Election Integrity News - June 12, 2006
Week's Quotes: "The more experts have focused on the machines,
the more vulnerabilities they have found. The more they have pointed out
the problems, the more the companies that make the machines have brushed
aside complaints or stonewalled about the problems." Norman
Ornstein, American Enterprise Institute.
In this issue ...
News From Around the States
|Norman Ornstein Calls For Congressional Action To Address Voting Machine Security Issues
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - June 7, 2006
Calls on Congress to Act "Before the Inevitable Disaster"
"So here is a challenge to Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the respective chairmen of the relevant House and Senate committees: Hold some hearings, quickly, on these issues."
In his column for Roll Call this morning, "Forget Flag Burning. Tackle the Real Issues, Like Voting Machines", resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Norman Ornstein (pictured at right) called on members of Congress to address the growing crisis of unverifiable, insecure electronic voting and the threat that it poses to our democracy.
Describing election procedure and reform as an issue that is crying out for Congressional focus, Ornstein notes that in spite of the belated efforts of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), "huge problems remain in the election system, and new ones have emerged in the aftermath of HAVA. And none of the people who wrote HAVA have shown the slightest interest in addressing them."
Focussing on what he calls "the biggest flashpoint" - voting machines, Ornstein describes a process that has "backfired because of the unintended consequences of the (well-intentioned) move to expensive modern electronic machines, mostly of the touch-screen variety." He observes, "The more experts have focused on the machines, the more vulnerabilities they have found. The more they have pointed out the problems, the more the companies that make the machines have brushed aside complaints or stonewalled about the problems."
Ornstein argues that expense should not be a concern because of the enormity of the problem and the seriousness of the consequences. "We need to move with dispatch to ensure that any future close election is not marred by serious allegations of fraud or misconduct. We can afford the best machines; we cannot afford a systemic crisis." Read the Entire Article
"Then, with suspicions raised, another issue arose - the fact that most of the DRE systems purchased by election districts come without a paper trail, making recounts questionable and adding to the distrust many feel about the machines. Many jurisdictions are now moving to equip their DREs with paper trails, but doing so is very expensive, and HAVA has not provided additional money for it."
|How Can You Be Sure?
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - June 12, 2006
Vendor Failures and Lax Security Procedures Call Election Results Into Question In States Across The Country
Election Officials in Pottawattamie County, Iowa dodged a bullet in last week’s primary. Had Auditor Marilyn Jo Drake not acted on anomalous early results from the counties ES&S optical scanners and called for a hand count of the paper ballots, the losing candidates would have been elected. The problem? A “glitch” in ES&S’ ballot programming. How many other elections nationwide will be affected by such errors?
In Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, it was revealed that it’s possible to produce a “zero count” from an ES&S iVotronic (touchscreen) voting machine at any stage in the election process. Most, if not all, states require that elections officials run a "zero tape" before any votes are tallied on DRE or optical-scan voting machines. This "zero tape" ensures that there are no votes in the machines memory. With these machines, and thanks to Secretary of State Pedro Cortes determination to block all attempts to require a voter verified paper record and mandatory audits as a safeguard, there is no way to recover from the sort of problem that occurred in Iowa. Since there is no way to assure voters that the “electronic ballot boxes” on those machines were not stuffed, why should those voters have faith in elections in which they were used?
Emergency paper ballots were used in many Arkansas counties in their primaries last month because the vendor failed to deliver ballot programming in time. Earlier this Spring, uncertified software was delivered to counties in Indiana. In West Virginia machines were not delivered and many of those that were had faulty ballot programming. Uncertified machines were delivered for use in several counties in Florida’s for the state's upcoming primaries. On what basis should the results of those elections be trusted?
In the most closely-watched election in the nation last week – the special election to fill Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunnigham’s vacant US House seat representing California’s 50th District – volunteer pollworkers were allowed to take Diebold voting machines home as much as two weeks before the election. That’s right – in spite of new "security procedures" issued by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson when he “conditionally” re-certified Diebold’s equipment for use in the state, these machines had “sleepovers” in pollworkers’ garages. Given this egregious violation of chain-of-custody precautions, its no wonder that the accuracy of the election has been called into question. Read the Entire Article
|Former EAC Chairman Soaries to Rolling Stone: Where are the Standards?
by Howard Stanislevic, VoteTrustUSA - June 8,2006
As Robert F.Kennedy Jr.'s recap of the events in Ohio in 2004 gains readership and stimulates much needed debate, we find that Rolling Stone's National Affairs Daily has interviewed the Rev. DeForest Soaries (pictured at right), the Republican-nominated former Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission who resigned in frustration a year ago. So let's take a look at this other Rolling Stone election story.
What is most striking about Mr. Soaries is his candor. When asked if he were troubled by the 2004 presidential election, what was his response? In a nutshell, what troubles him most is the lack of standards. As far as this author and many others in the election integrity community are concerned, the reverend is preaching to the choir!
"Look at Ohio. Is a two-hour line appropriate or inappropriate? We don't have an answer to that question. What we say is that democracy means that you have the right to vote without intimidation and undue burdens. But if you stand in line for six hours, technically, today there is no document, no standard, no law that says that that's wrong. And the problem is this is six years after Florida 2000! What number of votes is an acceptable number to lose in any race? We don't have a performance rate for machines. If we discovered that of 10,000 Diebold machines model XYZ, 1,000 break down during the day, is that acceptable or unacceptable? If it were a toaster we could tell you, it were a tire we could tell you. If a certain tire malfunctions a certain number of times then they have a recall."
But before we say "Amen", it should be pointed out that there actually are some standards, and the EAC is now responsible for creating them and even testing the machines to see that they meet those standards. One such standard is even codified in HAVA Section 301 - the 1 in 500,000 maximum allowable error rate from the 2002 Voting System Standards. The rest are pretty much voluntary as Mr. Soaries points out, but that's partially because the standards themselves say that the EAC can waive them and certify non-compliant voting systems. As far as 1,000 out of every 10,000 e-voting machines breaking down during an election day, well guess what: That's an EAC standard too. It's actually 1,000 in every 11,000 or 9.2%. The EAC could have actually done something about that - by setting a higher standard and a test procedure to back it up. That way, even though the states wouldn't have to comply, the equipment vendors would. Read the Entire Article
|Verified Voting's Preliminary Summary Shows Diebold Equipment Vulnerabilities Affect 27 States
by Verified Voting - June 8, 2006
Verified Voting today released a preliminary* summary of states whose elections are at risk due to newly-revealed security vulnerabilities in Diebold voting systems, including the Diebold TSx, TS, and optical scan machines, as uncovered by computer expert Harri Hursti of Black Box Voting.
The summary, which is the first part of an ongoing Verified Voting effort to track voting equipment in use throughout the country from all vendors, was presented yesterday at a Capitol Hill briefing held by Verified Voting and the National Committee for Voting Integrity. The briefing provided technical information on the recently revealed Diebold vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities would allow substitution of false vote totals without any trace or the insertion of malicious software, using the smart card technology and design features integral to the machines.
"These security vulnerabilities are classic examples of why we worry about electronic voting," said Verified Voting Founder David L. Dill (pictured at left), who is a Computer Science Professor at Stanford University. "There will be an endless series of security holes, and not just with Diebold equipment. Instead of trying to make perfectly secure systems, we need to plan for security problems, by ensuring that we can independently check the results of the machines. That's what voter-verified paper records are all about."
According to the Verified Voting's preliminary information on the Diebold systems, 27 states are at risk with varying degrees of vulnerability, depending in part on whether the jurisdiction has a voter-verified paper record. Diebold TSx touch screen machines can be equipped to produce such a record, although not all jurisdictions with the TSx chose that option. Diebold TS systems do not offer a voter-verified paper record. Optical scan voting systems use a paper ballot (inherently voter-verified), but they too must be audited to check for accuracy. The three largest states in the country - California, Texas, and Florida – all fall into the at-risk group.Read the Entire Article
From Around the States
Arizona: Electronic Ballots
Are Unreliable, Not Secure
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." Joseph Stalin
This editorial appeared in the Arizona Star. It is reoposted with permission of the author.
To an increasingly large extent, "those who count the votes" in the United States are privately owned corporations, not our election officials. In fact, Arizona law prevents election officials and workers from manually counting ballots or auditing elections results.
In New Mexico, the public-interest organization Voter Action documented that "undervotes" for president were as high as 37 percent in some Hispanic and American Indian precincts that used Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen voting machines. Similar precincts using optical-scanners with durable paper ballots had undervotes of less than 1 percent.
This result led Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico to order all DRE touch-screen voting machines dumped in favor of a return to durable paper ballots.
With voter confidence in elections at historic lows, citizens in Pima County and around the country are questioning the security, accuracy and reliability of DRE touch-screen voting machines. Read the Entire Article
White County, Arkansas Election Commissioner claims state advised to break the law
This article appeared in The Searcy Daily Citizen on June 5, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the publisher.
White County election officials are trying to untangle red tape, work around ineptitude by a private contractor and follow the advice of a seemingly helpless state office as they attempt to continue the election of 2006.
Last month’s primary election was conducted in the county with a few minor problems, but early voting began with homemade paper ballots being used instead of the new iVotronic electronic voting machines supplied by Election Systems and Software (ES&S). Personal Electronic Ballots (PEBs) due to be delivered to the White County Election Commission before last Tuesday never arrived, and the paper ballots were printed by the commission as a stop-gap measure.
When the PEBs finally arrived Friday, they were not useable.
White County Election Commissioner Norm Southerland sent an e-mail to Charlie Daniels, Arkansas secretary of state, sharing his analysis of the current state of affairs.
"Just a note to make sure you understand that the election business with ES&S has been, and is still a mess," Southerland wrote. "The counties managed to pull off the primary election by doing things they shouldn't have to do, but now we’re doing it again for the runoff. Here we are, a week into early voting, and still no paper ballots or correct PEBs from the contractor. The time schedules set forth in the state law are not new. They haven't changed since the contract process started, or the award of the contract to ES&S."
Southerland said the frustration with Daniel’s office and its management of the ES&S effort is high in the counties.
"Someone needs to get a grip on this situation and fix it now," Southerland said. "Start-up problems are to be expected, but the lack of support we saw in the primary is a foretelling of worse to come this fall when the whole country will be voting on ES&S systems."
"The situation has been a royal mess," Tanya Burleson, White County
Clerk, said. "Our PEB's that were received were wrong. We have no absentee
ballots. We can send ballots like we are using for early voting, but ES&S
was supposed to have paper ballots to us by Friday and no ballots have been
received. It is definitely a mess." Read the Entire Article
Arkansas: Eight Counties To Forego Touchscreens Next Tuesday After Finding ES&S Programming Errors
The discovery of programming errors on ES&S iVotronic touchscreen machines has led eight Arkansas counties not to use them in next Tuesday's run-off election. According to an Associated Press article, Pulaski County Elections Director Susan Inman said that county decided not to use the machines after reviewing the programming code from voting machine vendor Election Systems & Software and discovering errors.
"In its entirety, it was wrong," Inman said. "I forwarded to them in time for the deadline I was given the information for the runoff."Typically, the vendor tried to dismissed the problem, which could have resulted in inaccurate election results.
Pope County Election Commission Chairman Dale Brown said election officials opted to not use the touch-screen machines because they didn't believe enough time would be available to program them.
"We just told them not to send them because we were not going to use them," Brown said.
Jill Friedman-Wilson, a spokeswoman for Omaha, Neb.-based ES&S, said there were not any errors with the programming but said it was a coding problem that could have been easily addressed.Ballot programming errors on ES&S optical scan machines required a full hand recount of last Tuesday's primary election in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. A hand count would be impossible should a similar error with the touch screen machines. Read the Entire Article
"It's how precincts and polling stations are laid out in the coding," Friedman-Wilson said.
California: Despite Protests,
Alameda County Buys $13.5 Million Voting System
This article appeared on InsideBayArea.com. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
After a three-year experiment with Diebold Election Systems and touch-screen voting machines, Alameda County is paying $13.25 million for a new, more paper-based voting system - and still being accused of selling out to corporate election fixing.
You're completely ignoring every single piece of testimony today,'' shouted Allen Michaan, owner of the Grand Lake Theater, whose marquee has featured a near-weekly screed against any use of computers in voting.
County supervisors spent a year agonizing over what instruments of democracy to buy for the November elections and beyond. On Thursday, voting activists pressed the county to lead a national protest against computerized voting and rely instead on hand-marked, hand-counted paper ballots.
In a split vote, however, supervisors chose a middle-of-the-road system recommended by county officials and supplied by Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems. Sequoia would provide 1,000 optical scanners for most polling place voters and 1,000 touch-screen machines to accommodate voters with disabilities.
Most of the cost will be paid by $8.7 million in state and federal grants, plus $3 million that Diebold is paying Alameda County to buy back the 4,300 touch screens that the county purchased in 2002 for $12 million. Those monies will cover all but a fraction of the equipment cost, plus $350,000 that Sequoia wants for developing instant runoff voting for Berkeley and other cities. Read the Entire Article
Florida Moves To Prohibit Meaningful Independent Testing Of Voting Machines
In a cynical move to protect voting machine vendors, the state of Florida wants
to make it impossible for county election officials to independently test the
machines that count the votes in the elections they administer. A hearing is
scheduled a public hearing for Monday, June 12 to discuss prosed rules RS
2.004 and RS
The proposed rules appear to have been written specifically in response to tests conducted last year in Leon county FL that embarrassed Diebold Election Systems by revealing that the results of elections run on their equipment can be altered undetectably. The new vendor-friednly rules would require that supervisors of elections in Florida obtain approval from the state Division of Elections before testing their voting equipment, submit a ''testing plan'' to the division, and notify the maker of the machine before the test can take place.
The rules would limit the individuals who could perform tests in such a way that computer security experts like Doug Jones, Avi Rubin, Harri Hursti, etc. would be disqualified. Vendors would be notified of the test parameters and specific machines to be tested and given a minimum of three weeks notice to allow them to subvert the effectiveness of any testing.
''The purpose is to make the process more transparent,'' said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Department of State, presumeably with a straight face." Read the Entire Article
Sancho Will Fight Proposed
Rules That Would Limit Testing Of Voting Systems In Florida
According to an article in the Tallahassee Democrat, Leon County Elections Supervisor Ion Sancho (pictured at right) will challenge a new proposed rule that would severely restrict the ability of election supervisors from testing the equipment they use to administer elections. Sancho has no problem with notifying the state of testing but doesn't feel the the state should be able to refuse his right to test equipment or dictate the terms of testing.
"I don't, for the life of me, understand why they want to do something like this," Sancho said Saturday. "I have no problem with notifying them, but I don't think I need their approval."
Last year, Sancho allowed computer security experts to demonstrate in a test election that election results could be altered undetectably. The demonstration sent shock waves across the country and resulted in many states issuing increased security procedures in an attempt to mitigate the security vulnerabilities it revealed. Read the Entire Article
That’s how State election officials in Iowa described this Tuesday's
primaries. But Charles Krogmaier of the Secretary of State's office was quick
to reassure us that "we think at this point they are all human errors,
not machine errors". Equally reassuring was Krogmaier's comment, "We don't think
any votes were lost".
Well I suppose humans were responsible for the ballot programming errors on ES&S optical scanners in Pottawattamie County that nearly resulted in electing the wrong candidates. But then an election in which the loser wins would be just another one of those pesky "glitches".
It is only thanks to County auditor Mary Jo Drake, who called for a hand count of the ballots cast in Tuesday's election that the will of the voters was expressed. Early returns in the County Recorder's race seemed so anomalous that Drake decided not to trust the machines and recount the ballots manually. Unlike too many election officials, Drake was more concerned about the accuracy of the election results than in defending flawed voting technology.
It seems that the vendor that programmed the optical scanners (ES&S) had failed to account for the use of "rotating ballots", in which the order of the candidates' names varied from precinct to precinct. The initial indications suggested there would be an upset victory for college student Oscar Duran, who was relatively unknown and had done little campaigning, over long-time incumbent Recorder John Sciortino. The error effected all the contests on the ballot.
County Supervisor Lynn Leaders asked Drake on Wednesday if Pottawattamie County was the only county in Iowa to experience such problems in Tuesday's statewide primary, Drake said, "I don't know, but I would assume yes." But then there is no reason to make that assumption. Had the race been competitive with more than one viable candidate, the results would have been plausible, and there would have been no audit. In fact, there’s no way to know if ballot-programming errors resulted in incorrect elections in other counties across the state and county.
Credit must be given for Pottawattamie County's decision to use a verifiable voting system. Had they chosen instead to use paperless DREs, there would have been no way to reconstruct the will of the voters. Read the Entire Article
|Iowa: Congratulations to Marilyn
by John Washburn, VoteTrustUSA - June2, 2006
You may not have heard of Mary Jo Drake - yet. Marilyn Jo Drake is the County
Auditor for Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Last Tuesday, Marilyn Jo Drake decided
an accurate election was more important than a convenient election. Marilyn
Jo Drake had computer-generated numbers conveniently available to her. Instead
Ms. Drake reported actual vote totals to the public
in lieu of these computer-generated numbers which were masquerading as vote
Making this correct, but inconvenient descision has cost her much embarassment, time, and money. She had to tell candidates and the press at 11:00 pm on election night there would be no results that night. Candidates had to go to bed without knowing if they won or lost in the primary. Poor babies.
This meant 22 people had to hand count the paper ballots in order to determine the actual vote totals instead of settling for the convienient, but incorrect, machine totals. This meant vote totals for Pottawattamie County were not available until Friday.
This also meant the actual winner of an election will move on instead of the candidate the counting machines had incorrectly annointed.
This is an uncomfortable place to be in and Marilyn Jo Drake deserves our support. Read the Entire Article
|Pennsylvania: Integrity of Allegheny County Election Questioned
by VotePA - June 1, 2006
Serious procedural, operational, and design issues call into question the results from ES&S iVotronic voting machines used in Allegheny County in the May 16th primary election
Poll-worker statements and post-election analysis of voting-machine printouts from the election reveal that electronic voting machines ran program code not legally certified for use in Pennsylvania. It also appears that two different models of the ES&S iVotronic machine were used, one of which was not legally certified. Other print-outs demonstrate operational problems at many polling places and serious problems with the integrity of the iVotronic “zeroprint” function, which is supposed to ensure the public that electronic “ballot-box stuffing” does not occur. The Allegheny County chapter of VotePA calls on County election officials to immediately and conclusively remedy these concerns and upgrade or replace systems as necessary to provide voters the assurance that every vote is accurately recorded and counted.
At a joint press conference in downtown Pittsburgh, VotePA joined other concerned citizen groups, including People For the American Way Foundation, B-PEP –The Black Political Empowerment Project, and the League of Young Voters in urging Allegheny County to implement an open and cooperative “culture of assurance” throughout the voting process so the integrity of the vote can become evident to all citizens.
Electronic voting machines are computers running programs which can contain accidental or potentially malicious errors. Because the ES&S iVotronic voting machines used in Allegheny County provide no way for voters to personally verify that their votes have been correctly and accurately recorded, voters must trust the iVotronic program code to be correct. Read the Entire Article
Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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