Election Integrity News - November 21, 2005

This Week's Quote: “It is certainly disappointing that, despite the recommendations from federal organizations and non-governmental groups, many states still have not made progress to make sure their electronic voting systems are safe from fraud and can be relied on to accurately count votes,” Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), Chairman, U.S. House Committee on Government Reform.


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 ...

National Stories
Holt and Davis Urge Passage of HR 550 to Protect Elections

News From Around the States
California: Secretary of State To Hold A “No Hearing Hearing”

New York: Brennan Center Finds "Full Face Ballot" Law Does Not Limit Choice of Voting Systems

A response to the Brennan Center from New Yorkers for Verified Voting

North Carolina: Diebold Attempts to Evade Election Transparency Laws

Ohio: Democracy Breakin': Ohio's Electric Boogaloo

South Carolina: A Sad Day For One Southern Town

Wisconsin: Bipartisan Request to Governor for Special Session on AB 627

Upcoming Events

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

California: Nov. 28-29 Voting System Testing Summit


Previous Issues
November 14, 2005
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

#5 - The main stream media has almost totally ignored the issuance of the Government Accountability Office bipartisan report on elections. The news for the week is articles and press releases from the “not ready for main stream” media and activist groups/political parties who are all asking why nothing has been said. Link Link Link

#4 - In North Carolina Diebold Election Systems Incorporated decided that they did not want to comply with state laws but they still wanted to sell their wares in the state so they went to court and asked for special dispensation and more time to submit their application. Link Link
In response to the Diebold suit a voting activist, Joyce McCloy, has intervened in the Diebold suit and asked why they should be allowed to ignore the law and why they should get more time. Link

#3 - Lucas County, Ohio has become the “poster child” for how not to conduct elections. 14 voting machines were found in a college hallway 10 days after the election was conducted. Poll judges are reporting finding no paper record of votes on machines that were the busiest during the day. These are only two of a myriad of administrative and machine failures that are still being reported nearly two weeks after the Nov. election. Link Link

#2 - In Colorado the Secretary of State has told 10 counties that they must do a complete hand recount of all ballots counted on November 1, 2005. They all use ES&S Optech Eagle III-P central scan tabulators. The state’s required audit, as dreadfully small as it is, found errors in tabulations in at least one county and those errors were egregious enough to require a full hand recount. Link Link

#1 - The most important news story for this week, in the opinion of this reporter, has got to be the leak of the Department of Justice memo that recommends that they not support the Georgia VoterID law. This 52 page memorandum was ignored by Attorney General Gonzales as he told the state that the DoJ found no problems with their law. This is the same law that a judge has found to be nothing more than a poll tax as he suspended the use of the voterIDs part of the legislation.

In recent news articles from Georgia the chief sponsor of Georgia's voter identification law, in the state house, is reported to have told the Justice Department that if black people in her district "are not paid to vote, they don't go to the polls," and that if fewer blacks vote as a result of the new law, it is only because it would end such voting fraud. Link

And, chief Senate sponsor has said that he would be willing to change the law to make it easier for the poor to get a voterID card. His idea? If someone can’t afford the fee (up to $35) they can sign a “paupers affidavit” and get the card for free. Link

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National Stories

Holt and Davis Urge Passage of HR 550 to Protect Elections
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA
"… votes shown on the touch screen for one candidate would actually be recorded and counted for a different candidate."

GAO Report: ELECTIONS:  Federal Efforts to Improve Security and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems are Under Way, but Key Activities Need to be Completed - September 2005
In response to a request by the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Government Reform Committee, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on Science, the  Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined the security of electronic voting systems to determine whether the software used in electronic voting machines "has security gaps that could potentially allow unscrupulous individuals to alter the vote count, unlawfully impacting election results while leaving no paper trail or other auditable evidence." In a 107 page report released in September 2005, GAO confirms the severity of problems reported by computer scientists and election integrity activists since the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter issued on November 16, 2005,  Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Tom Davis (R-VA) noted that voting system vulnerabilities confirmed by the GAO include: 
  • " . . . several evaluations demonstrated that election management systems did not encrypt the data files containing cast votes . . . .  in some cases, other computer programs could access these cast vote files and alter them without the system recording this action in its audit logs."
  • "Election monitors in a Florida County, "discovered that the system contained a flaw that allowed one DRE system's ballots to be added to the canvas totals multiple times without being detected."
  • " . . . a DRE system in Ohio caused the system to record approximately 3,900 votes too many for one presidential candidate in the 2004 general election."

Read the Entire Article

 Rep. Rush Holt

Rep. Tom Davis

News From Around the States

California: Secretary of State To Hold A “No Hearing Hearing”
Sherry Healy, California Election Protection Network

California Election Protection Network Protests Secretary of State Bruce McPherson’s Decision

On November 21, 2005, citizens may voice their concerns about what voting system will record their votes, but thanks to a decision by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson, there’s no guarantee that anyone with the authority to certify voting systems in California will hear those voices.

California law requires the Secretary of State to conduct a public hearing as a condition of certifying any voting systems in the state. The Secretary of State has scheduled a hearing for November 21, 2005 on the question of whether certain Diebold voting systems should be re-certified before the end of the year.

The Secretary of State has disbanded the Voting Systems Panel that’s supposed to conduct these hearings and has replaced it with one person, a stenographer, and a tape recorder. This defies the notion of 'public input'. Read the Entire Article

Bruce McPherson

New York: Brennan Center Finds "Full Face Ballot" Law Does Not Limit Choice of Voting Systems
from Brennan Center for Justice
Organization Calls on State Board of Elections to Allow Local Elections Officials to Choose from Full Array of Available Voting Machines

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has released a legal memorandum analyzing the actual requirements of the provision of New York State law often referred to as the “full-face ballot” law. New York State is on the verge of replacing every one of its voting machines across the State to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act.

Tragically, the choice of available voting machines is being severely and unnecessarily constrained by the State Board of Elections’ misinterpretation of New York State election law known as the “full-face ballot” law. Unless the State Board changes its interpretation immediately, New Yorkers will all be hurt by inferior and less user-friendly voting machines that cost two to three times as much as other voting machines. Read the Entire Article.

Bo Lipari of New Yokers for Verified Voting provided the following response to the Brennan Center memorandum.

This is an interesting position by the Brennan Center. It is also highly unlikely that New York State will agree with this interpretation.

Politicians here like the full-face ballot, and have a more traditional New York interpretation of what that means. Specifically, it means ALL candidates for ALL races on the same page, in a Row/Column format that encourages straight party line voting. They have resisted attempts to do away with it before, and they will do so again. However, I suspect the Brennan Center is not expecting adoption of this analysis as much as they are laying the groundwork for a lawsuit. Read the Entire Response

North Carolina: Diebold Attempts to Evade Election Transparency Laws
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA

As the State of California bends over backwards in an attempt to give their elections to Diebold (see link), a lawsuit has been quietly filed in North Carolina to ensure that Diebold must play be the same rules as other vendors and that they must abide by state law.

On November 18, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced that they were going to court to prevent Diebold Elections Systems, Inc. from evading North Carolina law. EFF reported in a press release that in a last-minute filing, e-voting equipment maker Diebold asked a North Carolina court to exempt it from tough new election requirements designed to ensure transparency in the state's elections. Diebold obtained an extraordinarily broad order, allowing it to avoid placing its source code in escrow with the state and identifying programmers who contributed to the code.

On behalf of North Carolina voter and election integrity advocate Joyce McCloy, EFF asked the court to force Diebold and every other North Carolina equipment vendor to comply with the law's requirements. A hearing on EFF's motion is set for Monday, November 28. Read the Entire Article

Ohio: Democracy Breakin': Ohio's Electric Boogaloo
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog

Originally published at Huffington Post. Reprinted by permission of the author.

The Corporate Mainstream Media may not give a damn about our democracy. Neither might the bulk of our politicians on both the Left and Right side of the aisle. But clearly the citizens do, and even at least one rightwing blogger who has recently seen at least some of the light...The response to our article on the "staggeringly impossible" results of last week's election in Ohio on several Election Reform initiatives which would have struck deep into the heart of far-right Republican Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has been notable to say the least.

To give you an idea of what that story documented, here are the numbers from just one of the four Election Reform initiatives which all ended up failing by numbers which defy reasonable explanation when compared to the historically accurate Columbus Dispatch poll completed and published just days before the Election in the Buckeye state:

J. Kenneth Blackwell

ISSUE 3 (Revise campaign contribution limits)
PRE-POLLING: 61% Yes, 25% No, 14% Undecided
FINAL RESULT: 33% Yes, 66% No
The results on that issue alone was so far askew that it was enough to give the usually dubious Mark Blumenthal of Mystery Pollster pause enough to comment, "These results had MP seriously wondering whether the pollsters or election officials had mistakenly transposed 'yes' and 'no' in their tables." Read the Entire Article

South Carolina: A Sad Day For One Southern Town
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA

November 15 was the last time that the once sleepy little southern town of Bluffton, South Carolina will vote using paper ballots. The citizens of Bluffton have always gone to the polls in the only polling place they needed; Town Hall. It has been a long-standing tradition that at the end of the day, when the polls closed, the citizens of the town would gather in the hall and watch as the votes are counted.

Each vote is marked with a slash mark on a chalk board and audience members call out “tally” each time a group of five votes is recorded.

Now, according to Catherine Carpenter, the Administrative Assistant and self-described “Queen of Town Hall” and “Jill of All Trades”, the town has grown too large to do this anymore. Since 2000 this once little town has grown from 1278 citizens to over 4800. They are very quickly being swallowed up into the retirement community craze that has swept north from Florida .Read the Entire Article

Wisconsin: Bipartisan Request to Governor for Special Session on AB 627
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA



Bill that requires a paper trail from electronic voting machines passed Assembly 91-4 last week - Governor Supports the Legislation

In a press release last week, State Representatives Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Steve Freese (R-Dodgeville) requested that Governor Jim Doyle call the Legislature into Special Session during the week of December 5th when the Senate plans to meet in order to send Assembly Bill 627 to his desk. The bill, authored by Pocan, Freese and State Senator Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), would require electronic voting machines to create a paper record of each vote cast and for limited public disclosure of voting system software. It passed the Assembly on a large bipartisan vote of 91-4 on November 10 and is now sitting in the Senate Committee on Labor and Election Process Reform.

“This is a very important reform measure that must be acted on quickly, especially in light of the federal requirement. Since the Senate is meeting in early December, it only makes sense that we get this to the Governor’s desk as soon as possible so that we can guarantee voters that their vote will count by having a paper trail with these new machines,” said Freese.

The press release unfortunately repeated the misinformation that the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) legislation requires the state to purchase touch-screen electronic voting machines. Many rural counties in Wisconsin are reluctant to give up their hand counted paper ballots and are considering alternatives like the Vote-PAD or ballot marking devices. Assembly Bill 627 would require that DREs that were purchased by counties in the state have the ability to provide a paper record of every vote cast. Read the Entire Article

Upcoming Events

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.

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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