Election Integrity News - Fecruary 27, 2007

 

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


In this issue ...

National Stories

Testimony to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration

Senator Feinstein Asks GAO to Investigate Sarasota County Electronic Voting Systems

H.R. 811, the New Holt Bill

New EAC Commissioners Appointed Without Confirmation Hearings

Rep. Susan Davis Seeks to End Vote by Mail Restrictions

Rep. Jackson Proposes Amendment Establishing Constitutional Right to Vote

Promise of Accessible Voting for Voters with Disabilities Still Unfulfilled, New Report Finds

EAC Research Finds Polling-Place ID Laws Reduce Minority Voter Turnout

Voting System Standards: An Exchange with the IEEE

News From Around the States

Sarasota Voting Machines Insecure

Secretary of Stateās FL-13 Audit Report Whitewashes Evidence of Voting Machine Problems in Sarasota

Verifiable Elections on the Legislative Agenda in Iowa

Kansas Senate Passes Controversial Voter ID Bill

New Jersey: Sequoia Makes Like Diebold And Gets Hacked By Princeton

Undervote Rate Plummets in Minority Precincts After New Mexico Changes to All Paper Ballots

Public Monitor Reports Serious, Possibly Illegal, Security Breaches During Ohio Mid-term Elections

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Paper Trails or Paper Ballots?
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA

In a recent Washington Post article "Campaign Strengthens for a Voting Paper Trail" Zachary Goldfarb reports that legislation banning paperless electronic voting is inevitable in the new Congress. He quotes Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Rush Holt making the argument that, in the speaker's words, the new leadership is "committed to election-reform legislation that requires all voting machines produce a paper trail".

Goldfarb also notes that Florida and Virginia are moving toward optical scan voting systems and discusses the situation arising from the unexplained undervotes in Sarasota County, Florida last November. Then he quotes Dan Tokaji as an voice of opposition:

"It could well create more problems in terms of both creating post-election litigation and creating administrative problems in counting these paper strips," Tokaji said. "We know they can be compromised, torn, crumpled," and have printing problems, he said.

But there is a disconnect here. The paper ballot optical scan solution to the problem of paperless voting being considered in Florida and Virginia would not have the results that Tokaji anticipates. He is speaking only of voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) printers attached to existing DREs and his concerns are valid. Replacing direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines with paper ballot optical scan systems with ballot marking devices for disabled and language minority voters will not result in the "compromised, torn and crumpled" printouts.

The bill with the most momentum in Congress, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR 811), introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), does address the issues of inadequate printers by requiring that such VVPAT printers produce a durable paper ballot, and voters be notified of the need to verify their paper ballot. The bill also requires that the verification of the paper ballot be accessible to voters with disabilities. Add-on printers for DREs that meet these requirements do not yet exist, but ballot marking devices and other assistive systems that work in conjunction with paper ballot optical scan systems do exist and would be fully compliant with the requirements of HR 811.

Optical scan technology has proven to be accurate and reliable - this is one of the reasons it is used in every state lottery in the country. Innovative ballot marking devices and other assistive systems have allowed 17 states nationwide to use statewide paper ballot optical scan systems, while allowing disabled voters to vote privately and independently. Jurisdictions in another 16 states also use such systems on election day and of course all absentee ballots in the country are counted by optical scanners or by hand. Optical scan voting systems are also significantly less expensive and easier for pollworkers to use. If a scanner breaks down in a polling place - and all technology is vulnerable to malfunction - voters can still vote, since the scanner is only used for counting. Voters can continue to mark ballots while the scanner is repaired or replaced.

Whatever policy is reflected ultimately in the legislation that comes out of Congress this Spring, developments in Florida, Virginia, Maryland and other states signal that America is moving inevitably toward toward paper ballot voting systems. Permalink

National Stories

Testimony to Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
by Lowell Finley, Deputy Secretary of State of California,Voting Systems Technology and Policy - February 7, 2007

In January 2007, I was appointed by newly elected California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to the position of Deputy Secretary of State, Voting Systems Technology and Policy. One of Secretary Bowen’s first orders of business is a top to bottom review of the electronic voting systems currently certified for use in California.  Secretary Bowen, like many concerned voters, voting system security experts and a growing number of elections officials nationwide, has serious concerns about the security, accuracy and reliability of our electronic voting systems and the method by which those systems are reviewed, tested and certified at the national and state levels.

Today, I am here to testify primarily about my knowledge of electronic voting problems in the Florida 13th congressional district election on November 7, 2006. Before addressing that issue, it may be useful to review briefly the history of my involvement with electronic voting issues.

Before my appointment, I spent over 21 years in private law practice in California, specializing in election law.  In 2003, I represented election integrity advocates in a California False Claims Act lawsuit against Diebold Election Systems, Inc., filed on behalf of the State of California and the County of Alameda, California. The complaint in that case alleged that Diebold made false representations concerning its use of “state of the art” security features in its AccuVote TS touch screen electronic voting system to secure a $12 million contract with Alameda County, paid for primarily with state bond funds. After negotiations with the California Attorney General, Diebold settled the case for $2.6 million in 2004. Read the Entire Statement

Senator Feinstein Asks GAO to Investigate Sarasota County Electronic Voting Systems
by Senator Dianne Feinstein Media Release - February 15, 2007

Senator Feinstein wants investigation in wake of Sarasota County undervote

Download Print Version of Senator Feinstein's Letter

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today asked the Government Accountability Office  (GAO) to launch an investigation of the electronic-voting system used in Sarasota County, Florida, in last year’s midterm election.

The following is the text of Senator Feinstein’s letter to David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States:

I am writing to request that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) undertake an investigation of certain models of Direct Recording Electronic voting systems that are used in federal elections, but do not produce voter-verified paper ballots.

I am particularly concerned about the voting system used in Sarasota, Florida, where there was an 18,000 vote undercount in the past election – the ES&S iVotronic System utilizing the Unity Election Management Software – and would like a top-to-bottom investigation of this system.

In conducting this investigation, I would like you to consult with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Election Assistance Commission, and other appropriate government agencies that study or certify voting systems.

Your investigation should also include the following:  the Avante Touch Screen, the Diebold TSX that utilizes the GEMS System, the Sequoia/Smartmatic HAAT (Hybrid Activator, Accumulator & Transmitter), and the Sequoia AVC Edge System that utilizes the WINEDS Election Management Software.

Should the GAO become aware of any systems that are prone to software malfunctions, are susceptible to fraud, or use hardware design that would lead to voting system problems, I would request that you also inspect those systems. Read the Entire Letter

H.R. 811, the New Holt Bill
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - February 19, 2007

This article was posted on Avi Rubin's blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Earlier this month, US Congressman Rush Holt (D, NJ) introduced H.R. 811, a bill to amend the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require a voter-verified paper ballot. I have read the bill, as well as some of the criticism by various activists.

In my opinion, passage of the Holt bill would be the single most positive development in this country this decade to ensure the security, integrity and verifiability of elections. As a federal law, this legislation would establish a baseline for all states that would exceed the security and audit of elections in most states today.

The bill is well thought out. It addresses the issues of audit, security, privacy, recounts, conflicts of interest, testing, certification, and cost. I was personally privy to discussions on these issues as the text for the bill was being drafted, and I believe that the reason that this bill handles all of these difficult issues so well is that the Holt staffers took their time, acted deliberately, and consulted with the top experts, until they got it right. Read the Entire Article

New EAC Commissioners Appointed Without Confirmation Hearings
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 16, 2007

By unanimous conset, the Senate has confirmed Caroline Hunter and Rosemary Rodriguez as EAC commissioners. As a result the Senate rules and Administration Committee was discharged from any further consideration of the nominations and there will be no confirmation hearings.

Hunter, who replaces Paul DeGregorio, was appointed for a term expiring December 2009, while Rodriguez will serve out the term of former Commissioner Ray Martinez, which expires in December 2007. The status of Commissioner Gracia Hillman, whose term expired in 2005 remains on holdover status.

While few anticipated any effort to block either of the nominations, it is unfortunate that the public was not provided the opportunity of confirmation hearings for these important nominations. Current Chair Donetta Davidson was similarly appointed with hearings in July, 2005 to replace DeForest Soaries.

The office of Senator Feinstein, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, issued the following statement:

"Two out of four Election Assistance Commission seats have been in limbo for half a year. With the 2008 Presidential election fast approaching it is was critical that these two positions be filled without the continued partisan standoff that had prevented earlier action.  In the coming months, Senator Feinstein plans oversight hearings on the Commission and will be closely examining a variety of issues that have plagued federal elections in recent years."
Read the Entire Article

Rep. Susan Davis Seeks to End Vote by Mail Restrictions
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 18, 2007

Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA, pictured at right) has introduced the Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act (H.R. 281), legislation to allow all eligible voters nationwide to vote by mail in federal elections. More than half of the states allow voting by mail for any reason, but 22 states restrict the option of absentee voting by mail. Davis argues that these restrictions have an unequal impact on the elderly, individuals with disabilities or illness, members of the military, or students.

"This issue is a matter of fairness," said Davis, a former President of the League of Women Voters in San Diego. "Why should voters in one state be denied a privilege that voters in other states have when voting in federal elections? While I personally enjoy the ritual of going to the polls to vote, I know that getting to the polls on Election Day is often difficult. And for some, it is impossible. For many Americans, every day is a juggling act. A commitment to a job or family should not hinder someone from participating in one of the most hallowed acts of a democracy - voting."

In her media release, Davis cites studies, which indicate that adding the option to vote by mail increases voter participation without creating a partisan advantage for one political party over the other.

Rep. Jackson Proposes Amendment Establishing Constitutional Right to Vote
by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. - February 18, 2007

The United States is one of the eleven nations in the world that doesn't provide an explicit right to vote in its Constitution.

On February 13, 2007, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL, pictured at right) reintroduced a resolution proposing an amendment to the constitution establishing the right to vote for all American citizens (H.J. Res. 28). The following article is posted on the Congressman's website.

Most Americans believe that the "legal right to vote" in our democracy is explicit (not just implicit) in our Constitution and laws. However, our Constitution only provides explicitly for non-discrimination in voting on the basis of race, sex, and age in the 15th, 19th and 26th Amendments respectively.

Even though the "vote of the people" is perceived as supreme in our democracy - because voting rights are protective of all other rights - Justice Scalia in Bush v. Gore constantly reminded Al Gore's lawyers that there is no explicit or fundamental right to suffrage in the Constitution. The Supreme Court majority concluded: "the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States." (Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, 104 (2000))

Voting in the United States is based on the constitutional principle of states' rights. The 10th Amendment to the Constitution states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the State, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Since the word "vote" appears in the Constitution only with respect to non-discrimination, the so-called right to vote is a "state right." Only a constitutional amendment would give every American an individual affirmative citizenship right to vote. Read the Entire Article

Promise of Accessible Voting for Voters with Disabilities Still Unfulfilled, New Report Finds
by Demos and VoterAction - February 14, 2007

Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, once considered essential to ensuring private and independent voting booth access for voters with disabilities, often do not work as promised, according to a new report published today. Authored by access technology expert Noel Runyan and published by election reform groups Demos and Voter Action, "Improving Access to Voting: A Report on the Technology for Accessible Voting Systems" shows that, due to inadequate or malfunctioning voting machines, voters with disabilities are frequently forced to ask for assistance or compromise the privacy of their vote" severe violations of federal disability accommodation requirements.

The report details significant difficulties for voters with disabilities, including: the lack of a controllable interface for those who are unable to use touch screens or tactile key inputs; inadequate audio access features for people with visual or cognitive impairments, with dyslexia, or with severe motor-impairments; and lack of privacy curtains to prevent others from reading the voters' selections on their visual displays.

"I originally had high hopes for the new voting machines" said Noel Runyan, the author of the report.  Runyan, who is blind, is a professional electrical engineer who has spent much of his career developing access technologies for people with visual impairments. "Even with my technical background and the help of poll workers, I could not get the Sequoia Edge II DRE to work. I have since tested most of the available voting systems at conferences and at the National Federation of the Blind's accessible voting systems lab, and my fears have been confirmed: Most of the DREs deployed were not designed with real disability access in mind." Read the Entire Article

EAC Research Finds Polling-Place ID Laws Reduce Minority Voter Turnout
by Project Vote, NALEO, AALDEF, LWV, February 25, 2007

Advocates express deep concern over the report's findings

Testimony presented to the U. S. Election Assistance Commission, Washington, D.C., February 8, 2007

Advocates expressed deep concern today over new data that suggests Latinos, Asian Americans, and African Americans are less likely to vote as a result of increasingly restrictive voter identification (ID) requirements. These findings are the result of preliminary research presented to the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) by the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University.

Researchers found that in the 2004 election, all voters, in states requiring voters to present documentation establishing their identity at the polls, were 2.7 percent less likely to vote than voters in states where no documentation was required. Latinos were 10 percent less likely to vote, Asian-Americans 8.5 percent less likely to vote and African Americans 5.7 percent less likely to vote.

"The study confirms that voter ID requirements keep more minority than white voters away from the polls," said Maxine Nelson, President of Project Vote, a national nonpartisan organization that supports voter registration and voter education programs "When you think about the many close races in the past two elections cycles, this documented disparity raises profound questions about the legitimacy of our democratic system." Read the Entire Article

Voting System Standards: An Exchange with the IEEE
by Justin Moore and Jeremy Epstein, IEEE members - February 12, 2007

One of the most high-profile engineering issues facing the public today is that of designing, building, and testing electronic voting systems. Just this month the front page of the New York Times carried the story of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) temporarily revoking the certification-granting credentials of a electronic voting system testing lab. The whirlwind surrounding this issue will only grow as the 2008 elections approach.

We, the IEEE, should be a leader in this area, and on paper it appears that we are. The 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) adopted by the EAC was written almost entirely based on the work of the IEEE Voting Equipment Standards Project (P1583). The IEEE has a member on the EAC Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC).

We are in the thick of things, as it were.

However, in reality through these channels we have done nothing but put an official face on entirely insufficient standards and procedures. While the list is long, the most recent instance is one of the most egregious. In December our representative to the TGDC cast the deciding vote against the eminently reasonable recommendations of NIST. These recommendations focused on software independence (SI); in essence, the official voice of the IEEE declared that it was unreasonable to ask the vendors to create a system whose results could be verified by means other than the vendor's own software. The leadership ability -- and the very reputation -- of the IEEE has suffered as a result. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Sarasota Voting Machines Insecure
by Prof. Ed Felten, Princeton University - February 24, 2007

This article was posted at Ed Felten's blog "Freedom to Tinker" and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The technical team commissioned by the State of Florida to study the technology used in the ill-fated Sarasota election has released its report. (Background: on the Sarasota election problems; on the study.

One revelation from the study is that the iVotronic touch-screen voting machines are terribly insecure. The machines are apparently susceptible to viruses, and there are many bugs a virus could exploit to gain entry or spread:

We found many instances of [exploitable buffer overflow bugs]. Misplaced trust in the election definition file can be found throughout the iVotronic software. We found a number of buffer overruns of this type. The software also contains array out-of-bounds errors, integer overflow vulnerabilities, and other security holes. [page 57]

The equation is simple: sloppy software + removable storage = virus vulnerability. We saw the same thing with the Diebold touchscreen voting system.

Read the Entire Article

Secretary of Stateās FL-13 Audit Report Whitewashes Evidence of Voting Machine Problems in Sarasota
by People for the American Way Foundation - February 27, 2007

Report fails to account for eyewitness testimony pointing to machine malfunction; flawed audit process may be responsible

An audit report released by the Florida Secretary of State’s office regarding Sarasota County’s November election debacle came under fire shortly after its release on Friday.

This audit’s a whitewash. It is the result of a flawed process overseen by people with a stake in the outcome, and it will not be the last word on this matter,” said People For the American Way Foundation President Ralph G. Neas. “Something went terribly wrong in Sarasota County last November—and voters have provided credible evidence that widespread voting machine malfunctions were part of the problem. Unfortunately, this report papers over that evidence.”

To see just a few of the scores of Sarasota County voter reports of potential machine problems, click here

Neas said his organization will continue pushing for answers for Sarasota County voters, both in the courts and in Congress. He also said that the Sarasota debacle and other 2006 election problems have led PFAW Foundation to make election reform its top legislative priority in 2007. Read the Entire Press Release

Verifiable Elections on the Legislative Agenda in Iowa
by Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity - February 18, 2007

Newly elected Iowa Secretary of State Michael Mauro (pictured at right) has made a voter-verified paper record his top priority. He told members of Iowans for Voting Integrity (IVI) at meeting on January 16 that when he was asked questions on the campaign trail last year, the “paper trail” was first and foremost on voters' minds.

Governor Chet Culver was Secretary of State before being elected to his new job in November, and last spring he pushed hard for the 81st General Assembly pass SF 351, which would have required a voter-verified paper record. SF 351 passed the Senate unanimously in 2005, but was attached in the House to a voter ID requirement that scuttled it.

The only question this year seems to be how to get the job done. Iowans for Voting Integrity has worked with legislators to draft a bill that would require paper ballots and assistive devices for voters with disabilities, phase out direct-recording electronic machines altogether, and require random hand audits. Rep. Mary Gaskill (D-Ottumwa), former Auditor of Wapello County, has a bill drafted along these lines, which is now being proof-read and should be introduced this week.

Read the Entire Article

Kansas Senate Passes Controversial Voter ID Bill
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 22, 2007

Governor Sebelius Voices Criticism 

The Kansas State Senate has passed SB 169, a bill that would require voters to present a valid photo ID in order exercize their right to vote. The bill would further require that Kansans prove American citizenship when registering by showing either a birth certificate or U.S. passport. The Wichita Eagle noted that copies of birth certificates cost $12 and passports, $97.

Similar restrictive identification legislation in Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and other states have been successfully challenged in court. Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius was critical of the bill, A Kansas City Star article reported her comments:

I am alarmed as a public official at the limited number of people who participate in our democracy,” she said. “… I’m very cautious about solving a problem we don’t have and killing the interest of Kansans in voting.”

There is no evidence that voter fraud is a problem in Kansas, Sebelius said, and the bill would only succeed in keeping people away from the polls.
In the Witchita Eagle article Sibelius was quoted, "I guess my big worry is that we have too few people voting as it is, too few people participating," she said. "I really hate to see anything that makes it more difficult for citizens to participate." She added: "I haven't seen any evidence in Kansas of voter fraud, and I don't like to see barriers put up to people who should be participating in a democracy." Read the Entire Article

New Jersey: Sequoia Makes Like Diebold And Gets Hacked By Princeton
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org - February 11, 2007

A New Jersey Attorney Will Ask A Judge To Decertify Sequoia AVC Advantage Machines

A Princeton Professor Paid $86 For Which A NJ County Paid $40,000

In a report in Sunday's The Star-Ledger [NJ] it was revealed that Sequoia AVC Advantage Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines used in 18 of New Jersey's 21 counties were improperly certified for use by the state.

[Attorney Penny]Venetis filed legal papers Friday claiming the state never certified some 10,000 Sequoia AVC Advantage machines as secure or reliable as required by law. 

"There is zero documentation --- no proof whatsoever --- that any state official has ever reviewed Sequoia machines," Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic, said in an interview. "This means you cannot use them. ... These machines are being used to count most of the votes in the state without being tested in any way, shape or form."

At the same time Princeton Computer Science Professor Andrew Appel revealed that he bought 5 of the Advantage voting machines from an on-line government equipment clearinghouse for a total of $86. Virtually identical machines were bought in 2005 by Essex County New Jersey for $8,000 apiece. Read the Entire Article

Undervote Rate Plummets in Minority Precincts After New Mexico Changes to All Paper Ballots
by VotersUnite.org - February 26, 2007

Download the Report Here

Download the Data Here 

A new report, based on official 2004 and 2006 New Mexico election data, shows a dramatic difference in undervotes in Native American and Hispanic precincts, depending on whether they voted on paper ballots or on Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting machines.

The report explains: "Undervotes represent ballots on which no vote was registered for a specific contest.  Undervote rates higher than 0.5% in the major contest on a ballot, especially in presidential elections, suggest that votes may not have been counted, either through a mistake of the voter or a mistake in tabulation."

The report shows that in predominantly Native American and predominantly Hispanic precincts, undervote rates were abnormally high (7.61% and 6.33% respectively) in the 2004 presidential race, when the votes were cast on DREs. In 2006, after the state changed to all optically scanned paper ballots, the undervote rates for Governor in those same precincts plummeted by 85% in Native American areas and by 69% in predominantly Hispanic precincts. Read the Entire Article

Public Monitor Reports Serious, Possibly Illegal, Security Breaches During Ohio Mid-term Elections
by VoteTrustUSA - February 23, 2007

Secretary of State to Appoint Independent Investigator

Download the Full Report and Appendix

See also A Report from the Public Monitor of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections

The Public Monitor appointed by Cuyahoga County’s (Cleveland) Board of Elections has issued a report that identifies significant security breaches and “points of possible legal non-compliance” by the Board and its staff in their conduct of the November elections. In response, the Board has asked the Secretary of State to assist in appointing a software engineer to examine the computer records of the voting system.

The Monitor’s report identifies failings of the Board and its staff to enact or comply with election administration and security procedures required by State regulations or State and/or Federal law, regarding supervision of the voter registration database, poll worker management and eligibility, ballot security, and the tabulation and security of election results. .

The report identifies several areas of non-compliant procedures associated with the tabulation of results and technical security which could have compromised the security of the election totals. Analysis of the election tabulation system log indicated that reports may have been printed summarizing the absentee ballot totals prior to Election Day. Printing vote totals before the end of Election Day would violate a State directive issued in response to a court order specifying that “at no time, any person has any access to the count or any portion of the count before the polling places close”. The report notes “This concern is especially acute where the
proportion of the votes cast by absentee ballot is extremely high, such as was the case in the November, 2006 election in which nearly 25% of votes were cast via absentee ballot.”Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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