Election Integrity News - September 26, 2006

This Week's Quotes: "Whenever you hear an assertion from an election official of why you should trust their machines, inevitably it boils down to 'because they are federally certified."' Dan Wallach, Rice University, commenting on the recent Colorado lawsuit, Conroy v. Dennis

"The evidence is that there were pretty significant areas at the federal level where such testing simply wasn't done." District Judge Lawrence Manzanares said in his ruling on Conroy v. Dennis

"I think the voters can be confident." Colorado Deputy Secretary of State Bill Hobbs speaking after the ruling.


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

House Committee To Hold Hearing On Verification, Security, and Paper Trails

Over 1,400 Sign Up For New "Pollworkers For Democracy" Project In First Week

Rep. Hoyer Urges Full Consideration Of HR 550

Voter ID in the House: Arguments and Attitude

News From Around the States

Alaska: Public Records From 2004 Election Will Be Released

California: An Election Official With Integrity Who Cares

Court Upholds Colorado Voters Challenge to Electronic Voting System

Georgia: Voter ID Law Defeated Again In Court

Maryland: Election Board Response To Primary Problems Is Inadequate

Paper Ballots Are the Way To Go in Maryland

Sequoia Misleads New York

Voting Rights Groups Sue Ohio Officials For Violation Of Federal Voter Registration Law


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We're Not Scaremongering - This Is Really Happening!
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA

Vendors And Election Officials Desperately 'Blame The Messengers'

With another round of primary election disasters, particularly the mother of election meltdowns that occurred in Maryland, national attention has focused on the potential for similar failures in the November general election. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post have run articles recently that report on the mounting anxiety among election officials about the new electronic voting systems that will face their biggest challenge yet in November.

The primary season that ended in Hawaii on Saturday has been plagued with ballot programming errors, machines that failed to boot up, vote totals that didn’t make sense, and frustrated voters and candidates in states across the country. These experiences, coupled with a seemingly endless series of scientific and academic reports on the insecurity and unreliability of electronic voting machines currently in use have caused some election officials to question the wisdom of relying on software to count votes.

In the wake of the 2000 election, many election officials saw touchscreen voting machines as a solution to many election problems. For election officials desperate to avoid scrutiny, paperless touchscreen voting machines were a godsend – no more pesky recounts. However, it has quickly became apparent that electronic voting that did not at least provide an independent means of verifying election results posed a threat that far outweighed any potential benefits.

Desperate to defend their multi-million dollar investment in flawed technology, some election officials have resorted to blaming the messenger. Embattled Maryland election director Linda Lamone has frequently asserted that those of us who criticize electronic voting are recklessly sowing skepticism and scaring voters away from the polls. 

In Sunday’s New York Times, Diebold Election System’s spokesman Mark Radke once again characterized concerns about electronic voting machines as “exaggerated accusations by a handful of vocal activists”. Presumably that “handful” includes the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, the Brennan Center at New York University, Princeton University, the National Research Council, the Association of Computing Machinery, to name a few of the organizations and institutions that have reported on the dangers of relying on software to count votes.

This all sounds a lot like the days when the automobile industry fought any discussion of the need for safety belts out of a fear that a discussion of the fact that cars were dangerous would dissuade people from driving. It didn't.

In their rush to defend electronic voting systems in face of overwhelming evidence of its unreliability and vulnerability, some election officials seem to forget the primary stakeholder in elections – voters. Election officials should stop protecting their friends in the voting industry and join the growing chorus of citizens demanding transparency and integrity in the election process that is so fundamental to our democracy.


National Stories
House Committee To Hold Hearing On Verification, Security, and Paper Trails
Committee on House Administration Press Release- September 21, 2006

The Committee on House Administration has announced a hearing entitled "Electronic Voting Machines: Verification, Security, and Paper Trails". The hearing will be held at 10 a.m., Thursday, September 28, 2006, in room 1310 of the Longworth House Office Building. The hearing is open to the public and citizens concerned about the integrity of America's elections who are able are strongly urged to attend. The hearing will be available via live webcast on the Committee website, http://cha.house.gov.

The panel will feature six witnesses: Edward W. Felten, Professor, Department of Computer Science, Princeton University, Gary Smith, Election Director, Forsyth County, Georgia, Barbara Simons, Member, U.S. Public Policy Committee, Association for Computing Machinery, Keith Cunningham, Election Director, Allen County, Ohio, James Dickson, Vice President of Government Affairs, American Association of People with Disabilities, and Michael I. Shamos, Professor, Institute for Software Research Director, Carnegie Mellon University.

For more information, please contact the Committee press office at (202) 225-8281.

Over 1,400 Sign Up For New "Pollworkers For Democracy" Project In First Week
by Pollworkers For Democracy - September 23, 2006

Pollworkers For Democracy Calls On Voters To "Give A Day For Democracy"

In light of a national pollworker shortage of 500,000 and persistent controversies around polling, citizen action groups have joined forces in a new national “Pollworkers for Democracy” campaign. VoteTrustUSA, along with our partners Mainstreet Moms, and Working Assets launched last week with a call to “give a day for democracy” by signing up to work the polls. In its first days, 1435 new pollworkers have signed up nationwide.

“It's time to give a day for democracy and sign up to work the polls.” said Megan Matson (pictured at left), of Mainstreet Moms, "The only way our democracy can truly work is by turning concern into action and becoming part of the solution. Helping voters and assisting elections officials is a simple, supportive and paid way to do this."

For more information or to sign up please visit www.pollworkersfordemocracy.org.

At present pollworkers are hired, trained and paid by their local election officials to work in their county on Election Day – the average age of a pollworker is 72. Pollworkers for Democracy is recruiting pollworkers to help with the kind of problems seen in recent primaries: thousands of frustrated would-be voters, long delays, and confusion generated by failing voting machine systems. These problems, combined with a recent flurry of lawsuits and a growing stack of government and institutional reports against electronic voting machines have lead to low public confidence in the American electoral system. Pollworkers for Democracy aims to encourage citizens to get informed and get active in response. Visitors to pollworkersfordemocracy.org can pledge to work the polls, look up local officials information, and learn how to apply for pollworker positions. They are further supported with online materials and weekly teleconference calls offering pollworking resources and advice.

"For the first time in a national election this year, new, computerized equipment will be used in most polling places across the country." said Joan Krawitz, Executive Director of VoteTrust USA, "Our goal is to bring citizens into the process to work the polls and to help both new and experienced pollworkers ensure that the November election runs as smoothly as possible for the voters at their polling places."

The Pollworkers for Democracy campaign plans to collect pollworker observations through an online survey. Participants are encouraged to keep an eye out for problems at the polls such as the mishandling of voter registration requirements, delays and errors due to failing electronic voting systems, voter intimidation, and issues surrounding the use and counting of provisional ballots. The campaign will also be looking for reports of well-run precincts and best practices among elections officials. The pollworker survey is linked to a national Election Incident Reporting System supporting informed election reform solutions.

Rep. Hoyer Urges Full Consideration Of HR 550
by U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer - September 21, 2006

Outbursts And Accusations Presage Floor Battle To Come

The following letter was delivered today by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), chairman of the Committee on House Administration. Rep. Ehlers has announced that a hearing will be held on September 28 entitled "Electronic Voting Machines: Verification, Security, and Paper Trails". The hearing is public and all citizens concerned about the integrity and transparency of America's elections are encouraged to attend if they are able. Rep. Hoyer's letter can be downloaded in PDF Fomat here.

I was pleased to learn earlier this month that the Committee on House Administration has scheduled a hearing next week to consider the important issue of voting machine security, particularly as it relates to electronic voting machines.

Troubling questions about the performance and reliability of electronic voting machines in various voting jurisdictions around the United States demand the serious attention of Congress. As a physicist dedicated to the pursuit of scientific truth who is intimately familiar with the workings of modern technology, you are uniquely qualified to lead a hearing on this important matter. Working in close conjunction with Ranking Democratic Member Millender-McDonald, who has emerged as a national voice on election issues since assuming her leadership role on house Administration in 2005, I have every confidence you will educate Americans about the strengths and weaknesses of electronic voting machines and propose sensible solutions for improving them.

As a principal cosponsor of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-252) (HAVA), I am dedicated to doing whatever I can, and will support any legislation that the House considers, that will strengthen the American people’s faith and confidence in the workings of their democracy. Although I have not officially cosponsored H.R. 550 “the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005,” I am deeply sympathetic with its aims and objectives. Read the Entire Article

Voter ID in the House: Arguments and Attitude
by Bob Bauer - September 21, 2006

This article was posted on September 21, 2006 at More Soft Money Hard Law. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Supporters of the ID requirement approved yesterday by the House did put much effort into the task of making their case. They assumed that this was not necessary: the proposal was “common sense”, and both the people and the elites stood behind it. Polls showed some 81% public support; ID had been included among the recommendations of the Carter-Baker Commission. And anyone still unconvinced could be offered the analogy to identification required for the purchase of liquor and the operation of a car. Only one seemingly novel argument, tried out by Vern Ehlers, was introduced in the debate, and this was the suggestion, counter-intuitive but surely reassuring to some, that the imposition of the ID requirement would improve turnout, motivating voters discouraged by the prospect of fraud to confidently head for their polling place.

That these arguments are not serious does not mean that they should not be taken seriously. Each one was chosen for a reason, and each is revealing in some way; and it is also useful to consider why other reasons which might have really moved the sponsors were carefully omitted. The explanations tendered were the public ones, meant for polite society.

The public supports it. Putting to one side the question of which polls, using which questions, will produce particular results, this argument is always popular with the ranks of the elected. In voting rights, it is surely odious to claim that the voting rights of some should depend on the polled preferences of the majority.

The elites support it. In firm agreement with the general public are experts and leaders, Carter and Baker and those convened to advise them, who are said to have endorsed this ID proposal.  This is in part—in material part—misrepresentation, to the extent that it is wrong to suggest these experts have endorsed this legislation, constructed in this way and introduced separate and apart from the other, mutually interdependent components of electoral reform of which ID is only one. Read the Entire Response

From Around the States

Alaska: Public Records From 2004 Election Will Be Released
by Alaska Democratic Party Press Release - September 20, 2006

State Decides Security Not Threatened

The State of Alaska agreed today to give the Alaska Democratic Party (ADP) an electronic database containing votes from the 2004 General Election, in response to a lawsuit the Democrats filed last April.

"The Alaska Democratic Party has successfully proven that the GEMS database is a public record and that the public is entitled to have it," said Jake Metcalfe, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. "We have fought for the release of these public records since last year so that the people of Alaska can be assured that their votes in the 2004 elections were counted correctly." 

The electronic database will be delivered Thursday to David Shoup, the ADP's attorney. A hearing in the case had been scheduled to begin Monday in Superior Court in Anchorage.

Shoup said Darrell Davis, the Chief Security Officer for the State of Alaska computer system, changed his mind and decided that release of the records was not a threat to security after all. Davis had previously advised the Division not to release the database because of security risks. Read the Entire Article

California: An Election Official With Integrity Who Cares
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA - September 22, 2006

San Mateo Co. California's Warren Slocum Makes The Right Decision For The Right Reason

While we don't shy away from talking about the corrupt, the wrong thinking, the un-caring elections officials in our country we don't often get a chance to recognize those who actually do a good job and show that they really do care. I would guess that 90% of the elections officials fall into the category of the caring but it is that 10% who get talked about. I want to change that a bit and talk about one who has made a good decision.

Warren Slocum (pictured at right) is the Chief Elections Director of San Mateo County, California. The county has recently decided that they will use Hart Intercivic eSlate Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines at the polls from now on. That's not a good decision because the eSlates are just as bad as the rest, but it was a decision made and we have to move on.

It has just been reported in the San Mateo Daily Journal that Slocum has decided that there is not enough time for him to be assured that his voters and poll workers can become acclimated to the new voting machines by the general election in November. The polls were supposed to have three to six of the eSlates but now voters will find only one eSlate and paper ballots. Slocum is giving up quick results reporting for integrity and we applaud that.

If only Cuyahoga County, Ohio elections officials had decided on integrity instead of rushing out voting machines that were unfamiliar. If only Maryland elections officials had decided on integrity instead of rushing out an unproven and ripe for failure e-poll book device. And the same "If only…" can be echoed all over the country this primary season.

Thank you Warren Slocum for having integrity and for putting your voters and poll workers first.

Court Upholds Colorado Voters Challenge to Electronic Voting System
by VoterAction - September 21, 2006

Certification - New Standards, Testing for Security to be Required After November Elections

Judge orders Secretary of State to produce and implement voting security plan for all counties

In a legal victory this afternoon in the Colorado voters' lawsuit challenging Secretary of State's Gigi Dennis' cursory certification of electronic  voting systems manufactured by Diebold, Sequoia, ES&S, and Hart Intercivic, the  District Court in Denver decided that it will not permit the use of  these systems post November 7th until real security standards are  adopted and the machines are retested to meet these standards. In his ruling, Judge Lawrence Manzanares said the Secretary of state had  failed to create minimum security standards, as required by state law, and did an "abysmal" job of documenting the  testing during its certification process. He also ordered the Secretary of State to adopt state-wide security standards before the November  2006 election, and ensure compliance from all Colorado counties using the machines.

"The Colorado voter plaintiffs are extremely pleased with this victory. The Court's decision upholds our challenge to the reliability of the certification process as well as the security of the vote when electronic voting systems are in use," said Paul Hultin, Counsel for the plaintiffs, who led the litigation team at Wheeler Trigg  & Kennedy LLP,  in Denver, which is providing pro bono legal services in the case. Read the Entire Article

Georgia: Voter ID Law Defeated Again In Court
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - September 20, 2006

Download The Court Ruling 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. has ruled that the latest version of Georgia Voter ID law violates the constitutional rights of the state's voters. Bedford argued that the law placed an undue burden on voters even if voters are allowed to cast provisional ballots without the required identification. The ruling was the latest in a series of court decisions against the Georgia law.

In his ruling Bedford wrote "Any attempt by the Legislature to require more than what is required by the express language of our Constitution cannot withstand judicial scrutiny."

The law was challenged by Rosalind Lake, an elderly African American woman who was left partially blind after being nearly electrocuted in her home, is unable to drive and could not easily obtain a voter ID, her attorney said.

Proponents of the law cited an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article that claimed 5,000 dead people were listed as having voted in the eight elections preceding 2000. However, the lawyer for the paintiffs, former governor Roy Barnes, noted that the fraud happened primarily in absentee balloting and under the law being challenged, absentee voters are not required to show identification.

The Washington Post quoted Barnes "This is the most sinister scheme I've ever seen and it's going on nationwide." Indeed, the court’s decision served as a prelude to today’s debate of a similar bill on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Maryland: Election Board Response To Primary Problems Is Inadequate
by SAVE Our Votes - September 25, 2006

Election Integrity Group Releases Its Own 9-Point Plan to Address Issues Overlooked by Elections Administrator’s Proposal  

Download SAVE Our Votes Report and Recommendations

SAVE Our Votes, a non-partisan voting rights organization, today criticized State Elections Administrator Linda Lamone’s analysis of the problems that marred Maryland’s Primary Election, saying that her proposed solutions fail to address many serious issues.

In a letter to the State Board of Elections in advance of its meeting on Tuesday, the group called for nine measures to help remedy problems encountered in the September 12 election.

The best way to prevent the serious problems that occurred in the Primary Election is to set aside the touch-screen voting machines and use optically scanned paper ballots in the November General Election,” said founding member Robert Ferraro. "However, if the precarious touch-screen system will be used again, it would be irresponsible not to institute these nine simple measures." Read the Entire Article

Paper Ballots Are the Way To Go in Maryland
by Mary Howe Kiraly - September 24, 2006

The following editorial appeared in The Washington Post on September 24, 2006. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s call for a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to provide voters with a paper ballot for the Nov. 7 general election is not as unrealistic a proposal as it might appear.

Yes, we are less than seven weeks away from the election. But Maryland counties already have optical-scan machines that they use to count absentee and provisional ballots, and the counties may be able to lease more of them. If they can't lease more by Nov. 7, the election results would be slower coming in, but at least there would be paper ballots to recount if the outcome is disputed.

Right now, Montgomery County is counting approximately 12,000 provisional ballots from the turbulent Sept. 12 primary. It is a slow process, in part because many precincts ran out of the official provisional ballots and had to improvise. It is also a demonstration of how an open voting process should function: Its citizens are involved, the vote count is open to observation, and there is a paper record of the ballots to review.

The Diebold Corp. paperless touch-screen voting system that Maryland currently uses offers none of these features. Voters can't know with certainty that their votes have been accurately recorded and counted.

In the case of a close election, there is no way to recount votes cast on the machines with any confidence. A recount will simply reproduce the original data over and over.

The notion that electronic voting systems fail has become a subtext in American elections. Nevertheless, states are deploying these systems as never before. Unfortunately, there are no federal standards for e-voting systems. There is a certification process whose independence has been questioned because of the role that vendors play in creating standards and choosing the certifying laboratories. None of the defects and vulnerabilities that have recently made headlines were discovered in the certification process. Read the Entire Article

Sequoia Misleads New York
by Brennab Center for Justrice - September , 2006

On September 20, Sequoia Voting Systems issued a press release claiming that their AVC Edge received a "top usability rating of any voting machine" in our usability study. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sequoia makes at least three misstatement of facts:

1) "Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge receives best rating in new Brennan Center report on usability."

2) "Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge, a touch screen Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting system, received the top usability rating of any voting machine in the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law's recent report."

3) "Sequoia's AVC Edge, which was used statewide in Nevada for the 2004 presidential election, produced a residual vote rate of 0.3% - significantly lower than all other comparable systems."

All of these statemenst are untrue. First, and most simply, the Report does not rate any voting systems. The first two statements are therefore patently false.

Second, as explained on page 16 of our usability report, because no states other than Nevada include a "none of the above option", which reduces the residual (or lost) vote rate, and because no states other than Nevada used the DRE system with VVPT, the Report states that the data for the DRE system with VVPT "are too limited to draw any conclusions regarding residual vote rates," and that the .3% residual voter rate "is not directly comparable to that produced by other jurisdictions with different ballot options." Therefore, Sequoia's statements that suggest a comparison of the Sequoia Voting System with other voting machines are false and misleading.

Finally, Sequoia uses these misstatements to suggest that New Yorkers should purchase their full face DREs. But one thing is quite clear from our study: full face DREs have significantly higher residual vote (or lost vote) rates than other electronic voting systems. So the Brennan Center study most certainly does not make this suggestion.

Voting Rights Groups Sue Ohio Officials For Violation Of Federal Voter Registration Law
Demos Press Release - September 22, 2006

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell and DJFS Director Barbara Riley Named as Defendants in Lawsuit

A federal lawsuit filed in Cleveland today charges that Ohio's Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell, and the Director of its Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS), Barbara Riley, have violated the rights of thousands of low-income Ohioans by failing to provide voter registration opportunities in public assistance offices as required by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The NVRA is a federal law enacted 13 years ago to encourage voter registration and turnout in elections.

The lawsuit, brought by Carrie Harkless, Tameca Mardis and the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), alleges that offices of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services failed to provide Ms. Harkless, Ms. Mardis and thousands of other low-income Ohioans with the opportunity to register to vote or change their voter registration address during visits to DJFS offices to apply for or recertify their eligibility for public assistance benefits. Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from the National Voting Rights Institute, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Dechert LLP, Brian Mellor of Project Vote, and Cleveland attorney Donna Taylor Kolis.

The NVRA, signed into law in 1993, is commonly known as the Motor-Voter law for its requirement that states provide voter registration opportunities when residents apply for drivers' licenses. The NVRA also requires that voter registration must be offered during most transactions at public assistance agencies to ensure that those who do not visit motor vehicle departments still have an opportunity to register to vote. Low-income citizens are less likely to own a car and are among the least likely to register to vote at motor vehicle departments, making the public assistance requirement crucial in reaching these citizens. Only 68 percent of Ohioans in households making less than $15,000 a year were registered to vote in 2004 versus 92 percent of individuals in households making $75,000 or more. Read the Entire Article

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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