Election Integrity News - October 18, 2006

This Week's Quote: "We know more today about how to build a machine to take pictures of rocks on Mars than we know about how to build a machine to safeguard the American right to vote." Rev. DeForest Soaries, the first Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission

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In this issue ...

National Stories

Rep. Hoyer Requests Clear Guidelines For Contested Elections

Preliminary Report on Voter Fraud and Voter Intimidation Released

New Voter ID Laws Could Cost Millions Their Right To Vote, According to New Briefing Paper

Election Officials: Five Simple Rules For Testing Voting Equipment

Report Shows Many Problems From 2004 Still Unresolved and Threaten To Mar Midterm Elections

Information Quality Professionals Issue Urgent Alert Regarding United States Elections

News From Around the States

Alaska: Struggle For 2004 Election Data Continues

Vote-PAD Files Claim Against California Secretary of State

California: Secretary of State Sets Stage for a Repeat of June's Election Disaster in Kern County

Maryland: Diebold E-Poll Book Modifications Come Into Question

Maryland: Dealing With Failure

Voter ID: The Missouri Supreme Court Evaluates Legislative "Foresight"

Sequoia Tries Pulling the Wool Over New York‚s Eyes

A Good Show, But Questions Remain: Sequoia Advantage/WinEDS Pennsylvania Certification Re-exam

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Under the Radar: The EAC Proposes A New Program For Testing Voting Machines
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA

As we approach the mid-term elections, with control of both the Senate and Congress hanging on an unsually large number of competitive races, nationwide concern is growing about the accuracy and reliability of voting systems. Lost in the pre-election frenzy, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has released a new Voting System Testing and Certification Program (VSTCP), open for public comment until the end of the month and the subject of a public hearing on October 26. The outcome of this review process will have a profound impact on how our votes are cast and counted in 2008 and beyond.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

The culmination of a process set in motion by the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002, the new testing and certification program was intended to ensure “that all voting machines will be accurate, secure and useable." To that end, HAVA created the EAC and tasked them with the development of new voting system standards and a program for testing and certifying them to those standards.

The new testing and certification regime was supposed to be in place by now. Handicapped by delays in the initial nomination process and severely underfunded, the EAC was unable to meet the intended target of January, 2004 for the completion of new standards. The standards were only adopted in December, 2005 and won't become effective until December, 2007. Only after the new standards were in place did the EAC focus on the development of a process for certifying to those standards.

Federal voting systems standards did not exist until 1990 and it wasn't until the mid-nineties that any sort of national system was established for testing and certifying that the machinery of elections met those standards. In 1994, the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), with no government funding, began a program in which voting machine vendors contracted with one of three laboratories referred to collectively as Independent Testing Authority (ITA) to test proposed voting systems to standards established by the Federal Election Commission.

While the NASED/ITA process filled a void that urgently needed to be filled, it has met with mixed reviews. Speaking before Congress in 2004, Carnegie Mellon computer scientist Dr. Michael Shamos said “the system we have for testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, but it is virtually nonexistent. It must be re-created from scratch or we will never restore public confidence in elections.” Among Dr. Shamos' first recommendations was that the testing laboratories should not be paid fby the vendors. In the current process, the vendors are, in effect, the laboratories' clients. They operate under non-disclosure agreements with vendors, which keeps testing protocols, results, and other documentation entirely hidden from public oversight.

Noting that many of the voting systems qualified under the current process have demonstrated severe reliability, security, and accuracy problems, Dr. David Wagner, recently told a Congressional committee that since the ITAs are paid by the vendors they are subject to conflicts of interest that raise questions about their ability to effectively safeguard the public interest. "The process lacks transparency, rendering effective public oversight difficult or impossible."

A further weakness of the current process is that independent security experts are barred from performing their own analysis of the system. In the rare cases where independent experts have been able to gain access to source code, they have invariably discovered reliability and security problems.

As the new testing and certification program is developed in response to input from public interest organizations, computer security experts, and concerned citizens, the EAC should be guided by a desire for the greatest possible transparency. A transparent election process is fundamental to democratic governance. Permalink

 

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National Stories

Rep. Hoyer Requests Clear Guidelines For Contested Elections
by U.S. Representive Steny Hoyer - September 28, 2006

With Many Tight House Elections Looming,Whip Concerned that Statutes Are Too Ambiguous

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) sent the attached letter today to Committee on House Administration Chairman Vernon Ehlers and Ranking Democrat Juanita Millender-McDonald asking the Committee to "develop a set of clear protocols for managing any contest or contests that the Committee faces in November" because "[w]ith the direction of the House likely to turn on a handful of seats, ensuring that contested elections are adjudicated in a fair, transparent, and swift manner is essential."

The full text of the letter follows:.

Dear Chairman Ehlers and Ranking Democratic Member Millender-McDonald:

With many House races expected to be very close this November, there is the real possibility that recounts will occur in several congressional districts, with some outcomes being challenged under the Federal Contested Election Act (P.L. 91-138, 83 Stat. 284). I am deeply concerned that ambiguities and deficiencies in this statute may prolong rather than facilitate the resolution of contested elections by the Committee on House Administration unless the Committee acts now, in a non-partisan and collaborative manner, to develop a set of clear protocols for managing any contest or contests that the Committee faces in November.

As Chairman Ehlers will recall from our service on the House Administration Committee (then the House Oversight Committee) during the last contested House election in 1997-98, FCEA provides for a process for resolving contested elections, starting with the filing of a notice of contest by the loser of the election, the taking of testimony from witnesses, and the holding of hearings on the depositions and papers filed with the Clerk of the House related to the dispute. The statute also places the burden of proof on the challenger to show that sufficient evidence exists to change the outcome of the election. Read the Entire Letter

Preliminary Report on Voter Fraud and Voter Intimidation Released
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA -October 12, 2006

Download the Status Report on the Voter Fraud-Voter Intimidation Research Project (May 17, 2006)

A report to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on voter fraud and voter intimidation was released yesterday by USA Today over four months after is had been presented to the commission. The report confirmed that there is little verifiable evidence to support anecdotal accounts of polling place fraud involving voters voting more than once, non-citizens or otherwise ineligible voters voting, or voters voting in the name of deceased voters. Though, the final report of the study has yet to be released, the findings of the preliminary report could have informed the heated debate over restrictive voter ID requirements that has raged in the past months.

At a hearing on September 27, 2005, EAC executive director Tom Wilkey announced that the commission had awarded a $110,000 grant to Tova Wang, an elections expert at the Century Foundation, and Job Serebrov, an Arkansas attorney to provide a comprehensive report on voter fraud and voter intimidation. Section 241 of HAVA requires the EAC to conduct research on election administration issues. Among the tasks listed in the statute is the development of nationwide statistics and methods of identifying, deterring, and investigating voting fraud in elections for Federal office. The EAC's Board of Advisors recommended that the agency make research on these matters a high priority.

The researchers presented a “Status Report on the Voter Fraud-Voter Intimidation Research Project” to the EAC in May 17 and announced at the meeting of the Standards Board and Board of Advisors the following week.  A politically diverse working group of election officials, public interest advocates, and election law specialists first convened on May 18 and a final report of their research was presented to the EAC in July. The EAC has not released the final report and contractual agreements with the  consultants restrict them from releasing it. There are two other completed reports, one on the effect of Voter ID regulations and another on provisional ballots, that the EAC has declined to release to the public. Read the Entire Article

New Voter ID Laws Could Cost Millions Their Right To Vote, According to New Briefing Paper
by Demos Press Release - October 13, 2006

Recent Court Decisions Find Impact Too Great, Laws Not Based in Fact

The Challenges to Fair Elections Series, published between October 16 and Nov 1, are available for download at here.

Millions of eligible voters could lose their right to vote in coming years if new state and national photo identification and proof of citizenship requirements for voting are implemented, according to a new briefing paper published by Demos, a national public policy and research center. The paper, part of Demos' 2006 Challenges to Fair Elections Series, offers evidence that new and prospective voter ID requirements, in states and on the national level, have been advanced without adequate consideration of facts or the potential impact on voting rights.

In recent years, states such as Georgia, Missouri and Indiana have enacted highly restrictive identification requirements for voting, and Arizona passed a statewide referendum that would require stringent ID and citizenship requirements at the polls. All of these laws have undergone recent challenges in court, and three--those in MO, GA, and AZ--have been legally enjoined and prevented from being enacted this year. Indiana's remains, and national debate, and further challenges to the court rulings in these states, will continue.

"New photo ID requirements for voting are being challenged in court because the evidence shows they have the potential to prevent millions of eligible US citizens from voting," said Miles Rapoport (pictured above), President of Demos. "The courts know, and the facts show, that misleading arguments and distorted facts about "voter fraud" have been used to advance ID legislation. Research proves that strict photo ID requirements for voting solve none of the real problems of elections in the United States, and will actually prevent far too many eligible voters from exercising their responsibility to vote." Read the Entire Article

Election Officials: Five Simple Rules For Testing Voting Equipment
by John Washburn, VoteTrustUSA - October 13, 2006

With the upcoming November election, the time to perform functional testing of your voting machinery is fast approaching, if not already here. Testing the software in voting machinery is not an easy task. The functional testing (also known as Logic and Accuracy Testing) is the last, best chance to discover any errors in the ballot definition programming or other errors in the software. This is why performing functional (L&A) testing is required by state statute.

While this difficult and largely thankless task is mandated, the state authorities who require you to perform the testing don't provide guidance on how to do this vital testing well or effectively. The test procedures and test ballots provided by the vendor are often inadequate and fail to detect significant errors. Such a test deck was provided to the town of Medford, Wisconsin and it didn't detect the ballot programming error which failed to count 24% of the votes cast in the November 2, 2004 election. Ballot programming errors all computerized voting equipment from all vendors have marred recent elections in many states across the country. Because of the problems faced by clerks and auditors mandated to perform this difficult software testing, we recommend the following suggestions to election officials that will be helpful in conducting pre-election testing of voting machinery.

Read the Five Simple Rules

Report Shows Many Problems From 2004 Still Unresolved and Threaten To Mar Midterm Elections
by Common Cause Press Release - October 12, 2006

Century Foundation, Common Cause, and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Release 10-State Study Showing Slow Progress on Election Reform

Click here to view the full report.
Click here to view the executive summary.

Click here to view the state profiles.

With the critical midterm elections just weeks away, a new report from The Century Foundation, Common Cause, and The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights shows that most problems exposed in the 2004 election remain unresolved, and some have been exacerbated and threaten to mar the mid-term elections in just four weeks. Progress has been made in resolving only a small number of the shortcomings.

The report, "Voting in 2006: Have We Solved the Problems of 2004?" is a follow up to a report on voting problems issued in 2004 by the three organizations that had closely monitored voting on Election Day 2004. The groups revisited these problems in time for Election Day 2006 to determine to what extent they had been addressed. The results on the whole were troubling. For example, some states have made it harder to register to vote, rather than easier. This is critical because problems with voter registration were among the most common complaints of voters in 2004. Another critical problem two years ago -- long lines for voters -- is likely to recur because few states have dealt with that issue. New voter ID laws in certain states are likely to disenfranchise voters and only one state has acted aggressively to address voter intimidation tactics. In every state, there is much room for improvement. Read the Entire Article

Information Quality Professionals Issue Urgent Alert Regarding United States Elections
by Seth Johnson - October 13, 2006

Download Letter to Congress and Election Officials from Information Quality Professionals

In a recent letter addressed to Congress and chief election officials in every state, a group of information quality professionals has voiced concerns as fundamental changes are being introduced in United States election processes under the provisions of the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

The signers of the letter:

- see United States election processes at grave risk

- express concern about the lack of means to observe the present impact of changes being introduced in elections

- urge election officials to assess the accuracy of election outcomes through a count of a random sample of ballots

- call for the use of dependable quality control measures and the prevention of errors by incorporating reliable quality processes
Commenting on a July 19, 2006 Congressional hearing on voting technology standards, the letter observes that factual assessments of the accuracy of election processes have not been offered, and that voting technology is being introduced in elections throughout the country without adequate means to observe the impact of the change. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Alaska: Struggle For 2004 Election Data Continues
by Jake Metcalfe, Alaska Democratic Party - October 12, 2006

The Alaska Democratic Party recently obtained the electronic General Election Management System (GEMS) database for the 2004 elections by suing the state's 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. An examination of the database reveal that modifications were made to the database on July 12 and July 13, 2006. On October 6, the Democratic Party filed new public records requests asking for a copy of the GEMS database as it existed before the changes made in July, 2006, and for the name and affiliation of each person who did any manual modification to the 2004 General Election GEMS database at any time, what data that person entered manually, and why those changes were made or those data were entered manually. The Division of Elections responded that they would not meet the Democratic Party's request. The following letter was sent to the Whitney Brewster, Director of the Alaska Division of Elections on October 12, 2006.

Dear Ms. Brewster:

I have received your letter of Oct. 10 denying the Alaska Democratic Party's request for public records, in which you state that you are unable to provide a copy of the 2004 GEMS General Election database as it existed before July 2006. Your letter further states that no public records exist, other than the audit log already produced, that would show the name and affiliation of each person who did any manual modification to the 2004 General Election GEMS database at any time, what data that person entered manually, and why those changes were made or those data were entered manually. You state that the request for public records is denied because the "requested records have either already been produced or do not exist."

Your response raises a lot of questions and indicates serious security breeches. Concerning the 2004 GEMS database as it existed before July 12, 2006, are you saying that you have only one copy of this database, which was subject to entry and potentially to manipulation by Division employees, and that no separate copy was kept in archives in a secure location? Why was an accurate, unmodified copy of the database not retained as a record of the election? Were any prior copies of this database destroyed? Read the Entire Article

Vote-PAD Files Claim Against California Secretary of State
by Vote-PAD Media Release- October 15, 2006

Asserting that the Secretary of State violated California State Law and Constitutional protections, Vote-PAD, Inc. today filed a formal claim against the Secretary's Office with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.

The Vote-PAD, recently used in the Wisconsin primary election, is a non-computerized device designed to help people with disabilities hand mark a paper ballot. Six California counties were hoping to use the Vote-PAD this November, but on August 25, 2006, Secretary of State Bruce McPherson refused to certify it for use in California.

Vote-PAD, Inc., developer of the device, claims that the certification process, which was created by the Office of the Secretary of State specifically for the Vote-PAD, violated a number of State and Federal protections. The company charges that the process was:

"a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitutions of both the United States and the State of California, a breach of contract, a violation of the California Administrative Procedures Act, a violation of the Election Code provisions governing voting system certification, and an abuse of discretion in the Secretary's authority to certify voting systems." Read the Entire Article

California: Secretary of State Sets Stage for a Repeat of June's Election Disaster in Kern County
by Debra Bowen, California State Senator Press Release - October 16, 2006

Just four months after as many as 500 Kern County voters were prevented from casting ballots in the June primary election thanks to the Secretary of State’s failure to prepare for an electronic voting machine meltdown, the Secretary of State has laid the ground work for a repeat performance of the June disaster.

"It’s clear the Secretary of State didn’t learn a thing from what happened in Kern County during the primary," said Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee and the Democratic Party nominee for Secretary of State.

"It’s pretty astonishing to see him re-issue the very same directive that prevented as many as 500 voters in Kern County from being able to vote in the June primary election," continued Bowen. "Not only is the Secretary refusing to show any leadership to ensure that voters have the ability to cast a ballot when they show up at their polling place, he’s also refusing to learn from the mistake he made four months ago." Read the Entire Article

Maryland: Diebold E-Poll Book Modifications Come Into Question
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org - October 15, 2006

Diebold's new ExpressPoll 2000/4000 electronic poll book failed miserably in the September Maryland primary election. The poll book is separate from the Diebold TS voting machines used in the state. It contains all of the information on registered voters that was contained in the old paper poll books and it is used to check in voters. The failure of the e-poll books in Maryland, as well as the manner in which the problems have been “fixed” raises serious concern about whether they can legally be used in November’s elections.

According to the Associated Press a software patch produced by Diebold fixed one problem that plagued the equipment in Maryland's primary. Another problem, reported by the Baltimore Sun (article in archives) required a software patch that was produced by a Diebold sub-contractor, Advantech Co., Ltd., who was responsible for the e-poll books "losing synch".

The Sun goes on to say:

"The poll books contain a trove of information about each of Maryland's more than 3 million registered voters, and were designed to replace the cumbersome alphabetized binders filled with the same data. When a voter signs in at a precinct, the system marks him or her as having voted.

"When the machines stop talking to each other, different poll books at a given precinct might not agree on how many people have been checked in to vote.

Read the Entire Article

Maryland: Dealing With Failure
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - October 16, 2006

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

An important sub-area of Computer Science is fault tolerance. In a nutshell, fault tolerance is the ability of a system to continue to function in spite of a failure of one or more of its components. A system that can continue to work even if many parts fail in unexpected ways is said to be more fault tolerant than one that does not.

It seems to me that one of the unheralded problems with the Diebold system, and with DREs in general is that it is extremely fault in-tolerant. Consider a few simple examples from the September 12 Maryland primary:

• In Prince George's County memory cards were accidentally left in the voting machines, causing votes not to be counted initially, and at the very least losing track of the chain of custody of those votes. 

Read the Entire Article

Voter ID: The Missouri Supreme Court Evaluates Legislative "Foresight"
by Bob Bauer - October 17, 2006

This commentary was posted on Bob Bauer's Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

The Supreme Court of Missouri yesterday invalidated, on state constitutional grounds, a voter identification law, and the power of the analysis lay in its simplicity and clarity. Weinschenk v. Missouri, Case No. SC88039. Approved government identifications, if not already (as in the case of a driver’s license) possessed, may be acquired only with effort and expense that fall proportionately on those least able to bear them. The Missouri legislature was prepared to put people to this trouble for no well documented reason. Any fraud reasonably anticipated, such as absentee vote fraud, would be unaddressed by the ID requirement; and there was indeed no proof that voter impersonation, the only justification for this requirement, had become a problem in the State of Missouri.

The dissent was provided by a judge named Limbaugh, and its clarity was no less telling.  His primary complaint was that the law provided a transitional period when voters without ID could still vote provisionally, so long as they had could provide of one of the more numerous types of ID permissible under the predecessor statute. Only with the passage of the transitional period, he ruled, would the new ID requirements be ripe for review.  Read the Entire Article

Sequoia Tries Pulling the Wool Over New York‚s Eyes
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Berified Voting - October 10, 2006

If the Facts Don't Fit, Make Something Up

Recently, Sequoia distributed a press release to New York State legislators and election officials implying that the DREs it hopes to sell New York had received top ratings in the recent Brennan Center Usability Study. Unfortunately, this extremely misleading press release makes statements which directly contradict the actual conclusions of the Brennan Center Study. Using such deception in a widely distributed press release at a critical moment in New York’s voting system certification and selection process is not only false advertising; it assumes that New York officials who received the release won’t look at the facts behind Sequoia’s spin.

In almost every sentence the claims made in Sequoia’s press release are misleading, if not unabashedly false. To understand the context you need to take a look at the three statements made right at the top of the press release:

Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge Receives Best Rating in New Brennan Center Report on Usability
Wednesday September 20, 3:04 pm ET

Used in Nevada for 2004 Presidential Election, Sequoia's DRE With VVPAT Produces Lowest Residual Vote Rate of All Voting Systems

Full-Faced DRE Most Secure, Reliable, Accessible and Accurate Voting Solution for New York

NEW YORK, Sept. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- 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……

Let's take a look, line by line, at these statements. Read the Entire Article

A Good Show, But Questions Remain: Sequoia Advantage/WinEDS Pennsylvania Certification Re-exam
by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA - October 16, 2006

Entertaining showmanship was the order of the day as Pennsylvania voting system examiner Michael I. Shamos cast his eye over the Sequoia AVC Advantage and its WinEDS ballot installation and tabulation software in Harrisburg last week. The testing was being redone after the WinEDS software failed so badly in March, 2006 on the AVC Advantage machine that the examination had to be suspended in the middle. Mr. Shamos noted that Sequoia had advanced the software approximately 60 revision numbers since March, and had added features as well as claiming to have corrected problems.

Dressed in a colorful orange polka-dot tie and orange and white striped shirt, Mr. Shamos strolled about the exam room, posturing frequently in front of a large LCD projection of the screen under scrutiny newly added for those in attendance to observe. At one point he even rendered a mime of a bound Harry Houdini escaping from chains to make his point that locks on a voting machine do not equate with security. The effect was not so much of a thorough scientific examination, but rather that of a polished performance designed to show an audience how thoroughly the testing was being done.

After a rather rough beginning for Sequoia with cartridges early-on failing several times to correctly load the software, the updated WinEDS program did appear to display some improvement although questions remained. One glaring problem was that event logs could be altered to remove evidence that file changes had been made or tampering had been done. Another problem showed up when an audit trail printed out from two different memory sources in the system looked very different each time it was printed. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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