Election Integrity News - November 30, 2006
Week's Quote: "'If the success of an election is to be measured
according to whether each voter`s voice is heard, then we would have to
conclude that this past election was not entirely a success." Doug
In this issue ...
Analysis of 2006 Election Finds Problems Nationwide
White Paper Recommends That New Standards Should Require "Software Independent" Voting Systems
EAC and TGDC Meetings Announced
News From Around the States
Division of Elections Refuses To Release 2006 Election Records
Touch-Screen Votes Flipping in Arkansas Run-off Election
Florida: Audit Unlikely to Yield Useful Information About Sarasota County Voting Machines
Florida: Missing Votes Validate Touch-screen Critics' Claims
Possible HAVA Violation in Georgia's Provisional Balloting
Georgia: 2006 Election Candidates Join E-Voting Rights Suit
Kentucky: Grayson Advoctaes Verifiable Voting Systems
Montana: Paper Ballots Ensure Best Elections
New York: Making Every Vote Count
Ohio: Hand Count Begins in Congressional Race
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Voting System Still Needs Fixing
by Ray Martinez III and Avi Rubin
This editorial appeared in The
Baltimore Sun. It is reposted here with permission of the authors.
After another general election in which technical and human errors
at polling places affected the voting process for many Americans,
it is clear that a renewed focus on improving the mechanics of our
great democracy is in order.
A national voter hotline received more than 40,000 calls, with
registration and machine-related problems ranking among the top
In Denver, the intermittent collapse of new technology designed
to verify the registration status of voters caused routine waits
of more than two hours and the disenfranchisement of thousands of
In Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana, a number of local jurisdictions
encountered problems with the opening of polling places, resulting
in the need for judicial intervention to extend voting hours.
Although significant efforts have been made in the last several
years to improve our elections, serious questions remain.
The 2002 federal Help America Vote Act was supposed to be the answer.
In the wake of the 2000 presidential election, Congress passed Help
America Vote to modernize the process and provide much-needed federal
funds to state and local governments.
At least one recent national exit poll showed high voter confidence
in the accuracy of election results, and officials should be praised
for the improvements they have made in so short a time. But as the
evidence suggests, the difficulties that continue to plague the
process of election administration require our immediate attention.
Four important steps should be taken.
First, the incoming 110th Congress should place meaningful election
reform on its agenda. Although the decentralized nature of our election
system remains one of its abiding strengths, Congress should consider
certain procedural improvements to build upon the progress already
made. For example, establishing uniform data transfer standards
- similar to what has been accomplished in the health care industry
over the last several years - could serve to better protect voting
rights by making it easier for states to exchange voter eligibility
or registration information.
Second, the time has come for Congress to fully fund the Help America
Vote Act. Unanticipated costs associated with implementing this
important law have placed a severe financial burden upon state and
local jurisdictions. For example, maintenance and troubleshooting
costs associated with electronic voting systems have come at a steep
price - a cost often paid for by state and local tax dollars, with
no help from the federal government.
Third, with some congressional races being decided by razor-thin margins, the
fact remains that many electronic systems in use throughout the country provide
no voter verification of the recording of votes and no independent audit or
recount capabilities. Just ask the voters in Sarasota County, Fla., who continue
to deal with the fallout of a congressional race decided by 369 votes in which
the losing candidate alleges that malfunctioning touch-screen voting machines
led to some 18,000 potentially lost votes. Regardless of the outcome of this
particular race, it is simply no longer acceptable that the fate of our democracy
rests, with each passing election cycle, on electronic voting machines that
provide no means to independently verify voter intent.
Despite the best efforts of most local election officials to appropriately program
and secure these machines, problems persist. In order to finally resolve the
lingering doubts surrounding the use of certain electronic voting machines,
the U.S. Election Assistance Commission should amend its recently adopted national
voting system standards to require - as a mandatory condition of federal voting
system certification - that all electronic systems produce independent verification
of ballots cast and counted. And, it should do so in time for the 2008 election
cycle. Only then can we have true reliability and accuracy.
Finally, election officials should commit themselves to improving their collection
of data and to undertaking rigorous, consistent and transparent audits after
every election. Important lessons have been learned from jurisdictions that
have recently invited an independent review of their policies and procedures.
The Election Assistance Commission should encourage more jurisdictions to do
the same. Post-election independent audits - already performed by a handful
of jurisdictions - serve to further improve the public confidence of election
These four steps are important, but much more work remains to be done. Election
2006 has helped to point the way, but the insights are only useful if we commit
ourselves to act on them.
Ray Martinez III, former vice chairman of the U.S. Election
Assistance Commission, is a policy adviser to the Pew Center on the States.
Avi Rubin is a computer science professor at the Johns
Hopkins University and author of "Brave New Ballot: The Battle to Safeguard
Democracy in the Age of Electronic Voting." Permalink
Lack of post-vote controversy masks widespread voting difficulties
Report on the 2006 Election
Electionline.org has released its first comprehensive look at the 2006 election,
finding widespread problems but no meltdown at the nation’s polling places.
The 2006 Election, the 15th in a series of policy briefings by electionline.org,
found widespread reports of voting system troubles, sporadic incidents of voter
intimidation and/or poll worker confusion over voter identification requirements
and some breakdowns at polling places because of problems with newly-mandated
voter registration systems.
“The question most frequently asked after the election is whether it was
a success,” said Doug Chapin, the organization’s director. “Success
can be measured in a two ways. If success is measured through picking winners,
then yes, there were few races in which polling-place problems could have affected
the outcome. But, on the other hand, if it is measured through whether every
voter who showed up at a polling place had an opportunity to cast their vote
without problems or obstacles, then the answer is no.”
With more than a third of all voters casting ballots on new voting systems
compared with just two years ago, human and machine errors were widespread.
In a number of states – including Indiana, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Arkansas,
Illinois, inexperienced poll workers struggled to start, troubleshoot and close
electronic voting machines. Voters in a number of states reported “vote
flipping,’ whereby machines indicated choices other than those made by
the voter, either when the screen was touched or when the choices were revealed
on a review screen. Read
the Entire Article
Other Recommendations Include Banning of Wireless Devices, Volume
Testing, Software SetupValidation, and Open-Ended Vulnerability Testing
on TGDC Meetings Webcast
Several draft white papers have been submitted to the Technical Guidelines
Development Committee (TGDC) including one
that recommends that the next iteration of the Voluntary Voting System
Standards (VVSG) require that all systems be “software independent.
Systems that are software independent include paper ballot optical scan systems,
direct recording electronic (DRE) systems equipped with voter verified paper
audit trail (VVPAT) printers, and ballot marking devices like the AutoMARK
and VotePAD. The concept of software independence is amplified in a supplemental
Troubling to many election activists were recommendations in the paper for
research and development of "End to End" verification systems, i.e.
crytographic verification like that developed by Dategrity
(formerly, and still frequently referred to as VoteHere). The paper admits
that it remains a matter of debate as to whether high-level requirements for
software independent verification systems can be written at this point without
If the recommendations were adopted, the primary effect would be that paperless
DREs could not be certified to the next iteration of the VVSG, projected to
be adopted late in 2007. The new VVSG would not take effect until two years
after their adoption and any currently certified systems or systems certified
before then would remain certified. Therefore, jurisdictions that have already
purchased paperless DREs would be able to keep them, unless states took some
additional action to prohibit this. Likewise, in states that have already
certified paperless DREs, those paperless DREs would remain state-certified
indefinitely, unless the state took some explicit action to decertify them.
the Entire Article
The Election Assistance Commission has announced two public meeting for the
first week of December. On Thursday December 7, the Commission will receive
presentations on public comments received for the DRAFT Procedural Manual for
Voting System Testing and Certification Program and the proposed final document
will be considered for approval. The Commission will receive presentations from
election officials, community interest groups, academicians and technology experts
regarding the 2006 election. In adition, the Commission will elect officers
for 2007 and consider other administrative matters.
On December 4 and 5, The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC)
has scheduled a plenary meeting at the offices of The National Institute for
Standards and Technology in Gaithersberg, MD. The Committee will review and
approve draft documents that will form the bases for recommendations for future
voluntary voting system guidelines to the EAC. The draft documents respond to
tasks defined in resolutions passed at previous Committee meetings. Read
the Entire Article
From Around the States
The Alaska Division of Elections is violating the public records law and should immediately release copies of the electronic records of the 2006 election results so they can be examined before the election is certified, Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe said today.
"Once again, the Division of Elections is flaunting the law with excuses and delays by refusing to release critical public records," Metcalfe said. "Judge Joannides has already ordered them to make copies of each version of the 2006 GEMS database, so it is no burden on them to just release those copies that they are already making. Why won't they release the records and give the public access to them as they are required by law to do?" Metcalfe said.
On Nov. 7, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Stephanie Joannides ordered the Division of Elections to preserve backup copies of the state's 2006 electronic computer database and subsequent tallies of the election results. The Division of Elections had refused to make backup copies of the Diebold computer GEMS database in response to a request from the Alaska Democratic Party, which then sought an emergency court order requiring that copies be preserved of these election records. The Judge agreed with the Democratic Party and issued a temporary restraining order stating that the Division must make backup electronic copies on disk of the GEMS database as it existed on election night and again at the
conclusion of each day in which the Division of Elections entered votes manually into the system. Read the Entire Press Release
Mayoral Candidate's Own Votes Repeatedly Flipped in County Clerk's Office
— in Front of County Clerk — Told 'Election Must Go On, Go Get Court
This article appeared on The
Brad Blog. It is reposted with permission of the author.
Heber Springs, Arkansas, mayoral run-off candidate Jackie McPherson began to
suspect problems when both his mother-in-law and her mom told him their attempted
vote for him flipped over to McPherson's opponent during early voting. He went
to the County Clerk's office to test the problem for himself — in front
of the County Clerk, who at first told him it was not possible — and then
they were both able to watch the vote flip about 20 times in a row.
McPherson says the head of the local Elections Commission then told him "the
election would have to go on," and that he "would have to get a court
order to review the machines and the problem that obviously exists." Read
the Entire Article
Audit structure, as well as credibility and impartiality of auditors,
has been called into question
Today’s audit of Sarasota County voting machines appears likely to disappoint
Floridians who want answers about the more-than-18,000-person undervote in the
congressional race here.
The audit, which begins today and continues on Friday, has serious structural
flaws, and the credibility and impartiality of some of the auditors has been
called into question. Only ten machines are being examined in the audit, and
only five of those machines—the ones to be examined on Friday—were
actually used in the election. Roughly 1,500 machines were in use in Sarasota
County on Election Day.
“Floridians wondering how more than 18,000 votes went missing in the congressional
race here are unlikely to find answers from this audit,” said People For
the American Way Foundation Florida Legal Counsel Reggie Mitchell. “This
audit is looking at less than one percent of the machines that were in use in
Sarasota County on Election Day, and that’s not going to provide us with
enough evidence to get to the bottom of this debacle.”Read
the Entire Article
'Reluctant prophet' Kindra Muntz's petition drive overcomes Sarasota
County objections to net 55.4 percent of vote for paper ballots.
The resolute South Venice woman who forced Sarasota County officials to give
voters a choice in the debate over paperless touch-screen election equipment
has emerged as a reluctant prophet in the wake of last week's disputed outcome
in Florida Congressional District 13.
"I suppose one could feel smug, but I'm not gloating. I'm just happy,"
said Kindra Muntz of the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections President , a
grassroots organization that spearheaded a charter initiative for new machines
with paper receipts that received 55.4 percent voter support on Nov. 7.
As a result, Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent and the Sarasota County Commission
must either replace more than 1,600 paperless voting machines before the 2008
general election cycle, or try to wiggle out of the obligation through court
The latter is extremely unlikely because Dent, who recommended the county
buy paperless ES&S iVotronic equipment in 2001, has already announced she'll
abide by the will of the majority and recommend the commission allocate more
than $3 million for new machines.
the entire article at The Sun Herald
Yesterday, I read Ron Rivest's
write-up of his elections observation experience in Georgia this past November
Report: Election Day 2006: Visit to Atlanta Georgia on 11/7/2006 for election
I was dismayed, as Ron was (page 3), to hear that voters who were not on the
rolls were not offered provisional ballots. Under HAVA, all voters who believe
they are entitled to cast a vote should at least be permitted to cast a provisional
ballot (of course, it's a different question as to whether those ballots would
Georgia's procedures seem to be illegal under HAVA and constitute a HAVA violation.
That is, HAVA says in the section that established provisional voting (§302
(a) PROVISIONAL VOTING REQUIREMENTS.-If an individual declares that such individual is a registered voter in the jurisdiction in which the individual desires to vote and that the individual is eligible to vote in an election for Federal office, but the name of the individual does not appear on the official list of eligible voters for the polling place or an election official asserts that the individual is not eligible to vote, such individual shall be permitted to cast a provisional ballot [...]
the Entire Article
VoterGa, a diverse non-partisan coalition
that organized an E-Voting rights lawsuit filed in Georgia during July of this
year, announced today its intent to enjoin three 2006 election candidates as
plaintiffs to the suit. Included are a Democrat, Republican and an independent
write-in candidate who are questioning the 2006 primaries, run-off and general
Mary Wilhite, a Republican who took first in a House District 22 primary but
was edged in a run-off by 35 votes, stated she was offered a recount that could
not truly be performed. “Our Cherokee County Elections Director agreed
to a recount because the victory margin was only 1% but state procedures simply
re-accumulate previous totals. No ballots were ever recounted because no ballots
actually exist. The process was completed in about a half hour with no change
the Entire Article
State Should Consider Paper Ballot System
a panel of state legislators on Tuesday, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson
(pictured at right) endorsed a requirement for a voter verified paper record
of votes cast on electronic voting machines. According the Associated
Press, there was general bi-partisan support for the proposal, with several
Democratic lawmakers expressed support for the Republican Secretary of State's
ideas, saying they have serious concerns about voter turnout and election security.
"We need to have the voters trust that when they go in to vote that the person for whom they voted, their vote will be recorded that way," Grayson said. "And that they accept the outcome."
Most counties in Kentucky use both Danaher Shouptronic 1242 and Hart Intercivic
eSlate voting machines, though the state’s largest county, Jefferson County,
uses a paper ballot optical scan system. Many legislators criticized the eSlate
in particular echoing reports
from across the country about difficulties encountered with Hart’s
touchscreen machine. House Speaker Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, has said
that new eSlate voting machines in place across the state may stifle voter turnout
by causing lengthy lines.
A Lexington Herald-Leader article reports that state election officials are currently working on an approximately $15 million plan to provide $4,500 per precinct for each of Kentucky's 120 counties to spend on new election equipment or voter-verified paper trails. Grayson said that it would cost about $1,000 to add printers, but it is unclear how this could be accomplished for the Danaher machines, for which no audit trail printer is available. An elections committee is expected to vote on the plan next
week. Read the Entire Article
This article appeared in The
Billings Gazette. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
Steve Corrick, an election-reform advocate in Missoula, has a simple formula
for ensuring the most reliable election results: "Trust paper, and then
count the paper."
That, in essence, is also what is required under Montana law. A bill enacted
by the 2005 Legislature requires all voting technology in the state to use
paper ballots that also can be counted by hand.
That's why the most recent election - when the eyes of the nation were trained
on a handful of all-night tabulations in Montana, with the balance of the
U.S. Senate at stake - didn't turn into a Florida-style debacle. It may have
been a long night, but nobody questioned the results the next morning.
It is also why the balance of the Montana House of Representatives will
be decided Tuesday in Yellowstone County, where a tie vote in a Laurel House
race will be subjected to a hand recount of nearly 4,500 ballots.
Some states use electronic voting devices that involve a touch screen. With
those, there is no paper trail, no way of verifying results or conducting
a recount. In Montana, 16 sparsely populated counties still hand-count ballots,
but even in counties where optical scanners are used to tally votes, the ballots,
with their penciled-in ovals, can be examined by hand, as in the recount planned
Having those paper ballots to fall back on is a distinction that makes Montana
the envy of election activists in many states. Read
the Entire Article
When the votes disappear into cyberspace and you ain’t
got that paper ballot, you’re in trouble.’ Ion Sancho, Supervisor
of Elections, Leon County, Florida
article appeared in The
Bedford Record Review. It is reposted here with permission of the author.
As the February 2007 decision on new electronic technology voting machines
looms closer, some counties in New York State are fighting to keep the old lever
Suffolk County has filed a lawsuit against the state to prevent the state
from forcing the county to purchase new technology in favor of keeping the old
lever machines, except for one high-tech machine in each district for the handicapped
The two machines being considered by New York State are electronic touch screens
and optical scanners. The electronic touch screen machines do not have a reliable
paper trail to audit an election. The optical scanners have the actual ballots
to conduct an audit, according to Ion Sancho.
Mr. Sancho, a former New Yorker, is considered an expert on voting machines,
and was recently interviewed for an HBO special, “Hacking Democracy,”
on voting machines and the voting process. He is the supervisor of elections
in Leon County Florida, an elected position. Read
the Entire Article
Problems with ES&S iVotronic Voting Machines Plagued Election -
Candidate Questions Disqualified Provisional Ballots
With incumbent Rep. Deborah Pryce’s margin of victory over challenger
Mary Jo Kilroy down to less than ½%, Ohio’s 15th district election
is headed for a recount. Only 1,054 votes separated the two candidates after
provisional ballots were counted. Rep. Pryce has, of course, already declared
victory, but Ms. Kilroy has not conceded.
The largest county in the 15th District is Franklin County, which uses the same
ES&S iVotronic voting machines that have sparked a legal challenge in Florida’s
13th District. Dozens
of reports of election problems in Franklin County were reported to the
Election Incident Report Service on Election Day, including several voters who
complained that either Kilroy's name was not on the ballot or the entire Congressional
race was missing. There were also reports of voters' choices not appearing on
the review screen at the end of the voting process.
According to Ohio law, county officials are required to hand count 3 percent
of the ballots and run the same ballots through machine scanners. If the two
counts match, the remaining ballots will be recounted by machine. If the hand
and machine counts do not correspond, all ballots will be counted manually,
a situation that has not occurred before.
Though Ohio requires its touch-screen voting machines to include a voter-verifiable
paper audit trail, and the audit trail serves as the official ballot, suggesting
that the recount would involve a hand count of the audit trail for each voter
who voted on a touch screen machine. However, Stephen Heufner of Moritz Law
School of Ohio State University has
noted that a directive from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office appears
to adopt a different interpretation. Read
the Entire Article
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