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
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
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.
"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.