Election Integrity News - November 28, 2005

This Week's Quote: “It's not the voting that's democracy, it's the counting."
Tom Stoppard, Jumpers (1972) Act 1


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
Democracy in America Has Officially Become a Privatized Circus

News From Around the States
Arkansas: Voting System DecisionsGet Political
California: Machinations Behind Closed Doors
Florida: Diebold TSX Improperly Certified
Georgia: Newspaper Reverses Position on Controversial, Unconstitutional Voter ID Law
New Mexico: State Certifies Automark - Counties to Decide Between Three Systems
New York: In Defense of the Full Face Ballot
North Carolina: Diebold Loses in Court - Withdraws From Bidding Process
Ohio's Diebold Debacle: New Machines Call Election Results Into Question
Pennsylvania: Allegheny Activists Work on Voting Machine Evaluations
Virginia: Decision on Paper Trail Recommendations Deferred Until December
Wisconsin: Bipartisan Request to Governor for Special Session on AB 627

The Facts
ES&S: Private Company Still ‘Controls’ Election Outcome

Upcoming Events
California: November 28-29 Voting System Testing Summit
New Mexico: December 14 - Last Meeting of Election Reform Task Force

Previous Issues
November 21, 2005, 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

I go through the 'Daily Voting News' each week and decide on what I feel are the top 5 stories of the week. If you disagree with my choices that's great because it means you've kept up with the news enough to have a favorite article.

#5 Ohio The day after the November 8 election in Ohio, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell issued a press release describing what a success the election was in Ohio. Lucas County is one of the counties who are still trying to figure out who won what and how they failed in their elections administrations. Link Link

#4 Illinois Many counties and large cities in Illinois are making decisions and signing contracts with voting machine vendors. The city of Peoria seems to have gotten a little help in their decision and resulting contract. Now the state’s attorney and a grand jury are looking at ties between an elections commissioner, Eugene Wittry, and a vendor, Populex, that happens to be run by a relative. It helps that Wittry is also on their board and owns stock in the company. Link Link

#3 Arizona A superior court judge in Arizona found in favor of Secretary of State Jan Brewer and against a voter who sued her for not doing her job to determine if voting machines accurately count every vote. Link

#2 California The Secretary of State provided a venue for the public to give their opinion of the Diebold TSx. There were only one or two speakers in favor of the machines and many who spoke against them for various reasons. The speakers against included members of the disability community who correctly point out that the machines are NOT accessible. Link Link

#1 California (again) It seems the state will allow someone to test the vulnerability of the Diebold voting system used in the state; or will they? There are claims and counter-claims and misinformation in the media. The articles linked below should do a good job of confusing the reader about the facts but the most recent article by Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune, will give you the most accurate information. Link Link Link Link

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National Stories

Democracy in America Has Officially Become a Privatized Circus
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog

Pollster Mark Blumenthal Joins the Crowd of Folks Who Simply Don't Get It or Otherwise Just Don't Care
Originally published on the BradBlog 11/23/05.  Reposted by permission of the author.

"Mystery Pollster" Mark Blumenthal follows up his recent post on the matter of the extraordinarily questionable results of Ohio's November 8th, '05 Elections. All four of the Election Reform initiatives on the ballot that day mysteriously and spectacularly failed to win approval in stark opposition to the pre-election polling by the historically accurate Columbus Dispatch which had predicted most of them would win by large margins.

That they lost by large margins instead, has been the subject of some controversy. We've blogged about it (here and here) and responded (here) to Blumenthal's analysis of tweaks in the Dispatch polls methodology that he feels "might" have skewed their findings this time around. Despite the major changes in the "methodology" used to gather the actual Election Results in Ohio this year (44 of Ohio's 88 counties installed all-new Touch-Screen Electronic Voting Machines for the first time ever) Blumenthal's presumption is that it must have been the tweaks in the Dispatch poll's methodology rather than any problem with the Election Results as gathered by these all-new, untested, unaccountable, untransparent and demonstrably prone-to-failure Electronic Voting Systems. Read the Entire Article

News From Around the States

Arkansas: Voting System Decisions Enter Political Debate
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

Arkansas Secretary of State Charlie Daniels' announcement earlier this month that the state had contracted with ES&S over Diebold for voting systems has become a political issue in the state as one of his two announced Republican challengers, Jim Lagrone, questioned his relationship with an ES&S lobbyists. Lagrone, a minister and former president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention, was running for Lt. Governor until July when he decided to run for Secretary of State instead, apparently having observed that the race for the Republican nomination for Lt. Governor was getting crowded.

Lost in the political posturing over the choice of vendors was the fact that the choice of ES&S will allow Arkansas counties the option on retaining their paper ballots through the use of the ES&S AutoMark ballot-marking device for compliance with HAVA section 301 disability access requirements. Had the contract gone to Diebold, counties that wanted to retain optical scan ballots for non-disabled voters would have been required to adopt a "blended" system that has proven problematic in Florida and other states. (See "A Crazy Way to Run an Election")

As for the accusation of favoritism, Daniels responded in a recent article that  every voting machine vendor seeking to do business in Arkansas hired a local representative. "With my years of experience in state government, I am acquainted with each and every one of those lobbyists, but not one of them tells me how to make decisions in my capacity as secretary of state," said Daniels. "This very important decision is one I take seriously, with due diligence and consideration, and my selection was based on cost, experience of ES&S in Arkansas and the ease of transition from our existing voting systems," he said. Read the Entire Article

Diebold in California: Machinations Behind Closed Doors
Sherry Healy, California Election Protection Network

November 21 was an exhilarating day in Sacramento. Deja vu of the last Diebold hearing, this new attempt to certify Diebold wares once again raised the near-unanimous ire of concerned citizens. The passion and dedication of the people attending was palpable. To witness more than 125 citizens, journeying great distances - on short notice and on a short holiday week - who all came together to defend the integrity of our democratic processes, was to witness the real "Patriot Act."

Without the dedication and vigilance of these activists, other concerned citizens would never have known that behind closed doors, the machinery of the Secretary of State’s office was in high gear ready to certify Diebold.

Testing Diebold

Diebold suffered some setbacks earlier this year trying to meet the new state requirement for a voter verified paper audit trail. In its initial test this summer, the AccuView printer attachment to the TSx model touch screen voting machine had a staggering 30% performance failure rate. Diebold made adjustments, resubmitted, and reportedly passed a second test in September, clearing the way for rectifying the Tsp machines in four counties where they've been suspended since spring 2004.

Test Results: Passing With a Weak Thumb's Up

California's official voting equipment certification tester, Steve Freeman, issued a slightly qualified "thumbs up" for Diebold. Freeman applied his stamp of approval despite the fact that he did not run tests on the specific security holes revealed by computer security experts Avi Rubin, Herbert Thompson and Harry Hursti, which Blackboxvoting.org later applied in demonstrations of undetected vote-switching conducted under simulated election conditions. As one election official (who asked not to be identified) said of the State's passing grade on the testing results, "Isn't it like examining a patient for small pox and proudly announcing that their teeth are clean?" Read the Entire Article

Florida Improperly Certified the Diebold TSX
by Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coalition

Florida Fair Elections Coalition's preliminary review of documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act request to Florida's Division of Elections reveals that the state improperly certified the Diebold "paperless" TSX voting machine and improperly certified Diebold's so-called "blended" system. Our preliminary findings include the following:

1. Twenty-five percent failure rate The Florida testing of the TSX took place in March 2005.  Four TSXs were supposed to be part of the testing procedure. However, according to handwritten notes found in the margins of the testing procedures, "one TSX died." Another note said that TSX serial #203213 was not used due to a "bad screen." Further notes indicate that the tests were then conducted on only 3 machines. Although this constitutes a 25% failure rate, no mention of this breakdown (or breakdowns) is made in the final test results.

2.  Provisional ballots not private A handwritten note in the margin of the test procedures document says the following: "Note: Review of provisional ballots can occur before ballot acceptance. This needs to change." This is startling because it indicates that the TSX shows voter information (name, address, etc.) and how that voter voted before a decision is made as to whether to accept a provisional ballot. This means that provisional voters do not have a secret vote on the TSX. It would seem that this alone should prevent certification of the TSX. No mention of this problem is made in Florida's official test results report and, in fact, Florida certified the TSX the very next week.

3.  Manual Procedures Improper The Reference Guide for the GEMS version 1.18 reveals that manual procedures are required to define "vote centers" and to accumulate voting results. These manual procedures mean that the validity of the voting results ultimately rests on the individual(s) who are implementing these manual procedures.  No amount of testing can cover or guarantee that these manual processes will be properly implemented. Therefore, the system is not certifiable because it should not permit manual functions that cannot be tested and which could affect election results. These manual procedures are an end run around security features. They may make the system more flexible and make the supervisor's job easier, but flexibility is the enemy of security. Read the Entire Article

Georgia: Newspaper Reverses Position on Controversial, Unconstitutional Voter ID Law
by John Gideon, Information Manager, VotersUnite and VoteTrustUSA

Originally published at The BradBlog.

Just four weeks ago the Athens Banner-Herald in Georgia editorialized in favor of the repressive new Georgia Voter ID law. This law had, just 3 days prior to the editorial, been found by a federal judge to be an example of a "Jim Crow-era Poll Tax" and thus the law was suspended. Critics have charged that the requirement for Photo ID at the polls will disenfranchise millions of mostly Democratic-leaning minorities, elderly, poor and urban-dwellers who don't own driver's licenses.

But things have changed since the Banner-Herald's original Op/Ed. One of the Georgia bill's sponsors, Rep. Sue Burmeister (R-Augusta), got caught with her sheet down when she made statements to the U.S. Department of Justice who had been tasked with determining the legality of the new law under the Federal Voting Rights Act. Her statements were released along with a story revealing that 4 of the 5 career staff members in the DoJ who were advising on the matter had recommended against giving approval to Georgia's new law. That advice was then overruled by the Bush-appointed Attorney General and the law was given DoJ approval just prior to be ruled as unconstitutional by two Federal courts.

In her statements, Burmeister is said to have told DoJ officials looking into the law that blacks in her district only vote when they are paid to do so. Those remarks are contained in the 51-page report from the DoJ's analysis recommending against approval of Georgia's law. Burmeister reportedly told officials that "when blacks in her precinct are not paid to vote, they do not go to the polls." Read the Entire Article

New Mexico: State Certifies Automark - Counties to Decide Between Three Systems
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

In a dramatic reversal of her previous position, New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron on November 21 certified the ES&S Automark ballot-marking device for use in the state. County Clerks will now have the choice of three systems to meet the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Section 301 requirements - two DREs (the Sequoia Edge and the ES&S iVotronic) or optical scans with Automarks.

Eleven counties in New Mexico used Optech for all stages of voting last year and before this week's certification were facing a choice between adopting a blended system with DREs only for disabled voters or switching completely to DREs. Now they can purchase one Automark for each polling place (2 in Harding County, 4 in DeBaca County, 5 in Guadalupe County. 6 in Hidalgo County, 9 in Sierra and Union Counties, withseveral other counties havingless than 20) and they will be both HAVA compliant and will be able to meet the state's requirement for a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) in 2007.

An article in the Albuquerque Journal notes that the certification was certain to please disability advocacy organizations, "who picked the AutoMark as their overwhelming favorite in tests earlier this year." The article also pointed out that while Vigil-Giron said the decision about which machines to buy would be left to the individual county clerks, so far the only machine that complies with the state's VVPAT requirement is the AutoMark. Read the Entire Article

New York: In Defense of the Full Face Ballot
by Howard Stanislevic

The Brennan Center for Justice of the New York University School of Law has recently opined (see article) that New York's so-called full-face ballot law, which requires all races on the ballot to be displayed within a single ballot frame, is somehow obsolete. Their primary reason for this assertion was that this ballot format makes it more expensive for vendors peddling electronic touch screen voting machines to do business in New York.

The state legislature has been accused of retaining the full-face ballot just so that local races will be on the same "front page" as federal and statewide races. In fact, a bill advocating exactly what the Brennan folks have, did not even make it out of committee last session. But let me point out a much more important reason for the continued use of the full-face ballot: ballot and election integrity.

With the advent of touch screen voting machines, paper ballots have become vapor ballots. A voter sees ballot text on a screen which, due to programming errors or deliberate malfeasance, may have nothing to do with the actual votes recorded in the election database. Options such as straight party voting, which is illegal in 33 states yet programmable on any e-voting system, actually cause votes to be cast in multiple races on the ballot simultaneously with a single touch of the screen. At least one vendor refers to such races as "controlling races" because they control the votes cast in other races on the ballot, which the voters may never even examine. Read the Entire Article

North Carolina: Diebold Loses in Court - Withdraws From Bidding Process
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

In a dramatic development in North Carolina this afternoon, a Wake County Superior Court judge declined to issue an injunction that would have protected Diebold Elections Systems from possible prosecution resulting from the state's new voting equipment standards. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed The Public Confidence in Elections Act (s 223/ H 238) in response to the numerous voting system malfunctions across the state in last year's election. Under the new law, manufacturers must place in escrow "all software that is relevant to functionality, setup, configuration, and operation of the voting system," as well as a list of programmers responsible for creating the software.

In a last-minute filing, Diebold asked the court to exempt it from the new requirements, and in 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. Diebold argued that since it uses Microsoft Windows software it would be impossible to provide the names of every programmer who worked on Windows. In spite of assurances from the State Board of Elections that in supplying the source code, vendors could merely explain why some information is unavailable, Diebold remained concerned about possible legal exposure. A company spokesman said that Diebold had no choice but to withdraw their bid.

The case was argued on behalf of election integrity activist Joyce McCloy of North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). "The new law was passed for a reason: to ensure that the voters of North Carolina have confidence in the integrity and accuracy of their elections," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman in a press release issued over the weekend. "In stark contrast to every other equipment vendor that placed a bid with the state, Diebold went to court complaining that it simply couldn't comply with the law. Diebold should spend its efforts developing a system that voters can trust, not asking a court to let it bypass legal requirements aimed at ensuring voting integrity." AP News Article Arstechnica.com Report

Ohio's Diebold Debacle: New Machines Call Election Results Into Question
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, The Free Press

Originally published in The Free Press. Reposted by permission of the authors.

Massive Election Day irregularities are emerging in reports from all over Ohio after the introduction of Diebold's electronic voting in nearly half of the Buckeye State's counties. A recently released report by the non-partisan General Accountability Office warned of such problems with electronic voting machines.

Prior to the 2005 election, electronic voting machines from Diebold and other voting machine manufacturers were newly installed in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties. The Dayton Daily News reported that in Montgomery County, for example, "Some machines began registering votes for the wrong item when voters touched the screen correctly. Those machines had lost their calibration during shipping or installation and had to be recalibrated…"

Steve Harsman, the Director of the Montgomery County Board of Elections told the Daily News that the recalibration could be done on site, but poll workers had never performed the task before. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania: Activists work with Allegheny County on Voting Machine Evaluation Process
by Pat Clark, The Center for Civic Participation and Everybody VOTE

The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) mandates that counties choose electronic voting machines by January 1, 2006, and that the voting technology "be accessible to individuals with disabilities in a way that provides the same opportunity for access and participation, including privacy and independence, as for other voters." This is an important selection process that has to occur within an extremely short timeframe. The result of the decisions around these machines will affect voting for decades to come.

Allegheny County had originally intended to present its final decision without public input but was induced by local community activists, particularly those representing the disability community, to allow those with disabilities, as well as the general public, to inspect and test machines prior to the County's decision.

So, on Thursday, November 17, 2005, in response to HAVA, Allegheny County hosted three sessions to test new voting machines. The HAVA committee members attended a private session (8:30-10:30 am); the ADA and community activists attended a 10:30am-12:30pm session; and the general public attended the 1:00-9:00 pm session. We were committed to ensuring that valid, reliable, consistent data was collected at these sessions so that the County factored public input into its decisions.

Virginia: Decision on Paper Trail Recommendations Deferred Until December
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA

The meeting on Monday, November 21 was to be the last for the Virginia Legislature’s Joint Subcommittee to Study the Certification, Performance, and Deployment of Voting Equipment but a decision on recommendations was deferred until December. Member of the committee have met six times since 2004 and heard testimony from a variety of technical experts, election officials, and citizens advocacy groups. Summaries of past meetings and submitted testimony can be viewed here.

State Senator Jeannemarie Devolites-Davis (R-Fairfax) commented at the hearing that voter confidence in the integrity of the ballot is more important than inconveniences and costs to local election officials. Computer experts have told the committee that the voting machines can be hacked into and compromised, she said.  Devolites-Davis’ husband, US Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), was one of six Congressional leaders that requested the recent General Accountability Office report on the security and aaccuracy of electronic voting machines.

Among the many testifying in favor of requiring voter verified paper audit trails was Justin Moore, a computer scientist based in Charlottesville. He submitted  a report comparing the variance in undervote rates on DREs and paper based systems used in elections earlier this month. The report can be downloaded here. Additional information can be found at Virginia Verified Voting. 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

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," said Rep. Freese. "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."

The press release un fortunately 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

The Facts

ES&S: Private Company Still ĪControlsā Election Outcome
by Christopher Bollyn, AmericanFreePress.net

This article was originally published in American Free Press and is reposted with the author's permission. It should also be noted that in future elections Cook County and Chicago will be using voting systems manufactured by Sequoia.

Secretive company administers almost every last aspect of "democratic" election process

The morning after Election Day, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and the vice presidential candidate John Edwards promised the nation that the Democrats would make sure that every vote counts, and that every vote is counted. Later in the day, Kerry and Edwards, however, conceded defeat before some 170,000 to 250,000 provisional ballots from Ohio, which could have changed the outcome of the election, had been counted.

But how were the votes actually counted across the nation on Nov. 2? On Election Day, voters in Cook County, Ill., were among the 60 million Americans who voted with machines made by Election Systems & Software, a secretive company based in Omaha.

ES&S, as it is known, calls itself "the world's largest and most experienced provider of total election management solutions." According to the company's own figures, 42 percent of all registered voters in the United States voted on ES&S equipment on Election Day. ES&S sells its "end-to-end election management suite of solutions" to replace traditional voting methods and election officials with what it calls "one-stop-shop", full service election coordination from start to finish.”

What this means on Election Day is that ES&S, a private company, manages everything about the voting, from voter registration, the printing of ballots, the programming of the voting machines, the counting and tabulation of the votes and the final reporting of the results "for 60 million Americans in 47 states." Read the Entire Article

Upcoming Events

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.

New Mexico: December 14 - Last Meeting of Election Reform Task Force
Room 307, Roundhouse, Santa Fe

The last meeting of the New Mexico Election Reform Task Force will be held on Wednesday December 14 at 9 a.m. in room 307 of the Roundhouse. A good crowd in the gallery to show support for our key issues will be really important in getting our key concerns addressed. United Voters of New Mexico and Verified Voting New Mexico have identified the likley top issue will be paper ballots. Another important issue that they are likely to raise is assuring that the paper ballots or paper audit trails are hand counted rather than machine counted. A third issue is that the Task Force is recommending that correcting problems in the audit provision can be put off until the 2007 legislative session because that would still leave time to be ready for the 2008 presidential elections. It is critical that such a delay not be allowed to result in dropping the matter entirely

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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