Election Integrity News - March 4, 2008

This Week's Quote: "We want to emphasize accuracy over speed. What's most important is that their vote get counted accurately and it get recorded in the final returns."
Dean Logan, Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters

In this issue ...

National Stories

State Use of Remaining HAVA Funds For New Voting Systems: A Reasonable Option

Florida 13th: GAO Report Not a Clean Bill of Health for Voting Machines

Electionline: Back to Paper

Pesky Details with Getting a Voting System Correct

The Democratic Party's Dangerous Experiment

Internet Voting (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love having the whole world know exactly how I voted)

Myth that Touch-Screen Voting Machines Mean Faster Election Results Debunked

Chairman Feinstein, Senator Specter Introduce Measure to Regulate Robocalls

News From Around the States

Colorado: Gov. Ritter, Bi-Partisan Lawmakers Announce New Legislative Plan to Conduct 2008 Elections

Georgia: Voters Say Diebold E-Pollbooks Crashed During Primary; Official Says They Didn't

Mississippi Voters Threatened by Illegal Purge, if New Bill Passes Legislature

New Jersey: Voting Machine Discrepancies Leave Questionable Results

New York: DREs Lose Round Two

Will Some Ohio Polling Places Be Inadvertantly Shut Down on Election Day?

Pennsylvania: Lackawanna County Chooses Paper Ballots

Paperless Votes: Will They Decide the Texas Primary?

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March 4 Snapshot: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont
by Verified Voting Foundation

Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont hold Presidential primaries on March 4. Ohio and Texas will also hold state primaries. In all four states, turnout is expected to increase substantially from 2004. The March 4 states use a mix of voting system types. Ohio has a mix of counties useing direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, and counties using only optically scanned paper ballots. Texas has a very wide diversity of voting systems, including many paperless DREs. Rhode Island and Vermont use paper ballots exclusively. None of these states require manual post election audits of their inital, software-generated, results. In all four states, the primaries are under the jurisdiction of the state election officials, rather than of the political parties.

Ohio

• Ohio's voting systems have been the subject of national attention and controversy following Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner's EVEREST review and her subsequent push for optical scan voting systems with central counting of ballots. The EVEREST review, conducted by computer scientists from leading universities and private sector consultants, found grave security vulnerabilities, and the Academic Team review cast doubt on the reliability and security of the VVPAT printers for the Premier (Diebold) TSx and the ES&S iVotronic DRE machines. Only 4 counties that were previously using direct-recording electronic machines have switched to paper ballots since the EVEREST review.

• 29 of Ohio's 88 counties use only optically scanned paper ballots, with ES&S M100 ballot scanners at the polling place, and the AutoMARK ballot marker for accessibility. These counties chose optical scan systems in 2006.

• Cuyahoga County, the state's largest, was ordered by Secretary Brunner to switch to optical scan for the March 4 primary, following a number of failures of the paper-trail printers on the county's TSx touch screen DREs. Cuyahoga will use paper ballots as the primary voting system, counted by ES&S high-speed M650 optical scanners. For voters with disabilities, the county will continue to use its Premier (Diebold) TSx touch screens.

• 5 other counties will use blended systems, with optically scanned paper ballots being the primary system and DREs used for accessibility. Three of these counties, Mercer, Van Wert, and Putnam, have switched recently to optically scanned paper ballots for the primary. Mercer and Van Wert will use central counting with optical scanners, with the Premier TSx available for accessibility. Putnam will use the ES&S M100 scanner at the polling place, with the iVotronic DRE for accessibility. 

• 9 counties will use the ES&S iVotronic as the primary voting system.

• 44 counties will use the Premier (Diebold) TSx as the primary voting system. 

• As of November 2006, Ohio had over 7.8 million registered voters. There is no party registration in the state. Almost 2.4 million voters voted in the March 2004 primary.

Rhode Island
• Rhode Island has a uniform statewide paper ballot system, with ES&S M100 optical scanners at the polling place with an AutoMARK ballot-marling device to serve voters with disabilities.

• As of February 7, 2008, the state Board of Elections reports that there are 665,091 registered voters in the Rhode Island, with 236,404 registered Democrats, 75,726 Republicans, and 352,961 unaffiliated voters.In 2004, just over 2,500 Republicans and over 25,000 Democrats voted in the Presidential primary.

(continued below)

Texas

• Texas has a smorgasboard of voting systems. Though optical scanners are on hand in all but 33 of the state's 254 counties, over 100 counties have both DREs and scanning equipment systems. Many of these counties use DREs exclusively in early voting, and at least some using only DREs at the election-day polling places. The Secretary of State's office maintains a database of the systems that counties have on hand, but the counties vary considerably in how they use the equipment for early voting, election-day voting, and mail-in absentee voting. A county with optical scanners and DREs may use scanners only for paper mail-in ballots, or may use scanners and DREs on election day, with only DREs used for early voting, etc.

• In at least 77 counties, DREs are the primary voting system on election day as well as the system used for early voting. These include 6 of the largest 15 counties: Bexar, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Williamson, and Nueces. 24 counties use the ES&S iVotronic, 2 use the Premier (Diebold) TSx, and 51 counties use the Hart eSlate as the primary election day and early voting system.

• Among the 15 most populous counties in the state, at least 8 use DREs exclusively in early voting. These include Dallas, Bexar, and Hidalgo counties, which use the iVotronic in early voting, and El Paso County, which uses only the Premier TSx in early voting. Tarrant, Nueces, Galveston, and Montgomery use the Hart eSlate in early voting. The Secretary of State's office maintains a daily total of early voting at this website.

• 98 of the state's 254 counties use only paper ballots, with the AutoMARK for accessibility. 3 of these counties hand-count their paper ballots, and 95 use optically scanned paper ballots. 56 use the ES&S M100 precinct scanner with the AutoMARK, and 39 use central-count scanners from ES&S, including the M650, as well as the older M150 and M550 models.

• Verified Voting  has communicated with 8 counties that own only DRE voting equipment but offer paper ballots in early and election-day voting. The paper ballots are hand-counted. The 7 counties are Brewster, Comanche, Cottle, Culberson, Dickens, Hudpseth, Menard, and Runnels.

• A copy of the Secretary of State's inventory may be viewed at this URL (this inventory may not be as current as the Excel spreadsheet Verified Voting obtained from the Secretary of State's office).

• Texas has over 12.6 million voters as of January 2008. 1.8 million of that total are on what is known as a "suspense list." The suspense list is generated when registrars mail out a certificate every two years, which is returned if the address is invalid. Voters on the suspense list may vote at their old polling place if they live in the same county, and will be removed after two federal elections in which they are on the suspense list.

• 687,515 voters voted in the Republican primary in 2004, and 839,231 voters voted in the Democratic primary.

Vermont
• Vermont's elections are administered at the township level.

• 92 municipalities use the Premier (Diebold) AccuVote optical scanner as the primary voting system. These towns comprise the larger population centers. 154 towns use hand-counted paper ballots as the primary voting system.

• For accessibility, all municipalities use the IVS Vote by Phone system.

• Voters in the Presidential primary are asked at the polling place which party ballot they wish to vote. The voter's choice of ballot is public knowledge, but records are not kept at the state level. Vermont does not maintain records of party registration. According to the Secretary of State's office, there are 423, 957 registered voters in the state. In 2004, 27,673 voters cast Republican ballots in the Presidential primary, and 83,116 voted in the Democratic primary.

Sources: Ohio Secretary of State's office, Rhode Island Board of Elections, Texas Secretary of State's office, Texas County Clerk's offices,  Vermont Secretary of State's office. Permalink

State Use of Remaining HAVA Funds For New Voting Systems: A Reasonable Option
by Verified Voting Foundation and VoteTrustUSA- March 4, 2008

The Election Assistance Commission is considering a Policy Clarification issued last month by Commission Chair Rosemary Rodriguez (pictured at right) that would reverse an earlier staff recommendation regarding the use of remaining Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds by states to replace voting systems purchased with previous HAVA funds. Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA strongly supports this Policy Clarification: such expenditures are a reasonable use of HAVA funds to improve the administration of Federal elections.

Background

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) required States to employ voting systems that would meet new requirements. The new requirements were specified in Title III of the bill, which required, among other provisions, that each and every polling place used in federal elections provide at least one voting system allowing voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently.

HAVA established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and directed the Commission to disburse appropriated funds in the form of payments to States to assist them in meeting  the requirements of Title III. HAVA granted broad discretion to the States regarding the use of such that remained after the State had met the requirements of Title III. Such funds were to be used by States as they found necessary to "improve the administration of Federal elections". Read the Entire Article

Florida 13th: GAO Report Not a Clean Bill of Health for Voting Machines
Verified Voting Foundation - February 8, 2008

Limited Scope Investigation Not Conclusive

Verified Voting Foundation concluded after reviewing a leaked copy of a draft GAO test report that the findings were not sufficient to exonerate the voting machines in determining what caused a massive undervote in the Florida District 13 contest of 2006.

"After a lot of investigation, we still don't know what happened," said founder David Dill, a computer science professor from Stanford University who co-authored two papers regarding the problem. "We do know this GAO report cannot be interpreted as a clean bill of health for the machines."

The investigation done by the GAO was limited in scope by agreement with the Congressional Task Force for the Contested Election of the Committee on House Administration. VVF found that the testing was insufficiently ambitious to determine what caused an undervote rate many times higher than in any previous election in that contest, and many times higher than that experienced on other voting systems used in that election.

"This is to point out how hard the problem is, not to criticize the GAO," said Dill. "Had this election been conducted on a voter-verified paper ballot system, as in surrounding counties that form part of District 13, it probably would not have failed. More to the point, it would have been a lot easier to find out what happened."

“The lesson here is that the complexity of computer systems, and the poor quality of evidence trail they produce, can lead to un-resolvable election disputes," added Dill. Read the Entire Article

Electionline: Back to Paper
by electionline.org - February 23, 2008

Case study examines five states' efforts to limit paperless voting.

A new report by electionline.org details how five states that implemented electronic voting have chosen or are considering statewide paper-based optical scan systems.

"Back to Paper" explores the process by which California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Ohio -- having adopted electronic voting systems -- subsequently decided to de-certify, re-examine or re-think their use.

Although it focuses on five states, the report describes a growing trend. Six years and millions of dollars into a major overhaul of the U.S. election system, a number of states are contemplating returning to paper-based voting systems after failed or troubled experiments with newer voting technology. Even as bills in Congress have stalled, nearly half of all states have adopted requirements for voter-verified paper with electronic voting and/or the use of paper-based voting systems, including optical-scan machines.

In the five states that are the subject of the electionline.org case study, problems at the polls, pressure from voter integrity groups and rising concern among lawmakers prompted leaders to scrap -- or in one case, strongly consider scrapping -- recent purchases of direct-recording electronic systems in favor of paper-based optical scanners.

Pesky Details with Getting a Voting System Correct
by Dan Wallach, Rice University - March 1, 2008

This article was posted at Ed Felten's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Today was the last day of early voting in Texas's primary election. Historically, I have never voted in a primary election. I've never felt I identified enough with a particular political party to want to have a say in selecting their candidates. Once I started working on voting security, I discovered that this also allowed me to make a legitimate claim to being “non-partisan." (While some election officials, political scientists, and others who you might perhaps prefer to be non-partisan do have explicit partisan views, many more make a point of similarly obscuring their partisan preferences like I do.)

In Texas, you are not required to register with a party in order to vote in their primary. Instead, you just show up and ask for their primary ballot. In the big city of Houston, any registered voter can go to any of 35 early voting locations over the two weeks of early voting. Alternately, they may vote in their home, local precinct (there are almost a thousand of these) on the day of the election. There have been stories of long lines over the past two weeks. My wife wanted to vote, but procrastinating, we went on the final night to a gigantic supermarket near campus. Arriving at 5:50 p.m. or so, she didn't reach the head of the queue until 8 p.m. Meanwhile, I took care of our daughter and tried to figure out the causes of the queue. Read the Entire Article

The Democratic Party's Dangerous Experiment
by David L. Dill and Barbara Simons - February 2, 2008

As most of us now understand, paperless electronic voting is a really bad idea. But there is a still worse idea: voting over the Internet.

Voters may worry about whether voting machines were hacked by programmers or poll-workers who have machines stored in their homes prior to an election. But with internet voting, we must also worry about whether the system has been hacked by a teenager in Eastern Europe, organized crime, or even an unfriendly government. We must worry about network failure, "denial of service"attacks that shut down selected machines on the internet, counterfeit Internet websites, and spyware and/or viruses on the computers used to cast votes. And we must worry about whether the people running the system are engaging in electronic ballot-stuffing.

Like whack-a-mole, internet voting proposals have reappeared in different guises in the U.S. for much of the past decade. When an extremely ambitious Department of Defense proposal for internet voting in the 2004 presidential election was reviewed by computer security experts, it was terminated because of security concerns documented by those experts - the same concerns that should cause all citizens to view any proposal for internet voting with extreme skepticism.

Nonetheless, on Super Tuesday the Democratic Party is going to deploy internet voting. Democrats living outside the country will be treated as a 51st state, called Democrats Abroad, and will elect delegates to the convention. This approach adroitly side-steps almost all regulation on election technology, which typically are matters of state, not Federal, law. Internet voting won't even be subjected to the notoriously inadequate certification process that applies to almost every other voting system in the U.S. The organizers apparently maintain their confidence in the security of internet voting by not consulting anyone who might, as happened in 2004, warn them of risks. (We know most, if not all, of the independent experts in internet voting in the U.S., and none of them has been asked to examine this system). Read the Entire Article

Internet Voting (or, how I learned to stop worrying and love having the whole world know exactly how I voted)
by Dan Wallach, Rice University - February 4, 2008

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

Tomorrow is "Super Tuesday" in the United States. Roughly half of the delegates to the Democratic and Republican conventions will be decided tomorrow, and the votes will be cast either in a polling place or through the mail. Except for the votes cast online. Yes, over the Internet.

The Libertarian Party of Arizona is conducting its entire primary election online. Arizona's Libertarian voters who wish to participate in its primary election have no choice but to vote online. Also, the Democratic Party is experimenting with online voting for overseas voters.

Abridged history: The U.S. military has been pushing hard on getting something like this in place, most famously commissioning a system called "SERVE" To their credit, they hired several smart security people to evaluate their security. Four of those experts published an independent report that was strongly critical of the system, notably pointing out the obvious problem with such a scheme: home computers are notoriously insecure. It's easy to imagine viruses and whatnot being engineered to specifically watch for attempts to use the computer to vote and to specifically tamper with those votes, transparently shifting votes in the election. The military killed the program, later replacing it with a vote-by-fax scheme. It's unclear whether this represents a security improvement, but it probably makes it easier to deal with the diversity of ballot styles.

Internet voting has also been used in a variety of other places, including Estonia. An Estonian colleague of mine demonstrated the system for me. He inserted his national ID card (a smartcard) into a PCMCIA card reader in his laptop. This allowed him to authenticate to an official government web site where he could then cast his vote. He was perfectly comfortable letting me watch the whole process because he said that he could go back and cast his vote again later, in private, overriding the vote that I saw him cast. This scheme partly addresses the risk of voter coercion and bribery (see sidebar), but it doesn't do anything for the insecurity of the client platform.

Okay, then, how does the Arizona Libertarian party do it? You can visit their web site and click here to vote. I went as far as a web page, hosted by fairvotelections.com, which asked me for my name, birth year, house address number (i.e., for "600 Main Street", I would enter "600"), and zip code. Both this web page and the page to which it “posts” its response are "http" pages. No cryptography is used, but then the information you're sending isn't terribly secret, either. Do they support Estonian-style vote overriding? Unclear. None of the links or information say a single word about security. The lack of SSL is strongly indicative of a lack of sophistication (although they did set a tracking cookie to an opaque value of some sort). Read the Entire Article

Myth that Touch-Screen Voting Machines Mean Faster Election Results Debunked
by Kim Zetter - February 5, 2008

This article was posted at the Wired Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

California election officials who have been forced by the state to replace their touch-screen voting machines with optical-scan machines due to security issues have been complaining to reporters that going back to paper ballots will mean long delays for election results -- possibly "hours or even days." In fact nearly every story I read that mentions the California primary quotes an official saying this.

But Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation, debunks the oft-repeated claim that electronic voting machines automatically mean faster results.

Alexander reviewed past status reports that were posted to the CA secretary of state's web site on election nights to see how prompt counties were in delivering results after polls closed. The only pattern she found among counties that produced late results was the size of the jurisdiction. Larger counties tended to be slower in producing results. She says election officials who try to claim that results were delivered faster in the past when electronic voting machines were used are engaging in revisionism. Read the Entire Article

Chairman Feinstein, Senator Specter Introduce Measure to Regulate Robocalls
Senator Dianne Feinstein Media Release - February 12, 2008

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today introduced legislation to regulate robocalls.

The measure introduced by Feinstein and Specter would not ban robocalls, but instead places sensible restrictions on how and when the calls can be made ­ including limiting the hours within which calls can be made, limiting the number of calls that can be made to each household, and requiring callers to identify themselves at the beginning of the call.

“During this primary season, we have heard stories about people being called over and over again, at all hours of the day and night. I believe we need sensible guidelines in place,” Chairman Feinstein said. “Something must be done about the worst of these calls.

The bill that we have introduced today does not ban robocalls.  It merely provides a reasonable framework. It’s a sensible solution that will protect American families from being inundated by calls through the day and night.”

“This legislation creates a much-needed structure for addressing the harassing computer-automated calls that are increasingly used in the days leading up to an election,” Specter said.  “The Supreme Court has stated that the privacy of citizens in their homes is an interest of the ‘highest order,’ and this bill provides a reasonable and measured approach to protecting that interest.” Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Colorado: Gov. Ritter, Bi-Partisan Lawmakers Announce New Legislative Plan to Conduct 2008 Elections
by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter Media Release - January 23, 2008

Click here to view Gov. Ritter's letter to the county clerks.

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter (pictured at right) and a group of bipartisan lawmakers today announced new legislation for conducting the 2008 elections by using paper ballots at polling places while maintaining voter choice through options such as early or absentee mail voting.

"One of the most basic roles of government is to provide for elections that are fair, reliable, transparent and convenient for voters," Gov. Ritter said. "Our democracy depends not only on the people's ability to vote, but also on their confidence that every vote counts.

"This bi-partisan legislative proposal will fix the problems we face because of decertified electronic voting machines for the 2008 elections. Paper ballots are a tried-and-true election method that has worked for decades. They ensure a verifiable paper trail and minimize the possibility of technology failures that have caused Election Day problems in the past."

The legislation will be co-sponsored by Reps. Alice Madden, D-Boulder, and David Balmer, R-Centennial, and Sen. Ken Gordon, D-Denver.

"Given the constraints of the decertifications, this is the best solution we can craft," Rep. Balmer said. "We must preserve absentee voting and Election Day, precinct-based voting so that we avoid disenfranchising voters who only vote in presidential election years."

"The people of Colorado can be assured that the 2008 elections will be accessible, accurate, secure and transparent," Sen. Gordon said. "With paper ballots as the primary method of casting votes, people can feel secure knowing that there is a paper record of their vote." Read the Entire Release

Georgia: Voters Say Diebold E-Pollbooks Crashed During Primary; Official Says They Didn't
by Kim Zetter - February 12, 2008

This article was posted at the Wired.com Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

I've been getting a number of reports from voters in Georgia that the electronic pollbooks the state used during last week's Super Tuesday primary crashed in a number of counties, resulting in the long lines that I reported about last week and in voters leaving without casting ballots.

Numerous voters in at least five Georgia counties have complained that there weren't enough e-pollbooks and that the machines crashed or were otherwise inoperable. But an election official in Fulton County, Georgia, where many of the crashes were reported, denied that any machine crashed, and said voters were mistaken. (I've posted some .mp3 files below that come from a voter hotline in which voters discuss crashes and inoperable machines.)

The ExpressPoll e-pollbooks, made by Diebold Election Systems, are used to verify that a voter is registered. (Georgia uses an older model of the ExpressPoll pictured above.)

Ralph Presley, who voted at a church in Fulton County, said there were about 200 people waiting in line at his precinct and although the church had fourteen voting machines, only two of them were being used at any one time due to a backup caused by problems with the e-pollbooks.

“They were crashing, and then they’d call the technician and wait for the technician to come out,” he told me by phone.

There were only two items on Presley's ballot -- the presidential primary and a bond referendum -- and while it took only 30 seconds to cast a ballot, it took 90 minutes to reach the poll booth. Presley said voters had to wait until a technician arrived to re-boot one of the e-pollbooks that was down. It took the machine about five minutes to re-boot, he said. Read the Entire Article

Mississippi Voters Threatened by Illegal Purge, if New Bill Passes Legislature
by Project Vote - February 26, 2008

Senate Bill 2910 Would Force Nonvoters to Reregister in Violation of Federal Voting Rights Law

A new bill working its way through the Mississippi State Legislature threatens the hard-won voting rights of elderly, minority, and disabled voters throughout the state. Senate Bill 2910 was proposed as an election reform cure-all, but one of its provisions would likely result in thousands of voters being purged from the voting rolls in violation of federal law.

Filed by State Senator Terry C. Burton and supported by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, SB 2910 would cancel the registration of any voter if he or she did not “appear to vote” in a single election between Nov. 3, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009. Purged voters would then have to reregister before they could vote in subsequent elections. If signed into law, the bill would take effect in January 2009.

In a letter to Senator Burton and copied to Secretary of State Hosemann, the national voting rights organization Project Vote notified Burton that the bill violates the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA explicitly prohibits states from removing any voter from the rolls as a consequence of failing to vote.

New Jersey: Voting Machine Discrepancies Leave Questionable Results
by Verified Voting Foundation - February 21, 2008

Discrepancies in the results reported by electronic voting machines in New Jersey's Presidential primary highlight the urgent need for that state—and any other state still using paperless voting machines—to adopt a paper ballot voting system, the Verified Voting Foundation (VVF) said today.

“It's a reminder that it is not possible to depend on software alone in elections,” said VVF president Pamela Smith. The discrepancies involved the political-party turnout reporting. Sequoia Advantage machines in several counties showed different figures between the result tape from the machine and the records of a secondary memory cartridge, for the number of Democratic and Republican voters. Counties were under deadline this week to certify the election results, despite being unable to reconcile or explain the non-matching results. Penny Venetis, a law professor at Rutgers University who represents citizens suing to have the touch screens scrapped, was quoted in yesterday's Star-Ledger, "I realize the clerks are caught in the middle here," she said. "If you can't certify an election, I feel you shouldn't certify it. Period. Why is it that the citizens of this state can't be protected?"

The machines involved do not allow voters to see their choices on paper before casting their votes, and the tallies cannot be audited effectively. New Jersey was supposed to have voter-verified paper records by January of 2008, to meet a new standard passed into law in 2005. But the deadline was pushed back to June and further delays loom, while debate continues about how New Jersey should accomplish the move to verifiable voting. NJ was listed at “high risk” in Verified Voting/Common Cause’s recent report due to its unverifiable systems.

New Jersey could adopt an increasingly popular system of precinct-based optical scanners, in which voters mark paper ballots with a pen or an assistive device for voters with disabilities. The ballots are tallied by an optical scanner, and can be recounted by hand. The state’s plan, however, is to add paper-trail printers to the existing touch screen machines. The printer would show voters a paper record of their votes before the ballot is cast, but proposed printers failed the first round of state testing. “Vendors have to go back to the drawing board, and voters have to wait—yet a better option has been available for years,” said Smith. “It’s sad that a state with both a paper ballot law and an audit law is still conducting high risk elections—and apparently will keep doing so.” Read the Entire Article

New York: DREs Lose Round Two
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - February 18, 2008

Counties Choose Paper Ballots Despite Court Ruling

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
- Yogi Berra

Just 3 weeks ago, when we thought the ruling by the State Board of Elections had finally eliminated DREs from New York State after a long hard five year campaign, I used a Gandhi quote about grassroots movements. But the DRE vendors weren’t done fighting, and voters were dealt a setback when the State Supreme Court ruled that DREs must be allowed to be purchased by counties. Now, we’ve taken another important step to our goal. But this time, while searching for a quote to capture the true spirit of New York’s contorted, inside out journey to new voting machines, Yogi Berra seems more appropriate.

Earlier this month, Judge O’Connor overruled the decision of the State Board and allowed DREs to be selected by New York counties. But when the county choices were released on February 8 and reaffirmed on February 14, it showed the depth of support for paper ballots created by citizens in our long struggle. As it turned out, of New York’s 58 Boards of Elections, all chose Ballot Marking Devices compatible with paper ballots and scanners but for one -  Hamilton, the smallest, which ordered only 11 LibertyVote DREs.

This is very, very good news. For even though counties had the option, ordered by the Court, to choose DREs, they did not! This is a demonstration of the success of the work voting integrity advocates did educating the public, election commissioners and the media. In the end, the commissioners chose paper not because they had to, but because they wanted to. That’s pretty huge and says a lot about how deep our success has been.

But, just like Yogi said, it ain’t over till it’s over, and friends, it ain’t over yet. Read the Entire Article

Will Some Ohio Polling Places Be Inadvertantly Shut Down on Election Day?
by Joseph Lorenzo Hall - February 22, 2008

This article was posted at Joe Hall's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Many of us are seriously worried about Ohio's March 4 primary. I highly recommend Ned Foley's article, "Administering the March 4 Primary in Ohio", which lists five things we should all keep our eyes on. In the 8th paragraph of Prof. Foley's article, he mentions a bill that the Ohio House was poised to pass on Tuesday. That bill was SB 286, and it did pass on Tuesday with little opposition.

Prof. Foley talks about concerns he has with a particular feature of the bill: a new practice allowing mid-day pickups of ballot materials at the polls. Foley is primarily, and appropriately, concerned with chain of custody issues; that is, the procedures that ensure ballot materials make it from the controlled environment of the polling place to the controlled environment of election headquarters without any additions, subtractions, modifications or damage.

However, there are other aspects of this bill that are troubling. For example, on the issue of mid-day pickups of ballot materials, neither the legislature nor the Ohio Secretary of State seem to fully understand what this process would entail. In order to hand-off ballot materials at mid-day, pollworkers will essentially have to do all the things they normally do at the close of polls. Most importantly, they'll have to reconcile the number of ballots cast up to that point with the number of signatures in their pollbook. This means that the pollbook will be entirely unavailable to voters who arrive at the polling place during this process. Since the various steps of ballot accounting take on the order of an hour (maybe two), this means that the polling places in Ohio that do midday pickups will be closed to voters for this amount of time. SB 286 makes no provisions for the exact procedures involved with this; it appears that polling places in Ohio using central-count optical scan will be shut down for a period of time on 4 March.
Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: Lackawanna County Chooses Paper Ballots
by Warren Stewart, VerifiedVoting.org - March 4, 2008

Reversing an earlier decision to purchase touchscreen voting equipment to replace their decertified AVS WINVote machines, Lackawanna County commissioners have announced that they will purchase a paper ballot optical scan voting system from Election Systems & Software (ES&S).

The county will also purchase AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals to provide disabled voters with the ability to vote privately and independently. The $1.3 million cost tof the contract will be reimbursed by the state.

Election officials were confident that the equipment would be up and running for Pennsyvania's primary in seven weeks.  "So we do have some logistics to work out but we're confident we can do it. Otherwise we wouldn't have given the commissioners assurance that we can make the switch to this new system," said Director of Elections Maryann Spellman Young, told WNEP.

As recently as two weeks ago, the county commissioners seemed determined to resist public demand for a paper ballot system, having entered into negotiations with Premier Election Solutions (Diebold) for the purchase of touchscreen machines.

Lackawanna County was one of three counties that had used the AVS WINVote. The Election Assistance Commission terminated testing of the WINVote last year after AVS withheld payment to the testing laboratory SysTest. Testing had already uncovered 1946 anomalies in the system's software and dozens of firmware flaws. Pennsylvania decertified the equipment in the Fall. The AVS WINVote is still used in Hinds County, Mississippi and many counties and cities in Virginia.

Paperless Votes: Will They Decide the Texas Primary?
by Sean Flaherty, VerifiedVoting.org - March 3, 2008

The Texas primary on March 4 could be the closest and the most consequential election so far this year in which ballots cast on paperless electronic voting machines are a large portion of the overall vote. The Texas primary may determine the Democratic Party's nominee for President (the Republican nomination campaign is considered essentially over) , but its outcome will not be verifiable due to the extensive use of insecure and unrecountable voting systems. As noted in Verified Voting's snapshot of voting sytems in the four March 4 states, Texas's 254 counties use a large diversity of systems. Around 100 counties use only paper ballots, with most paper ballots being optically scanned and a small number hand-counted. Random manual audits are not done in Texas. Most of the state's larger counties make some use of touch screen direct-recording electronic voting machines, or DREs, and in these counties, touch screen DREs have often been the system used for early voting.

Early voting turnout in Texas has been very high, as the campaign press has reported. In the 15 most populous counties in Texas, as many as 20% of registered voters in both parties combined had already cast their votes by February 29. The early voting turnout in the 15 most largest counties is available at the Secretary of State's website. Of these counties, at least 8 are using only paperless machines for early voting: Dallas, Bexar, Hidalgo, El Paso, Tarrant, Nueces, Galveston, and Montgomery.  By the end of early voting, 10.76% of the registered voters in Dallas County, and 17.85% of the voters in Hidalgo County, voted on the paperless ES&S iVotronic in the Democratic primary alone. 11.65% of the voters in Nueces County, and almost 10.4% in Galveston County voted on paperless Hart eSlate machines in the Democratic primary. Read the Entire Article

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