Election Integrity News - February 13, 2006

This Week's Quotes: "Our freedom ultimately depends on someone's willingness to take responsibility for it. "Paul Lehto, attorney in Washington State

"How can we place a price on a single vote or on the security of our democracy?" Greg Trapp, Executive Director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind

"Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

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Actions to Take Now

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

National: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!

Demand Verifiable Elections in Arizona

Iowa - Support SF 351

Maryland: Support HB 244 and SB 713

New Mexico: Paper Ballots Statewide!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977

Washington: Audit All Voting Machines! - Support HB-2532


In this issue ...

National Stories

Is Diebold Planning To Get Out of Elections?

Sequoia, Snohomish County, and The Constitutionality of DREs

News From Around the States

Alaska: Diebold Waives Proprietary Rights to Election File

Election Integrity Groups Launch Citizen Action In Support Of Verifiable Elections In Arizona

California Senate Holds Hearing On Open Source Software In Voting Systems

Florida Grasps At Straws To Prevent Paper Ballots

Illinois May Have Violated State Law In Desperate Effort To Certify Voting Machines

Iowa: Our System Of Voting The Bedrock Of Our Democracy Is In Jeopardy

Maryland Moving Toward Reliable Voting System

Testimony in Support of Bill To Allow Manual Recounts In Nebraska

New Jersey Appeals Court Reinstates E-Voting Lawsuit

Fact Checking The Opponents of Paper Ballots In New Mexico

No News Is Good News In North Dakota

Pennsylvania: Westmoreland County Lawsuit Has Hearing in Commonwealth Court

Virginia: Appopriations Subcommittee Votes to Delay HB 1243 Til Next Year

Washington Elections Division Ignores Voting Systems Test Failures In Other States

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

#5 - The Chicago Tribune reported that Chicago and suburban Cook County have a deal worked out with the city of Las Vegas, Nevada. In this deal Chicago-Cook Co. will use presently federally qualified and state certified Sequoia DREs and optical-scan machines in the March primary. 4,000 machines will then be shipped to Las Vegas where they will be used in the future. Chicago-Cook Co. will then take possession of brand new, not yet federally qualified or state certified Sequoia DREs. These new DREs are different in size and features from their predecessors. Thus, Chicago and suburban Cook Co., Illinois will be 'beta testing' this new voting system in a real election with real voters casting real votes.

#4 - The city of Carlisle, Ohio had to hold a re-vote for an EMS levy; the second vote on this issue in three months. The reason? The cities only Montgomery County precinct reported more votes cast than there were voters registered in that precinct. As reported by the Middletown Journal, this single precinct is the only precinct in the city that uses DREs (Diebold TSx) while the Warren County precincts all use optical-scan. As tends to be normal the Montgomery County elections officials blamed the problem on poll workers, ignoring the fact that if they had used optical-scan machines they could have done a simple hand recount of the ballots and the vote would have been completed three months ago.

#3 - USA Today and the Associated Press both had reports with information from electionline.org and Election Data Services. Both articles refer to 2006 as being "the year of the glitch" due to the roll out of new voting technology. Unfortunately neither news organization or neither of the organizations featured in the articles addressed the fact that many, if not most, of the glitches would be from voting systems that are being 'beta tested' in real elections with real votes. Instead, both articles point the fingers at the voters and poll workers who will be blamed for the mistakes. DREs are completely trouble-free. It is the voters and poll workers who are flawed and error prone.

#2 - Diebold seems to be in perpetual trouble. Scott & Scott LLC will file a Motion for Lead Plaintiff and Lead Counsel on February 13, 2006. The action is pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. The Class is defined in the complaint drafted by Scott+Scott as those who purchased Diebold securities between October 22, 2003, and September 21, 2005, inclusive. Meanwhile, both VoteTrustUSA and BRAD BLOG have reported on the news reports regarding statements by Diebold CEO Thomas Swidarski that he may be willing to divest the company of their elections unit. To be sure class-action lawsuits and questions about their software and hackability of their machines will help in any decision made by the company.

#1 - 'Legislation and the Courts' has to be the big story for the week. A New Jersey Appeals Court has reinstated a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of electronic voting machines. This is huge news because this lawsuit can help in other states. In fact, the court opinion was used within a day later in a settlement conference in Washington. Also in news from the courts the National Federation of the Blind lawsuit against Volusia Co., Florida was dismissed by the courts. And in Ohio the Cobb-Badnarik lawsuit over the recount of the Nov. 2004 federal election was dismissed by a state court. In the legislature many states have bills going through the legislative process. Notable this week is a real paper ballot bill in New Mexico that has garnered Senate committee approval as well as backing from the Governor and the Secretary of State. And in Maryland SB-713 was introduced with 22 cosponsors and bi-partisan support. This bill is a companion to the House bill, HB-244, which has near unanimous support. Both of these bills will require all voting systems used in the state to produce or require the use of a voter verified paper record. The bill also calls for hand counted audits of a percentage of the votes by each election board in the state.

 



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National Stories

Is Diebold Planning To Get Out of Elections?
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 9, 2006

In an Associated Press interview Diebold Inc.'s new  CEO Thomas Swidarski (pictured at right) said he is reviewing whether the company should continue investing in its election division, Diebold Election Systems, Inc. Diebold only entered the election business in 2001 when they purchased Global Election Systems. The election division accounts for less that 3% of Diebold's gross revenue.

Could this explain reports from various states across the country, that Diebold equipment, in particular their touchscreen voting systems, are being offered to counties at fire sale prices?

Swidarski insisted that he feels good about the performance of the e-voting operations - this in spite of numerous shareholder lawsuits, scathing reports from computer scientists, and an ongoing controversy over the presence of interpreted code in their software architecture.

"There's pieces and aspects of each of our businesses that I'm going to be looking at with a very critical eye in terms of what the future holds for us,'' Swidarski said in his first media interview since taking over in December the company best known for its automatic teller machines and security systems.

Risk within any of Diebold's businesses will be weighed against profit potential, Swidarski said. "If any of the pieces don't fit or any of the pieces don't add the value we think is associated with that risk, then we'll make appropriate decisions at that point," he said.
He also pointed out that his biggest porponents were his long-standing clients, i.e. election officials who were responsible for the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars in equipment and are therefore relunctant to admit that there are any problems with that equipment. Many of these officials have linked their reputations to Diebold's, with their photographs and endorsements used in Deibold's marketing tools.

"I'm very confident that the states that have run this (electronic voting) the longest and have been involved with it the most are the most satisfied," he said. "Much like bank customers have to make decisions, elections officials make decisions. Those folks have a very difficult job, with big responsibilities."

It is undeniable that the responsibilities of elections officials are enormous and the important duites they perform are both crucial to democracy and woefully underappreciated. Nevertheless it is essential that they recognize the very real issues of security and vulnerability that have been raised concerning Diebold voting equipment.

Sequoia, Snohomish County, and The Constitutionality of Electronic Voting Machines
by Paul Lehto - February 11, 2006

The following report is from Paul Lehto (pictured below), an attorney in Everett, Washington. Paul is a complainant in a lawsuit against Snohomish County, WA , of which Everett is the county seat, and Sequoia Voting Systems. The pleadings in the lawsuit can be found here.

The story of my lawsuit against Snohomish County, Washington and Sequoia Voting Systems began on election day, 2004, when I was an attorney volunteer at a polling station that was historically favoring one particular political party. However, in 2004 as I saw the touch screens print out their election results after hours, I was surprised to see the other party win every contested race that could have been won within reason. This led to a series of FOIA or Public Disclosure Act requests, and ultimately to a scientific paper co-authored with Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman. The upshot of the paper is that Snohomish County had a relatively unique setup where optically scanned paper ballots were used side by side with touch screen DREs, but then because of the nation's closest gubernatorial election in history, the paper ballots were subjected to hand recounts to eliminate their counting errors while the DREs were not recounted or recountable. Thus, a natural laboratory situation was set up where side by side differences between paper ballots and touch screen electronic ballots could be compared. 

The paper ballots showed the Democratic candidate winning by 2000 votes, while the touch screens (handling only 32% of the total vote) showed Republican winning by over 8500 votes. The chances of this happening based on voters being randomly assigned to voting technologies, with 68% assigned to paper and 32% to touch screens was far more than one in a trillion. Though statisticians debate exactly how *many* trillions, they all agree on the word "impossible".

To be fair, however, discrepancies like these are routinely written off by pundits, who posit things like "late surges" and better absentee ballot organizing by one party or the other to explain why absentee ballots might differ from polling place ballots. However, this is what I maintain is the "claim to fame" of the study: we excluded all the touch screen machines that malfunctioned so badly that they were pulled out of service with fewer than 30 votes on them. These malfunctions consisted of observed candidate-flipping where a vote pressed as D would show up as R, as well as freezeups.

Knowing that machines are all visually identical and that no voter would know they had chosen a defective machine, we were surprised to find out that (in the closes gubernatorial race in the nation's history and in a Democratic county) the malfuctioning machines had more than 50% more Republican votes than Democratic votes for governor! Put another way, all of the forms of evidence are present: eyewitness evidence (people saw their votes change), statistical evidence, evidence by admission (the county took the machines out of service), circumstantial evidence, and inferential evidence. On top of all of this, statistical distributions of the paper ballots show single-peak bell curves "with some noise" or variation as is expected in natural systems of variation like voting, and this was true for both Republican and Democratic voters. However, with touch screen voting, there is a twin-peaked curve that is significantly smoother than the paper ballot curves for both parties. My co-author, a Ph.D. and professor in mechanical engineering and things like manufacturing process control, concluded that we can say with 100% certainty that some very large force acted upon the touch screen ballots that did not act upon the paper ballots, and that when it acted upon the touch screens, it affected less than all of the precincts, or did not affect all precincts equally. In addition, the smoother curve with touch screens is very consistent with a computer-generated curve, relative to the noisier curve on the paper ballots, as if a computer randomizing function had attempted to "smooth out" the electronic results via a randomizing function of some sort.

None of this was enough for the County to even start an investigation. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Alaska: Diebold Waives Proprietary Rights to Election File
by Kay Brown, Alaska Democratic Party - February 8, 2006

Democrats May Receive Data But Issues Remain Unresolved

In response to a public records request from the Alaska Democratic Party, Diebold Election Systems has agreed to waive its proprietary rights to the electronic file that contains the results of Alaska's 2004 general election. The Alaska Division of Elections earlier refused to release the electronic database file, claiming it was proprietary information owned by Diebold.

The Division of Elections informed the Alaska Democratic Party (ADP) that it will provide the file "if it is determined that the integrity of the election system can be protected." At the request of the Division, the Democratic Party agreed to give the Division until Feb. 13 to provide the public records.

"We're cautiously optimistic that the remaining issues will be resolved satisfactorily and that we'll receive the data we need to verify the 2004 election results," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe.

The Division said it is consulting with the Department of Administration and Diebold to determine whether there is a method to maintain the integrity of the election system and ensure that the data is protected from intentional or accidental modification or destruction. “If it is determined that the integrity of the election system can be protected notwithstanding release of encrypted passwords and recoding them for future elections and changing the modem number, the records will be provided,” said Division of Elections Director Whitney Brewster in a Feb. 3 letter to the ADP. Read the Entire Article

Election Integrity Groups Launch Citizen Action In Support Of Verifiable Elections In Arizona
by Arizona Citizens for Election Reform and Arizona Citizens for Fair Elections, and VoteTrustUSA - February 13, 2006

Arizona Citizens for Election Reform and Arizona Citizens for Fair Elections, together with VoteTrustUSA have launched a citizen's action in support of SB 1557 and HB 2859. These bills would provide for mandatory verification of electronic voting machines by precinct at the time of an election, require a durable voter verified paper record of every vote, mandate enough polling places to avoid long lines on election day, and comply with federal government HAVA standards. The lead sponsors of the legislation are Rep. Ted Downing (D-28th), Rep. Ben Moranda (D-16th), Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia (D-27th), and Sen. Jack Harper (R-4th).

HB2859 and SB1557 would require that all voting systems in Arizona produce or require the use of a voter verified paper record of each vote cast. This requirement is absolutely essential for recounts and audits to be able to ensure the integrity of our elections. Paperless systems make it impossible to do a valid check on system accuracy. The bills would also establish a random post-election audits of paper records.

The legislation would also allows a voter the option of a "no vote" or "none of the above", a provision already in place in Nevada and other states that clarifies when an undervote was intentional. There are also provisions in the bill to prevent long precinct lines by limiting precinct size.

The bills also call for open source voting system software. currently, vendors can protect their intellectual property with patents and copyrights, but not by keeping source code secret from election officials and their technical representatives. Secret proprietary designs have no place in public elections. Open source software makes it possible for a variety of computer security experts to evaluate the software and make suggestions for changes. Finally the legislation would require independent testing of voting systems. Arizona currently does no such testing. For a detailed analysis of the legislation click here.

 

Send A Message To Your Arizona Legislators And Demand Verifiable Elections In Arizona!

California Senate Holds Hearing On Open Source Software In Voting Systems
by Kim Alexander, California Voter Foundation - February 10, 2006

This report on the recent hearing on open source voting was posted at CalVoter.org. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

State Senator Debra Bowen, who chairs the elections committee, ran the hearing, which was comprised of two panels. The first included experts from the open source industry and representatives from California agencies and a university utilizing open source software. Clark Kelso’s testimony was particularly compelling, Kelso, Chief Information Officer for the State of California, briefly described the historic use of computers in California government.

Kelso said that thirty to forty years ago, the state was engaged in its own software development activities, typically on mainframes, and was successful in developing and acquiring stable programs to support state needs. Today many of those legacy systems are stable and still serving the state very well, according to Kelso. Starting in the 80’s and 90’s, state agencies began to use more commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software.

Kelso said that the Air Resources Board is the leading department that has begun turning to open source solutions. The agency maintains a culture in their workforce that supports the use of open source, and the strategy has been successful in that it reduces costs, reduces the amount of time needed to develop technology, and helps the agency avoid procurement cycles. This last point is highly relevant to voting systems equipment, where a long procurement cycle often forces counties to limit their options to considering only equipment from vendors that is certified when the procurement process begins. Read the Entire Article

Florida Grasps At Straws To Prevent Paper Ballots
by Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coaltion - February 8, 2006

The Florida Division of Elections is determined to thwart counties in the state that want to retain paper based voting. According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, David R. Drury, chief of the state's Bureau of Voting Systems Certification, sent an e-mail to all 67 election supervisors Wednesday saying his agency "cannot recommend certification at this time" for the Automark ballot marking device. Marketed by Election Systems and Software, the Automark is an assistive device that provides an interface that allows disabled voters to mark an optical scan ballot. The device, which is federally certified to the current voting system standards and will be used in well over half the states has been languishing at Florida's Division of Elections for a full year. Meanwhile, the Diebold TSx was certified in just 29 days (application on March 1, 2005; certification on March 29, 2005), despite numerous problems that showed up during testing, none of which have ever been addressed.

But the reason given for the state's denial of certification is specious and reveals a determination on the part of state election officials to force Florida counties to purchase unreliable voting technology that cannot be audited and will not allow for a meaningful recount.

According to a memo from Florida's Division of Elections, the state law used to deny certification to the AutoMark is Florida Statute Section 101.56062 (1)(n) 7 which states that an audio ballot system "must communicate to the voter the fact that the voter has failed to vote in a race or has failed to vote the number of allowable candidates in any race and require the voter to confirm his or her intent to undervote before casting the ballot." However, neither Florida law nor the Help America Vote Act say at exactly what point a voter must be able to review his/her ballot before it is cast, nor does either law require a review of the entire ballot. Further, neither law mandates that review of the ballot must be the FINAL step before casting the ballot, but simply states that a voter must be notified that he/she has undervoted and be able to review his/her decision to undervote. The AutoMark both notifies the voter of his/her undervotes and allows the voter to review his/her undervotes. Read the Entire Article

Illinois May Have Violated State Law In Desperate Effort To Certify Voting Machines
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 12, 2006

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the Illinois State Board of Elections in an eleventh hour decision on Friday approved five voting syustems that will be used in Chicago and suburban Cook County in early voting for the March primary that starts in just over two weeks. The Board granted two-year interim certification to the Sequoia 400-C ballot scanner, the Insight in-precint optical  scanner, WinEDS central count system and the Card Activator which also combines the totals of the DREs and optical scanners. The article also noted that The Chicago and Cook County are “Sequoia's biggest piece of business in the nation.”

Dianne Felts, the Board's Director of Systems and Standards acknowledged that "shortcuts are being taken that shouldn't be taken."

The Tribune article reported that:

Officials picked Sequoia last summer in a decision that marked a compromise. While most voters will mark circles on paper ballots, those who are blind, disabled or just curious about the technology can use electronic touch screens. The dual approach is one way to meet a federal requirement to provide unassisted voting to the disabled, while not fully embracing electronic voting and the security and reliability hazards some say it presents.
It would appear that with this last minute action, the Board of Elections is violating state law by granting interim certification to this "blended" system. Illinois election code requires that any systems certified for use in the state must first be certified to 2002 voting system standards. The components of this system haven't passed Independent Testing Authority testing, though Sequoia has resubmitted multiple times. Sequoia has been telling the city, county and state all along that their certification was basically a done deal, but thus far that's not the case. Citizens in a number of states are suing the relevant election authorities for violations of state laws and constitutions. Read the Entire Article

Iowa: Our System Of Voting The Bedrock Of Our Democracy Is In Jeopardy
by Carole Simmons, Iowans for Voting Integrity - February 12, 2006

The Help America Vote Act of 2002, or HAVA, was intended to make voting easier and more accessible following the Florida election fiasco of butterfly ballots and hanging chads. Unfortunately, in the rush to implement HAVA, the need for transparency and security in the voting process have been left behind.

Billions of federal dollars have been allocated to the states for purchase of electronic voting systems that are prone to error and vulnerable to fraud. This is not the opinion of some conspiracy theorist, but rather the considered judgment of computer scientists at leading universities - Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and our own University of Iowa - and these concerns are echoed in a September 2005 GAO report. Current standards and testing procedures are inadequate to reveal security flaws that could subvert an election.

Yet, as mandated, all 99 counties in Iowa have now contracted for new voting equipment. Eighteen counties will rely solely on paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touch screen) machines. Most of the other counties will have a mixed system, where any voter who wishes may use a DRE. The voter using these paperless machines has no way to see what the machine recorded when they voted - no way to verify their vote. Their "ballot" is just a chunk of computer code internal to the machine. Read the Entire Article

Iowans for Voting Integrity and IowaVoters.org, together with VoteTrustUSA have launched a citizen action in support of SF 351, a bill that would require that all voting machines in Iowa provide a voter veriified paper record that can be used in audits and recounts to confirm the accuracy of vote totals. Please Click Here to send a message to your Iowa state legislators uurging them to support SF 351.

Maryland Moving Toward Reliable Voting System
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 10, 2006

Voter Verified Paper Ballot Legislation Filed With 23 Bi-Partisan Co-sponsors

On February 7, SB 713, a Senate companion of the 'paper trail' bill was introduced by Maryland State Senator Paula Hollinger (pictured at right) along with with 22 co-sponsors of both parties.  The bill will require only 24 to pass when it reaches the Senate floor. All the members of the Senate Committee responsible for election issues support the bill. The Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs Committee has been announced that a hearing for SB 713 will be held on Thursday, February 16th at 1:00 p.m.. For information about how you can attend this meeting and support SB 713 visit TrueVoteMD.

Hollinger's bill is a companion to HB 244, introduced by Delegate Sheila Hixson last week. On the House side, Delegates are expressing confidence that HB244 will pass in a near unanimous vote. Civic organizations covering a wide range of interests support voter verified paper ballot legislation.

Both bills would require all votings systems used in the state to produce or require the use of a voter verified paper record. The bill also calls for hand counted audits of a percentage of the votes by each election board in the state. "Maryland is on the verge of enacting legislation that will ensure transparent elections that voters can trust. When HB 244/SB713 becomes law Maryland will move from a state with the least secure and least transparent election system to a state with one of the most secure and transparent systems," said Bob Ferraro of TrueVoteMD.

State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone remains steadfast in her allegiance to paperless touchcreens and, according to the Capital News Service, she told the House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee, which is considering HB 244, that a change would cause both physical and financial burdens to the state. Lamone's testimony contradicted that of more than 20 individuals who spoke in favor of instituting paper-trail machines, including some who were blind and handicapped. TrueVoteMD has published a point-by-point rebuttal of Ms. Lamone's testimony. Read the Entire Article

TrueVoteMD and VoteTrustUSA Have Launched a Citizen Action in Support of HB 244 and SB 713. Please Click Here To Send A Message To Your State Legislators Urging Their Support of Voter Verified Paper Records and Mandatory Audits

Testimony in Support of Bill To Allow Manual Recounts In Nebraska
by Don Eret, former Nebraska State Senator - February 8, 2006

On January 19, 2006, the Nebraska Legislature's Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee held a hearing on LB 1013, a bill that would allow for a manual recount. Currently manual recounts are effectively prohibited in the state's election code. The committee in a 6-0-2 vote indefinitely postponed action on the bill.

I have an understanding of the elective franchise that is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution to every citizen of good standing. The elective franchise was granted to women in the United States in 1920. That franchise as more clearly defined by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires that all votes must be counted and properly tabulated and be subject to a ballot audit in a contested election or in an election recount.

Some states have an election statute that provides a candidate the right to request a manual recount of ballots. Nebraska statute 32-1121, to provide a recount to a losing candidate, allows only for an electronic recount of the ballots.

The bill before us today, LB 1013, would provide the option for a candidate to request a manual recount. This would then provide a true audit as intended by the elective franchise and as further required by the Voting Rights Act.

The Help America vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 still further emphasizes the requirement that ballot audit provision be made for a manual recount. This requirement under Section 301 of the Act states this to be mandatory for federal elections starting in 2006. Read the Entire Article

New Jersey Appeals Court Reinstates E-Voting Lawsuit
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - February 9, 2006

The Lawsuit Questions the Constitutionality of Electronic Voting Machines

According to a press release, the Constitutional Litigation Clinic at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, NJ has announced that all electronic voting machines used in New Jersey may violate New Jersey's Constitution and election laws.

The press release goes on to say:

In its decision, the Appellate Division reinstated a lawsuit filed by the clinic in 2004 that challenges the ability of New Jersey's electronic voting machines to count votes accurately, in compliance with voting rights laws. The Court reinstated the lawsuit even though, as a result of judicial and legislative efforts led by the clinic, all voting machines in the state must be equipped with a voter verified paper ballot component by 2008. The Court was concerned with protecting the hundreds of millions of votes that would be cast on voting machines between now and 2008. The Court also expressed its concern that the Attorney General's office would use a loophole in the statute and issue waivers to the 2008 voter verified paper ballot requirement - further jeopardizing the franchise.
The lawsuit is the first in the nation to successfully challenge electronic voting machines. Professor Penny Venetis (pictured at right), associate director of the clinic and lead counsel on the case, commented, "This shows that our courts take very seriously their role in protecting our most fundamental of all rights - the right to vote. Despite clear evidence that New Jersey's voting machines are insecure, the other branches of government failed to take appropriate action. That is why the Court stepped in," Venetis added.

The same voting machines used by almost all of New Jersey's five million registered voters have been found too insecure to use and have been de-commissioned by California, Ohio, Nevada, and New York City. New Jersey does not check the software of electronic voting machines to determine whether they have been tampered with or whether they are faulty. Read the Entire Article

Fact Checking The Opponents of Paper Ballots In New Mexico
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 12, 2006

With the support of Governor Richardson, Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron, the proposal for a statewide paper ballot optical scan voting system in New Mexico is moving inexorably through the short state legislative session despite the best efforts of a coalition of opponents, notably lobbyists representing the voting machine vendor with the most to lose and a county clerk who has invested millions in their equipment, along with opposition party legislators. The Governor’s proposal that all voting systems in the state use a paper ballot marked by the voter is embodied in bills introduced in each chamber - HB 430 in the House and SB 295 in the Senate. Both bills worked their way through the committee process this week and are poised for floor votes.

Leading the opposition has been Sequoia Voting Systems, which has plenty to lose. Unlike Election Systems and Software (ES&S), their competitor for the state's lucrative voting system contract, Sequoia does not offer a ballot-marking device to provide independent voting for disabled New Mexicans while retaining a paper based systems that allows for independent verification of vote totals. Sequoia has other problems, like the fact that none of their equipment has yet been certified to the current federal voting system standards, though company official continue to maintain, as they have for over a year, that such certification is imminent. Then there's the fact that their equipment is subject to a temporary restraining order and currently cannot be purchased by the state.

Sequoia's even more influential representative this week was Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera (pictured at right), who is also running for the office of Secretary of State, where she would be in charge of the entire state's elections. (Vigil-Giron will be leaving this year because of term limitations.) On Tuesday, Herrera delivered a letter to the Governor's representative on the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission desperately attacking the ES&S AutoMARK ballot-marking device. Her dogged opposition to the AutoMARK and the possibility of elections in which the voter's choices can at least potentially be determined without the use of Sequoia's (or any other vendor's) proprietary software was not inhibited by a reliance on fact. In the past, such misinformation from the county clerk of the state's largest county might have been left uncorrected and held sway with legislators. Fortunately for democracy, election integrity activists from Verified Voting New Mexico and United Voters of New Mexico were paying attention and delivered a response to Herrera's letter.
Read the Entire Article

United Voters of New Mexico and Verified Voting New Mexico, together with VoteTrustUSA have launched a Citizen Action in support of Paper Ballots in New Mexico. Please click here to send a message to your New Mexico Legislators in support of HB 430 and SB 295!

No News Is Good News In North Dakota
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 11, 2006

Across the country, many states and jurisdictions are scrambling to prepare for primary elections that are just months away. Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandates, together with new laws and regulations in some states, have presented many election officials with daunting challenges and uncomfortably short timetables to implement changes in voting systems. For a variety of reasons some states are not panicking - like North Dakota.

Recognizing the magnitude of the HAVA requirements and the exigencies of a state legislature that only meets in odd numbered years, North Dakota adopted an accelerated HAVA implementation process and a state plan was drafted and passed through the legislature in 2003. In the fall of that year public hearings and voting machine demonstrations were held, an RFP was drafted, and Secretary of State Al Jaeger (pictured at right) finalized a contract for voting system upgrades with Election Service and software (ES&S) in January 9, 2004. Anticipating developments in voting technology, the state's RFP, which formed the basis of the eventual contract, included a clause requiring the vendor to upgrade systems to meet new federal guidelines.

In a recent conversation, Jaeger admitted to me that at this point he has to stop and think to remember the whole process because it was completed so long ago. "All the equipment was delivered to the counties at the end of last year and they're all busy with training and preparation for our June primaries", he noted. This, when some states haven't even certified any voting systems. "We're going to be in good shape, and it's because of everybody working together and planning ahead," Jaeger said. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: Westmoreland County Lawsuit Has Hearing in Commonwealth Court
by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA - February 11, 2006

Will citizens get their say on electronic voting machine referendum?

This article appeared on the VotePA website on February 7, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Attorneys representing a group of Westmoreland County voters, the Westmoreland county commissioners and election board, and the Pennsylvania Department of State began duking it out in Commonwealth Court on Tuesday in a lawsuit. At stake is a Pennsylvania constitutional issue, and whether or not citizens should have the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the move to electronic voting under the Help America Vote Act.

The object of the lawsuit filed by the voters is a provision in the Pennsylvania State Constitution that requires a referendum to be placed on the ballot prior to a county moving to voting by machine. The Pennsylvania Department of State and other entities have taken the position that the referendum is not needed because HAVA, as a federal law requiring that older lever machines and other systems be replaced, overrides state law.

"Not so fast," the voter/plaintiffs who filed the suit are saying. Read the Entire Article

Virginia: Appopriations Subcommittee Votes to Delay HB 1243 Til Next Year
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 13, 2006

In a blow to all concerned about election integrity in Virginia, the House Appropriations Government and Technology Subcommittee has voted to delay HB 1243 til the 2007 session. This vote effectively stops proposals for voter verified paper records, random audits, and public disclosure of voting system software from moving forward this session. The bill, introduced by Rep. Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) had progressed through the House Committee on Privileges and Elections and a similar bill first passed and then was later stalled in the equivalent committee in the Senate.

The delay of HB 1243 marks a victory for those who have been fighting verifiable elections in Virginia, lead most visibly by Jean Jensen, executive secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections (pictured at far right together with another ardent proponent of paperless elections, Linda Lamone, state election director for neighboring Maryland). Jensen has fought the enactment of election safeguards for the past two years as a joint legislative subcommittee held hearings on the security and vulnerability of electronic voting.

Since her appointment Governor Mark Warner, Jensen has maintained that providing a voter verified paper audit trail would be “inefficient”. In a Washington Post article published last September she commented, "[p]eople consistently blame the machines, but the problems that they often talk about are really human . . . error," she said. "I understand the concerns about electronic voting, but I haven't seen a [paper backup] system that adds to the efficiency of the voting process." An independent audit record would provide a safety net, whether the errors were caused by machines or humans. In the end, what serves democracy better, efficiency or accuracy?

Still in play is a pilot program that would require the State Board of Elections to design a pilot program to test electronic voting equipment and paper record requirements and incorporate audits of voting equipment. A bill introduced by Sen. Mary Whipple (D-31st) that would establish this program was passed unanimously in the Senate last week. While any progress toward addressing the security of elections in Virginia is better than none, activists are concerned that such a pilot program, designed and implemented by Jensen’s Board of Elections, may end up being a whitewash that will only delay verifiable election in Virginia even longer.

Looking ahead to 2007, Virginia Verified Voting and New Electoral Reform Alliance for Virginia continue to build statewide support for voter verified paer records, mandatory random audits, public disclosure of software and thr prohibition of wireless communication devices.

Washington Elections Division Ignores Voting Systems Test Failures In Other States
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - February 9, 2006

Lack of Due Diligence, Arrogance, or ???

Most election officials are competent and hard working, and they truly care about the voters in their states and jurisdictions. On a state level they have to make tough decisions on what voting systems will serve their state the best. On the other hand there are some who are incompetent. They don't seem to want to do any more than is absolutely necessary to gather the information to make decisions. They would prefer to just talk to the vendors, naively expecting to get accurate information from those who stand to make hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sale of their systems. If these officials have a chance to check the accuracy of what the vendors say, they ignore that chance and simply believe the vendors.

A good example of this has recently arisen in Washington state. In an article in the Suburban Chicago News, it was reported that the Illinois Board of Elections had denied certification to Hart Intercivic for their eSlate voting system. The article describes the problems with the voting machines as being "complicated," and it  reports one election official as saying the problem involves a glitch in the software that could result in the wrong ballot style being placed in the wrong precinct. This is the same voting system that was just recommended for state certification in Washington.
 
Knowing that the Hart eSlate had just been recommended for certification in Washington, I sent an email to the Washington Secretary of State's Elections Office to point out the Illinois denial of certification and to ask why this 'bug' had not been discovered during testing by the Washington state.
 
The response from the state was surprising and revealing. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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