Election Integrity News - October 24, 2006

This Week's Quote: "“The GAO report indicates that we need to get serious and act quickly to improve the security of electronic voting machines. The report makes clear that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in electronic voting systems – from the day that contracts are signed with manufacturers to the counting of electronic votes on Election Day. State and local officials are spending a great deal of money on machines without concrete proof that they are secure and reliable. American voters deserve better.” U.S. Representative.Henry Waxman on the release of the Government Accountability Office's report on electronic voting machines on October 21, 2005..


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In this issue ...

National Stories

Former EAC Commissioners Interviewed on CNN

Independent Review Reveals Flaws In Voting System Testing Process

Polling Sites Often Neglect Disability, Language Minority Access Requirements

Losing Elections' Paper Trail: Crisis Waiting To Happen

Blocking the 2006 Vote

electionline Report Finds Potential for Trouble at Polls

News From Around the States

The United States Supreme Court at the Polls, in Arizona: The More Things Change·

Voting Irregularities Discovered in Washington, D.C. Primary Election Results

Chicago Voter Registration Database Flawed

Maryland: Dealing With Failure


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The EAC's Proposed Testing and Certification Program – Still A Chance For Bold Action?
Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA

The broader community of public interest organizations concerned about the accuracy and integrity of the election process welcomed the announcement in July 2006, that the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) would be proposing a new national system for testing and certifying voting systems for use in Federal elections. The proposed program released for public comment earlier this month reflects some significant improvements over the existing process. However, the overall philosophy expressed in the proposed testing and certification program remains too deferential to the interests of voting equipment manufacturers while inadequately reflecting the interests of the primary stakeholders in the election process – the voters. On the fundamental issues of transparency and public oversight, it is substantially a perpetuation of the current system with new acronyms.

The current regime, under which voting machine manufacturers contract with ‘independent’ testing laboratories that produce secret test reports that inevitably lead to ‘qualification’ by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), has met with mixed reviews at best. Speaking before Congress in 2004, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Michael I. Shamos said, "the system we have for testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, it is virtually nonexistent." He recommended that "It must be re-created from scratch or we will never restore public confidence in elections." 

Among Dr. Shamos’ first recommendations was that the manufacturers should not pay the laboratories that test their equipment, because under this arrangement the manufacturers effectively become the laboratories’ clients and subject to conflicts of interest that raise questions about their ability to effectively safeguard the public interest.

Sadly, the EAC may be missing an opportunity to do just that. 

The credibility of the current process has been further damaged by the severe reliability, security, and accuracy problems revealed in a steady stream of academic and governmental studies and in hundreds of cases of malfunctions in fielded machinery.  While we will never know what defects have been uncovered by the current ITA, we know that the ITA did not uncover the vulnerability caused by the presence of interpreted code on Diebold AccuVote OS memory cards revealed in Leon County, Florida, the “upgrade” feature of AccuVote TSx revealed in Emery County, Utah and the viral propagation properties of this feature exploited in the recent Princeton study; the report by Paul Craft that the firmware version on ES&S optical scanners is not verifiable, nor the revelation in an audit in Pinellas County, Florida that an SQL compiler is routinely installed on the Sequoia WinEDS system.  

The failure of current narrow functional testing delegated to the ‘official’ testing laboratories indicates that the EAC needs to expand the examination and testing of voting machinery and sponsor examination and testing by academics and other interested parties. Rather than merely the testing required for certification, additional voting system testing could serve to improve and refine the subsequent versions of the voting system standards.

The current crisis of confidence in the electoral process demands bold actions from the EAC - bold actions that Congress mandated the EAC to take. Without any legislative changes to current statutes, the Election Assistance Commission can take significant steps toward restoring confidence in the election process by requiring manufacturers to make their systems transparent; by requiring testing laboratories to make their methods, work and results transparent; and by opening the testing effort to truly independent. The EAC should seize this opportunity promote transparency and public oversight of the way votes are cast and counted in the United States. Permalink

National Stories

Former EAC Commissioners Interviewed on CNN
by CNN Transcript - October 23, 2006

Two former Election Assistance Commisioners joined Lou Dobbs on October 23, 2006. The transcript of their conversation follows.

Joining me now, two former members of the Election Assistance Commission, an agency set up in response to the Florida debacle in the 2000 election, part of the Help America Vote Act.

First meet Deforest Soaries (pictured at left), he's a Republican, former chair of the Election Assistance Commission.

Good to have you here.

Ray Martinez (pictured at right), Democrat, former vice chair of the commission.

Ray, good to have you with us, all the way from Austin, Texas. Thank you.

Let's begin with a third of -- and if we can show these stats. It's sort of interesting, one third of voters this November will be using new voting equipment. Thirty-eight percent will be using electronic voting equipment.

Deforest, what do you think is going to happen?

DEFOREST SOARIES, FORMER ELECTION COMMISSIONER: Well, I think we're going to have frustration at the polls. Many poll workers will be inadequately prepared for the use of this equipment. And if there's a close race, there will be tremendous frustration because there will be difficulty confirming what the real results were, given the lack of any paper to verify what happened at the polls.

DOBBS: And Ray, looking at another statistic that everybody might as well start getting comfortable with, the 2000 voting machines, they malfunctioned in 25 states. I mean, are we going to see that -- something that widespread, do you think, in this election, or will it be even worse?

RAY MARTINEZ, FORMER ELECTION COMMISSIONER: Well, I certainly hope it's not anything to that magnitude, Lou. And I think the American public ought to demand that election officials around the country do their due diligence to ensure that we don't see problems like that. You know, election administration is comprised of three essential parts, Lou, the technology we use, the processes that we have in place and the people that run our elections. And we've seen a lot of problems when it comes to the technology, but we've also seen equal amounts of problems when it comes to the people aspect of election administration. We have to emphasize that as well. Read the Entire Transcript

Independent Review Reveals Flaws In Voting System Testing Process
by Howard Stanislevic, VoteTrustUSA - October 23, 2006

Key voting system standards missing from test plans

Download NYSTEC Review of CIBER's Voting System Test Plans 

As the EAC's Oct. 26 hearing on its new Voting System Testing and Certification Program approaches, new findings from New York reveal that the certification program in place today is far from adequate, requiring the States to pick up the slack.

NYSTEC, a not for profit spin-off from the US Air Force's Research Laboratory at Rome, NY, was hired by the State Board of Elections to conduct an independent review of the voting system test plans issued by one of the three so-called Independent Testing Authorities that test voting systems on behalf their manufacturers, CIBER, Inc., previously hired by the state.

NYSTEC's report is highly critical of CIBER, stating that the ITA's test plan for the state's new voting systems lacked numerous security and functional testing requirements of the 2006 NY State Election Law, the EAC's 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines Vols. 1 & 2, and NY State's Voting System Standards. Read the Entire Article

Polling Sites Often Neglect Disability, Language Minority Access Requirements
Demos Media Release - October 21, 2006

Millions Of Voting Age Americans Covered By 'Ballot Access' Laws Ill-Served By Election Administration

Download the Ballot Access Briefing Paper

Millions of disabled and language-minority American citizens face impediments to voting because many states do not meet federal ballot and polling place access requirements, according to a new briefing paper by Demos, a national, non-partisan public policy and research center.

The Ballot Access briefing paper, which is published this week as part of Demos' Challenges to Fair Elections briefing paper series, shows that states across the U.S. are failing to live up to the promise of landmark "ballot access" legislation, such as section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and provisions of the Help America Vote Act, which require polling sites to accommodate U.S. citizens with disabilities and those who may have limited proficiency in English.

"Vast numbers of eligible voters depend on enforcement of these laws to protect their right to vote," said Brenda Wright, managing attorney of the National Voting Rights Institute, a partner of Demos. "Yet even as we approach the third major election of the 21st century, it is clear that we still have a long way to go in assuring that all citizens have fair ballot access." Read the Entire Article

Losing Elections' Paper Trail: Crisis Waiting To Happen
by Dick Polman, The Philadephia Inquirer - October 23, 2006

The electronic issue has been largely ignored. If either party wins in a blowout, that may continue. But if the vote is close...

This op/ed appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is reposted with permission of the author.

If you're worried that the newfangled electronic voting machines are a threat to the integrity of our democracy, rest assured: You're not just being paranoid.

This is a worrisome topic to introduce on the eve of crucial midterm elections, but since the Republican Congress didn't bring it up over the summer - preferring, instead, to spend precious weeks showcasing dead-end hot-button issues, such as gay marriage and flag burning - we'll do so here. After all, we're only talking about whether 21st-century Americans can trust the high-tech process by which they choose their leaders.

This isn't a particularly sexy issue. It only rarely seeps into the popular culture (comic Bill Maher has quipped that "some 13-year-old hacker in Finland is going to hand the presidency to Kylie Minogue"), and at first one might be tempted to outfit the handwringers with tinfoil hats and send them on an all-expenses-paid trip to visit Oliver Stone.

But that impulse is quickly overridden by the weight of the empirical evidence, which shows that the newest touch-screen machines - which will serve roughly 40 percent of the 2006 electorate - are about as reliable as Hal, the computer that wrought havoc in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

For starters, these machines can be hacked all too easily, but that's only the most dramatic finding. More often - and this has already happened in a number of states, including Maryland and New Mexico - they lose votes, fail to register votes, "switch" votes between competing candidates, count votes twice, and simply freeze before voters can vote. Read the Entire Article

Blocking the 2006 Vote
by Tova Andrea Wang, The Century Foundation - October 17, 2006

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

While much attention is appropriately being paid to the problems with electronic voting machines, we must also focus on the many other ways voters were disenfranchised in 2004 and could be again in 2006. In the midst of talk about paper trails and frozen computer screens, have we all forgotten the registration problems, the intimidation tactics, the tossed provisional ballots and the unacceptably long lines that led to so many disenfranchised voters in 2004? If so, we had better remember, because recent analysis shows the states have not done enough to make sure such problems don’t rear their ugly heads again during the 2006 and 2008 elections.

In 2000 and 2004, snafus in the voter registration process led to millions of voters being unable to cast ballots. In America, obstacles exist even for citizens trying to register to vote that are a continual factor in low voter turn-out rates. First, unlike most other countries, the onus is on the citizen, rather than the government, to figure how and where to register. Many in poorer and less-educated communities will not get the information they need to register and register properly. Election administrators may make mistakes in the collection and input of a voter’s information, leading to the rejection of that voter’s registration application or the failure of that voter’s name to appear on the right poll book in the right polling location. With many states having registration deadlines up to 30  days out from the Election Day, many would-be voters will register too late, especially in our society where people move frequently and must re-register every time they do so.

Some states are making it even harder to register, not easier, according to a recently published study of 10 key states conducted by The Century Foundation, Common Cause and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Most notable is Arizona, where one now has to provide documentary proof of citizenship in order to register. This has already led to thousands of voter registration forms being rejected throughout the state; election administrators readily admit that most of those rejected were citizens who, while perfectly eligible to vote, were simply unable to produce a birth certificate. New restrictions on third party voter registration drives—virtually the only groups that proactively work to register Americans in minority and poor neighborhoods—also threaten to reduce voter participation.

Read the Entire Article

Election Administrators Warn Of Election Problems
by Newswire Press Release - October 19, 2006

A bipartisan group of former secretaries of state and elections experts held a conference call yesterday to brief reporters on what voters can expect at the polls this November. Many new voting laws will have a profound impact on what voters experience when they go to the voting booth for this year's midterm elections. Participants on today's call included, Secretary Miles Rapoport, former Secretary of State, (D-Conn.); Rev. DeForest Soaries, former Secy. of State, (R-N.J.) and former chair, U.S. Election Assistance Commission; Ray Martinez, fellow, policy advisor for Pew Center on the States, former vice chair, U.S. Election Assistance Commission; and Tova Wang, democracy fellow at the Century Foundation, staff person on Carter-Ford Commission.

Our democracy works best when more eligible voters participate in elections. After a series of flawed elections, we need to make elections run more smoothly and ensure that eligible voters are encouraged to vote and can vote. With three weeks to go before the November elections, the following new voting rules and procedures could have a profound impact on what voters experience when they go to voting booths for this year's midterm elections. As a nation, we must work harder to develop a voting system that encourages more eligible voters to participate and correct problems that discourage voters. Read the Entire Article

electionline Report Finds Potential for Trouble at Polls
by electionline.org - October 24, 2006

New machines, procedures and close races could add up to a difficult Election Day

Download electionline's report "Election Preview 2006: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t and Why”

With the mid-term election two weeks away, a comprehensive report on the state of election administration around the country finds cause for concern in a number of states.  

An estimated third of all voters will cast ballots on voting systems never before used in a general election, while new procedures and legal battles over voter identification could confuse voters, poll workers or both. Unfinished and just-completed statewide voter registration databases, required as of Jan. 1, 2006 by the Help America Vote Act, have led to some confusion in parts of the country as state agencies combine records and local election officials cede control of their long-held registration rosters.

"The ingredients are there for problems in some parts of the country,” said Doug Chapin, director of electionline,org, the nation’s leading nonpartisan and non-advocacy source for election reform analysis and information. “Any time you have new procedures, new voting systems that many poll workers and voters might not be familiar with and combine that with an election that could decide the fate of one or both branches of Congress, the potential is there for a messy November 7. The steps that have been taken to improve and modernize elections as part of HAVA could make things worse this year before it makes voting better in the future."

"Election Preview 2006: What’s Changed, What Hasn’t and Why”, issued today by electionline.org, provides an overview of the state of the American electoral system with 14 days remaining before the mid-term vote. R%ead the Entire Press Release

From Around the States

The United States Supreme Court at the Polls, in Arizona: The More Things Change·
by Bob Bauer - October 21, 2006

The Supreme Court of the United states ruled unanimously yesterday that Arizona may enforce Proposition 200, which requires voters to show a photo identification card at the polls on Election Day this year, despite a pending lawsuit by opponents who say the measure will disenfranchise the poor, minorities and the elderly.

Download the Supreme Court Opinion 

See also Analysis at Moritzlaw.com 

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

It might have been thought—devoutly hoped—that the Supreme Court would measure its steps carefully without striding once again in the territory of Bush v. Gore.  But this was not to be: this urge to intervene in the electoral controversies of the day seems ingrained in its very constitution (in a manner of speaking).

Yesterday’s decision in Purcell v. Gonzalez  shows that the Court can be severely faulted on one of two grounds: 1) it is careless with the very appearance of its interventions, rendering decisions of political moment while lost in the weeds of intra-court politics; or 2) it knows precisely what it is doing.  In any event, in the middle of the struggle over enfranchisement mislabeled as a debate over fraud, the Court chose sides, advancing the prospects of one side of the conflict.  It did so with an insouciance that was fairly astonishing, assuring readers that it was withholding judgment on the merits and merely tending to proper order.

Of course, the Justices had their reasons. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had enjoined the Arizona voter ID in flat but unexplained disagreement with a District Court. But the District had yet, as the Supreme Court concedes, to make findings of fact. The schedule for ultimate disposition might have been somewhat messy, but election law litigation does not travel the most orderly of paths, and the Ninth Circuit Order froze in place, putting off final adjudication to another day, restrictions on the franchise. Read the Entire Article

Voting Irregularities Discovered in Washington, D.C. Primary Election Results
by DC Statehood Green Party- October 23, 2006

DC Statehood Green candidate, in routine review of votes after primary, uncovers discrepancy: only 89 votes recorded for 140 Statehood Green voters, with 51 votes apparently 'lost' - Reliability of certified results in Statehood Green primary for Ward 5 seat on City Council in question - 40% of Republican votes apparently lost from the Ward 5 vote count; Statehood Greens urge investigation by D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics

An investigation of voter rolls and votes in the September 12 primary election in Washington, D.C.'s Ward 5 has revealed unexplained irregularities in the race for the DC Statehood Green Party's nomination for the Ward 5 seat on City Council.

Philip Blair examined the primary results after he apparently lost the primary race to Carolyn Steptoe in a close 40-33 vote.

"In an effort to see if I had grounds for a challenge, I began the process of checking the pollbooks to see who actually signed in as a Statehood Green voter on election day," wrote Mr. Blair in an October 13, 2006 letter to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics (BOEE). Links to Philip Blair's letters to the BOEE are appended below.

Mr. Blair discovered a significant discrepancy between the number of Statehood Green voters who signed in at the polls or submitted absentee ballots and the number of Statehood Green votes that were reported in the primary election results in many Ward 5 precincts.

"89 votes were recorded for 140 voters. 51 votes, many more than either candidate received, simply disappeared from the final count announced in the certified results," said Mr. Blair in his letter. Read the Entire Article

Chicago Voter Registration Database Flawed
by Illinois Ballot Integrity Project - October 23, 2006

Voters' Key Personal Information Available on the Internet 

A serious security vulnerability was discovered in the City of Chicago online voter registration database that would allow an identity pirate to obtain the names, addresses, birth dates and Social Security numbers of more than 1.5 million Chicago voters.

According to Bob Wilson, Cook County chair of Illinois Ballot Integrity Project, a malicious hacker could have readily change the voter registration status of individual voters or groups of voters. "For example, you could change the status of all the voters in a precinct to inactive after the registration deadline so that when one of those voters checked their online status they might believe they were ineligible and wouldn't attempt to vote," said Wilson. "Or, you could change their polling place information so they would show up at the wrong precinct on election day…the possibilities are nearly endless and could cause election day havoc," he added.

IBIP notified staff at the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners several weeks ago about the vulnerability but no action was taken. "We had hoped that the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners would take quick action to plug this hole, but apparently that's not the case," said Illinois Ballot Integrity Project member, Peter Zelchenko. He estimates it would take little more than five minutes to fix the problem. Late last week, IBIP and Zelchenko became aware that the security breach was significantly more severe than first thought. The Board was immediately notified and began taking action to alleviate the threat last Friday and began installing a new web interface over the weeekend. Read the Entire Article

Maryland: Another Diebold Source Code Leak
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - October 22, 2006

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

This week, three disks containing Diebold source code, that appear to have come from Wyle Labs and Ciber Inc, the independent testing authorities that certify voting machines for federal qualificaiton, were delivered anonymously to a former Maryland state delegate. The story was covered this morning in the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. I was asked by a reporter to inspect the disks to verify their contents, and I enlisted Adam Stubblefield and my Ph.D. student Sam Small, and together we examined them.

The disks contained source code for the BallotStation software, which is the software on the voting machine, and what was labeled as GEMS, which is the back end tabulation system. The GEMS disks were password protected, and while I'm certain we could have cracked them, we chose not to. The BallotStation source code was not protected at all. It was the 2004 version, which is newer than the source code we analyzed in 2003, and appears to be slightly later than the version analyzed by the Princeton team. I would love the opportunity to perform a similar analysis on this code, but yesterday, we were only given the opportunity to inspect to the code to determine whether it was genuine. As a condition to inspecting the disks, we agreed not to make copies or to perform any other activity with the software. An analysis of this source code would answer many questions that I've been asked about whether Diebold fixed the problems we encountered in our previous analysis. Of course, I don't believe that all of the problems we found back then are even fixable, but some of them are.

I've been getting calls all day asking exactly what the significance is of the new software leak. I'm not really sure. If the software leaked out of Diebold, then they obviously have not learned any lessons about securing their proprietary information. If, as I suspect (due to the labels on the disks), the software leaked out of the testing labs, then that is a serious problem that has to be addressed. Don't get me wrong - I think that voting system software should be available to the public, but that is a different issue from whether or not testing labs are competent at protecting things that they are trusted with and that they believe they are supposed to protect.

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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