Election Integrity News - February 28, 2006

 

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Actions to Take Now

Lobby Your Representative In Support of HR 550

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

National: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!

Iowa - Support SF 351

Maryland: Support HB 244 and SB 713

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977


In this issue ...

National Stories

I Count Coalition Announces DC Lobby Days In Support of HR 550

Two More Republican Representatives Co-Sponsor HR 550

American Values In Elections

News From Around the States

NO, YES, NO: Alaska Now Refuses Release of 2004 Election Data Citing Security Concerns!

Alaska: Division of Elections Denies Request for Election Records

California: State Senator Calls On Secretary of State To Reverse Re-Certification of Diebold

California: Integrity of E-Balloting System Still In Doubt

Florida: 100,000 Errors Reported on Sequoia Voting Machines in Palm Beach, FL 2004 Election

Maine: Another Statewide Voter Registration Database Contract Bites The Dust

Maryland: Optical Scan Solution Faces Familiar Opponent

Cobb Demands Reinstatement of Ohio Recount Lawsuit

Pennsylvania: citizens Respond To Allegations That Lawsuit Delayed Voting Machines

Washington: HB-2532 A Bill Providing for Election Audits - Dies In House Rules Committee

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The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA.

#5 Criticism mounted over California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's decision to "conditionally" certify the Diebold optical scan and touchscreen voting systems - certified in spite of a report prepared by his own advisory board that confirmed the presence of prohibited code in the software that runs them. The Los Angeles Times and VoterAction joined in denouncing the move that appears to leave California carrying the burden of legal exposure for using voting equipment that does not meet federal standards.

#4 The debate rages in Maryland over voting techology for this year's elections. Momentum is building in the state legislature for a voter verified paper record requirement and the Governor has now gotten on board. State election director Linda Lamone continued her fierce defense of her Diebold touchscreens, simply denying evidence of lost votes in 2004, the sue of uncertified software in 2002 and 2003, and costs overuns topping 1000%. Lamone maintains that they can't be retrofitted with printers for this year. Whether or not this is true, two state legislators have proposed leasing optical scan equipment for this year. Needless to say, Lamone is resistent to this idea and one has to wonder what sort of election she would run if forced by the legislature to use auditable equipment.

#3 In an AP article reported that BlackBox Voting had found over 100,000 errors on logs from the Sequoia touch-screen machines used in the 2004 elections. In addition to what was revealed in the widely published AP article, there were reports that the internal logs of at least 40 Palm Beach machines reveal that votes were time and date-stamped as cast two weeks before the election, sometimes in the middle of the night.

#2 Joining Connecticut and New York, Pennsylvania has now received notice from the Department of Justice, which is threatening to sue the state if its counties fail to be in compliance with HAVA in time for May primaries In addition to the potential lawsuit, the assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, also warned the Pennsylvania Attorney General that $23 million in federal funds might be at risk.

#1 The Alaska Division of Elections is once again refusing to release public records that are needed to verify the 2004 election results, claiming the release would cause "security risks." After initially refusing to release the data in its original format because of concerns for Diebold's "proprietary" election management software - software that been available on a public website for almost three years. The after Diebold relented the state agreed though reserving the right however to "manipulate the data" in consultation with Diebold before releasing it. But now the state's top Security Official has now stepped in to deny the request. Apparently it would be risky for the voters of Alaska to be able to look at the data from their election.Just who owns the elections in Alaska - Diebold, the state, or the citizens of Alaska?



National Coalition for Election Integrity

Help Citizen Lobbyists Fight for Voter Verified Paper Records!

VoteTrustUSA is taking lead role in organizing the HR 550 “I Count” Lobby Days, which will take place this April. Whether or not you can attend the Lobby Days, please help us play our part in protecting democracy. We need to raise $10,000 to help fund these activities for citizen advocates who are going to lobby our legislators April 7 and 8. Please help us defray the expenses of some of the dedicated citizen who are volunteering to go to Washington DC on their own dime to fight for the accuracy and integrity of our elections! We are100% citizen-supported and your contributions are entirely tax-deductible. To make a donation, please click here. Thank you for your support!

National Stories

I Count Coalition Announces DC Lobby Days In Support of HR 550
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 23, 2006

VoteTrustUSA and other members of the I Count Coalition: Common Cause, Electronic Frontier Foundation, VerifiedVoting, VotersUnite, and Working Assests, have announced a Lobby Day event in support of HR 550, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (HR 550). The Lobbys Days will take place on Thursday and Friday, April 6 and 7, in Washington D.C. 

HR 550 would require a voter verified paper record of every vote, establish mandatory random hand counted audits to verify the accuracy of electronic tallies, and prohibit the use of secret software and wireless communication devices in voting machines.

The recent change in leadership of the Committee on House Administration has created a new opportunity for passage of this vital election integrity measure. Previous Lobby Day events in June and August of 2005 were a huge success, generating 24 new cosponsors on the bill from both parties. Please join us in Washington DC April 6 and 7, to build even greater bipartisan support for this critical bill.

To sign up to take part in the Lobby Days and to find out more ways you can support HR 550 visit  www.ICountCoalition.org.

Read the Entire Article

Two More Republican Representatives Co-Sponsor HR 550
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 23, 2006

Reflecting the growing bi-partisan consensus nationwide that safeguards are needed to verify the accuracy of electronic voting systems, two more Republican Representatives have signed on as co-sponsors of Rep. Rush Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accesibility Act (HR 550). Last week, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) responded to developements Virginia, where prominent Republicans in both state Houses had introduced comprehensive election reform bills that included many of the same provisions found in HR 550. The bills both died in committe for this year's session. Today, Greg Walden (R-OR) joined as a co-sponsor, completing the Oregon delegation's support of HR 550.

Rep. Wolf (pictured at right), now in his 13th term, is an Appropriations subcommittee chairman. He represents the 10th district in northern Virginia, which includes parts Fairfax counties. Fairfax County witnessed a serious meltdown in the November, 2003 elections that led the Fairfax Republican Party Committee to conclude "no matter how advanced the technology, ballot integrity and voter confidence should never be compromised. Unfortunately, on November 4, 2003, the new Fairfax County Digital Voting Equipment raised questions about our most basic voting assumptions." The report, Operation Ballot Integrity, recommended that the state enact laws to require a voter-verified audit be incorporated into all state-certified voting systems and create a targeted comparison of voter verified paper ballots with vote totals recorded on the Direct Recording Equipment. The state legislature has thusfar failed to follow this recommendation.

Rep. Walden (pictured at left), who represents the vast second district, which covers more than two third's of Oregon, has developed a reputation for building bipartisan support, both as a state legislator and in Washington. With their unique statewide all mail-in ballot system, Oregon's paper ballots are inherently voter verified. Even so, the state legislature passed a bill last year that ensures that even if other voting systems are adopted, they would be required to produce permanent paper records.

Two Democratic Representatives have co-sponsored HR 550 in the passed month, Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and Lincoln Davis (D-TN), bringing the total co-sponsorship, with Wolf and Walden, to 163. VoteTrustUSA, together with other national public interest organizations will sponsor citizen lobby days in support of HR 550 in April. To find out more visit www.ICountCoalition.org. See also Ehlers' Chairmanship: An Opportunity for Election Reform?

American Values In Elections
by Paul R. Lehto, Attorney at Law - February 23, 2006

Many American citizens, wishing to preserve a system of elections based on checks and balances, object to the unaccountable secret vote counting that occurs when electronic voting combines with corporate claims of trade secrecy in vote counting software. The problem is compounded when elections officials sworn to uphold the Constitution take offense and object to the "distrustful" statements of activists who point out how readily elections can be electronically altered without leaving evidence when ballots are reduced to electrons.

This "trust us" request by elections officials has reduced citizen patriots at times to talking neutrally about "irregularities" and "machine malfunctions", thereby ignoring the elephant in the room of election fraud, despite the enormous payoffs for such election fraud along with its ease of accomplishment whenever (as is the case with electronic voting) votes are counted in secret without the normal check and balance of public observation and scrutiny of the vote counting. This adjustment in rhetoric to eliminate the clear likelihood of actual intent to "malfunction" the election shares much of the same absurdity in terms of accuracy that the now well-known phrase "wardrobe malfunction" does in reference to Janet Jackson's escapade to expose some cleavage on the Super Bowl half-time show. But most importantly of all, "election machine malfunctions" harm our democracy in a way that Jackson's cleavage never could: by erasing and destroying constitutional and democratic checks and balances. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

NO, YES, NO: Alaska Now Refuses Release of 2004 Election Data Citing Security Concerns!
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - February 25, 2006

State's Top Security Officer Refuses Public Record Release of Diebold GEMS Database Files - The Latest Chapter in the Rollercoaster Battle to Audit Puzzling 2004 Poll Numbers Continues

This article appeared on The Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

A bizarre story concerning Alaska's 2004 Election has taken yet another even more bizarre turn this week, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

A long-standing public records request for the release of Election 2004 database files created by Diebold's voting system had been long delayed after several odd twists and turns, including the revelation of a contract with the state claiming the information to be a "company secret."

But while it finally appeared as though the state had agreed to release the information (after reserving the right to "manipulate the data" in consultation with Diebold before releasing it), the state's top Security Official has now -- at the last minute -- stepped in to deny the request. The grounds for the denial: the release of the information poses a "security risk" to the state of Alaska.

The state Democratic party has been attempting since December of last year to review the Diebold GEMS tabulator data files from the 2004 election in order to audit some of the strange results discovered in the state, including a reported voter turnout of more than 200% in some areas.

"At this point," Democratic Party spokesperson Kay Brown told the Anchorage Daily News in January, "it's impossible to say whether the correct candidates were declared the winner in all Alaska races from 2004." Read the Entire Article

Alaska: Division of Elections Denies Request for Election Records
by Kay Brown, Alaska Democratic Party - February 24, 2006

Democrats Evaluate Options for Next Step

Download the Letter from the Division of Elections to the Alaska Democratic Party

The Alaska Division of Elections is refusing to release public records that are needed to verify the 2004 election results, claiming the release would cause "security risks."  

The Alaska Democratic Party (ADP) has been trying to obtain the public records that would explain the numerous errors and discrepancies in the state's reported results of the 2004 General Election.  

"Nothing we have asked for compromises security," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe. "We don't understand why the Division of Elections is so reluctant to provide these public records. What are they trying to hide?"  

Metcalfe said Democrats are weighing whether to file a lawsuit or make an administrative appeal of the denial. "We will continue to pursue it. We are trying to get the information as expeditiously as possible, with the least cost to the State and to the Democratic Party," he said. Read the Entire Article

California: State Senator Calls On Secretary of State To Reverse Re-Certification of Diebold
by California State Senator Debra Bowen - February 23, 2006

California State Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee, today released a letter she sent to Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, calling on him to reverse his February 17th decision to re-certify Diebold's electronic voting machines for use in California.

"The certification doesn't comply with state law and it breaks the commitment the Secretary made to Californians in December to wait for a federal review and testing process to be completed before deciding whether to allow Diebold's equipment to be used in California," said Bowen. "Californians shouldn't be required to vote on machines that the Secretary's own internal review team found to be riddled with bugs and susceptible to tampering. For the Secretary to get that kind of a report, then turn around and re-certify the Diebold machines for use in California only serves to undermine the already low level of confidence many people have in the integrity of our elections."

The text of the letter follows:

Dear Secretary McPherson:

I strongly urge you to reverse your February 17th decision to re-certify Diebold's voting machines for use in California. Your decision contradicts your earlier commitment not to review Diebold's re-certification request until it had been approved by the federal Independent Testing Authorities (ITA) and your commitment not to certify any system that doesn't comply with all standards established by the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Furthermore, your decision violates state law. While your decision may be good for Diebold and its shareholders, it is not in the best interests of California's voters or our democracy. Read the Entire Letter

Diebold Certification in California: Documents

Letter to Diebold

Certification Document

VSTAAB Report

Secretary of State's Press Release

State Senator Bowen's Reponse 

California: Integrity of E-Balloting System Still In Doubt
by Michael Hiltzik, Golden State Blog - February 23, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Los Angeles Times on February 23, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Let's face it: When it comes to computer security, we're all slobs.

At work, we scribble our secret passwords on our desk blotters. At home, we leave our Internet connections open to be peeked through by anyone —- whether the neighbor next door or a geek in pajamas halfway around the world. We forget our laptops in taxicabs, and transmit our credit card numbers to strangers over the Web.

Generally, the consequences are trivial. Most of the information let loose into cyberspace is, frankly, of no interest to anybody.

But there's no excuse for exposing the integrity of our election system to computer hackers. Yet that's what California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson may have done last week by approving electronic voting machines from Diebold Election Systems for use in California elections through the end of this year.

McPherson's approval was conditioned in part on local election officials keeping the Diebold machines under tight security before polls open. Diebold will have to make significant changes to its software and undergo further scrutiny from state and federal authorities for 2007. Given the rising panic among county registrars about having machines ready for the June primary, it's hard to avoid the impression that McPherson's decision reflected expediency more than confidence in Diebold's work. Read the Entire Article

Florida: 100,000 Errors Reported on Sequoia Voting Machines in Palm Beach, FL 2004 Election
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - February 24, 2006

Audit Shows Electronic Voting in Disarray, Thousands of Re-boots, Re-Calibrations Required Throughout Election PLUS: 'Butterfly' LePore is Back!

This article appeared on The Brad Blog. It is reposted with permission of the author. 

AP -- yes, AP -- is now reporting the just released audit information obtained from Palm Beach County, Florida's 2004 Election. And the picture of the Sequoia paperless touch-screen voting machines used that night is not pretty. The information was obtained and released tonight by BlackBoxVoting.org.

From the AP story:

BlackBoxVoting.org, which describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens group, said it found 70,000 instances in Palm Beach County of cards getting stuck in the paperless ATM-like machines and that the computers logged about 100,000 errors, including memory failures.

Also, the hard drives crashed on some of the machines made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, some machines apparently had to be rebooted over and over, and 1,475 re-calibrations were performed on Election Day on more than 4,300 units, Harris said. Re-calibrations are done when a machine is malfunctioning, she said.

"I actually think there's enough votes in play in Florida that it's anybody's guess who actually won the presidential race," [BBV's Bev] Harris added.
The election officials in Palm Beach, however, say there are perfectly good reasons that their own election audit tapes showed thousands of errors and other anomolies...and, of course, they blame the victims. Read the Entire Article

Maine: Another Statewide Voter Registration Database Contract Bites The Dust
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 24, 2006

That Maine has missed its Jan. 1 completion deadline for complying with the requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) is hardly news – plenty of states are farther behind than Maine. And the state has its voting equipment upgrades in line. However, creating a statewide voter registration in Maine has proven to be a challenge too great for Covansys, the Michigan-based company that was awarded a $4.5 million contract a year ago.

Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (pictured at right) announced on Wednesday that the state was terminating it contract with Covansys noting "it wasn't working out and we just weren't getting where we wanted to be in terms of the quality of the information we were getting out of the system. We had schedule problems right from the start on their part."

While most states have the task of collating lists that are currently maintained by counties, Maine's voter registration has been maintained at a more local level requiring that as many as 503 distinct town and district list, which have developed with no uniform guidelines, have to be integrated - a formidable task.

According to an article in the Bangor Daily News:

Dunlap acknowledged Wednesday that the contractor would be paid about 12 percent of the value of its $4.5 million contract with the state, or $500,000. In the meantime, computers bought with the federal money are sitting idle in town offices until the system is running. In addition to the $500,000 payment to Covansys, the company will receive other funds, not yet determined, for its work on customization and data conversion. The company customized the software and took the old voter lists and installed them onto a new list, Dunlap said.

They're not likely to be on line by the June primary election, but Dunlap hopes the system will be running by the Nov. 7 general election.

"I've had the federal government drumming their fingers asking us where we are on this thing," Dunlap said.

A U.S. Justice Department official would not comment Wednesday regarding the Jan. 1 compliance issue.

"We are currently in communication with various states, and we are evaluating each individual state's situation. At the conclusion of that evaluation, we'll determine what type of actions, if any, should be taken," said Eric Holland, the Justice Department spokesman.
Needless to say Covansys declined to comment for the article. Read the Entire Article

Maryland: Optical Scan Solution Faces Familiar Opponent
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 25, 2006

Two Maryland State Delegates, Sheila Hixson and Elizabeth Bobo, have proposed legislative amendments that would allow the state to scrap their touchscreen voting machines and lease optical scan equipment for use in elections this Fall. Needless to say the idea is being fought fiercely by one of the nation's foremost advocates for paperless elections, state election director Linda Lamone (pictured at right), who has committed Maryland to paying $90 million for paperless Diebold touchscreens.

In a Washington Post article Del. Hixson was quoted, "the controversy here is about people's faith in having their vote recorded. We want to make sure there's an accurate count in this election." In the same article, Del. Bobo was confident about optical scanners, "that are so well known and so well understood from a technical point of view, if this manufacturer says they can get them to us, we can rely on having a very secure vote here in Maryland."

Computer security experts and voting reform advocates have argued for years that electronic voting machines are vulnerable and unreliable - claims that have been confirmed in recent reports from the federal Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service. Last week Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich Jr. released a scathing letter in which he blasted the state's election administration and expressed concern about "the ability to conduct fair and accurate elections" using the Diebold equipment. 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

Cobb Demands Reinstatement of Ohio Recount Lawsuit
by Blair Bobier, Green Party Media Director - February 22, 2006

The Ohio Recount lawsuit, which was dismissed by a federal judge earlier this month, should be re-instated because Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell is still using the same flawed recount procedures he did in 2004, according to a Motion filed Friday by lawyers for 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb (pictured at right).

"Our suit was dismissed on the basis that Blackwell's obstruction of the 2004 presidential recount is now a moot issue.  However, in making his ruling, the judge was unaware that Blackwell issued recount guidelines in 2005 which are identical to the inadequate procedures he used in 2004. Our Motion to the Court asks the judge to take this new information into account and to deny Blackwell's Motion to Dismiss the case," said Blair Bobier, the Media Director for the Green Party's 2004 presidential campaign.

Lawyers representing Cobb and his Libertarian counterpart, Michael Badnarik, filed the Motion to Alter and Amend on February 17, 2006, in the U.S. District Court in Toledo, Ohio. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: Citizens Respond To Allegations That Lawsuit Delayed Voting Machines
by VotePA - February 28, 2006

Westmoreland County citizens responded strongly today to Secretary of State Pedro Cortés’ recent memorandum that stated their court case has impeded the progress Pennsylvania counties are making toward buying new voting machines to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act by the May 16 primary election.

Ten Westmoreland voters filed a lawsuit last month along with state senator Jim Ferlo who represents part of the county, seeking to preserve the right to choose a voting system under the Pennsylvania Constitution and approve any change from lever machines to electronic voting by referendum. Earlier this month Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini ruled in favor of the citizens, but Westmoreland County and the Pennsylvania Department of State have appealed that decision to the State Supreme Court. In the meantime, Secretary Cortés' memorandum was sent to all county officials and appeared on Governor Ed Rendell's web site over the weekend.

As lead plaintiff in the suit, Mary Beth Kuznik expressed dismay that an honest effort made by citizens to preserve the rights of all Pennsylvanians under the state Constitution was being blamed for a delay in buying voting machines and a potential loss of Help America Vote Act funding.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," said Kuznik, who is also founder of the election integrity alliance VotePA. "Regardless of whether or not our suit was filed, Pennsylvania has been way behind in getting voting systems certified. Counties could have held the referendum required by our state Constitution and still have met the HAVA deadline, but many held off on their decision because they were waiting until well into the new year for more machines to come out." Read the Entire Article

Washington: HB-2532 A Bill Providing for Election Audits - Dies In House Rules Committee
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - February 20, 2006

Even though 'Action Alerts' were generated to the citizens of Washington by VerifiedVoting.Org and VoteTrustUSA.Org and even though citizens all over the state voiced their demand that this legislation be passed, a minority of voices from the Secretary of State's Office and from the county auditor's association were enough to allow this bill to die in the House Rules Committee. In this case, members of the state legislature turned their backs on voters who demanded that every voting machine in the state be audited. In this case, members of the state legislature put a special interest group, the Auditors, ahead of the voters - a little money and time ahead of verified election results.

One can only ask what these legislators will do if they are in a position where optical-scan machines count fewer votes in their races than voters who participated in the election. They will be forced to go to court and hope the court will allow a recount. An audit and hand-recount would have solved the problem. Now, the legislature has cleansed their hands and sent any further action to the courts. It's unfortunate.

VoteTrustUSA would like to pass on its appreciation to the voters of Washington who saw a problem and a solution and who lobbied their legislators to pass this important legislation. State Representative Toby Nixon (R-45) deserves all of the credit for recognizing there is a problem and for sponsoring this legislation. Unfortunately some members of the legislature said they knew there was a problem and said they would help and then they didn't do much. And to the members of the House Rules Committee who let this legislation die: We'll be back next session and work even harder to get this important legislation passed.

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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