Election Integrity News - January 24, 2007

 

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


In this issue ...

National Stories

Senator Feinstein Seeks Answers from EAC On Unreported Failures at Voting Equipment Test Lab

A House of Voting Cards

Voting Machine Test Lab Merger Despite EAC Ban on Ciber puts Wyle Lab Partnership in Question

NIST Recommends Two Test Labs for EAC Accreditation

State Legislators, Election Officials Tackle Voting Issues

Unverifiable Votes

News From Around the States

San Francisco Tech Experts to Study Electronic Voting

Connecticut: Bysiewicz Calls For Mandatory 20% Audit

Norton and Davis Introduce DC Voting Rights Act

Florida 13th: Taking Elections Seriously, Part II

Cuyahoga Election Workers Charged With Rigging 2004 Ohio Recount

Virginia Takes Up Paper Ballot Legislation in 2007 Session

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New Report Examines Undervotes in Florida's 13th District
by Walter Mebane, Jr. (Cornell University) and David Dill (Stanford University)(

As the legal battle in Florida’s 13th Congressional District continues, a new report by Walter Mebane and David Dill analyzes the 18,000 undervotes from Sarasota County, but argues that further investigation is needed before any conclusive explanation can be reached. The report's introduction follows. The entire report can be downloaded here.

Based on statistical analysis of detailed electronic ballot and event log data from the Sarasota general election ending November 7, 2006, we find that none of the many theories advanced so far to explain the extraordinarily high undervote rate in the Florida Congressional District 13 (CD-13) race adequately account for systematic covariations between that undervote and other identifiable factors, such as voting patterns in other contests and unusual events on the voting machines. At this time, we are unable to propose a convincing mechanism based on voter, machine or ballot characteristics that completely explains the phenomenon.

This paper describes the data and statistical analysis we have performed and evaluates explanations that have been advanced by others as well as plausibleexplanations that we propose in light of our analysis. Our results are suggestive but in important respects puzzling. In a nutshell, the excessive CD-13 undervote rate in Sarasota County is not yet well-understood, and will not be understood without further investigation. On its own, further statistical analysis of the kind of data we examine here probably cannot explain the undervotes.

Even though important components of the CD-13 undervote rate are readily explicable, the available explanations do not fully account for the phenomenon. Some factors that correlate with the CD-13 undervote connect to simple and general plausible explanations. Several hundred CD-13 undervotes come from voters who, based on votes theycast for other offices, seem to be disinclined to vote for candidates affiliated with either the Democrat or Republican party: the CD-13 race did not offer a third-party alternative and did not allow write-in votes. Several thousand CD-13 undervotes appear on ballots that also have undervotes for other offices, notably for the five statewide offices that appeared on Florida ballots in 2006. It is plausible that most of these undervotes reflect voters who simply did not care to vote for several offices. These undervotes are not related to any voting machine characteristics we were able to observe.

Other correlates of the CD-13 undervote rate are straightforward to describe, but the general explanations that may connect to them are not so clear. We find differences of hundreds of CD-13 undervotes when we compare voting machines that have different observable characteristics. Hundreds of these undervotes are related to a specific error message in the event log file (the event log file supposedly reports every transaction that occurred on each voting machine). The CD-13 undervote rate varies substantially across voters, differences that correlate significantly with the partisan balance among the votes recorded for the five statewide offices. Ballots that have even one additional statewide office with a vote for a Democrat rather than for a Republican tend to have higher rates of CD-13 undervoting.

The principal question we cannot answer is whether these patterns reflect voluntary behavior or artificial errors or manipulations. The urgency of this question is highlighted by the fact that the relationship between the CD-13 undervote rate and the statewide office voting pattern differs depending on whethera particular error message occurs on the voting machine on which the votes were cast. In the data for votes cast on election day, this interaction effect is statistically significant. The same effect is observable but not significant in the data for votes cast during early voting. The number of CD-13 undervotes that appear to be directly implicated in this interaction effect is relatively small, but it is worrisome to see any sign that an error in the voting machines’ operation is a marker for otherwise comparable voters having their votes recorded differently.

(continued below)

Moreover it is difficult to conclude that persistent differences in basic propensities to undervote explain the differences in CD-13 undervoting among ballots that have different statewide voting patterns, because we find that the same subsets of ballots have substantially different undervote rates for other offices.For instance, the CD-13 undervote rate is higher on ballots that have votes for Democrats for all five statewide offices than it is on ballots that have all five votes for Republicans, but it is the straight-Republican ballots that have the higher undervote rate in votes for Hospital Board Southern District Seat 1. The relationship between partisan voting for the statewide offices and undervoting is peculiar to the CD-13 race.

Such peculiarity raises a substantial question about the popular idea that the large CD-13 undervote was caused by the format of the ballot (Mahlburg and Tamman 2006;Tamman and Doig 2006; Frisina, Herron, Honaker, and Lewis 2006). Clearly the ballot format caused many of the CD-13 undervotes,but it is not at all clear how many.The ballot format cannot explain the differences we observe between voting machines and between subsets of ballots. The ballot format cannot explain whythe distribution of undervotes differs significantly between the race for Hospital Board Southern District Seat1and the CD-13 race. The alternatives for the Hospital Board Southern District Seat1 race appear on the ballot with notable features that are very similar to those that are often credited with causing the problems with the CD-13 race.

National Stories

Senator Feinstein Seeks Answers from EAC On Unreported Failures at Voting Equipment Test Lab
by U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein - January 12, 2007

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA, pictured at right), Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, today sent a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission seeking answers as to why the Commission failed to notify election officials or the public about a serious problem with Ciber Labs of Colorado, one of three major labs that tests much of the nation’s software used in voting equipment.

Senator Feinstein also asked for information regarding what went wrong at Ciber Labs to warrant its loss of accreditation.

According to recent news reports, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission refused to accredit one of the three major voting equipment test labs in July or August, but did not notify the public, election officials, or Congress that it had significant reservation about the lab. The certification process to accredit these test labs was established by the Help America Vote Act.

The following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s letter to Donetta Davidson, Chair, U.S. Election Assistance Commission:

Dear Chair Davidson:

As the incoming Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, I am writing about the failure of the Election Assistance Commission to provide timely information to election officials and the public about your Commission’s decision to withhold accreditation to Ciber Labs.

Until the New York Times published an article on January 4 about the denial, election officials and the public were generally in the dark about the apparent failure by Ciber Labs to properly test electronic voting systems. This raises questions about the security and accuracy of our nation’s voting equipment. Read the Entire Article

A House of Voting Cards
by Joseph Hall, Univeristy of California, Berkeley - January 13, 2007

This article was posted at Not Quite a Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author. 

The New York Times revealed last week that one of the Independent Testing Laboratories (ITAs) that qualify voting systems for conformance to the federal voting systems standards, Ciber Laboratories, Inc., had been suspended from approving new machines. Apparently, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) suspended Ciber due to lax "quality-control procedures and [Ciber] could not document that it was conducting all the required tests." ("Citing Problems, U.S. Bars Lab From Testing Electronic Voting")

We'll have more to say in detail in the future about what this revelation means in terms of oversight of voting systems, and oversight of the EAC itself. However, a number of simple questions come to mind: Why was this development kept from the public? Why were machines that Ciber had erroneously approved allowed to be used without additional testing in last Fall's general elections? How many models of voting systems are we talking about here? How widely deployed are Ciber-tested voting systems in our elections environment?

Read the Entire Article

Voting Machine Test Lab Merger Despite EAC Ban on Ciber puts Wyle Lab Partnership in Question
by Michael Richardson - January 19, 2007

The efforts of the Election Assistance Commission to accredit test laboratories for the nation's electronic voting machines have left the country with only two labs, SysTest and Wyle, operating on interim approval; and one laboratory, Ciber, left unaccredited since the National Association of State Election Directors got out of the certification business last year.

Published reports indicate the Ciber lab was denied interim accreditation last summer for a history of inadequate quality assurance and inability to document that critical tests were performed. The EAC is saying little about the matter to the media and has now been requested by Senator Diane Feinstein to explain why Ciber was not accredited and why disclosure of that fact was kept from election officials around the nation.

EAC regulatory staff might just want to peek at Ciber's website (webpage archived here) where they will discover that the banned Ciber lab has merged its testing division with EAC approved Wyle lab. Ciber boasts, "The CIBER-Wyle team is your single source for independent voting machine testing." Read the Entire Article

 

NIST Recommends Two Test Labs for EAC Accreditation
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 19, 2007

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has  a recommended that iBeta Quality Assurance of Aurora, Colo. and SysTest Labs of Denver be accredited as voting systems testing laboratories (VSTL) under the Election Assistance Commission's new testing and cerification program. Four other labs have applied for recommendation and are still under review by NIST: InfoGuard Laboratories Inc., BKP Security Labs, Wyle Laboratories, and Ciber Labs.

NIST said it reached that decision after completing a "comprehensive technical evaluation" of the laboratories' processes based on the international standard ISO/IEC 17025, which covers "general requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories." Copies of documents detailing those efforts are available at its Web site.

Now the process is in the hands of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, a federal agency that has sole authority to grant full accreditation to the labs. (It had already granted "interim" accreditation to SysTest while it gave NIST time to complete its work.) In a press release, EAC said it plans to undertake additional reviews focused on "non-technical issues such as conflict of interest policies, organizational structure, and record-keeping protocols."

State Legislators, Election Officials Tackle Voting Issues
by Sean Greene, electionline.org - January 21, 2007

Paper trails, voter ID, early voting on the agenda

This article appeared in the electionline weekly and is reposted with permission of the author.

With the beginning of the New Year comes the start of many state legislative sessions, and both lawmakers and election officials are considering a variety of changes to the election process in 2007 – some reacting to problems that arose in the last vote and others the continuation of trends around the country in recent years.

In Colorado, officials have completed reviews to examine what went wrong in several jurisdictions, including Denver, when problems with poll books led to long lines and irate voters.

Other proposals by lawmakers around the country could expand or adjust early voting or no-excuse absentee voting, increase the number of states requiring voter-verified paper audit trails with electronic avoting machines and alter voter verification requirements at the polls.

electionline.org will continue tracking these election-related bills and other proposals that have been introduced or discussed in 2007 and will continue to do so as the year progresses. Read the Entire Article

Unverifiable Votes
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 15, 2007

Our Election System Is Broken. Can the New Congress Fix It?

In the past year, concerns about the accuracy and integrity of computerized elections have entered the general consciousness and become accepted as serious. Issues that I addressed in the March 1, 2006, edition of the Spectator have since been written about in the national media, and the momentum has grown for legislative solutions to be found at the federal level. A new Congress is getting under way, and decisions will be made that will profoundly affect the way Americans cast and count their votes.

While computerized voting has been touted as a way to make elections easier and the results more reliable, an increasing number of voters, poll workers, and election officials have concluded that the process in 2006 was more difficult—not easier—and confidence in the tallies has been undermined. Many activists and legislators now question both the wisdom of relying on software to record votes, and the degree to which our elections depend on computerized voting systems and the manufacturers that sell them.

Read the Entire Article at the Washington Spectator 

From Around the States

San Francisco Tech Experts to Study Electronic Voting
by Bay City News Wire - January 22, 2007

The Department of Elections in San Francisco is enlisting software and system security experts in the community to tackle the question of ensuring the integrity of electronic voting.

A task force announced recently is being created to review source code -- the technical language that amounts to a recipe for a computer program -- in its application to electronic voting machines.

Like other local governments across the nation, San Francisco has paid private vendors to provide electronic voting machines.

Though the machines' computer interfaces have generally won acclaim for voter ease-of-use, problems have sprung up with reports of machines not operating properly, or election results that may have been tipped by faulty collection of actual voter preferences. Read the Entire Article

Connecticut: Bysiewicz Calls For Mandatory 20% Audit
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 16, 2007

Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz announced that she will submit a proposal to the state legislature's Government Administration and Elections Committee that would require audits in at least 20 percent of the state's 769 voting precincts, to be selected randomly.

In a Hartford Journal-Inquirer article, Secretary Bysiewicz stated "We owe it to the voters to allow them to always feel confident that they have an fair and transparent election process.”

"We have the capacity to do it, and I want the taxpayers to know that we've spent money on machines that work," she added. Read the Entire Article

Norton and Davis Introduce DC Voting Rights Act
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 19, 2007

Legislation that would give District of Columbia residents a vote in Congress for the first time ever has been reintroduced, bolstered by momentum from last year's lame-duck push and Democratic statements of support by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Leader Steny Hoyer.

Cosponsors Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (pictured at right) and Congressman Tom Davis (pictured below) reintroduced the Fair and Equal House Voting Rights Act (DC Voting Rights Act) today with expectations that the bill will move quickly through the legislative process.

The DC Voting Rights Act received two committee hearings last year, one resulting in a 29-4 bipartisan mark-up and the other establishing unanimous support for voting rights for the citizens of the nation's capital.

Rep. Davis, the original author of the bill, was the chair of the Committee when he worked with Norton for four years to get Republican and Democratic agreement on the current bill to give one vote to the mainly Democratic District of Columbia and another to the largely Republican state of Utah. The bill also would permanently increase the size of the House from 435 to 437 members. 

Davis first brought the idea to Norton after Utah narrowly missed getting a seat following the last census and failed to get the Supreme Court to rule in the state's favor. Davis said, "It is simply inexcusable that residents of the District of Columbia, the Capital of the Free World, the city that symbolizes our grand experiment in representative democracy - that these citizens do not have a representative with a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives, the People's House.  We got further than anyone ever had before last session, and this time, we're going to push it over the top.  It's a matter of fairness. It always has enjoyed bipartisan support. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a cosponsor last time, and we're hoping for her continued support."

Read the Entire Article

Florida 13th: Taking Elections Seriously, Part II
by Bob Bauer - January 13, 2007

Including a Response from Matt Weil

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

Matt Weil replied to this post yesterday, narrowing somewhat the apparent ground of disagreement. On substance, Weil writes that the source code should be available to the parties: “I would like nothing more than to see a completely fair review of the voting machines used in Sarasota....” This is what Christine Jennings has asked, so far without success.

Weil remains convinced, on the basis of one statistical study, that ballot design is the cause.  He is entitled to this view, of course, and this is not the place to contest it. Readers who review the filings in the Sarasota case will judge for themselves whether Jennings successfully puts in doubt this theory of ballot design. What they will certainly find is that Jennings did not, as Weil suggests, “ignore” this alternative explanation. Jennings attempts to show, in fact, that ballot design is not at all the “likely” explanation for the Sarasota undervote. 

Although it is stated reasonably, Weil’s position, in some particulars, shares in the some common notions about post-election disputes that explain the often limited public patience with them. 

First, there is a sense that when elections have failed to produce a clear or uncontested outcome, the public interest lies in the quickest disposition. Often—and this is not specifically Weil’s concern—the expectation is that elections are to be decided promptly, a view not unrelated to the wish to have them “called” speedily on election night. The voters have voted: so what is the result?  Read the Entire Article

Cuyahoga Election Workers Charged With Rigging 2004 Ohio Recount
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - January 22, 2007

Three Cuyahoga County Ohio elections workers have been charged with six counts of misconduct stemming from the state’s recount of the 2004 presidential election. The charges, filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas allege that elections’ coordinator Jacqueline Maiden, ballot manager Rosie Greer and assistant manager Kathleen Dreamer opened ballots before the Dec. 16, 2004, recount and hand-counted enough to identify precincts where the machine count matched so they could avoid a more lengthy hand count.

While the workers are not being charged with vote fraud, the charges are serious criminal charges and could result in a sentence as long as 18 months. According to an AP report County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter opened the Cuyahoga trial by charging that "the evidence will show that this recount was rigged, maybe not for political reasons, but rigged nonetheless." Baxter said the three election workers "did this so they could spend a day rather than weeks or months" on the recount.

According to Ohio recount law, each county is required to randomly select 3% of the ballots cast for a hand count. If the hand count matches the machine count, no more hand counts are required. If they don’t match, the remainder of the ballots must be hand counted. If the election workers did in fact violate the requirement for a random selection as alleged, they effectively obviated the intent of the state law to allow a candidate the opportunity to verify the accuracy of electronic tallies. Read the Entire Article

Virginia Takes Up Paper Ballot Legislation in 2007 Session
by Ivy Main, New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia - January 12, 2007

In the new session, Virginia’s legislature will debate bills requiring all jurisdictions in the state use paper ballot voting systems.

Delegate Tim Hugo and Senator Jeannemarie Devolites Davis, both Republicans from Fairfax County, have introduced identical bills in the House and Senate (HB 2707 and SB 840) that would require all jurisdictions in Virginia (with the exception of a few very small localities) to use paper ballots read by optical scan machines. Localities would also purchase ballot-marking devices for use by persons with disabilities. The legislation also contains a ban on wireless communication devices, provisions for post-election random audits of election machines, and procedures for the review of at least some paper ballots in the case of a recount.

Enthusiasm for the bill has spread beyond the election integrity groups that lobbied for last year’s bill. This year a number of citizen’s groups, advocates and political parties formed the Verifiable Voting Coalition of Virginia, whose members include Virginia Verified Voting, the New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia (New Era for VA), the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, the Virginia Libertarian Party, the Virginia Organizing Project, and the Southern Coalition for Verified Voting. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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