Election Integrity News - July 28, 2008

In this issue ...

National Stories

We Must Get Voting Right

The Latest Spin From Voting Machine Makers: What Problems?

50 Percent of Sequoia Voting Machines Flawed in New York

EAC Chair Urges Recruitment of Two Million Poll Workers for Presidential Election

Three States Accused of Illegally Purging Voter Lists

Senate Bill Introduced to Require VA to Provide Access to Voter Registration

Brennan Center: Better Ballots

The FEC Is Back—With an Interesting First Test

News From Around the States

New D.C. Election Leaders Face Big Stage in September, November Votes

Comparing Florida Elections to USDA Beef

Study Predicts Long Lines at Maryland Polls in November

Voting Rights Advocates Challenge New Mexico’s Voter Registration Law in State Court

New York: Schedule Slips and Slippery Slopes

Ohio Secretary of State Report on March Primary Elections


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S. 3212: A Step Backward for Voting System Transparency
Verified Voting Foundation

Download Verified Voting's complete statement on S. 3212

On June 26, 2008, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT) introduced the Bipartisan Electronic Voting Reform Act (S. 3212). The press release accompanying the introduction of S. 3212 observes “the ability to ensure there is an accurate, reliable and transparent method for Americans to cast and count votes is fundamental to our democratic process.” Unfortunately, S.3212 falls far short of ensuring accuracy, reliability, and transparency in our elections and is likely to do more harm than good.

The bill contains some generally commendable provisions relating to election security (Section 4), voting system testing and certification (Section 5), and ballot layout design (Section 10), but the positive aspects of these provisions are outweighed by the problems created by many of the other sections of this bill. Despite its worthy motivations, the bill fails to carry out its objective.

A number of troubling provisions require us to urge opposition to S. 3212:

1. S.3212 allows “independent” vote records that would exist only in computer memory to be used to verify electronic vote totals.

2. The non-paper verification methods allowed by S. 3212 would increase the costs and burdens of conducting elections without the benefit of increased confidence and auditability.

3. Language in the bill would exempt from any verification requirement those paperless voting systems purchased before January 1, 2009 to meet HAVA's accessibility requirements. This would leave millions of voters (particularly those with disabilities) dependent on insecure paperless electronic machines for the foreseeable future.

4. S. 3212 is opaque and disturbingly open to interpretation on a critical question: would the bill require that it be the voter that verifies the contents of the independent record?

5. S. 3212 would not define the legal status of the independent record in the event of a discrepancy in vote tallies.

6. The bill would not require states to use the independent records in post-election audits.

7. S. 3212 would not require the EAC to adopt model audit guidelines for jurisdictions that use paper ballot optical scan technology (now the most common voting system in the United States) nor would it require optical scan paper ballots to be utilized in any audits conducted in those jurisdictions.

8. S. 3212 is unclear regarding how its requirements would apply to accessible ballot marking devices.

9. S. 3212 could restrict the publication of valuable information about the security and reliability of voting systems.

10. S. 3212 would place a representative of the voting system manufacturing industry on the committee that drafts federal voluntary voting system guidelines.
It is our view that all elections should be accessible, publicly verifiable, independently auditable, and as simple and cost-effective as possible, both to conduct and to audit. There is room for innovation, but innovation occurs even without such legislation, when demand exists. But we must take the necessary steps to safeguard all our elections—today, not years down the road. Yet this bill does not do that. Instead, it allows unverifiable systems to persist indefinitely.

However well-intentioned, S. 3212, if enacted as written, would damage the transparency and reliability of Federal elections in the U.S. for decades to come. VerifiedVoting.org respectfully urges citizens and members of the United States Senate to oppose its passage. Permalink

We Must Get Voting Right
by U.S. Representative Rush Holt - July 26, 2008

The following letter was published in the July 26, 2008 edition of the New York Times.

To the Editor:

Re “Influx of Voters Likely to Test New Machines” (front page, July 21):

The ability to vote is the most important right, as it is the right through which citizens secure all other rights. In recent years doubts about whether every vote counts and is counted have grown to a high level.

As your article reminds us, the 2008 election will be historic, and it comes on the heels of two highly controversial presidential elections and numerous controversial local elections. This time, we must get it right.

It is time we stopped using elections as beta tests for unreliable electronic voting machines. Despite failed attempts so far, Congress should still pass a national standard requiring that all voters can record their votes on paper (either manually or with the use of ballot marking devices) and that in every election, randomly selected precincts be audited. 

The Latest Spin From Voting Machine Makers: What Problems?
by Dan Wallach, Rice University - July 8, 2008

This article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Last week, I testified before the Texas House Committee on Elections (you can read my testimony). I've done this many times before, but I figured this time would be different. This time, I was armed with the research from the California "Top to Bottom" reports and the Ohio EVEREST reports. I was part of the Hart InterCivic source code team for California's analysis. I knew the problems. I was prepared to discuss them at length. Wow, was I disappointed. Here's a quote from Peter Lichtenheld, speaking on behalf of Hart InterCivic:

Security reviews of the Hart system as tested in California, Colorado, and Ohio were conducted by people who were given unfettered access to code, equipment, tools and time and they had no threat model. While this may provide some information about system architecture in a way that casts light on questions of security, it should not be mistaken for a realistic approximation of what happens in an election environment. In a realistic election environment, the technology is enhanced by elections professionals and procedures, and those professionals safeguard equipment and passwords, and physical barriers are there to inhibit tampering. Additionally, jurisdiction ballot count, audit, and reconciliation processes safeguard against voter fraud.
You can find the whole hearing online (via RealAudio streaming), where you will hear the Diebold/Premier representative, as well as David Beirne, the director of their trade organization, saying essentially the same thing. Since this seems to be the voting system vendors' party line, let's spend some time analyzing it.

Did our work cast light on questions of security? Our work found a wide variety of flaws, most notably the possibility of "viral" attacks, where a single corrupted voting machine could spread that corruption, as part of regular processes and procedures, to every other voting system. In effect, one attacker, corrupting one machine, could arrange for every voting system in the county to be corrupt in the subsequent election. That's a big deal. At this point, the scientific evidence is in, it's overwhelming, and it's indisputable. The current generation of DRE voting systems have a wide variety of dangerous security flaws. There's simply no justification for the vendors to be making excuses or otherwise downplaying the clear scientific consensus on the quality of their products. Read More

50 Percent of Sequoia Voting Machines Flawed in New York
by Kim Zetter - July 17, 2008

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

New York state is in the process of replacing its lever voting machines with new voting equipment, but the state revealed recently that it has found problems with 50 percent of the roughly 1,500 ImageCast optical-scan machines (shown in the video above) that Sequoia Voting Systems has delivered to the state so far -- machines that are slated to be used by dozens of counties in the state's September 9 primary and November 4 presidential election.

Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections, expressed frustration with the vendor, saying it appeared that Sequoia was using the state's acceptance testing process to find problems with its machines in lieu of a sound quality-control process.

"There's no way the vendor could be adequately reviewing the machines and having so many problems," he told Threat Level. "What it tells us is that the vendor just throws this stuff over the transom and does not do any alpha- or beta-testing of their own before they apply for certification testing. Then they expect that we'll identify technical glitches and then they'll correct those glitches. But correction of those glitches is an extraordinarily time-consuming process. And its very disappointing that this equipment is not ready for prime time." Read More

EAC Chair Urges Recruitment of Two Million Poll Workers for Presidential Election
US Election Assistance Commission Media Release - July 24, 2008

U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chair Rosemary Rodriguez today emphasized the need to be prepared for record turnout this presidential election by calling for a recruitment goal of two million poll workers.

"We have seen historically high voter turnout during the primaries and continued high registration rates this year," said Chair Rodriguez. "Poll workers have always been central to ensuring smooth and accurate elections, and we will need them more than ever in November. Recruiting two million poll workers is an ambitious goal, but I believe if we can get the word out to the public, they will respond and participate.

"Election officials throughout the nation anticipate high voter turnout to continue in the general election. Preparation for high turnout includes extra ballots and voting machines, but most important, we must have as many poll workers--including bilingual poll workers--as possible to prevent long lines." Read More

Three States Accused of Illegally Purging Voter Lists
by Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet - July 26, 2008

The article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The states are swapping data files to find duplicate names, but civil rights attorneys say they are not following federal law to remove them.

Election officials in a handful of states appear to be ignoring the federal law dictating the way registered voters may be purged from voter rolls, civil rights attorneys say.

National voting rights groups have contacted officials in Kansas, Michigan and Louisiana in recent weeks because those states appear to be purging registered voters after election officials found duplicate names and birthdays of people on their voter lists and in out-of-state databases, such as driver's license records.

The states are assuming that a more recent driver's license or voter registration in another state indicates that the voter has relocated, meaning the voter registration tied to their prior address is no longer valid. While purging voters who move, die or are imprisoned is a routine part of managing elections, the federal law governing purges -- the National Voter Registration Act -- lays out a multiyear process of trying to contact voters to confirm a change of address before deleting them from voter rolls.

The election attorneys say the NVRA process seeks to err on the side of protecting voting rights and cannot be circumvented by what appears to be a duplicate voter registration. Read More

Senate Bill Introduced to Require VA to Provide Access to Voter Registration
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein Media Release - July 22, 2008

Legislation would give veterans access to voter registration services at VA facilities

U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) today introduced a bill to require the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide voter registration services to veterans in the department’s care.

The senators introduced the legislation after receiving a response from Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake earlier this month, again denying the senators’ request that Secretary Peake designate VA facilities as voter registration agencies. Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Barack Obama (D-Ill), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) are co-sponsors.

“This is about giving those who have fought to spread democracy and freedom the right to exercise that freedom in the voting booth,” Senator Feinstein said. “I believe the cost of providing voter materials is minimal. And given the sacrifices that these men and woman have made, providing easy access to voter registration services is the very least we can do.”

“It shouldn’t have taken a legislative solution to fix a bureaucratic problem, but that’s what it’s come down to in the name of common sense and patriotism,” Senator Kerry said. Making it easier not harder for veterans to vote is the least we can do in our democracy for those who fought for democracy around the globe. The cost of getting these voter materials to veterans is tiny, but its meaning is bigger than any of us.” Read More

Brennan Center: Better Ballots
by Lawrence Norden, David Kimball, Whitney Quesenbery, and Margaret Chen - July 21, 2008

Download PDF of study

The notorious buttery ballot that Palm Beach County, Florida election of€cials used in the 2000 election is probably the most infamous of all election design snafus. It was one of many political, legal, and election administration missteps that plunged a presidential election into turmoil and set off a series of events that led to, among other things, a vast overhaul of the country’s election administration, including the greatest change in voting technology in United States history.

Yet, ironically, eight years after the 2000 election, and billions of dollars spent on new voting technology, the problems caused by poor ballot design have not been fully and effectively addressed on a national level. Year in and year out, we see the same mistakes in ballot design, with the same results: tens, and sometimes hundreds, of thousands of voters disenfranchised by confusing ballot design and instructions, sometimes raising serious questions about whether the intended choice of the voters was certi€ed as the winner.

Problems with voting technology have, rightly, attracted much public attention. Scores of independent reports—including a major study published by the Brennan Center—have documented the vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines. More importantly, voting system failures lead to long lines on Election Day, voters being turned away at the polls, and lost votes. These are serious problems, and we must do what we can to ensure that poor technology and procedures do not continue to disenfranchise voters. Read More

The FEC Is Back—With an Interesting First Test
by Bob Bauer - July 28, 2008

The Federal Election Commission convenes soon after a long time away and immediately confronts a question of considerable interest presented by Club for Growth. In an Advisory Opinion Request (2007-33), on the agenda for the 28th of this month, Club for Growth asks for relief from the spoken "disclaimer" requirements—the "Stand by Your Ad" requirements—for television advertising 10 or 15 seconds in length.

The Club argues that within an ad of that length, the seconds consumed by the spoken disclaimer eats deeply into the time for the message, taking up roughly 24% of the 15 second ad and 31% of the 10 second spot. The Club wishes to "truncate" this spoken disclaimer or omit it altogether, rely for its disclosure on the screen display of the written version. It appeals to Commission rules that permit the omission of printed disclaimers on printed items or where their inclusion would be "impractical," 11 C.F.R. §§ 110.11(f)(1)(i) and(ii), and on related Commission Advisory Opinions. Read More

From Around the States

New D.C. Election Leaders Face Big Stage in September, November Votes
by Dan Seligson, Electionline.org - July 17, 2008

Fixes in place to address primary woes, but inexperience still has some nervous

This article appeared in the Electionline Weekly and is reported here with permission.

Election officials around the country have been bracing for record turnout in the presidential election. In the Nation’s Capital, however, departures and replacements in the upper echelons of election administration ­ and lingering concern over voting troubles during last February’s primary ­ has activists and residents fearing more problems at the polls.

In May, Alice Miller, executive director of the Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE) for the District of Columbia for over a decade, took a new position as chief operating officer for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. 

That same month, William O’Field, the board’s spokesman and poll worker coordinator, trainer and recruiter also announced his retirement from the division. O’Field had been with the board for more than a decade. The city’s registrar job is open, advertised since April. Read More

Comparing Florida Elections to USDA Beef
by Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coalition - July 4, 2008

It's important that Americans have confidence in their food supply.  But is false confidence the same thing?  What if all beef inspectors in the U.S. decided to stop inspecting beef because they might find problems?  After all, if they found problems, that might hurt consumer confidence.  Sounds absurd, doesn't it?  And yet, this is the exact approach that the Florida Department of State and Florida Division of Elections continue to advocate regarding the state's elections.

Election audits are supposed to ensure that electronic voting machines have accurately counted paper ballots.  These audits -- in this case referring to a hand count of paper ballots following the election to confirm machine counts -- are a vital check on the accuracy of Florida's optical scan voting systems.  But a new emergency rule filed July 1 by the Florida Division of Elections has been carefully molded to say it is checking the accuracy of election results, but is actually accomplishing the opposite.  It is a non-check that won't hurt voter confidence by discovering any problems before the election is certified.

The audit law passed in 2007 by the Florida Legislature was incredibly weak -- requiring the hand count of just one race per election and only 2% of the precincts in that one race.  But the emergency rule weakens this law even further.  The new rule prohibits any audit from occurring until after the election is certified -- in other words, until it is too late to make any corrections to election results.  It allows days to pass between the random selection of the race and precincts to be audited and the actual start of the audit -- meaning there is plenty of time for an elections office to check those ballots in advance and make sure the audit will match election night results.  As Elaine Ginnold, Registrar of Voters in Marin County, California has stated, "the audit must start immediately, as soon as the precincts are selected, to prevent anyone from messing with the ballots."  Read More

Study Predicts Long Lines at Maryland Polls in November
by SaveOurVotes.org - July 23, 2008

Voting Rights Advocates Propose Plan to Reduce Wait Times

With high turnout predicted in the hotly contested presidential race, a recent study by physicist William Edelstein shows that many Maryland voters can expect to wait hours to vote in November’s elections. The study found that most polling places could experience wait times of more than 2 hours at some point on Election Day if voters take more than 6 minutes each to mark their ballots. The sites most likely to be affected are those in which a majority of voters arrive at peak voting times before and after the work day.

“It is a process similar to what everyone experiences on roads, as people in the Baltimore/Washington metro area know only too well,” said Dr. Edelstein of SAVE Our Votes (SOV), a nonprofit group advocating Secure, Accessible, Verifiable Elections for Maryland. “Traffic flows smoothly as long as the density is low. As volume increases, traffic gradually slows until, at some concentration, it locks up and cars accumulate into long lines which can take hours to clear.”

Maryland’s State Board of Elections (SBE) plans to spend $100,000 to rent additional voting machines for the November election to accommodate increases in voter registrations. But Edelstein’s study shows that the extra equipment will do very little to reduce the long lines that many voters encountered in Maryland’s 2004 and 2006 elections.

“There is no doubt that many voters who cannot wait will leave without voting, including the elderly, the infirm, people needing to get to work, or parents needing to care for children,” he said. Read More

Voting Rights Advocates Challenge New Mexico’s Voter Registration Law in State Court
by Brennan Center for Justice - July 24, 2008

New Mexico Law Is One of Harshest in the Nation - Severe Penalties Threaten to Shut Down Voter Registration Drives and Disproportionately Block Minorities from Voting in 2008

A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here.

T he Brennan Center for Justice, along with pro bono law firms Davis Polk & Wardwell and Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg & Ives, has filed a lawsuit in state court in Albuquerque challenging a New Mexico law that significantly restricts the ability of voter registration groups to register new voters and threatens to block thousands of eligible New Mexico citizens from registering and voting in the 2008 elections as unconstitutional and inconsistent with federal and state law. Plaintiffs in the case are the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), the Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas Inc. (FAWCO), New Mexico Public Interest Research Group (NMPIRG), and the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP). Plaintiffs typically register thousands of New Mexico citizens (especially low income, minority, disabled, and young citizens) to vote but have suspended or dramatically curtailed their operations as a result of the challenged law.

There are currently over half a million unregistered eligible voters in New Mexico. The suit claims that New Mexico's law—New Mexico Statutes Annotated § 1-4-49, and New Mexico Administrative Rules §§—both enacted in 2005-constitutes an unconstitutional burden on free speech and association by impeding civic groups from helping eligible voters to register.

"The law aggressively discourages civic organizations from helping New Mexico citizens to exercise their basic right to vote, and threatens voter registration drives across the state," Robby Rodriguez from SWOP stated. Read More

New York: Schedule Slips and Slippery Slopes
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - July 24, 2008

Voting Machines Can’t Meet NY Standards in Time for 2009

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

It’s become obvious that New York State’s new voting systems will not be able to complete New York State certification testing in time for the scheduled 2009 rollout. The state sets the highest bar in the nation for approval of voting machines, one that vendors have never been required to meet before. Their performance in New York demonstrates that they are a long, long way from understanding that the public will not stand for poorly designed, badly tested and outrageously overpriced equipment, and a business philosophy of let the customer be damned.

In its July 24 status report SysTest, the contractor performing the state’s testing noted the serious problems and risks to the testing schedule, and cite the reasons that “NYSBOE’s ability to meet its court-mandated timeline for complete and thorough testing is at significant risk for the reasons described below”. Some of the reasons demonstrate the complete lack of quality control on the part of the vendors before they send systems out to New York’s certification site. Read More

Ohio Secretary of State Report on March Primary Elections
Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner - June 18, 2008

Download the Full Report

Executive Summary

The administration of elections in 2008 showed vast improvement from the 2004 presidential primary election. The first directive issued by this administration in February 2007, Directive 2007-01, established minimum qualifications for all directors and deputies (See Appendix III, page 263). In December 2007 the secretary of state’s Ethics Policy (See Appendix III, page 295) was adopted. This policy provides guidance to members and employees of county boards of elections, poll workers, employees, and appointees of the secretary of state to clearly state expectations and legal requirements for complying with the state’s ethics law and working in such a manner so as to ensure public confidence in the state’s elections.

Overall the county boards of elections performed exceedingly well in the March 4, 2008 primary election. A record high 46% of eligible voters turned out for this presidential primary (3,603,523 of the 7,826,480 registered voters in Ohio) to cast their ballots. Over 500,000 voters (approximately 14% of the primary election’s voters) voted by absentee ballot, taking advantage of the recent change in state law that does not require a reason to vote absentee.ii The professionalism and emergency planning by boards of elections allowed them to overcome unforgiving weather conditions, power outrages, bomb threats and late evening court orders.

In addition to the directive for backup paper ballots, other directives provided instruction and guidance on ID requirements for voters, absentee voting, provisional voting, proper procedures for processing absent voter’s ballots prior to Election Day, unofficial and official canvass procedures, recount procedures, and post-election audit procedures. (See Appendix III, Directives and Appendix VII, Court Orders, page 511) In addition, instructions were provided for polling place security and chain of custody procedures for transporting voting equipment, ballots and election supplies, as well as instructions on the proper procedures for encryption of security cards for DREs. Secretary of state advisories provided information and instructions on the presence of observers in polling places, polling place conduct, media access to polling locations and exit polling. (See Appendix IV, page 441) Read More

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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