Election Integrity News - October 31, 2005

This Week's Quote: "People died for our right to vote - we take that seriously."
Valerie Brew-Parrish - polio survivor and voter
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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
A Year of Paying Attention

National Stories
Election Day 2005: The Importance of Pollworking

News From Around the States
Arizona: Election Fraud – Chicago? Florida? Ohio? Not This Time
California: Voters in Nine Counties Urged to "Get It On Paper"
Colorado: Secretary of State Asked to Withdraw Proposed Election Rule
Nebraska: Another State Keeps Their Paper Ballots
New York: Good News/Bad News from the Empire State
Pennsylvania: Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement and Voter ID on Senate Agenda
Tennessee: Choosing Trustworthy and Reliable Voting Systems
Washington: Diebold's Proprietary Barcode

Upcoming Events
Nov. 5: One Year Later - Voting Rights in Ohio
November 8th - Election Day!
Nov. 10-11: New Mexico Election Reform Task Force
Nov. 12-13: Florida Election Reformers Statewide Conference

Issues
Corporate Control of Voting Equipment Certification

"Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world. Indeed, its the only thing that ever has."
Margaret Mead

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The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News
by John Gideon, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

#5 Arizona - Is Arizona's Speaker of the House afraid of what might happen if the truth is learned about a local election? This is one article in a series about elections in the countries fourth most populous county. There will be more coming about Maricopa County, Arizona. Link

#4 Colorado – Elections administration errors, including ballot printing errors, were reported in many counties. Sequoia’s ballot printing plant is taking the blame for many printing errors across the country. This was also on last week's list. Link Link Link

#3 Pennsylvania - The state rejects the Unilect Patriot voting system again. Is the third time a charm? Link

#2 Nebraska and Wyoming – Both states select ES&S to provide optical scan voting systems with ballot marking devices (AutoMark). Nebraska is state-wide while Wyoming is a large majority of the state’s counties. Link Link Link

#1 Georgia - A federal court backs the order suspending voter ID in Georgia. Voters in Georgia will not be forced to use restrictive voter ID cards that are designed only to keep voters from the polls. No one in Georgia has been able to show any evidence that a voter ID card will solve any voter fraud situation or that there is even a problem to be solved. Link


Commentary

A Year of Paying Attention
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

For many of us, November 2, 2004 was an alarm bell that called on us to recognize the fundamental importance of fair and transparent elections to democracy. We also recognized the threat to that democracy posed by unverifiable, error-prone voting machines, corporate and partisan influence on election administration, and the manipulation of election laws and regulations for political advantage.

Needless to say, after the 2000 election debacle many were already well aware of the vulnerability our election process, but November 2nd was a wake up call to action for thousands more. Perhaps because the mainstream media turned away so quickly from the questions that arose from the 2004 election, many realized that they needed to become personally involved in preserving democracy.

In the past year, concerned citizens across the country have organized state and local election integrity groups. They’ve joined in discussions on list serves, blogs, and message boards. They’ve attended local and national election reform conference and seminars and participated in county and state voting system hearings. They’ve lobbied their state and federal representatives. They’ve waded through legislation and HAVA plans and RFPs and absorbed academic studies and reports from government agencies. They’ve paid attention.

And it’s made a difference. It has been a year of successes and disappointments. Genuine election reform bills have passed in many states and election officials voting machine vendors no longer quietly cut deals without public scrutiny. But there is much more to be done to ensure confidence in the accuracy and security of future elections. Democracy is counting on us!

National Stories

Election Day 2005: Not Just a Bunch of Little Old Ladies - The Importance of Being a Pollworker
by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA

With many states holding elections next week, it is a good time to consider the critical role pollworkers play in supporting the right to vote and in getting the vote counted accurately. In this article, long-time pollworker Marybeth Kuznik of VotePA discusses some of the issues facing those who work in the polls, the national shortage of pollworkers, and what it means for an Election Integrity activist to become a pollworker and help voters in the polling place. There is still time before November 8th - you still have time to be a pollworker!
If you ever voted at a polling place you probably met and talked to at least one pollworker when you signed in to vote. You may have wondered, who are these people? How do they get chosen for the job? What it is that these folks really do while sitting around the voting room? You may have even had a passing thought about what it would be like to become one of these officials.

Pollworkers are found everywhere. Even in Oregon, where they vote by mail, citizens still assist on election boards and help process ballots as they come in. Different states may call them Judge of Elections, Inspector of Elections, Clerk, Machine Operator, even Deputy in some areas, but all these workers are sworn officials who are in our polling places to operate and control our elections on the local level. Pollworkers have incredible access to the entire voting process, and they are an important component of our electoral system. Read the Entire Article

News From Around the States

Arizona: Election Fraud – Chicago? Florida? Ohio? Not This Time
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

How about Maricopa County, Arizona - the fourth most populous county in the United States? Yes, sunny, laid back Arizona. It seems that the results of the September 7, 2004 Republican primary have Republicans challenging Republicans in the state legislature and in the media. Also emerging are reports that county jail inmates were being used to handle ballots in exchange for early release.

In an article in the Phoenix New Times, reporter John Dougherty tells a tale of seeming election fraud, a quid pro quo offer, new votes that appear like magic, failure by an assistant county attorney to serve a subpoena, political pressure, and one hell of a mess. Read the Entire Article

California: Voters in Nine Counties Urged to "Get It On Paper"
from California Voter Foundation

With the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot fast approaching, the California Voter Foundation is urging voters in nine electronic voting counties to "Get it on paper." That's because these nine counties - Alameda, Merced, Napa, Orange, Plumas, Riverside, Santa Clara, Shasta, and Tehama -- will be using paperless, electronic voting machines in polling places on November 8.

"Studies continue to find that electronic voting machines are prone to error," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization advancing paper backups and public auditing of computerized vote counts. A recently published U.S. Government Accountability Office report found numerous security problems with electronic voting systems, and recommended the use of voter-verified paper audit trails, as did the Carter-Baker Commission on Federal Election Reform.

Citing security concerns and an inability to conduct meaningful audits of election results on the paperless systems, Alexander said voters in the nine e-voting counties should immediately request an absentee ballot from their county elections office. Read the Entire Press Release

Colorado: Secretary of State Asked to Withdraw Proposed Election Rule
from Citizens for Accurate Mail Ballot Election Results


Colorado Secretary of State Gigi Dennis has been asked to withdraw a proposed election rule scheduled for hearing on Monday, October 31st. The proposed rule, Rule 45, would establish standards for the certification of voting equipment. Security and computer professionals who criticize the rule say they have identified illustrative problems and described specific actions that they would like to see taken.

“Voting systems certified under this rule will disenfranchise voters, prevent transparency, and produce untrustworthy elections,” according to Al Kolwicz, executive director of Citizens for Accurate Mail Ballot Election Results (CAMBER). "It is vital to the citizens of Colorado that this rule be withdrawn, the hearing cancelled, and Emergency Rule 45 be withdrawn. It is vital that the Secretary of State immediately establish an open and bi-directional process to create a secure, accurate, verifiable and transparent election system to serve the people."

Public comment on the rule is solicited at a hearing on Monday October 31. Hearing materials are published on the Secretary of State’s website. CAMBER’s comment letter to Secretary of State Dennis is published on our Blog. Further commentary on the proposed rule can be found here.

Nebraska: Another State Keeps Their Paper Ballots
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

Nebraska has joined the growing list of states deciding to stay all paper. On October 25, Secretary of State John Gale announced that the state would purchase ballot marking devices to comply with disabled accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), allowing the state to retain its paper ballot system. Each polling site in the state will be equipped with a device called an Automark that will allow voters with disabilities to vote privately and without assistance on the same optical scan ballots used by other voters . According to news reports, the equipment got the blessing of an advisory group that included representatives of disability-related organizations. The Automark was demonstrated at the National Federation for the Blind Nebraska convention in September.

"While some states have converted 100 percent to electronic machines for voters to cast ballots, Nebraska has chosen to continue to base its election system on the paper ballot," Gale commented in a news report after the announcement. "A paper-ballot system has a lot of advantages," Gale continued, "it's reliable and cost-effective, voters find it easy to use, and the ability to conduct accurate recounts is preserved."
Read the Entire Article

New York: Good News/Bad News from the Empire State
from New Yorkers for Verified Voting

The New York State Legislature finally approved the „Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005š on June 20, 2005, the last day of the 2005 legislative session. The good news was that the Act calls for a voter verified paper ballot (VVPB) as well as a 3% audit. The bad news was that the final power to choose among „voting machines or systemsš approved by the state board of elections was given to the county boards of elections. This means that both New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the state League of Women Voters are fighting an uphill battle on the county as well as state levels for the paper ballot-optical scan system. Why „uphillš? People do not understand that the VVPB does not solve all security problems with DREs. Read the Entire Report

Pennsylvania: Ex-Felon Disenfranchisement and Voter ID on Senate Agenda
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

The Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee has placed HB 1318 on the agenda for their meeting on Tuesday November 1st. Just before the bill passed out of the State Assembly on June 28, two amendments were added that radically changed HB 1318. If the bill is passed and signed, these amendments would have the effect of disenfranchising millions of Pennsylvanians.

An amendment introduced by Rep. Steven Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware) would change state law to prohibit ex-felons from voting while they are on probation or parole. Around the country manystates are taking steps to phase out archaic and discriminatory laws that disenfranchise felons. It is discouraging to see Pennsylvania considering a big step backwards at a time when other states are extending the franchise. Current Pennsylvania law is similar to the law of Pennsylvania's neighbors Maryland and Ohio as well as other big states like Illinois, Massachusetts and Michigan.

Another amendment, introduced by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), would require every voter to show photo identification at every election. Unlike current law which requires only new voters to show photo identification, the Metcalfe amendment would require long time voters to bring photo identification with them to the polling place in order to exercise their right to vote. There is absolutely no evidence that such a cumbersome procedure is needed in Pennsylvania. This is a drastic solution in search of a non-existent problem. Read the Entire Press Release

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

Washington: Diebold's Proprietary Barcode
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

Last week, I attended a public hearing to discuss proposed Secretary of State agency rules for the handling of the voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) ballots during the legislated audits and during required hand recounts. It is apparent, after talking to Diebold representatives last July and after reviewing and discussing the new agency rules, that Diebold will be providing a proprietary bar code reader to be used for reading the proprietary barcodes on the VVPAT during audits and recounts. The issue is not necessarily that a bar code reader will be used. The issue is that the bar code software will be proprietary and thus a trade secret of Diebold.

When I was told by the Diebold representative that their bar code software was proprietary, my first reaction was to ask, “Why?” He told me that it was for security reasons. They did not want anyone to be able to use a commercial off the shelf bar code reader to read how other voters voted. That does not make sense since all of the ballots on the Diebold printer are hidden from view and the bar code sits beside the plain-language ballot that the voter verifies. I mentioned this to the representative and he immediately said, “You’re right; it’s not for security reasons.” He would say no more on the subject.

So why is the bar code software proprietary? There can only be two reasons. The most logical is that Diebold wants to force counties to buy more equipment, and they can charge a lot of money for a bar code reader that no one would otherwise need. The second potential reason is that Diebold does not intend to have the bar code represent the voter’s printed and verified ballot;, but that it would represent what the machine records. So, if the readable printout differed from the machine record, this would help to ensure there were no differences between the machine tally and the audited tally. Read the Entire Letter

Upcoming Events

Ohio: "One Year Later - Voting Rights in Ohio"

An event is scheduled at the New Faith Baptist Church, 955 Oak St. in Columbus that is free and open to the public. There will be a presentation of videos that were produced about the Freedom Bus Ride and trip to Washington, in which many local people are all the stars! Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman will speak about the events of the past year and there will be a discussion of the upcoming election and the four election reforms on the ballot. There will also be a tribute to the Rev. Bill Moss. For more information email Ohio Free Press.

November 8th is Election Day in Most States

A majority of states in the nation are holding elections on November 8th. Gubernatorial elections are being held in New Jersey and Virginia and a controversial special election for several statewide initiatives will take place in California. Be sure to go to the polls, make sure your friends vote, and consider volunteering as a pollworker - democracy needs all of us.

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. Also visit United Voters of New Mexico and Verified Voting 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

Corporate Control of Voting Equipment Certification
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

Editor's Note: This article was first published on the VoteTrustUSA website on June 2, 2005. The questions it raises continue to be critical as more states are making decisions about voting systems in advance of the January 1, 2006 HAVA deadlines.

The voting systems qualification and certification process is broken. The vendors appear to manipulate the system in order to be certified by an Independent Testing Authority (ITA). A quick look at the voting systems that have been qualified this year shows that a vast majority of the hardware and firmware is only certified to the 1990 standards; while some of the software has been qualified to the newer and more stringent 2002 standards. This process of qualification seems to be almost capricious, as though it is done to the benefit of the vendors.

A good example of this broken process is seen in the events surrounding the qualification and certification of the new Sequoia VeriVote Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) printer. Sequoia developed this new add-on to their Sequoia AVC Edge electronic voting machine under pressure from the state of Nevada. The new printer was qualified, as part of a complete system, by an ITA, and the National Association of State Elections Directors gave Sequoia its “System ID Number” on October 24, 2004. The problem is that there are not now, and never have been, any standards developed by the Federal Elections Commission or the Technical Guidelines Development Committee for qualifying a VVPAT printer. And, instead of turning to the newer, more stringent, 2002 standards, Sequoia chose to qualify their printer system hardware and firmware to the older 1990 standards. Read the Entire Article
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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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