Election Integrity News - August 1, 2006

This Week's Quote: "When I had my week off I heard from an overwhelming number of constituents on the paper trail issue. Voters are very concerned that their vote is not being counted." Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA, ranking member of Committee on House Administration)

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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

Key Component of Voting System Undergoes No Review

Worst Ever Security Flaw Found In Diebold Touchscreen Voting Machine

The Real Scoop on Security of E-voting

Rep. Sue Kelly Urges Passage of HR 550

Do Americans Get the Election System We Deserve?

AutoMARK Gets A Patent For The "Ballot Marking Device"

News From Around the States

Alaska: Democrats Defend Public's Right to See Election Data

Pima Co. Arizona County Officials Mislead Voters

California: Lawsuit Challenges Special Election In 50th District

Colorado: Litigation Update

Florida: Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections Calls For Verifiable Paper Ballot System

CNN's Lou Dobbs Looks Into Programming Errors in Iowa

New York State Voting Machine Certification: Hurry up and Wait

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New Report Highlights Danger Of E-Voting
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA

"This is a moment of truth for electronic voting" warns former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. Attorney General, Richard Thornburgh

Report Blasts Cost, Inadequate and Compromised Testing of E-Voting Systems and Inappropriate Involvement of Voting Machine Vendors

Download the Full NRC Report 

A report released by The Committee on A Framework for Understanding Electronic Voting of the National Research Council has recommended that jurisdictions must ensure the availability of backup mechanisms and procedures for use in the event of any failure of e-voting equipment or related technology. This recommendation came as a result of the report's determination that "Some jurisdictions - and possibly many - may not be well prepared for the arrival of the November 2006 elections with respect to the deployment and use of electronic voting equipment and related technology, and anxiety about this state of affairs among election officials is evident in a number of jurisdictions."

The report, a follow-up to a report issued last year entitled "Asking the Right Questions About Electronic Voting", is yet another warning flag about the ongoing crisis that the widespread use of electronic voting technology has created. The committee, which included prominent computer scientists and two former Governors, heard testimony at a workshop held on May 12, 2006 from members of the Election Assistance Commission, and several state and county election officials, ranging from Maryland State Election Director Linda Lamone to Leon County Florida Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.

The report confirmed many of the concerns that voter advocacy groups have been voicing for years and even acknowledged the influence that such groups have gained in the electronic voting debate. "Many of these groups focus on security issues and play an increasingly important role in focusing public attention on the conduct of elections and in stimulating state legislative action intended to mitigate security risks." Read the Entire Article

National Stories
Key Component of Voting System Undergoes No Review
by VotersUnite.org - July 25, 2006

Every voting system includes a key component, called the ballot definition file (BDF), that is never subjected to an outside review. Given that BDFs determine the way votes are recorded and counted, the lack of independent oversight of these files is a major security vulnerability. If BDFs are incorrectly prepared, the wrong candidate could be elected. Furthermore, while BDFs may be primarily data, they also include logic and perhaps even other software that could change the outcome of an election.

BDFs are unique for each election and define all the races and candidates for each precinct. BDFs tell the voting machine software how to interpret a voter's touches on a screen or marks on an optical scan ballot (including absentee ballots), how to record those selections as votes, and how to combine them into the final tally.

Programming election data is a very complex process, especially in counties with hundreds of different ballot styles, and a single error can jeopardize the outcome of an election. Some election districts lack the technical expertise to prepare BDFs, and instead depend on the vendor or outside programmers for the preparation. Others prepare the BDFs themselves. In both cases, however, BDFs undergo very little testing and no independent audit before being used to determine the results of an election. Little wonder that many serious election disruptions have been caused by ballot definition errors. Other BDF errors have probably gone unnoticed, and some may have affected election outcomes.

Virtually all of the proven ballot definition errors occurred on optical scan equipment and were caught by a manual recount of the ballots. Read the Entire Article

Worst Ever Security Flaw Found In Diebold Touchscreen Voting Machine
by Open Voting Foundation - July 31, 2006

"This may be the worst security flaw we have seen in touch screen voting machines," says Open Voting Foundation president, Alan Dechert (pictured at right). Upon examining the inner workings of one of the most popular paperless touch screen voting machines used in public elections in the United States, it has been determined that with the flip of a single switch inside, the machine can behave in a completely different manner compared to the tested and certified version.

"Diebold has made the testing and certification process practically irrelevant," according to Dechert. "If you have access to these machines and you want to rig an election, anything is possible with the Diebold TS -- and it could be done without leaving a trace. All you need is a screwdriver." This model does not produce a voter verified paper trail so there is no way to check if the voter's choices are accurately reflected in the tabulation.

Open Voting Foundation is releasing 22 high-resolution close up pictures of the system. This picture in particular shows a "BOOT AREA CONFIGURATION" chart painted on the system board.

The most serious issue is the ability to choose between "EPROM" and "FLASH" boot configurations. Both of these memory sources are present. All of the switches in question (JP2, JP3, JP8, SW2 and SW4) are physically present on the board. It is clear that this system can ship with live boot profiles in two locations, and switching back and forth could change literally everything regarding how the machine works and counts votes. This could be done before or after the so-called "Logic And Accuracy Tests". Read the Entire Article

The Real Scoop on Security of E-voting
by Eric Lazarus, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU - July 25, 2006

I am the principal investigator for a report called "The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World," published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. In the otherwise excellent article "Concerns About Fraud Potential Continue to Plague Users of Electronic Voting Machines" [Computerworld, July 3], Marc L. Songini quotes professor Michael Shamos as stating that a "fundamental premise" of our study is that it is "easy to rig a machine to throw an election."

However, this was not the premise of our study. Rather, a result of our analysis was that it is, if not easy, very practical to use Trojan horse attack methods to manipulate the results of an election, given the current technology and security processes used in most jurisdictions around the country. Just as importantly, our study shows that there are straightforward and effective means to defend against such threats.

Our study was conducted by some of the most knowledgeable and respected individuals in the world of information security and voting technology, including the scientists who developed drafts of voting system standards for the U.S. government. Our conclusions were reached after a year of detailed analysis. They were then vetted by a wide
variety of industry experts.

In our report, we covered in some detail how an attacker could develop a Trojan horse, insert it into the voting machine, elude detection during inspection and testing, and control it so that vote totals were changed on Election Day.

Shamos has previously implied that there is some step that requires omniscient abilities to accomplish this type of attack; after a year of study, it is clear that no such step exists. Read the Entire Article

Rep. Sue Kelly Urges Passage of HR 550
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 27, 2006

Congresswoman Sue Kelly (R-NY, pictured at right) Wednesday called on the House of Representatives to consider and pass HR 550 to ensure that a permanent paper record is available for any vote cast electronically in the event of a malfunctioning voting machine. Rep. became the bill's 200th co-sponsor last week. The bill now has 206 co-sponsors.

"Residents in New York's 19th Congressional District and surely other districts throughout our country want assurances that every vote counts," Kelly said. "With more than 200 of us co-sponsoring this effort here in the House, we need to move this legislation forward. Congress should be voting on this bill to help make voting more reliable and verifiable for every resident in our local communities."

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act amends the Help America Vote Act that Congress passed in 2002 by additionally requiring voter verification and mandatory paper record audit capacity on voting machines.

The bill also contains provisions that require mandatory manual audits to confirm that all voting machines are working properly, increased security requirements for voting machines, and greater accessibility and voter verification of results for individuals with disabilities.

Do Americans Get the Election System We Deserve?
by Mary Howe Kiraly - July 30, 2006

This article appeared on OpEdNews.com. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
    
How Should We Respond to Concerns About Election Integrity? The simple answer to this question is: By becoming involved in securing and verifying our election system. It is, of course, more complicated than that. We have varying degrees of understanding of how the election system works and we have limited hours to devote to this effort. Most activists agree that Congressman Rush Holt's bill in the House of Representatives, HR550, would provide an important first step. It would mandate (1) that election systems provide a paper record of our ballots and (2) that an automatic audit, of a certain percentage of precincts in each county, be preformed to verify that the paper count and the machine count agree. Each of us can contact our member of Congress to insist that HR 550 be moved out of the House Administration Committee, where it has languished, for a floor vote. If the 2006 mid-term election results in a number of high profile, disputed outcomes, count on national attention to focus on this legislation.

One of the complicating factors in this national effort is the constitutional stipulation that states administer elections. So we will always have a variety of voting systems in use. On the other hand, because election integrity is a local issue, we can each affect the security of the election system in our state. The Secretary of State, in each state, is the politician responsible for elections. We all recall the role that Katherine Harris played in Florida in 2000, and that Ken Blackwell played in Ohio in 2004- and will again this year. Your Secretary of State is responsible to you, and all citizens of your state, for managing a secure, accurate, verifiable, and open election process. Demand that she/he does. Read the Entire Article

AutoMARK Gets A Patent For The "Ballot Marking Device"
by Joseph Hall, Univeristy of California, Berkeley - July 30, 2006

This article appeared on Not Quite A Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

a person with disabilities using a head wand to interact with an AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal One of the true innovations in computer-mediated voting in recent years is the development of the ballot marking device. A number of vendors have developed devices that essentially act like large expensive pens. These devices allow people with disabilities to interact privately and independently with a touchscreen, ADA-compliant voting interface to mark a normal optical scan ballot while people without disabilities can fill out the same optical scan ballot by hand.

Vogue Election Systems, Inc. and AutoMARK Technical Systems, LLC are the most successful ballot marking device developers with their AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal (above, at right). It was only natural, I suppose, that they seek to patent their innovation. Eugene M. Cummings of AutoMARK Technical Systems, LLC was awarded patent no. 7,080,779 for a ballot marking device on 25 July 2006 (filed 11 Dec. 2003). Here is the patent's page on the USPTO's site. Here are the patent images turned into a 5.1MB PDF.

This will make it much more difficult for other vendors to develop their own similar ballot marking device and could pose problems for non-profit groups (like the Open Voting Consortium) which might be developing ballot-marking devices or devices based on similar architectures. I hope AutoMARK TS, Inc., is open to licensing their technology, and hopefully at reduced royalties for non-profit groups. Seeing as how they've signed exclusive marketing and manufacturing agreements with Election Systems and Software (ES&S) and how competitive the voting systems market is, I'm not holding my breath.

From Around the States

Alaska: Democrats Defend Public's Right to See Election Data
by Kay Brown, Alaska Dmocratic Party - July 27, 2006

State's Security Argument Is Without Merit

The State of Alaska's argument that release of election records would jeopardize security and adversely impact upcoming elections is without merit, the Alaska Democratic Party said in court papers filed this week.

Whether the database containing the results of Alaska's 2004 elections should be released to the public under Alaska's public records law is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Democratic Party in State Superior Court after the Division of Elections refused to release the database. Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides will hold a scheduling conference at 4 pm, Wednesday, August 2, at which time she is expected to set a date for a hearing in the case.

The Alaska Democratic Party has been trying since last year to get the public records about the 2004 general election results in order to find out why there are numerous errors and discrepancies in the state¹s reported results. The Division of Elections' latest excuses for refusing to release the election information are that security risks would jeopardize the Division of Elections' ability to carry out the upcoming Primary and General Elections, and that the Party's request came too late. Read the Entire Article

Pima Co. Arizona County Officials Mislead Voters
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - July 23, 2006

This article appeared on The Brad Blog. It is reposted with permission of the author. 

Today the Arizona Daily Star printed their awaited opinion piece that has three members of the county government responding to questions that were compiled by the paper's staff from their readers' responses to the paper's ill-researched editorial of earlier in the week.

Responding to the Letter To The Editor comments and questions were County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, who allowed the county to spend over a million dollars to buy new Diebold TSx machines. Also responding are Elections Director Brad Nelson and John H. Moffatt, of the county's Office of Strategic Technology Planning. Both are proponents of the Diebold TSx. And, by the way the questions/concerns were answered, both seem willing to do nearly anything to ensure Diebold gets the Pima Co. taxpayers' money……

A couple of the questions compiled by the Daily Star and their response and comments from activists in Arizona or from yours truly follow: [See the article for all of the questions and make up your mind about the county's responses] Read the Entire Article

California: Lawsuit Challenges Special Election In 50th District
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - August 1, 2006

Download The Full Complaint

A lawsuit challenging the June 6th special election for California Congressional District 50 has been filed in Superior Court asking for a full recount performed by hand to detect counting errors and scanning errors, including mistabulations and ballots found uncounted. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of three voters in the 50th District. According to the official results Republican Brian Bilbray narrowly defeated Democrat Francine Busby by a 78,341 to 71,146 margin. The special election was called to fill out the remaining five months of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's term.

The lawsuit focuses attention on the practice of allowing poll workers to take the machines home with them prior to the election. At a press conference, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, Paul Lehto, noted that "When you send them on 'sleepovers' from anywhere from three days to over a week, then you've lost all illusion about any kind of security."

San Diego county registrar of voters Mikel Haas has not responded directly to the lawsuit but has publicly defended the practice of "sleepovers" and denies any machine tampering. He was quoted in a San Diego Union-Tribune article saying "There is nothing unusual or different about the way that we distribute election supplies to supervising poll workers. It is the most efficient, accountable and transparent practice we know of in which to assure that the polls open on time, at 7 o'clock in the morning, and that everything's ready to go on Election Day." Haas also noted that poll workers must first pass a training class. Of course there is no way to determine whether or not Haas' statements are true or not without a recount. Read the Entire Article

Colorado: Litigation Update
by VoterAction - July 29, 2006

After a lengthy hearing in Denver on Friday, July 19, 2006, Colorado District Court Judge Lawrence Manzanares ruled that the Plaintiffs have stated viable claims against Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis and could proceed against her. The judge dismissed the claims against the Defendant Counties and County Clerks. The lead attorney for the Counties stated that the Counties would honor any order of the Court, even though they might no longer be parties to the case. With this understanding, having the Counties out of the case simplifies and focuses the issues.

Judge Manzanares stated that he was going to hear evidence on whether the Secretary had followed the law and her own regulations in certifying the subject DREs. The judge will allow discovery against the Secretary and will hold an evidentiary hearing on August 28 at 8:30 a.m. in Denver District Court.

The August 28 hearing date allows more time to discover and digest information about the Secretary's certification process and the material supplied by the DRE manufacturers, particularly as to security and Independent Testing Authority issues. The hearing is now set for two days. We remain optimistic that the court will act to protect the integrity of Colorado elections and Colorado citizens' individual voting rights.

Florida: Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections Calls For Verifiable Paper Ballot System
by Kindra Muntz, Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections - July 31, 2006

Citizen-based, voter-verified paper ballot petition initiative to amend the Sarasota County Charter demonstrates democracy in action.

This guest editorial appeared at HeraldTribune.com. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

In the past six months, thousands of county voters have voiced their support for a voting system that provides an independent method of verifying the accuracy of election results. On June 30, the supervisor of elections certified that the nonpartisan Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections had met the requirement for 12,030 valid voter signatures required to move forward in the process of amending the county charter.

The proposal would amend the charter to require the use of voter-verified paper ballots with independent random audits of election results. The County Commission is required to place this proposal on the ballot to give all voters a chance to voice their opinion on this important issue.

It isn't often that an all-volunteer effort this daunting can achieve such success. Voter support for verified paper ballots comes from all parts of the county regardless of age, gender, race and party affiliation. This is a subject of universal interest that deserves an open dialogue.

Currently, 52 of 67 counties in Florida use voter-verified paper ballot voting systems on Election Day. Sarasota County is one of only 15 counties that use paperless, touchscreen voting machines. While the concept of paperless voting is appealing, evidence is mounting that voter-verified paper records and routine audits are needed to enhance voting system security. Read the Entire Article

CNN's Lou Dobbs Investigates Programming Errors in Iowa
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - July 31, 2006

In his continuing series investigating the threat of electronic voting "Democracy at Risk", CNN's Lou Dobbs focused on the ballor programming errors that marred the Republican primary in Pottawattamie County, Iowa on June 6th. The segment featured John Washburn of VoteTrustUSA's Voting Technology Task Force. Here's a transcript of that segmnent of the show.

DOBBS: More evidence tonight that the security of our elections, the integrity of our democracy are at risk from electronic voting machines. A county in Iowa has just come close to putting the wrong candidate in office because of a massive programming error.

Kitty Pilgrim has the report.

KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On June 6th, in Iowa's Pottawattamie County, the early electronic vote tally showed a popular 23-year incumbent losing to a 19-year-old college student. Highly suspicious, the auditors stopped the electronic count and started counting by hand. The electronic machines made by ES&S, one of the three major voting machine companies in the country, had miscounted every race on the ballot.

LOREN KNAUSS, POTTAWATTAMIE COUNTY SUPERVISOR: The discussion that we had afterwards as we started doing our review, the company, ES&S, misprogrammed the computers. And then on our side, the tests were not thorough enough. So it was -- we'll just say it was a 50-50 mistake on their side and ours.

PILGRIM: Knauss was running against 10 people in a Republican primary, and according to the voting machines, he was coming in ninth. After the manual recount, he came in first. He says without a paper trail, the election would been completely botched by the electronic machines.

Electronic voting experts have come to a conclusion over what went wrong with the ES&S machines.

JOHN WASHBURN, VOTETRUSTUSA: What happened in Pottawattamie County is that they have a rule that the paper ballots, the names from precinct to precinct, have to rotate. So, while I might be at the top of the ballot in precinct one, I'd be number two in precinct two, number three in precinct three, and so on.

What the machinery did, though, is the programming didn't take into account this rotation on the paper ballots. And so, regardless of whatever name was on the top of the ballot, it would always accrue for a single candidate. Read the Entire Transcipt

New York State Voting Machine Certification: Hurry up and Wait
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - July 31, 2006

This article appeared on Bo Lipari's Blog. It is posted here with permission of the author.

With the submission of voting machines to the New York State Board Of Elections last week the certification process for new voting systems has officially begun. Certified systems will be first used in September 2007, when New York State is scheduled to replace it’s current lever voting machines (for details on New York’s plans see my earlier post “New York State’s HAVA Plan”).

But much about the certification process is still undefined, and an exact date when new voting systems will be certified for use in New York is still hard to determine. It could be as early as this October, or as late as January or February 2007! And in their haste to move the ordering process along, the State Board of Elections may ask county election commissioners to indicate their choice of voting machine before any machines have completed certification testing, a move guaranteed to make New York voting rights activists see red.

Three Dates and a Schedule

At this point there are only three firm dates, two of which have already passed:

July 5, 2006 - Voting machine vendors submitted applications and $5,000 application fees to the State Board for each voting system they want certified. A total of 11 systems, both DRE and precinct ballot scanners, have been submitted by six vendors (details here).

July 20, 2006 - Machines and technical data packages (specifications, analyses, and reports required by state regulations) were delivered to the State Board.

August 15, 2006 – The State Board of Elections must submit its detailed 2007 schedule to the Department of Justice. This schedule, a requirement of the now settled DOJ lawsuit should lay out the important milestone dates along the way to September 2007, presumably including dates when counties must place orders for new systems. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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