Election Integrity News - January 16, 2006

This Week's Quote: "The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and it is democracy turned upside down.” Martin Luther King, Washington D.C., 1957

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Actions to Take Now

Virginia: Support HB 1243 and SB 424

Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977


In this issue ...

National Stories

Ney to Relinquish Chairmanship: An Opportunity For Election Reform?

Accessibility For All Voters - Has It Arrived?

Pacific Research Institute Carries Fresh Water for the Electronic Voting Machine Industry

Election Center: The Fox Guarding the Henhouse Updated

News From Around the States

Arizona: Computer Scientist Releases Report on Maricopa County Voting Machine Problems

Colorado: Boulder County Clerk Postpones Purchase of New Voting Equipment

Connecticut State Officials Attempt To Change the Subject

Florida: ES&S Betrays Agreement with Ion Sancho

Kansas: Paper Trail Protects Our Votes

New Jersey: Mandatory Random Manual Audit Bill Introduced in State Senate

New Mexico: Richardson Calls For Paper Ballots Statewide

New York: Department of Justice Threatens To Sue State

North Carolina: Chatham County Board of Elections Selects The Wrong New Voting Machine Option

Virginia Voting Rights Groups Launch Legislative Action

Martin Luther King: Give Us The Ballot

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The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA

This past week has been full of important stories on voting technology issues. It is hard to choose between the betrayals, the realizations of the truth, and potential decisions to chuck the whole DRE voting issue and go vote-by-mail. This week there are two honorable mention stories to go with my opinion of the 5 top stories of the week:

Honorable Mention #1 - Doug Jones, voting systems expert and professor at UofIowa, examined all of the evidence from Precinct 20, Maricopa County, AZ and told all concerned that the questionable ballots from last years primary need to be examined.

Honorable Mention #2 - In an effort to upgrade their voting system and to come into compliance with the 2002 Voting Standards, Riverside County, CA purchased voting machines that can only meet the 1990 Voting Systems Standards and that are not accessible for voters with disabilities. And, they spent $14.1M doing this. The voters in Riverside County need to wake up and look at what's happening around them.

And the Top 5 Are: #5 - After doing all she can to squelch public comment on the purchase of new voting machines to replace the machines that they recently purchased but that have failed miserably in recent elections (Hart Intercivic), Boulder County, CO Clerk, Linda Salas has decided to squelch the purchase. According to the Longmont Daily Times-Call Ms. Salas has changed her mind and now wants to lease or rent disabled accessible voting machines until other states and counties have had a chance to work the bugs out of their voting systems. Perhaps the strong contingent of voting activists in Colorado actually made her see the light? One can only hope.

#4 - In a sudden turn of events in California, Alameda County announced that they had decided that they would do what they could to be allowed to go to all vote-by-mail. Almost immediately their announcement was echoed by a dozen other North California counties. In order for the counties to change their mode of voting they need a state law that allows them to use vote-by-mail. The Alameda County supervisors have voted to lobby the state legislature for that law.

#3 - For months Connecticut activists have been questioning Secretary of State Bysiewicz about why she continuously claimed that any voting system used in the state would have to accommodate a full-face ballot. Coming on the heels of the revelation that the sole choice contractor for a voting system for Connecticut, Danaher Controls, would not be able to fulfill their promise of a 2002 federally qualified voting system, the Attorney General has now revealed that there is no law that requires a full-face ballot. In the mean time, the Attorney General is also investigating what actions can be taken against Danaher Controls for misrepresenting their equipment.

#2 - Could it be that a change of mind in New Mexico has come about because of a lawsuit or maybe the governor and elections officials have heard the facts from the voters and those facts finally caused minds to be changed? Whatever the reason we applaud the announcement this week that New Mexico will go with standardized paper ballots statewide. The future purchase of Sequoia Edge II DREs has been cancelled. The following four articles tell the complete story:
Gov. Wants Standardized Paper Ballots Statewide
Richardson Calls For Paper Ballots Statewide
PACE New Mexico and others join the Lopategui vs. Vigil-Giron lawsuit
Plaintiffs Applaud Governor's Decision

#1 - The story that I hate to relate is the betrayal of Leon County, Florida and Ion Sancho by ES&S. VoteTrustUSA reports that after agreements and handshakes by Mr. Sancho and ES&S a message was left on Mr. Sancho's cell phone from ES&S telling him that there would be no deal and that ES&S would not be able to provide any voting system to Leon County. According to the Tallahassee Democrat Mr. Sancho is now looking to the lawyers to see what actions can be taken against ES&S for their betrayal.



National Coalition for Election Integrity

VoteTrustUSA Needs Your Help to Continue Our Work to Ensure Transparent Elections!

For the past year, VoteTrustUSA has been supporting state and local election activists and keeping concerned citizens across the country informed of developments in voting news. To find out more about our how VoteTrustUSA is working for fair and verifiable elections click here. VoteTrustUSA depends on your donations to further the cause of Election Integrity. We are100% citizen-supported and your contributions are entirely tax-deductible. To make a donation, please click here. Thank you for your support!

National Stories

Ney to Relinquish Chairmanship: An Opportunity For Election Reform?
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA January 15, 2006

Election Integrity Advocates See A Renewed Chance For Obstructed Bills

After weeks of speculation Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) has stepped down "temporarily" from chairmanship of the House Administration Committee at the request of House Leadership. Pressure has grown in the past week from within his own party to pursuade Ney to give up his leadership position, as Republican leaders in the House and Senate scramble to introduce legislation to address the growing scandal involving high profile lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

A steadfast opponent of voter verified paper record requirements and other measures aimed at restoring confidence in the election process, Rep. Ney's apparently imminent departure may offer an opportunity for movement on popular legislation that he has obstructed for years.

House Administration is the committee to which all legislation related to election process and administration is referred. Election issues related to civil rights, like the Voting Rights Act, find their way to Judiciary, but any hearings or mark-ups of proposals like voter verified paper records, mandatory audits, and public disclosure of voting system software is entirely at the whim of the chairman of House Administration.

Rep. Ney's refusal to even schedule a hearing on bills like Rep. Rush Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550 in this Congress, HR 2239 in the last), in spite of its impressive co-sponsorship of 159 members of the House, have led some to speculate about Ney's connections to the voting industry, and a desire on his part to protect the ongoing profits that industry will no doubt enjoy through the continued sales of touchscreen voting machines. Indeed, the Congressman's co-authorship of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, which resulted in an unprecedented windfall for voting manufacturers and in particular new-comer Diebold, lends support to allegations that he is more concerned about rewarding corporate beneficiaries than in ensuring accurate elections.

Whatever the merits of these allegations, Rep. Ney has been unwavering in his resistance to any modification of HAVA, and indeed any election reform legislation at all since HAVA passed in 2002. In March of 2004, with widespread concern about  electronic voting machines and public demand for a mechanism to ensure their accuracy mounting nationwide, Ney, together with the other three HAVA authors circulated a "Dear Colleague" letter intended to silence all discussion of amending the bill, whether there were good reasons to do so or not. Despite the letter's stern warning and Congress' traditional deference to the position of a bill's original sponsor, there has been no shortage of proposed amendments to HAVA. In fact, each of the other three authors have introduced bills that would amend HAVA, and in the House alone there are a dozen HAVA amendments introduced. None have ever been given a hearing before Rep. Ney's House Administration Committee. Read the Entire Article

Accessibility For All Voters - Has It Arrived?
by Pokey Anderson, for VoteTrustUSA January 11, 2006

An Interview with Dottie Neely, Advocate for the Blind

Dottie Neely has been visually impaired from birth. She can tell barely tell the difference between dark and light, but she can tell when her kids are smiling. "I would worry about how much less of my children's smile I would see from day to day," she says. "And then I learned that I could tell how much they smiled by listening, and by actually being closer to them."

Dottie has advocated for the blind for the past thirty years. Dottie's caseload consists of legally blind or potentially legal blind people. She works for the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind, and the Guilford County Social Service Department. She has served her state's National Federation of the Blind (NFB) as president and board member, and has been active in a raft of other offices and groups.

She believes that "everyone ought to have the right to vote no matter what their disability," and has been eager to try out various kinds of voting equipment. She finds some systems fall short of providing the accessibility that Congress legislated in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The system in her county, the Votronic, currently lacks even a basic headphone with audio instructions for the blind.

Dottie adds, "Not only do we have a problem of getting a machine that's accessible, but with all of this, there ought to be strong voter registration drives, and strong educational campaigns to alert people to the fact that there are [accessible] machines, and they're not going to be treated like second-class citizens or like dummies when they go to the polls." In the past, typically, an election official would be assigned to assist a disabled person cast her vote. That doesn't always turn out to be nonpartisan. She says, "Oh, I've actually been to the poll, and voted, and had the person say, 'Why do you want to vote that way?!'"

We talked about her testing of Diebold and AutoMARK equipment, and how she rates them on accessibility. Later in the article, we'll look at additional equipment, as well as some of the undercurrents that can threaten fair appraisals of voting equipment. Read the Entire Article

Pacific Research Institute Carries Fresh Water for the Electronic Voting Machine Industry
by Brad Friedman, BradBlog - January 13, 2006

And Takes on California's Debra Bowen in the Bargain

Who is PRI? Are They the Latest Incarnation of the ACVR? And Just Who Do They Think They're Messing with by Attacking the Pro-Democracy Movement with Easily Discredited Info-ganda?

This article appeared on BradBlog on January 13, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

It looks like the Rightwing may have found a replacement for the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), the GOP front group set up to smokescreen against true election reform and transparent democracy. The ACVR has been mighty quiet of late, which we might like to attribute to their having been thoroughly discredited and rendered mostly impotent due to some longterm, airtight, crack reporting by The BRAD BLOG about their attempted democracy-hating scam.

But now, a West Coast "non-partisan" conservative think-tank called Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRI) may be stepping in to fill at least part of the void in the person of TechNews World columnist and PRI Director of Technology Studies, Sonia Arrison. Arrison has been op/ed'ing and releasing "white papers" lately rallying against voter-verified paper ballots for electronic voting machines. Her reasons for being against transparent democracy are both bizarre and seem freshly pulled out of her hind quarters (or out of those of Diebold's).

We'll look at some of her already-discredited charges in a moment, but let's take a look at this PRI group. Their staff seems to be a who's-who of Canadians, staffers of former-California Governor Pete Wilson, former staffers of Tom DeLay ally Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), and other "conservative" "thinkers". Read the Entire Article

Election Center: The Fox Guarding the Henhouse Updated
by Joyce McCloy, North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting - January 15, 2006

The Election Center Wants To "Improve" Democracy - And The Profit Margins Of Their Corporate Sponsors

They are back at it again, the ethically challenged Election Center. They have a new web-page, nice layout, though many of the links still don't work. Amazing that they are first to recommend electronic solutions for voting and registration, yet they can't design a working website. I am sure these broken links are just "glitches" that happen when skeptical computer scientists try to perform time travel! But while the Election Center may have a new website, the mission is the same: promote expensive unreliable and unverifiable voting machines and the vendors that make a profit from them.

Near the top of the Election Center's "about" page, it describes itself as more or less a heroic group dedicated to democracy..

"The Election Center's purpose is to promote, preserve, and improve democracy."

The Election Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting, preserving, and improving democracy. Its members are government employees whose profession is to serve in voter registration and elections administration
They used to purport to "educate and train election officials". After that encouraging, patriotic and heart warming description of the Election Center and its focus on democracy - see what is buried near the bottom of the page - the "money changers" clause.
"The Center's members also include suppliers of election products and services, including voting systems, voter registration software, voting booths, ballots, election supplies, etc.

Members are able to visit with the providers of those goods and services at the national conference where members can learn what is available in the latest technology and election products."

How ethical is it for corporations to be members of an organization that trains and advises our election officials? Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Arizona: Computer Scientist Releases Report on Maricopa County Voting Machine Problems
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA - January 12, 2006

Jones Report Questions the Quality of State and Federal Oversight of Voting Technology

Douglas Jones, a highly respected computer scientist who has written extensively on the history and technology of voting, has released a report detailing the results of his investigation of voting machine problems in Maricopa County Arizona (Phoenix). Dr. Jones, a professor at the University of Iowa, was invited on December 20, 2005 to perform extensive testing on the county's 8 Optech 4C vote tabulating machines.  These machines are used to scan absentee ballots, which make up approximately half of all ballots cast in a typical election in Maricopa County.

The circumstances surrounding the request for Dr. Jones' report have created some controversy in Arizona. Sen. Jack Harper (R-Surprise) is investigating voting irregularities in the 2004 District 20 primary. Harper initially requested that the State Senate to fund the report, but when Senate President Ken Bennett denied his request, Harper arranged  to fund the investigation privately by the Phoenix New Times. The newspaper agreed to pay $3,000 for Jones to examine voting machines used in the 2004 District 20 primary race and Jones, was allowed to inspect the machines last month as a result of Harper's subpoenas.

Jones' report brings into question the quality of state and Federal oversight of our voting technology. The current system of Voluntary Federal Voting System Standards does not address these issues, and the current Federal recommendations for best practices in pre-election testing ignore these issues. Jones suggests that only by hand examination of how actual voters mark their ballots can we determine how the thresholds on the voting machines ought to be set. Jones also suggests that when a recount differs significantly from the first count, only a hand examination of the ballots can determine whether the machinery was out of adjustment or whether ballots might have been altered. Read the Entire Article

Colorado: Boulder County Clerk Postpones Purchase of New Voting Equipment
[Boulder County Cler's Office Press Release] January 11, 2006

In a move to assure Boulder County voters that the upcoming 2006 primary and general elections will produce an accurate, timely and secure tallying of votes, the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder's office decided today to not pursue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for acquiring new voting equipment for Boulder County in 2006.

Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Linda Salas and her staff decided to use existing voting equipment after thoroughly reviewing public input provided in recent weeks and analyzing ongoing technical and legal challenges in other counties and states. As a result of this assessment, Salas determined that her office did not want to subject Boulder County to the same problems currently being experienced across the nation.

"When we do purchase new equipment, we want to make sure we make an informed decision that provides an accurate, reliable system to the people of Boulder County. We want a system that the voters will have confidence in, and one that we as election administrators have confidence in as well," Salas said. "There are still too many unresolved technical and legal issues with the new voting equipment offered on the market for us to feel secure in making a purchase of new equipment for Boulder County this year. This is a very important decision and one that should not be rushed." Read the Entire Press Release

Connecticut State Officials Attempt To Change the Subject
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA - January 11, 2006

Is the issue Federal Qualification or Federal Funding? Letter from the Department of Justice  reveals more than state officials choose to mention

According to an article in the Connecticut Post, State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is exploring whether a Danaher Controls broke the law when it offered a failed bid to provide Connecticut federally qualified voting machines. Blumenthal's investigation appears to be directed toward pinning the blame for the state's failure to comply with the terms of the federal law on the vendor. "We're actively exploring possible action to recoup damages to state taxpayers," Blumenthal said. "We need to investigate further what was told the secretary of the state's office - when, exactly, statements were made by the company and how grave the impact will be, both short- and long-term."

Blumenthal's statement follows on the announcement last week by Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz that the state had dropped the company after learning its machines were not certified for use in national elections. The Connecticut Post article reported that Bysiewicz said on Tuesday that Danaher had made misleading statements on written communications submitted to her office, as it sought the state contract and did not disclose that its machines lacked federal certification until Dec. 21, after all of the bidders demonstrated their offerings statewide and the state chose Danaher for the contract. "Contrary to their written representations, they had no federal certification and hadn't even applied for federal certification," said Bysiewicz.

Updated lists of qualified voting systems are published on the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) website regularly, and the status of pending applications for qualification can be ascertained by a phone call to the ITA Secretariat. Apparently, it did not occur to the Secreatary of State's office to confirm Danaher's claims of imminent certification. In fact, VoteTrustUSA learned through such a phone call that Danaher still has not even initiated the qualification process for the machines that Connecticut was planning to purchase. Connecticut requires NASED qualification before a voting system can be certified for use in the state.

This inattention on the part of state election officials and alleged misrepresentation by Danaher has resulted in missing the January 1 deadline to upgrade voting systems to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in time for this November's elections. The state has received over $33 million in federal funds, contingent on meeting that deadline. The Secretary of State has announced that a new procurement process would be initiated, but that for the 2006 election cycle the state would continue to use lever machines. Despite official assurances to the contrary, it remains to be seen if the state will be penalized for failure to meet the HAVA deadline. Read the Entire Article

Florida: ES&S Betrays Agreement with Ion Sancho
by Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Election Coalition, January 13, 2006

Election Systems and Software (ES&S) has reneged on its agreement to sell its optical scan voting system and the AutoMark ballot marker to Leon County, Florida.  Leon County had planned to purchase the ES&S voting system following two successful, authorized hacks of the county's Diebold AccuVote optical scan voting system.
 
The tests of Leon County's Diebold voting system, conducted in May and December, 2005, were authorized by Leon County's courageous Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho. These tests showed that election results could be altered, without detection, with access only to one Diebold memory card. As a result of the successful hacks, plus Diebold's subsequent refusal to answer county officials' phone calls or to provide software required for upgrades to the Diebold system, the Leon County Council voted to authorize the purchase of the ES&S system. ES&S had first contacted Sancho in December, 2004 and again in June, 2005 to offer to sell its equipment to Leon County.
 
Everything appeared to be going as planned, when suddenly, in a voice-mail message received on December 29, 2005, Gary Crump, ES&S Chief Operating Officer, told Sancho that the company had decided to deal only with long-time customers due to equipment deadline considerations. (This statement is patently untrue, since ES&S went ahead and contracted with Volusia County, Florida after agreeing to sell to Leon County).

Kansas: Paper Trail Protects Our Votes
by Dane Zeller, Wentworth Military Academy - January 13, 2006

"The argument for a verifiable paper audit trail, no matter the additional cost, is this: We verify every transaction we make in our day-to-day lives."

This article appeared in the As I See It section of the Kansas City Star on January 12, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.

In Finn Bullers' Casting Vote on Voting Systems" (12/25), a former Johnson County election commissioner, Connie Schmidt, defends the use of touch-screen voting machines that do not produce a verifiable paper audit trail. Her argument cites the adding machine that once had paper, but now has none, and her faith in Microsoft Excel to "do our budgets·I doubt that anyone hand-adds it all up."

Upon closer inspection, these analogies fail her cause. Imagine the IRS investigation of your tax return being thwarted by your not using a paper tape in your adding machine or being satisfied by that electronic spreadsheet that no one has hand-added up. Not likely.

Schmidt asks us to trust the touch-screen voting machine to record and report our vote correctly, as we trust computers to assist in landing our planes and help in heart surgery. Again, such examples don't carry her point well: When air-traffic control software makes a mistake, the audit trail follows the path of airplane pieces strewn along the countryside. When voting machine software fails, a candidate becomes an officeholder.

The argument for a verifiable paper audit trail, no matter the additional cost, is this: We verify every transaction we make in our day-to-day lives. We balance our checkbooks (with adding machines that have no paper roll), we match each credit charge with each purchase we make, we count our change at QuikTrip to verify that the clerk has not overcharged or shortchanged us. Read the Entire Article

New Jersey: Mandatory Random Manual Audit Bill Introduced in State Senate
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy VoteTrustUSA - January 12, 2006

Bill Would Create An Appointed "Audit Team" To Select and Conduct a Statewide 2% Hand Counted Audit

State Senator Nia Gill (D-Essex and Passaic) has introduced S. 507 (full text), a bill that requires mandatory handcounted audits of 2% of election results in the state. Twelve states have similar audit provisions and several others will be considering similar legislation this year. Last summer Governor Richard Codey signed a bill into law requiring that voting systems used in the state produce or require the use of a voter verified paper record of every vote. Like that bill, the provisions of S. 507 would not take effect until 2008.

The bill calls for the creation of an audit team selected by the Attorney General, the chief state election administrator under New Jersey law. The number and composition of that team is undefined except that one of the members should have "verifiable expertise in the field of statistics". The team will conduct random hand counts ofvoter verified paper records in at least 2% of the election districts in federal and state elections. Hand counts would also be made of the results of at least one voting machine in each election district. Votes cast in electronic voting machines, provisional ballots, absentee ballots, and the ballots of military and overseas federal election voters would all be included in the audit. Read the Entire Article

New Mexico: Richardson Calls For Paper Ballots Statewide
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy VoteTrustUSA - January 12, 2006

Governor Proposes Legislation Requiring Paper Based System In Every County

[Link to Governor Richardson's Press Release]

At a press conference in Santa Fe today, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson said that he will propose legislation that requires a paper ballot voting system in all counties and asking that lawmakers allocate $11 million to help pay for needed software and voting machines. According to an Albuquerque Journal article Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron and Attorney General Patricia Madrid support the switch to the paper ballot system. The press conference was attended by many election reform activists including representatives of Verified Voting New Mexico and United Voters of New Mexico, two groups that have labored tirelessly for verifiable elections in the state. Richardson generously invited activists, clerks, and legislators to speak at the press conference and their was uniform praise for the Governor's proposal.

Richardson noted that New Mexico currently uses 6 different sytems, a situation that results in added costs and complications in assembling election results. He observed that irregularities in New Mexico's election data had received national attention and through his proposed unified system, he intended New Mexico to lead the nation in trustworthy election processes. Richardson also pointed out that a uniform paper based systems will save the state in the long run in spite of the initial cost of implementation, a fact born out by numerous studies from states across the country.

Attorney General Madrid emphasized the need to end legal-theory based election challenges that seem to becoming more common around the nation with a system the voters can trust and leaves behind a paper ballot that have been verified by the voter. She pointed out that if this bill is passed as proposed in this outline that it would probably moot the current injunciton being brough to stop the implementation of certain DRE system, since "it gives them everything they are asking for". Her legal spokesman noted that despite the attourney general's leadership on guiding the proposed legislation, in the meantime the state is legal obligated to contest the injunction since it confilcts with the SOS's plans for meeting the current NM laws).

Speaking for Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron who was unable to attend the press conference, State Election Director Ernest Marquez said that if lawmakers approve the proposed legislation it would be possible to have a paper ballot system in operation statewide across in November — depending on whether enough ballot tabulating machines, software and other equipment can be quickly purchased. In addition to the funding proposed by Richardson, New Mexico is already in receipt of over $9 million in federally funding for voting system upgrades.

While there are some technical issues regarding funding that remain to be worked out and the actual legislation was not yet available for review, Richardson's announcement marks a significant victory for election reform activists in the state. The adoption of a uniform paper ballot optical scan voting system with ballot-marking devices to assist those with disabilities is a tremendous step toward restoring confidence in the accuracy and security of elections in New Mexico. this is a victory for all New Mexicans.

Plaintiffs Applaud Governor's Decision: Lawsuit Remains Until the Plan is Fully Implemented
by VoterAction New Mexico, January 13, 2006

On Thursday, January 12, 2006, New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson and Attorney General Patricia Madrid demonstrated bold leadership by announcing a plan to make New Mexico an all-paper-ballot voting state. This is a great day for New Mexicans because it means that we will be able to cast our votes with confidence that a mechanism is in place that will allow all votes to be counted and tallied and the results verified. Read the Entire Press Release

New York: Department of Justice Threatens To Sue State
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy VoteTrustUSA - January 12, 2006

Election Reform Groups See Action As Another Strong Argument In Favor of Paper Ballot Optical Scan

In a letter [Download PDF] to the New York State Attorney General and the State Board of Elections, the Department of Justice (DoJ) has threatened to sue the state for its failure to comply with the January 1, 2006 deadlines of the Help America Vote Act. According to a New York Times article, "New York is behind all other states and territories in deciding how to spend its share of $2.3 billion in federal aid to modernize voting machines and other elections technology." The state has received $220 million for machine upgrades and training but has yet to formulate a plan for how that money will be spent.

The DoJ's action raises many questions and has ramifications for other states that are not yet in compliance with HAVA. According to the results of a survey conducted by the National Association of Secreatries of States released in December, as many as a third of the states failed to meet the January 1, 2006 deadlines. However, all those states are ahead of New York in implementation. There has been speculation that the DoJ action is politically motivated but it is clear that New York is unlikely to have HAVA compliant voting technology in place in time for elections this year and their voter registration database is still in the early planning stages.

The letter, signed by Wan J. Kim, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's civil rights division, was scathing in stating that  "it is clear that New York is not close to approaching full HAVA compliance and, in our view, is further behind in that regard than any other state in the country."  New York only adopted a state HAVA plan as required by the federal law last summer, long after many states were already well underway in implementing the voting system upgrades and statewide voter databases required for compliance. Read the Entire Article

North Carolina: Chatham County Board of Elections Selects The Wrong New Voting Machine Option
by Nick Meyer, NC Coalition for Verifiable Voting - January 12, 2006

This editorial appeared in The Chatham Journal on January 11, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.

Pittsboro, NC - On Wednesday evening, January 4, 2006 the Chatham County Board of Elections held a public forum to address the decision the County must make (as mandated by the State) on new voting machines for the county. The attendees of the meeting came from both parties and were made up largely of folks who have worked hard in Chatham County elections as poll workers. In a long presentation, by a sales representative of the vendor, both systems (the Optical Scan Tabulation System and the Direct Record Election System DRE) merits were shown. A spirited question and answer session followed. The BOE was unable or unwilling to present the forum with a cost estimate. A member of the BOE told a reporter that the decision would not be made solely on cost.

The attendees were asked to register their opinion of which system they preferred on little blue cards that were collected and tabulated by the BOE. The group overwhelmingly (53-14) indicated a preference for the Optical Scan System.

Yet on the morning of Friday, January 6, the BOE unanimously recommend that the county buy the DRE voting machines instead. The BOE maintained to the same reporter that they decided. on the basis of cost over a ten year period as presented in a written estimate that was eventually distributed to attendees.

I maintain that this estimate contains some obvious errors and omissions. Read the Entire Article

Virginia Voting Rights Groups Launch Legislative Action
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy VoteTrustUSA - January 16, 2006

Virginia Verified Voting and The New Election Reform Agenda for Virginia (NewERAforVA) together with VoteTrustUSA have launched a citizen action in support of legislation introduced in the Virginia legislature. Concerned citizens in Virginia are urged to visit the Virginia Action Page where you can send a message to your state legislators calling on them to support accurate and verifiable elections.

Omnibus election bills requiring voter verified paper records, mandatory hand counted audits, and public disclosure of voting system software have been introduced in both chambers of the Virginia State legislature. The bills grew out of hearings held by the Joint Subcommittee to Study the Certification, Performance, and Deployment of Voting Equipment created in March of 2004. The chairman of the subcommittee, Del. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) has introduced HB 1243 and fellow committee member Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis (R-Vienna) has introduced SB 424, which is nearly identical except for one section calling for a pilot program to test the accuracy of electronic machines. While the move toward verifiable elections has met with dogged resistance from some county clerks and the State Board of Elections, it is enthusiastically supported by the bipartisan legislators on the subcommittee, and many members of the relevant committees in both the House and Senate.

Both HB 1243 and SB 424 would require that electronic voting machines be equipped to produce a paper record of each vote that can be verified by the voter and used in audits and recounts.  They further mandate a 5% random mandatory audit  be conducted of 5% of the machines used in an election in which. postelection manual audit of 5% of the voter-verified paper records. In the case of a discrepancy between the paper and electronic totals, the paper record shall take precedence in a recount unless the court finds clear and convincing evidence that there is reason to do otherwise. Read the Entire Article

The following passage is excerpted from a speech that Dr. Martin Luther King delivered before the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, on May 17, 1957, three years after Brown v. Board of Education and eight years before the enactment of the Voting Rights Act.

Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of good will, this May 17 decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of segregation. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of distinguished people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. It came as a legal and sociological deathblow to the old Plessy doctrine of "separate-but-equal." It came as a reaffirmation of the good old American doctrine of freedom and equality for all people.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as "interposition" and "nullification." Methods of defiance range from crippling economic reprisals to the tragic reign of violence and terror. All of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

But, even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind - it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact - I can only submit to the edict of others.

So our most urgent request to the president of the United States and every member of Congress is to give us the right to vote. Give us the ballot and we will no longer have to worry the federal government about our basic rights. Give us the ballot and we will no longer plead to the federal government for passage of an anti-lynching law; we will by the power of our vote write the law on the statute books of the southern states and bring an end to the dastardly acts of the hooded perpetrators of violence. Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens. Give us the ballot and we will fill our legislative halls with men of good will, and send to the sacred halls of Congressmen who will not sign a Southern Manifesto, because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice. Give us the ballot and we will place judges on the benches of the South who will "do justly and love mercy," and we will place at the head of the southern states governors who have felt not only the tang of the human, but the glow of the divine. Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court's decision of May 17, 1954.

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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