Election Integrity News - November 7, 2007

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In this issue ...

National Stories

Time Magazine: Voting Out E-Voting Machines

Rep. Holt Appaluds Senators Neslon and Whitehouse for Introducing Companion to his Voting Bill

Election Audit Summit Brings Together Statisticians, Election Officials, and Advocates

Risks of E-Voting

A Case of the Wrong Technology Applied Incorrectly

It's Not Fraud, It's Alienated Voters

High Court to Ponder Question Plauging Voters: "Got ID?"

Rep. Ellison Would Ban Photo ID Requirement for Voting

News From Around the States

California: San Francisco Charges Voting Company With Breach Of Contract

Colorado: 9,800 Votes Left in Denver

Delaware Provides Polling Place Information Using Google Maps

Louisianans Head to Polls for First Major Statewide Election Since Katrina

New Poll Shows Maryland Voters Favor Funding a Switch to Paper Ballots by More Than 2 to 1

Ohio: Cuyahoga's Electronic System Falters Even in Low-key Poll

Vote-Counting Woes in Northeast Pennsylvania

Wisconsin: No Backups of Election Records

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Nelson and Whitehouse Introduce Bill That Would Prohibit DREs in 2012
by Warren Stewart, VerifiedVoting.org

Download S. 2295

Senators Bill Nelson (F-FL) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) have introduced legislation (S. 2295) that would eliminate the use of direct recording electronic voting machines beginning in 2012. The bill, a modified version of The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt in the House (as HR 811) and Senator Nelson in the Senate (as S 559) in February, reflects many of the changes made in HR 811 as it was reported out of the Committee on House Administration last May.

The legislation was filed by Sens. Nelson and Whitehouse, following a meeting Nelson had with Florida’s chief elections overseer Kurt Browning. Florida’s secretary of state, Browning, met with Nelson and other lawmakers in the nation’s capital last Thursday. “The bottom line is we have to ensure every vote is counted – and, counted properly,” Nelson said.  “Citizens must have confidence in the integrity of their elections.”

The bill was modeled in part on Florida’s recently enacted initiative to prohibit touch screen voting machines, reflects new concerns about the security, accessibility, and reliability of touch screen voting machines raised in studies undertaken by state officials in California, Kentucky, Florida and elsewhere. In particular, the California Secretary of State's "Top to Bottom" Review undertaken earlier this year demonstrated severe security vulnerabilities vulnerabilities in all the direct recording electronic voting machines studied.

In addition to mandating improvements in voting equipment, the bill would require random post-election audits to verify the accuracy of electronic vote totals and probit the use of wireless communication devices and undisclosed voting systems software and source code in voting machines. It also preserves and enhances the accessibility requirements of the Help America Vote Act, requiring that all voting machines provide voters with disabilities the opportunity to verify the accuracy of a permanent paper record of their vote. S. 2295 would also require every voter to be given the option of voting on a paper ballot beginning with the general election of 2008.

In his floor speech on the introduction of S. 2295, Senator Nelson noted that Florida had already moved decisively to prohibit direct recording electronic voting machines. "Florida not only provides a model for what can be done to increase our confidence in the integrity of elections, it provides a model for how to do it - on a bipartisan basis, with the support of election offiials, voting integrity groups and, most importantly, the millions of voters in my state who have a constitutional right to vote and want tp be sure that their votes are counted - and counted accurately."

VerifiedVoting.org and VoteTrustUSA strongly endorse S. 2295 and encourage all Senators to support this important legislative initiative.

Permalink

 

Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA, the leading election integrity organizations in the U.S., are delighted to announce that VoteTrustUSA will be folded into the Verified Voting Foundation's operation on December 1, 2007. Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA share complementary missions and have worked in close cooperation since 2005.

VoteTrustUSA provides information, education, analysis, and consultation to state and county election integrity organizations, the media, and the public at large, and has developed a national, non-partisan network of state-based Election Integrity groups across the country. VoteTrustUSA has a strong record of raising awareness of issues related to electronic voting and advocating for improvements to the election process, supported by the VoteTrustUSA website and newsletter. These are key resources for news and information about the decision makers and institutions that shape election reform policy in the country, and will be maintained by Verified Voting Foundation. VoteTrustUSA’s work of coordinating and assisting election integrity groups nationwide to increase the accuracy, accountability, accessibility and transparency of elections and on the local, state and federal levels will continue under the banner of Verified Voting.

National Stories

Time Magazine: Voting Out E-Voting Machines
by Tim Padgett, Time Magazine - November 4, 2007

It is hard to believe now what a darling touch-screen voting was seven years ago. After the Florida presidential vote recount debacle — which made traditional paper voting, especially the infamous "butterfly" ballots and hanging chads, look positively Third World — electronic voting was embraced as the way back from America's electoral humiliation. Some 50,000 touch-screen machines were bought in 37 states at a cost of almost a quarter of a billion dollars.

The reversal since then couldn't be more stunning — as indicated by a bill in Congress introduced this past week by Florida Senator Bill Nelson and Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, which would ban touch-screen voting (also known as direct recording electronic voting, or DRE) in federal elections starting in 2012. "We have to start setting a goal on this," Nelson tells TIME. "Voters have to feel confident that their ballot will count as intended."

After the initial excitement, it didn't take long for voters to lose trust in the new system, as they increasingly deemed DRE too complex, unreliable and insecure; the only thing worse than a confusing paper trail, it turned out, was no paper trail at all. (It didn't help that the main touch-screen machine supplier, Diebold, was widely accused in 2004 of ties to the Republican Party.) Fifteen Florida counties adopted touch-screen as well, and they learned the pitfalls of it the hard way, dealing with controversies like a 2006 congressional race in the Sarasota district, where an astonishing 15% of the ballots cast registered no choice at all — in a race that was decided by a razor-thin margin of 386 votes.

As a result, Florida Republican Governor Charlie Crist moved immediately after his January inauguration to scrap e-voter machines and return the state to paper by 2008 — to what he and most voter-rights advocates call the more trustworthy optical scan system. In that method, votes are marked on a sheet (which is retained for auditing purposes) and then electronically scanned. That system got a boost late last year when the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, issued a highly critical assessment of touch-screen in favor of optical scanning." I get a receipt when I go to the bank or get gas," Crist told TIME, urging voting methods that provide a paper trail, "so why not for the most precious thing we have, the vote?"

Read the Entire Article at Time.com 

Rep. Holt Applauds Senators Nelson and Whitehouse for Introducing Companion to his Voting Bill
by Rep. Rush Holt Press Release - November 2, 2007

Legislation Would Mandate Voter-Verified Paper Ballots and Routine Random Audits

Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today thanked Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island for introducing an updated Senate version of his legislation to require voting systems to produce a voter-verified paper ballot and mandate routine random audits.

"Senators Nelson and Whitehouse deserve credit for recognizing the need to give Americans confidence that elections are accurate and verifiable. I look forward to working with them to pass this legislation in Congress and send it to the President for his signature. Congress shouldn't wait to protect voters' rights, ensure the accuracy of elections, and increase the confidence of our citizens in their electoral system," Holt said.

Earlier this year, the Committee on House Administration approved the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act (H.R. 811). Holt is working with House Leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

Election Audit Summit Brings Together Statisticians, Election Officials, and Advocates
by Pamela Smith, Verified Voting Foundation - November 7, 2007

As one of six co-sponsoring organizations, Verified Voting Foundation is very pleased to announce that the Post-Election Auditing Summit was a success that surpassed the considerable hopes of the team that put it together (American Statistical Association, Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, Common Cause, Florida Voters Coalition, and Verified Voting Foundation). At present, while some three-fourths of the states have passed requirements for voter-verified paper ballots -- or obtained voter-verified paper ballot systems even without a requirement to do so -- only about one fourth of all states are doing any audits at all. Yet audits provide an essential safety check by allowing vote counts to be publicly validated.

The organizers of this event saw an opportunity to help improve this situation, and worked to pull together 100 participants, eight panels, and much lively discussion over three days in Minneapolis. The result was lots of good energy, creative ideas, and a spirit of collegial information sharing, with attendees from twenty states, including top state election officials from several states, as well as local election officials from a number of states, and the Vice-Chair of the Election Assistance Commission - and just about everyone actively participated.

Though distinct perspectives were presented on some aspects of how audits can and should be done, the Summit seemed to nurture mutual understanding between the state and local election officials, academic experts from statistics, computer science, and political science, and election integrity advocates who participated. The agenda can be viewed here.

Read the Entire Article

Risks of E-Voting
by David Wagner and Matt Bishop, for ACM - November 5, 2007

Electronic voting has spread throughout the U.S. and the world without sufficient attention to reliability, security, or transparency. Today's e-voting systems use proprietary code, and vendors have often asserted the confidentiality of this code when independent reviews of certified systems were requested. This confidentiality conflicts with the transparency required for public elections.

In order to provide an independent assessment of the voting systems certified for use in California, Secretary of State Debra Bowen initiated a top-to-bottom review of those e-voting systems. She asked us to recruit a team of experts and gave us access to all the equipment, source code, and technical information that the Secretary of State's office had.

The results showed that the systems appeared not to be designed or implemented with security in mind. The design and implementation ignored basic security principles, and we found serious security vulnerabilities in all three vendors' systems. The security flaws were systemic and surprisingly similar across the three systems.

For example, malicious code could exploit vulnerabilities in the voting software to spread virally from machine to machine. As a result, when the voting machines return results to election central to count the votes, a virus could infect the county's election management systems. At the next election, the infected election management systems could then infect every voting machine in the county.

This virus could be introduced at several points in the process. An attacker could tamper with an e-voting machine while it is stored unattended over-night in a polling place. For some of the systems, a voter could introduce malicious code in under a minute, while voting.

Read the Entire Article at the ACM Digital Library 

A Case of the Wrong Technology Applied Incorrectly
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University - October 26, 2007

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

In this week's Economist magazine, an article describes how the Swiss general election that was held on October 21 was to use quantum cryptography to protect the transmission of votes from the polling stations to the central tabulation centers. Quoting from the article:

I first became aware of this project when a New Scientist reporter sent me a note about it and asked for my opinion. I assumed that it was a joke or that the reporter had heard wrong. After all, protecting electronic transmissions is the one problem I can think of in all of this that is not really hard. Here are some of the problems in electronic voting that are hard.

Read the Entire Article

It's Not Fraud, It's Alienated Voters
by James Sample, politico.com - October 30, 2007

Branch Rickey, the legendary baseball executive who signed Jackie Robinson, said luck is the residue of design. When it comes to managing voter registration, bad luck — in the form of a fundamental right arbitrarily denied — is the residue of misperceived risk, poor design and even worse execution.

Misperceived risk: voter fraud

Americans are quite familiar with imperfect election administration. Human errors by election officials, technological glitches, voter intimidation and missing ballot boxes occur somewhere, in some election, approximately as often as it rains. 

Proponents of laws that do not address these irregularities but that do result in substantial disenfranchisement of legitimate voters, market a misnomer and conflate the above problems with “voter fraud.” 

But voter fraud they are not. Voter fraud, to the extent it exists at all, involves real people casting ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote. 

As a practical matter, voter fraud involves extraordinary criminal risk, including prison and fines, for almost zero personal gain. 

Unsurprisingly, exacting scrutiny of the 2004 election in Ohio revealed a possible voter fraud rate of 0.00004 percent. Americans are more likely to be struck by lightning. Granted, lightning does strike, but we’re not yet ready to pass legislation requiring a dome for the planet.

Read the Entire Article at Politico.com 

High Court to Ponder Question Plaguing Voters: "Got ID?"
by Tova Andrea Wang, The Century Foundation - October 26, 2007

This article was posted at The Century Foundation and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The United States Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case regarding the constitutionality of Indiana’s strictest-in-the-nation voter identification law. Indiana currently requires every voter to present government-issued photo identification at the polls or be barred from voting. One of the main arguments made by the defenders of the law, in this case and in other identification litigation, is that there is a lack of data showing that voter identification requirements suppress voting or disproportionately impact particular groups.

Memo to Supreme Court: that’s not true anymore.

Over the past few years, several studies have demonstrated that minorities, the poor, young people, voters with disabilities, and older people are much less likely to have the necessary identification. For some courts and voter identification proponents, this has not been deemed sufficient.

In just the past few weeks, however, some of the more respected political scientists in this field have issued reports using established social science methodologies demonstrating that identification laws do impact turnout negatively, and disproportionately impact already-marginalized groups. First, a report by Michael Alvarez, Delia Bailey, and Jonathan Katz and released by the California Institute of Technology finds definitively that strict voter identification laws have a “negative impact on the participation of registered voters” relative to other methods of verifying identity, such as a signature match. Indeed, they find the negative impact to be “significant.” Moreover, the study finds that poorer and less-educated voters are substantially more likely to be deterred from voting by strict voter identification than the rest of the electorate. Read the Entire Article

Rep. Ellison Would Ban Photo ID Requirement for Voting
by Rep. Keith Ellison Press Release - November 4, 2007

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minneapolis) has introduced legislation that would ban the use of photo identification as a requirement for voting in federal elections.

“In America, our right to vote is a sacred right, and a moral obligation,” Ellison stated. “We must do everything that encourages, fosters and facilitates everyone’s ability to exercise that right. While photo ids seem harmless, they are in fact – the modern day poll tax,” Ellison said. Poll taxes were used extensively throughout the South from Reconstruction through the Jim Crow era to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Black voters. In 1964, Congress ratified the 24th Amendment which banned poll taxes.

The requirement for photo ids in federal elections can impose a burdensome requirement and ultimately disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of voters, particularly low-income, communities of color, senior citizens, women and young people.

Recently, the Chief of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Voting Rights Division, John Tanner confirmed this when stating: “It's probably true that among those who don't [have Photo ID], it's primarily elderly persons. And that's a shame. Of course...our society is such that minorities don't become elderly. The way that white people do. They die first."
Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

California: San Francisco Charges Voting Company With Breach Of Contract
by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera Press Release - November 7, 2007

Blaming Embattled Voting Systems Vendor for 'Undue Hardship and Unnecessary Costs' in Election, Notice of Default Could Result in Litigation Within Two Weeks

Joined by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin and Department of Elections Director John Arntz at a City Hall press conference today, City Attorney Dennis Herrera (pictured at right) issued a notice of default to the City's voting systems vendor, charging Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software, Inc. with material breach of contract, and initiating a process that could result in civil
litigation within two weeks. Herrera's six-page notice to ES&S President and CEO Aldo Tesi details numerous misrepresentations and breaches of contract by the vendor that have caused San Francisco "undue hardship and unnecessary costs in administering the November 6, 2007 election."

"We are putting ES&S on notice that we expect the company to meet its obligations and to pay all costs associated with its past failures to do so-or I am prepared to aggressively litigate the City's rights under its contract," Herrera. "The notice of default we are sending today details a history of misrepresentations and breaches that have imposed unprecedented difficulties on this City in conducting its election."

With the outcome of numerous ballot measures likely to remain uncertain for weeks, Department of Elections employees must count ballot cards for 24 hours a day for at least a week after election day, so that results can be reported within time limits required by state law.

Read the Entire Press Release

Colorado: 9,800 votes left in Denver
by Kieran Nicholson and Chuck Plunkett, The Denver Post - November 7, 2007

Denver election officials said this afternoon they had 9,800 ballots still to count after at least 90,000 of the mail-in ballots were collected. Newly elected clerk and recorder Stephanie O'Malley said she hoped to have the votes counted tonight, but didn't promise that the process won't extend into tomorrow.

Part of the problem, O'Malley said, was that the machines which read the ballots kicked back nearly 5,000 ballots because of erased and redrawn votes. Those ballots have to examined by officials and, by law, the voter's intent has to be determined and entered into a new ballot that can then be fed into the machine.

Officials had expected about 35 percent voter turnout and instead say about 47 percent of eligible voters turned in ballots. Late last night, about 20 members of Denver's SWAT team were called in to relieve volunteers who were too tired to go on counting.

Read the Entire Article at The Denver Post 

Delaware Provides Polling Place Information Using Google Maps
Delaware Commissioner of Elections - November 1, 2007

The Delaware Commissioner of Elections and the Government Information Center (GIC), an agency of the Department of State, have recently launched a new Internet tool aimed at helping voters find their polling places. Using the popular interactive mapping interface Google Maps, voters can now see the location of their polling place and obtain directions to and from that location.

"We need to continually improve and expand the ways in which we present information to the public," said Governor Ruth Ann Minner, who has been a strong proponent of e-government. "Coordination between state agencies is key to our success in that effort, and this initiative is an example of that collaboration."

Residents in the 14th Senate District will be the first to be able to use the new service in preparation for the November 3rd special election. The polling place map is the newest product of a pilot program that GIC recently launched with a number of its agency partners to better utilize the technology available through Google Maps and Google Earth.

"This is just the first step for us," said Commissioner of Elections Elaine Manlove. "Our plan is to have interactive polling place maps available for the entire state in 2008."

In addition to the polling place map, the pilot project has also yielded a comprehensive online map of all of Delaware's public schools and one that displays the locations of the state's historical markers, with links to the text of each marker and a photo of the site.

Louisianans Head to Polls for First Major Statewide Election Since Katrina
by M. Mindy Moretti, electionline.org - October 2, 2007

Election preparation is business-as-usual, although thousands vote early and absentee

This article appeared in the electionline newsletter and is repostd here with permission of the author. 

For the first time since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast in late 2005, residents of Louisiana will head to the polls on October 20 for a statewide election to cast their ballot for positions including governor, members of the state legislature and local elections.

In 2005, the Secretary of State's office undertook a massive voter outreach program to ensure that every displaced voter had an opportunity to cast a ballot in the Orleans Parish elections nine months after the hurricanes. Although the office continues to update its Web site, advertise election dates and provide toll free voter assistance there was not an all-over mobilization effort for this election.

According to Elections Commissioner Angie LaPlace, the state did continue to help Orleans Parish and others work to train and retain election commissioners from outside the area and the Secretary of State secured pay raises for commissioners as an incentive to return for future election.

The 2005 election in Orleans Parish saw a necessary launch of vote centers; however, for this election the parish has returned to largely neighborhood polling places. Some polling places still combine as many as 15 precincts, but nothing like the 50 or so that were combined in 2005. In St. Bernard Parish all precincts have been combined into five locations. Read the Entire Article

New Poll Shows Maryland Voters Favor Funding a Switch to Paper Ballots by More Than 2 to 1
SaveOurVotes.org Press Release - October 23, 2007

Gonzales Survey Results Reveal 3 to 1 Support Among Some Demographic Groups

Download Survey Report

As the state legislature prepares for a special budget session to begin next week, a new poll released today shows overwhelming support among Maryland voters for funding the switch away from paperless electronic voting machines.

Conducted by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies last week, the telephone survey found that 64% of voters statewide think that Governor O’Malley should fund the change from touch-screen voting machines to a system that uses paper ballots counted by optical scanners.

Survey participants were asked: “Last spring Maryland's General Assembly voted unanimously to switch from touch screen voting machines to a less expensive system that uses paper ballots counted by optical scanners. This would ensure that votes are recorded as voters intend, and make recounts possible. The change will happen in 2010, but only if funded in next year's budget. Do you think the Governor should, or should not, provide funding for this change?”   

The survey revealed particularly strong support in some demographic groups, with 75% of Independents, 74% of Democrats, and 71% of African Americans favoring funding the switch. A majority of voters in every region of the state endorse the change. Read the Entire Press Release

Ohio: Cuyahoga's Electronic System Falters Even in Low-key Poll
by Joe Guillen, Cleveland Plain Dealer. - November 7, 2007

Late-night computer glitches had Cuyahoga County wobbling to the end of Tuesday's election. The vote was the kind of low-turnout, ballot-lite poll perfect to test Cuyahoga's electronic system -- one that's guaranteed to be among the most-watched during next year's presidential election.

But a 20-minute shutdown slowed counting around 9:30 p.m. Then a half-hour crash around 10:40 p.m. stalled tabulations again. At that point, the board changed its procedures and backed up its vote totals every 45 minutes. By 11:30 p.m., about 43 percent of precincts were counted.

Cuyahoga County Elections Director Jane Platten said she didn't know why earlier simulations of the machines hadn't detected the glitch, which was the same for each shutdown. The simulations are no substitute for the real thing, she said.

Even after the first shutdown, Platten said the county's performance was a good sign for the 2008 elections. "If today was next year, I'd be very happy," she said before the second crash. "Because the issues that were presented to us today we were able to handle quickly, and they were resolvable in an efficient manner."

Turnout was less than 15 percent of actual voters, as only a smattering of candidates and issues were on most local ballots. While things started smoothly at most polls, it was hard to judge how Cuyahoga managed the day.

Read the Entire Article at Cleveland.com 

Vote-Counting Woes in Northeast Pennsylvania
by Marybeth Kuznik, VotePA - November 7, 2007

Lackawanna County finds that one size does not fit all when it comes to Optical Scanners

Shortly before a 5 PM eastern deadline, votes were still being counted in the northeast Pennsylvania city of Scranton today, as officials there learned that renting twenty small precinct-level scanners to centrally count ballots for a county of nearly 150,000 registered voters makes for a very, very long and slow count to find out who won their election.

At 4 PM, approximately twenty hours after the polls closed in Lackawanna County’s November 6 election, only a little more than three-quarters of the ballots had been counted. As the 5 PM deadline passed, leading candidates held a news conference declaring victory even though the count was not finished.

Lackawanna County’s problems stemmed from a decision to lease twenty Premier (Diebold) AccuVote OS precinct scanners to handle central counting of ballots as a temporary voting system when the county’s AVS WINvote touchscreen system that had its Pennsylvania certification suspended.

Read the Entire Article

Wisconsin: No Backups of Election Records
by John Washburn - October 26, 2007

This article appeared on Washburn's World and is reposted here with permission of the author.

For 19 years (since the passage of 1987Act391) Wisconsin law has required election officials to make backups of the electronic records found on the removable memory cards of voting equipment. The specific statute, WI Stats. 7.23(1)(g) reads:

    7.23(1)(g) Detachable recording units and compartments for use with electronic voting machines may be cleared or erased 14 days after any primary and 21 days after any other election. Before clearing or erasing the units or compartments, a municipal clerk shall transfer the data contained in the units or compartments to a disk or other recording medium which may be erased or destroyed 22 months after the election to which the data relates.
I have been given a number of excuses over the last two years as to why required election records have not been created. The excuses are many and varied, but are all variations on the theme:
    "But, this is a new (procedure/form/requirement). The election officials are not used to following the new (law/regulation/recommendation)."
Read the Entire Article

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