Election Integrity News - November 14, 2006

This Week's Quote: "According to the machine, Mr. Wooten did not vote for himself," Waldenberg, Arkansas Mayor William Wood, in reference to the fact that his opponent Randy Wooten had received 0 votes on the ES&S iVotronic machines used in last Tuesday's election.

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What Happened On November 7th? Click Here to View VotersUnite's Election Day Problem Log


In this issue ...

National Stories

Election Problems, What Election Problems?

ES&S the Midas Touch in Reverse

With Some Electronic Voting Systems, Not All Votes Count

News From Around the States

Alaska: Judge Orders Division of Elections To Preserve Copies of Election Records

Problems with Electronic Pollbooks Lead to Long Lines In Denver

Recount Nears Completion in Connecticut's 2nd District

The Sarasota Triangle: Why America Needs to Examine the Election in Florida's 13th District

Georgia: Diebold Does Not Own Our Votes

Maryland: TrueVoteMD Reports Problems on Election Day

New Mexico: Provisional Ballots To Determine Congressional Race

New Voting Systems for New York - Long Lines and High Cost

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What, Exactly, IS an Election Meltdown?
by VotersUnite.org

The saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." But what if it IS broke, and those who could fix it say that it ain't?

Paul DeGregorio, chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission; Doug Lewis of the Election Center; Doug Chapin of electionline.org; Dan Tokaji, Ohio State law professor; California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson and other secretaries of state tell us that the feared "meltdown" just didn't happen on November 7, 2006.

They agree that the election went "better than expected," "relatively smoothly," with "isolated problems", "just a few glitches," "minor issues," "no major problems."

So, with multi-hundreds of news reports of election problems across the country — a fraction of the problems that actually occurred — you have to wonder what a meltdown would have to look like.

What if malfunctions of untested registration software in a major city — say, Denver — forced tens of thousands of voters to wait in line for hours and thousands to leave without voting? Would the election still be "smooth"?

What if voting machines failed at thousands of polling places in over half the states, and the problems caused such severe delays in eight states that the voting hours were extended? Is that "just a few glitches"?

What if voting machines of every brand switched people's votes or lost their votes in states from Florida to Pennsylvania to Illinois to Texas to Kentucky to South Carolina to Maryland to Georgia to Virginia to ...   "No major problems?"

What if dozens of people reported that their votes for one Congressional race disappeared from the touch screen, and the election director refused to take the machines out of service, and the results showed that 13% of the voters (18,000) hadn't registered a vote in that race? And what if the margin of victory was 368 votes, and there was no way to audit the results? A "minor" problem?

What if polling places all across the largest state in the nation, as well as other states, ran out of paper ballots and the voting machines didn't work? Are these "isolated problems"?

What if lots of electronic ballot boxes (memory cards) were missing in a major city, and only 23 had been found after an extensive search, and the election director said she loses them all the time and normally no one pays any attention, but this time four local races hung in the balance? Is this "smooth" to the people whose ballots were lost in Indianapolis?

And then ... what if partisan control of the United States Senate depended on one race in one state, where the reported margin of victory was three-tenths of a percent, and a recount was impossible because there was no way to recover voter intent from the electronic tallies? In what world is this "better than expected"?

(continued below)

In the 2006 general election, voters were given the wrong ballots and told the wrong polling place. They stood in line for hours waiting for equipment to be fixed or more ballots to arrive. They watched their votes disappear on the screen, or flip to another candidate, or even go up in smoke — literally, when an e-voting machine short-circuited.

If the Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, Secretaries of State, and other influential names in election administration continue calling these dysfunctional election occurrences "normal glitches," when will the system get fixed?

(If you think it "ain't broke," see the VotersUnite.org problem log.)  Permalink

National Stories

Election Problems, What Election Problems?
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - November 11, 2006

The Media Narrative and Public Perception

If you watched the cable news coverage on Election Night it was easy to come away with the impression that few problems were experienced with electronic voting - the predicted ‘train wreck’ had not materialized. But out in the real world, the HAVA mandated changeover of voting systems resulted in real failures that resulted in long lines and lost votes. Just like the fancy new high tech voting machines, the mainstream media has failed us yet again.

That there were widespread problems with electronic voting equipment all around the country is well documented. Thousands of citizens took part in a first time nation-wide effort monitoring polling sites and reporting problems. The reports are still coming in, but it’s clear that hundreds and hundreds of problems occurred. But the mainstream media has thus far barely mentioned this, leading one to ask what vast scale of voting disaster would it actually take for the media to report on it? Read the Entire Article

ES&S the Midas Touch in Reverse
by VotersUnite.org - November 14, 2006

Toward the end of the twentieth century, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), which now supplies election equipment to 39 states, was born into a world enamored of technology — a perfect opportunity in the wide-open business of making and selling computerized election equipment. Voting integrity activists were few and far between, and election officials had no reason to resist the digitizing of election results. The field was a gold mine to be harvested.

But from the beginning, whatever opportunity ES&S touched turned into a disaster. When their M100 ballot scanners debuted in Hawaii in 1998, the machines failed so badly, ES&S had to pay over half a million dollars to settle contract disputes and recount the ballots. Simultaneously in Dallas, software bugs in their ES&S election equipment lost 41,015 ballots — one out of every eight.

Two years later, flaws in the ES&S tabulating equipment caused Venezuela to postpone "the biggest election in Venezuelan history."

Undaunted, ES&S continued selling its wares and leaving a trail of election problems in its wake — flipping votes on the screens in Arkansas; counting more votes than voters in San Francisco; giving votes to the wrong candidates in Florida, Kansas, Texas; and irretrievably losing entire ballots. In September 2002, Miami's new paperless touch screen machines, the ES&S iVotronics, lost 8.2% of the ballots in the 31 precincts that the ACLU examined — losing as many as 21% in some precincts. Read the Entire Article

With Some Electronic Voting Systems, Not All Votes Count
by Electronic Privacy Information Center - November 14, 2006

This study was posted at epic.org. It is reposted here with permission of the authors.

EPIC's "Spotlight on Surveillance" project scrutinizes federal government programs that affect individual privacy. For more information, see previous Spotlights on Surveillance. This month, Spotlight shines on electronic voting systems, many of which will be used for the first time during mid-term elections on November 7. There are myriad problems associated with the use of electronic voting systems, but though there are safeguards, most of the local election jurisdictions have not put these in place. About $3.8 billion has been budgeted for these electronic voting systems.

Source: Diebold Election Systems

With a direct recording electronic (DRE) system, which has also been called "touch screen voting," a voter makes her choices by pressing buttons on or near the screen. Digital images of ballot selections are saved onto memory drives in the machine, but a voter-verified paper record is not created, unless the DRE is attached to a printer.

 
In the 2000 presidential election, there were questions about which candidate, Al Gore or George W. Bush, garnered the most votes in Florida. The resulting confusion concerning “hanging chads” (some punchcard ballots were not completely punched through, leaving part of the paper still attached to the ballot) and other ballot problems led Congress to pass the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The Act established a process to create voluntary standards for voting and voter-registration systems. HAVA established the Election Assistance Commission to oversee the process, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology assists in developing technical guidelines and standards. HAVA also sought to provide accessible and independent voting for people with disabilities, and requires each polling location to have one accessible machine.

HAVA provided about $3.8 billion in federal funding to update or replace old voting systems, improve poll worker training, and voter education. Many local election jurisdictions have used the funds to buy either optical scan or direct recording electronic (DRE) systems to replace paper ballot, punchcard and lever systems. About 87% of voters will use either optical scan or DRE systems in November 2006, according to a study by Election Data Services, a consulting firm that tracks election information. With an optical scan system, a voter fills in the oval or connects an arrow next to the name of the candidate on the ballot, then the voter feeds the ballot into the ballot box, which records the vote. The paper copy of the ballot can be kept to ensure the accuracy of the vote. With a DRE system, which has also been called “touch screen voting,” a voter makes her choices by pressing buttons on or near the screen. The system “creates digital records of voter ballot selections and saves them on memory drive(s) stored within the voting system. No permanent record is produced at the time a voter casts a ballot.”

There are three major companies that produce electronic voting machines: Diebold Election Systems, based in Ohio; Election Systems & Software, based in Nebraska; and Sequoia Voting Systems, based in California. Problems have been reported with machines from all three manufacturers during previous elections, including recent primaries. Chicago is withholding $26 million in payments to Sequoia, because equipment problems created significant delays in voting in the March primary. The state of Indiana filed a civil complaint against Election Systems & Software, accusing the company of “providing defective equipment and services.” The case was recently settled, with the state receiving $750,000. Recent reports have revealed that, in 2005, Diebold quietly replaced malfunctioning components in 4,700 machines sent to Maryland in 2002, without disclosing the replacements to the State Board of Elections. The company replaced the malfunctioning circuit boards in order to fix a glitch that could cause the machines to freeze, and some of these machines failed during both the 2002 and 2004 elections. Diebold’s contracts with Maryland are worth more than $100 million. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Alaska: Judge Orders Division of Elections To Preserve Copies of Election Records
by Alaska Democratic Party Press Release - November 7, 2006

Democrats Successfully Sought Emergency Court Order

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides today ordered the Alaska Division of Elections to preserve backup copies of the state's 2006 electronic computer database and subsequent tallies of the election results.

The Division of Elections had refused to make backup copies of the Diebold computer GEMS database in response to a request from the Alaska Democratic Party, which today sought an emergency court order requiring that copies be preserved of these election records.

"The people of Alaska have a right to have all the public records related to our election. We are pleased that the court has ordered the Division to preserve these records," said Jake Metcalfe, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. Read the Entire Article

Problems with Electronic Pollbooks Lead to Long Lines In Denver
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 12, 2006

UPDATE: The Denver Post is reporting that Denver Clerk and Recorder Wayne Vaden resigned today amid chaos in the Denver Election Commission which he oversees.

Of the hundreds of election problems that occurred across the country, few were more spectacular, at least visually, than the long lines of voters waiting to cast ballots in Denver. The mayor of Denver has called for an investigation and the auditor is calling to disband the election commission. The long lines were not the results of voting machine failure this time. Rather, the problems stemmed from the city’s decision to abandon precinct voting in favor of consolidated ‘vote centers’, which in turn led them to spend $85,000 on Sequoia Voting Systems electronic pollbooks.

Tens of thousands of voters ended up waiting in lines for hours because of the failure of their e-pollbook software. The mayor is livid and is demanding an investigation. Based on news reports, there were failures at every level: a failure of project management, of planning, of testing, of software development. It appears that Sequoia delivered software with serious design and implementation flaws and serious usability problems for poll workers that was inadequately tested before the election. Read the Entire Article

Recount Nears Completion in Connecticut's 2nd District
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 14, 2006

Joe Courtney (pictured at right) was already in Washington for orientation, but as of this morning 7 of 65 towns have yet to report the results of their recount of one of the closest of the mid-term elections. Initial results on election night gave Courtney a 167 vote margin of victory over Republican incumbent Rob Simmons triggering an automatic recount of nearly 250,000 votes counted on lever and optical scan voting machines used in Connecticut’s 2nd District. The recount will be completed by tomorrow.

Three significant counting errors were discovered Monday: Lebanon had given 100 additional votes to Courtney; Simmons had received an extra 39 votes in Lyme; and Waterford had incorrectly credited 31 votes to Courtney. While the numbers keep changing slightly as absentee and provisional votes are counted and machine counts re-examined, Courtney continues to lead Simmons by around 80 votes.

Read the Entire Article

The Sarasota Triangle: Why America Needs to Examine the Election in Florida's 13th District
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 12, 2006

Once Again, Election Officials Blame the Voters and Defend the Machines 

The reported results in the race to determine who will serve the citizens of Florida’s 13th District pose questions that strike at the core of debate over the merit of computerized voting systems. A recount is inevitable given Republican Vern Buchanan’s razor thin margin of 368 votes over Democrat Christine Jennings. But a ‘recount’ will not answer the serious questions that the results raise.

The exquisitely gerrymandered 13th District lies south of Tampa and is dominated by Sarasota and Manatee Counties. The media has noted the inexplicably high under vote rate in Sarasota, with most reports citing a rate of over 13%. According to the reported results over 18,362 of the Sarasotans that voted in this election were unconcerned about who would represent them in the 110th Congress.

But it’s actually much worse than most of the media is reporting. The actual under vote in the precincts is 16.17%.  The reason the media is reporting 13% is they do not know that the under votes on absentee (paper) ballots is 2.6%. The average (weighted for the greater number of precinct votes) for both absentee ballots and precinct votes is 13%. Absentee voters in Sarasota County voted on paper ballots counted by optical scanners while those who voted at early voting centers and at polling places on Election Day voted on ES&S iVotronic touchscreen voting machines. Read the Entire Article

Georgia: Diebold Does Not Own Our Votes
by CountTheVote.org - November 14, 2006

Georgia citizens will hold a press conference on Tuesday, November 14, to announce the filing of a lawsuit to gain access to public election information. Voters will challenge Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, who is attempting to block public access to voting records. Are Georgia's elections transparent and fair? Apparently Cox and Diebold don't want us to know. Georgia citizens will file suit to demand access to voting information to ensure the fairness of Diebold electronic voting machines, whose accuracy has been questioned.

Georgia's  Secretary of State's office has filed an injunction to stop a citizen from reviewing public election records. Before Diebold became involved in Georgia, election records were fully accessible to the public. The argument being put forward by the Secretary of State is that the election information is proprietary to Diebold. Cathy Cox, Secretary of State, has no business serving as a prosecutor for Diebold, and has no business telling DeKalb County what they can or cannot give to the public. Read the Entire Article

Maryland: TrueVoteMD Reports Problems on Election Day
by TrueVoteMD - November 7, 2006

Major Screen Malfunction Confuses Voters Statewide

TrueVoteMD operated its Election Day Hotline and fielded at least 75 incidents of machine malfunctions, check-in problems and major delays across the State.

Vote Switching/Screen Mis-calibrations

Screens have been malfunctioning all over the State, where voters cannot select the candidate of their choice because either the check box is not available, or the screen does not allow them to select the candidate at all. Several voters complained that it took more than 3 tries to get the machine to work properly, resulting in major delays. Only one report has come in that indicates that a malfunctioning machine may have been removed from service.

E-Poll Book crashes, printer problems, not updated; results in long delays

Several reports came in from voters who were told that they were at the wrong polling site because their new address had not been updated in the e-poll book, even though they moved over a year ago. Some voters were told that they were not in the list at all, and had to vote provisionally. One report came in of possible voter fraud, where the voter was told that he requested an absentee ballot as a resident of Baltimore even though the voter, a life long Maryland resident, has never lived in Baltimore. He is considering legal action. Several reports came in of e-poll book printers not working, causing major delays in big precincts. Read the Entire Report

New Mexico: Provisional Ballots To Determine Congressional Race
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 14, 2006

With almost 4,000 ballots still to count, the closely-contested race for New Mecxico's 1st Congressional District is still undecided. Incumbent Republican Heather Wilson held a 1,487 vote lead over challenger and out-going state Attorney General Patricia Madrid in initial results. Election workers painstakingly analyzed 2,698 provisional and 1,058 in-lieu of ballots Monday in the tightly contested U.S. House race between Democrat Patricia Madrid and Republican incumbent Heather Wilson. The "in lieu of" ballots are those cast by people who requested absentee ballots before the elections but said they never received them.

According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the determination of how many ballots would be disqualified would not be known until tomorrow. Wilson, who would be entering her fifth term, declared victory two days after last week's election, based on calculations showing Madrid would need to win 68 percent of remaining provisional ballots to gain the lead. For each disqualified ballot, the required percentage climbs higher.

Elections officials laid down the rules Sunday to representatives of both political parties on how they will determine whether to count provisional ballots cast in Bernalillo County on Election Day. Read the Entire Article

New Voting Systems for New York - Long Lines and High Cost
by William Edlstein, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - November 14, 2006

Click Here to Download New Torkers for Verified Voting's Full Report Report

As New York decides on new voting systems, one key question is this — how many voters can be served by each voting machine? This number is critical in order to estimate costs as well as to avoid long lines for voters. The New York City Board of Elections recently released a report saying that New York should replace each lever machine by 1 full-face-ballot computer DRE voting machine with voter verified paper trail.

Assuming that each voter will take 3.25 minutes to vote, they calculate that 277 voters can vote on each DRE in a 15 hour Election Day. However, the report neglects the effect of non-uniform voter arrivals, DRE outages and extra time needed by voters using special accessibility aids on DREs. We have applied queuing theory, the mathematical study of waiting lines, to carry out computer simulations of realistic elections. We use a scenario with more voters arriving at peak times—early morning, lunch and early evening hours—as is typical during elections. According to our calculations, a ratio of 277 voters per DRE would create unacceptable wait times of 1 hour or longer. Recent elections using DREs have produced extremely long lines in many places around the country, causing would-be voters to leave, thereby disenfranchising them.

In order to guarantee reasonably short wait times—even without taking into account DRE outages and the use of DRE special voting aids—our results indicate that each DRE in New York should be allocated to no more than 150 voters, which means replacing each lever machine by 3 DREs. But the acquisition and maintenance cost of this many electronic voting machines would be excessive. In contrast, precinct based, paper ballot optical scan systems use simple, inexpensive marking booths that are the equivalent choke points to DREs. These paper ballot scan systems can be easily and economically configured to eliminate lines.

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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