Election Integrity News - October 25, 2005

This Week's Quote: "When you have an election settled by 11,000 votes, it doesn't take much fraud or error to change the result." Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-Michigan)
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Actions to Take Now

National: Pass HR 550 As Written
Sign the Petition and Send an Email to Your Representative

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000


In this issue ...

Commentary
From the Editor: Why Elections Are Not About Politics

National Stories
New GAO Report Confirms Serious Security Problems with Electronic Voting Systems

Congress Discusses Extention of The Voting Rights Act

News From Around the States
California: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chooses Promises Over Evidence

Florida: "A Crazy Way to Run An Election": Preliminary Report on the Performance of Diebold's "Blended" or "Dual" System

New Mexico: Did You Erase Your Own Vote?

New York: Report on LibertyVote DRE

North Dakota: State Announces Plans to Use Ballot-Marking Devices in Every Polling Place

Pennsylvania: Three Strikes and You’re Out – Well, Maybe: Another Decertification for the Unilect Patriot

Tennessee: Choosing Trustworthy and Reliable Voting Systems

Upcoming Events
New Mexico Election Reform Task Force Nov. 10-11

Florida Election Reformers Statewide Conference Nov 12-13

Issues
Voting Systems User Warning: Hart InterCivic Ballot Now

Corporate Control of the Election Process

 

"Eternal Vigilence is the Price of Freedom"
Thomas Jefferson
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New in This Issue!
The Top Five Stories from the past week's Daily Voting News
by John Gideon, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

As compiler of Daily Voting News and because I read a lot of local and national articles on voting issues, I've been asked to pick the five most important news items from the past week. There's alot to choose from, but I will do my best. So here goes, from #5 to #1

#5 – Mail-in ballots for the November election began to be mailed out this week and reports of problems began to surface in the media across the country. It seems that Sequoia Voting‚s ballot printing subsidiary was not able to get it right and voters in at least 2 counties in California and one county in Colorado received more than one ballot in the mail.
Link Link Link

# 4 – This item I include not so much for what is in the main story, though it is important to the folks in North Carolina, but for a single paragraph and the fact that this single paragraph was not included in any of the AP articles that repeated the original article by a Winston-Salem Journal article. The paragraph is a quote from state Board of Elections Director and recently resigned member of the board of the Election Center Gary Bartlett. Mr. Bartlett states that 10% of the income of the Election Center comes from vendor donations. Link

#3 – The announcement that the House Judiciary Committee was going to begin to hold hearings on the extension of parts of the Voting Rights Act that are soon to expire was big news for many of us. Link

#2 – A federal judge in Georgia stepped up and issued an injunction against the state‚s regressive and disenfranchising Voter ID law. The state‚s Jim Crow laws have been enjoined until early next year at least. Link

And the #1 News Item of the last week: – I think we can all agree that the release of the GAO Report on Security Problems With Electronic Voting Systems has to be the #1 story of the week. Except for Ian Hoffman‚s article in some central California newspapers, the MSM has ignored this story but if you have read the report you would agree this is big news for all of us. Finally we have a n on-partisan federal report that gives us all credibility. Finally much of what we have been saying since 2002 has been reported by a government agency even though the EAC and others still deny the facts. Link



Commentary

Why Elections Are Not About Politics
by Warren Stewart, Editor, Election Integrity News

It has been suggested that the recent report of the Commission on Federal Election Reform represented a compromise, or more precisely, a trade-off, between issues that meant most to the Republicans (voter ID) and those that meant most to the Democrats (VVPAT). The trade may never have been explicit, but could have just emerged from the fault lines on the panel as they struggled to reach a unanimous agreement. Needless to say, I have no way of knowing about the internal politics of the Commission, but I strongly object to the glib assumption of a political polarity between Voter ID and VVPAT.

In fact, elections are not about politics. I know that sounds absurd but hear me out. Elections are an idea - an old idea by now, but an idea that somehow always seems innovative. Let‚s collectively decide what should happen and agree that we‚ll all have an equal part in making those decisions. We‚ll all indicate our opinions - let‚s call them votes - and we‚ll all accept the results.

There are three basic principles underlying the notion of elections: every eligible voter should be able to vote, nobody should get more than one vote, and everyone‚s votes should be counted correctly. Sounds simple. It is when those three basic principles are subject to manipulation that politics gets involved.

Every eligible voter should be able to vote. Fundamentally, anyone who believes in representative democracy has to agree with this, though efforts to define eligibility for partisan gain has an ignoble history in this country. The acceptance of the very idea of universal suffrage is considerably younger than the notion of democracy in America. Even after universal suffrage was granted in theory, poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation, and purging of voter rolls and any number of other techniques have all been used for partisan advantage.

Lately the second of the basic principle „nobody should get to vote more than onceš has been used as rationale for attacks on the first. Proposals for a National Voter ID will undoubtedly have the effect of disenfranchising millions of voters, primarily elderly, infirm, poor, and disabled voters. Though few would argue with the presumed intent of a National Voter ID, making sure nobody votes twice, the result of such a provision is reprehensible to those who believe in democratic principles.

The last principle, "everyone‚s vote should be counted correctly", presumably has no partisan advantage – it‚s about fair play and the integrity of the democratic process. It‚s time to stop using election reform as a tool for partisan advantage.

National Stories

New GAO Report Confirms Serious Security Problems with Electronic Voting Systems
by Joan Krawitz, Executive Director, VoteTrustUSA

"[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

A newly released report on the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems, issued by the Government Accountability Office, confirms the seriousness of problems reported by members of the Election Integrity Community since 2002.

Voting System Vulnerabilities Confirmed by the GAO include:
•Cast ballots, ballot definition files, memory cards, and audit logs could be modified.
•Supervisor functions were protected with weak or easily guessed passwords, and memory cards that allowed individuals access to voting machines were inadequately protected.
•Systems had easily picked locks and power switches that were exposed and unprotected.
•Voting machine vendors had weak security practices, including the failure to conduct background checks on programmers and system developers, and the failure to establish clear chain of custody procedures for handling software.
Read the Entire Article

Congress Discusses Extention of The Voting Rights Act
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

As the nation observes the death of Rosa Parks, it is fitting that Congress has begun hearings on the extension of the legislative action that symbolized the spirit of her courageous actions half a century ago. At the same time, with the proposal of onerous Voter ID requirements in many states and in Congress, it is clear that the struggle for full enfranchisement is far from over.

Last week The House Judiciary Committee held the first two of what could be more than a dozen congressional hearings into extending key provisions of the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. The 15th Amendment guarantees people of all races the right to vote, and most aspects Most of the provisions of the landmark 1965 law are permanent, including prohibitions of literacy tests, poll taxes, and other means of restricting minority access to the polls.
Read the Entire Article

 

News From Around the States

California: Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chooses Promises Over Evidence
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to allow the County Clerk, Gail Pellerin, to enter into contract negotiations with Sequoia Voting Systems, a recently purchased subsidiary of Smartmatic, Inc. which is a Florida-registered, Venezuelan-owned, company. Pellerin recommended a blended system using Sequoia optical scanners and one Sequoia Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting system with voter-verified paper audit trail in each polling place.

The 94-page report Pellerin presented to the Board contains 69 pages of information supplied by citizen opponents of the purchase, including documented failures of Sequoia DRE systems in past elections, analyses showing the higher operating cost of DREs, and testimony by disabled individuals explaining the difficulties they had using Sequoia voting machine.
Read the Entire Article

Florida: "A Crazy Way to Run An Election": Preliminary Report on the Performance of Diebold's "Blended" or "Dual" System
by Susan Pynchon, Executive, Florida Fair Elections Coalition
Two members of Florida Fair Elections Coalition (FFEC), Kitty Garber and I, traveled to Flagler County in September to support Flagler’s lone voter activist, Deborah Susswein, in observing the closing of the municipal primary election held for the city of Palm Coast on September 13, 2005. Deborah and I stayed at the elections office while Kitty observed the poll closing at one polling place and then joined us at the elections office.

We believe this election was the first time the Diebold “blended” or “dual” voting system was used in an election in Florida. “Blended system” is the term used by Diebold and the state of Florida to refer to a dual voting system that combines optical scanners and Diebold TSX touch-screens in each polling place. One touch-screen is placed with the op-scan(s) in each precinct for the stated purpose of serving disabled voters who cannot mark a paper ballot.
Read the Full Report

New Mexico: Did You Erase Your Own Vote?
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

In 2004, New Mexico once again led the nation in Presidential undervote rate. Undervotes are ballots cast without a vote for President, and New Mexico had 21, 084 of them – 2.78% of the total ballots cast last November or one out of every 36 voters. New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron seems surprisingly untroubled by undervotes, commenting after the election that she doesn't "spend a lot of time on undervote issues, I'm just speculating that some voters are just not concerned with the presidential race."

I never found this very convincing. However, recent testimony concerning the straight party voting function of some of the machines used in New Mexico from the head of Automated Election Services - the company that sells the machines to most of the counties in New Mexico - may offer a more persuasive explanation.
Read the Entire Article

New York: Report on the LibertyVote DRE
from New Yorkers for Verified Voting

One of the computerized or DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) voting systems being considered for New York is the LibertyVote machine sold by Liberty Election Systems. This system is made by the Netherlands company NEDAP (NV Nederlandische Apparatenfabriek). Voters indicate their choice by pushing buttons next to candidates’ names printed on a large sheet of paper (the “ballot”) that is laid over the button array. This ballot stays on the machine for the duration of the election. A full-face ballot can be accommodated. The LibertyVote machine appears to be identical to the NEDAP PowerVote machine used in Europe.

The NEDAP website says the company “focuses on developing and supplying innovative and sustainable solutions in the fields of security and electronic control units as well as automation, management and information for organizations.” Their product list includes retail security, library management, electronic controls, election systems, and cattle management.

Liberty implies that the NEDAP PowerVote has had only smooth sailing in Europe. This is decidedly not the case in the Republic of Ireland. The government spent nearly $60 million on PowerVote equipment and it was intended that they be used for the June, 2004 local and European Parliament elections. An Independent Commission on Electronic Voting investigated this system and said it could not recommend its use because of security and accuracy concerns, whereupon it was not used for that election.
Read the Full Report

North Dakota: State Quietly Announces Plans to Use Ballot-Marking Devices in Each Polling Place
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

On October 13, at a meeting of county auditors and election workers North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced that all 53 counties in his state would be complying with The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) through the use of one ballot-marking device in each precinct. Each of the states 575 polling places will be equipped with an ES&S optical scanner and an AutoMark, developed by Vogue Election Systems and marketed by ES&S.

North Dakota has no legislated requirement for a paper audit trail, but the fact that optical scan ballots are inherently voter verified and provide a paper record for audits and recounts appears to have been an important factor in the state’s decision. Wyoming, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and several other states have chosen to meet the HAVA disability access requirements through the use of ballot marking devices rather than paperless electronic machines. This calls into questions the claims by election officials in several states that ballot marking devices are somehow not HAVA compliant.
Link to News Story

Pennsylvania: Three Strikes and You’re Out – Well, Maybe: Another Decertification for the Unilect Patriot
by Kathy McPherson, Mercer County Citizens for Better Government

On October 21st, Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro Cortes submitted his final report on the August 15th examination of the newest version of the UniLect Patriot Direct Record Electronic (DRE) Voting System. Certification was denied to the Patriot DRE in large part due to numerous security concerns. The denial of certification for this newest model of the Patriot DRE and will prevent its sale and use within the state of Pennsylvania until UniLect is able to show that it has corrected all documented problems through a reexamination.

But the story is far from over. The Pennsylvania Election Code allows for unlimited re-examinations of both decertified and uncertified systems, so you can be sure that UniLect CEO Jack Gerbel will be back in the state again and again until Legislature amends the Election Code to limit the number of times vendors can reapply for a examination. This process is encouraged by the fact that although the initial exam fee that vendors must pay for testing is $3000, subsequent re-exams cost them only $450. This fee does not cover the costs incurred by the state in examining a machine, so it is actually the taxpayers that end up footing the bill each time UniLect comes has back. And they’ve been back 3 times in less than 7 months!
Read the Entire Article

Tennessee: Choosing Trustworthy and Reliable Voting Systems
by Robert Tuke, Chairman, Tennessee Democratic Party

Editor's note - This letter was sent recently to Democratic Representatives on County Election Commissions.

You are in the process of making decisions that are vitally important to the safety, security and trustworthiness of our voting process in Tennessee. I know you want to be sure that our future elections here in Tennessee will remain free from the problems that have occurred too often with non-verifiable, insecure and expensive electronic voting systems in several states.

For the past several years, the problems with direct record electronic (DRE) voting systems have been well documented. These expensive voting systems have encountered multiple problems that, through accident or by design, have impacted the conduct of elections in several states around the country. These voting machines have been studied by computer scientists at many universities, and these researchers have recommended against using these machines because they frequently malfunction and their secret operating software can be easily tampered with without detection by election officials.
Read the Entire Letter

Upcoming Events

New Mexico Election Reform Task Force Final Meetings Nov. 10-11

The New Mexico Election Reform Task Force will hold their fifth and final set of meetings on November 10 and 11 in Santa Fe. The Election Reform Task Force was created by the legislative council for the 2005 interim. During the 2005 legislative session, the legislature addressed a number of election issues and made numerous changes to the Election Code. Due to the complexity and extent of these changes, the election reform task force was created to review the provisions and implementation of the new law, review the Election Code to ensure that any obsolete language that conflicts with federal law was adequately addressed and, if necessary, recommend legislation for the 2006 legislative session to address any implementation problems or other unintended consequences of the new law.

For More Information about the Election Reform Task Force
United Voters of New Mexico

Florida Election Reformers Statewide Conference Nov 12-13

Florida election reformers are invited to attend a statewide election reform conference and workshop hosted by Florida Fair Elections Coalition in Orlando November 12-13. The goals of this event are to create a unified, coordinated, statewide effort to effect reform, to develop strategies for a coordinated legislative agenda, to share information, ideas, and expertise on issues, to build a working relationship among Florida election reform organizations, thereby maximizing our effectiveness
Read More Here

Issues

Voting Systems User Warning: Hart InterCivic Ballot Now
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

Voting System: Hart InterCivic Ballot Now optical scan system, using Kodak i800 Series Scanner

Problems Found by Election Officials: During a hand recount of ballots counted in Yakima County, Washington, it was discovered that 24 properly marked ballots had been counted as undervotes and had not been tallied. An investigation was carried out by Hart InterCivic employees who looked at the ballot images. The examination revealed that 24 ballot images contained a white vertical line spanning the entire length of the ballot. The line ran through the left portion of all option boxes in the 4th column of each ballot.

Hart reported that since the white line “whited out” a portion of each option box, Ballot Now was unable to detect at least 90 percent of each “target box” and therefore classified each contest in the 4th column of each ballot as a Damaged Contest. In this case, the 4th column included contests for Congress, Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, and State Treasurer.
Read the Entire Article

Corporate Control of the Election Process
(First Published on June 15, 2005)
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

Those who hold the sacred trust of overseeing the election procedures and voting systems in this country are an alphabet-soup of organizations. The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS); the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED), the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), the Elections Assistance Commission (EAC); the Election Center. What do these groups have in common? They either receive their funding from the vendors or are greatly influenced by those who do receive funding from the vendors. We can only hope that the EAC can resist the influence. The others haven't.

Who are these "vendors"? The vendors are the corporate face on our elections systems — the for-profit companies that develop and sell the equipment used to run our elections. They are those who have the most to gain from the influence they buy through their donations and dues to the alphabet soup, and that influence is considerable. They include names like Diebold, Elections Systems and Software (ES&S), Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart InterCivic, Accenture, UniSys, Accupoll, and more. In fact they are all proudly named on the list of corporate affiliates of NASS.
Read the Entire Article
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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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