Election Integrity News - August 21, 2006

This Week's Quote: "It would take somebody relatively unsophisticated to hack into a machine - but the biggest problem isn't hacking, [it's] programming errors. In some cases, the margin of error is 9 percent." U.S. Representative Darlene Hooley of Oregon


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

Election Reform: The Fierce Urgency of Now

Representatives Grijalva and Holt Call For Accessible Balloting, Verifiable Election Results

New Report Analyzes Multiple Problems With Diebold Touchscreen Voting Machines

NRSC, DSCC File Joint FEC Inquiry On Recounts

New Zogby Poll on Electronic Voting Attitudes

News From Around the States

Major Election Integrity Bills Moving Forward in California

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Missouri's Photo ID Voting Law

Montana ES&S Electronic Voting Overview

New York: City Council to Board of Elections - Show Us New Voting Machines Work & What They Cost Before Buying

Ohio: Diebold Gets Blasted In Another Report

Pennsylvania Voters File Suit To Halt Use Of Touch-Screen Electronic Voting Systems In November


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Pull The Plug
by Aviel Rubin, Johns Hopkins University

You don't like hanging chads? Get ready for cheating chips and doctored drives.

This article appeared on Forbes.com. It is reposted with permission of the author.

I am a computer scientist. I own seven Macintosh computers, one Windows machine and a Palm Treo 700p with a GPS unit, and I chose my car (Infiniti M35x) because it had the most gadgets of any vehicle in its class. My 7-year-old daughter uses e-mail. So why am I advocating the use of 17th-century technology for voting in the 21st century--as one of my critics puts it?

The 2000 debacle in Florida spurred a rush to computerize voting. In 2002 Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which handed out $2.6 billion to spend on voting machines. Most of that cash was used to acquire Direct Recording Electronic voting machines.

Yet while computers are very proficient at counting, displaying choices and producing records, we should not rely on computers alone to count votes in public elections. The people who program them make mistakes, and, safeguards aside, they are more vulnerable to manipulation than most people realize. Even an event as common as a power glitch could cause a hard disk to fail or a magnetic card that holds votes to permanently lose its data. The only remedy then: Ask voters to come back to the polls. In a 2003 election in Boone County, Ind., DREs recorded 144,000 votes in one precinct populated with fewer than 6,000 registered voters. Though election officials caught the error, it's easy to imagine a scenario where such mistakes would go undetected until after a victor has been declared.

Consider one simple mode of attack that has already proved effective on a widely used DRE, the Accuvote made by Diebold. It's called overwriting the boot loader, the software that runs first when the machine is booted up. The boot loader controls which operating system loads, so it is the most security-critical piece of the machine. In overwriting it an attacker can, for example, make the machine count every fifth Republican vote as a Democratic vote, swap the vote outcome at the end of the election or produce a completely fabricated result. To stage this attack, a night janitor at the polling place would need only a few seconds' worth of access to the computer's memory card slot.

Further, an attacker can modify what's known as the ballot definition file on the memory card. The outcome: Votes for two candidates for a particular office are swapped. This attack works by programming the software to recognize the precinct number where the machine is situated. If the attack code limits its execution to precincts that are statistically close but still favor a particular party, it goes unnoticed.

(continued below)

One might argue that one way to prevent this attack is to randomize the precinct numbers inside the software. But that's an argument made in hindsight. If the defense against the attack is not built into the voting system, the attack will work, and there are virtually limitless ways to attack a system. And let's not count on hiring 24-hour security guards to protect voting machines.

DREs have a transparency problem: You can't easily discover if they've been tinkered with. It's one thing to suspect that officials have miscounted hanging chads but something else entirely for people to wonder whether a corrupt programmer working behind the scenes has rigged a computer to help his side.

My ideal system isn't entirely Luddite. It physically separates the candidate selection process from vote casting. Voters make their selections on a touchscreen machine, but the machine does not tabulate votes. It simply prints out paper ballots with the voters' choices marked. The voters review the paper ballots to make sure the votes have been properly recorded. Then the votes are counted; one way is by running them through an optical scanner. After the polls close, some number of precincts are chosen at random, and the ballots are hand counted and compared with the optical scan totals to make sure they are accurate. The beauty of this system is that it leaves a tangible audit trail. Even the designer of the system cannot cheat if the voters check the printed ballots and if the optical scanners are audited.

Aviel Rubin, professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University and author of Brave New Ballot: The Battle To Safeguard Democracy In The Age Of Electronic Voting.

National Stories

Election Reform: The Fierce Urgency of Now
by Jean Kaczmarek, co-chair Illinois Ballot Integrity Project DuPage Chapter -August 20, 2006

The author delivered the following speech on August 19, 2006 at the Take Back the Vote Rally held in Warrenville lllinois by the Illinois Ballot Interity Project.

Eighty-six years ago yesterday, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified giving women the right to vote after a 72-year battle.

Forty-three years later on a hot August day, Martin Luther King delivered his immortal “I Have a Dream” speech “to remind Americans of the fierce urgency of now.”

Here we are, 43 years later on another August day, faced with the unfinished work of civil rights in our electoral process, to also “dramatize an appalling condition.”

The heart of election reform is a matter of civil rights.  When our votes are not counted, all of us are strapped in a chair and force fed with iron clamps and tubes, all of us are plastered with fire hoses with a force which strips bark off trees, all of us are sitting at the back of the bus.

Until this decade, I had been blessed to have never felt the pang of suppression.  I was born in a time, place and circumstances where discrimination and withering injustice were fenced off and never about me.  Many of us here today share similar roots.

We all feel the pangs of suppression now. Over and over, on local, state and federal levels, the voices of the people are not being heard on election day. Our family’s very lives are being sucked into the black abyss of unaccountability, malfunction, corruption and fraud. At times, the rage is so overwhelming, it nearly drops us to our knees and takes our breath away.As an election reformist, I am simultaneously inspired and haunted by those who shed blood for the fundamental right to vote. I am inspired when history proves the possibility of real progress. I am haunted by the spirits of patriots whose life’s work vaporizes with prohibited code, back doors, swapped memory cards or a flip of a switch.  Read the Entire Article

Representatives Grijalva and Holt Call For Accessible Balloting, Verifiable Election Results
by Natalie Luna, Office of U.S. Representative Raúl Grijalva - August 16, 2006

Congressional Leaders Stress Need For Electronic Voting Machine Safeguards

"This is not an either-or proposition-that we'll trade safeguards on electronic voting machines in exchange for accepting dubious voter ID requirements."

In Tuscon, Arizona, U.S. Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rush Holt (D-NJ) joined local elected officials and representatives of Common Cause and VoteTrustUSA in calling on Congress to pass legislation to make electronic voting machines secure and their results verifiable, and to ensure easy access to polling places for all citizens. "How can we as a nation, secure democracy around the world, monitor free and fair elections in other countries when we cannot ensure, protect and guarantee the right to vote right here at home," said Grijalva (pictured at right).  "We need to provide Congress with the authority to craft a voting system that is inclusive of all Americans and guarantees that all votes will be counted in a complete, fair and efficient manner."

"Anything of value should be auditable, and in a democracy, nothing is more valuable than a citizen's vote," said Holt (pctured at left). "Recent studies have reaffirmed that electronic voting machines are vulnerable both to inadvertent error and malicious tampering. We need safeguards to prevent both so that all of us can have confidence in our election results."

Rep. Holt's Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005 (H.R. 550) would address the key issues raised by the Brennan Center report, including a requirement that all voting systems produce a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits commencing in 2006 in accordance with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) deadline. H.R. 550 currently has 206 bipartisan co-sponsors (including Rep. Grijalva) and is awaiting a hearing by the House Administration Committee.

"Congressman Holt's bill (HR 550) is a critical first step in repairing what's wrong with our electoral process," observed Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy for VoteTrustUSA. "It would establish common sense nationwide election safeguards - safeguards that have been adopted in many states already, including Arizona." Read the Entire Article.

New Report Analyzes Multiple Problems With Diebold Touchscreen Voting Machines
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - August 17, 2006

Computer generated election results prove inconsistent with an audit of voter-reviewed paper records - Diebold Does Damage Control 

Download Full Report

A new study of significant vote counting problems during the May 2006 primary election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio reveals that the Diebold TSx touchscreen voting system causes significant threats to error free tabulation and tabulation transparency. Last spring the Cuyahoga County Election Commissioners engaged Election Science Institute (ESI) to review all aspects of the new voting system and prepare a report on their findings with recommendations.

The report examined vote tallies from 467 voting machines used at 50 polling locations in the county were examined. The report found that every method of verification of the vote failed. None of the vote counts matched on any media in the voting system - every redundancy built in the system failed.

ESI conducted a hand count of the voter-verified paper record (VVPAT), which in Ohio constitutes the official vote of record, and compared the results to the totals generated by each of these sources. Although the discrepancies between the VVPAT and the paper record summaries were relatively small, “discrepancies between the paper record and the electronic record were considerably larger and more pervasive”, according to the report.

The current election system appears to provide some of its promised benefits at potentially great cost; namely, that the election system, in its entirety, exhibits shortcomings with extremely serious consequences, especially in the event of a close election. These shortcomings merit your urgent attention. Relying on this system in its present state should be viewed as a calculated risk in which the outcome may be an acceptable election, but there is a heightened risk of unacceptable cost."

The report did not define what constituted "an acceptable election" and what would an "unacceptable cost". 

Interviewed in the Columbus-Dispatch, ESI founder Steven Hertzberg said that researchers can't yet explain the discrepancies and that more study should be done among researchers, Diebold and election officials. ESI was reportedly paid $341,000 for the study. Read the Entire Article

NRSC, DSCC File Joint FEC Inquiry On Recounts
by John Bresnahan, Roll Call Staff - August 17, 2006

This article appeared in Roll Call on August 16, 2006.

In a rare show of bipartisan unity, and with an eye on what may be a very close race in Pennsylvania this November, the Senate Democratic and Republican campaign committees are asking the Federal Election Commission to clarify the rules covering recounts.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee filed an Aug. 7 request for an advisory opinion from the FEC, in which they asked the commission to determine from whom they can raise money, and how much, to pay for any recounts that may occur this year.

The two committees also want the FEC to determine whether they can use soft money from wealthy individuals, corporations and labor unions to cover litigation costs or any other expenditures arising from a recount.

Soft-money donations are banned in federal elections, although they are permitted in a number of states. While the National Republican Congressional Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as their national party counterparts, are not part of the request, they would also fall under any
new regulations issued by the FEC regarding recounts.

In their joint filing, the two campaign committees said they were acting on behalf of candidates "who may be concerned about a close race [but] are unwilling to identify themselves, for obvious reasons, given the close proximity to" the mid-term elections. Read the Entire Article

New Zogby Poll on Electronic Voting Attitudes
by Michael Collins for Scoop Indedendent Media - August 21, 2006

New Zogby Poll: It’s Nearly Unanimous - Voters Insist On Right To Observe Vote Counting Plus Other Findings From This Unique Poll

Part I of a Two Part Series.

This article was originally published by “Scoop” Independent Media and is reprinted by permission of the author.

A recent Zogby poll documents ground breaking information on the attitudes of American voters toward electronic voting. They are quite clear in the belief that the outcome of an entire election can be changed due to flaws in computerized voting machines. At a stunning rate of 92%, Americans insist on the right to watch their votes being counted. And, at an overwhelming 80%, they strongly object to the use of secret computer software to tabulate votes without citizen access to that software.

The American public is clear in its desire for free, fair, and transparent elections. An 80%-90% consensus on the right to view vote counting and opposition to secrecy by voting machine vendor is both rare and remarkable in American politics. If only the public knew that these options are virtually non existent in today’s election system.

Viewing vote counting will soon become a process of watching computers, somewhat akin to watching the radio, but without sound. Secret vote counting with computer software that citizens cannot review is now a fait accompli. Most contracts between boards of elections and voting equipment manufacturers bar both elections officials and members of the public from any access to the most important computer software; the source code that directs all the functions of the voting machines, including vote counting.

As a result of the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA), a majority of these voters will be using touch screen voting machines with a lesser amount using special paper ballots counted by optical scanning devices. There are very few localities using paper ballots for the November 2006 election. If the federal government gets its way, they will be a thing of the past.

The supreme irony is that HAVA was sold to Congress as the solution to the problems of the Florida 2000 election. Of course, we now know that as many as 50,000 black Floridians were wrongly removed from the voting rolls through a highly suspect “felon purge” that missed felons but captured legitimate registered voters. And we know further that over 100,000 ballots in mostly black precincts were disqualified due to the old voter suppression standby, “spoiled ballots. ” Neither of those voting rights and civil rights problems is addressed by HAVA. It’s all about “the machines.”Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Major Election Integrity Bills Moving Forward in California
by Tom Courbat, Project Director, SAVE R VOTE, Riverside County, CA - August 21, 2006

State Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach) indicated today that five significant election integrity bills she’s authoring will be heard on the Senate floor before the Legislature adjourns on August 31 and are likely to be passed and sent to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk for signature. Most of the bills have enjoyed widespread bipartisan support and if they are approved by the Legislature, the Governor will have until September 30th to decide whether to sign or veto the measures.

Senator Bowen has been relentless in the pursuit of increased transparency of elections and protection of the rights of citizens to actively participate in the election monitoring process to ensure fair and honest elections.  Her legislative agenda has included tighter controls on electronic voting systems which now dominate the election system landscape. Senator Bowen chairs the Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee. Read the Entire Article

ACLU Files Lawsuit Challenging Missouri's Photo ID Voting Law
by ACLU Press Release - August 18, 2006

Law Violates Missouri Constitution and Disenfranchises Thousands of Missouri Voters

Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri filed a lawsuit in Cole County Circuit Court challenging a new law that requires Missouri's voters to present state-issued photo identification cards at the polls in order to be eligible to vote.

"Our overall concern is that the new law will exclude people who want to vote, who deserve to vote, and are qualified to vote," said Brett Shirk, Executive Director of the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri. "The Supreme Court has held that a state cannot value one person's vote over another and, unfortunately, that is exactly what this law will do."

According to ACLU officials, the voter identification law is unconstitutional because it will place unreasonable financial burdens on taxpayers. Because of the cost, thousands of Missouri voters will be unable to secure the extensive documentation needed to qualify for the newly required ID card.

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt signed the Photo ID bill into law June 14, 2006, over the objection of Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Carnahan's office informed Blunt that it would be financially impossible to implement the proposed changes in time to preserve the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Missouri voters. In a letter to the Governor, Carnahan asked Blunt to call a special session of the state legislature to allocate funds to ensure that voting rights were preserved. Governor Blunt refused Carnahan's request and signed the law. Read the Entire Article

Montana ES&S Electronic Voting Overview
by Steve Corrick, Operation Enduring Vote - August 20, 2006

The PowerPoint document* that accompanies this article (Download as PDF) is intended as an introduction to Montana's electronic voting process, which is handled for the 40 of Montana's 56 counties that use electronic voting, by Election Systems and Software (ES&S) of Omaha, Nebraska. (The other 16 counties, mostly smaller ones, still use hand-counted paper ballots.)

Montana has generally had good results from the use of the ES&S machinery--with the recount of the Missoula Mayoral primary in 2005 serving as a good example of how elections should be run. The hand recount of the ES&S op-scan ballots only changed vote totals by two votes and both candidates in the run-off were very pleased with the accuracy of the results.

That said, ES&S, which is the nation's largest voting machine company, has had serious delivery, accuracy and contractual problems in at least seven states during the 2006 primary elections, and is currently being sued by the West Virginia Secretary of State; is being asked for refunds for poor fulfillment or inaccurate results in two states, and because of inaccuracies in the way it printed and counted ballots has had at least two elections overturned by hand recounts of the actual paper hand-marked or optical scan ballots. For stories see the last part of this document.

Additionally, no public hack test of ES&S machines has ever been conducted; while both of its main competitors have had their machines successfully hacked in public demonstrations that left no evidence that the hacks were performed. Like its competitors, ES&S also jealously guards its programming so that no public analysis of the software is possible. 95% of polled computer security experts feel that the dangers of electronic voting are so significant that they strongly recommend a number of safety procedures to protect against electronic voting machine fraud or error.  Read the Entire Article

New York: City Council to Board of Elections - Show Us New Voting Machines Work & What They Cost Before Buying
by Teresa Hommel, WheresThePaper.org, Chair, Task Force on Election Integrity, Community Church of NY - August 20, 2006

The New York City Council has requested that the City Board of Elections perform specific public tests before it selects new voting machines to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. A resolution detailing the Council's recommendations had bipartisan support and passed by unanimous vote on Wednesday, August 16, 2006.

The tests recommended for each voting system under consideration included:

• Complete Mock Elections. The Council believed that this was the only way to ensure that entire voting systems work AND that elections staff, poll workers and voters would be able to work with them.

• Hacking tests, by both professionals and individual public-spirited computer experts. The Council believed that this was the only way to ensure that computerized voting systems would not be easily broken into.
The Council also called for:
• Analysis of acquisition, transition, and continuing costs for both optical scanner and DRE systems.

• A procedure to determine whether the equipment received is the same as what was ordered, including all hardware, programming, files, file system structures, documentation, accessories, and all other components.

• Public hearings in each borough prior to selecting new equipment.
"Today the Council stands united in demanding public input and accountability to safeguard the most basic right of our democratic society--the right to vote," said Councilmember Robert Jackson, Lead Sponsor. "We expect the Board of Elections to heed our call to preserve the integrity of our voting system as we move towards electronic voting. All New Yorkers must be confident that their voice is heard in the voting booth." Read the Entire Article

Ohio: Diebold Gets Blasted In Another Report
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - August 20, 2006

Report Done For Cuyahoga Co. Ohio Finds The System May Be Unrepairable Before Nov. 2008

Election Science Institute (ESI), a San Francisco based non-profit, was contracted for $341,000 to do a complete study of the May 2 primary in Cuyahoga (Cleveland) County. The study was just released to the public and it is another scathing report against Diebold and their voting machines.

Ohio requires a voter verified paper audit trail printer on every Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that ESI found:

Nearly 10 percent of Cuyahoga County's official ballots in the May 2 primary were "destroyed, blank, illegible, missing, taped together or otherwise compromised," according to experts who studied the county's new electronic voting system.
Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania Voters File Suit To Halt Use Of Touch-Screen Electronic Voting Systems In November
by VoterAction - August 15, 2006

Cite Machines’ Vulnerability To Hacking, Inability to Verify Votes

A nonpartisan and diverse group of Pennsylvania voters filed a lawsuit today in Commonwealth Court to halt the use of electronic voting machines that do not create a permanent physical record of each vote. The lawsuit, the most comprehensive yet filed against electronic voting in Pennsylvania, alleges that the Secretary of State’s certification of such electronic voting machines violates the state’s Election Code and the state’s Constitution.

The very integrity of the election process is at stake here,” said Mary Kohart, lead attorney for the plaintiffs and partner at law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. “In elections using these computerized voting systems, the machines can be subject to tampering and malfunctions where there is no independent record allowing either voters to verify their own votes or election officials to recount all votes if necessary.”

The complaint details numerous breakdowns and loss of votes by machines that have been certified for use in Pennsylvania by the Secretary of State. Incidents include the loss of votes in four precincts in Berks County last year, the 10,000 votes in three Pennsylvania counties that were not counted in the 2004 Presidential election, and the 200 machines in Philadelphia that experienced problems in the May 2006 primary. The complaint also details examples of lost votes in elections around the country from electronic voting machines.

The General Assembly has specified that electronic voting machines must be absolutely accurate, they must be reliable and they must have a ‘permanent physical record’ before they can be used in Pennsylvania,” said Michael Churchill, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and attorney with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia (PILCOP). “With the all-electronic voting systems certified by the Secretary of State, it’s impossible to ensure all votes are recorded and counted as intended by the voters.” Read the Entire Article

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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