Election Integrity News - October 9, 2006

This Week's Quote: "The system we have for testing and certifying voting equipment in this countryis not only broken, it is virtually nonexistent. It must be recreated from scratch or we will never restore public confidence in elections. The process od designing, implementing, manufacturing, certifying, selling, acquiring, storing, using, testing, and even discarding voting machines must be transparent from cradle to grave." Michael I. Shamos, School of Computer Science, Carnegie-Mellon University, June 24, 2004.


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In this issue ...

National Stories

Demand For Emergency Paper Ballots Grows

A "Security Feature" From Diebold

DREs -- Designed for Failure

NEDAP (Liberty Systems) Voting Machines Hacked

Rules and Loopholes and the Making of a Compromise at the FEC

News From Around the States

Alaska: 2004 Electronic Election Data Was Changed in 2006

Arizona: Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Voter ID Law

California: Voters File Suit To Ensure Promised Testing Of Sequoia Voting Machines

Florida: Tale of the Tapes

New Mexico: Election Integrity Groups Call For Audit Of Electronic Vote Counts In November's Election

Pennsylvania Voters On E-Voting: Trust, But Verify

Wisconsin: Voter Action Asks State to Decertify Touch-Screen Voting Machines


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Man of the Year: Art Imitates Life
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA

"A perception of legitimacy is more important than legitimacy itself." from the movie "Man of the Year".

Unless you’ve spent the last week on a secluded desert island, you’ve probably caught some of the Hollywood pre-release hype about “Man of the Year”, which will hit theatres nationwide on October 13. The premise of the movie is that a comedian, Tom Dobbs (played by Robin Williams), who has made a career of skewering politicians, decides to run a Pat Paulsen-style campaign for president. Sure enough, he wins.

Or does he?

It turns out that his election was the result of a computer voting error. "Delacroy Voting Systems" has sold the nation on their new electronic voting system and one of their employees discovers that the system has a 'glitch' that gave the election to the clown. The company, who couldn't care less who wins the election and is only concerned about the effect the revelation might have on the company's stock, plots to destroy the employee's credibility.

It all sounds chillingly familiar, doesn't it?

The movie is fiction but the potential that election results could be manipulated by insiders with access to computerized voting or affected by software errors is reality. Ballot programming errors affected the results in nine races in a Republican primary election in Iowa last June. Primary elections have been questioned in Texas, Tennessee, Indiana, and numerous other states across the country based on machine malfunctions and irregularities in vote tabulation. In many of these cases, like the one in Iowa, t was possible to recover the will of the voters becuase there was an independent means of verifying the accuracy of the electronic tallies through paper ballots. In others, there was no such safety net.

No doubt, the voting industry's talking points will show up indirectly in the words of reviewers and talking heads, who will point out how such a scenario is pure fiction and could never happen. We will be assured that voting systems are rigorously tested to stringent standards, even though the standards have been written with the vendors interests in mind and what passes as "testing" is paid for by the vendors and hidden from any public oversight. And of course that testing has resulted in the certification and implementation of the very systems that have been demonstrated to have severe security vulnerabilities and proven to be unreliable and prone to malfunction in actual elections. As in the movie, the credibility of those who question the merit of casting and counting votes on electronic voting machines in the real world - a "scary minority" as described in a recent Congressional hearing - will continue to be challenged.

Hopefully, this blockbuster film will raise general awareness of the grave threat that trusting secret software to count votes is a fundamental threat to our democracy and that "scary majority" will demand the use of transparent, verifiable voting systems - before life imitates art. Permalink

National Stories

Demand For Emergency Paper Ballots Grows
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - October 9, 2006

There is a growing concern nationwide that voters will be turned away from polling places this November as the result of machine malfunctions. In primaries across the country this year, and most spectacularly in the recent Maryland primary, thousands of voters have been prevented from exercising their right to vote because electronic voting machines failed to operate properly.

Beyond the obvious need to provide emergency paper ballots at every polling place as a backup in the case of machine malfunction, there is a more fundamental question of the growing lack of voter confidence in direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. Many states where such machines are used provide all voters the option of voting on a paper ballot. Every state should.

Federal legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate last month that would have mandated that all voters be given a paper ballot upon request. It would also have required election officials to post information announcing and confirming that paper ballots were available on request, and established that all such paper ballots would be counted as regular, not provisional ballots. Unfortunately, this legislation was not addressed before Congress broke for their October recess.

A letter, signed by a range of concerned citizens and public interest organizations, is being sent to Governors and state election officials urging them to make contingency plans and procedures to provide emergency paper ballots at every polling place in the November general election, and that every election official, poll worker, and voter be informed of the procedures for utilizing those paper ballots.

It is critical that election officials in states that already require emergency paper ballots or provide voters with the option of using paper ballots take steps to ensure that these existing provisions are enforced. It is equally imperative that election officials in states that do not already have emergency paper ballot requirements address the issue immediately to avoid the potential for disenfranchisement in next month’s election.

VoteTrustUSA supports calls for emergency paper ballot provisions and will be contacting election officials in jurisdictions using direct recording electronic voting systems to urge them to take implement the common sense safeguard of a paper ballot backup. Every county in the nation is already preparing paper ballots for absentee voting. There is no reason that additional paper ballots should not be printed and made available at each polling place on Election Day. No eligible voter should be denied the right to vote because of a malfunctioning machine.

A "Security Feature" From Diebold
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - October 8, 2006

This article was posted on Avi Rubin's Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author. 

The following is an excerpt from an email I received from a gentleman named Walter Mancuso who was a Republican Chief Judge in the September 12 primary in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Approximately a week after the primary I received a telephone call from the Montgomery County Board of Elections inquiring as to why one of the eight touch screen voting machines that we used on election day had recorded no votes, even though 55 voters were logged onto the machine. Neither I nor the Democratic chief judge had any explanation. The person at the [Board of Elections (B of E)] told me that they would investigate, talk to Diebold, and get back to me. After a week I called the Board and asked what they had discovered. I was told that at 6:50 AM (prior to opening the polls) that particular touch screen machine had been rebooted, and the memory card had been removed and reinserted into the machine. I was told that removing the memory card activated a security feature of the touch screen unit, and thus nothing was recorded on the memory card. By the way, no error message was displayed to indicate that that machine had been tampered with and thus should not be used. When we accumulated the votes on the zero machine after the polls closed, that particular machine reported than no voters had used the machine during the election. Thus, prior to talking to Diebold we assumed that the 55 votes were lost.

Walter goes on to explain the the board of elections used the hard drive of the voting machine to recover the 55 missing votes. Read the Entire Article

DREs -- Designed for Failure
by Rebecca Mercuri, Notable Software - October 5, 2006

The following comment by Rebecca Mercuri on the subject of "Electronic Voting Machines: Verification, Security and Paper Trails" was entered into the record of the September 28, 2006 hearing by the U.S. Congressional Committee on House Administration.

When I appeared before the U.S. House Science Committee at their May 22, 2001 Hearing on “Improving Voting Technology: The Role of Standards,” among my statements was the following:

“To date, no electronic voting system has been certified to even the lowest level of the U.S. government or international computer security standards (such as the ISO Common Criteria or its predecessor, TCSEC/ITSEC), nor has any been required to comply with such.  No voting system vendor has voluntarily complied with these standards (although voluntary compliance occurs within other industries, such as health care and banking), despite the fact that most have been made aware of their existence and utility in secure product development.”

Over 5 years later, the above statement continues to remain true. Electronic voting systems are less secure and less reliable than any computer-based systems that are deployed in applications where auditability is mandated by law. Why this is so, is (at least in part) because of certain loopholes in the Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) that first appeared in the Federal Election Commission (FEC) document set, and were perpetuated into the FEC 2002 and EAC/HAVA 2005 sets, despite vigorous and increasing protest by the scientific and engineering community. Read the Entire Response

NEDAP (Liberty Systems) Voting Machines Hacked
by Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting (ICTE) - October 5, 2006

The PowerVote Voting System manufactured by the Dutch company NEDAP is marketed in the United States by Liberty Election Systems as the LibertyVote. The website claims that with their voting system,"voters can be rest assured that their votes are securely and accurately processed."

Concerns expressed by many IT professionals about the security of the e-voting system chosen for use in Ireland were today shown to be well-founded when a group of Dutch IT Specialists, using documentation obtained from the Irish Department of the Environment, demonstrated that the NEDAP e-voting machines could be secretly hacked, made to record inaccurate voting preferences, and could even be secretly reprogrammed to run a chess program.

The recently formed Dutch anti e-voting group, "Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet" (We don't trust voting computers), has revealed on national Dutch television program "EenVandaag" on Nederland 1, that they have successfully hacked the Nedap machines -- identical to the machines purchased for use in Ireland in all important respects.

Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting (ICTE) representative Colm MacCarthaigh, who has seen and examined the compromised Nedap machine in action in Amsterdam, notes "The attack presented by the Dutch group would not need significant modification to run on the Irish systems. The machines use the same construction and components, and differ only in relatively minor aspects such as the presence of extra LEDs to assist voters with the Irish voting system. Read the Entire Article

See also Can We Trust Voting Computers?

Rules and Loopholes and the Making of a Compromise at the FEC
by Bob Bauer - October 9, 2006

Just five weeks before mid-term elections expected to be fraught with closely contested races, the Federal Election Commission, in a meeting on October 4, has altered the way recounts are funded, making them subject to federal election fundraising limits rather than being exempt from those as they have been for nearly 30 years. Saying that current campaign finance law applied only to the election and not recounts, the commission’s chairman, Michael E. Toner and commissioner Hans von Spakovsky voted against the compromise. Election law specialist Bob Bauer published the following commentary on his blog. It is reposted here with permission.

It looks better when the FEC reaches some agreement on an important issue. Or so say the many who are repulsed by partisanship (a name they use casually for disagreement, especially with a position they favor). Even more pleasing to the eye is an agreement reached across party lines that accords with the viewer’s preference. The best of all worlds: bipartisanship in reaching the right decision, which is the only brand of bipartisanship that admirers have in mind when they promote it. For bipartisanship seems to be a blessing only when the decision reached is “right”; it is a conspiracy, a nasty of bit of self-protection, when the decision is “wrong.”

This is the cluster of assumptions behind the quiet satisfactions in the press, and the good cheer in the reform community, in the wake of the FEC’s decision on recount refinancing. Four Commissioners voted to restrict the individual monies raised by candidates for recounts, effectively extinguishing a long-standing rule (entitled “recounts”) on the books (11 C.F.R. 100.91 and 100.151). Three of them appeared to believe that McCain-Feingold repealed the rule without saying so. Compromise—a decision, breaking a partisan deadlock—was achieved when one Republican joined the Democrats in relaxing the rules for party spending on recounts.  Now parties (at least state parties) can spend without limit, even if they cannot raise without limit, to help their candidates with a disputed vote count.

Some compromise is better than none, and more flexibility in the funding of recounts is undoubtedly preferable to less. The allowance for party spending is sensible. As the way to compromise, it was creatively conceived. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Alaska: 2004 Electronic Election Data Was Changed in 2006
by Kay Brown, Alaska Democratic Party - October 5, 2006

Division of Elections Asked to Explain Changes

The Alaska Democratic Party today asked the Division of Elections to explain why changes were made in July of 2006 to the electronic database that contains the results of the 2004 General Election.
A review of the audit trail of the GEMS database for the 2004 elections shows that modifications were made to the database on July 12 and July 13, 2006.

The Democratic Party recently obtained the electronic GEMS file by suing the Division of Elections in State Superior Court. The Division of Elections had refused for more than nine months to release the public records, but did so late last month just before a hearing was scheduled to begin in the case.

"We do not understand why 2004 election results would be manually modified in 2006 after the complaint was filed asking that you produce the database," Jake Metcalfe, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party, said in a letter to Division of Elections Director Whitney Brewster. "Data from the 2004 election may have been altered," Metcalfe said.
One of the modifications made in 2006 appears to alter data for House District 5. In that district's race for the State House, Democrat Tim June lost by 59 votes to Republican Bill Thomas. [see audit log of GEMS database]

The Democratic Party also questioned the 293 manual entries that were made to the electronic file between 11/2/04 and 12/2/04. [see attached audit log of GEMS showing examples]. According to the same audit log, the Primary Election for 2004 had 17 manual entries. Read the Entire Article

Arizona: Federal Court Blocks Enforcement of Voter ID Law
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - October 6, 2006

Civil Rights Organizations Praise Decision - Secretary of State Will Appeal

A month before the general election, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has blocked the enforcement of an Arizona law that requires voters to show identification before casting a ballot and submit proof of citizenship when registering to vote. The court order in Gonzalez v. Arizona granted an emergency motion to stop the law from going into effect. Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer (pictured at right) has directed State Attorney General Terry Goddard to seek an immediate reversal of this decision on appeal.

The law came into effect as a result of the passage of Proposition 200 in 2004. The law altered Arizona election law by (1) requiring citizens to present documentary proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, and (2) imposing a restrictive identification requirement as a condition of casting a ballot at the polls. The law had been in effect during Arizona's September primary election after a district judge had issued an order rejecting voters' request to stop these requirements from taking effect.

Voter ID laws have met considerable resistance from civil rights organizations that have called Proposition 200 a 21st century poll tax for those voters who cannot meet its strict and unnecessary requirements by requiring that voters purchase acceptable forms of identification. Similar voter identification provisions in Georgia, Missouri and other states have been struck down in court.

Ralph G. Neas, President of the People For the American Way Foundation, commented in response to the court’s ruling, ”This is a major victory for Arizonans and for all Americans who care about the right to vote. Before this ruling, many citizens might have been denied the chance to cast their vote in November. Now we have a month to make sure voters know their rights and are confident that they won’t be unfairly turned away at the polls.” Read the Entire Article

California: Voters File Suit To Ensure Promised Testing Of Sequoia Voting Machines
by VoterAction - October 5, 2006

Alameda Voters File Suit Against County to Ensure Anti-Hacking Testing of Sequoia E-Voting Systems Before Nov. 7

Board of Supervisors mandated “security vulnerability testing” by a third party – yet contract defers to Sequoia on testing and County Counsel can provide no proof that the system is safe from hacks

A group of Alameda County, California voters, coordinated by the nonprofit Voter Action, filed suit today in Alameda County Superior Court to block the use of the county’s new Sequoia touch screen electronic voting system in November and in future elections until the system has passed independent, expert security vulnerability testing. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to require thorough, independent vulnerability testing as a condition before payment – but the county’s contract with Sequoia, from after the board’s vote, defers to Sequoia on which tests to conduct and does not stipulate that the testing be done by a third party.
“Alameda voters are demanding the right to a fair election – one that ensures that the candidate with the most votes wins”, said Robert Friese, counsel for the plaintiffs, and a partner in Shartsis Friese, LLP in San Francisco, which is providing pro bono legal support on the suit. “The Registrar of Voters has the charge to ensure election security.” Read the Entire Article

Florida: Tale of the Tapes
by Barb Shepherd, DeLand-Deltona Beacon Staff Writer - October 6, 2006

Did your vote count in Volusia County's Sept. 5 primary election?

This article appeared in the DeLand-Deltona Beacon and is reposted with permission. 

With computers counting our ballots, and touch-screens recording votes with no ballots at all, looking closely at election records means plowing through a paper mountain of printouts, server logs and other digital data. On Sept. 21, having been told by the Elections Office it would cost $120 merely to make a small portion of these records available (with additional charges to come for copying or inspecting), The DeLand-Deltona Beacon filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court to assure all election data are made readily available to the press and the public, without undue cost. Because of the ongoing lawsuit, Volusia County Elections Supervisor Ann McFall was unable to comment directly for this story. She did, however, provide answers to some of the newspaper's questions through the county attorney's office.

An inspection of election records by The DeLand-Deltona Beacon, assisted by the Florida Fair Elections Coalition, has raised significant concerns regarding the administration of the election, and questions about the results.

Some of the problems:

• More votes than voters. According to a computer file titled "All Who Voted 09-05-06" provided by the Elections Office, 450 fewer voters cast ballots in the primary than there are votes listed on the county's official tally of the election. The computer file lists 51,242 voters; election results certified to the state list 51,692 votes. Further, the computer file lists the 180 voters whose absentee ballots were not counted, making a total 630-vote discrepancy between voters and votes.

• •Zero tapes and results tapes missing. Zero and results printouts - looking very much like long grocery-store receipts - are an official record of the votes cast.

Read the Entire Article

New Mexico: Election Integrity Groups Call For Audit Of Electronic Vote Counts In November's Election
by United Voters of New Mexico and Verified Voting New Mexico - October 5, 2006

Reform activists are calling on the top state election official to undertake hand-counted audits of paper ballots as a check on electronic vote counting accuracy in the November general election. Paul Stokes of United Voters of New Mexico (UVNM) and John W. Boyd, an election law specialist with an Albuquerque firm, have urged Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron to advance the implementation of the mandatory voting machine audit that was approved by the state legislature but not scheduled to go into effect until January lst.

In a letter to Secretary Vigil-Giron, Boyd and Stokes wrote, “We believe that random audits of ‘paper trails’ and/or paper ballots are a key element of any election. Without a random audit, any election results will be of doubtful accuracy and integrity…In the public interest, we ask that you do the right thing and take the trouble to conduct a proper, random audit of the results of this November’s election. You will be a hero to thousands of New Mexicans.” Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania Voters On E-Voting: Trust, But Verify
by Lehigh University - October 4, 2006

In the first joint Lehigh-Muhlenberg poll, voters surveyed said they want a paper trail when they cast ballots electronically

Download Full Report of Survey Findings

A survey conducted by Lehigh University and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion in late September found that, when it comes to e-voting, Pennsylvania voters are following former President Ronald Reagan’s famous adage: Trust, but verify.

The survey found that voters overwhelmingly agree on the importance of voters having the right to verify on paper that their vote is being counted fairly and accurately. The findings cut across all demographic divides, including party affiliation. Read the Entire Article

Wisconsin: Voter Action Asks State to Decertify Touch-Screen Voting Machines
by VoterAction - October 4, 2006

Touch-Screen Voting Machines Inherently Prone to Fraud

Voter Action Wisconsin has filed a petition with the Wisconsin State Elections Board asking them to decertify direct record electronic (touch-screen) voting machines.

“Wisconsin has always been a leader in the regulation and administration of elections,” said Mike Wittenwyler (pictured at left), attorney for Voter Action Wisconsin. “By decertifying this equipment, Wisconsin will set a national example on the importance of election integrity. These machines are inherently prone to fraud. Until touch screen machines are replaced, the state must take steps to ensure that security procedures are followed and voter integrity preserved.”

Wisconsin should provide meaningful accessibility, not an inferior and untrustworthy system,” said Holly Jacobson, co-director of Voter Action. “Electronic voting system breakdowns have wreaked havoc in recent state primaries, disenfranchising thousands of voters and calling into question election results. The serious security flaws inherent in electronic voting technology – confirmed in a new study by Princeton University experts last week-- underscore the need for more secure and verifiable voting systems.”

The 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) was enacted with the purpose to make voting in the United States more reliable and secure for all voters. Between 2005-2006 Wisconsin certified direct record electronic (touch-screen) voting machines among others in an attempt to comply with HAVA. By the September primary election each municipality was required to obtain at least one accessible machine per polling location.

Detailed analysis of the official 2004 New Mexico general election results and a desire to provide more assurance to New Mexico voters led to Governor Richardson announced a plan to go to an all paper ballot voting system for the state that was signed into law in late February.

On February 15th 2006, Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich of Maryland joined Democratic Governor Bill Richardson in expressing his desire to make his state, like New Mexico, an all paper ballot state due the “unreliability and tremendous costs of DRE voting systems.” In a letter to the Maryland State Board of Elections, Governor Ehrlich reported cost overruns of over 1000% for maintenance of the state’s touch screen voting systems.

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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