Election Integrity News - March 6, 2006

This Week's Quote: "In each election there are incidents of voting machines that fail to perform properly causing confusion in the polling places and concerns over the potential loss of votes…these incidents have raised concerns about the reliability of the testing process, the credibility of the standards against which the machines are tested, and the laboratories that carry out the tests.” Congressman Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), June 24, 2004

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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

Election 2006: Do You Know How Your Vote Will Be Counted?

Three More Republican Representatives Co-Sponsor HR 550

News From Around the States

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

California: Critics Say State Rush On Touch Screens Risks Secure Voting

Colorado: Say NO To Email And Fax Voting

Florida Issues 'Technical Advisory' for 'Security Enhancements' on 'All Voting Systems' in State

Iowa: Will Vilsack Follow Richardsonās Lead?

Louisiana: Protecting New Orleans' Elections

Maryland House Committee Votes 20-3 to Scrap Diebold Touch-Screens in State

Maryland: State Board of Elections Admits That Diebold Touchscreens Are Hackable

New Mexico: Governor's Letter to All State Election Directors

New York: Department of Justice Sues New York State Over Voting Rights

New York Voters and Civic Groups Intervene in DOJ Lawsuit

Ohio: Voting Machine Support Costly

Pennsylvania: Touchscreens Are The Problems Looking For a Solution

Pennsylvania: Dark Day For Democracy

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

#5 - The Maryland State Board of Elections has decided that it is time to admit that there are security issues with Diebold voting machines. In an article printed at VoteTrustUSA TrueVoteMD says,

"In a letter dated February 28, 2006 (page 3), the Maryland's State Board of Elections has now admitted to Governor Ehrlich and other state leadership that the hackable code is on the TS machines: "The [AccuBasic] code and the touchscreen and optical scan memory cards on which it resides are the same as those used in Maryland's current Diebold systems." The fact that Maryland's voting systems can be hacked is itself a violation of state election law."
Meanwhile in a report from the Baltimore Sun Maryland's Governor is questioning why none of the questions about the Diebold voting machines have been answered by the board of elections.

#4 - The Secretary of State of Florida seems to have taken a page from her counter-part in California when it comes to late Friday afternoon announcements. In her directive, as posted at The Brad Blog, she instructs the counties in new security safeguards. Though the directive never mentions Leon County or Diebold there is no doubt that this directive stems from that incident as well as from the recent revelations about Diebold that have come from California. In an article in the Miami Herald the Leon County election director, Ion Sancho, says, ''The basis on which they are issuing [the new rules] is Leon County's test, yet not one word of congratulations. How petty.''

#3 - Prior to signing a bill requiring a paper ballot in future elections in New Mexico, Governor Bill Richardson sent a letter to elections officials in all 50 states to let them know why he was signing the bill and what it means for his state. The next day the governor held a press conference as he signed the bill, SB-295, into law thus adding New Mexico to a growing list of states that require a paper ballot.

#2 - Meanwhile in Pennsylvania voting activists spent time defending themselves from false accusations that they were at fault for stopping the counties from purchasing new voting machines. Later in the week the state Supreme Court found in favor of the counties and the state. This ruling did not happen without interference from the Governor's office who praised the justices for their decision.

#1 - The week began with the news from New York discussing stopgap measures to solve the states HAVA compliance problems. Mid-week the US Department of Justice announced that they were filing suit against the state for non-compliance. By the end of the week, and in a counter move, a group of voters and civic groups announced that they were intervening in that lawsuit.



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

Election 2006: Do You Know How Your Vote Will Be Counted?
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - February 23, 2006

This article is published in the March 1, 2006 editiion of The Washington Spectator.

he troubling truth about voting in America today is that a majority of the electorate casts their ballots on computers that run software that is hidden from public view and lacks any independent means of verification. The process by which our votes are cast and counted is controlled by private corporations to an extent that threatens the foundations of democracy.

Last September, the Government Accountability Office released a report on the security and reliability of electronic voting machines. The report, which detailed the findings of a nine-month study, said that "concerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes." The GAO reported that it had confirmed instances of "weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete voting system standards."

While acknowledging that efforts were under way to improve the situation, the report warned that "these actions are unlikely to have a significant effect in the 2006 federal election cycle." Not exactly reassuring.

And the situation has hardly improved in the months since. In many states, it is still unclear what kind of voting machines will be used in primaries only a few months away. Running elections has always been a daunting and largely unappreciated job performed by state and county officials. But the challenges they face in 2006 are unprecedented, and many have their fingers crossed hoping their experiments with voting technology will work out.

Read the entire article at The Washington Spectator

Three More Republican Representatives Co-Sponsor HR 550
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - March 6, 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 month, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) responded to developments in 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. A week ago, Greg Walden (R-OR) joined as a co-sponsor, completing the Oregon delegation's support of HR 550. And now Phil English (R-PA), from a state where Republicans have sponsored voter verified paper ballot and audit legislation in the state legislature, has signed on as the twelfth Republican co-sponsor 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.

In Pennsylvania, over a quarter of the members of each chamber of the Satte Assembly have co-sponsored legislation based on HR 550. The bills, HB 2000 and SB 977 would require a voter verified paper record and a 5% mandatory random audit to verify the accuracy of electronic tallies. Rep. English (pictured at right) represents Pennsylvania's Third District, including Mercer and Butler Counties, which experienced numerous irregularities and lost votes on electronic voting machines in the 2004 election.

Four Democratic Representatives have co-sponsored HR 550 in the past month, Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Lincoln Davis (D-TN), Ted Stricklnad (D-OH), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) bringing the total co-sponsorship, with Wolf, Walden, and English to 167, more than all other election refomr legislation in 109th Congress combined. 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

From Around the States

California: State Senator Calls On Secretary of State To Reverse Re-Certification of Diebold
by California State Senator Debra Bowen - March 1, 2006

New Report From Diebold'Hired Testing Company Reveals Security Flaws in Machines Certified By Secretary of State

State Senator Bowen Criticizes Secretary's Refusal To Publicly Vett Two SoS-Requested Reports Identifying Security Flaws in Diebold Machines

Download the CIBER Inc Diebold Report (PDF) 

Download the California Voting System Technology Assessment Advisory Board AccuBasic Report (PDF) 

As the Secretary of State held a hearing today on whether voting systems from four manufacturers should be certified for use in California, Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee, criticized the Secretary’s continuing refusal to hold a public hearing on the security flaws that have been identified in the Diebold systems he re-certified for use on February 17.

"The Secretary can't be allowed to have it both ways," said Bowen. "He laid out a process for dealing with the Diebold re-certification request, one that people who are concerned about the reliability and accuracy of these machines relied on, and then he ignored it. He says he's for public hearings and a public process, yet he continually changed the process he established and refused to release critical information about the flaws in the Diebold machines until after he decided to re-certify them." 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: Critics Say State Rush On Touch Screens Risks Secure Voting
by Ian Hoffman, staff writer, Oakland Tribune - March2, 2006

Activists say substandard devices being considered for June; disabled advocates pleased

This article appeared in The Oakland Tribune on March 2, 2006. It is reposted with permission of the author.

As state officials race to evaluate voting machines for the June elections, critics complained Wednesday that the state was short-circuiting its own rules and putting substandard tools in the hands of voters.

The latest crop of machines are more accessible for disabled voters than ever before but still show significant errors in "volume testing" that simulates an election.

Testing 50 to 100 machines at a time has revealed problems - some minor, some major - with virtually every kind of voting system that vendors want to sell in the state, from common ballot jams and too-touchy touch-screen errors to system crashes and the rare lost ballot.

In all but one case, in which 59 total errors arose on 100 Hart optical scanners, state elections staff is recommending that Secretary of State Bruce McPherson approve the machines for voters, with detailed instructions for recalibrating and rebooting if problems occur on election day. Read the Entire Article

Colorado: Say NO To Email And Fax Voting
by Al Kolwicz, CAMBER - March 6, 2006

Colorado legislators act to weaken secure elections. Through Senate Bill SB-062, Colorado legislators and election oficials intend to permit voting by email and by fax.

If "limited" email voting were available to anybody, I believe that the "equal protection" clause of the law would permit others to gain access to the voting method. Can anybody guarantee that this would not happen?.

In any event, there are many elected officials who have experienced an election win or loss due to a very small number of votes. The point being -- EVERY SINGLE VOTE IS IMPORTANT, AND WE CANNOT SACRIFICE ANY. These officials should understand this. Elections are getting closer and closer. Every ineligible vote counted is a way to disenfranchise an eligible voter - by cancelling the eligible voter's choices.

Also, for those who would vote for this bill I ask, "how can it be verified that the person voting by email is the specific person who is authorized to vote the ballot?" The bill does not address this major defect. Consequently, email voting credentials will instantly have significant value.

Email voting credentials will be sold by voters who don't care about the election contests. They will be bought by those who are able to collect these credentials and sell them (in a block) to the highest bidder. It will be like selling your user-ID and password to your internet account. Nobody will know if it is you, or your friend, or some miscreant who is logged into your account. Think of the power an individual will have when he says to a candidate, "I can offer you voting credentials for 15,000 votes if you will give me· Read the Entire Article

VerifiedVoting.org has issued an action alert to Colorado lawmakers urging them to reject SB06-062.

Florida Issues 'Technical Advisory' for 'Security Enhancements' on 'All Voting Systems' in State
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - March 4, 2006

Offers New 'Recommendations and Guidelines' for Election Directors in Light of Recent Diebold Voting Machine Hack - Friday 4pm Memorandum Release Fails to Mention Diebold or Recent Leon County, FL Election Hack

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

Picking up in the tradition of California's Sec. of State Bruce McPherson, who seems to have a fondness for Friday night releases of important information which he hopes nobody will.

Picking up in the tradition of California's Sec. of State Bruce McPherson, who seems to have a fondness for Friday night releases of important information which he hopes nobody will notice, Florida's Division of Elections Director, Dawn K. Roberts, issued a "Technical Advisory" memorandum calling for "enhancements to voting system security procedures that each supervisor of elections must address immediately." The memo was issued late this evening at the end of the work week.

Roberts' memo (posted in full below) would be the first official acknowledgment, to our awareness, by the state of Florida of the security concerns raised by the recent Leon County, FL "hack test" conducted by Election Supervisor Ion Sancho. That now-infamous test -- in which computer security professional Harri Hursti had managed to access and change information on the Diebold optical-scan voting machine memory cards -- resulted in the results of the test election being completely flipped, without a trace being left behind.

In her "Technical Advisory", Roberts fails to mention that "hack test" or the equipment it occurred on -- or even Diebold themselves -- by name. Rather, the alert alludes to McPherson's recent -- and stunning -- "conditional re-certification" of Diebold voting equipment in the state, in light of confirmation of the newly discovered "interpreted code" used by the machines. That type of software source code is specifically banned by the federal Help America Vote Act guidelines. During his re-certification of Diebold -- after the company's equipment had previously been de-certified in the state for use of illegal software patches, and subsequently found to have failed atleast 20% of the time in a massive test held last summer -- McPherson mandated specific security procedures to be used with Diebold equipment in the state of California.

"This technical advisory therefore applies to all voting systems deployed in Florida," writes Roberts in the memo issued this evening. Read the Entire Article

Iowa: Will Vilsack Follow Richardsonās Lead?
by Jerry Depew, IowaVoters.org - March 3, 2006

Iowans For Voting Integrity are sponsoring Lobby Days at the State Capitol on March 8th. For More information click here.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack (pictured at right) may both run for President in 2008. Both are now trying to attract attention to themselves. Vilsack has his ten words campaign and Richardson has his paper ballot triumph.

Thursday, Richardson signed a bill booting touchscreen and pushbutton voting machines from New Mexico. All the new voting machines sold since the Florida recount were supposed to reduce the number of overvotes and undervotes—cases where votes don’t get counted because voters mishandled the ballot or overlooked the race. The new equipment warns voters that they skipped races or that they voted for two candidates instead of just one. Voila! No more lost votes.

But New Mexico led the nation in undervotes in 2004 despite their electronic equipment. Paperless machines got the blame. “"Eighty-nine precincts had more than 10% undervotes, and all but one of these used pushbutton machines." Read the Entire Article

Louisiana: Protecting New Orleans' Elections
by Barbara R. Arnwine, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights - March 5, 2006

With its elections next month, Louisiana is proving to be the first real battleground for Election Protection 2006. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights is doing to help ALL Louisiana voters exercise their right to vote.  

The Lawyers Committee has prepared two Voters' Bills of Rights for Louisiana - one for election day and one for absenttee voting. Our National Campaign for Fair Elections, the Lawyers' Committee's integrated program of our Voting Rights Project, produced these materials on behalf of the Election Protection coalition. We are beginning to disseminate them among voters, activists, and more than 100 grassroots organizations to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast a meaningful ballot. 

Beginning months ago, the National Campaign for Fair Elections, which coordinates all of our work on election reform and voter protection, began meeting with the Louisiana Secretary of State and other key officials to ensure that all victims of the Gulf Coast hurricanes are informed of their voting rights leading up to local elections on April
22nd. To that end, the Campaign helped organize a recent voter education meeting in Baton Rouge, LA, in conjunction with Rep. Cheryl Gray of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. We prepared and presented an earlier version of the two Bills of Rights, and I discussed recent changes made to Louisiana election law with regards to absentee
and early voting. I also announced that we have activated our 1-866-OUR-VOTE Election Protection hotline, which will be staffed through the April 22nd elections to assist any voter or election worker with questions. Read the Entire Article

Maryland House Committee Votes 20-3 to Scrap Diebold Touch-Screens in State
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - March 6, 2006

AP Reports Again on E-Voting Issues - Maryland Elections Director, Diebold Champion Linda Lamone Still Has a Job

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

Signs are good in Maryland -- Diebold's original "showcase state" -- that the legislature there is finally wising up to the democracy undermining problem that is Diebold. According to AP -- yes, again AP -- the Democratic chaired House Ways and Means Committee "voted 20-3 on Friday to scrap the Diebold touchscreen machines for at least this year and use paper ballots with an optical-scan system for the primary and general elections."

The measure still has to move through the Senate, though the Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich has previously called for something very similar. So if the Senate moves, chances are the Guv will sign on.

Yes, there are problems, as you know, with optical-scan machines (just ask democracy's hero Ion Sancho in Leon County, FL), but at least the move away from Democratic Election Administrator Linda Lamone's fateful deal with the devil to use (and continue apologizing for) Diebold's unrecountable paperless touch-screen machines across the state may finally be coming to an end. Read the Entire Article

Maryland: State Board of Elections Admits That Diebold Touchscreens Are Hackable
by TrueVoteMD - March 2, 2006

California Diebold Report Confirms that Maryland's Voting System is Not Compliant with Federal Standards - Independent Security Analysis discovers hackable code/dangerous vulnerabilities & recommends not using Diebold voting systems for statewide elections

The controversy over whether Maryland's 20,000 TS voting units are vulnerable to the 'Hursti hack' entered a new chapter today.

In a letter dated February 28, 2006 (page 3), the Maryland's State Board of Elections has now admitted to Governor Ehrlich and other state leadership that the hackable code is on the TS machines: "The [AccuBasic] code and the touchscreen and optical scan memory cards on which it resides are the same as those used in Maryland's current Diebold systems."  The fact that Maryland's voting systems can be hacked is itself a violation of state election law.

Further, California's independent review of that state's Diebold equipment confirms that Maryland's system is hackable, out of compliance with federal standards and should be de-certified for use. Detailed analysis below.

TrueVoteMD has just completed a review of the "Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuBasic Interpreter," issued by the California Voting Systems Technology Advisory Board on February 14, 2006. 

The findings of this report have confirmed that Maryland's Diebold voting systems, both AccuVote-TS touchscreens and AccuVote-OS optical scanners, are not in compliance with federal standards because of the existence of Accu-Basic, banned interpreted software code. The report also confirmed that the Diebold AV-OS system is vulnerable to the famous "Harri Hursti hack" that was demonstrated in a mock election in Leon County, Florida in December, 2005.  Further, the analysis discovered numerous additional bugs in the interpreter that “lead to another, more dangerous family of vulnerabilities.” (page 2)

While the report listed short-term mitigation strategies that could be employed for use in local elections, they recommended not using the Diebold systems in statewide elections unless the vulnerabilities were fixed by re-writing the architecture of the system, because, "Larger elections, such as a statewide election, provide a greater incentive to hack the election and heighten the stakes." (page 36) Additionally, the mitigation strategies are only viable because of the existence of a voter-verified paper audit trail and mandatory audit requirement for all voting systems in California. The report emphasized that, "Successful attacks can only be detected by examining the paper ballots." (page 2) 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

New Mexico: Governor's Letter to All State Election Directors
by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson - March 1, 2006

To the State Officials of the 50 United States of America

Download Final Version of New Mexico's Paper Ballot Bill (SB 295) 

Dear Colleagues,

The hallmark of American democracy is one person, one vote.

The reason refugees and immigrants, students and professionals from around the world continue to flock toward our shores is because we fundamentally believe in the worth of each person. We believe "all men and all women are created equal." We believe that regardless of gender, race, class or creed - all voices deserve respect; all voices deserve to be heard. And when it comes to elections, all votes deserve to be counted.

But is our democracy, is our hallmark principle of one person, one vote, on solid ground?

Recent elections would suggest that democracy, the greatest system of government in the world, can be broken. As the world witnessed in 2000, the sanctity of the ballot box and the integrity of our government are vulnerable. The people of the United States lost faith in the electoral process, and the covenant between citizens and elected officials deteriorated. Those national officials scrambled to pass legislation to restore voter confidence, but in 2004, inaccurate exit polls raised further doubts about electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper record.

 In New Mexico, a coalition of concerned citizens demanded action. Working together with these citizens and the state legislature, I signed several laws which guarantee that every ballot is counted.  New Mexico improved and standardized training for poll workers. We established statewide standards for provisional ballots to ensure that voters in low-income areas will not disenfranchised. We made absentee voting fair, simple, and uniform.  

And we took one more critical step to ensure one person, one vote. Read the Entire Letter

New York: Department of Justice Sues New York State Over Voting Rights
Department of Justice Press Release - March 1, 2006

Lawsuit Seeks to  Vindicate Rights of Disabled Voters, Federal Election Reform

Download the Full Department of Justice Complaint (PDF) 

[Link To Press Release] The Justice Department announced today that it has filed suit against the State of New York alleging violations of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, in Albany.

The government's complaint contends that the state has failed to comply with two of HAVA's requirements governing federal elections: that states (i) adopt voting systems that are fully accessible by disabled voters and are capable of generating a permanent paper record that can be manually audited, and (ii) create a statewide computerized voter registration database. The lawsuit is the first filed to vindicate these important federal obligations.

"HAVA contains important reforms designed to ensure that elections for federal office will both allow access to all voters and ensure the integrity of the process," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We believe today's lawsuit will help ensure that New York voters enjoy the benefits of these important reforms." Read the Entire Press Release

New York Voters and Civic Groups Intervene in DOJ Lawsuit
by New Yorkers for Verified Voting - March 3, 2006

Rush to Judgment on Voting Machines Risks Electoral Chaos in 2006

A coalition of New York voters and civic groups, including New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the League of Women Voters of New York, announced on March 3 that they are intervening to oppose a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) against New York State. Led by Larry Rockefeller, a longtime voting activist, the coalition has filed a Motion to Intervene on March 3, 2006 asserting that the relief sought by the Department of Justice - rushing out new electronic voting machines for the September 2006 primaries - will inevitably cause mass chaos on Election Day and will deny the right of citizens to have their votes counted.

If the Department of Justice action forces the State of New York to overhaul New York's voting systems before the September 2006 primary it risks Election Day chaos. The lawsuit could result in New York being forced into hasty procurement of voting systems which are not secure, poorly tested, and which fail to reliably and accurately record and count votes. Using untested voting systems acquired in haste is a recipe for disaster.

Mr. Rockefeller said, "The Department of Justice's rush to force the State to certify and buy computerized voting machines in time for the September primaries is a perfect storm for voting disaster. These machines have failed all over the country in other jurisdictions and, under pressure, will definitely fail New Yorkers. To privatize our elections using insecure technology risks inside fraud that can tilt election outcomes without a trace." Read the Entire Article

Ohio: Voting Machine Support Costly
by Mary Beth Lane- March 5, 2006

Elections boards and counties stunned by expense; state aid for training ends after primary

This article appeared in the The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, March 5, 2006.

The cost of service contracts for new touchscreen voting machines has left county elections officials across Ohio in sticker shock. Many say they need the extra - and expensive - technical support to program and run the machines properly and ensure the integrity of elections.

But a spokesman said Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell thinks counties can run the systems themselves after the May 2 primary election, when state-paid training and technical support ends.

Counties are not required to have extra technical support after that. It’s their choice.

The full coverage plan offered by Diebold Election Systems to service its touch-screen voting machines in Fairfield County, for example, would cost $90,000 a year. Partial-coverage options are available at $60,000 and $21,000 a year.

"It just about blew our minds away," said Alice Nicolia, director of the county Board of Elections. Read the entire article in the Columbus Dispatch 

Pennsylvania: Touchscreens Are The Problems Looking For a Solution
by Warren Stewart VoteTrustUSA - March 2, 2006

In a House Appropriations hearing this week, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes (pictured at right) commented ‘this whole issue of a voter-verified, paper-audit trail is a solution in search of a problem.' As the individual charged with providing Pennsylvania's voters with confidence in the electoral process this statement reveals a willful dismissal of the reality of elections in the state.

The Department of Elections appears to be spending more of their energy justifying the use of Diebold voting equipment than in running transparent, auditable elections. Cortes apparently has not done much of a search for "problems" to be solved by the "solution" of voter verified paper records.

Beaver County election officials have reported that since they began using DREs 8 years ago their undervote count has increased to about 6 times what it was when they used paper ballots. There were 820 presidential undervotes in 1996. In 1998, they began using the Unilect Patriot. Undervotes increased to 5,313 in 2000 and 4,551 in 2004, in spite of the fact that the DRE warns voters when they have not voted for a particular contest. In Mercer County in 2004, some touchscreen machines recorded presidential undervote rates as high as 83% and 8% countywide. In municipal elections in Montgomery County in 2005, three races were affected by lost votes on electronic voting machines. All these "problems" would be have been "solved" by the presence of a paper trail.

Then there's the problem that with touchscreen voting machines, there's no way to count votes without using software - software that is considered proprietary and hidden from public review. Election administrators no longer count votes - voting machine vendors count votes. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: Dark Day For Democracy
by VotePA - March 2, 2006

Citizens' Lawsuit to Protect the Pennsylvania Constitution - And Our Right To Decide How We Vote - Tossed Aseide By State Supreme Court

With less than 24 hours deliberation, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Thursday against Westmoreland County citizens who were suing to preserve their state constitutional right to choose their voting system by referendum. The state Supreme Court decision vacated Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini's order for injunctive relief and reversed the portions of his order granting relief on the portions of the order granting relief on the action for Declaratory Judgement and the Complaint in Equity. The order, which consisted of three short sentences, basically paved the way for Pennsylvania counties to move forward and buy the paperless, unverifiable voting machines that threaten the core of our Democracy.

Shockingly, Governor Ed Rendell (who to his credit has gone on record saying that Pennsylvania will have a paper ballot, and has taken other actions to protect our vote) issued a press release COMMENDING the court for this action that apparently tossed aside our State Constitution. And this same week, his Secretary of State, Pedro Cortés drew national attention when he made a public statement dismissing the need for the protection of Voter-Verified Paper Records on Pennsylvania voting systems. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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