Election Integrity News - November 30, 2007

This Week's Quote: "The vendors in the system, from Diebold to Sequoia to ES&S, have reacted to every criticism from computer scientists, lawmakers and others by stonewalling and dissembling, not because they are evil but because any hassles affect a bottom line that is enhanced only by selling machines and moving on." Norman Ornstein, Resident Scholar, American Enterprise Institute


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In this issue ...

National Stories

Rep. Holt Introduces Legislation to Establish National Standards for Counting Provisional Ballots

Provisional Ballot Problems Widely Reported in 2006, New Report Finds

The Most Important Election Case Since Bush v. Gore?

New Study Examines Impact of Voter ID Laws

A Major Question Before the FEC: SpeechNow.Orgās Case for Independent Activity

Smartmatic Announces Sale of Sequoia Voting Systems

Electronic Data Systems Purchases Majority Interest in Saber

EAC Continues Debate on National Mail Voter Registration Form

Senate Bill Would Outlaw "Caging" as Voter Suppression Tactic

News From Around the States

Secretary of State Debra Bowen Sues ES&S Over Sale of Unauthorized Equipment to California Counties

California: San Francisco City Attorney Sues ES&S

Ranked-Choice Voting and Flawed Ballots Tax San Francisco's Election

Colorado Voter Group Wants Polling Place Elections With a Few Adjustments

Maryland: Does Your Home Address Begin With a '5'?

Montana Needs Tighter Election Scrutiny

New Jersey Voters Deserve Verifiable Elections

The DOJ and New York State Š Part 1

Votes Flipped in Ohio Race that Used E-voting Machines

The End of Line for AVS in Pennsylvania?

South Carolina Primary Will Use Paperless E-voting

Texas: Voting System Allows "Adjustments"

Virginia: How Close is Close Enough?


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Just How Do Those Wacky Iowa Caucuses Work?
by Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity

Americans spend months inundated with horse-race coverage of the Iowa caucuses. The caucus process itself seems to leave journalists, politically minded citizens and frankly, most Iowa voters, wondering how the heck these meetings actually end up translating into delegates who vote for Presidential candidates at a summer convention. And during a time of citizen unease about the integrity of election results, some are beginning to wonder about the security of caucus results, if the results we see broadcast on caucus night really reflect the will of the caucus-goers.

So how do these wacky Iowa caucuses work, and what measures exist to protect the integrity of the results?

A modern caucus, in 13 states still the basis of choosing delegates to Presidential nominating convention, is a descendant of the Congressional nominating caucus, and the early state nominating caucuses, in which members of state legislatures met to choose party candidates for state office, and members of Congress chose party Presidential nominees.  The Congressional system died after the 1824 election, and was replaced by national nominating conventions. At the same time, state caucuses gradually gave way to state nominating conventions, and the precinct-level caucus became important.  

Caucuses are generally a viva-voce affair, meaning that voters openly declare their choice, but Iowa Republicans now vote for President on a secret ballot.

Many know that Iowa caucus-goers meet among their party members in locations that range from a school cafeteria to a living room, and then make their choice for President. Beyond those basics, the caucus process seems arcane, even for political junkies. It has even been suggested that voting machines of some kind are used in the caucuses, which has made Iowans who have attended caucuses scratch their heads.

The caucuses are entirely party-run, and the two parties' processes are alike in many ways, but differ in important aspects.

Both parties allow any registered voter to participate in their caucus by re-registering as a member of the party on caucus night.  A voter can attend only one party's caucus, and since both take place on the same night, "caucus raiding" is not a concern of either party.

In both parties, the caucuses elect delegates to the county convention, rather than to the national party convention.  The county convention will then select delegates to attend to a district convention, which will them elect delegates to a state convention. The state conventions elect delegates to the national nominating convention. In neither party are the delegates at the three levels of conventions bound to vote according to the Presidential caucus results, though generally they do so if the national race is still competitive.

The caucuses take place at the precinct level. In both parties, supporters usually make speeches on behalf of Presidential candidates. The Democrats divide into preference groups for Presidential candidates, which must meet a viability threshold to elect county convention delegates. The threshold is either 15% of the attendees or 25%, depending on the number of delegates to choose.  If a preference group does not meet the threshold, its members can realign with another candidate's group.  Then each group elects delegates in proportion to its percentage of attendees.

At the Republican caucuses, there is a straw poll for President and a separate election for county convention delegates, according to Chuck Laudner, executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa.  The Presidential straw poll is conducted by secret ballot, in which voters write their choice on paper. The ballots are counted by hand. After the straw poll, other caucus business takes place, and the selection of county convention delegates is nearer the end of the evening.  The caucus-goers who run for election to the county convention do not necessarily say which Presidential candidate they support. 

And about voting machines: no, they are not used to tabulate votes in either the Democratic or Republican caucuses, according to the Republicans' Laudner and Iowa Democratic Party communications director Carrie Giddins. The Republicans phone in their results to the state party, and the phone call is witnessed, usually by the caucus-goers who made speeches on behalf of the candidates.  The Democratic caucus chair also phones in results to the state party, and party rules require a representative from each preference group be present to witness the call.

The Republican precinct chairs will usually allow observers to watch the caucus and the ballot-counting, though they have discretion, said Laudner. Democratic rules allow media and citizen observation.

The caucuses are complex, no way to deny it. Say what you will about the complexity of the caucuses, though; they are orders of magnitude more transparent and verifiable than the roster of Presidential primaries using paperless touch screen voting machines that will follow weeks later. Let's hope that 2008 is the last Presidential election year in which anyone will have occasion to make that comparison. Permalink


Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA, the leading election integrity organizations in the U.S., are delighted to announce that VoteTrustUSA will be folded into the Verified Voting Foundation's operation on December 1, 2007. Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA share complementary missions and have worked in close cooperation since 2005.

VoteTrustUSA provides information, education, analysis, and consultation to state and county election integrity organizations, the media, and the public at large, and has developed a national, non-partisan network of state-based Election Integrity groups across the country. VoteTrustUSA has a strong record of raising awareness of issues related to electronic voting and advocating for improvements to the election process, supported by the VoteTrustUSA website and newsletter. These are key resources for news and information about the decision makers and institutions that shape election reform policy in the country, and will be maintained by Verified Voting Foundation. VoteTrustUSA’s work of coordinating and assisting election integrity groups nationwide to increase the accuracy, accountability, accessibility and transparency of elections and on the local, state and federal levels will continue under the banner of Verified Voting.

National Stories

Rep. Holt Introduces Legislation to Establish National Standards for Counting Provisional Ballots
Rep. Rush Holt Press Release - November 9, 2007

Holt Responds to House Administration, Elections Subcommittee Chairs Call for National Standards

In the wake of Congressional hearings today on the subject of Election Day registration and provisional ballots, Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today introduced legislation that would establish a national standard for the counting of provisional ballots. Holt’s bill would require ballots cast in a state to be counted in statewide races if the voter is registered anywhere in the state, and ballots cast in the correct Congressional district to be counted if the voter is registered anywhere in the Congressional district, regardless of whether or not the ballots were cast in the correct precinct.

The Help America Vote Act sought to enfranchise voters by mandating that voters that are told they are not on the registration rolls be given provisional ballots,” Holt said.  “But it didn’t establish standards for how and when those ballots would be counted. In fact in many instances those ballots simply were not counted, leaving some to refer to them as ‘placebo ballots.’ I have introduced legislation today that addresses the need for a national standard. ”Read the Entire Press Release 

Provisional Ballot Problems Widely Reported in 2006, New Report Finds
Demos Press Release - November 27, 2007

Administrative Errors, Poor Training, Voter Roll Problems Urged To Be Fixed Before Election 2008

Provisional ballots were a significant source of voter frustration and administrative problems at polling places during the 2006 election, according to a new report, A Fallible 'Fail-safe': An Analysis of Provisional Balloting Problems in the 2006 Election. The new study, published this week by the non-partisan public policy center Demos, underscores significant concern over provisional ballot implementation, a topic that has been the subject of recent hearings in the United States House of Representatives.

A Fallible 'Fail-safe' is based on an extensive examination of data reported to the national Election Incident Reporting System, an 800-number hotline coordinated by the non-partisan Election Protection Coalition to tabulate and respond to problems at the polls in November 2006. The report outlines the significant areas of provisional ballot failures reported to Election Protection volunteers.

Provisional balloting was adopted nationwide as part of the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) in an effort to remedy the problem, widespread in the 2000 election, of voters being turned away from the polls because their names were not on the voter rolls. This so-called 'fail-safe' voting provision requires states to offer provisional ballots to individuals who believe they are registered to vote but whose names do not appear on the voter rolls or who do not meet federal identification requirements. Such ballots are counted if election officials subsequently determine that the individual was a legitimate voter under state law. Read the Entire Press Release

The Most Important Election Case Since Bush v. Gore?
by Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet - November 20, 2007

Indiana's voter ID law, facing Supreme Court review, is a bureaucratic nightmare that disenfranchised voters this November. Could it -- and similar laws in several states -- affect the 2008 election?

This article was published on AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

New voter ID card-related barriers stopped legitimate voters earlier this month in Indiana, where the Supreme Court is reviewing the constitutionality of its voter ID law.

Ray Wardell, a 78-year-old Korean War veteran, could not get a new state voter ID card after his wallet was stolen because Indiana's Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) would not accept his Medicare card -- even though the BMV accepted that photo ID instead of his birth certificate a year before. Wardell ended up voting with a provisional ballot, but that will not be counted unless the disabled veteran appears before county election officials with further identification.

Mike Westervelt, a Purdue University student and city editor of the campus newspaper, was told by BMV employees they would not accept his New Jersey driver's license as one of three necessary documents to get an Indiana voter ID card -- even though the Secretary of State's website listed out-of-state licenses as acceptable. Westervelt said -- and voting rights lawyers affirmed -- that the section of Indiana law cited by BMV to deny a voter ID card contained no prohibitions on out-of-state licenses. He too voted provisionally, and is trying to resolve issues with his county election board before his vote is counted.

And Kim Tilman, a stay-at-home mother of seven whose husband is a janitor, who does not have her Michigan birth certificate and has run into delays trying to get a copy, said she cannot afford all the involved costs -- which range between $26 and $50 -- to obtain an Indiana voter ID card, despite her hope to vote in the presidential contests. Read the Entire Article

New Study Examines Impact of Voter ID Laws
by Brennan Center Press Release - November 14, 2007

New Study Finds African Americans, Lowe-Income Voters, Students, and Seniors Least Likely to Have Valid Voter ID at Issue Before Supreme Court

First Quantitative Look at Impact of Indiana's Voter ID Law Comes on Day Voting Rights Groups File Amicus Briefs Challenging Law

Citing new evidence that Indiana's voter identification law is disenfranchising thousands of Indiana voters, lawyers at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and a coalition of voting rights organizations filed a friend-of-the-court brief today urging the U.S. Supreme Court to scuttle the Indiana law.  The brief is one of more than 20 amicus briefs being filed today by voting rights advocates, current and former Secretaries of State, law professors, historians, political scientists, student organizations, labor unions and civic, religious and civil rights organizations.  A full list of amici and a summary of their briefs is available here.

The Brennan Center's brief comes as new research, also released today, from the University of Washington Institute on for the Study of Ethnicity and Race is providing the first direct evidence that Indiana's voter identification law is disenfranchising thousands of Indiana voters, especially African-American and low-income voters as well as senior citizens and students.

"The state of Indiana has the most stringent voter identification law in the country.  This study makes clear that their law - rather than preventing fraud - is actually disenfranchising substantial numbers of Indiana voters," said Michael Waldman, the Brennan Center's executive director. Read the Entire Press Release

A Major Question Before the FEC: SpeechNow.Orgās Case for Independent Activity
by Bob Bauer - November 29, 2007

This article was posted aqt Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted herew with permission of the author.

A new 527 has been formed, its name is SpeechNow.org, and it has asked for an FEC ruling on independent speech that could change the face of federal campaign finance law. This is very much the new committee’s intention:  its supporters are notable dissenters from the campaign finance regime, such as David Keating and Ed Crane, and its mission is to conduct independent expenditure campaigns, financed with individual funds only, on behalf of candidates who favor defending free speech by opposing statutes such as McCain-Feingold, and against candidates who perform poorly by these measure.  Counsel to SpeechNow.Org before the FEC are the Center for Competitive Politics and the Institute for Justice.

SpeechNow.org’s key questions are:  if it is fully independent from candidates, and only individuals fund its activities, does its independent expenditure activity compel it to register and comply with regulatory restrictions as a "political committee"?  And if so, do the contributions that individuals make to this committee fall under the law’s contribution limits?  SpeechNow.org proposes the answers—"no"— to both these questions, arguing the law in its request at length and with considerable skill. 

It would be a mistake to imagine that this challenge has been laid carelessly before the Commission, or that SpeechNow.org is smashing itself against a regulatory wall to make an ideological point.  Its case is a serious one, and it has been anticipated, for some time, that the law—now the FEC, eventually the Supreme Court—would have to address it.  Rick Hasen, a while ago, agreed that the question "Is it constitutional to limit contributions to 527s that engage solely in making independent expenditures?" was "very difficult and uncertain."   Read the Entire Article

Smartmatic Announces Sale of Sequoia Voting Systems
by Rep. Carolyn Maloney Press Release - November 8, 2007

Rep. Maloney Shined Congressional Spotlight on Questionable Deal, Helped Enact Tough Reforms to Strengthen Oversight of Foreign Investment

Smartmatic, the voting machine firm with ties to the Venezuelan government, today announced that it is divesting ownership of the voting machine company Sequoia Voting Systems. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) shined the congressional spotlight on the Sequoia purchase last year by Smartmatic because it posed serious national security concerns about the integrity of our elections. Last year, Smartmatic decided to sell Sequoia rather than complete an investigation by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the government entity charged with ensuring the safety of foreign investment in the U.S. (To read the official Sequoia sale announcement click here.)

I am relieved by the news of this sale – it was a long time coming,” said Maloney. “The integrity of our voting machines and elections is vital to national security. Given all of the past uncertainty and anxiety surrounding electronic voting, it’s nice that voters will have this added reassurance." Read the Entire Article

Electronic Data Systems Purchases Majority Interest in Saber
by Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation - November 14, 2007

Electronic Data Systems, has announced the purchase of a majority interest in Saber Consulting. According to an EDS press release, EDS has agreed to purchase an approximate 93 percent equity interest in Saber Holdings, Inc., a leading provider of software and services to U.S. state governments, from various sellers, including majority shareholder Accel-KKR, for approximately $420 million in cash. Saber’s Chief Executive Officer Nitin Khanna and President and Chief Operating Officer Karan Khanna will retain an approximate 7 percent interest in Saber and continue to lead the company following the closing.

Based in Portland, OR, Saber was founded in 1997 and provides software and services for state and local government entities is 35 states, and has more than doubled its revenue each year since 2004. Saber’s Voter Registration & Election Management software, Electus, was designed specifically for compliance with the Help America Vote Act Section 303 requirements for statewide registration databases. According to VotingIndustry.com Saber has developed voter registration databases for Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and has a contract pending in New York.

EDS was established in 1962 by former presidential candidate Ross Perot. Headquartered in Plano, Texas, General Motors acquired the company in 1984 and it then became an independent company again in 1996. In 2006, it employed 117,000 people located in 58 countries and reported revenues of US$19.8 billion. EDS is ranked as one of the largest services companies on the Fortune 500 list.

EAC Continues Debate on National Mail Voter Registration Form
by Sean Greene, electionline.org - November 16, 2007

Four states requesting changes to state-specific instructions awaiting action

This article was published in the Electionline Weekly and is reposted here with permission of the author. 

At a public meeting held this week, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) continued its discussion of establishing interim procedures for responding to requests to make changes to state-specific instructions to the National Mail Voter Registration Form.

However, nothing was settled at the hearing, leaving states waiting for responses as the 2008 election season rapidly approaches.

Prior to the passage of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) was in charge of promulgating regulations under the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), including making changes to the instructions for the national registration form.

As previously reported in electionline weekly, HAVA shifted this authority to the EAC, and the commission is currently considering transferring the regulations from the FEC or promulgating new regulations entirely. A public comment period on a plan to potentially undertake a transfer ends December 3, 2007. According to Edgardo Cortes, an election research specialist at the EAC, only one comment has been submitted so far. Read the Entire Article
Senate Bill Would Outlaw "Caging" as Voter Suppression Tactic
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse Press Release - November 13, 2007

Challenging a person’s right to vote because a letter sent to him or her was returned as undeliverable would be illegal under a Senate bill introduced today.  U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I., pictured at right) joined 12 other senators to unveil legislation aimed at preventing the practice of “voter caging,” a long-recognized voter suppression tactic which has often been used to target minority voters.
“In America, we believe that the right of an eligible voter to cast his or her vote is essential to our democracy,” said Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former U.S. Attorney and Rhode Island Attorney General.
Caging is a voter suppression tactic in which a political party, campaign, or other entity sends mail marked “do not forward” or “return to sender” to a targeted group of voters – often minorities or residents of minority neighborhoods.  A list of those whose mail was returned “undelivered” is then used as the basis for challenges to the right of those citizens to vote, on the grounds that the voter does not live at the address where he or she is registered.  There are many reasons that mail could be returned undelivered, however; an eligible voter could be overseas on active military service or a student registered at a parent’s address.

There is evidence that caging lists were assembled in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania during the 2004 elections, possibly intended as the basis for massive voter eligibility challenges.  The Florida incident made headlines again earlier this year during Congress’s investigation into the firing of several U.S. Attorneys, when allegations resurfaced that Tim Griffin, the former RNC opposition researcher then serving as an interim U.S. Attorney in Arkansas, had been involved in an effort to cage voters in Jacksonville.  In June, Whitehouse and Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) called for a Justice Department investigation into allegations that Griffin and others at the RNC may have engaged in caging during the 2004 elections.

The Caging Prohibition Act would prohibit challenges to a person’s eligibility to register to vote, or cast a vote, based solely on returned mail or a caging list.  The bill would also mandate that anyone who challenges the right of another citizen to vote must set forth the specific grounds for their alleged ineligibility, under penalty of perjury.

From Around the States

Secretary of State Debra Bowen Sues ES&S Over Sale of Unauthorized Equipment to California Counties
by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen Media Release - November 19, 2007

Secretary seeks at least $15 million in penalties and reimbursement for counties

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today filed suit against Election Systems & Software, Inc. (ES&S) for nearly $15 million after a four-month investigation revealed the company had repeatedly violated state law.

Secretary Bowen is suing ES&S for $9.72 million in penalties for selling 972 machines that contained hardware changes that were never submitted to, or reviewed by, the Secretary of State.  Furthermore, she is seeking nearly $5 million to reimburse the five counties that bought the machines believing they were buying certified voting equipment.

“ES&S ignored the law over and over and over again, and it got caught,” said Bowen, the state’s top elections officer.  “California law is very clear on this issue.  I am not going to stand on the sidelines and watch a voting system vendor come into this state, ignore the laws, and make millions of dollars from California’s taxpayers in the process.”

The sales in question involve ES&S's AutoMARK ballot-marking devices that 14 California counties use to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requirement that voters with disabilities have a way to cast ballots privately and independently. Unlike direct recording electronic (DRE) devices, the AutoMARK prints a voted ballot that is counted by an optical scanner along with other paper ballots.

In July 2007, Secretary Bowen learned that ES&S had sold AutoMARK A200s - a version of the AutoMARK A100 that had been altered without authorization from the Secretary of State - to five counties in 2006. The counties collectively spent about $5 million for the equipment: Colusa bought 20 machines, Marin bought 130, Merced bought 104, San Francisco bought 558, and Solano bought 160. Read the Entire Media Release

California: San Francisco City Attorney Sues ES&S
by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera - November 11, 2007

Herrera Sues City's Elections Vendor, Alleging Fraud, False Claims, Breach of Contract In Litigation Against 'World's Largest' Voting Systems Provider, S.F. Seeks Damages, Penalties and Costs That Could Reach Into the Millions of Dollars

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed suit against the City's voting systems vendor today, charging Omaha, Neb.-based Election Systems & Software, Inc. with a panoply of wrongdoing that includes fraud, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and multiple violations of California's Elections Code, False Claims Act and Unfair Competition Law.

In a 23-page civil complaint filed in San Francisco Superior Court this morning, Herrera detailed a months-long pattern of misrepresentations and voting system problems by ES&S that caused California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to impose stringent conditions on the City's use of the company's voting machines to conduct its municipal election earlier this month. Because of those restrictions, San Francisco election officials were forced to tabulate ballots centrally; to remake thousands of ballots by hand; and to borrow equipment from another county. City elections officials were unable to release election results from the polling places on election night as is the ordinary practice, and do not expect to announce final results for San Francisco's municipal election until Dec. 4, 2007 -- fully four weeks after Election Day.

"San Francisco's experience with ES&S raises extremely troubling questions, not simply about the integrity of this company's technology, but about the integrity of this company itself," said Herrera. "There can be no more important duty in a representative democracy than to conduct elections, and it is a travesty to see that duty so flagrantly undermined by the fraudulent conduct of an election systems vendor. This is an injustice that cries out for a strong response, and I intend to aggressively litigate the City's interests under our contract and under the law." Read the Entire Article

Ranked-Choice Voting and Flawed Ballots Tax San Francisco's Election
by Kat Zambon, electionline.org - November 9, 2007

Rules requiring hand-inspection, confusion over ranking could delay results for weeks

This article was posted at electionline.org and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Rules requiring manual checks of every ballot before counting stemming from concerns over vote counting systems were expected to make this city's municipal elections more complicated than usual. Maybe not quite this complicated, though.

Because of high numbers of ballots needing to be remade before they can be tabulated, getting official results in this week's vote could take weeks.

John Arntz, the city's election director, said at a press conference this week that officials have had to remake 94 percent of absentee ballots cast before they can be counted, because of casting errors, confusion about ranked-choice voting, incorrect pencil or ink and other problems. An informal survey of poll workers indicated that ballots cast on election day at precincts could be similarly flawed.

When a ballot needs to be remade, election officials pull it aside and one election official fills in a new ballot while another official watches. Those two election officials then give the old ballot and the remade ballot to a different pair of election officials who ensure that the new ballot reflects the voter's intentions and code the new ballot so it can be traced back to the original. Read the Entire Article

Colorado Voter Group Wants Polling Place Elections With a Few Adjustments
by Colorado Voter Group - November 19, 2007

Group concerned that back room deals will trade accuracy for convenience.

Colorado election officials and legislators are already discussing contingency plans. What happens if electronic vote recording and electronic vote counting equipment fail to pass certification tests?  The Colorado Voter Group today published “Colorado Elections 2008 - Framework for Primary and General Elections”. It calls for a typical “polling place election” with a few changes. The changes are designed to reduce the risks associated with electronic vote recording and counting equipment. Precinct, early, absentee, and provisional voting are included in the plan. Accessible voting is available at early and precinct polling locations.   

One change requires that all votes must be recorded on paper ballots. Some of the uncertified voting equipment records votes on both an electronic ballot and a voter verifiable paper audit trail.  Votes from the audit trails will be transcribed by the bipartisan ballot duplication board to paper ballots before counting. If all votes are counted by hand, the framework recommends that ballot designs be optimized for accurate and verifiable hand-counting of votes.

Uncertified vote counting equipment may provisionally be used in precincts and central counting locations. But logic & accuracy tests, post election audits, and election canvassing must be significantly strengthened to verify that results are correct.  

According to Al Kolwicz, spokesperson for Colorado Voter Group, “This framework defines what is needed to conduct a trustworthy 2008 Election. It is sensitive to the realities of Colorado’s situation. It should be adopted, whether or not voting equipment is certified. ”Read the Entire Article

Maryland: Does Your Home Address Begin With a '5'?
by Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University- November 9, 2007

This article was posted at Avi Rubin's Blog and is reposted with permission of the author.

Tuesday was not a national election, and there was no election in Baltimore County, where I live, but there were local elections in many places across the country. This Washington Post story describes some problems in a local election in Maryland.

"Rockville's voting was complicated by a glitch. Thousands of residents who had not yet voted were mistakenly listed as having already cast absentee ballots because of a state database problem ... The state's [voter registration] list inadvertently marked as absentee the names of voters with a home address that begins with the number 5."

My home street address is actually 5, so I might have been affected by this, if we had had an election this week.

While this is an inexcusable occurrence, it is not really that surprising. The greater the complexity in a system, the more likely it is that unexpected glitches such as this will occur. I don't know if this was a software error, a programming error, a configuration error, human error, or something else. And the point is that it does not really matter. Complex software-based systems, especially ones developed the way voting machines today are built and tested, are likely to result in unforeseen problems. In the 2006 primary in Rockville, there were even worse problems with the electronic poll books. In 2008, the problem will probably be something new.

What worries me are not only the problems that we can observe, such as the ones last year and this week. I'm worried about the problems that might result in the wrong votes being totaled, without us ever knowing it. It is foolish to think that only really obvious errors will occur. Maryland's voting system, using only DREs statewide, is vulnerable to catastrophic error but also undetectable errors. And, although the state passed a measure to move to optical scanners in 2010, it now appears that the funding for this move may not be available.

Montana Needs Tighter Election Scrutiny
by League of Women Voters of Montana - November 16, 2007

Did your vote count in the 2006 general election? A report on Montana’s election process released in August by the Montana Legislative Audit Division may go a long way in helping you answer that question.

The Help America Vote Act and Related Elections Issues,” is the first comprehensive, statewide examination of how elections are conducted in Montana. Prior to the 2002 Help America Vote Act, elections were mainly the responsibility of counties.

The audit report examined almost every aspect surrounding how citizens register and vote. (Read the report.) The good news is that the audit found no evidence of fraud in the 2006 general election.

The not so good news is that significant problems were found in the election process.Read the Entire Article

New Jersey Voters Deserve Verifiable Elections
by VerifiedVoting.org - November 30, 2007

New Jersey's election system is at a crucial crossroads. This Monday, December 3, two important bills will be heard by the New Jersey Senate Government Committee.

One, S. 507, will improve the system by requiring audits of every election, as a safeguard to help ensure the accuracy of the vote count. Introduced by Senator Nia Gill, S. 507 mandates random selection of a statistically significant percentage of all election districts' voter-verified paper records (and of all absentee and other ballots) to be hand-counted as a check on the electronic tallies. At least 2% must be selected, and depending on the closeness of the contest, the percentage may increase to ensure the correct candidate is seated in office.

Audits are critical to helping secure our elections.

In 2005, the State passed a voter-verified paper record requirement which is due to take effect in 2008, but without robust audits such as those required by S. 507, those records won't be used for their intended purpose of confirming the votes were both recorded and counted correctly. S. 507 strengthens New Jersey's ability to conduct verifiable elections. Your support is needed for S. 507!

The second bill, unfortunately, not only fails to strengthen NJ's elections, it would move them backward. S. 2949 would gut the law passed in 2005, pushing the voter-verified paper record back to at least mid-2008, and possibly forever. It gives the Attorney General the authority to use a waiver if a certified technology is not available. Since the AG controls what gets certified, that might be never...

Earlier this year, vendors submitted printers for NJ's electronic voting machines -- and they didn't even pass certification. Despite the availability of a more reliable solution, paper optical scan ballot systems, the AG instead is seeking more time for these printers from the legislature. If you oppose this delay tactic -- and the expanded waiver that may mean NJ never gets any voter-verified paper at all -- you'll send a message that you want New Jersey to take the road to a better voting system, and to take it now.

Click Here to Send a Message in Support of Verifiable Elections in New Jersey! 

The DOJ and New York State Š Part 1
by Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting - November 13, 2007

This article appeared at Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

The Department of Justice has filed a motion asking the US District Court to appoint a Special Master to oversee replacing New York States lever machines by the November 2008 election. The DOJ maintains the state must forgo the rigorous certification process and source code escrow requirements called for by state law and use whatever voting machines are currently available, potentially even failed electronic touch screen machines, or DREs. I’ve got a lot of problems with the DOJ’s position, particularly because it ignores the fact that so many of the so called ‘HAVA compliant’ voting machines rushed into operation are proving to be expensive, failure prone and not accessible to voters with disabilities, yet they seem willing to force New York voters use them anyway. I’ll write more about that in coming articles, but today I’ll talk about a way that New York State could get an accessible and auditable voting system up and running in relatively short order.

A great many of the disputed issues at the State Board of Elections vanish completely if DREs are eliminated from the mix. But yet, both Democrats and Republicans on the Board keep insisting that they have no choice but to allow the DRE disasters that are wreaking havoc in other states to be used in New York! This is especially egregious because by eliminating DREs and focusing on paper ballots and ballot scanners New York State could have been well along the way to full HAVA compliance, and if necessary, we could do it still. Read the Entire Article

Votes Flipped in Ohio Race that Used E-voting Machines
by Kim Zetter - November 9, 2007

This article was published at Wired.com's Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Votes cast yesterday on e-voting machines made by Election Systems & Software went to the wrong candidates, according to officials in Lawrence County, Ohio.

Although a tally printed from the machines at the end of the day and posted on the door of a county precinct got the numbers correct -- 374 votes for Bill Robinson in the Hamilton Township trustee position and 170 votes for Allan Blankenship -- a tabulation machine at the county's headquarters flipped the numbers and gave 374 to Blankenship and 170 to Robinson. Officials noticed the problem when they compared the two tallies.

Lawrence County Election Director Catherine Overbeck told me that officials have called in technicians from ES&S to investigate the problem. She didn't say how they determined that the report from the voting machines was correct and the one from the tabulation machine incorrect. The votes on the tabulation machine are tallied from memory cartridges retrieved from the voting machines.

Overbeck said this was the only race affected in this way on a ballot that included more than 100 races.

Voting activists say that this is one reason why all voting districts that use electronic voting machines should be required to post a tally from each machine on the door of precincts at the end of the day -- so that voters and candidates can independently compare those tallies to the county's final results and catch problems like this.

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The End of Line for AVS in Pennsylvania?
by Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation - November 28, 2007

The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today announced that it was terminating the application of voting system manufacturer Advanced Voting Solutions (AVS) for certification its WinWare 2.0.4 election management system. As a result it appears unlikely that AVS can meet the requirements of the Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth for state certification, which has left three counties in the state without equipment for the 2008 elections. State election officials have made it clear that the AVS system would not be allowed for use in elections in the state without successfully completing federal certification testing and it appears unlikely that AVS will initiate a new testing process at this point.

AVS was formerly Shoup Voting Solutions (SVS), resurrected from the Shoup family business that had left the voting machine manufacturing business in 1992, after a century of family involvement in the voting machine industry. In 2001, SVS was already marketing the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machine that eventually became the AVS WinVote. The software was developed by a Canadian company EnfoCom International. WIN stands for “Wireless Information Network”, emphasizing the system’s use of wireless technology to facilitate the transmission of ballot definitions as well as vote totals. In 2002, SVS became Advanced Voting Systems.

The WinVote’s debut in the 2003 Fairfax County, Virginia elections was inauspicious. The problems encountered, including the mysterious subtraction of every 100th vote from one of the candidates, are detailed in Operation Ballot Integrity, a report produced by the Fairfax County Republican Committee. The WinVote is still used in 28 counties in Virginia. Under state law enacted earlier this year, however, counties can no longer purchase DREs when replacing voting equipment, so there is no longer a future market for the WinVote in that state. WinVote is also used in Hinds County, Mississippi. Read the Entire Article

South Carolina Primary Will Use Paperless E-voting
by Sean Flaherty, Iowans for Voting Integrity - November 18, 2007

The 2008 Presidential election may hinge on a primary in which the votes are recorded and tabulated exclusively by paperless electronic voting machines.

South Carolina's primary will be pivotal in the nominating process of both major parties. South Carolina uses a paperless touch screen system statewide, the ES&S iVotronic. It is apparent from the state Election Code that this is the system used for primary elections (section 7-13-1900).

Paperless e-voting is reckless in any right, but the iVotronic has managed to become notorious on its own terms.

It is the same machine of Sarasota 2006 fame, producing 18,000 undervotes in Florida's 13th Congressional District, as well as high undervotes in other races in six Florida counties that used the machines. It is the same machine whose firmware version was described by Princeton University computer scientist Edward Felten as "terribly insecure" and in need of serious improvements before it used in another election. Read the Entire Article

Texas: Voting System Allows "Adjustments"
by Warren Stewart, Verified Voting Foundation - November 16, 2007

A Houston Chronicle article last week described how, following the November 6 election, Harris County election administrator Johnnie German “used high-security codes to tap into the Harris County elections computer system last week and change some of the results manually.” It seems that the Hart Intercivic voting system used in Harris County allows anyone with access and a passcode to modify vote totals from an election without leaving any record of the modification.

But it gets worse. According to Dan Wallach of Rice University's Computer Security Lab (pictured at left), who served on the task force that recently studied the Hart system as part of the California Secretary of State’s electronic voting system review, the "encryption key" code can be extracted from voting equipment at any precinct.

The necessity for modifying the vote totals in Harris County was the result of confusion during early voting caused by split precincts resulted in 293 voters in Emergency Services District No. 9 being given the wrong ballot and therefore being unable to express an opinion on a sales tax referendum for a fire/ambulance district in the Cypress-Fairbanks area of the county since it didn't appear on their screens.

Computer expert John R. Behrman, who observed the vote adjustments, said he was “shocked” when he saw German use a series of passwords and an "encryption key" -- a series of numbers on a nail file-size computer memory storage device -- to reach a computer program that said "Adjustment." Shocking indeed.

"A hundred percent of precincts reporting, and everything had been distributed to the press," he said. "Then and only then did I see how they were going to do this, and frankly I never thought it was possible.

"Basically it turns out, without regard to any ballots that have been cast, you can enter arbitrary numbers in there and report them out in such a way that, unless you go back to these giant (computer) logs and interpret the logs, you wouldn't know it has been done."
Read the Entire Article

Virginia: How Close is Close Enough?
by Jeremy Epstein - November 16, 2007

This article was posted at Jeremy Epstein's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Last week's elections left (at least) two very close elections in Virginia, based on the unofficial counts. In Spotsylvania County, the Clerk of the Court race, the two leading contenders are separated by 63 votes, with 7,420 (38.46%) for Christy Jett vs. 7,357 (38.13%) for Paul Metzger out of a total of 19,295 votes cast. (Full details here.) In Fairfax County, out of 37,185 votes cast for the 37th State Senate seat, Ken Cuccinelli has 18,602 votes (50.02%) for a lead of 92 votes over Janet Oleszek (18,510 votes or 49.77%). (Full details here; Oleszek has announced she's seeking a recount.

What does this mean? Both Spotsylvania and Fairfax counties use paperless Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems, meaning that the only record of the votes is what's in memory cards on the voting machines. As has been amply demonstrated, there's lots of ways that these can be wrong, whether by accident or malicious intent. Read the Entire Article

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