Election Integrity News - November 21, 2006
Week's Quote: "Voters should not have to take the word of vendors
and election officials when serious problems emerge that call into question
the accuracy of the results." Matt Zimmerman, Electronic Frontier Foundation
In this issue ...
Observations of a Poll Worker: A Critique Of The eSlate
The Omaha World-Herald Should Divest from Election Systems and Software
Electronic Vote Counting: Where Did We Go Wrong?
Senator Obama Introduces Legislation to Criminalize Election-Day Fraud
Denver Councilwoman Rodriguez Recommended for EAC Position
News From Around the States
Arizona: For Once the "Winner" Wants All the Votes Counted
Audits in Connecticut
Florida: Sarasota Voters File Lawsuit for Revote in Congressional Race
Florida: Jennings Contests Results in 13th District
Is Florida Ready for Democracy?
Results from Minnesota‚s First Post-Election Review Confirms Accuracy of State‚s Voting Machines
New Mexico: Madrid Concedes - Will Not Request A Recount
North Carolina: Kissell Will Request A Hand Recount in 8th District Race
Who‚s Afraid of Virginia‚s Voting Machines?
Wyoming: Trauner Will Not Ask for Recount in Congressional Race
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Year Ago: The November 21, 2005 Issue of Election Integrity News
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Fixing The 2008 Election
by Jonah Goldman and Tova Wang
This article was posted at TomPaine.com
and is reposted here with permission of the authors.
The mainstream media in its instant analysis
has proclaimed the election system worked surprisingly well in
2006. While it is true that no single catastrophe of election
administration grabbed headlines this year, it is quite dangerous
to suggest that the problems voters encountered on Election Day
were not serious. As over 25,000 callers from across the country
to the 866-OUR-VOTE voter information and protection hotline confirm, these
problems led to thousands of eligible Americans being denied the
opportunity to cast a ballot.
There’s a sense that the book is already closed on the
2006 election. But despite the nation’s attention now turning
to the seismic political shift in Washington, several House races remain
undecided. In Ohio, two of the races hinge on thousands
of provisional ballots that likely were cast by legitimate voters
but because of misguided and confusing election rules, will be
thrown out, clearly affecting who wins the race. In Florida, it
is likely that a problems with electronic voting machines caused
far more votes to be lost than the current margin of victory.
While the case should not be overstated, it is critical that
as we immediately enter the 2008 presidential election cycle,
we undertake a more honest assessment of what happened in this
election so we can concentrate on ensuring real, meaningful reform
before the next federal election cycle. Only if we understand
the problems that voters reported in 2006 can we enact real solutions
that will move us toward a more fair and accurate system of elections.
Over the past two years, the country has engaged in a national
debate about how voters should identify themselves at the polls.
Advocates for election reform and voting rights have shown that
current protections, such as signature matches and severe penalties,
strike an effective balance between protecting the rights of eligible
voters to participate in the process and preventing ineligible
people from manipulating the system. Unfortunately, partisanship
has trumped reason as the states and the Congress are now grappling
with unconstitutional legislation which hypes the false specter
of voter fraud as an excuse for disenfranchising countless eligible
On November 7, 2006, the result of this exaggerated concern over
voter fraud was two-fold. First, in states like Arizona where
restrictive voter identification requirements were operable, eligible
citizens were prevented from casting a ballot because they did
not have the requisite documentation. Second, a combination of
confusion and lack of training forced voters to provide identification
that was not required by law, resulting in many voters being turned
away at the polls. In over a dozen states across the country,
the Election Protection Hotline received complaints of poll workers
asking voters for identification that was not required by law,
wrongly forcing voters to cast provisional ballots, and otherwise
misinterpreting the voting rules to prevent eligible voters from
casting a ballot.
In Ohio particularly, poll workers improperly implementing identification
requirements could have significant ramifications as two House
seats remain undecided. The winner of those seats may well be
elected by a margin smaller than those eligible voters who were
either turned away, or who wrongly were forced to vote a provisional
ballot that will not count. The most public example of this misapplication
of Ohio identification requirements is Rep. Steve Chabot, who
was wrongly turned away at the polls because his Ohio driver’s
license did not have a current address. Although he was able to
come back to the polling place and eventually cast a ballot, many
ordinary Ohioans do not have the time to make multiple trips to
the polls. Missouri’s Secretary of State Robin Carnahan
was also improperly asked for photo ID and reported that her office
got numerous complaints of similar incidents throughout the day.
Congress and state legislatures must pay more attention to the
problems created by our election system and less to partisan proposals
designed to remove eligible voters from the process. In addition,
confusion about identification problems will be solved through
better poll worker training.
Problems with the administration of the election that could have been avoided
instead created obstacles to efficient voting that have become increasingly
familiar to voters across the country. In multiple states there were reports
of people waiting in line for hours on end because of machine failures, poll
workers who didn’t know how to operate the machines, insufficient numbers
of voting machines and general poor administration of election systems. In Tennessee
for example, too few machines in one jurisdiction led to waiting times of five
and a half hours. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, voters stood in
line for hours as poll workers struggled with voting technology and new voter
In all of these places, many voters left without casting a ballot. This denial
of voting rights disproportionately impacts working people, especially those
who have work or family duties that prevent them from having enough time on
Election Day to stand on long lines or make multiple trips to the polls. There
must be statewide standards for sufficient and equal distribution of voting
machines, improved and standardized training and testing of poll workers, and
increased resources to ensure sufficient numbers of machines and professionals
operating them in every jurisdiction.
Across the country voters noticed that electronic machines “flipped”
their votes when the vote summary screen indicated that the machine registered
a vote for the opponent of their desired candidate. Elsewhere, voters complained
that, despite going through the steps required by the machine, their vote for
certain races never registered. Problems caused by inadequate procedures for
making the best decisions about voting machines will be solved by demanding
accountable, accessible and transparent voting technology. Read the Entire Article
This article appeared at Fort
Bend Now. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
possibilities of vote fraud by computer hacking have been widely discussed in
the news media. A more immediate concern should be electronic voting equipment
that is not user-friendly.
With the Hart Intercivic eSlate, our polling place’s Presiding Judge
and I had to answer an extraordinary number of requests for voter assistance
on Election Day 2006. Most, but not all, of these calls for help came from elderly
people or voters with heavy accents. Voters under 50 years of age seemed to
need less help, and young people hardly any at all.
On Election Day 2006, I was an Assistant Judge at the Townewest Town Hall
in Fort Bend County. I’m a Democrat. The Presiding Judge is a Republican.
We took turns at the JBC, which is the eSlate’s
controller, and with the very numerous requests for help from voters.
Two precincts voted at our polling location, one in the 9th US House District
and the other in the 22nd. We had twelve booths and four additional clerks.
At the election training session, I thought Elections Administrator J. R. Perez’s
instructions to poll workers about the write-in race were clearly-stated and
fair. At my session he also stated that if a voter mistakenly selected the wrong
straight party choice, that they could only fix it by re-selecting the individual
races for the rest of the ballot. He said this was a known problem with eSlate. Read the Entire Article
Last week, the Omaha World-Herald published what read like a post-election
press release for Election Systems & Software on the general success
of its vote counting software and hardware across the country. Amidst the love-fest,
it also shared some important details about ES&S and its corporate relationship
with the World-Herald:
"It's been, all things considered, a smooth day," said Jill Friedman-Wilson, a spokeswoman for Omaha-based Election Systems & Software. "When you look at the scale and the scope of this election, what you're seeing are problems you would expect," she said....
ES&S, in which the Omaha World-Herald Co. owns a minority interest, is the country's biggest supplier of election hardware and software.
On Tuesday, nearly 67 million people were expected to vote using ES&S equipment. The company's machinery counts well over half the votes in a national election through 1,800 voting jurisdictions in 43 states....
Some voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas complained that touchscreens showed a vote for Republican candidates when they wanted to vote Democratic. Election officials said that wasn't the case, and ES&S' Friedman-Wilson said touchscreen machines were designed to highlight candidate selections so a voter could change them if an error were made.
Meanwhile, this weekend, the World-Herald
suggested that slow election night returns in Omaha/Douglas County resulted
because the county "printed its own ballots
instead of purchasing them from Election Systems & Software."
Synergy, baby! Read
the Entire Article
Recent discussions with other researchers in the election auditing field led
me to a paper published over 30 years ago that shows just how "far"
we've come in ensuring the integrity of our elections.
In 1975 while working for the National Bureau of Standards (NBS), Roy G. Saltman,
authored a paper entitled, "Effective
Use of Computing Technology in Vote-Tallying." In Appendix B of that
seminal work, "Mathematical Considerations and Implications in the Selection
of Recount Quantities", Saltman described a methodology for determining
sample sizes to be used in independent audits of electronic vote counting systems
which include optical scanners, punch card readers and touchscreen or pushbutton
direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines with voter-verified paper
Among other things, Saltman reported that regulations covering recounts in
different states varied, as they do today. Some typical recount regulations
(1) a manual recount could be demanded by any candidate willing to pay for it;
He also pointed out that the then current law in the state of California which called for a fixed audit percentage of only 1% of the state's precincts was inadequate, stating that, "recount percentages should increase as the opposing vote totals approach equality." In other words, narrower reported margins of victory require larger audits. Yet the 1% law is still on the books today and until recently, did not even include absentee ballots! Read the Entire Article
(2) a full manual recount was automatic if the candidates' totals differed by a very small percentage of the vote and;
(3) a fixed percentage of precincts were manually recounted regardless of the apparent vote separation (margin) between the candidates.
the Entire Article
Provisions Included to Address Misleading Fliers and Harassing Robocalls
from 2006 Elections
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL, pictured at right) this week introduced legislation
to protect Americans from tactics that intimidate voters and prevent them
from exercising their right to vote on Election Day. The legislation builds
on similar legislation he introduced last year by including specific language
to address misleading fliers and harassing robocalls that occurred during
the 2006 cycle.
The legislation, the Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention
Act of 2006, would make it illegal for anyone to knowingly attempt to prevent
others from exercising his or her right to vote by providing deceptive information
and would require the Attorney General to fully investigate these allegations.
The legislation would also require the Attorney General, in conjunction with
the Election Assistance Commission, to provide accurate election information
when allegations of deceptive practices are confirmed.
"One of our most sacred rights as Americans is the right to make our
voice heard at the polls," said Obama. "But too often, we hear reports
of mysterious phone calls and mailers arriving just days before an election
that seek to mislead and threaten voters to keep them from the polls. And
those who engage in these deceptive and underhanded campaign tactics usually
target voters living in minority or low-income neighborhoods. This legislation
would ensure that for the first time, these incidents are fully investigated
and that those found guilty are punished."
Ending months of speculation, the nomination of Denver City Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez (pictured at right) to the Election Assistance Commission has been submitted by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. If confirmed by the Senate, Rodriguez would replace Ray Martinez, who resigned from the Commission last summer.
According to The Denver Post, Rodriguez, a former Denver clerk and recorder under Mayor Wellington Webb, refused to comment when asked about a possible nomination. Her aide said he was not authorized to discuss the matter.
Rodriguez is currently on an investigative panel assembled by the Mayor John
Hickenlooper to examine the failures of the Denver Election Commission that
led to long lines at the polls on Election Day and a slow vote-tallying process.
the Entire Article
From Around the States
a refreshing departure from the norm, the presumed loser of Arizona's 5th Congressional
District race has conceded but the presumed winner has refuse to declare victory
until all the votes are counted.
Incumbent Republican J.D. Hayworth conceded a week after the election, trailing
Democratic challenger Harry Mitchell in the still incomplete count by 6,499
votes out of over 184,000 ballots cast. But according to the Arizona
Republic, Mitchell has waited to declare victory out of respect for the
vote-counting process. He said Tuesday night that despite his opponent's concession,
he will continue to wait.
"The county recorder is still counting the votes," he said. "I
don't want anyone to think their vote did not count."
So often the initial election night results of a close race establish a "presumed
winner-sore loser" perception that dictates how the candidates conduct
themselves during the canvassing and any recount process. In a shrewd political
move Democrat Jim Webb declared victory in his bid to unseat Virginia Senator
George Allen within hours of the polls closing on election night, long before
all the ballots were counted or the canvassing even contemplated. Allen conceded
three days later, though plenty of questions remained about the accuracy of
the vote announced vote totals, no doubt based on a political judgment that
since recount or contest was unlikely to change the outcome, it was unwise to
take the risk of being perceived as a "sore loser". Read
the Entire Article
The Connecticut Secretary of the State, Susan Bysiewicz, announced that Democrat
Joe Courtney defeated the incumbent Republican Rob Simmons in the 2nd Congressional
District (CD-2) House race after a recanvass was completed. Courtney, who led
by a mere 167 votes after the original count on election night, ended up with
only 91 more votes than Simmons. Secretary Bysiewicz went on to explain the
audit procedures that will take place in the Connecticut towns, outside of CD-2,
that used optical scanners in the 2006 election.
In August of 2006, optical scan voting machines were selected to replace the
lever machines in 25 out of 169 towns in Connecticut. In addition, the IVS telephone
voting system was purchased for every town in the state to meet the accessibility
requirements in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Connecticut chose to purchase
AccuVote-OS optical scanners from Diebold Election Systems, Inc.. LHS Associates
of Massachusetts was designated to carry out the provisions of the state’s
contract with Diebold. Several computer scientists, including Dr.
Alex Shvartsman and the University of Connecticut's Department of Computer Science
and Engineering, have found serious security flaws in the AccuVote-OS optical
the Entire Article
Voters from Sarasota County announced today that they are filing suit in state
court in Tallahassee asking for a revote in Florida’s 13th congressional
district. The suit alleges that thousands of citizens were disenfranchised when
massive undervotes plagued the tight congressional race between Democrat Christine
Jennings and Republican Vern Buchanan. In a high-profile battle over former
Rep. Katherine Harris' seat, the result was decided by 363 votes, yet over 18,000
ballots cast on Sarasota County's e-voting machines registered no vote in the
race, an exceptional anomaly in the State.
The lawsuit is being filed by a group of Sarasota County voters, both Republican
and Democratic. The voters are represented by election advocacy groups, including
Voter Action, People For the American Way Foundation, the Electronic Frontier
Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.
Voter Action, a national nonpartisan advocacy group focused on election integrity
has been leading legal efforts nationally to address the problems with electronic
voting. "The problems in Sarasota are not unique," said election law
attorney Lowell Finley, co-director of the organization. "Across the country
we have seen how these systems lose large numbers of votes, switch voters’
selections on the screen, cause high undervote rates, add votes or even count
votes backwards. Our democracy is too important to continue using unreliable
and untrustworthy voting equipment. The people of Sarasota are standing up for
their most fundamental right no matter their political affiliation. This is
about protecting democracy." Read
the Entire Article
On Monday, Florida election officials declared Republican Vern Buchanan
the winner in the state’s 13th Congressional District race,
but Democratic nominee Christine Jennings is formally challenging the results,
arguing that errors on ES&S iVotronic touch screen voting machines in Sarasota
County account for Buchanan’s apparent lead. Ms. Jennings' press release
the Formal Complaint (PDF)
Citing statistical and eyewitness evidence of significant machine malfunctions
sufficient to call into doubt the result of the election for Florida Congressional
District 13, the Christine Jennings campaign today officially contested the
election in Circuit Court. The complaint specifically requests the judge to
order a new election “to ensure that the will of the people of the Thirteenth
District is respected, and to restore the confidence of the electorate, which
has been badly fractured by this machine-induced debacle.”
More than 17,000 undervotes (15%) were recorded on Sarasota County’s
electronic voting machines, a rate nearly 6 times higher than the undervote
rate in the other District 13 counties or in Sarasota’s paper absentee
ballots. Jennings won Sarasota County by a 53% - 47% margin, while losing the
district-wide manual recount by 369 votes. As noted in the complaint:
The failure to include these votes constitutes a rejection of a number of
legal votes sufficient to place in doubt, and likely change, the outcome of
the Entire Article
This article was posted at VerifiedVoting.org.
It is reposted here with permission of the author.
Florida needs to demonstrate that it is a functioning democracy by getting
to the bottom of the problem in the District 13 Congressional Race in Sarasota
County. Republican Vern Buchanan now leads Christine Jennings by only 369 votes.
But voter complaints and anomalous statistics raise the question: did the voters
decide this election, or did software or hardware errors tip the result in favor
of a candidate who would otherwise have lost?
The numbers reported the day after the election showed a glaring problem: over
18,000 voters cast ballots, but (supposedly) did not vote in the Congressional
race. Overall, that is a 14% undervote rate, which is implausibly high for this
race (the undervote rate in the U.S. Senate race was a little over 1%).
According to Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent and candidate Buchanan, the
undervotes were protests by voters repelled by a negative campaign. This argument
does not pass the straight face test. To believe it, one would have to accept
that the only voters who were unhappy were those who voted on electronic machines
in Sarasota County. In contrast, the undervote rate on Sarasota's paper absentee
ballots was about 2.5%. The undervote was similarly low in neighboring counties.
the Entire Article
The first statewide post election review of votes cast in each of Minnesota’s
87 counties is nearly completed and the results should give Minnesota voters
renewed confidence in the state’s election process, said Mark Halvorson,
director and co-founder of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota.
The accuracy of Minnesota’s electronic voting machines is being assessed
for the first time through a hand count of randomly selected precincts in each
county. “Our goal is to help Minnesota set the gold standard for accurate
and verifiable elections,” said Halvorson. “We are impressed
thus far by the accuracy of the machines and the professionalism of the county
Volunteers around the state took part in the nation’s first statewide
observation of a post election review. Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota
coordinated this effort which was co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters
the Entire Report
Party Requests a 2% Manual Audit
At a press conference this morning, Democratic challenger Patricia Madrid has
announced her decision not to request a full hand recount of the race for New
Mexico’s 1st District Congressional District. After all provisional ballots
had been counted incumbent Rep. Heather Wilson’s lead over Madrid had
dwindled to 875 votes, a margin of less than ½% of the total ballots
After Madrid conceded, John Wertheim, the chair of the Democratic Party of
New Mexico, announced that the Democratic Party will be asking for a 2% audit/recount.
The reason for the ambiguous audit/recount statement is that the new law which
does not take effect has provisions for an audit where the current law only
has provisions for a recount.
According to the Albuquerque
Journal, Democratic Party Executive Director Matt Farrauto had confirmed
Monday that the party had inquired about the cost of a recount. Madrid's concession
brings to a close one of the closest remaining undetermined Congressional contests.
At her press conference Madrid cited cost and a family illnes as factors in
her decision not to request a recount. Read
the Entire Article
Five Contests Still Undecided in the State
Recounts are underway in several North Carolina elections, including the closely
contested race for the 8th Congressional District, with incumbent Republican
Robin Hayes’ lead down to under 350 votes over challenger Larry Kissell.
Three of the District’s 10 counties had reported results of recounts yesterday,
with the other seven expected to complete their machine recounts by today.
With a margin of victory well below 1% of the more than 121,000 total votes
counted, Kissell will be able to request a hand count of 3 percent of the precincts
in the districts. If the partial hand count uncovers discrepancies, a full hand
count would be conducted. Citing reports of errors, Kissell has already pledged
to seek a hand recount if this week's machine recount further narrows the race.
The counties in the 8th district employ as mix of ES&S optical scanners
and iVotronic touchscreen voting systems. Read the Entire Article
This article was posted at Electronic
Frontier Foundation's Deep Links Blog. It is reposted here with permission
of the author.
Down over 7,000 votes to Democratic challenger Jim Webb, Virginia Senator George
three days after the election. "It is with deep respect for the people
of Virginia," Allen said, "that I do not wish to cause more rancor
by protracted litigation which would in my judgment not alter the results."
With all due respect to Sen. Allen, how could he know for sure?
The long history of problems with electronic voting systems should have given
him at least slight pause, especially in light of last week's documented incidents
of Hart Intercivic voting machines apparently truncating
the names of several candidates on the summary page, including the name
of his opponent, now-Senator-elect Jim Webb. Or reports from election day that
ES&S iVotronic machines in Sarasota, Florida, recorded
over 10,000 fewer votes for a Congressional race than for other high-profile
the Entire Article
to the Casper Star-Tribune Democratic challenger Gary
Trauner (pictured at right) has issued a statement explaining that because Wyoming
law does not allow for hand counting of ballots, he didn't think there would
be any change in the outcome by simply having a recount by machine.
He said he believes the state needs to look at changing its election laws to
allow counting ballots by hand if necessary. "What is the purpose of having
recounts in tight races and using machines that keep a paper ballot, if the
law does not allow for manual checks and balances in counting those paper ballots?"
In an Associated
Press article Peggy Nighswonger, state elections director, confirmed there
was no provision for hand counting ballots in Wyoming. The only instance she
could think of where a recount by hand might occur is if all the tabulation
machines in a county broke down, she said.
The election results have been certified in Wyoming, but Trauner, had earlier
considered a recount. In a statement released yesterday Trauner stated:
We owe it to Wyoming’s citizens, both those that voted for me and those that voted for my opponent, to ensure that all their votes have been counted and that their final selection is accurate – we can stand for nothing less.
Read the Entire Article
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