Election Integrity News - January 24, 2007
In this issue ...
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
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
Here for Previous Issues
Year Ago: The January 23, 2006 Issue of Election Integrity News
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New Report Examines Undervotes in Florida's 13th District
by Walter Mebane, Jr. (Cornell University) and David Dill (Stanford
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
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.
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.
the Entire Article
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
the Entire Article at the Washington Spectator
From Around the States
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 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
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."
the Entire Article
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
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
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
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
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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