Election Integrity News - December 14, 2006

This Week's Quote: "I can't believe you people actually expected us to find software that worked. I mean, they're computers. Everyone knows computers get screwy all the time, what with all their funny codes and electronic thingamabobs!" Anthony Rainey, Denver Elections Commission technology chief.


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

In this issue ...

National Stories

Thirty-Four Election Reform Organizations Urge Congress To Require Paper Ballots

NIST Reaches Unavoidable Conclusion: Paperless DREs Not Acceptable

Whitewashing the Facts: EAC Report Ignores Key Data

Where‚s the Voter Fraud?

Treasury Urged to Make Public the Results of CFIUS Investigation of Smartmatic

News From Around the States

Connecticut: A TrueVote Vindication

Florida: Partisanship and the Machines

Testing Undervote Hypotheses in Sarasota: Declaration of Technical Expert Dan Wallach

Florida Voting System Standards: Commentary

Georgia: The Cox Legacy - Who "Owns" Our Votes?

Minnesota Performs First Post-Election Review

Montana: Electronic Voting, Counting Machines can be Troublesome

Utah: New Voting Machines - The Gift That Keeps On Costing


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Voting System Still Needs Fixing
by Jonah Goldman, Director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

The following statement was delivered to the Election Assistance Commission at their public hearing in Washington, D.C. on December 7, 2006.

In 2006, the Lawyers' Committee recruited over 2,000 legal volunteers to staff our legal programs across the country. These volunteers served over 20 local legal organizations by responding to voters’ problems on the ground. Legal volunteers trained in state specific election law staffed the 1-866-OUR-VOTE voter assistance hotline making it the nation’s largest such hotline. Election Protection received nearly 25,000 calls during this election cycle from voters in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Our volunteers on the ground responded to thousands of concerns from voters, worked with hundreds of state and local election officials to solve problems on and before Election Day and developed legal materials for the District and all 50 states. In addition to our role as the lead legal partner, our friends at the NAACP and People For the American Way Foundation organize an extensive field program that includes poll monitors and voter education programs.

On November 7, 2006, millions of Americans across the country went to the polls and dramatically shifted the political landscape in the United States Congress and in legislatures and governors mansions across the country. Many commentators proclaimed that the election moved forward without any structural problems or dismissed the obstacles voters faced as insignificant because electoral catastrophe was limited to a few races but expanding the diagnostics of success from those that are purely partisan to those that form our fundamental democratic identity as Americans demands a different conclusion. Unfortunately, countless eligible Americans were prevented from exercising their most fundamental right – the right to vote – because of inadequacies in the infrastructure of our election system. If the goal is to provide every eligible voter who wants to participate the opportunity to do so, I do not think that we can be so quick to anoint Election 2006 a resounding success.

As in years past, the Election Protection experience paints the most comprehensive, independent picture of the health of our electoral process. Unfortunately, it is once again clear that the American voter is underserved by our nation’s electoral structure. From coast to coast, problems at all parts of the process led to eligible voters being denied the right to participate. While there were only a few places where the margin of disenfranchisement led to uncertainty with election results, the damage to our democratic experiment remains a national problem. Regardless of the political impact, voters in nearly every district are at risk of being unfairly and unnecessarily removed from the system.

While the case should not be overstated, it is critical that as we immediately enter the 2008 presidential election cycle, we undertake a more honest assessment of what happened in this election so we can concentrate on ensuring real, meaningful reform before the next federal cycle. Assuming the dual goal of faith in our electoral system and its outcomes and honoring our constitutional promise of free and equal access to the polling place for all eligible Americans, it is critical that we understand the problems that voters experienced in 2006, the causes and how to craft meaningful solutions. While disenfranchisment resulted from dozens of causes, I want to talk specifically about a few problems that were especially pronounced this November.

Voting Machines and Problems at the Polls

Problems with the administration of the election created obstacles to efficient voting that have become increasingly familiar to voters across the country. In multiple states there were reports of people waiting in line for hours on end because of machine failures, poll workers who didn’t know how to operate the machines, insufficient numbers of voting machines and general poor administration of election systems. In Tennessee, for example, too few machines in one jurisdiction led to waiting times of five and a half hours. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, voters stood in line for hours as poll workers struggled with voting technology and new voter registration procedures. Voters in St. Louis called Election Protection to report lines of up to 4 hours due to broken election machines, poll workers providing incorrect information about provisional balloting, and problems with administering the voter registration lists.

(continued below)

In all of these places, many voters left without casting a ballot. These problems have a disproportionate impact on working people, especially those who have work or family duties that prevent them from having enough time on Election Day to stand on long lines or make multiple trips to the polls. There must be statewide, if not national, standards for sufficient and equal distribution of voting machines, improved and standardized training and testing of poll workers, and increased resources to ensure sufficient numbers of machines and professionals operating them in every jurisdiction.

Across the country voters noticed that electronic machines “flipped” their votes when the vote summary screen indicated that the machine registered a vote for the opponent of their desired candidate. Voters called the hotline from Florida. Ohio, and elsewhere to complain that, despite going through the steps required by the machine, their vote for certain races never registered. Problems caused by inadequate procedures for making the best decisions about voting machines will be solved by demanding accountable, accessible, and transparent voting technology. We cannot shy away from a discussion about the most effective way to ensure that election technology is secure, reliable and engenders faith by the electorate. Read the Remainder of the Testimony

National Stories
Thirty-Four Election Reform Organizations Urge Congress To Require Paper Ballots
by Velvet Revolution, VoterAction, VotersUnite.org and others - December 14, 2006

View the Letter Here

Responding to the electronic voting machine failures that marred the 2006 elections, 34 non-partisan election reform organizations launched a new campaign today urging Congress to enact legislation requiring a paper ballot for every vote cast.  They expect this grassroots campaign to have broad public support and generate thousands of emails to the incoming Congress.

Many of the organizations have previously supported voter-verified paper audit trails (VVPAT), but now, like other citizens across the country, they recognize that electronic voting machines have been national mistake.

The e-voting machines are a threat to democracy. Putting a VVPAT on them is nothing more than a band-aid. It’s like requiring a seat belt in a Ford Pinto. What good does it do when the Pinto explodes?” said Brad Friedman, who co-founded one of the organizations participating in the campaign. Read the Entire Article

NIST Reaches Unavoidable Conclusion: Paperless DREs Not Acceptable
by David Dill, Verified Voting -December 1, 2006

In January, 2003, after a month of development, I released a document called the "Resolution on Electronic Voting." I felt that  most computer scientists would feel as I did about electronic voting, and I wanted them to speak out. I assumed that  when leading computer scientists in the U.S. expressed a nearly unanimous opinion about the proper use of computers, their words would be heeded.

I asked everyone who seemed to know what they were talking about, and incorporated their ideas and sometimes their wording. Near the end of this process, some of the people I approached said  it was too long, so I boiled it down to a one-paragraph summary:

"Computerized voting equipment is inherently subject to programming error, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering. It is therefore crucial that voting equipment provide a voter-verifiable audit trail, by which we mean a permanent record of each vote that can be checked for accuracy by the voter before the vote is submitted, and is difficult or impossible to alter after it has been checked. Many of the electronic voting machines being purchased do not satisfy this requirement. Voting machines should not be purchased or used unless they provide a voter-verifiable audit trail; when such machines are already in use, they should be replaced or modified to provide a voter-verifiable audit trail. Providing a voter-verifiable audit trail should be one of the essential requirements for certification of new voting systems."

(The full resolution is at VerifiedVoting.org. Over 2000 technologists, including some of the nation's most prestigious individuals in the fields of computer science and computer security, endorsed the Resolution.)

Now, almost four years later, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), whose official duties include providing technical advice about elections under the Help America Vote Act, has produced a document saying essentially the same thing.

This report was a complete surprise, and outstandingly good news. 

NIST has examined the issue carefully, weighing the arguments on both sides, and come to conclusions that are the unavoidable consequence of such an examination. Read the Entire Article

Whitewashing the Facts: EAC Report Ignores Key Data
by Ralph G. Neas, President, People For the American Way Foundation - December 9, 2006

Report Misses Opportunities for Election Reform

On December 7, 2006, the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) released its much-anticipated report on voter fraud and voter intimidation, entitled “Election Crimes: An Initial Review and Recommendations for Future Study.” While it was thought that the EAC’s study of voter fraud and vote suppression might be a useful tool in advancing positive election policies in the future, the results of this “initial review” were disappointing, if not downright confusing and troubling. Rather than providing a tool that might drive productive election reform, the EAC has instead chosen to punt, creating a document that cannot be used to justify any legislation whatsoever, and most certainly cannot form the basis for the enactment of any further legislation, such as restrictive voter ID laws, which unreasonably restrict the rights of eligible voters to participate in the democratic process.

The EAC's failure to lead on this issue is particularly troubling, given the fact that the consultants hired to perform this study apparently reached radically different conclusions than those the EAC now espouses. While the EAC now claims that there is "no consensus" on the existence or pervasiveness of voter fraud, in a leaked earlier draft of this report, the bipartisan consultants concluded that "there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud, or at least much less than claimed." The EAC has thus far refused to explain this contradiction, refuses to release reports produced by the consultants, and appears to be preventing the consultants the opportunity to explain their findings publicly.

As evidence of the EAC's dysfunction on this issue, the final report released by the EAC creates an awkward, vague and unworkable definition for “election crimes,” unnecessarily excluding many fraudulent or disenfranchising acts from the definition. Furthermore, the report gratuitously excludes key data from its analysis, while recommending wasting needless time on areas of analysis that have already been completed, or have been demonstrated to be of questionable empirical value. Finally, the timing and circumstances surrounding the release of this report raise serious questions about the EAC’s motives in this study, and whether the EAC has left its tradition of bipartisan review of election procedures behind to become just another cog in Washington’s environment of virulent partisanship. Read the Entire Report

Where‚s the Voter Fraud?
by Tova Andrea Wang, The Century Foundation - December 7, 2006

This article was posted at The Century Foundation website and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Over the past month, the silence has been deafening.

For the past few years, many on the Right have been vociferously propagating the myth that voter fraud at the polling place is a rampant problem of crisis proportions. But we haven’t heard from them lately. In fact, as far as my research can discover (Nexis and Google news searches of multiple relevant terms), there has not been one confirmed report of any of these types of incidents in the 2006 election. Not one. Even the Republican National Committee’s vote fraud watch operation in their list of complaints from the 2006 election could not come up with one such case.

If you’ve been listening to the likes of John Fund, Thor Hearne, Ken Mehlman, and John Lott, you would think non-citizens are lining up to vote at the polls, mischievous partisans are voting multiple times by impersonating other voters, and dead people are voting in polling places across the country. In order to justify their argument that we need all voters to present government issued photo identification at the polls, they claim that this type of fraud is the biggest problem our electoral system confronts. They have been building and building this argument, hammering and hammering away at it to the point that it has now become the prevailing belief of the American public.

I won’t go into the recitation of all of the previous research that has been done on what a nonexistent problem polling place fraud is and the fraudulent disenfranchisement narrow voter identification requirements cause among perfectly eligible voters—disproportionately minorities, the poor, the elderly, and voters with disabilities (who by the way, according to conventional wisdom, are also all disproportionately Democratic voters). However, confronted with this continuously growing mountain of evidence undermining their case, it has been interesting to observe the evolution of the Right’s spinning of this issue of late.

In recent months, even before this election, slowly recognizing the remarkable weakness of their substantive argument, conservatives’ new tack has been to say that even if its true that there is not much polling place fraud, the simple fact that the American people believe it is occurring is a problem itself in that it is causing them to lose confidence in the election system. Well, no wonder they have the misguided belief that this is a problem—that’s the message the Right has been hammering away at them over the last few years. In any case, the argument goes that we need identification requirements not because they will in actuality do anything to enhance the integrity of the voting process, but because we need to reassure people who have the perception the process is corrupt. Read the Entire Article

Treasury Urged to Make Public the Results of CFIUS Investigation of Smartmatic
by Rep. Carolyn Maloney Press Release - December 3, 2006

Rep. Maloney Cites Need to Reassure Public About U.S. Voting System

See also Wall Street Journal: U.S. Authorities Probe How Smartmatic Won Venezuela Election Pact 

The Member of Congress who first highlighted the need for an investigation of a deal involving voting machine manufacturer Smartmatic is urging the Department of Treasury to make the results of the investigation public when they are finalized. Smartmatic, a company with Venezuelan roots, announced shortly before November’s elections that it was indeed undergoing a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) investigation related to its purchase of Sequoia Voting Systems in 2005.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14) wrote this week to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to point out the public unease about electronic voting, due to numerous glitches on Election Day and press stories about the Smartmatic investigation. It has also been reported this week that Smartmatic is the subject of an ongoing Department of Justice investigation into the possibility that the company bribed the Venezuelan government for contracts and may have committed tax fraud. Read the Entire Press release

From Around the States

Connecticut: A TrueVote Vindication
by The Hartford Courant - December 7, 2006

Connecticut owes TrueVote CT a debt of gratitude.

This editorial appeared in The Hartford Courant.

This time last year, Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz's office was putting the finishing touches on a contract with Danaher Controls, the maker of an electronic ATM-style voting machine, to replace the traditional lever-style machines in the state's 769 polling places.

TrueVote CT, a citizens group of computer experts and professors, was a vocal critic of the technology, arguing it was costly, complicated and corruptible. Instead, they said, Connecticut should go with an optical-scan machine, in which a voter marks a ballot that is then scanned by a computer.

Around the time the agreement with Danaher was to be signed, Ms. Bysiewicz abruptly announced the deal was off; she accused the company of failing to meet the bid requirements and of misleading her agency.

Several months later, during an August press conference, Ms. Bysiewicz appeared with members of TrueVote CT to announce that her office had selected an optical-scan technology instead. Read the Entire Article

Florida: Partisanship and the Machines
by Bob Bauer- December 2, 2006

This article appeared on Bob Bauer's Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Just as it is wise to be suspicious of legal solutions to political problems, it is unfortunate when political reflexes overwhelm thought about legal problems. The Wall Street Journal this morning chooses to misrepresent the stakes in the current contest over the outcome in Florida’s Thirteenth Congressional District, “Sore Winners,” Wall Street Journal (Dec. 1, 2006) at A12.

Here we have the stale suggestion that a question about machine malfunction, raised by some 18,000 undervotes in an ultra-tight race, can be explained only by partisan refusal to accept a disappointing outcome. The Journal implies that Democrats seek to win on a statistical demonstration of probable victory—ignoring their efforts to secure comprehensive testing and cooperation of the state and the machine manufacturer in securing access to the source code to check for bugs. The Journal even brushes off the claim, for which there can be no meaningful support, that “negative campaigning” accounts for extensive voter shunning of this race. Read the Entire Article 

Testing Undervote Hypotheses in Sarasota: Declaration of Technical Expert Dan Wallach
by Dan Wallach, Rice University - December 3, 2006

These excerpts are drawn from Dan Wallach's declaration in the contest of Florida's 13th congressional district Election. The complete declaration is available for download here.

I have been asked to provide my opinion concerning information and equipment that might be necessary to conduct a forensic investigation on the recent election in Sarasota County, whose purpose would be to determine the cause or causes of the unusually high undervote rate in the race for the 13th Congressional District. This declaration will continue with three main sections: hypotheses which might explain the undervote rate in Sarasota County’s recent election, common terminology used when discussing elections, and hardware, software, and information that would be necessary to conduct a thorough forensic investigation of the undervote rate recent election in Sarasota County.

Sarasota Undervote Hypotheses

In the recent election for Florida’s 13th Congressional District, an issue of note is the “undervote” rates, particularly within Sarasota County. The election results from Sarasota County, as published on November 7, are:

Candidate           Total Votes         %     Election Day     Early Voting     Absentee
Vern Buchanan        58,534        47.24        36,619        10,890            11,025
Christine Jennings    65,367        52.76        39,930        14,509            10,928
Over Votes                    1                                0               0                   1
Under Votes            18,382                       12,378         5,433                571

These totals indicate that 12.9% of the votes cast in Sarasota County for the 13th Congressional District were “undervoted”, i.e., the electronic records indicate that no selection was made by the voter. This contrasts with other races that have much lower undervote rates (e.g., 1.14% in the Senate race, 1.28% in the Governor race, 4.36% in the Attorney General race, and 4.43% for the Chief Financial Officer race).

If the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) votes in Sarasota County are considered alone, the Congressional undervote rate was 14.9%. This contrasts with a Sarasota County Congressional undervote rate of 2.5% on absentee ballots. Without any doubt, the DRE votes in the Congressional race exhibit an unusually high undervote rate.

There are a number of different hypotheses that can explain the peculiar undervote rate for the Congressional race. I explain each possible hypothesis and what techniques may be able to validate or exclude these hypotheses from further consideration. Read the Entire Article

Florida Voting System Standards: Commentary
by Rebecca Mercuri, Notable Software - December 15, 2006

I have reviewed the “Florida Voting System Standards” document issued by Glenda Hood, Florida’s former Secretary of State, published by the Florida Division of Elections, Bureau of Voting System Certification as Form DS-DE 101, Eff. 1-12-05. I was not able to ascertain whether this is the most recent version of this document. I will refer to this document as FLVSS through this comment.

The FLVSS provides insight and direction regarding the certification of voting machines that may be deemed acceptable for use in the State of Florida. The FLVSS correctly defines a voting system as consisting “of a configuration of specific hardware and software components, procedures and expendable supplies” and also states that “no single component of a voting system, such as a precinct tabulation device, meets the definition of a voting system.” This is necessary, because the components, collectively and independently, can control and influence various aspects of the election.

The FLVSS speaks of the establishment of “minimum standards for certification or provisional certification” and references the Federal Election Commission’s 1990 and 2002 voting system guidelines as well as the 2005 NIST/HAVA/EAC guidelines (which at the time of publication of the FLVSS had not yet been formally issued, but were subsequently released in December 2005). Certification under these federal programs is conducted with testing performed by Independent Testing Authorities (ITAs) certified by the National Association of State Election Directors (until recently, and now by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission). There are three authorized ITA’s, CIBER, Inc., Systest, and Wyle Laboratories. Wyle and Systest are authorized to perform hardware and firmware compliance tests, and CIBER and Systest are authorized for software testing. The FLVSS cautions that: “ITA qualification will not satisfy requirements for Florida Certification.” This is because additional testing, by the Bureau of Voting System Certification in Florida’s Division of Elections, is required for compliance with the Florida standards. Read the Entire Commentary

Georgia: The Cox Legacy - Who "Owns" Our Votes?
by Denis Wright - Decmeber 10, 2006

"A temporary restraining order is necessary and proper under the facts presented to the Court since release of the CD-ROM today at 5:00 p.m. will significantly and permanently impair the rights and interests of the public and the Secretary of State as the custodian of those rights and interests." -- Motion and Supporting Authority for a Temporary Restraining Order, filed in DeKalb Superior Court, State of Georgia on behalf of Cathy Cox, Secretary of State

Two months prior to leaving office Cathy Cox (pictured at right on a Diebold marketing brochure), Georgia's outgoing Secretary of State and the subject of much controversy, felt compelled to stop an effort to perform a citizen audit of the state's primary and run-off elections of July and August 2006.

Georgia's elections, like some 38 other states, are conducted on DRE or Direct Record Electronic voting machines which are manufactured, upgraded and serviced by various private corporations who claim they are unaccountable to any outside scrutiny. In Georgia's case that corporation is Diebold Election Systems, and Diebold supplies not only the machines but the ballots, the training, and the "proprietary" software that counts our votes.

The most recent legal battle in Georgia began after Atlanta attorney Mike Raffauf filed an Open Records request for a copy of the CD-ROM "which contains a copy of the information on each memory card (PCMCIA Card) which shall include all ballot images and ballot styles as well as vote totals and a copy of the consolidated returns from the election management system" for DeKalb County. Read the Entire Article

Minnesota Performs First Post-Election Review
by Sean Greene, electionline.org - December 14, 2006

State-mandated audit a success, officials and advocates say

This article appeared on electionline.org and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Minnesota's first-ever post-election review - a manual count of votes from randomly-selected precincts in the state - drew raves from two sides that do not always see eye-to-eye, election officials and advocacy groups.

"I believe that Minnesota has done a most remarkable job at making every vote count and count correctly," said Janet Straub, a Minnesota resident and observer of the post-election review.

Incoming Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (DFL) said he was also impressed.

"I am excited to hear the very positive results from our first reviews. We can all feel a great deal of confidence in our election results - and only hope that other states can catch up to our system before the 2008 elections," he said in a press release from Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota.

The law mandating this new procedure was spearheaded by State Representative Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson.

"We have a really good system in place in Minnesota. We have a 100 percent paper-ballot system. But even with these devices the only way to be confident in their security and reliability is to check them out," Hilty stated. Read the Entire Article

Montana: Electronic Voting, Counting Machines can be Troublesome
by Billings Gazette Staff - December 12, 2006

Montana Rep. Brady Wiseman is a Democrat and Secretary of State Brad Johnson is a Republican, but the two are in agreement on the need for secure, reliable elections.

This editorial appeared in The Billings Gazette

Their shared background has something to do with it. Wiseman is a software engineer for RightNow Technologies in Bozeman, an Internet technology company, and Johnson used to work there as an account manager.

"The point is, he has the technology background, and so do I," Wiseman said. "We saw eye to eye immediately on touch-screen voting machines."

They didn't like what they saw, which is why they worked together on a bill Wiseman introduced during the 2005 legislative session to require all voting technology in the state to use paper ballots. The law easily passed in both chambers of the Montana Legislature.

Wiseman said it was an easy sell because he asked each of his colleagues to imagine himself in a hotly contested political race. Imagine having some individual counting all the ballots in the back of a closed truck and emerging to tell you you've lost the election. Read the Entire Article

Utah: New Voting Machines - The Gift That Keeps On Costing
by John Gideon, VotersUnite.org - December 9, 2006

During hearings last year in which Salt Lake County's voting systems purchase decisions were being considered, citizens testified in writing and in person that DREs were the most expensive choice, and that the County should opt for precinct-based optical scan due in part to reduced ongoing maintenance and operations costs.

But county clerks found themselves constrained in part by the state's selection of a specific vendor. The ramifactions of those constraints are now being felt.

Recently Salt Lake City, Utah's KCPW News reported the following:

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon, says the upkeep and storage of electronic voting machines is taking a toll on the county's budget:

"The federal government gave us money for new machines but they didn't give us money for storing the machines. They didn't give us money to hire new technicians for these machines."
The County budget for 2007, which is nearing completion, doesn't include money for more machines. Corroon says technical support and housing for existing machines has cost the county "millions and millions" of dollars already and he hopes the state and federal governments step up and help with the expense.
Read the Entire Article

Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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