Election Integrity News - January 23, 2006
This Week's Quotes: "If there is some way to slip in interpreted code, then we have no way to control what the machine is executing." Michael Shamos, Carnegie Mellon University
"You have to admit these systems are vulnerable and act accordingly," Harri Hursti, computer programmer
"More troubling than the test itself was the manner in which Diebold simply failed to respond to my concerns or the concerns of citizens who believe in American elections, I really think they're not engaged in this discussion of how to make elections safer." Ion Sancho, Supervior of Elections, Leon County, Florida
In this issue ...
News From Around the States
National Coalition for Election Integrity
The mainstream media have now acknowledged the threat that unverifiable electronic voting machines pose to our democracy. The Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service have recently added to the mountains of evidence that electronic voting machines are vulnerable and prone to malfunctions. We need the safety net of a nationwide voter verified paper ballot requirement, rountine handcounted audits, and a prohibition of secret voting system software to restore the integrity of our elections.
We've reached the tippping point in our battle to pass legislation requiring voter-verified paper records with meaningful random audits in every state and in Washington D.C. Support VoteTrustUSA as we fight for transparent and accurate 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!
Ehlers' Chairmanship: An Opportunity for Election Reform?
"It is crucial that voting systems be easy to use, accurate, verifiable, secure, and reliable." Rep. Vernon Ehlers, July 24, 2004
With the resignation of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) from Chairmanship of the Committee on House Administration, Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) will assume leadership of the committee to which most election reform legislation is referred. Election reform advocates are hopeful that under the chairmanship of Rep. Ehlers, the committee will finally consider legislation to ensure the security and verifiability of elections. While evidence of the unreliability and insecurity of electronic voting machines has mounted steadily in the past three years, culminating in reports submitted by the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service, common sense proposals like requirements for voter verified paper records and mandatory audits have languished under the chairmanship of Rep. Ney.
With his explemplary reputation as an authority on science and technology
issues established through his oversight of Congress'
transition to the internet age in the mid-90s, his advocacy of math and
science education and research funding, and his promotion
of improved voting system testing and certification procedures, Ehlers has
demonstrated a clear understanding of computer security issues and the need
to safeguard the integrity of elections.
The first physicist to be elected to Congress, Ehlers has used computers since 1957, when he was working on a Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley. During his early years in physics research, Ehlers measured nuclear spins and magnetic moments in radioactive nuclei. Later he moved into atomic physics, studying electron-atom scattering and developing high-power nitrogen pump lasers. In 2001, he received the annual Public Service Award presented jointly by the American Astronomical Society, the American Mathematical Society and the American Physics Society. (In the photo to the left, Ehlers is shown with the other Physicist-Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) and two others at the presentation ceremony for the 2003 award.)
Fellow physicists Ehlers and Holt have joined on two occasions in writing "Dear Colleague" letters in support of science and mathematics funding. In 2003 together with Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL) they wrote to the House Appropriations Committee to call for increased funding for math and science education. Last year, Ehlers and Holt co-authored a letter supporting increased funding for the National Science Foundation. Hopefully they will be able to work together on the passage of Rep. Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act as well. Read the Entire Article
Send an Email to your Representative and add your name to a petition that will be delivered each member of the Committee on House Administration
Making Diebold "Okay" For Pennsylvania (And The Rest Of The Country Too?)
Last week the Department of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania released a
report confirming the certification of the Diebold TSx touch screen voting
machine and reversing an
earlier decision to deny certification for the Diebold OS central count
optical scanner. The state continued to deny state certification of the Diebold
precinct count optical scanner. The report reveals how the Department of State
of Pennsylvania and their expert consultant worked together with Diebold to
fabricate a justification for state certification of machines that contain prohibited
code and have the same potential of being hacked undetectably that was demonstrated
in a well publicized test in Florida last month. The report refers to this test
as the "Hursti Exploit".
On December 13, 2005 in a test election conducted by Leon County Florida Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, Finnish computer programmer Harri Hursti succeeded in altering the election results from a Diebold optical scan system undetectably, in spite of all the normal election security procedures. As a result of this "exploit", the California Secretary of State deferred certification for both the Diebold touchscreen and optical scan system until they were reviewed by the Independent Testing Authority (ITA) laboratory that had originally certified them. With 17 California counties heavily invested in Diebold equipment, there is no doubt considerable pressure to dismiss the significance of the defect in Diebold's software, particularly its presence in their touchscreen system, so that they can be re-certified for use in this year's elections. There has thus far been no response from the ITA, but the Pennsylvania report may be an indication of the obfuscation and fact-bending to come.
The Pennsylvania Department of State appears desperate to spent taxpayer dollars on Diebold equipment but, like California, they apparently couldn't just ignore the fact that this time concerned citizens and even The Washington Post are paying attention.
Just after the new year an exchange took place involving representatives of the Pennsylvania Department of State, their consultant, Dr. Michael Shamos, Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, and Diebold Election Systems intended to make it officially "okay" to certify the TSX touchscreen machines and the central count optical scan systems. The statements made in the report by Dr. Shamos display a deep misunderstanding of the Hursti Exploit, a disregard for the requirements of State and Federal law, and a willingness to accept unsubstantiated and disingenuous claims by Diebold with, at best, minimum independent corroboration. Read the Entire Article
|Diebold Fate Hangs On Whether Its Voting Software Can Be Fixed
by Ian Hoffman, Staff Writer, San Mateo County Times - January 22, 2006
Software Files Have Company In A Double Bind With State, Feds
This article was published in The San Mateo County Times on January 22, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.
For more than two years, Diebold Election Systems Inc. has hit one political or technical snag after another trying to reap more than $40 million in voting-machine sales in California.
Now only a collection of tiny software files on Diebold's latest voting machines stand in the way of those revenues and more. Last summer, a Finnish computer expert using an agricultural device found he could rig the votes stored on Diebold's memory cards and rewrite one of those files to cover his tracks.
The revelation posed a double problem for Diebold: Not only could its optical-scanning voting machines be hacked, but state and federal rules for more than a year have forbidden those files in voting machines.
This week, scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, UC-Davis and a private, testing lab in Huntsville, Ala., are studying those files under strict promises of confidentiality. What they find could bear directly on what kind of voting systems almost a third of California counties will use in the 2006 elections and indirectly on Diebold's viability as a voting company.
At issue is a kind of software called interpreted code - bits of programming akin to Java and HTML that are loaded and translated into computer instructions on, or immediately, before Election Day. Johns Hopkins University computer scientist Avi Rubi said interpreted code can alter a voting system on the fly from its original, tested and approved operation. Read the Entire Article
Vote-PAD Rocks the Disabled Vote
This article was published at Wired News on January 19, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.
Touch-screen ballot machines billed as the ideal solution for disabled voters are facing unexpected competition from a newly designed system using inexpensive plastic sleeves and paper.
Called the Voting-on-Paper Assistive Device, or Vote-PAD, the device has won high marks from some advocates for the disabled, and has already been selected for use in California's Yolo County in order to meet federal voting-accessibility requirements.
With Vote-PAD, poll workers fit specially designed sleeves over paper ballots. Audio instructions guide visually impaired voters to bumps on the plastic next to each race. Holes in the sleeve corresponding to ovals on the ballot allow voters to mark the ballot with a pencil or pen without going outside the oval. Afterward, voters can run a specially designed LED wand over the ovals to verify their choices.
"This is a very generic, very simple solution," said Freddie Oakley, Yolo County's registrar of voters. "We don't have to train poll workers to do anything complicated." Read the Entire Article
From Around the States
Election Officials in Arizona
Refuse to Answer Senate Questions
Or, How I Spent My Afternoon in the Theater of the Absurd
I’ve seen through two wars, been to a county fair, and watched a goat roping but I've never seen anything like the Senate hearing at the Arizona State Capitol today. The hearing, scheduled by Senator Jack Harper (R) Chairman of the Senate Committee On Government Accountability And Reform, sought to clarify election integrity issues (see, Election Integrity in Arizona is a Bi-Partisan Reform) involving mysteriously appearing votes in a 2004 Republican primary election. Chairman Harper's subpoena overcame a questionable refusal to appear by County Attorney Andrew Thomas. Defying the subpoena issued by Chairman Harper could have brought contempt charges against Thomas and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell and Elections Director Karen Osborne whom Thomas had earlier enjoined not to appear.
Illustration by Mark Poutenis, The Phoenix New Times
(Clockwise from bottom: County Attorney Andy Thomas, County Recorder Helen Purcell, House Speaker Jim Weiers, Senate President Ken Bennett, and County Elections Director Karen Osborne)
Watching with incredulity at the proceedings were several election integrity activist groups, some lobbyists for electronic voting machines, a representative of Arizona Clean Elections, print, television, radio, and independent media, family and many other concerned citizens. Interest in election integrity has grown in Arizona around what may make Maricopa County, the fourth largest county in the country, the poster child for election fraud. The hearing room was filled to overflowing requiring a partition to be opened to accommodate the increasing observers.
The last time I saw a group of people self-destruct like this in front of an audience was when I was at the circus where I watched one of those little clown cars come careening out from the curtains, squishing through the elephant dung, crashing into the center ring, and sending them flying in all directions.Read the Entire Article
As Revealed by California State Senate Hearings on Transparency in Elections
This article appeared on BradBlog on January 21, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
'Warts on Parade' as Voting Registrars Discuss Problems with Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S and Many Other Electronic Voting Systems...
"Turn around and look at all the people behind you," Bowen said gesturing at a gallery full of voting activists. "These are all people who care about transparency in the elections process. It's not about me knowing or you knowing, it's about anybody else in the state of California who cares about elections to assess for themselves what's going on."
-- "Officials assess e-voting glitches: Confidence in electronic systems may be wavering" Oakland Tribune, 1/19/06
Such was the sometimes contentious, sometimes exasperating atmosphere, apparently,
in Sacramento this week when State Senator Debra Bowen, transparent election
champion and Democratic candidate for Secretary
of State convened a hearing on the current electoral mess in the Golden
State. The hearing was held by the Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional
Amendments Committee which she chairs.
County Election Registrars from all over the state were called to give a report on how things are going (not well, apparently) and Election Integrity advocates filled the gallery to witness the goings on. Read the Entire Article
State Back To Square One But this Time They Have Technology Board's Recommendations For Guidance
Just what’s going on in Connecticut?
Last week, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz announced that that the machines the state was intending to use in this year’s election are not qualified to the federal standards that Connecticut requires. The Attorney General is investigating the possibility of suing the vendor, Connecticut-based Danaher Corporation, and in the meantime the state has announced its intention to use its ancient lever machines for this year's elections while they start the entire procurement process over again.
So here we are, back at square one - just months before the primary elections.
The state had experienced difficulty in finding a vendor who could satisfy both the state's requirement for a full-face ballot and Bysiewicz dogged determination to purchase direct record electronic machines. And then there was that new state law requiring a voter verified paper record of every vote that Bysiewicz had fought relentlessly - well, until it became clear that the proposal was headed for unanimous approval in the state legislature.
(Of course, as TrueVoteCT has pointed out relentlessly, a paper ballot optical scan system would easily meet all these requirements and cost a lot less too but until last November, she wouldn't even allow townships to consider a paper based system.)
maintain that a letter from the Department of Justice assured them
that the Department would overlook the fact that Connecticut had
already accepted federal funds earmarked for machine
upgrades, with the stipulation that the new systems had to be in place
in time for the 2006 elections.
The letter actually said nothing of the sort.
Rather, it stated in no uncertain terms that lever machines do not meet the accuracy, auditability, or accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) - in spite of the states concerted effort to argue that they do. The letter points out sternly that Connecticut is in receipt of $33,076,849 in federal funds that were intended to be used to achieve compliance with the federal requirements that lever machines, in the opinion of the Department of Justice, do not meet. Department of Justice spokesman Eric Holland told the Connecticut Post that "Section 401 under HAVA permits us to bring a suit to the U.S. District Court to enforce compliance." Last week, the Department of Justice threatened the State of New York for noncompliance with the HAVA deadline.
But wait - that's not all! Read the Entire Article
Florida: The Harri Hursti Hack and its Importance to our Nation
I was one of ten people present at the "hack" of the Leon County, Florida voting system, which took place on Tuesday, December 13, 2005 around 4:30 in the afternoon at the county elections warehouse. Leon County's voting system is the Diebold Accu-Vote OS 1.94w (optical scan).
The Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Ion Sancho, authorized a "test" of his Diebold voting system to see if election results could be altered using only a memory card. Harri Hursti (photo at right), a computer programmer from Finland, who has been working with Black Box Voting, facilitated the test and it has come to be known as the "Harri Hursti Hack."Following is a description of that hack and its significance for our nation, which I hope will correct much of the misinformation circulating regarding this event.
To select which voting machine to use for the test, Ion drew a serial number of one voting machine from a container holding all the serial numbers of all the Leon County machines.Since the test took place at the elections warehouse, all the voting machines were already stored there and the one machine, whose serial number was selected, was located and brought into the warehouse office, where it was plugged into an electrical outlet (so it could operate!). It was not networked to any other machines. We checked the serial number of the machine against the serial number that Ion had randomly selected. Read The Entire Article
Last year the Iowa State Senate enthusiastically and unanimously passed a bill that would require a voter verified paper record of every vote. Astonishingly it languished in the House committee to which it was sent. Fortunately bills carry over to the next session in Iowa. We asked Jerry Depew of IowaVoters.org to relate the history (so far) of Iowa's voter verified paper record legislation.
Iowa's legislature failed to enact a voter verified paper ballot bill last year because our county auditors opposed it. According to State Representative Jeff Elgin and several county auditors, the House State Government Committee got these messages:
The bill had started off strong. Senate Co-President Jack Kibbie told reporters on the opening day of the session that a spectacular failure of electronic voting in North Carolina had his attention. Even though it was 2 months after the election, a statewide NC race was undecided because a paperless voting machine had failed to record 4,000 votes.
* auditors wanted no more mandates
* paperless DRE machines were already working just fine in Spencer and elsewhere
* the bill "does not do what you think it does."
But the auditors struck back! Read the Entire Article
This article appeared in Access Press on January 10, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of Access Press and the author.
A mock election testing the Vote-PAD Voting-on-Paper Assistive Device was held December 15, 2005 at the Minnesota State Office Building. Vote-PADs brochure touts its ability to facilitate "Independent Voting for People with Disabilities," describing the system as: "(A)n inexpensive, non-electronic, voter assist alternative that helps most people with visual or dexterity impairments to vote independently." The brochure's background section states: "Some people with visual or dexterity impairments cannot mark a paper ballot without assistance. The Federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires that every polling place must offer a method by which people with disabilities can vote independently." Vote-PAD's owner, Ellen Theisen, said she "invented the system with input and cooperation from people with disabilities and people interested in transparent elections."
Rick Cardenas, a person with quadriplegia who has limited use of his hands, was one of the first to try the Vote-PAD system. As co-director of Advocating Change Together (ACT), which facilitates self-advocacy with others who have disabilities, Cardenas has both a personal and professional interest in accessible voting systems.
"Make sure the holes are open - some of them weren't open," said Cardenas, referring to the Vote-PADs transparent ballot sleeve, which is designed to protect the ballot from stray marks and has holes where a voter can mark choices. Other than the closed holes, Cardenas said the system worked well. "The desk level is a good height; a lot of times election judges push you over to the accessible voting booth, which is too low. The guide makes it much easier than free handing."
"It's a really good idea to test run the Vote-PAD system," Cardenas said. "I've been able to vote independently by marking the circles, but the Vote-PAD is quicker and easier. We'll see if it works and elects the people I want to elect," Cardenas added with a smile. Read the Entire Article
Unique among the states, Nebraska actually prohibits hand recounts in
counties that use voting machines for their original tally.
Nebraska State Senator Jeanne Combs has introduced LB 1013 into Nebraska's unicameral legislature to amends the state election code to allow a candidate to request a manual recount. Yes, that's right, it is currently illegal for to the votes of Nebraska citizens to be counted by other Nebraska citizens - they can only be county by machines built and programmed by Election Systems and Software (ES&S). The fact that ES&S is based in Omaha does not make this situation any less absurd.
The provision, established in 2002, reads:
The procedures for the recounting of ballots shall be the same as those used for the counting of ballots on election day...Counties counting ballots by using a vote counting device shall first recount the ballots by use of the device. If substantial changes are found, the ballots shall then be counted using such device in any precinct which might reflect a substantial change.Election reform activists were generally pleased when Nebraska Secreatry of State John Gale announced last Fall that the state would retain their paper ballot voting system. Paper ballots are inherently voter verified and provide the most reliable method of preserving the intent of the voter and a means of verifying the accuracy of electronic machines used for counting providing a safety net in the case of machine malfunction and ensuring confidence in the integrity of the election process.
On January 18, 2006, New Mexico District Judge Eugenio Mathis authorized the plaintiff voters in Lopategui v. Vigil-Giron, et al. to proceed with the collection of evidence and preparation for a trial in which plaintiffs will seek a permanent injunction against use of inaccurate and unreliable electronic voting machines in New Mexico elections. At an afternoon hearing in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Judge Mathis denied a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Rebecca Vigil-Giron, the Secretary of State, seeking to dismiss the lawsuit. He also lifted a stay of discovery he had imposed in December, 2005. Finally, Judge Mathis granted motions to be dismissed from the lawsuit that had been filed by the county clerk defendants, but only on the condition that they agreed to be bound by any injunction subsequently issued against the Secretary of State.
The court's rulings are a victory for the plaintiffs, who may now subpoena testimony, documents, and voting machine inspections. The new evidence will augment the substantial evidence plaintiffs have already amassed of the inaccuracy and unreliability of electronic voting systems used in New Mexico elections. Read the Entire Article
North Carolina: Burke Voters Could Mark Paper
Ballots During Next Election
This article was published by The Morganton News Herald on January 19, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.
It is likely Burke County voters will cast paper ballots during the primary election this year if Burke County's commissioners and election officials don't come to an agreement. Election officials are prepared to order new voting machines by Friday.
David Campbell, chairman of the Burke County Board of Elections, said state election officials told his board it needed to make a decision on voting machines by Friday in order to have the machines ready to use in the primary election.
But Friday's deadline was just a suggestion, said state election officials. Counties won't lose their allotted Help America Vote Act money if they don't order the machines by Friday.Friday's deadline was a guideline to have all the training and equipment needed to be ready for the primary election, said Gary O. Bartlett (photo at right), executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections. Bartlett said in order to be compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, however, the local elections board has until Friday to order enough handicapped accessible machines for each precinct. Read the Entire Article
On January 3, 2006, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Pedro
Cortes and his consultant Dr. Michael Shamos submitted a series of questions
to Diebold Elections Systems regarding the AccuBasic (which Diebold also calls
ABasic) reporting scripts used by their AccuVote TSX touchscreen voting system.
Diebold responded in a
letter dated January 5, 2006. While Diebold's answers in this letter apparently
met with "the satisfaction of the Secretary and his consultant", they
are wholly unsatisfactory to the voters in Pennsylvania whose
democracy is being entrusted to Diebold's equipment.
While failing to adequately answer Pennsylvania's questions, Diebold did make some serious revelations. Specifically, while Hursti used old firmware (1.94w), Diebold confirms in Appendix A that their newly certified firmware (1.96) will behave with the same lapses in security. They confirmed that the Zero Total Report relies on the public counter variable and NOT database (ballot image) contents and that Diebold's basic point of security is dependent on the Windows Operating System security. After years of scrutiny and published reports by computer security experts worldwide, Diebold has still failed to close the most basic security flaws in their source code. Read the Entire Article
Why Washington State Should Not Pass SB-6242/HB-2479 Without Amendment
The following was sent to members of both the Washington State Senate and House
Elections Committees to point out to them how the whole voting system
certification process in the state of Washington is broken. 84 rules
changes on voting systems in one year alone! They are out of control.
By passing the Administrative Procedures Act of 1988, the Washington State Legislature intended, "to clarify the existing law of administrative procedure, to achieve greater consistency with other states and the federal government in administrative procedure, and to provide greater public and legislative access to administrative decision making." (See RCW 34.05.001.)
I submit that the Secretary of State's use of Administrative Law to administer the voting systems certification program is not consistent with the intent of the legislature. The WACs for voting systems are constantly in flux, so they are unable to provide stable guidance and wise management of the certification process. Instead, the WACs appear to be instituted in an almost capricious fashion dictated by the current state of technology rather than by the Secretary's obligation to promote accurate and reliable elections.
Rather than providing "greater public and legislative access to administrative decision making," this constant flux in Administrative Law obscures the basis of the department's decision-making. Read the Entire Article
Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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