Election Integrity News - November 21, 2006

This 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

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


In this issue ...

National Stories

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 Too

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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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.

Identification Problems

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 voters.

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.

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Voting Machines

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 registration procedures.

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

National Stories

Observations of a Poll Worker: A Critique Of The eSlate
by David J. Maschek, pollworker in Houston, Texas - November 15, 2006

This article appeared at Fort Bend Now. It is reposted here with permission of the author. 

The 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

The Omaha World-Herald Should Divest from Election Systems and Software
by Kyle Michaelis, New Nebraska Network - November 17, 2006

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

 

Electronic Vote Counting: Where Did We Go Wrong?
by Howard Stanislevic, VoteTrustUSA E-Voter Education Project - November 21, 2006

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 audit trails.

Among other things, Saltman reported that regulations covering recounts in different states varied, as they do today. Some typical recount regulations were:

(1) a manual recount could be demanded by any candidate willing to pay for it;
(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.
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

Senator Obama Introduces Legislation to Criminalize Election-Day Fraud
Senator Obama Press Release - November 17, 2006

Provisions Included to Address Misleading Fliers and Harassing Robocalls from 2006 Elections

U.S. 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."

Read the Entire Article

Denver Councilwoman Rodriguez Recommended for EAC Position
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 17, 2006

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. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

Arizona: For Once the "Winner" Wants All the Votes Counted Too
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 19, 2006

In 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

Audits in Connecticut
by George Barnett, TrueVoteCT - November 17, 2006

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 scanners. Read the Entire Article

Florida: Sarasota Voters File Lawsuit for Revote in Congressional Race
by PFAW, VoterAction, ACLU, EFF - November 21, 2006

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

Florida: Jennings Contests Results in 13th District
by Christine Jennings Press Release - November 20, 2006

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 follows.

Download 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 election.”Read the Entire Article

Is Florida Ready for Democracy?
by David Dill, Founder, Verified Voting - November 20, 2006

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. Read the Entire Article

Results from Minnesota‚s First Post-Election Review Confirms Accuracy of State‚s Voting Machines
by Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota - November 15, 2006

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 election officials.”

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 Minnesota. Read the Entire Report

New Mexico: Madrid Concedes - Will Not Request A Recount
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 21, 2006

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 cast.

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

North Carolina: Kissell Will Request A Hand Recount in 8th District Race
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 21, 2006

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

Who‚s Afraid of Virginia‚s Voting Machines?
by Matt Zimmerman, Electronic Frontier Foundation - November 19, 2006

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 Allen conceded 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 races. Read the Entire Article

Wyoming: Trauner Will Not Ask for Recount in Congressional Race
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 18, 2006

According 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?" he said.

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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