Election Integrity News - September 13, 2007

This Week's Quote: “Democracy, by definition, is about free and fair elections. In many ways, I think voters and counties are the victims of a federal certification process that hasn’t done an adequate job of ensuring that the systems made available to them are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible. Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act, which pushed many counties into buying electronic systems that – as we’ve seen for some time and we saw again in the independent UC review – were not properly reviewed or tested to ensure that they protected the integrity of the vote. That’s what my decisions are about – protecting the integrity of the vote.” California Secretary of State Debra Bowen.

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Download Reports from the California "Top to Bottom" Review

 

New York Times: A Chance to Make Votes Count

 

In this issue ...

National Stories

Verified Voting Comments on the HR 811 "Manager's Mark"

Susan Davis Proposes Amendment to Restrict the Use of Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines

Crunch Time for E-voting Reform

A Useful Study of the Arguments for ăVoter Fraudä: Credit the Election Assistance Commission

Percentage-based Versus SAFE Vote Tabulation Auditing: A Graphic Comparison

Sequoia Voting Systems Responsible for 2000 Presidential Debacle?

Why Nobody Wants to Buy Diebold Election Systems

ES&S Discloses Full List of Manufacturers

Senator Feinstein Calls for Abolishing the Electoral College And Establishing Direct Popular Election

News From Around the States

Arizona Proposition 200 Decision, Another Strike Against the NVRA and Voter Participation

California Secretary of State Bowen Comments on Field Poll About Voter Confidence in Elections

California: Secretary Bowen's Clever Insight

More Uncertified Voting Systems in California?

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Moves to Strengthen Voter Confidence in Election Security

Florida SAIT Report Highlights More Diebold Problems

California Voting Machine Review Has Implications for Iowa

Iowa: 2006 Gubernatorial Election Shows Paper Ballots the Most Reliable Voting Method

Kentucky: Attorney General's Electronic Voting Machine Investigation Yields Early Results

Maryland: Governor O'Malley Pledges to ăDo Everything in My Powerä to Fund Paper Ballots Bill

New Mexico: Independent Researchers Find High Voter Confidence in New Paper Ballot System

Ohio: E-Voting Ballots Not Secret; Vendors Donât See Problem

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Dan Rather Report Examines Problems with Touchscreen Voting Machines
by Warren Stewart, VerifiedVoting.org

Rather Asks: "Was the rush to these expensive and perhaps ill conceived new voting systems necessary?" 

Dan Rather Reports - The Trouble with Touch Screens - Watch Video

Transcripts & Documents from the report

In a provocative one hour report aired on HDNet on August 14 entitled “The Trouble with Touchscreens”, Dan Rather examined issues of quality control in the production of the ES&S iVotronic and questioned the events that led to the proliferation of touch screen voting machines after the contested 2000 presidential election.

Beginning with the extraordinarily high undervote rate in the 2006 election for Florida’s 13th Congressional district, Rather investigated the facilities in which the touch screen machines used in that election were assembled. Surprisingly, the assembly plant was not in Omaha, Nebraska, where ES&S is headquartered but in the Philippines, where workers were paid $2.50 a day and worked in sub-standard conditions. The workers there observed that many of the touch screens themselves, which were manufactured in Minnesota by Bergquist Inc., were flawed but many were apparently used anyway to meet the production demands of ES&S.

Rather also interviewed an election specialist from Lee County, Florida who demonstrates the effect of a calibration error, showing that a touch on the screen intended for one candidate resulted in the selection of a different candidate. The election worker also notes the increased administrative burden of running elections with the touch screens.

ES&S has posted a response asserting that while the issue “would not have affected a voter’s ability to cast or record a ballot as planned” the affected machines were replaced with the replacement cost borne by Bergquist. They go on to say that voters would notice that the wrong candidate was highlighted in the Lee County demonstration and they could notify a poll worker (in the process, losing the privacy of their vote) and the machine would be replaced with one that was calibrated (meaning that polling places need extra machines, and/or re-calibrating a machine during election day is too complicated for poll workers to attempt). Of course, all those problems could be avoided completely with paper ballots, which don’t suddenly go out of calibration while voters are voting.

The fact that ES&S maintained and used a facility in The Philippines was apparently not disclosed to the Election Assistance Commission as required by new testing and certification procedures. The Commission now has given the manufacturer 30 days to disclose all its manufacturing locations. The company was less reluctant to disclose its Philippine connections in its bid for an electronic voting contract with the Philippine Commission on Elections, according to a report on GMA News.

In the second segment of the report, Rather turns to electronic voting advocate Michael Shamos. Shamos argues that mechanized voting machines were invented specifically to prevent paper ballot fraud, though he fails to note the countless examples of tampering and malfunction of lever machines over the years. Shamos then segues directly into computerized voting, observing that he has examined over 120 electronic voting systems. He agrees that poor quality control, cost-cutting business practices and lax or non-existent testing have led to a highly unreliable product. When asked what should be done Shamos uses an illogical analogy.

Let's suppose we find a horrible defect in the Department of Agriculture's meat testing program. What do we do. Do we ban meat, even though we notice no one has gotten sick from it? Or do we simply improve the testing process. What I'm saying is we need continual process improvement on the testing process. What the activists are saying is we have to throw out the meat because we don't know if the test was good or not. I don't agree with that. We don't do that in society; when we find a problem, we fix the problem.”

Of course in the case of the analogy with meat, if a “horrible defect” has been found in the DoA testing, a recall of the suspect meat would ensue – and there have been numerous recalls of meat. We do throw out defective meat – sometimes millions of pounds of it. Products are routinely recalled when they are found to be faulty – why shouldn’t the same standards apply to the equipment that counts our votes?

Eating meat is also not a constitutionally protected right, while voting is. Meat is a commodity that is bought and sold, while votes are not - at least not legally - so comparing meat to votes is like comparing apples to fiberglass. In addition, consumers have a variety of choices as to what to eat, so if there are problems with bad meat they do have other options. In most cases, voters don't have other options -- if the particular type of voting equipment in use in their jurisdiction isn't correctly recording voters' votes, they can't simply vote somewhere else instead. So problems with voting equipment and the processes by which it is tested and certified are much more serious than problems with meat inspection.

Shamos goes on to recommend that Congress appropriate funds to engineers and researchers to develop a voting system that meets established standards and legal requirements. While this proposal has merit, it is hard to imagine the established voting machine manufacturers allowing that to happen.

After the introduction for the next segment of the report, a section of text appears in HDNet’s transcript but not in the video is worth noting:

It all sounds familiar, too familiar. Taxpayers being asked to throw out millions of dollars worth of voting equipment, start over again, and pick up the tab. With no guarantee the new equipment will provide a solution to the problems. Technology can often offer a solution to a complicated process, in this case, accurately recording votes. But technology poorly conceived, designed, integrated and tested is a recipe for failure. In this instance, subsidizing the same outfits that couldn't get it right the first time, giving them more chances could lead to the further waste of millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars. And just as important, the further loss of confidence in our nation's ability to use technology to provide solutions for mission-critical applications, none more important to our nation than accurately recording each of our votes.

Now, back to a core question: was the rush to these expensive and perhaps ill conceived new voting systems necessary?
This is the crucial question and it is curious that it was edited out of the video – but it is implied nonetheless. (continued below)

The report then turns to the much-maligned punch card ballots that introduced the term “hanging chad” into the American vocabulary in 2000. Rather assembled seven former employees of Sequoia Voting Systems – the manufacturer that supplied punch card ballots for Palm Beach County to discuss their experiences leading up to the 2000 election. All the employees worked at Sequoia’s ballot processing plant in Exeter, California.

They all describe a change in the standard of paper being provided by Sequoia for punch card ballots and complain that the company thwarted their efforts at quality control. Apparently after relying for decades on paper from James River or International Paper, the only mills that had traditionally offered voting punch card stock, Sequoia switched to Boise Cascade, which had virtually no experience making tab card stock. The workers contend that the paper that they rejected as sub-standard would be returned to them weeks later with photo-copied Boise Cascade labels – in one case with notes that one of the workers had written on it when they rejected it – as if it were new stock. The workers were certain that the poor quality paper would result in problems on Election Day in 2000 – and of course they were right. Why would Sequoia ignore the concerns expressed by its employees about the quality of the ballots?

Greg Smith, who worked for Sequoia for 32 years as a pressman trainer, offered his opinion of the motivation behind the changes: “My own personal opinion was the touch screen voting system wasn't getting off the ground like that they, like they would hope. And because they weren't having any problems with paper ballots. So, I feel like they, deliberately did all this to have problems with the paper ballots so the electronically voting systems would get off the ground, and which it did in a big way.”

Rather failed to note that the following year, after an influential Cal Tech/MIT report advised that punch card systems be replaced with paper ballot optical scan systems, Sequoia funded a second study that agreed that punch cards should be replaced, but promoted the use of direct recording electronic voting systems. He could also have mentioned that Sequoia and ES&S bank-rolled California Proposition 41 in 2002, which resulted in $200 million in state funds for the “modernization” of the states voting equipment – much of which, of course, went directly to Sequoia and ES&S. The subsequent passage of the federal Help America Vote Act provided millions more for the purchase of touch screen voting systems, which are now used in over 30% of the nation’s polling places.

Rather’s focus on quality control in the manufacture of voting systems and his attention to the manipulation of the 2000 election debacle as a catalyst for the promotion of touch screen voting is welcome. Hopefully this thought-provoking report will encourage further reflection on the role of the voting industry on legislative and policy decisions.

Perhaps the strongest statement is saved for Rather’s concluding comments:

Agree or disagree, believe what they say or not. You decide, knowing that Sequoia contends that its ballots were fine. These workers are convinced that foreign ownership was part of the problem at Sequoia. They worry that overseas owners controlled the production of punch cards and the same will be true of optical scan ballots, as Sequoia remains a major supplier of ballots nationwide. What's more important to you: knowing that your vote is recorded as you cast it? Or the profits of voting machine manufacturers? It's an obvious question, but when citizens try to get to the bottom of how these machines, bought with your taxpayer money, either work or don't work, manufacturers continually hide behind the wall of "trade secrets." Are these machines that determine who decides our laws, who runs our states, and who sits in the White House with the power to direct our armed forces, no different from say the formula for Coca Cola, or McDonald's special sauce? We don't think so, and that's why we tried to get answers tonight and raise questions about accountability.

But, unlike Congress or prosecutors, we aren't armed with subpoena power; we can't force companies to prove that they take concerns about their machines and their ballots seriously. Their message is "trust us," but the information we have been able to obtain suggests that trust has not been earned, and that voting machines warrant, at the very least, much closer scrutiny than they have received so far. Because, as we heard Florida's governor Crist ask, " what could be more important in democracy than making sure that the right to vote is one that we can have confidence in?"
As state and federal legislatures consider steps to improve the election process, Rather’s report urges us to carefully re-consider the response to the 2000 election fiasco. Who benefited most from the Help America Vote Act and who will benefit most from current proposals – the voters or the voting equipment industry? Permalink

National Stories

Verified Voting Comments on the HR 811 "Manager's Mark"
by VerifiedVoting.org Integrity- September 4, 2007

The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR 811) has been scheduled for a floor vote this week. The bill that will come to a vote will reflect changes made since the bill was reported favorably out of the Committee on House Administration in May. (Download the HR 811 "Manager's Mark")

The most basic elements of the bill remain intact – 2008 requirements for paper ballots as an independent means of verifying electronic vote tabulation, random mandatory audits, disclosure of voting system software, tighter security of electronic voting systems, emergency paper ballots in case of machine failures, provision of funding to enable jurisdictions to upgrade to accessibly verifiable paper-based voting systems, and the establishment of an arm's length between voting machine vendors and testing laboratories. These reforms are important, and must be enacted as soon as possible. Therefore VerifiedVoting.org continues to support H.R. 811.

We also would strongly support a phase-out of the use of DREs in Federal elections by a date certain -- one that provides time for an orderly transition to optical scan voting systems augmented by accessible ballot marking devices. Such an amendment would enable all jurisdictions in the country to employ voting systems using paper ballots marked by the voter, either directly, or through use of such an assistive device as needed.

Read the Entire Article

Susan Davis Proposes Amendment to Restrict the Use of Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines
by Warren Stewart, VerifiedVoting.org - September 13, 2007

It is my hope that Congress will address this issue in the near future. Our democracy is too important to ignore this issue any longer.”

Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) has proposed amending The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007 (HR 811) to limit the use of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems to one per precinct. The amendment would also allow DREs for use in early voting. The amendment has also been endorsed by Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

“Electoral integrity is of the utmost importance to guaranteeing our democracy and I support many of the provisions of Rep. Rush Holt’s bill (H.R. 811) and respect the thought behind it,” Rep. Davis said in a statement circulated last week. "However, as we have looked closely at all the issues concerning Election Day voting systems, we are still ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room."

Rep. Davis pointed out that the proposed amendment mirrors the recent actions of the California Secretary of State in limiting the future use of DREs.

Read the Entire Article

Crunch Time for E-voting Reform
by Electronic Frontier Foundation - September 4, 2007

If all goes as planned, HR 811 -- the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, introduced by New Jersey Representative Rush Holt -- will finally come to a floor vote in the House of Representatives this week, likely on Thursday or Friday. Despite speculation to the contrary, it is not at all clear whether the bill will pass or, even if it does, whether a substantively similar companion bill will then pass the Senate. Like it or not, with election officials arguing that they're running out of time to implement wholesale changes, this likely amounts to Congress's only attempt to make any serious improvements to the nation's election procedures ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

EFF supports HR 811 and hopes that you will tell your Representative to support it as well. As we have done over the years through the bill's various incarnations, EFF has supported HR 811 based on what the bill would actually do, not what it lacks. At the end of the day, a post-HR 811 electoral system would indisputably (despite arguments to the contrary) be better than the one that exists today. EFF has discussed this in detail before: from where we sit, banning the use of paperless direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines if they are not retrofitted with voter-verified paper ballots (VVPATs) and mandating for the first time across-the-board audits of federal elections would unquestionably be good things which continue to deserve support, regardless of whether or not we'd like to see additional improvements.

Are DREs, even those utilizing VVPATs, fraught with problems? Of course. Should more rigorous audits be mandated? Absolutely. But a heartfelt desire to ban DREs or improve audits is no reason to oppose this bill, especially since states are not prohibited from making either of these reforms -- or nearly any other voting system-related reform -- on their own. Read the Entire Article

A Useful Study of the Arguments for ăVoter Fraudä: Credit the Election Assistance Commission
by Bob Bauer- August 30, 2007

This article appeared on Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Tova Wang, writing in the Washington Post this morning, is entirely right that the Election Assistance Commission ought not to have suppressed, then changed, a report commissioned on voter fraud and intimidation, and it was wrong, too, to have put Wang herself under a gag (“confidentiality”) order. "A Rigged Report on U.S. Voting?" Washington Post (Aug. 30, 2007) at A21. [Note:  I was a member of the working group assembled to advise, briefly, on the study].  The agency did considerable harm to its reputation with this clumsy bit of institutional politics. But look, as they say, on the bright side, for illumination.

Until the EAC carried on foolishly in this episode, bowing to political pressures at work in the voter ID movement, it could be shown, but not as powerfully, that the “fraud” movement was motivated by political and not by careful empirical study. Pamphleteers like John Fund, a skilled polemicist, could make his case with anecdotes, forced inferences and speculations. Here at least was argument, and while it did not stand up well to scrutiny, it was argument all the same. And in someone like Fund, proponents of controls on fraud could have as their ally an “independent” voice, reporting from the field but without any overt political affiliation to raise questions about motive. The same might have been said, though less plausibly, about Thor Hearne and his organization, the American Center for Voting Rights, before it suddenly disappeared from view. 

Read the Entire Article

Percentage-based Versus SAFE Vote Tabulation Auditing: A Graphic Comparison
by VerifiedVoting.org Integrity- July 27, 2007

This page links to a downloadable .pdf version of the most recent public version of the paper "Percentage-based versus SAFE Vote Tabulation Auditing: A Graphic Comparison," by John McCarthy, Howard Stanislevic, Mark Lindeman, Arlene Ash, Vittorio Addona, and Mary Batcher.

SAFE Auditing - Final July 26 Version - PDF


This paper is intended for anyone interested in vote tabulation auditing, from concerned citizens to policy-makers and from people with minimal mathematical skills to professional statisticians. Although they completed major editing the last week of July, 2007, the authors may still make small changes to the paper in the future. Please send all comments and suggestions for improvement to John McCarthy.

The authors wish to thank all who have reviewed and commented on the paper and helped improve it, particularly our fellow-members of the joint Verified Voting - American Statistical Association (ASA) email discussion list, which has been instrumental in encouraging work such as this paper and the recent ASA President's Invited Column, Statistics Can Help Ensure Accurate Elections.

 
Sequoia Voting Systems Responsible for 2000 Presidential Debacle?
by Kim Zetter - August 20, 2007

This article was published on the Wired: Threat Level blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

It's been seven years since pregnant and dangling chads in Florida caused one of the biggest political rifts in U.S. history. Those faulty Florida ballots also directly led to the passage of federal legislation in 2002 that outlawed punch-card voting machines and allocated billions of dollars in federal funds for states to purchase expensive new electronic voting machines.

Now new questions are being raised about who was responsible for the faulty punch cards in that election. And according to last night's Dan Rather Reports episode, the fingers point to Sequoia Voting Systems, which not only makes e-voting machines that replaced punch cards but also created the punch cards that failed in Florida.

Rather and his producers spoke with several former workers of Sequoia who revealed that in 2000 the company changed the paper stock it used for punch cards to paper made by Boise Cascade and that they knew before the election that the punch cards that Sequoia was producing would cause problems. In fact, pre-election testing by Sequoia showed that the cards were not punching cleanly and that dangling chads were going to be a likely problem in the election. The original transcript from the Rather program is difficult to read because it lacks punctuation and paragraph breaks, but I've added paragraph breaks here so you can understand more clearly what the workers told Rather. You can also watch the entire Dan Rather report, The Trouble with Touch Screens, here.

Read the Entire Article

Why Nobody Wants to Buy Diebold Election Systems
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University- August 17, 2007

This article appeared on Avi Rubin's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

In an Associated Press story today, Diebold confirms that they tried and failed to sell their voting technologies business. Given the recent reports in California and Florida, I imagine it will be even harder for them now. I think people, even within Diebold, are coming to the realization that DREs are the wrong model for voting systems. There are several reasons for this.

  1. DREs are too complex. There are typically 50,000+ lines of code in a DRE, much of that involves user interface and audio capability, and providing the DRE interface and user experience is not worth the hit in complexity.
  2. DREs serve as a bottleneck on election day. DREs are expensive, and so it is unlikely that precincts will have more than they need. Since voters typically spend several minutes voting, and I've observed as a poll worker that quite a few voters take more than 10 minutes, the potential for long lines is tremendous. Once a backlog of voters is created, it only gets worse, as the effect propagates much like the airline systems gets backed up in a positive feedback loop of delays once some flights are late.
  3. DREs are non-transparent. The public justifiably does not trust them. They cannot be independently audited, despite the vendor's insincere claims to the contrary. Even DREs with a VVPAT cannot be properly audited because they just don't work as we would hope. Voters often do not check the paper. The paper rolls used by most vendors do not lend themselves to easy recounts, and the retrofitting of DREs with VVPAT has led to awkward and sometimes ill defined procedures, especially when a voter disputes the printout.
  4. Finally, a much better model for voting systems exists, namely, paper ballots with optical scan precinct counting and ballot marking machines for disability access.
So, it is no surprise that Diebold can't sell their voting business. They'd be as likely to sell 8 track players instead of ipods.

ES&S Discloses Full List of Manufacturers
by Kim Zetter - August 27, 2007

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

 Election Systems & Software, rebuked by a federal agency earlier this month for not disclosing that its voting machines are assembled in a factory in the Philippines, has responded to the Election Assistance Commission with a full list of its manufacturing facilities -- including subcontractors. In addition to the Manila factory, Teletech (pictured at right), the list now includes more than a dozen manufacturers, including one each in Taiwan and China.

The Federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC), which oversees the federal testing and qualification of voting systems in the U.S., rebuked ES&S after an episode of Dan Rather Reports revealed that ES&S touchscreen machines were being assembled in a Manila sweatshop factory. The report also revealed that 30% to 40% of touchscreens sent to the factory for assembly in ES&S machines had cosmetic and electronic problems and that a Florida county returned more than 1,000 ES&S touchscreens in 2003 for calibration problems. The latter caused the machines to think users were touching one part of a screen when they were actually touching a different part -- a problem that can cause a machine to mis-register a voter's selections.

In light of Dan Rather's findings, the EAC sent a letter to ES&S informing the company that it had violated procedures by failing to disclose the existence of the Manila factory when it applied to have its sytem tested and qualified by the federal agency. Read the Entire Article

Senator Feinstein Calls for Abolishing the Electoral College And Establishing Direct Popular Election
by California Senator Dianne Feinstein - August 30, 2007

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced that she will introduce a resolution to abolish the Electoral College and provide for the direct popular vote of the President. Senator Feinstein's announcement comes against the backdrop of a bid in California to qualify a ballot initiative that would skew the outcome of Presidential elections.

"This proposed California initiative is very dangerous – it is an attempt to tinker with state law in order to influence the outcome of national Presidential elections," Senator Feinstein said.

"There is no question that our system of electing a President is outmoded, but this initiative is not the way to do it. I believe that the Electoral College must be abolished, and that the President be elected through direct popular election." Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Arizona Proposition 200 Decision, Another Strike Against the NVRA and Voter Participation
by Project Vote - August 31, 2007

The federal district court in Arizona has just granted partial summary judgment to Arizona in Gonzalez v Arizona. The disappointing decision upholds the part of Proposition 200, a 2004 anti-voter and immigrant rights initiative which requires voter registration applicants to provide proof of citizenship in order to register to vote. The only acceptable proof of citizenship include: a copy of a state driver’s license issued after October 1, 1996, birth certificate, passport, Indian identification, or original naturalization papers. The decision found that the initiative does not violate the National Voters Registration Act (NVRA) and does not create a poll tax.

The district court decision was not surprising because it relied on a 9th Circuit Court of Appeal decision denying a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs. However, both courts ignored the language, legislative history and intent of the NVRA.

The language of the NVRA specifically sets forth what can be required on a voter registration application. It even addresses the citizenship issue by requiring applicants to check a box affirming citizenship. Granted, the NVRA does not specifically say that proof of citizenship is prohibited, but it also does not say individuals cannot be required to provide fingerprints and retina scans before registering. Is that next? Read the Entire Article

California Secretary of State Bowen Comments on Field Poll About Voter Confidence in Elections
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Press Release - August 31, 2007

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen (pictured at right) commented on a Field Poll released today measuring 402 likely voters’ confidence in California elections and voting methods. The Field Poll, (download) available at , shows less than half (44%) of the likely voters surveyed have a “great deal of confidence that their votes are being accurately counted.” Another 52% of the likely voters surveyed have only “some confidence” or “only a little confidence” that their votes are being accurately counted.

I am surprised that so few people are firmly confident in the accuracy of our elections,” said Secretary Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer. “My goal is to ensure all Californians believe their votes are counted accurately and the people who are in elected office are the ones who received the most votes.”

The Field Poll also reported a correlation between voter confidence in accuracy and voter confidence in specific voting systems. Voters who have less confidence that their votes are being counted as they were cast have less trust in touchscreen systems than they do in paper-based optical scan systems.

The systems we use to cast and tally votes in this state are the fundamental tools of our democracy,” Bowen said. “My job is to be the voters’ analyst and advocate when it comes to the security and accuracy of voting systems. The top-to-bottom review was about trouble-shooting hidden problems and preventing them from occurring, instead of waiting to react to a crisis after it happens.” Read the Entire Article

California: Secretary Bowen's Clever Insight
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - August 8, 2007

This article appeared on Avi Rubin's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

On Monday, our NSF ACCURATE center held its second annual EVT conference. It was a smashing success with packed attendance and great papers. Today, we held our Principal Investigator (PI) meeting consisting of the PIs, graduate students and some of our advisors. To all of our amazement, Debra Bowen, the Secretary of State of California, who is on our advisory board, showed up for both days. This is particularly incredible given that last Friday she created a firestorm by decertifying most of the electronic voting machines in her state after the top to bottom review that she ordered showed tremendous flaws in the machines.

Secretary Bowen was an active participant in both our workshop and our PI meeting. Today on a panel of our advisors, she said something that really struck a chord with me. It was a simple comment, but it showed great insight into the computer software process as well as the election system certification process. Bowen's observation was that the certification process is not well suited to software. Most election officials defer to staffers or to academics such as us about technical issues, but Secretary Bowen sounded as much like a computer scientists as a state official this afternoon. She rattled off technical terms that she was completely comfortable with and made arguments based on a level of understanding of technology that I have never seen from a non-computer scientist. It is no wonder that she was able to put together the team led by David Wagner and Matt Bishop to study the machines and to appreciate their findings. Read the Entire Article

More Uncertified Voting Systems in California?
by Jospeh Lorenzo Hall, University of California at Berkeley - August 23, 2007

This article was posted at Joe Hall's Not Quite a Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

In 2003, the California Secretary of State found that DESI (Diebold Election Systems, Inc.) had marketed and sold voting systems in California that were running software uncertified by the state. In a déjà vu moment, ES&S (Election Systems and Software) was recently found to have sold uncertified hardware (and possibly software) to a number of jurisdictions in California.

People frequently point back to the 2003 DESI situation in passing when talking about the current ES&S developments. For example, Kim Zetter of Wired, an amazing journalist whom I respect immensely, said in a Threat Level post ("ES&S to be Rebuked, Fined and Possibly Banned in CA?"):

ES&S is not the first voting machine company to have sold uncertified equipment in CA. In 2003, the state discovered that Diebold Election Systems had installed uncertified software in machines in 17 counties.

(Kim has since corrected her post to reflect the following...)

However, what people don't often realize is that in 2003 there were a number of vendors besides DESI that were also deploying equipment and software that had not been federally or state certified (or both). The Secretary of State hired a consulting firm R&G Associates, Inc., to do a number of audits to assess which vendors had deployed what versions of their equipment in all California Jurisdictions. Those reports are no longer on the California Secretary of State's website, but can be found via the Internet Archive's Wayback machine: here is the DESI audit of 17 counties, here is the second audit of all the remaining counties and here is a summary and findings of the second audit.

To summarize the summary of the second audit:

Now, legally speaking, California didn't have a legal requirement for federal certification until SB 1438 (California's paper trail bill) was passed in 2004, which gave us section 19250 of the California Election Code. However, the California Secretary of State did have procedures (see 103(a)(6)) that required a "Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory" to qualify voting systems as having met the 1990 Voting System Standards.

So, in short, it was a mess in 2003... and it wasn't just DESI that wasn't playing by the rules.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Moves to Strengthen Voter Confidence in Election Security
California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Press Release - August 4, 2007

Moves Follow Top-to-Bottom Review of Voting Systems

Certification documents detailing Secretary Bowen’s decisions are available for download here.

After two months of unprecedented analysis of California’s voting systems and related security procedures, Secretary of State Debra Bowen today announced some of those systems can continue operating in 2008 in California while others are too flawed to be widely used.

Each of the systems that went through the top-to-bottom review has been legally decertified, and then each of them has been recertified with the addition of a number of conditions. The primary reason for taking this step is for clarity, ensuring that everything associated with a particular system is in one single recertification document that is easy for the public, elections officials, and others to follow and understand.

The Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia direct recording electronic (DRE) systems were all decertified. The Diebold and Sequoia DRE systems were recertified solely for the purposes of conducting early voting and to allow counties to have one DRE machine in each polling place on Election Day for the purpose of complying with disability access requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Furthermore, these DRE systems will be required to comply with increased security and post-election auditing procedures. The Hart InterCivic DRE system was also recertified but will only be required to comply with increased security and post-election auditing procedures. The Diebold, Hart InterCivic and Sequoia optical scan systems were all decertified and recertified, and will be required to adopt increased security and post-election auditing procedures. Read the Entire Press Release

Florida SAIT Report Highlights More Diebold Problems
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - Auguat 1, 2007

This article appeared on Avi Rubin's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The Florida Secretary of State has just released a report from the Security and Assurance in Information Technology Laboratory (SAIT) at Florida State University titled "Software Review and Security Analysis of the Diebold Voting Machine Software". This report is the output of a study that Florida commissioned to determine whether flaws reported in previous studies of voting systems, including my group's study, had been fixed yet. I was a reviewer of this report, and my graduate student, Ryan Gardner, played a key role in the study. The group was led by Alec Yasinsac who led the previous FSU study on voting machine security for Florida.

I am pleased to see that there are so many studies of voting systems being performed. In this past year, Connecticut, California, and now Florida have conducted thorough reviews, and all of them have highlighted serious problems with the voting systems. All this is happening as the House is considering federal legislation to improve the auditability of voting equipment.

Once again this new report shows serious, serious problems with Diebold, and that they clearly have not fixed some of the most egregious problems. One of the weaknesses that our report in 2003 pointed out was that Diebold used a single, fixed encryption key for all encryption in the system. Diebold has moved from using DES to AES. However, the key management is just as bad as before, and possibly worse. Here is an excerpt from the new report released today. Read the Entire Article

California Voting Machine Review Has Implications for Iowa
by Iowans for Voting Integrity - August 8, 2007

State Orders Strong Security Measures for Voting System Used in 71 Iowa Counties

A review by the Secretary of State of California has determined that the computer voting systems used in 71 Iowa counties are comparable to “an oceanliner built without watertight doors.”  

The voting systems from Diebold Election Systems are widely used throughout the U.S. The review found fundamental weaknesses that could allow malicious software to go undetected, pass pre-election testing, and corrupt election results throughout a county. A complete re-engineering may be required. Tighter controls on the chain of custody of voting equipment are unlikely enough to secure these systems, the report said.  

“Some are saying that the risks noted in the report aren't realistic,” said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity.  “This is not true: there are so many weaknesses that the team that reviewed the computer code couldn't think of practical chain of custody procedures strong enough to run secure elections on these systems.” Read the Entire Article

Iowa: 2006 Gubernatorial Election Shows Paper Ballots the Most Reliable Voting Method
by Iowans for Voting Integrity - September 13, 2007

Review of the 2006 Iowa Governor's race showed touchscreen voting machines had a significantly higher undervote rate than precinct-based optical scan systems
 
In the 2006 Governor's race, Iowa counties that used precinct-based optical scan as the primary voting system had a cumulative undervote for Governor of 0.9%, and counties that used touch screen electronic voting machines as the primary voting system had a cumulative undervote of 2.4%.

This difference is called the “undervote.” The undervote in the election for the highest office on the ballot is used by researchers to evaluate the efficiency of voting equipment. Most voters will cast a vote for the top race, so if the undervote rate for that race tends to be higher with the use of a type of voting equipment, that equipment may not be as usable or effective as others.

“Paper ballots did much better than touch screens” in their undervote rates, said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity. Touch screen voting machines record and tabulate votes in electronic memory, and optical scan voting systems tabulate paper ballots marked by the voters. Read the Entire Article

Kentucky: Attorney General's Electronic Voting Machine Investigation Yields Early Results
Kentucky Attorney General Press Release - August 29, 2007

Follow-up: Voting Scanners Getting Overhaul

Attorney General Greg Stumbo today announced that his office’s recently launched investigation into electronic voting machine irregularities has yielded a surprising result – Jefferson County voters have been using an uncertified voting system, apparently for at least the last three elections.

The troubling admission was made by the voting system’s manufacturer, Diebold Election Systems, (now “Premier Election Solutions”), in a letter to the Jefferson County Clerk.

Investigative demands from my office required Diebold to prove that it complied with all certification procedures,” Stumbo said. “Much to everyone’s surprise, the records proved that the voting device was not certified at all. Obviously, we will ensure that this breakdown in the system is identified and eliminated. It’s our job to ensure lawful and reliable elections.” Read the Entire Press Release

Maryland: Governor O'Malley Pledges to ăDo Everything in My Powerä to Fund Paper Ballots Bill
by SAVE Our Votes Media Release - September 10, 2007

Responding to a question from a caller on a Baltimore talk radio show on September 6, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (pictured at right) reaffirmed his commitment to moving the state from electronic touch-screen voting machines to an election system that uses voter-marked paper ballots counted with optical scanners by 2010.

Appearing as a guest on the Marc Steiner Show on WYPR radio, Gov. O'Malley said, “I think, given what other Marylanders are sacrificing for democracy abroad, we certainly have the ability to invest in protecting our election system here at home — protecting democracy in Maryland. So that's a promise I intend to be able to keep; and I'm going to do everything in my power to do so.”

Last April the Maryland House and Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring that State elections be held using paper ballots beginning with the 2010 election. But a provision in the law renders it null and void unless the purchase of the necessary equipment is funded in the next State budget, which the Governor’s office is currently preparing. Read the Entire Article

New Mexico: Independent Researchers Find High Voter Confidence in New Paper Ballot System
by New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson - August 23, 2007

Governor Richardson Calls Transition to Paper Ballot a Success

Download the Full Report 

Independent researchers from the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, the University of New Mexico and the University of Utah issued a report today on the administration of the 2006 General Election and the state’s transition to a paper ballot voting system. Over eight in 10 voters rated their voting experience excellent or good and the report concluded that “New Mexico is on the cutting edge of election administration and has executive and local leadership forging aggressively ahead with the intent of building a better, strong, efficacious and more voter confident voting system.”

“This independent report confirms that our state’s transition to a paper ballot system has been successful,” said Governor Bill Richardson. “Voters and poll workers favored the new voting process and gave it high marks for reliability, privacy and ease of use. Our experience clearly demonstrates that states can transition to paper ballot in less than a year and conduct accurate and transparent elections.

According to researchers, New Mexico is the first state to move from a predominantly electronic voting system to a single durable paper ballot system statewide, using optical scanners. Governor Richardson, working closely with New Mexico election reform groups and key state legislators passed legislation in 2005 requiring all state elections to be conducted with a voter verifiable paper trail, but could allow for continued use of Direct Recording Electronic voting systems (DREs). Recognizing state and national concerns over continued use of DREs, during the 2006 legislative session Governor Richardson pushed for a single state-wide voting system using durable paper ballots, which represent the official record of the vote. The paper ballot system allows for recounts of New Mexico elections, which the DRE systems did not, and it also allows elections to be audited for accuracy and provide an environment that promotes greater voter confidence, which the previous electronic systems could not accommodate. Read the Entire Article

Ohio: E-Voting Ballots Not Secret; Vendors Donât See Problem
by Ed Felten, Princeton University. - August 20, 2007

This article appeared on Ed Felten's Blog Freedom to Tinker and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Two Ohio researchers have discovered that some of the state’s e-voting machines put a timestamp on each ballot, which severely erodes the secrecy of ballots. The researchers, James Moyer and Jim Cropcho, used the state’s open records law to get access to ballot records, according to Declan McCullagh’s story at news.com. The pair say they have reconstructed the individual ballots for a county tax referendum in Delaware County, Ohio.

Timestamped ballots are a problem because polling-place procedures often record the time or sequence of voter’s arrivals. For example, at my polling place in New Jersey, each voter is given a sequence number which is recorded next to the voter’s name in the poll book records and is recorded in notebooks by Republican and Democratic poll watchers. If I’m the 74th voter using the machine today, and the recorded ballots on that machine are timestamped or kept in order, then anyone with access to the records can figure out how I voted. That, of course, violates the secret ballot and opens the door to coercion and vote-buying.

Most e-voting systems that have been examined get this wrong. In the recent California top-to-bottom review, researchers found that the Diebold system stores the ballots in the order they were cast and with timestamps (report pp. 49-50), and the Hart (report pp. 59) and Sequoia (report p. 64) systems “randomize” stored ballots in an easily reversible fashion. Add in the newly discovered ES&S system, and the vendors are 0-for-4 in protecting ballot secrecy. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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