Election Integrity News - February 20, 2006
This Week's Quotes: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered... deeply, ...finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people." George Washington, First Inaugural Address, Apr. 30, 1789
“Elections are not the property of any private company or individual, they belong to the people.” Avi Rubin, Technology Director for the Information Security Institute at John Hopkins University
In this issue ...
News From Around the States
National Coalition for Election Integrity
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A team of computer security and voting experts has issued recommendations to ensure that electronic records of information submitted by citizens registering to vote are accurate, private, and secure. In a report (download PDF) commissioned by the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) U.S. Public Policy Committee (USACM), state and local election officials now have nearly 100 high-level guidelines designed to help states comply with Federal laws that require computerized statewide electronic databases to be operational by January 1, 2006.
"These guidelines will enable the more than 20 states that have not yet met these federal deadlines to avoid Election Day problems," said Study Committee co-chair Barbara Simons (pictured at right), a past president of ACM, who is retired from IBM Research. "They also provide a useful template for those states that have complied with federal deadlines, but may need to revamp their processes and procedures in light of the report's recommendations," she said.
“If these guidelines are not implemented, at a minimum there could be widespread confusion and Election Day disruptions. And in the worst case, voters across the nation could be disenfranchised and election fraud could result,” said Paula Hawthorn, co-chair of the Voter Registration Database Study Committee. Hawthorn, a former database expert at Hewlett-Packard, and vice president of software development for several start-up companies, identified a series of risks, including hacker attacks, massive Election Day failures, severe privacy violations, and further erosion of confidence in the election process.
The report outlines “best practices” from technology and policy experts recruited for their special knowledge and understanding of the relevant areas. It presents guidelines to make certain that voter databases are consistently reliable and usable by people with diverse backgrounds, purposes, and knowledge.
The study was commissioned by USACM to develop objective technical information and expert recommendations to help states and localities comply with provisions of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was passed in the wake of voting problems in the 2000 Presidential Election.
The guidelines will enable state and local officials to address potential risks by:
a) adopting transparent policies and open practices for managing technical and logistical aspects of voter registration databases.Read the Report's Executive Summary
b) setting clear accountabilities for those responsible for proposing, making, or approving changes to the data, the system, or its policies.
c) establishing audit trails to track changes made to data, security policy, and database design.
d) designing privacy policies that are fundamental to the system, and based on long-established and widely-accepted Fair Information Practices principles.
|Twists and Turns - Who Owns Sequoia?
by Robert A. Wilson, Illinois Ballot Integrity Project - February 13, 2006
Chicago and Cook County recently signed a $50.2 Million contract with Sequoia Voting Systems. This sum is more than double the amount Venezuelan interests paid to acquire British-based De La Rue Cash Systems' 85% interest in Sequoia Voting Systems less than a year ago. Why buy the product when for less money you could buy the whole company?
De La Rue, PLC, the world 's largest commercial security printer and papermaker,
as well as a significant gambling enterprise, sold their interest in Sequoia
at a loss, having acquired the company fom Ireland-based Jefferson Smurfit Group
PLC, a paper and packaging company, for more than $23 million in 2002, in a
deal that could have been worth as much as $35 million if Sequoia met certain
sales and earnings targets.
Sequoia's purchaser was Smartmatic Corp, a Boca Raton, Florida company incorporated in 2000. It's president is Antonio Mugica Rivero, who allegedly was refused a tourist visa by the U.S. State Department when he attempted to visit his company's headquarters last October. The company's vice president is Alfredo Anzola. Mugica is also president (according to Florida records of its incorporation in 2001) of the software company, Bizta Corp, which provides voting software and is 28% owned by the Venezuelan government. Venezuelan records, however, indicate that Anzola, not Mugica is president. In Caracas, Bizta shares its office with Smartmatic. Read the Entire Article
From Around the States
Alaska: Division of Elections Delays Release of Election Records
Democrats Say Further Delay Not Warranted
Alaska Democrats said today the Division of Elections should release public records that are needed to verify the 2004 election results.
The Division told the Alaska Democratic Party (ADP) that it has extended the deadline to provide the electronic file that contains the 2004 vote results until Feb. 27.
"We don't agree that further delay is justified," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe (pictured at right). "We don't understand why the public must be kept waiting any longer for this basic information about the record of our votes."
The Alaska Democratic Party has pointed out numerous discrepancies in the 2004 General Election vote reports that were produced by the state's Diebold computer system and are posted on the Division of Election's web site. According to the posted "Statement of Votes Cast" by district and precinct, a far larger number of votes were cast than the official totals reported in the statewide summary. In many of the House Districts, more votes are shown in the totals than there are voters in the district.
"The Division's response essentially has been 'trust us,'" Metcalfe said. "They assert that the statewide summary report totals are accurate, but this can't be verified from the information they've provided." Read the Entire Article
Arizona: State Senator Huppenthal Guts Election Reform Bill
On Monday, members of the Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman John Huppenthal (pictured at right) gutted SB 1557, the comprehensive election integrity bill, substituting in its place a watered-down version that rendered the bill’s effort to restore confidence in Arizona's election meaningless.
Huppenthal had initally refused to schedule the bill for the committee. However, after legislators receiving overwhelming citizen input in support of SB 1557 in the form of emails, letters, and phone calls over the past week, Huppenthal grudgingly scheduled a hearing on the bill. Then, with an amendment that drastically reduced the original scope of the bill introduced barely over an hour before a hearing, Huppenthal succeeded in eviscerating it.
Amended SB1557 has been reduced from 4,079 words to 1,601 or by over 60%. Michael Shelby of Arizona Citizens for Election Reform had prepared the following testimony but was not allowed to speak at the hearing: Read the Entire Article
To the astonishment and disappointment of many, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson has chosen to re-certify both the Diebold OS optical scan and TS touchscreen machines for use in California's election this year. This in spite of the fact that computer scientists commissioned to do a proscribed but nevertheless revealing report on Diebold's AccuBasic Intepreter determined that aspects of the software that runs both systems is prohibited under federal standards. According to the report the computer scientists, David Wagner, David Jefferson, and Matt Bishop, all members of California's Voting Systems Technology Assessment Advisory Board (VSTAAB), advised McPherson that the risks posed by the presence of prohibited "interpreted code" were "manageable" and could be "mitigated" by tightening security around Diebold's voting machines.
In December, McPherson, in response to the revelation that AccuBasic could be used to mask pre-stuffed memory cards as demonstrated in a test election in Leon County Florida, denied certification to Diebold's equipment pending a review the Independent Testing Authority (ITA) laboratory Ciber, Inc. - the same laboratory that had certified the systems in the first place. In a published statement McPherson said "[d]uring a thorough review of the application for the Diebold system currently pending certification, we have determined that there is sufficient cause for additional federal evaluation." In a letter to Diebold dated December 20, McPherson noted that "it is the Secretary of State’s position that the source code for the AccuBasic code on these cards, as well as for the AccuBasic interpreter that interprets this code, should have been federally reviewed," and requested that Diebold submit the source code relating to the AccuBasic code on the memory cards and the AccuBasic interpreter to the ITA for immediate evaluation and required this additional review before proceeding with further consideration of your application for certification in California. He concluded that "[o]nce we have received a report from the federal ITA adequately analyzing this source code, in addition to the technical and operational specifications relating to the memory card and interpreter, we will expeditiously proceed with our comprehensive review of your application."
In the end the ITA apparently wasn't expeditious enough for McPherson. In a letter to Diebold dated February 17, McPherson admitted that "[t]o date, we have not recieved a report from the federal ITA, nor have we received any information regarding the status of its review from the federal ITA." Apparently the "resource constraints at the ITA" precluded the review of the AccuBasic source that was somehow overlooked during the original certification process. No problem - the Secretary of State certified them anyway. After all, no one seriously thought the "Independent" Testing Authority would act in any way that was detrimental to a valued client like Diebold. This way they are spared the uncomfortable and onerous job of explaining why it doesn't matter that Diebold's software is in violation of federal standards.
While McPherson's decision to side with Diebold will no doubt have significant and well-deserved fallout in November, it seems that, in the short term, he made the politically expedient decision. With a special election for Duke Cunningham's seat scheduled for April and statewide primaries in June, McPherson chose to bow to pressure from county clerks eager to buy Diebold. As Ian Hoffman notes in an Oakland Tribune aritcle this morning:
But wait! Why on earth would any county spend millions of taxpayer dollars on a system that is clearly in violation of state and federal law and risk the legal exposure of using illegal voting machines? Read the Entire Article
The decision is likely to set off a buying spree for as many as 21 counties, more than a third of the state, as local elections officials rush to acquire one of only two voting systems approved for use in the 2006 elections. Registrars and clerks prefer having voting systems for at least six months before conducting a statewide primary like the one in June, partly because it is California's most complicated and error-prone type of election.
Diebold Certification in California: Documents
California: Why Is San Francisco
Rolling The Dice With Sequoia?
Rules committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors held an enlightening
hearing into the status of San Francisco's conversion to a new voting system
vendor. District Five Supervisor Ross Mirkahimi (pictured at right) led a probing
and focused discussion that included testimony from Department of elections
Director John Arntz and Election Commissions President Matthews, represenatives
of Sequoia Voting Systems and ES&S as well as Steven
Hill, of FairVote - the driving forcing behind San Francisco's adoption
of ranked-choice, or instant runoff, voting. San Francisco faces a particularly
challenging situation in preparing for primaries in June and the general election
in November. On top of new federal accessibility mandates and state requirements
for a voter verified paper audit trail faced by all California counties, the
San Francisco charter calls for ranked-choice voting. Mikrahimi forcefully explained
as the hearing began the importance of not only meeting federal, state, and
local requirements but also the rightful expectation of confidence in the administration
of the upcoming election.
After a controversial selection process last year, Arntz announced that Sequoia Voting Systems would replace ES&S as the provider of voting equipment for San Francisco last fall. While Mirkahimi stated early on that the purpose of the hearing was not to consider the merits of one vendor's product over another it was difficult to avoid questioning the wisdom of the decision to award the contract to Sequoia. The Sequoia system that Arntz wants to spend over $10 million in taxpayer money on has only last week received federal qualification and have begun the state certification process this week. As for certified software to handle a ranked-choice election? Well, that will be part of a different certification process that will begin with submission to federal testing on May 31st.
Meanwhile, ES&S is not only currently certified, they have actually successfully run San Francisco's ranked choice district elections last November. The ES&S representative explained that since the city already owns the basic equipment, all of which is certified and has already managed a ranked-choice election, it would be relatively simple, and inexpensive to run San Francisco's elections on ES&S equipment. For HAVA compliance the city would have to purchase AutoMark ballot-marking devices. While the Optech Eagle precinct scanners that the city owns are not state certified as a configuratiion, they could be used as a stand-alone device, with ballots counted centrally rather than at the precinct for the June primaries, as is being done in Santa Barbara County. By November the city could migrate to M-100 precinct based optical scanners.
This system would also have the benefit of a thoroughly auditable voting system in which all voters marked paper ballots that could at least potentially be read without the mitigation of proprietary software. Read the Entire Article
Illinois May Have Violated
State Law In Desperate Effort To Certify Voting Machines
New scanners don't comply with 2002 HAVA standards, don't warn of undervotes and can't speak Chinese
The City of Chicago and Cook County election officials have been touting the
new electronic voting technology they plan to use in the March 21st Primary
Elections. The equipment, which will be furnished by Sequoia Voting Systems
of Oakland, California, will cost more than $50 million to purchase and implement.
More than half of that amount, $25.5 million in taxpayer dollars financed largely from federal grants under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), will go toward the purchase of about 5,600 Sequoia Optech Insight precinct optical scanners. The balance goes toward the purchase of nearly 6,000 Sequoia AVC Edge DRE (touch-screen) voting terminals, election management software, disability kits, servers, workstations and other equipment and implementation costs. The touch-screens themselves, with their voting card activators, head phones and audio devices will cost about $21 million.
But was this all necessary? Are the taxpayers getting their money’s worth? In an article. "No more chads: City gears up for punch-free primary" which appeared on February 11, 2006 in the Chicago Tribune, staff writer John McCormick, writes: "The new equipment will replace the notorious punch-card ballot--and its hanging, dimpled and pregnant chads. Voters in Chicago used the paper ballots since 1982, while those in suburban Cook County had punched choices since 1976."
He goes on to say, "The experience with punch-card ballots was less than stellar here and elsewhere. More than 120,000 Cook County voters in 2000 failed to register a choice for president or rendered their choice unusable by piercing holes next to names of two or more candidates."
Sounds awful, doesn't it? Mr. McCormick leaves one with the impression that Chicago and Cook County were using old, out-moded punch-card systems from 1976 and 1982 which he describes as "notorious," failing to give voters a "second chance" and failing 120,000 times out of about 1.9 million chances (over 6%) in one election! (more than 72,000 of the undervotes were in the City, a fall-off rate of over 7%, more than double that in the County.
But what's the real story? What McCormick fails to mention is that the City and County purchased the PBC-2100 Precinct Ballot Counter in 1999, from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), at a cost of millions, specifically in preparation for the 2000 presidential election. Read the Entire Article
Maryland: Governor Ehrlich's
Letter To State Board of Elections
The following letter from Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr. (pictured below at right) to Gilles Burger, Chairman Maryland State Board of Elections was released on February 15, 2006.
Dear Chairman Burger:
As you are aware, there has been widespread national concern about the reliability and security of electronic voting systems. Many states have decertified Diebold voting machines, including those similar to the ones used in Maryland, because certain components were never subjected to federal testing. In light of these recent national decertifications and the Maryland General Assembly's decision to override my vetoes of bills implementing early voting and allowing voters to cast ballots anywhere in the state, I no longer have confidence in the State Board of Elections' ability to conduct fair and accurate elections in 2006.
California, Pennsylvania, and dozens of local jurisdictions recently have decertified or denied certification to the Diebold voting machines pending further testing by federal authorities, citing, among other concerns, the potential for manipulation of election results due to the susceptibility to tampering of the vote-counting memory cards. In response, the Independent Testing Authority (ITA) has been reviewing Diebold voting systems and their electronic components for almost two months and has not released any findings. The State Administrator issued a letter to Diebold requesting daily status reports on the testing, but to my knowledge, no information has been shared with the State Board of Elections members, the Administration or the General Assembly about the implications for Maryland with regard to this testing.
It is imperative that I receive accurate information on the potential consequences that these test results may have on Maryland’s ability to conduct fair and accurate elections this year. In discussions with my staff, you have stated that members of the State Board of Elections have not received regular updates on the testing controversy. I believe that it is time for the Board to get aggressive in responding to citizens' concerns over public confidence in the elections system. Read the Entire Article
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Flawed Election Machines
Leave Maryland Voters Guessing
This article was originally published by The Baltimore Sun on February 15, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
Maryland has adopted a technology for voting that makes it impossible to audit the results of elections, makes it impossible to perform recounts when races are close or controversial and makes it possible for manufacturers to rig the results without risk of detection.
No voting system is less transparent than a direct recording electronic (DRE) system.
One of the weaknesses of Maryland's voting machines is the lack of any kind
of verification by the voter that his or her vote was recorded correctly. A
rigged or buggy electronic machine can display one thing to the voter and record
Since ballots are secret, there is no way that anybody can ever tell if a machine makes a mistake or cheats. The machines must be completely trusted. They must be trusted not to fail, not to have been programmed maliciously and not to have been tampered with at any point before or during the election.
The defenders of the DREs do not account for the ease with which a malicious programmer could rig an election. It is much easier to hide malicious code in software than it is to detect it. Without an external check on the system, a fully electronic voting machine cannot be properly audited. Read the Entire Article
In a the last hours of the New Mexico legislature’s 30-day session, lawmakers
approved a measure establishing a statewide paper ballot optical scan voting
system. The move to paper ballots had been promoted by Governor Bill Richardson
and had the support of Attorney General Patricia Madrid and Secretary of State
Rebecca Vigil-Giron. The legislature also a capital improvement package that
provides $11 million to pay for the equipment needed to switch to the paper
ballots. The text of the final legislation can be viewed here.
The legislation is a victory for citizen activists and organizations like Verified Voting New Mexico and United Voters of New Mexico that have been working tirelessly for an auditable voting system in New Mexico. Detailed analysis of the certified election data from the New Mexico General Election in 2004 revealed alarming irregularities that focused nationwide attention on the state. New Mexico has led the nation in presidential undervote rate for several election cycles (2.87% in 2004), and research revealed that 82% of the undervotes occurred on paperless electronic voting machines. At the same time, the presence of 2,087 presidential “phantom votes” (situations in which more votes were counted than ballots cast) revealed a chaotic and under-resourced certification process.
The state's canvassing board succeeded in thwarting a recount request by the Green and Libertarian Parties, but a lawsuit that grew out of the recount effort resulted in significant revelations about the conduct of elections in the state. Public concern about election anomalies also contributed to the passage of an omnibus election bill that included a requirement for a voter verified paper record of every vote and a random mandatory audit in the 2005 legislative session.
Pennsylvania Citizens' Right To Choose Voting Machines Upheld In Court
Voters in Westmoreland County will get the chance to exercise their constitutional right to choose how they will vote in future elections, according to a decision announced late yesterday in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania. Judge Dan Pellegrini issued the ruling in response to a suit brought by a multi-partisan group of citizens, elected officials, and state senator Jim Ferlo, who represents part of Westmoreland County.
Pennsylvania Constitution's Declaration of Rights guarantees that the people
will be the ultimate decisionmakers on changing voting systems," said
attorney Charles Pascal Jr. (pictured at right), who represented the citizens'
group. "This case upholds that guarantee, and affirms that the Secretary
of the Commonwealth cannot unilaterally determine that the state Constitution
should be ignored and given no effect because of the requirements of HAVA."
Members of citizen-alliance group VotePA, applauded the decision as a victory for voters everywhere. "The wisdom contained in our Pennsylvania Constitution is clear," said Marybeth Kuznik, founder of VotePA and a lead plaintiff on the suit, "and I am glad that the judge's decision recognized that protecting the right of the people to have their voices heard through the ballot box is central to our democracy." Read the Entire Article
TIMELINE OF THE WESTMORELAND COUNTY LAWSUIT
December 23, 2005: PA Department of State certifies several machines, including the ES&S iVotronic and Diebold TSx.
December 28, 2005: "10-County Citizens' Coalition For Voter Verified Paper Ballots" announces press conference with support from members in Westmoreland, Allegheny, Butler, Cambria, Bedford, Blair, Washington, Beaver, Armstrong, Lawrence, Mercer, and other Pennsylvania counties.
December 29, 2005: Westmoreland County Commissioners ignore pleas of concerned citizens and vote to purchase 750 paperless ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines. Citizens' Coalition holds press conference following meeting.
January 11, 2006: Westmoreland County enjoins Pennsylvania Department of State and Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes as an indispensable party. Suit heads to Commonwealth Court.
January 19, 2006: Motion for temporary injunction dropped by plaintiffs as agreement is reached among the parties that Westmoreland County will not purchase machines until this matter is settled.
February 7, 2006: Case is heard in Commonwealth Court in Harrisburg.
February 13, 2006: Judge Dan Pellegrini issues RULING, with his opinion finding in favor of the Citizen-Plaintiffs.
Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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