Election Integrity News - January 11, 2007

This Week's Quote: “Voting machines are different from other things bought by a government. In purchasing voting equipment, election officials must rely heavily on the integrity, honesty and reliability of the vendor selling them this equipment." Gary Greenhalgh, Vice President, Election Systems and Software (ES&S),

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Download The Report on E-Voting in the 2006 Mid-Term Elections


In this issue ...

National Stories

The Ciber Report? The EAC Now Admits It Really Exists

Ciber Not Given Interim Accreditation, Part 1

Hunter and Rodriguez Nominated for the Election Assistance Commission

ES&S Criticizes U.S. Congresswoman

Parliamentary Inquiry Concerning Florida's 13th District Election is First Action of 110th Congress

News From Around the States

California: E-voting Critic Tapped as Deputy Secretary of State

Report on Denver Electronic Pollbook Problems

Taking an Election Seriously, in Florida‚s Thirteenth

Iowa General Assembly Urged to Upgrade Election Procedures

New York: Undoing a Done Deal

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Voting System Certification: Who‚s Minding the Store?
by Howard Stanislevic, VoteTrustUSA E-Voter Education Project

In Jan. 2005 at a meeting of the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), Resolution # 27-05 was passed in an attempt to close a giant loophole in the federal voting system qualification standards. These standards are known as the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), although they are voluntary only in the sense that the States are free to disregard them and develop their own standards if they so choose.

The loophole, which appears in Volume II, Appendix B.5 of the 2002 version of the guidelines states that any uncorrected deficiency observed in the qualification test results that does not involve the loss or corruption of voting data is not necessarily cause for rejection of a voting system. This loophole means that the EAC and the nongovernmental agency that qualified voting systems to these standards through July, 2006, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), were free to disregard any part of these standards, except for the accuracy (error rate) spec which is also a statutory requirement of Section 301 of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

The TGDC’s resolution recommended either the deletion of any requirements frequently not met by voting systems, or the closure of the loophole that allowed certification of non-compliant systems in the first place. Curiously nearly two years later, in the new version of the standards (which HAVA required the EAC to develop), the loophole still exists. This raises the question of which voting systems, theoretically qualified to the standards, might in fact not comply with the standards, and to what extent. Since the certification process is largely a clandestine one, this remains an open research question.

Meanwhile, certain high profile “hacks” of the Diebold Accuvote touch screen and optical scan systems, as well as hardware and software problems which caused the former machines to crash frequently, have indicated that at least one vendor is not in compliance. Michael Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University and adviser to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on electronic voting, said of the AccuVoteTS DRE’s security flaw reported last year by Finnish computer scientist Harri Hursti was so bad that, "Any losing candidate could challenge the election by saying, 'How do I know that the software on the machine is the software certified by the state?'"

Revelations about other vendors’ noncompliance may follow, but the question also arises as to whether NASED has been giving voting systems that do not comply with the standards a pass by using the loophole that the EAC has preserved for itself and whether the so-called “Independent Testing Authority” (ITA) laboratories have been failing to adequately test systems in accordance with those standards. The experience of one state (New York) with one ITA (Ciber, Inc.) may shed some light on these questions.

Despite copious evidence of electronic voting problems across the country, New York has been roundly criticized even by some of its own legislators, for being the last state in the nation to fully comply with HAVA. A remedial order by the judge in the Dept. of Justice’s lawsuit against the state required New York to produce a plan to replace its lever machine voting systems with HAVA-compliant voting systems at each polling place by Sept. 2007. The state complied by producing a detailed schedule for certification of both direct recording electronic voting systems and optical scan electronic vote counting systems in addition to some previously state certified electronic paper ballot marking devices for voters with disabilities.

(continued below)

The state had chosen Ciber, Inc. to conduct certification testing on its behalf including the production of two project plans known as the Master Test Plan and the Security Master Test Plan. New York requires voting systems to comply with State Election Laws, the EAC’s 2005 VVSG and Voting System Standards issued by the State Board of Elections.

The state also hired NYSTEC, a nonprofit spin-off from the US Air Force's Research Laboratory at Rome, NY, to conduct an independent review of Ciber’s Security Master Test Plan.

- a requirement for voting systems to not include any device or functionality potentially capable of externally transmitting or receiving data via the Internet, radio waves or other wireless means;
- a requirement for the voting system software not to contain any ‘viruses’, ‘worms’, ‘time bombs’, and ‘drop dead’ devices that may cause the voting system to cease functioning properly at a future time;
- a requirement for voting systems to provide a means by which ballot definition code may be positively verified to ensure that it corresponds to the format of the ballot face and the election configuration. Furthermore, Ciber’s Security Master Test Plan did not specify any test methods or procedures for the majority of requirements. Ciber stated that these would be provided in another phase of the project.

On Nov. 2, 2006, amidst continuing delays in the certification process, NYSTEC issued a second report entitled “Analysis of Changes to the Electronic Voting Machine Implementation Timeline”. Here are selected excerpts from that report:

During late August and September 2006, SBOE worked with the selected Security Testing Vendor (CIBER) to firm up a schedule for creating security testing plans and security certification testing….SBOE continued to hold weekly status meetings to monitor the timeline and continually followed up with each voting machine vendor to request the necessary equipment, software, documentation, and funding for testing. Despite repeated phone calls, emails, and letters, not one voting machine vendor was able to send in a complete submission during August and September.

Unanticipated delays in completing security test plans. In spite of the delay in deciding what machines would be tested, the prime security vendor, CIBER, began creating a draft security master test plan, which was scheduled to be completed by 9/14/06. The timeline assumption was that CIBER would include all required security regulations in its first draft so the independent review would not need to recommend substantial changes. This did not turn out to be the case. NYSTEC recommended a substantial number of security requirement additions to both the security master test plan and the overall master test plan (which covered both non-security and security test plans). The timeline assumption was three days for CIBER to make final revisions. CIBER actually completed the next security test plan revision on 10/9/06, taking 9 days.

NYSTEC did a second independent review of what was thought to be the final version of the security master test plan and noted that a large number of security requirements were still missing. During a conference call with SBOE, CIBER, and NYSTEC to discuss the situation on 10/11/06, it was decided that CIBER would travel to Albany the following week to work with NYSTEC for two solid days to resolve the document deficiencies. During these meetings, on 10/18 and 10/19, NYSTEC documented and discussed more than 200 security requirements that still needed to be added to the latest documents. CIBER estimated the changes would be completed by 10/24. The latest revision was received on 10/25 and is currently being reviewed by NYSTEC. The initial estimate for making final revisions to the master security test plan was three days. So far, it has taken 18 days (9/28 to 10/24), and NYSTEC is still checking to be sure that the latest revision includes all necessary security regulations. Also during the two-day meeting and subsequent discussions between CIBER and NYSTEC, a new timeline for security planning and testing was created.

Because of the delay in identifying what machines to test and the amount of time it actually took to finalize a master test plan, the ending date for security certification has now moved from the 12/12/06 estimate in the revised timeline (in September 2006) to February 2007.
All of the above took place before New York learned of the EAC’s recent denial of interim certification to Ciber.

Unlike NASED and the EAC, the New York State Board of Elections has actually been requiring compliance with the voting system standards and not invoking the giant loophole noted above. This experience shows that when voting system laws and regulations are actually taken seriously, the certification process is a lot more rigorous than what the ITAs have become accustomed to while working only for the vendors with only election integrity advocates minding the store. Permalink

National Stories

The Ciber Report? The EAC Now Admits It Really Exists
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org - January 9, 2007

Contradictions seem to be flowing from the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). In an article dated 6 January ("Testing Lab Failure Leads To Obfuscation By The Election Assistance Commission" The Journal News (NY) was quoted:

New York officials said they read in a published report that the Election Assistance Commission has known since last summer that there were inadequacies with the way Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., was performing tests on machines and documenting results.
"At the present time, until we get that report in our hands and have a chance to review it, I can't comment myself that we are fully comfortable that all of those issues have been addressed," said Peter Kosinski, co-executive director of the state Board of Elections.

But Commissioner Gracia Hillman of the Election Assistance Commission said Thursday there is no such report.

I then asked two simple questions: "No such report? If there is no report on the testing procedures used by Ciber, on what basis did the EAC refuse to accredit them?"

It turns out that Commissioner Hillman was wrong. There is a report. In fact there seems to be a lot of paperwork and that paperwork was the basis for the lack of accreditation.

Read the Entire Article

Ciber Not Given Interim Accreditation, Part 1
by John Washburn, VoteTrustUSA Voting Technology Task Force - December 22, 2006

The story in the New York Times that Ciber Labs failed to be accredited by the EAC for their interim certification rules simultaneously stuns me and frustrates me. That Ciber has not been performing the work it was contracted to do is very old news to me. It is somewhat frustrating to see this breathlessly reported as something new. The thing that stunned me though was the Ciber portion of the Ciber/Wyle team failed to meet the requirements of the EAC interim accreditation. How can that be?

In this, the first of a two articles I will discuss the interim certification process of the EAC. I will endeavor to make this rather dry topic interesting. The second article discusses the lack of work by the Ciber/Wyle team. which I documented over the 18 months ago here in Wisconsin.

EAC Interim Process

Any discussion of the EAC Interim Accreditation process, unfortunately, cannot begin unless you first discuss the two accreditation process it is between. The first process is the NASED qualification process administered by the private trade group, the National Association of State Election Directors, and the second,yet to be implemented, EAC/NIST accreditation process to be administered by the Election Assistance Commission with substantial support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The additional rigor from the NIST/NVLAP program would mean its initial accreditation of lab would not be available until September 2006 at the soonest. The interim certification process was adopted as a bridge for the time between the end NASED qualification program and the beginning of the EAC/NIST program.

For each of these accrediting bodies - NASED and EAC/NIST - there are two things to be certified/accredited:

• Voting Systems: A given voting system is certified if it adheres to some standard.

• Testing Laboratories: A given laboratory is accredited to test voting systems if its credential and competence are showbn to meet accreditation standards.

This article focuses solely on this second form a certification: the accreditation of the testing labs.

Read the Entire Article

Hunter and Rodriguez Nominated for the Election Assistance Commission
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 11, 2007

The White House has officially submitted two nominations for the Election Assistance Commission. Caroline Hunter has been nominated to replace outgoing chair Paul DeGregorio and Rosemary Rodriguez has been nominated to replace Ray Martinez, whose position has vacant since his resignation last summer.

Ms. Hunter is currently Deputy Director of Public Liason at the White House and has served as legal council to the Republican National Committee. Ms. Rodiguez has served as clerk/recorder in Denver, Colorado and more recently as a memeber of the Denver City Council.

While there was speculation that the vacancies on the Commission would be filled with recess appointments, their nomination while Congress is in session will allow for a full confirmation process through the Senate Rules Committee. Given the significance of the Commission's role in the election process, full Senate confirmation hearings will provide an opportunity for a public discussion of the Commission's objectives and direction in the future.

ES&S Criticizes U.S. Congresswoman
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 10, 2007

Election Systems and Software has filed a motion in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee accusing the U.S. House Rep. Juanita Millender McDonald (D-CA, pictured at right) of trying to ''intimidate'' and ''unduly influence'' the Florida appeals court. Mrs. Millender McDonald is chair  of the Committee on House administration, which has jurisdiction over the contest filed by Christine Jennings regarding the disputed Florida 13th district election.

The Congresswoman submitted a letter to the court expressing her concern over the decision of a lower court judge to decline Jennings’ request for access to the source code of the ES&S iVotronic touchscreen machines used in the election. Jennings is arguing that the extremely high Congressional undervote rate amoing voters that used the iVotronics is a strong indicator of machine malfunction.

Two weeks ago, Circuit Court Judge William Gary ruled that Democrats had no right to inspect the software, which ES&S maintains is a ‘trade secret’. Last week Jennings appealed the ruling. As Mrs. Millender-McDonald posinted out in her letter, access to the hardware, softeware and source code "bears decisively on the prospect of conclusively establishing who was duly elected on November 7th from this congressional district." Read the Entire Article

Parliamentary Inquiry Concerning Florida's 13th District Election is First Action of 110th Congress
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 4, 2007

After Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was sworn in on January 4 but before the remaining members took their oath, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ, pictured at right) rose to make a parliamentary inquiry.

Mr. Holt addressed the new Speaker: "In light of the fact that there are nonpartisan and partisan lawsuits under way with regard to Florida's 13th congressional district, and that the votes of 18,000 voters were not recorded on the paperless electronic voting machines in an election decided by only 369 votes, may I ask for the record whether a notice of contest has been filed with the clerk on behalf of Christine Jennings, pursuant to law? And what effect, if any, today's proceedings have on the pending contests?"

Speaker Pelosi responded: "The chair is advised by the clerk that a notice of contest pursuant to the statute, Section 382 of Title II, U.S. Code, has been filed with the clerk. Under Section 5 of Article I of the Constitution and the statute, the House remains the judge of the election of its members. The seating of this member-elect is entirely without prejudice to the contest over the final right to that seat that is pending under the statute and will be reviewed in the ordinary course in the Committee on House Administration."

Mr. Holt has introduced has introduced legislation in each of the last two congresses that would strengthen voting system security and enhanced version of the same legislation will be introduced in the new Congress.

From Around the States

California: E-voting Critic Tapped as Deputy Secretary of State
by Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune - January 10, 2007

This article appeared on insidebayarea.com and is reposted here with permission of the author.

A Berkeley lawyer who has fought electronic voting in California and a half-dozen other states has been tapped by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen as her deputy in charge of voting machinery.

Lowell Finley, co-founder and co-director of the election-integrity group Voter Action, has pulled out of lawsuits against elections officials in California, Florida, Ohio and other states in order to accept a post of deputy secretary of state.

Bowen, who was sworn in Monday, still is figuring out the management structure for the office, but she expects Finley to have a lead role in her promised "top-to-bottom review" of voting systems used in the state, according to Chief Deputy Secretary Evan Goldberg.

"She thinks Mr. Finley is an excellent person to help her do that top-to-bottom review," Goldberg said. "He will be the lead person dealing with voting-system technology issues."

Finley, 54, could not be reached Monday night, but the co-director of Voter Action cheered his new job in an open Internet letter to supporters.

"Lowell's appointment to one of the nation's most important state positions, overseeing election standards and voting machine certification for approximately one-fifth of the nation's voters, is a victory for Voter Action, election integrity advocates and voters across the United States," wrote Holly Jacobson. Read the Entire Article

Report on Denver Electronic Pollbook Problems
by Fred Hessler and Matt Smith - January 10, 2007

Download the Full Report

Executive Summary 

The general election of November 7, 2006 in Denver was marred by significant technical and operational errors, as well as a seeming lack of needed oversight in some key areas. These errors and omissions led to unacceptably long waiting times for voters and an abandonment rate estimated at 18,000-20,000 voters (approximately 20% of the anticipated physical turnout on Election Day). In addition, seemingly preventable problems with the tabulation of absentee ballots led to significant operational stresses within the DEC and delayed reporting on key races and measures for several days.

The most direct cause of voter inconvenience on Election Day was the repeated failure of the “electronic poll book” (“ePollBook”) software, which hampered the efforts of election judges staffing voting centers to search for voters as they arrived, indicate that they had arrived to vote, and forward them to a machine to cast their votes. The ePollBook, developed exclusively for DEC use by Sequoia Voting Systems, is of decidedly sub-professional architecture and construction and appears never to have been tested in any meaningful manner by either the vendor or by the DEC. This software’s failure to accommodate Election Day traffic led to lengthy lines developing at the registration desks of voting centers while voting machines stood idle. Well-publicized media reports concerning line lengths were broadcast throughout the day and likely contributed to dampening turnout among voters without the time or determination to devote multiple hours to casting their votes. Read the Entire Excutive Summary

Taking an Election Seriously, in Florida‚s Thirteenth
by Bob Bauer -January 11, 2007

A Reply to Matt Weil

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

Matt Weil of the AEI-Brookings Reform Project argues that Democrats and Republicans are more alike than apart in their approach to the unresolved, disputed election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Each party is making arguments in their own self-interest.  Neither, Weil implies, cares about more than winning. He concedes that Democrat Jennings probably won the race, but he is satisfied that ballot design was the cause, for which there is, in Florida, no legal remedy. The silver lining he detects in this sad tale is a refreshed commitment to reforming the electoral process.

As reasoning, this is markedly shaky. Begin at the end, with the suggestion that a botched election, in which the wrong person was certified the winner, must be stomached as another instance of misbegotten election administration. Setting aside the question of whether anything might be done about it, what is proposed here is an almost casual tolerance of what the voters of Sarasota—indeed the voters anywhere—might well find entirely intolerable. Weil seems to accept that the wrong person was seated, and then to urge that what he is willing to accept should be more universally acceptable if it appears, as he seems to believe, that voters just failed to read their screens properly. But this is not universally acceptable, and for many, comfort is not to be had in the bromide that acceptance of the wrong result will encourage a useful "debate" and help along, in the future, the cause of reform. Read the Entire Article

Iowa General Assembly Urged to Upgrade Election Procedures
by Iowans for Voting Integrity - January 9, 2007

In the wake of last week’s revelation about failures in the national testing of electronic voting machines, a citizens’ advocacy group is urging the Iowa General Assembly to legislate upgrades to state elections procedures.  Iowans for Voting Integrity wants to require the use of paper ballots, routine manual audits (hand counting) of ballots in randomly selected precincts, a more rigorous, state-based system of testing vote tabulation software, and other measures to strengthen the transparency and integrity of elections.
 
All of Iowa’s votes are now counted by electronic machines, whether they are cast on a paper ballot and then scanned, or recorded directly by a touchscreen machine. Over the past year, numerous academic studies and independent security reports have warned that elections on these machines are at high risk of being compromised, either unintentionally or by deliberate, malicious design.

In the latest of such disclosures, the New York Times reported on Jan. 4 that Ciber, Inc., one of three federally-certified “independent testing authorities” charged with approving electronic voting systems, has been temporarily barred from further work due to failure to document its testing of voting software.  Ciber has done testing on all of the voting equipment Iowa uses. Systems produced by Diebold Election Systems, used in over 70 Iowa counties and tested by Ciber, have in the last 3 years been discovered to have a number of distinct and serious security flaws, which computer scientists believe should have been discovered during the testing process. Read the Entire Article

New York: Undoing a Done Deal
by Robert Millman, Metroland Online - January 11, 2007

Activists make headway in their push for a say in how New York’s votes will get counted

This article was published on Metroland Online.

During the 2006 midterm elections, the race for an open seat in Florida’s 13th Congressional District was among the dozens of close, sometimes dead-heat races for seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. So, when the Republican candidate was declared victor by a margin of only 369 votes, and Sarasota County election officials reported that more than 18,000 votes were inexplicably missing from the county’s touch-screen voting machines, many cried foul.

Election officials offered two explanations for the missing votes. Some speculated that more than 18,000 voters intentionally chose not to vote in the contentious race to protest what was an ugly campaign. If true, it means approximately 13 percent of total voters in Sarasota County declined to vote on that ballot line, an undervote rate that’s dramatically higher than the 5-percent undervote rate recorded in the other four counties that comprise Florida’s 13th District.

The more likely explanation, most argue, is that the county’s touch-screen voting systems, a form of voting technology known as direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines, failed to record those thousands of votes. A recount would do nothing to recover the essentially nonexistent votes.

Several politicos and voter-advocacy groups now are calling for a new election, and proponents of paper ballots with optical-scan voting systems—a paper-based alternative to DRE machines—have documented the situation as an electoral disaster that provides anecdotal evidence for their argument that DREs are an unreliable technology and highly susceptible to malfunction.

The problems in Sarasota County may serve as an example for counties and states across the country as they modify their voting technology and policies now and in the future, but the scenario has immediate repercussions in New York, which is the only state that has yet to purchase new voting machines in order to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act. Under the 2002 HAVA legislation, New York must replace its current lever machines because they do not meet the requirements that machines be handicap accessible and provide “second chance” voting—the opportunity for voters to confirm their selections before formally casting their ballots.

Read the Entire Article at Metroland Online

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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