Election Integrity News - May 2, 2006
Week's Quote: "The protection of the voting process is as important for the well-being of the body politic as is protection of public health for the bodies of our individual citizens" Roy Saltman, The History and Politics of Voting Equipment: In quest of Integrity and Public Confidence, 2006.
In this issue ...
News From Around the States
|Why Did the EAC Replace the Final Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) With Another Document?
by VoteTrustUSA - April 28, 2006
VoteTrustUSA joined a coalition of organizations in signing the following letter asking the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to explain why the final version of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines was replaced on their website with another version with substantial differences from the original.
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to object to the replacement of the final version of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines posted on the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) web site on January 12, 2006, with another version of that document. We believe that the revised document fails to accurately reflect the views expressed by many members of the public on the draft voting standards.
There are significant changes to section “7 Security Requirements” first outlined in the original final Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. The current version of the document posted on the agency's web site brings into question the integrity of the Election Assistance Commission, and the efficacy of the document currently posted as the final version. The agency acknowledges in its announcement in the release of the final document that, “During the 90-day public comment period, EAC received more than 6,000 comments on the proposed guidelines. Each comment was reviewed and considered by EAC in consultation with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the development of the final version.”
The Voluntary Voting System Guidelines are intended to replace the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS) developed by the Federal Election Commission, which guided the development and implementation of voting systems for several years. Although the guidance provided to states in the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines announced in January are voluntary, it was understood by the agency that many states will seek to adopt them as law. The agency noted that 39 states “may decide to adopt them entirely or in part prior to the effective date.” The agency also notes that a minimum of 39 states use the national guidelines in their voting system certification process.”Read the Entire Letter
Signed by :
Computing Professional for Social Responsibility
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Electronic Privacy Information Center
National Committee for Voting Integrity
Election ãDirty Tricksä ö Business as Usual or Treason at the Ballot Box?
One need not be a conspiracy theorist, but only a student of history, to recognize that election fraud is part of the fabric of our great nation. From vote buying in Chicago to absentee ballot fraud in Florida, the United States enjoys a rich history of election tampering.
Attempts to rig elections have been confined to one state or to one party, but the response to these attempts has been uniformly mild. A slap on the wrist or a discussion of “dirty tricks” has been the norm. I would like to posit that any type of election tampering should be considered treason, or at the very least a felony -- from selling votes to ballot-box-stuffing to purposely creating long lines at the polls to tampering with electronic voting machines.
Any action that willfully disenfranchises voters is not just “dirty tricks.” It is an undermining of the foundation of our democracy. If voters can’t be confident that, in any election, the winner really won and the loser really lost (and as things stand today, we cannot be sure), then, in fact, we no longer live in a democracy.
As election integrity activists, we race from one crisis to another. One hundred thousand phantom votes in Texas, voting machine failures in Chicago, vendor lies in California and elsewhere – the list is far too lengthy to name all the problems here. Often we are not sure if a specific problem results from incompetence or fraud -- and the latter is difficult, if not impossible to prove in many instances. But in those cases where fraud has been proven, and there are a large number of such cases, the perpetrator is scarcely punished or not punished at all. There are a few notable exceptions to this lack of accountability and lack of consequences. Louisiana State Elections Director Jerry Fowler spent 5 years in prison, but he also accepted approximately $2 million in bribes over many years. It was the bribery, not the effects of that bribery on election results, for which he was punished. Read the Entire Article
From Around the States
Information Quality Experts Weigh in on Florida Election Administration
The following letter was delivered to Florida's Secretary of State Sue Cobb (pictured at right) by a group of quality experts. The letter addresses the lack of appropriate controls under the Help America Vote Act as technological changes are being introduced into elections across the country. It includes a one-page overview with recommendations, followed by comments on some basic principles for managing the quality of information production processes such as elections. It also refers to the situation in Leon County, where the Election Supervisor recently allowed a test of the Diebold devices in his county.
Dear Ms. Cobb,
We are writing as practitioners in the field of information quality management, to express our concerns about the circumstances surrounding the administration of elections in numerous locations throughout the country and in your State. Below we comment on the developments you are presently confronting in Leon County. We believe that these circumstances are the result of misunderstandings regarding the nature of processes that produce information (such as elections) and a lack of application of established principles and practices for the improvement of such processes.
Unfortunately, the problems that are arising reflect fundamental misunderstandings built into the basic nature of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and its administrative processes. HAVA has incentivized the replacing of known-defective technology with new technology, without adequate provisions to effectively observe and control the impact of these changes. While this may not be the intent, the result is that election processes are being placed further out of control throughout the country. Read the Entire Article
|New Jersey Judge Questions Sequoia's Claims
by Beth Feehan, VoteTrustUSA - April 26, 2006
New Jersey residents who have been concerned about the virtual monopoly Sequoia Voting Systems has had on elections in the state will be happy to know that a court case filed by the Rutgers Constitutional Litigation Clinic before the November 2004 election may yet dislodge Sequoia from its hold on the state. As the case proceeds, questions regarding the audit capacity and security of the Sequoia AVC Advantage machines used by nearly 95% of the Counties in the State are, literally, receiving their day in court.
New Jersey passed a voter verified paper record law in July 2005 requiring all voting machines to produce a paper record of the ballot that can be verified by the voter and used for manual recounts as the ballot of record. The law has a 2008 deadline, but includes a waiver based on “commercial availability.”
Rutgers case was rendered moot due to the law being passed, but the Appellate Division did not agree and concluded that notwithstanding the new law, issues of auditability and constitutionality still might apply to the votes cast prior to the law’s deadline in January 2008, and might be yet more critical if the deadline was in fact illusory. Thus, it retained jurisdiction and ordered the Law Division to conduct an expedited fact-finding hearing as to the feasibility of the deadline being met. Read the Entire Article
Department of Justice Agrees to New York Plan to Delay HAVA Implementation
Last Friday The Department of Justice (DOJ) accepted New York State’s plan which postpones HAVA compliance until 2007. Last week the State of New York submitted a plan to the Court in the lawsuit filed against it by the DOJ. New York’s plan calls for placing one or more accessible ballot marking or vote-by-phone systems in each of New York’s 62 counties in 2006, and defer replacing current lever machines until 2007.
In its response the DOJ acknowledged, as both New York State and a group of citizens who sought to intervene in the lawsuit contended, that any attempt to replace existing voting equipment this year would result in an election disaster. In its submission the DOJ stated:"...the United States is mindful at this late date of the potential for disruption of the federal election process in New York if plans for full HAVA compliance are implemented in too hasty a manner..."
The DOJ also stated, as it had in earlier letters to Connecticut, that it does not consider lever machines to be acceptable technology, and that HAVA required that they be replaced. The DOJ also accepted New York's plan for a partial implementation of HAVA required statewide voter databases, with full compliance in 2007. Extracts from the DOJ response on the voting machine portion of the suit are below. Read the Entire Article
New York: A Mini-Rebellion Averted As Town Transfers Voting Keys
This article originally appeared in the Westchester County, NY Record-Review. It is reposted by permission of the author.
In the past, town governments had control of most election chores. Not anymore. In an act of defiance that approached the tea dumping party in the Boston Harbor in 1773, when asked by the county in January, Pound Ridge refused to give the county its keys to its lever voting machines.
“It was the consensus that the machines were ours,” Gary Warshauer, town supervisor said. “We wanted to know what they were going to do with them and we wanted to know how our residents were going to vote.”
Under a new law created by New York State, Westchester County has control of the elections in 2006 and beyond.
The Pound Ridge government’s act of defiance ended when Mr. Warshauer received a letter from the county in March that said “despite numerous requests, the board [board of elections] has not received your municipality’s voting machine keys.”
Reginald A. LaFayette, the commissioner of the board of elections, wrote that he “regretted” that the town did not comply with the request for keys and unless the keys could be inventoried, the county would notify the New York State Board of Elections that the town did not comply with state law. The county wrote that “we will be unable to certify your voting machines for the upcoming 2006 elections.” Read the Entire Article
Pennsylvania: Major Lawsuit in Allegheny County Ends in Loss for Citizen Group
Seven registered voters of Allegheny County PA joined People for the American Way to filed a large and well-organized federal lawsuit challenging the use of the ES&S iVotronic and M650 central-count scanners in the upcoming May 16 Pennsylvania primary election and the general election in November 2006. The 44-page complaint, which was filed on April 12 in Federal Court in Pittsburgh PA, claimed that use of the iVotronic and M650 electronic voting systems would violate the plaintiff’s rights under United States Constitution, HAVA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.
Some of the issues raised by the suit involved Allegheny County’s last-minute decision to purchase the iVotronic system to comply with HAVA (which was their third choice after several other systems were not feasible) and the lack of time to properly train and prepare poll workers, public officials, and voters for the use of a new system. The federal Department of Justice’s uneven treatment of Pennsylvania compared to certain other states (threatening a federal lawsuit in the case of Pennsylvania) to pressure the decision here was mentioned. The lack of adequate features to accommodate voters with various motor disabilities on the ES&S iVotronic was also included in several counts.
As the hearing began on Tuesday April 25, the federal courtroom in Pittsburgh was quite full, although most in attendance were involved in the case in some way. There were no less than sixteen lawyers seated at counsel tables in the courtroom with numerous plaintiffs, witnesses, public officials, and rank-and-file voters in attendance. Read the Entire Article
|Texas Secretary of State Advises Election Officials to Create 'Emergency Paper Ballots' for Upcoming Elections
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - April 27, 2006
Director of Elections Sends Letter Authorizing Measure in Light of Latest Failure by Electronic Voting Machine Vendor
Says Company's Performance in Most Recent -- of Many Similar Incidences Around the Country -- is 'Completely Unacceptable and Disturbing'
This exclusive article appeared on The Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
On Monday, Texas Director of Elections Ann McGeehan sent a letter to all state Election Officials authorizing them to create "emergency paper ballots" in light of statewide failures by Election System & Software, Inc. (ES&S) to provide ballots in time for the state's upcoming May 13 Runoff Elections, The BRAD BLOG has learned.
Early voting begins on Monday for those elections and counties across the state do not yet have ballots and, in many cases, programming for their optical-scan and touch-screen voting machines. ES&S has contracts with more than 140 Texas counties.
McGeehan has instructed officials to create and number their own paper ballots, secure boxes to store them in, and hire additional workers to manually hand count ballots as an emergency procedure to deal with the rapidly deteriorating situation.
The letter from McGeehan (posted in full exclusively at the end of this article) -- which does not mention ES&S by name, but refers to the Omaha, Nebraska-based company only as "a certified voting systems vendor" -- was sent in response to complaints from officials around the state that "programming media or, in some cases, your ballots" had not been received yet by officials.
In a statement to the San Antonio's Express-News this morning, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff says, "It sure is exasperating...We are looking at avenues to hold them responsible for this." Bexar County is just one of more than 140 in Texas with whom ES&S has contracts. Read the Entire Article
|West Virginia Secretary of State Makes Excuses for ES&S
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - April 30, 2006
This article appeared in The West Virginia Record. It is reposted with permission.
West Virgina's Secretary of State Betty Ireland (pictured at right) recently issued a press release: "Voting machine vendors across the nation are faced with the daunting task of servicing all 50 states at one time," the release said. "Sometimes this can happen when sweeping federal legislation affects all 50 states," Ireland said in the release. "We understand that ES&S is working hard to meet the demands of all its customers. But we still intend to get what we paid for."
Why is the Secretary of State making excuses for Elections Systems and Software (ES&S), the state's voting machine vendor? Yes, ES&S has failed to meet their contract in West Virginia and, yes, ES&S has a daunting task. However, any failures in meeting their contract with the state are of ES&S's own making. They have certainly been paid well enough by tax-payer money to do the job they agreed to do. Would any non-government contractor be given such latitude in meeting obligations of a signed, well-funded contract?
It is clear when you look at the nation as a whole that ES&S has oversold their ability to perform. In Oregon, they are now being sued for breach of contract by the state. In Indiana, they are the subject of investigative hearings by the Secretary of State for failure to meet their contracts -- those failures, the Secretary of State has said, could turn into a lawsuit or fines of $300,000 per incident. In North Carolina, ES&S has had to recall 1000 memory cards - which store the tabulations of votes and other information -- because they failed to work. In Summit County, Ohio, the elections director has already announced that the May 2 state primary in his county will probably see a failure in the ES&S voting machines. Read the Entire Article
Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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