Election Integrity News - November 30, 2006

This 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 Chapin, electionline.org


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

In this issue ...

National Stories

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 concerns.

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 eligible voters.

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.

(continued below)

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 outcomes.

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

National Stories
Analysis of 2006 Election Finds Problems Nationwide
by electionline.org - November 29, 2006

Lack of post-vote controversy masks widespread voting difficulties

Download electionline.org's 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

White Paper Recommends That New Standards Should Require "Software Independent" Voting Systems
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA -November 29, 2006

Other Recommendations Include Banning of Wireless Devices, Volume Testing, Software SetupValidation, and Open-Ended Vulnerability Testing

Information 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 paper.

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 further research.

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. Read the Entire Article

EAC and TGDC Meetings Announced
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 28, 2006

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

Division of Elections Refuses To Release 2006 Election Records
by Alaska Democratic Party Press Release - November 28, 2006

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

Touch-Screen Votes Flipping in Arkansas Run-off Election
by Brad Friedman, Brad Blog - November 19, 2006

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 Order'

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

Florida: Audit Unlikely to Yield Useful Information About Sarasota County Voting Machines
by People for the American Way Foundation - November 28, 2006

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

Florida: Missing Votes Validate Touch-screen Critics' Claims
by Jack Gurney, Pelican Press- November 26, 2006

'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 appeals.

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.

Read the entire article at The Sun Herald 

Possible HAVA Violation in Georgia's Provisional Balloting
by Joseph Hall, Univeristy of California, Berkeley - November 28, 2006

Yesterday, I read Ron Rivest's write-up of his elections observation experience in Georgia this past November ("Trip Report: Election Day 2006: Visit to Atlanta Georgia on 11/7/2006 for election observing" (PDF)).

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 subsequently count).

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 or 42 USC 15482):

(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 [...]

Read the Entire Article

Georgia: 2006 Election Candidates Join E-Voting Rights Suit
by VoterGa - Press Release - November 26, 2006

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 election, respectively.

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 in results.””Read the Entire Article

Kentucky: Grayson Advoctaes Verifiable Voting Systems
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 28, 2006

State Should Consider Paper Ballot System

Addressing 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

Montana: Paper Ballots Ensure Best Elections
by Ed Kemmick, Billings Gazette Staff - November 27, 2006

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 for Tuesday.

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

New York: Making Every Vote Count
by Don Heppner - November 28, 2006

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

This 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 machines.

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 to vote.

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

Ohio: Hand Count Begins in Congressional Race
by Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA - November 28, 2006

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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