Election Integrity News - April 3, 2008

In this issue ...

National Stories

House Administration Committee Approves Holt Emergency Voting Bill

EAC Approves Policy Clarification Regarding States' Use of Remaining HAVA Funds

American Statistical Association Calls for Audits to Increase Confidence in Electoral Outcomes

California and Ohio Secretaries of State Named 2008 JFK Profile in Courage Award Recipients

House Panel Passes Rep. Susan Davis’s No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Legislation

Brookings Seminar on "Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot"

Sequoia’s Explanation, and Why It’s Not the Whole Story

Whistleblower: Voting Machine Company Lied to Election Officials About Reliability of Machines

Congress Examines States’ Failure to Follow National Voter Registration Act

News From Around the States

California Review of the ES&S AutoMARK and M100

Connecticut: Coalition Releases 2nd Post-Election Audit Report

Iowa Adopts Statewide Paper Ballot System for November 2008

New Jersey Deserves a Better Voting System

Accessible Voting and New York

Ohio: Post-Election Audit Would Improve Voter Confidence

The Mysterious Case of Ohio's Voting Machines

Pennsylvania: State of Denial, Part 1

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Internet Voting is Too Risky for Public Elections
by Verified Voting Foundation

The Verified Voting Foundation issued a warning today that the Internet is not safe for casting ballots in important public elections.  Many computer scientists and others are concerned because Internet voting was used in the Democratic Party's Presidential primary for overseas voters in February, and because several state and national legislators recently have expressed an interest in Internet voting as an option for military service personnel overseas.

“Internet voting is vulnerable to all the risks of paperless computerized voting machines; it allows no meaningful recounts or audits,” said Barbara Simons, a computer scientist and expert on Internet voting. “If ballots are cast on the Internet, attacks on the election can be made by anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world, including individual hackers, political parties, international criminal organizations, hostile foreign governments, or even terrorists.”

“The Internet could be used to make voting easier, by, for example, allowing military and overseas voters a convenient way to obtain an absentee ballot, but votes delivered over the Internet cannot be trusted,” said David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of the Verified Voting Foundation.  "Multiple studies by computer scientists have shown that making Internet voting safe is an incredibly hard problem, not solved yet, and possibly unsolvable.  At this point, any claims of ‘secure Internet voting’ should be regarded with extreme skepticism.”

Permalink

See Also:

Internet Voting

The Democratic Party's Dangerous Experiment

Internet Voting Revisited

Rep. Maloney Questions Defense Department Plan For Internet Voting Website

 
House Administration Committee Approves Holt Emergency Voting Bill
U.S. Representative Rush Holt Press Release - April 2, 2008

Legislation Would Reimburse State and Local Jurisdictions That Opt in for Voter-Verified Paper Ballots and/or Audits

(Washington, D.C.) ­ The House of Representatives Committee on House Administration today approved the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act of 2008, legislation introduced by Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) to allow states to opt-in to receive reimbursements from the federal government if they convert to a paper ballot voting system, offer emergency paper ballots, and/or conduct hand-counted audits or by hand, count the results of their elections.

“I introduced this bill earlier this year to ensure that we protect the accuracy, integrity and security of the 2008 general elections,” Holt said. “I am pleased the Committee on House Administration recognized the need to act to help states prevent disputes and uncertainties involving the November election. We will achieve real progress if we can encourage more states to give every voter a verified paper ballot. And it will be a real step forward if we can encourage more states to conduct audits.”

The bill approved by the Committee would authorize funding to reimburse states with paperless jurisdictions that convert to paper-based voting systems in 2008, as well those that don’t fully convert to a paper-based system but provide emergency paper ballots that would be counted as regular ballots in the event of machine failure. The reimbursements would cover the cost of equipment conversion (from paperless touch screen machines to optical scanners and ballot marking devices or, as authorized by a Committee amendment, by attaching printers to the touch screens) and the cost of developing procedures for conducting hand-counted audits or hand counting the results of elections. Read the Entire Press Release

EAC Approves Policy Clarification Regarding States' Use of Remaining HAVA Funds
by Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation - March 20, 2008

At their public meeting in Denver, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission unanimously approved a proposed policy clarification regarding states' use of remaining HAVA funds.

The action of the Commission reverses a earlier staff recommendation issued last year that had determined that it was "unreasonable" for states to allocate remaining HAVA Title II funds replace voting equipment that had been purchased with previous HAVA Tile II requirements payments.

The policy reversal could have a significant impact on voting system decisions in several states, notably California, Iowa, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

EAC Chair Rosemary Rodriguez had requested an opinion on the use of HAVA funds to purchase replacement equipment from the Government Accountability Office and they responded affirmatively.

American Statistical Association Calls for Audits to Increase Confidence in Electoral Outcomes
American Statistical Association - March 17, 2008

Download this press release as an Adobe PDF document.

ASA Board adopts position on Electoral Integrity

The Board of Directors of the American Statistical Association (ASA) today called on the federal government to take actions, including election audits, that would assure greater levels of voter confidence in electoral outcomes. The specific actions recommended by the Board include conducting broader research into the integrity of elections, providing tools to help election officials conduct high-integrity elections, and recommending designs of acceptable ballots as well as procedures for testing ballots on the actual machines that will be used to record the results.

The Position on Electoral Integrity adopted by the ASA Board at its March meeting states, "It is critical that the integrity of central vote tabulations be confirmed by audits of voter-verified hard-copy records in order to provide high - and clearly specified - levels of confidence in electoral outcomes… Certification of any electoral outcome should require substantiating evidence that the putative winner was the intended selection of the plurality of voters. Compelling statistical evidence of electoral failure should be accepted as a basis for judicial remedy.

The ASA statement also encourages state governments to adopt routine monitoring of all electoral procedures to ensure continuous quality improvement. Read the Entire Article

California and Ohio Secretaries of State Named 2008 JFK Profile in Courage Award Recipients
JFK Library Foundation Press Release - March 19, 2008

Former Mississippi Governor Honored for Lifetime Achievement

Two public officials who challenged the reliability of electronic voting systems in a bid to ensure the integrity of the vote in their states have been named this year’s recipients of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award™, it was announced today by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.  Debra Bowen, Secretary of State of California, and Jennifer Brunner, Secretary of State of Ohio, will be presented the prestigious award for political courage by Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy at a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Monday, May 12.

A special Profile in Courage Award for Lifetime Achievement will be presented to former Mississippi Governor William Winter for his leadership in championing racial equality and educational opportunity in Mississippi.

“As we prepare to cast our ballots for the next President of the United States, our confidence in the integrity and reliability of the voting process has never been more important,” said Caroline Kennedy, President of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.  “Secretaries of State Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner have each demonstrated exceptional leadership in working to ensure that voting systems provide a full and accurate count of the vote. Our democracy depends on voter trust.  Debra Bowen and Jennifer Brunner’s efforts to earn that trust have made them true profiles in courage. Read the Entire Article

House Panel Passes Rep. Susan Davis’s No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Legislation
by Representative Susan Davis Press Release - April 2, 2008

The Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act would allow all eligible voters an option to vote by mail

The bill by Rep. Susan Davis to lift restrictions for voting by mail in some states was approved by the House Administration Committee.  The Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act (H.R. 281) was reported to the full House on a voice vote.

“This straightforward bill would simply give any eligible voter the option of voting by absentee ballot,” said Davis, a member of the committee.  “No longer would an antiquated patchwork of state laws prevent voters from voting because they have work, family or other commitments.  We will level the playing field by allowing voters in the states that do not have No Excuse Absentee Voting to catch up to the twenty-nine that do.”

Currently, there are twenty-two states that restrict an eligible voter’s ability to vote by mail, also know as absentee.  These states restrict vote by mail privileges to certain categories of people, including the elderly, individuals with disabilities or an illness, or those in the military.  Twenty-eight states give eligible voters the option of voting by mail for any reason.  Oregon conducts its elections entirely by mail.

In many states, excuses such as having to work, taking care of a child, or serving on a jury are not considered valid reasons to be able to vote absentee. Read the Entire Press Release

Brookings Seminar on "Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot"
by Jeremy Epstein - March 23, 2008

This article was posted at Jeremy Epstein's blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a lot of publicity around the new book "Voting Technology: The Not-So-Simple Act of Casting a Ballot" by Paul Herrnson et al (Brookings Institution Press). Much of the publicity was focused on the critiques in the book of the need for computer security, including the authors claims that the needs for security are much less important than the need for usability.

This morning, Brookings hosted a panel with four of the six authors of the book. I won't try to summarize their book, other than to say that it's well worth reading about their usability results, some of which are quite surprising. There are serious scientific problems with their work even as far as it goes, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this is one of the first studies with field trials of voting systems. One of the major limitations of their results is that in considering usability, they entirely ignored usability by disabled voters. I had hoped that they would address some in their field trials some of the issues that Noel Runyan's team identified in the California Top to Bottom Review Accessibility Study. However, as Paul Herrnson told me, their funding was less than requested, and this is one of the areas they cut, to the great dismay of Jim Dickson, a leading advocate for blind voters. Read the Entire Article

Sequoia’s Explanation, and Why It’s Not the Whole Story
by Ed Felten, Princeton Univeristy - March 20, 2008

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

I wrote yesterday about discrepancies in the results reported by Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machines in New Jersey.

Sequoia issued a memo giving their explanation for what might have happened. Here’s the relevant part:

During a primary election, the “option switches” on the operator panel must be used to activate the voting machine. The operator panel has a total of 12 buttons numbered 1 through 12. Each party participating in the primary election is assigned one of the option switch buttons. The poll worker presses a party option switch button based on the voter authorization slip given to the voter after signing the poll book, and then the poll worker presses the green “Activate” button. This action causes that party’s contests to be activated on the ballot face inside the voting booth.

Let’s assume the Democrat party is assigned option switch 6 while the Republican Party is assigned options switch 12. If a Democrat voter arrives, the poll worker presses the “6" button followed by the green “Activate” button. The Democrat contests are activated and the voter votes the ballot. For a Republican voter, the poll worker presses the “12" button followed by the green “Activate” button, which then activates the Republican contests and the voter votes the ballot. This is the correct and proper method of machine activation when using option switches.
Read the Entire Article

Whistleblower: Voting Machine Company Lied to Election Officials About Reliability of Machines
by Kim Zetter - March 31, 2008

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

hartA former technician who worked for Hart InterCivic -- a voting machine company based in Texas -- has alleged that his company lied to election officials about the accuracy, testing, reliability and security of its voting machines. The whistleblower says the company did so because it was eager to obtain some of the approximately $4 billion in federal funds that Congress allocated to states in 2002 to purchase new voting equipment under the Help America Vote Act (aka HAVA).

The technician, William Singer, filed a qui tam lawsuit on the federal government's behalf last year but the lawsuit remained sealed until today, according to the Associated Press, when the U.S. Attorney's office decided it would not join Singer in the litigation. Singer maintains that Hart was paid federal money under false pretenses for the eSlate machines it sold to states. He's now pursuing the case without the government and, according to a voicemail message that one of his lawyers left me, he's now doing so in conjunction with Robert Kennedy, Jr. If Singer wins and Hart InterCivic is forced to return funds to the federal government, Singer stands to obtain a percentage of those funds as a party to the suit.

According to the complaint filed in the lawsuit, Singer worked as a computer technician for Hart from 2001 to early 2004 when he says he resigned due to the company's fraudulent acts and misrepresentations. Read the Entire Article

Congress Examines States’ Failure to Follow National Voter Registration Act
ProjectVote Media Release - March 31, 2008

The House Committee on Administration’s Subcommittee on Elections will hold a hearing to examine state compliance with a federal law—the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)—that requires states to provide voter registration services to public assistance clients at 2 pm on April 1 in Room 1320 of the Longworth Building. The hearing responds to recent reports by advocates that many states are failing to comply with the NVRA and that the Justice Department is failing to enforce the law.

According to the nonpartisan voting rights organizations Project Vote and Demos, substantial evidence indicates low-income Americans in California, Missouri, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, New Mexico, and Colorado are systematically being denied the opportunity to register to vote. Their analysis shows that while most states are offering voter registration at departments of motor vehicles as required by the NVRA, many states are failing to offer citizens the opportunity to register at public assistance agencies, such as Food Stamp or Medicaid offices. Registration rates at public assistance agencies dropped 79 percent from 1996 to 2006. The result is that low-income Americans continue to be under-represented at the polls on Election Day, despite Congressional efforts to the contrary.

“Democracy works best when all Americans have an opportunity to participate,” stated Michael Slater, Deputy Director of Project Vote. “Today, low-income Americans are twice as likely to be unregistered as affluent Americans, despite the requirements of the NVRA. States have a responsibility to ensure all citizens have equal access to the polls on Election Day.” Slater will be presenting the results of Project Vote’s research at the Subcommittee on Election’s April 1 hearing.

From Around the States

California Review of the ES&S AutoMARK and M100
by Dan Wallach, Rice University - March 26, 2008

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

California’s Secretary of State has been busy. It appears that ES&S (manufacturers of the Ink-a-Vote voting system, used in Los Angeles, as well as the iVotronic systems that made news in Sarasota, Florida in 2006) submitted its latest and greatest “Unity 3.0.1.1" system for California certification. ES&S systems were also considered by Ohio’s study last year, which found a variety of security problems.

California already analyzed the Ink-a-Vote. This time, ES&S submitted their AutoMARK ballot marking device, which has generated some prior fame for being more accessible than other electronic voting solutions, as well has having generated some prior infamy for having gone through various hardware changes without being resubmitted for certification. ES&S also submitted its M100 precinct-based tabulation systems, which would work in conjunction with the AutoMARK devices. (Most voters would vote with pen on a bubble sheet. The AutoMARK presents a fancy computer interface but really does nothing more than mark the bubble sheet on behalf of the voter.) ES&S apparently did not submit its iVotronic systems.

The results? Certification denied. Read the Entire Article

Connecticut: Coalition Releases 2nd Post-Election Audit Report
by Connecticut Citizen Election Audit Coalition - April 3, 2008

Procedures Alone Insufficient For Effective Election Audits

Download the Report

Coalition report on post-presidential-primary audits finds inadequate adherence to procedures and recommends additional changes in the law.

We report the good news that procedures have been significantly improved and that discrepancies noted in the counts in February post election audit were much lower than November. We are also pleased to report that, for the most part, registrars fully supported the portion of the procedures providing significantly improved observation opportunities for observers. These procedures allowed us to visually verify that ballots were being counted accurately and totals reported were accurately accumulated from those counts.

Unfortunately, now that procedures have been improved, the audit observations have exposed the lack of understanding of those procedures, lack of understanding of the principles behind the procedures, lack of attention to those procedures, and apparent lack of ability for election officials to follow those procedures.  

The February audit observations leave us with the information necessary to vouch for the accuracy of the hand-counting results we observed. However, many of the audits, as observed, leave us uncertain as to whether an error or fraud would have been detected in an audited race where we were not present to observe. We also question the security of the chain of custody to protect the integrity of ballots before the audits and to protect the integrity of ballots and tabulators after the audits such that further audits and investigations could effectively be performed.

Iowa Adopts Statewide Paper Ballot System for November 2008
Iowans for Voting Integrity Press Release - April 1, 2008

Iowans for Voting Integrity applauded lawmakers, county election officials, Governor Culver, and Secretary of State Michael Mauro for working to adopt a statewide optical scan/paper ballot voting system in time for the November election. Governor Culver signed the legislation, Senate File 2347, today in a ceremony at the Capitol.

 “This is a big victory for Iowa's voters,”  said Iowans for Voting Integrity co-chair Sean Flaherty. “Every county will use the system that provides the most reliable record of voter intent.”

The transition will take place in the coming months. “When lawmakers and election officials work together, it is possible to make changes to voting systems both quickly and responsibly. I hope that other states are paying attention,” Flaherty said.

Senate File 2347 eliminates direct-recording electronic touch screen machines, and moves Iowa toward a universal system of voter-marked paper ballots read by optical scanners.  In 2006, almost 20% of Iowa's voters voted on touch screens. The touch screens have been the subject of intense scrutiny by computer scientists, and reviews by the Secretaries of State of California and Ohio have found severe security problems and found that “paper trail” printouts were not  enough to deter fraud or prevent error. Read the Entire Article

New Jersey Deserves a Better Voting System
by Pam Smith, Verified Voting Foundation - March 25, 2008

This oped was published in  The Trenton Times.

It's exasperating.

The New Jersey Legislature passed a requirement for a voter-verifiable paper record of each vote cast nearly three years ago. The 2005 law required voter- verified paper records by January 2008, an eminently feasible deadline. (It even added a cutting-edge audit law this January, requiring random checks on the paper records to make sure the machines are counting accurately.)

Yet, in spite of these forward- thinking precautions designed to safeguard the integrity of the vote this November, New Jersey's citizens will be voting on a paperless, unverifiable voting system -- one that can't be audited or recounted -- again. The Legislature has just voted to extend, for a second time, the deadline for a voter-verifiable system until January 2009.

Some lawmakers grasp the problem -- the Senate vote of 27-12 in favor of the extension was much closer than the Assembly vote, and some spoke eloquently before the vote about the problem of having no way to confirm that the votes are counted as cast. Though they are learning that verifiable voting systems are available right now, they act as if their hands are tied, as if they don't realize that a solution has been available all along. New Jersey's voters deserve better. Gov. Jon Corzine should veto the delay. Read the Entire Article

Accessible Voting and New York
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - March 12, 2008

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

Board Ignores Advice from Citizen Committee

On February 27 the New York State Board of Election Commissioners voted to approve four systems for use as ballot marking devices (BMDs) in 2008. In evaluating the machines, the Board used functional test reports performed by SysTest, and an advisory report prepared by the Citizens Election Modernization Advisory Committee (CEMAC). The CEMAC report recommended that two AutoMARK models and the ImageCast systems be approved. But the committee advised that the Avante and LibertyMark machines were unusable by voters with disabilities, and should not be approved by the Board.

CEMAC was established by the New York State Legislature to advise the State Board of Elections on the adoption of new voting systems. Members includes advocates for the disabled as well as county election commissioners from both major parties. I am a member of CEMAC, appointed by the League of Women Voters of New York State, participated in the evaluations, and drafted the report. Our findings were based on evaluations of the systems being considered by the state that we performed in the last several months. After several evaluation sessions, the committee unanimously recommended that the LibertyMark machine NOT be authorized for use as it was not usable by the vast majority of voters with disabilities. Read the Entire Article

Ohio: Post-Election Audit Would Improve Voter Confidence
by Lawrence Norden, Brennan Center for Justice New York University School of Law - March 15, 2008

This oped was published in the Columbus Dispatch and is reposted here with permission of the author.

No matter their political persuasion or favored candidates, Ohioans should feel good about the March 4 election: Despite the bad weather, record numbers of voters turned out and, presented with significant procedural and equipment changes, most poll workers and election officials performed very well.

But Ohioans shouldn't close the book on the election just yet. There's still important work to be done, especially if we want to make sure that the general election in November goes as smoothly as possible.

Ohio counties should conduct post-election audits as soon as practical, to confirm for voters that their choices were accurately counted and to provide feedback that will allow counties to improve the voting process in November.

Audits are standard practice in both the public and private sectors. They allow government agencies and private businesses to catch mistakes and set benchmarks for future performance. There is no reason Ohio elections should be exempt from this standard accounting practice, which a growing number of states concerned about voting-system security have adopted in the past few years. Read the Entire Article

The Mysterious Case of Ohio's Voting Machines
by Kim Zetter - March 28, 2008

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

In 2006, Ohio became the poster-child for bad election administration when two lengthy reports examining Cuyahoga County's election procedures uncovered multiple serious problems (the county lost 812 voter-access cards that allow a voter to cast a ballot on machines; it also lost 313 keys to the memory-card compartments where votes are stored on machines and hired taxi drivers to drive to election precincts and pick up the memory cards that contained the votes).

Then in 2007, two election officials in Cuyahoga County were convicted of rigging a recount in the 2004 presidential election by cherry-picking ballots to recount that they knew would match the official count rather than randomly picking ballots.

Now we have a mystery involving touch-screen voting machines used in Franklin County, Ohio, that has launched a criminal investigation to determine why a message that some voters saw on their touch-screen machines didn't appear on other machines.

The issue has raised a number of questions about when the electronic ballot on the machines was programmed and by whom. A preliminary investigation has also uncovered a couple of additional surprises about the machines -- it turns out that not only did the county fail to conduct mandatory tests on the machines before the November election, but a county programmer had also intentionally disabled an internal auditing function for logging any changes made to the machine software, possibly thwarting investigators' ability to determine what occurred with the ballots and who was responsible. The programmer says the voting machine company advised him to disable the log to speed up the programming process.

The machines in question are made by Election Systems and Software, the largest voting machine company in the country, which is based in Omaha, Nebraska. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: State of Denial, Part 1
by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA - March 30, 2008

With the national spotlight on The Keystone State’s April 22 Primary, many heads remain buried in sand when it comes to electronic voting.

In March 2004, Governor Ed Rendell announced a new tourism slogan for Pennsylvania: “The State of Independence”. But with Pennsylvania officials continuing along in what seems to be mindless oblivion to the dangers of paperless electronic voting machines, perhaps Pennsylvania’s slogan should be “The State of Denial” when it comes to elections.

Following the inconclusive Ohio and Texas Democratic primaries earlier this month, the national spotlight turned swiftly to Pennsylvania’s April 22 election as the next battleground. And in the glare of that white-hot national spotlight it is more apparent than ever that there is great risk for electoral disaster in The Keystone State.

With fifty-one of its most populous counties still voting on completely paperless Direct Record Electronic machines, Pennsylvania remains one of the last twelve states to have passed no law requiring every vote to be backed up with a voter-verified paper record or ballot.

Time and time again Pennsylvania has had to replace failed electronic voting machines, bailing out counties and vendors at taxpayer expense. Pennsylvania has been plagued with a rash of problems caused by failures of paperless, unverifiable voting machines. These problems ranged from extremely high levels of undervotes (indicating a large number of voters are not having their votes counted), to faulty programming and ballot preparation, to outright loss of votes due to machines being set up improperly on Election Day. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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