an initial audit of only 3 percent of precincts unless the result is close enough to require a more rigorous review.

Given the concerns raised by Brunner's report, as well as the potential significance of Ohio to the 2008 presidential election, it would be appropriate to plan an especially rigorous audit of next November's election.

Read the Entire Editorial at the Columbus Dispatch 

Ohio Study: Scariest E-Voting Security Report Yet
by Ed Felten, Princeton University - December 18, 2007

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

The State of Ohio released the report of a team of computer scientists it commissioned to study the state’s e-voting systems. Though it’s a stiff competition, this may qualify as the scariest e-voting study report yet.

This was the first detailed study of the ES&S iVotronic system, which up to now had been the only major system to have avoided such study. The study found many ways to subvert ES&S systems.

The ES&S system, like its competitors, is subject to viral attacks that can spread from one voting machine to others, and to the central vote tabulation systems.

Anyone with access to a machine can re-calibrate the touchscreen to affect how the machine records votes (page 50):

A terminal can be maliciously re-calibrated (by a voter or poll worker) to prevent voting for certain candidates or to cause voter input for one candidate to be recorded for another.

Worse yet, the system’s access control can be defeated by a poll worker or an ordinary voter, using only a small magnet and a PDA or cell phone (page 50). Read the Entire Article

Memo On EVEREST Report and Sec. Brunner's Recommendations
by Lawrence Norden, Chair of the Brennan Center Task Force on Voting System Security - December 18, 2007

Download testimony

Last week, Ohio Secretary of State Brunner released an analysis of Ohio’s voting systems that showed them to have major security and reliability flaws.  Secretary Brunner should be commended for initiating this study and helping jump start a conversation about how Ohio can best secure its elections and make sure that all eligible citizens are able to vote.  

Unfortunately, missing from much of the coverage of the report is the fact that some of Secretary Brunner’s recommendations to address the voting system security flaws have been met with a good deal of dismay in the voting rights and election integrity communities.  These groups believe Brunner’s  recommendations could result in the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters (disproportionately poor, elderly and minority) AND at the same time create new security and reliability risks.

In particular, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and other state and national groups have taken issue with the following recommendations:

• • Eliminate counting of votes at polling places and move to central count.  There are at least two problems with this proposal.

First, this could eliminate the overvote protection voters get at the polling place (the machines reject ballots where voters have cast a vote for more than one candidate).  This is estimated to have saved about one million votes in 2004, disproportionately among minorities and low income voters.

Second, counting all votes in a central location without the benefit of precinct totals is a recipe for massive error, particularly if there is no post-election audit (which is not part of the Secretary’s recommendations).  A programming error, software glitch or insider attack on a central scanner could result in incorrect totals on a massive scale, in a way that is far less likely to occur if votes are first tallied at individual precincts. Read the Entire Memo

Large Undervotes in Seven Ohio Touch Screen Counties
by Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity - December 9, 2007

2006 Undervotes Much Higher than 2002 and 1998

Update: A representative of Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections Ohio , Pete  Johnson, reports that he has investigated the undervotes in six of these seven counties, and that the undervotes resulted from the abentee ballot scanners in these counties reading two-page absentee ballots as two voters, which resulted in a distorted turnout report. The Secretary of State's office has not yet updated the official 2006 results on their website.  Mr. Johnson reports that estimated correct undervotes for US Senator and Governor are in line with other counties in the state in 2006, in the 2-4% range. - Sean Flaherty

In November 2006, seven Ohio counties that used the Diebold TSx touch screen voting machine for the first time had remarkably high undervotes for all statewide offices, from US Senator to State Auditor.  The TSx is the same machine that Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner seeks to replace in Cuyahoga County, following problems in last month's elections.

Last year in Adams, Carroll, Darke, Highland, Mercer, Montgomery, and Perry counties, the lowest residual vote rate for any statewide office was 12.7%. The group's 2006 residual rates were much higher than their rates for the same offices in 2002 and 1998, before they adopted the TSx as the primary voting system. Because the TSx is designed to reject overvotes automatically, these residual vote rates likely reflect undervotes.

These undervotes also stand out in comparison to the rest of Ohio in 2006. For Governor and US Senator, the residual vote rate outside this group of seven counties was a maximum of 7%.  Ohio's counties used a number of different voting systems in 2006. 47 counties used the Diebold TSx, 10 used the ES&S iVotronic, 3 used blended systems of optically scanned paper ballots with touch screens for accessibility, and 28 used an optical scan system with the AutoMARK ballot-marking device. Counties that used the paper ballot system and those that used iVotronic had consistently lower undervotes. The iVotronic is now notorious for incidents of vote-flipping, security weaknesses, and its association with an implausible undervote rate in the Sarasota, Florida election. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: New Voting System Funded
by David Singleton, Times Tribune staff writer - January 1, 2008

Lackawanna County taxpayers will catch a huge break on the acquisition of new voting machines.

The state Department of State agreed Monday to reimburse the county up to $1.7 million to help pay for a new voting system for the April 22 primary to replace the Advanced Voting Solutions electronic machines that were decertified last week.

Similar offers will be extended to Wayne and Northampton counties, which also have the now useless AVS touch-screen devices, Department of State spokeswoman Leslie Amoros said.

The announcement of the state’s decision came late Monday afternoon from the transition office of Democratic Commissioner Mike Washo and Commissioner-elect Corey O’Brien, who will become the majority on Jan. 7.

“This is a victory for all the taxpayers,” Mr. O’Brien said at a hastily arranged news conference, where he and Mr. Washo were joined by attorneys Lawrence Moran and Gerard Karam, who have been working on the voting machine issue for the transition team,.

According to a letter to Mr. Moran and Mr. Karam from Harry VanSickle, who heads the state Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation, the department will reimburse the county for the procurement of a new voting system up to the invoice price of its AVS system.

In 2006, Lackawanna County purchased 500 electronic voting machines from AVS for $1.7 million. The new machines were necessary to bring the county into compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, which barred the use of the mechanical lever machines voters had used since 1930. Read the Entire rticle at the Scranton Times Tribune 

 
Tennessee: Laptop Theft May Deter Voters
by Colby Sledge, Tennesseean staff writer - January 2, 2008

Political watchdogs fear possible breach may cause public to cast doubt, not ballots

The theft of computers containing personal information of all registered Davidson County voters could hurt voter turnout in upcoming elections, a political watchdog group says.

Laptop computers stolen from the Davidson County Election Commission over the Christmas holiday may contain voters' Social Security numbers along with other personal information, potentially putting more than 337,000 registered Davidson County voters at risk of identity theft.

That could persuade potential voters in the upcoming presidential primaries to avoid the process altogether, according to Deborah Narrigan, a member of the watchdog group Common Cause Tennessee.

"If you can't trust that the commission can safely handle your Social Security number, it would raise doubts for a lot of people about its ability to secure other parts of the voting process," Narrigan said.

Read the Entire Article at the Nashville Tennessean

Republicans in Texas County Reject Paperless Primary
by Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity - December 2, 2007

But Voters in South Carolina and 12 Other States Will Vote on Paperless Voting Machines

The Republican Party of Wharton County, Texas has decided that the the ES&S iVotronic is not reliable enough to use in its March 2008 primary election. Wharton County Republican Party chairwoman Debra Medina announced that the party's 22 precinct chairs had agreed to use voter-marked paper ballots counted by optical scanners.

The iVotronic will also be used statewide in the South Carolina Presidential primaries on January 19 and January 26. Counties in 10 other states will also use the iVotronic in next years' primaries.

The Wharton County Republicans' decision followed an incident in the November 7 election in which a local businessman tried to vote on one proposed constitutional amendment, and saw his previous vote for another proposed amendment change before his eyes.

The iVotronic is the same voting machine that recorded an implausible number of undervotes in a 2006 Florida Congressional election, and thereby influenced Florida's decision to abandon direct-recording electronic voting. The machine has become notorious for elections with abnormally high undervotes, vote-flipping on both the review screen and the selection screen, lost votes, and added votes.

Read the Entire Article

Virginia: Election Advocates Urge New Security Measures
by Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia - December 21, 2007

The Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia (VVCV) will seek new legislation this year to provide meaningful recounts in close elections and to ensure that new paper-based election systems are audited for accuracy.

In hallmark legislation last year, the General Assembly banned further purchases of touchscreen voting machines, known as direct record electronic, or DRE, machines. The machines have been shown to be vulnerable to manipulation and error, and do not permit voters to verify that their choices have been correctly recorded. The decision to phase out DREs puts Virginia in line with a number of other states that have recently decided to abandon DREs in the face of security concerns.

Local Virginia jurisdictions that use DREs are expected to replace them over the next few years with optical scanners that read paper ballots. The scanners tally the votes, and the paper ballots are retained as a “paper trail.” But there are currently no requirements for anyone to examine the paper trail—and that, say VVCV members, is a critical next step.

Optical scanning is a more secure, less expensive, and voter-verifiable technology,” says Jeremy Epstein, a nationally-recognized expert in election machine security and a co-founder of Virginia Verified Voting, one of the coalition members. “But the point of having a paper trail is to look at the paper. Any machine can make errors, and some can potentially be tampered with. So until you actually have a system in place to audit a small, randomly-selected set of machines by comparing the machine tallies with the paper ballots, voters still can’t have confidence in the integrity of the vote count.” Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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