Election Integrity News - July 11, 2006

This Week's Quotes: "I'm worried about electronic voting because we've done such inadequate research that we don't know what we don't know." DeForest Soaries, former Chairman, Election Assistance Commission

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Actions to Take Now

Nationwide: Support Emery County UT Clerk Bruce Funk

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

National: Say No to Prohibited Software in Voting Machines!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977


In this issue ...

National Stories

EAC To Assume Oversight Of Voting System Testing And Certification

Don't Blame The Messenger

Touch Screen Voting and the Space Shuttle

NASS Presents Freedom Award To Lyndon Johnson

News From Around the States

California: Select Committee On Election Integrity To Investigate June Primary Elections

California: Voter Files For Manual Recount Of Congressional Special Election

Florida: Sarasota Voting Group Submits Petition for Referendum Requiring Voter Verified Paper Ballots

Iowa: Polk County Recorder Challenges Primary Election Results

"Just Trust Us" Is No Longer Enough

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CNN's Lou Dobbs Covers Voting System Testing And Certification

In his ongoing series "Democracy For Risk",, CNN's Lou Dobbs focused on the lax standards and inadequate testing of voting systems in the United States yesterday. His guests included VoteTrustUSA's John Washburn, along with Michael Widman of the Brennan Center and DeForest Soaries, former chairman of the Election Assistance Commission.
 
 
A transcript of yersterday's segment follows:
 
Tonight, the federal government is failing to protect our democracy from an imminent threat. Electronic voting machines are open to fraud and can be compromised by hackers. But the federal government cannot enforce security standards for electronic voting machines. It hasn't set specific standards yet. Kitty Pilgrim reports.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than half of all American voters will vote on electronic voting machines in upcoming elections. And watchdog groups want the federal government to be more aggressive to prevent fraud.

MICHAEL WALDMAN, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: The federal government, through the election assistance commission, should be training local officials in how to do the right kind of audits of these voting systems. That can happen right away. That doesn't need new legislation. It should be the job of the federal government to do the kind of threat analysis that private groups and computer scientists have done.

PILGRIM: Federal guidelines for designing and testing electronic voting machines were drafted by a federal advisory board in 2005. But those standards are voluntary and won't be officially into effect until December 2007.

Read the Entire Transcript

National Stories
EAC To Assume Oversight Of Voting System Testing And Certification
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 10, 2006

According to Section 231 of the Help America Vote Act, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) is mandated to provide for the testing, certification, decertification, and recertification of voting systems. As the first step in the process the EAC is required to first develop a program for accrediting independent, non-Federal testing laboratories. Responding to a staff recommendation released at a public meeting in Denver, CO last August, the EAC adopted a Voting System Certification & Laboratory Accreditation Program. Under this program the accreditation and oversight of the “Independent Testing Authority” would pass from the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) to the EAC. That transition is expected to be announced later this month.

Accreditation of laboratories will be undertaken by the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP). NVLAP was established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1976 to accredit laboratories  that are found competent to perform specific tests or calibrations and to foster and promote a uniformly acceptable base of professional and technical competence in the laboratory community. According to Tom Wilkey, executive director of the EAC, seven laboratories have applied for accreditation along with the three currently accredited by NASED. The accreditation is expected by this Fall.

The current testing and certification procedures originated in a March 1975 report, Effective Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying, which highlighted 'the lack of appropriate technical skills at the State and local level for developing or implementing written standards, against which voting system hardware and software could be evaluated.' It was nine years before another report, Voting System Standards: A Report on the Feasibility of Developing Voluntary Standards for Voting Equipment appeared. In 1984 Congress funded the Federal Election Commission to begin what ended up being a six year process of creating the first national performance and test standards for punchcard, optical scan, and direct recording electronic voting systems. The resulting body of work was the first set of Voluntary Voting System Standards issued in 1990.

While standards had finally been established, there was no mechanism for testing and certifying voting systems to those standards. Under considerable influence from R. Doug Lewis and his Election Center, a testing and certification process was undertaken by NASED, a private organization with no government oversight. There are currently three certified laboratories that collectively constitute the “Independent Testing Authority” or ITA: Ciber, Wyle Labs, and Systest. Arguably this designation is a triple oxymoron. Their “independence” is compromised by the fact that the testing that takes place is paid for by the vendors, in effect making them the ITA’s “clients”. The testing process that does take place and the standards to which voting machines are tested are considerably weaker than other accepted standards for the security of computer-based products. The testing is done in secret and detailed results of the testing are not released for public scrutiny. As for the ITA being “authoritative” there’s little to support such a designation. While the testing of voting system software has been done by several different companies over the past decade the one consistent element is that the testing has always been done by an individual named Shawn Southworth (pictured at right), operating out of Huntsville, Alabama and currently employed by Wyle Labs. Who is Shawn Southworth and what are his qualifications? We are not allowed to know. Like the rest of the process, Mr. Southworth’s credentials are shrouded in secrecy. Read the Entire Article

Don't Blame The Messenger
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - June 6, 2006

This article was posted on HuffingtonPost.com. It is reposted with permission of the author.

Yesterday morning, I was a guest on NPR's Diane Rehm show. The topic of discussion was a recent report by the NYU Brennan Center on the security of electronic voting machines. One of the other guests was Linda Lamone (pictured at right), administrator of elections in my own state of Maryland.

I was struck by something that Lamone said.

According to her, one thing wrong with the Brennan report was that it could reduce public confidence in the outcome of the election. She has criticized my studies of electronic voting systems for the same reasons. This is an attitude that I cannot comprehend. Is it really her goal to fool people into having confidence in election machinery that is actually vulnerable to undetectable, widespread fraud?

Not too long ago, a Finnish computer security expert named Harri Hursti published a report that demonstrated extremely serious flaws in the Diebold electronic voting machine. These flaws were so serious that many of us in the security community did not reveal the details to the public because we were worried that someone would actually be able to easily carry out an attack that would compromise the upcoming election. Many states, including Maryland, use machines that are vulnerable to this attack. It turns out that Diebold actually implemented a "feature" that led to the security vulnerability on purpose. What they did was make it trivial for anyone to "upgrade" the voting machine software and operating system by simply inserting a flash memory card with new software on it into the machine. It doesn't take much imagination to see how this could lead to the compromise of an entire precinct with just moments of access to only one of the machines.

I know for a fact that Linda Lamone is aware of this vulnerability. And yet, on national radio, she criticised the Brennan center for producing a study that would have the effect of "lowering the public's confidence in elections." Well, as far as I'm concerned, if Lamone is going to insist on using machines that she knows are flawed, and that have been proven to be vulnerable, then she is the one responsible for "lowering the public's confidence in elections." It is our duty and obligation to inform the public, and if that means that the results of the election come into question, then let's just remember not to blame the messenger. Instead, blame the vendors, blame the election officials who bought them despite seven independent studies that have found security flaws in the machines, and blame the certification process that passed them.

Touch Screen Voting and the Space Shuttle
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - July 10, 2006

High-tech promise, high-tech failure

This essay appeared on Bo Lipari's weblog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

After a long hiatus the Space Shuttle is flying again. But it's now clear that the Shuttle program has been too costly, hasn't lived up to expectations, and is headed for the junk pile - an ultra-expensive, high-tech solution which has failed to deliver on its promise. Election officials rushing to purchase touch screen voting machines should consider how the promise of new high-tech solutions often results in an expensive high-tech failure.

Most people assume that when it comes to technology, new is always better than old. But an 'old' technology can also be a mature, proven, and reliable technology. The Shuttle was designed to replace the 'old' technology of expendable rockets. Promoters of touch screen voting machines intend to replace the “old” technology of paper ballots.

But an “old" technology is not necessarily a bad technology. Just because a given technology is newer (and more complex) doesn't necessarily make it better, more reliable, or cost effective. In fact, when a new technology is more complicated than necessary for a given task, its use can be a step backwards in terms of reliability and cost.

We see this with the Space Shuttle. The Shuttle is a newer technology capable of doing things that can't be done using expendable rockets (e.g., in-orbit repair missions), but that does not necessarily make it the appropriate technology for all missions. If all you need to do is to put a satellite into orbit, an "old technology" rocket is a much more reliable, safe, and cost effective solution. And while a touch screen with an audio interface may be needed to enable persons with specific disabilities to vote (e.g., the blind and those with certain mobility impairments), it is technological overkill for the vast majority of voters. And, just like the Shuttle, touch screen voting machines will prove to be a step backwards in safety, reliability, and cost. Read the Entire Article

NASS Presents Freedom Award To Lyndon Johnson
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 10, 2006

At their summer meeting in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) today presented the NASS Freedom Award posthumously to former U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson in recognition of his leadership in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The NASS Freedom Award recognizes individual who have made significant contributions to the democratic process in the United States. The award was accepted on behalf of the Johnson family by Diana Taylor MacArthur, President Johnson's niece who read from a letter written by Johnson's widow, former First Lady Laybird Johnson.

The timing of the award presentation is particularly appropriate as Congressional hearings are planned for this week on the renewal of some provisions of the Voting Rights Act that are set for expiration in 2007.

NASS President and Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed nominated Johnson for the award.  In his remarks at the presentation ceremony, Secretary Reed voiced admiration for the former President’s political courage in promoting the Voting Rights Act.

"President Lyndon Johnson convinced Congress to adopt historic legislation that changed the lives and future of minority American citizens," said Reed. "He is a hero of the civil rights movement who helped ensure that every American, regardless of skin color, could exercize the right to vote."

From Around the States

California: Select Committee On Election Integrity To Investigate June Primary Elections
by California State Senator Debra Bowen Press Release - July 7, 2006

Problems Cited In San Diego, Kern, and San Jaoquin Counties 

"During the June primary, we had polling places that didn't open until several hours after they were supposed to, voting machines that didn't work at all, and thousands of voters who were told to 'come back later' once the problems had been sorted out. Ensuring the integrity of our electoral process isn't solely about making sure electronic voting machines are secure and accurately recording people's votes. It also involves taking care of some basic, fundamental issues that many people just take for granted. These are the types of fundamental, logistical problems we need to begin addressing now to ensure they don't repeat themselves in November."

That's the focus Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee, will bring to the newly-formed Senate Select Committee on the Integrity of Elections that she will chair. The three-member select committee - which includes Senator Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) and Senator Joe Dunn (D-Garden Grove) - intends to hold hearings over the next two months to look at problems that arose during the June 2006 primary election and what can be done to prevent them from recurring in November.

"Clearly, the security issues involving electronic voting machines have garnered the bulk of the attention and rightly so, but there are logistical issues we need to deal with as well," continued Bowen. "In San Diego, electronic voting machines with well-known security holes in them were sent home with poll workers days and weeks before the
election. Why? Because the county has been sending paper ballots and other election equipment home with workers for years and it saw no reason to change that practice. Elections are different today than they were in the 1950s or even the 1990s, meaning many of the historical practices that elections officials have relied on may need to change to reflect that new reality." Read the Entire Press Release

California: Voter Files For Manual Recount Of Congressional Special Election
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 7, 2006

50th District Voter Files Request On Behalf of Winning Candidate Brian Bilbray

A registered voter living in the 50th Congressional District has filed a formal request for a hand recount of the special election to filll the seat vacated by former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Official results from the special election showed Republican Brian Bilbray won the runoff contest by more than 5 percentage points over Democrat Francine Busby. Bilbray took the oath of office on June 13 and immediately began serving as the new congressman representing the 50th District.

In a letter to San Diego Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas, San Diego resident Barbara Gail Jacobson said she was making the request because, "there were widespread and profound breaches of security allowed in the administration of this election." She said that because Haas had permitted some of the voting machines to be taken home by poll workers in the days leading up to the election, "both state and federal certification of the machines were invalidated and rendered null."

According to California state law, voter's making a request for a recount must declare a candidate on whose behalf the request is being filed. Jacobsen named winning candidate Brian Billbray.

Haas has defended the practice of sleepovers, contending that registrars in many California counties allow poll precinct captains to take the machines home so they will be able to set up the polling stations early on the day of the election. However, recent revelations concerning the extreme vulnerability of the Diebold equipment used in San Diego County have alarmed concerned citizens across the country, who have focused attention on the security risk posed by such “sleepovers”. The California Secretary of State's office has reported that no state law exists prohibiting poll inspectors from taking the machines home. Read the Entire Article

Florida: Sarasota Voting Group Submits Petition for Referendum Requiring Voter Verified Paper Ballots
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 11, 2006

Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) has collected enough signatures to put a referendum on the ballot that, if passed, would require a voter-verified paper trail for all computerized voting machines. This is the first major requirement toward placing a referendum on the ballot November 7th in Sarasota County for voter verified paper ballots and mandatory audits of election results. 

Patricia Rounds, a spokeswoman for the SAFE, said the group has met its requirement to get 12,030 signatures to get the measure on the November ballot. Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent has already validated the signatures, clearing the path for the issue to get on the ballot. "It is time for our elected officials to recognize the significance of this broad based citizens' initiative and take a proactive stance in favor of verified elections. It is time for all of us to stand up for democracy in this country."

The election integrity group still needs to get the county commission to certify the proposed ballot language. They also anticipate legal challenges to the petition from those opposed to verifiable elections.

Iowa: Polk County Recorder Challenges Primary Election Results
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 6, 2006

According to an article in The Des Moines Register, Polk County, Iowa Recorder Tim Brien (pictured at right) has filed the necessary paperwork to organize a manual recount of his June 6 primary election loss, the county auditor's office said this week.

Brien, a five-term incumbent who has worked in the recorder's office since 1974, called for a review of the election results last week based on a ballot-counting malfunction in Pottawattamie County that prematurely named nine losing candidates as winners. County officials there acknowledged last week that they had failed to properly test their new machines prior to Election Day.

Brien admits that he has no evidence that the same happened in Polk County, where an official count by Auditor Michael Mauro showed Brien losing by a wide margin to political newcomer Julie Haggerty, 13,926 votes to 10,256. Brien’s actions seem to be motivated by a desire to confirm the accuracy of the electronic tallying machines – a noble, and rare motivation. Brien said that he remains uncomfortable with both counties' voting technology, which scans paper ballots and tabulates results electronically.

The challenge has political significance because Mauro is a candidate for Secretary of State, the state’s chief election administrator. An earlier Des Moines Register article suggested that Brien was effectively challenging Mauro’s competence as an election administrator, but in fact, Brien is challenging the accuracy of the machines, not the election officials. Read the Entire Article

"Just Trust Us" Is No Longer Enough
by Bill Bradbury, Oregon Secretary of State - July 10, 2006

"We believe that our elections are accurate, but we need hard evidence to show the public."

This speech was delivered to the Oregon Association of Counties on November 17, 2005. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

We are now six years past the presidential election that brought elections administration to the forefront of the political agenda. We are now four years into implementation of the single largest federal election reform effort in history, known, of course, as the Help America Vote Act. And the most important deadlines of that federal law loom just around the corner.

I'm proud to say that Oregon is on time and on budget to meet the federal deadlines for centralized voter registration and ensuring that voters with disabilities can vote privately and independently. These are both huge projects and I encourage you, if you haven't done so already, to take a look at what your county is doing to comply with federal law.

Our centralized voter registration system is live and functioning in 35 of the 36 counties (and in case you're wondering, Marion County is number 36). With this new centralized system, our voter rolls are cleaner, more accurate, easier to track and more accessible to the public. The insight and expertise of county clerks has been instrumental in building the best new centralized voter registration system for our state, and I'm thrilled to see all of our hard work coming to fruition.

It has NOT been easy. Congress had no idea what a difficult thing they were imposing when they wrote a law requiring each state to build a new voter registration system, combine all the local voter data into one system, deliver it to every county, make it secure and try to keep future maintenance costs at tolerable levels. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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