Election Integrity News - November 14, 2005

This Week's Quote: "Representatives from Sequoia Voting Systems, the electronic voting system company, will verify the results later this week. The final tally will be made official Monday." Salem County New Jersey Board of Elections

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Actions to Take Now

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977

Wisconsin: Urge the Senate to Pass AB 627 Now!


In this issue ...

Commentary
A Report from Precinct 204300

National Stories
Today We Have Two Choices: Fix the System, or Don't Bother to Vote

News From Around the States
Connecticut: Election Integrity Organization Critical of State's Voting Machine RFP

New Mexico: Election Officials Try to Block Machine Inspections

Ohio: Alarming Comparisons of Pre-Election Polls and Official Results for Reform Ohio Now Initiatives

Pennsylvania: State Senator Williams Denounces Voter ID Bill

Wisconsin: Assembly Passes AB 627 by 91-4 Vote

Upcoming Events

Pennsylvania: Nov. 19 - Will My Vote Still Be Counted?

Virginia: Nov. 21 - Legislative Hearing on Voter Verified Paper Trails

California: Nov. 28-29 Voting System Testing Summit

Previous Issues
November 7, 2005
October 31, 2005
October 25, 2005
October 18, 2005

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

There is really only one issue this week so “The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News” will only cover one story; this past week’s election. And what a story it is.

On one hand you have Diebold (link) joining Ohio’s Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell (link) as they pat themselves on the back for a very successful election. While at the same time, Diebold admits to failures (link )in some Ohio counties and those failures were only a small part of the problems in Ohio and elsewhere.

Voters across the nation are complaining about touch screen voting and miscalibration problems. There were numerous reports of voters finding a candidate already voted on the screen or having their selection swapped to another candidate/issue. And yet election officials and the vendors blame problems on the voters and poll workers.

In Cumberland County, PA ES&S software gave all Democrat straight party votes to the Republican candidate while no one got the Republican straight party votes (link ). In Elizabeth City, VA 42 voters went to the polls to vote for mayor, the only race on the ballot; signed-in, went to the machines to vote and walked away without voting (link). Hudson County, NJ reported that they were still counting ballots 48 hours after the election because voter cartridges were left in the machines sent back to the warehouse. Their digital readers also failed almost immediately and Sequoia Voting cannot replace them until the week following election week (link).

In the Montgomery County part of Carlisle, OH there are 148 registered voters. However, the county counted 225 votes for a tax levy (link). In Hidalgo County, TX voters were outraged at the lack of privacy when using the county’s new ES&S iVotronic DREs (link).

Meanwhile in Ohio, Secretary Blackwell must have had his head buried in the sand as counties across the state reported failures on Diebold Op-Scan machines that the vendor admits were not sufficiently tested.

While this recent election was NOT a complete success and while there are many reported instances of machine failures and inadequacies, state elections officials are ignoring those failures as they scurry to purchase the latest technology so they can stand with J. Kenneth and play like Nero as their states’ elections go down in flames.

For a list of Election Day Incidents click here.



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Commentary

A Report from Precinct 204300
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

Elections take place in polling places and it is in polling places that an individual informed citizen, concerned about the accuracy and security of the election process, can make a difference. I served proudly as poll inspector for Precinct 204300 in Berkeley (Alameda County), California on November 8th. Alameda was one of nine counties in the state that used paperless DREs one more time before the requirement for a voter verified paper audit trail goes into effect next year.

But my precinct was not entirely paperless.

What made this polling place different from most was that every voter, after signing the roster, was given the option (by me) of voting on an optical scan paper ballot or on a Diebold touch screen machine. This option, available to every California voter in counties that use DREs, came as a surprise to most and the range of responses was informative. Many made their decisions immediately (almost a third chose paper), but many asked questions. Most importantly, every voter was in the precinct was presented with the issue of voting technology.

While I was careful to stay factual and not express an opinion one way or another about the two voting options, if a voter asked questions I did provide answers. On a couple occasions voters wanted to know about the status of the Diebold TS and I explained that indeed this was the machine (with the VVPAT printer) that had been de-certified by the Secretary of State of California - for 2006. I also explained to several voters that the paper ballots would be scanned by a machine initially but would be available for later visual examination.

As a poll worker I was in a position to act as a safeguard against at least some of the random disenfranchisement that takes place in every election. The most important lesson I took away from my experience was the importance of having election integrity activists and citizens informed about the issues surrounding voting technology serving as official poll workers. So often it seems we are unable as individuals to have an impact on the election process. By serving as a poll worker you can make a difference. For more information about pollworking contact your local election official and visit www.pollworker.us.

National Stories

Today We Have Two Choices: Fix the System, or Don't Bother to Vote
by Guy Sturino, The Sturino Perspective

You are a good citizen. You find out all you can about the important political issues. You research candidates. You put signs in your yard and stickers on your car to encourage others to see your side. You contribute time and money to political campaigns. You brave weather and long lines to be sure that you cast your ballot on election day. You have performed an important, probably the most important, civic duty. All is well with the world.

Or, is it? The reality is, with the advent of electronic voting machines without a voter verified paper trail, you don‚t know today how your vote was counted in the last election.

Before you cry foul, or insist that this can‚t be true, or worse yet – that this is no more than the raving of a sore looser liberal, I encourage you to investigate the reports from two organizations, the General Accountability Office (GAO), and The National Election Data Archive (NEDA), a nonprofit organization of statisticians and mathematicians devoted to the accuracy of U.S. vote counts. Read the Entire Article


Guy Sturino

News From Around the States

Connecticut: Election Integrity Organization Critical of State's Voting Machine RFP
from TrueVoteCT

An active exchange has taken place over the past months between Susan Bysiewicz, Secretary of State of Connecticut and TrueVoteCT, an election integrity organization in the state. The background is summarized in a recent oped in the Hartford Couran and a series of letters can be viewed at the TrueVoteCT website. The organization recently assembled a report critical of the states RFP for voting technology, the conclusions from which are summarized here. The full report can be downloaded here [PDF].

TrueVoteCT, along with many other computer scientists, local election officials, voting activists and concerned citizens across the country have serious reservations about DRE voting machines. DREs are an immature technology that are expensive to purchase, very costly to run elections with, very complex and are prone to glitches and errors. Purchasing DREs at this time is comparable to buying the first PCs to hit the market. Consumers who purchased these PCs paid top dollar for inferior technology and replaced them often as the technology improved and prices came down. This is what the state will be facing if they move forward with the current plan to purchase DREs.


Susan Bysiewicz

A TrueVoteCT representative personally spoke to one of the election officials in Miami-Dade County, the County that has recommended scrapping $24.5 million of DRE voting machines. The Miami-Dade election official said „any state or municipality that purchases DREs today would have to be crazyš. Read the Entire Article

New Mexico: Election Officials Try to Block Machine Inspections
by Lowell Finley and Holly Jacobson, VoterAction

In the past week, two New Mexico election officials refused to allow the voter plaintiffs in the case of Patricia Rosas Lopategui v. Rebecca Vigil-Giron, et al. to conduct meaningful inspections of their electronic voting machines. This despite clear indications that there were serious problems in last year’s presidential election with these same machines, which do not produce a voter-verifiable and auditable paper record.

Bernalillo County Clerk Mary Herrera has given no explanation for her sudden, flat refusal to permit any inspection after weeks of discussions between plaintiffs’ attorneys and attorneys for the county. Plaintiffs have sworn statements from Bernalillo County voters who tried to vote on the county’s paperless touchscreen voting machines, manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, and whose votes were switched before their eyes from the candidate they supported to a different candidate. Plaintiffs also have evidence that the County’s widespread use of another type of paperless machine, the Shoup 1242, resulted in the erasure of votes that citizens tried to cast for presidential candidates.. Read the Entire Report


Mary Herrera

Ohio: Alarming Comparisons of Pre-Election Polls and Official Results for Reform Ohio Now Initiatives
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy VoteTrustUSA

In their article „Has American Democracy Died an Electronic Death in Ohio 2005's Referenda Defeats?š, Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman point out alarming statistical anomalies in last Tuesday‚s official results on five statewide ballot initiatives. One of the initiatives was a proposition for state programs to create jobs and promote high tech industry, while the other four were election reform measures referred to collectively as Reform Ohio Now (RON).

Fitrakis and Wasserman note that while the historically reliable pre-election poll conducted by the Columbus Dispatch was typically accurate in predicting the official results for the first ballot initiative it was radically off in predicting easy victories for three of the four RON initiatives. The paper's last poll published on Sunday, November 6, the Dispatch showed Issue One passing with 53% of the vote and the initiatived passed in the official tallies with 54% of the vote.

For the Reform Ohio Now initiatives it was another matter. The Dispatch poll showed Issue Two, which called for no excuse absentee voting, passing by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One. But on November 8, the official vote count, Issue Two went down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5% against, with just 36.5% in favor.

Similarly Issue Three, which dealt with campaign finance reform, was predicted by the Dispatch to win in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed. But on Tuesday, Issue Three lost in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed. The other two reform initiatives on the ballots suffered similar reversals. Significantly, almost half the state‚s counties were using touch screen voting machines for the first time. Read the Entire Article



Fitrakis

Wasserman

Pennsylvania: State Senator Williams Denounces Voter ID Bill
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

In a press release issued last week, State Sen. Anthony H. Williams (D-8th) denounced a proposed bill that circulated in the state government committee, saying its many flaws would impair the Democratic process for many, despite good intentions for a tighter, more accurate election process. As written, House Bill 1318 would adversely impact seniors, those with limited polling place options in their neighborhoods and ex-offenders, Williams said. He fought to have the bill returned to committee for further work.

"We want to make sure elections are held without question of accuracy," said Williams, Democratic chair of the committee. "We don't want to be Florida, God forbid. But we want to go about it in a way that's responsible, well run and organized. HB 1318 aims to further reform the state election code and bring about uniformity for the process, along the way, it would shortchange significant numbers of citizens."


Sen. Anthony Williams
Unofficial reports coming out of the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee suggest that proponents and opponents of HB 1318 have been given until November 16 to submit comments. All who are concerned about voting rights in Pennsylvania are encouraged to contact the Chair and Minority Chair of the Committee immediately. Letters should be addressed to Senator Charles Lemmond, Chair, Senate State Government Committee, 177 Main Capitol Bldg, Harrisburg PA 17120 and emails should be directed to cthurston@pasenate.gov. Letters to Senator Lemmond should also be sent to the Minority Chair of the Committee, Senator Anthony Williams so that his staff will also have copies of any comments as well. Senator Williams address is 366 Capitol Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120-3008 and his email address is williams@pasenate.com. Letters and emails to other State Senators are also encouraged. Read the Entire Article

Wisconsin: Assembly Passes AB 627 by 91-4 Vote
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

On November 10, the Wisconsin Assembly passed AB 627 by a vote of 91-4, sending it to the Senate for consideration. The bill calls for a voter verified paper record of every vote and a prohibition of undisclosed voting system source code. Both major provisions of the bill have been modified somewhat from the bill that was introduced in August by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-78th) and Rep. Stephen Freese (R-51st).



Rep. Mark Pocan
"Wisconsin cannot go down the path of states like Florida and Ohio in having elections that the public simply doesn't trust," Pocan commented. "By requiring a paper record on every electronic voting machine, we will ensure that not only does your vote matter in Wisconsin, but it also counts."

Two of the modifications concern the verification language. The regrettable choice of words originally, which required the voter verified ballot to be "visually verifiable" has been amended to "verifiable either by visual or nonvisual means, as appropriate". Additionally, a requirement to use the voter verified paper ballot in recounts, rather than conducting recounts by merely running another machine count, was added. The current text of the bill can be downloaded here [PDF].

The legislators supporting this bill recognize the urgency of meeting the January 1, 2006 deadlines for federal funding through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). “Since this is one-time federal dollars, it is very important that the Elections Board does the right thing and directs that the new equipment have paper ballots. While our bill would require this, there is a chance that the Board could spend millions and millions on equipment that the legislature would ban if the bill passes. We have heard multiple times from our constituents about the need for a paper trail on these new machines and it would be unfortunate if the Board ignores their requests,” said Pocan. For more information about AB 627 click here. Read the Entire Article

Upcoming Events

Pennsylvania: Nov. 19 Will My Vote Still Be Counted?
An Educational Forum Dedicated To Preserving Our Voting Rights In The Age Of Electronic Voting

A public event at the McKay Auditorium on the Slippery Rock University campus, Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m..
The panel of Speakers includes Marybeth Kuznik (VotePA), Kathy and Mark McPherson (Mercer County Citizens For Better Government) and Peter Deutsch.
Contact: Jim Shingleton (email) or 724/321-3738.

Virginia: Nov. 21 - Next Hearing of VA Legislature Joint Subcommittee Studying Voting Equipment,
1:00 PM, General Assembly Building, Richmond

The Virginia legislature is holding hearings to consider requiring voter-verified paper audit trails for voting equipment. Many Virginia jurisdictions have purchased paperless electronic voting machines, and others are considering doing so. The legislators on the joint committee are Delegate John A. Cosgrove, Delegate Melanie L. Rapp,Delegate Timothy D. Hugo, Delegate Clarence E. (Bud) Phillips,Senator Jeannemarie D. Davis, and Senator Mary Margaret Whipple. If you are a constituent of one of these members, you are encouraged to contact them during the next week and let them know that you demand voter-verified paper trails in Virginia, random audits of voting equipment and a ban on wireless communications for voting machines. Please let them know where you live, so they understand that you live in their district.Concerned citizens are encouraged to attend the meeting as well. Further information is available at Virginians for Verified Voting.

California: Nov. 28-29 - Voting System Testing Summit
Hyatt Regency, Sacramento

Secretary of State Bruce McPherson is hosting an invitation-only Voting Systems Testing Summit to bring together experts from state and federal elections administration to discuss testing as it applies to state certification processes for voting equipment. Several panels of nationally recognized experts will share their expertise as we attempt to develop a best practices model that all states can use in their examination of voting equipment. Download the tentative agenda or visit the event's website for additional information.

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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