Election Integrity News - December 26, 2005

This Week's Quote: "Too many (though certainly not all) election officials across the country treat the certification process as if the vendors were their clients, deserving of favors and rule bending. Voters – the only constituency that matters in this process – are too often treated like ill-mannered party-crashers when they try to ensure that their interests are being protected." Matt Zimmerman, Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Actions to Take Now

National: Pass HR 550 As Written!

Pennsylvania: Support HB 2000 and S 977


In this issue ...

National Stories

An Open Letter To The Election Assistance Commission

Diebolds Hack Hints At Wider Flaws

News From Around the States

California: Letter Reveals that ES&S Was Threatened with Decertification

California Secretary of State Refuses to Re-Certify Diebold Voting Machines (For Now...)

Missouri: Amidst Intense Last-Minute Drama, St. Louis County Rejects Diebold

New Mexico: Voters Seek Order Barring Purchase of Sequoia Edge

North Carolina: Diebold Pulls Out But Offers Their Assistance in Changing the Law

Diebold Quits North Carolina - Is It Really About Microsoft?

Oregon to Have Voter Database Soon

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The Top Five Stories from the Past Week's Daily Voting News by John Gideon, Information Manager, VoteTrustUSA

#5 The state of Virginia was forced to conduct a recount of the recent election for a new Attorney General. As reported by the Washington Post, the state uses four distinctly different types of voting systems; optical scan, DRE, punch card and lever. No recount can be done on DRE and lever systems and judges decided that no ballots would be re-run through the optical-scan or punch card tabulators, except in 10 precincts. No differences were shown anywhere except those 10 precincts, as reported by the Hampton Roads Pilot, where there were differences in the counts. Did someone wake up and realize that maybe a recount of the other optical-scan precincts in the state were now justified? No!

#4 There was no 'Main Stream Media' reporting of the Temporary Restraining Order filed in New Mexico in the Lopetegui et al v. Vigil-Giron, et al. lawsuit. This TRO asks District Judge Eugenio Mathis for an emergency order blocking the Secretary of State from spending millions of dollars on Sequoia AVC Edge touchscreen voting machines for use in Bernalillo, Dona Ana, Santa Fe and 11 other counties. The plaintiffs allege that the machines are not accessible by disabled voters and violate a state law requirement for voter verifiable paper trail printers, necessary for meaningful audits and recounts. Plaintiffs also submitted substantial evidence that the Sequoia touchscreen voting systems are inaccurate and unreliable, having lost thousands of votes and switched countless others in recent elections. Though this story was not reported by the MSM it was reported by VoteTrustUSA and The BradBlog.

#3 Late in the week it was revealed, by Associated Press that the Secretary of State of California had warned Elections Systems & Software (ES&S) that they needed to fix many problems on their voting systems used in the state, some of which had resulted in problem in elections on November 8. This warning was just made public after it had been made 5 weeks previously. In one case a video tape clearly showed a test where a vote was registered for a candidate other than the one who was voted for. ES&S attempted to explain that this was caused by the voter's long fingernail. As The BradBlog reported, State Senator Debra Bowen has questioned why these problems were not made public when they were first discovered rather than being released by the Associated Press 5 weeks later.

#2 North Carolina has given us the lows and highs of emotion. On Wednesday it was reported by the Associated Press that a trial judge ruled that the State Board of Elections followed the law in choosing the vendors that could sell voting machines in North Carolina, rejecting the arguments of a civil liberties group challenging the decision. On Thursday the agony of defeat became the thrill of victory as Diebold announced that they could not agree to mandates of state election laws and that they were withdrawing from consideration in the state; but they would be willing to assist to change those laws. There are questions about the real motives of Diebold and whether the whole problem was really over the third party software that they use.

#1 In a surprise announcement the state of California announced that they had told Diebold to send some of their code back to the Independent Test Authorities (ITA) for new testing. Failure to do this would mean that their voting machines would not be recertified for use in the state. This announcement gained national exposure by all of the major media outlets. A complete wrap-up of this story was presented by The BradBlog. The real question will be if the ITA will continue to allow the inclusion of 'interpreted' code in the Diebold source codes. This inclusion does not meet the 2002 Voting Systems Standards. The ITA either missed this when they originally inspected the source code and gave Diebold a 2002 qualification or they ignored the 'interpreted' code. Either way it is not supposed to be in the code.



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National Stories

An Open Letter To The Election Assistance Commission
by John Gideon, Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org and Information Manager for VoteTrustUSA, December 18, 2005

Dear Elections Assistance Commission

Today I write to express my disappointment with the non-responsiveness of the commission to the needs of the voters. You do well when it comes to the needs of the voting machine vendors, it seems, but the voters are being ignored.

You say that "the Commission serves as a national clearinghouse and resource for information and review of procedures with respect to the administration of Federal elections". I'm sorry to say that you fail as both a national clearinghouse and as a resource for information.

Let me give you a few examples of the failures. On October 17, 2004 a letter from VotersUnite.Org was given to, you, the commissioners. This letter expressed an idea that VotersUnite.Org had concerning your mandate to be a national clearinghouse and resource. It was VotersUnite.Org's idea that a communications network be established between all state, county, and local elections officials for the purpose of wide promulgation of information about voting system problems, solutions, and other issues that would have wide-spread interest. To this date VotersUnite.Org has never received a response to this letter even though I have personally spoken with your spokesperson about it and another copy of the letter was transmitted to this person for a response. It is, apparently, sitting on some EAC Counsel's desk for action; or being ignored.

The letter was also given, months later, to members of the Government Accountability Office as testimony prior to their report on your successes and failures since you were formed. I'm sure you have noticed that the clearinghouse idea was mentioned several times in their report. It is hoped that you will not treat the GAO as you have treated the public and ignore their advice. Read the Entire Article

Diebold Hack Hints at Wider Flaws
by Kim Zetter, Wired News - December 22, 2005

This article appeared in Wired News on December 21, 2005. It is reposted with permission of the author.

Election officials spooked by tampering in a test last week of Diebold optical-scan voting machines should be equally wary of optical-scan equipment produced by other manufacturers, according to a computer scientist who conducted the test.

Election officials in Florida's Leon County, where the test occurred, promptly announced plans to drop Diebold machines in favor of optical-scan machines made by Election Systems & Software, or ES&S. But Hugh Thompson, an adjunct computer science professor at the Florida Institute of Technology who helped devise last week's test, believes other systems could also be vulnerable.

"Looking at these systems doesn't send off signals that ... if we just get rid of Diebold and go to another vendor we'll be safe," Thompson said. "We know the Diebold machines are vulnerable. As for ES&S, we don't know that they're bad but we don't know that they're (good) either."

Thompson and Harri Hursti, a Finnish computer scientist, were able to change votes on the Diebold machine without leaving a trace. Hursti conducted the same test for the California secretary of state's office Tuesday. The office did not return several calls for comment. Read the Entire Article

From Around the States

California: Letter Reveals that ES&S Was Threatened with Decertification
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy,VoteTrustUSA - December 23, 2005

Associated Press writer Juliet Williams has described a letter in which California Assistant Secretary of State for Elections Bradley J. Clark "threatened to start the process of decertifying Election Systems & Software (ES&S) machines if the company didn't address the state's concerns immediately.”

Apparently the letter revealed "incidents of incorrect counting of turnout figures, a malfunction that prevented voters from verifying their choices and a touch-screen machine recording the wrong vote during a test." It is imperative that company representatives "take corrective action as soon as possible," Clark wrote.

Though the letter was apparently sent just over a week after California's special election on November 8th and ES&S representatives have already met with the Secretary of State's office, the Associated Press article is the first public disclosure of the election incidents. In the intervening five weeks, county clerks across California have been scrambling to make purchasing decisions in advance of the Help America Vote Act deadlines. Read the Entire Article

California Secretary of State Refuses to Re-Certify Diebold Voting Machines (For Now...)
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - December 20, 2005

SoS: 'Unresolved significant security concerns', 'Source Code Never Ever Reviewed' -State 'Punts' Issue Back to Feds for Further Testing, State Senator Bowen Objects
Complete Letter from McPherson to Diebold, McPherson's Press Release, Bowen's Full Statement.

This article was originally posted on The Brad Blog on December 20, 2005. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

Late this afternoon, Sec. of State Bruce McPherson's office sent a letter to Diebold Election Systems, Inc. Vice President David Bryd, informing him that the state is declining -- for the time being -- to re-certify Diebold AccuVote touch-screen machines in the state of California pending further testing and certification by Federal authorities. In the letter, on McPherson's letterhead, Caren Daniels-Meade, chief of the Elections Division writes that "Unresolved significant security concerns exist with respect to the memory card used to program and configure" the Accu-Vote operating system and touch-screen equipment.

In a statement reported by AP, SoS spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns announced problems "discovered during routine testing...by state employees and independent consultants":

She said each system approved for use in California must meet 10 security requirements, and the Diebold machines did not meet one of those standards. "This is a unique case in which we discovered that the source code had never, ever been reviewed," said Kerns. "There were potential security risks with it."
Some of those "potential security risks" may have been revealed in a test last week using similar Diebold equipment in Leon County, FL, where the results of a test election were reversed by a hacked program inserted onto one of the AccuVote memory cards. The hacked election was completed without a trace of the manipulation left behind. Read the Entire Article

Missouri: Amidst Intense Last-Minute Drama, St. Louis County Rejects Diebold
by Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog - December 22, 2005

Citizen Activists, Increasing Concerns about Diebold Security, Company Integrity Said to Have Been Key to Decision

This article appeared originally on The Brad Blog. It is reposted with permission of the author.

Add St. Louis County to the growing list of Elections Boards around the country who have now rejected Diebold, Inc. voting machines in the last-minute scramble to select new election hardware prior to the Jan. 1, 2006 Help America Vote Act deadline to have such "upgrades" paid for with Federal tax dollars.

The bad news for the once-great, now-disgraced Diebold, Inc. (stock symbol: DBD) of North Canton, Ohio, comes as the latest blow in a growing string of disappointments for the company which last week saw the resignation of it's CEO, the filing of several Class Action Securities Fraud lawsuits and the devasting revelation that their voting machines can be easily hacked allowing the results of Diebold elections to be completely reversed.

The loss of the contract in St. Louis County, who chose to go instead with Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S), is estimated by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to be at least $9.6 million. The last minute decision came amidst intense lobbying by both citizen's election integrity advocacy groups and paid Diebold lobbyists. Read the Entire Article

New Mexico: Voters Seek Order Barring Purchase of Sequoia Edge
by VoterAction New Mexico - December 20, 2005

Eight New Mexico voters asked District Judge Eugenio Mathis for an emergency order blocking the Secretary of State from spending millions of dollars on Sequoia AVC Edge touchscreen voting machines for use in Bernalillo, Dona Ana, Santa Fe and 11 other counties. The plaintiffs allege that the machines are not accessible by disabled voters and violate a state law requirement for voter verifiable paper trail printers, necessary for meaningful audits and recounts. Plaintiffs also submitted substantial evidence that the Sequoia touchscreen voting systems are inaccurate and unreliable, having lost thousands of votes and switched countless others in recent elections.
 
The motion for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction was filed in the case of Patricia Rosas Lopategui, et al. v. Rebecca Vigil-Giron, et al. The case was filed in January of 2005, and seeks a permanent injunction against use in future New Mexico elections of the Sequoia AVC Edge touchscreen and other "direct recording electronic" (DRE) voting machines sold by Election Systems & Software and by Danaher Controls. Read the Entire Article

North Carolina: Diebold Pulls Out But Offers Their Assistance in Changing the Law
by Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy, VoteTrustUSA - December 22, 2005

In a surprising reversal, Diebold has notified the North Carolina State Board of Elections that they are withdrawing from the procurement process in the state. They also offered their assistance in "revising" the state's recently passed election laws to better suit their product. Just yesterday, a Superior Court had dismissed a challenge to the Board's decision to certify Diebold in spite of their failure to disclose third party software as required by State Law 2005-323.

Last month, Diebold had lost a bid for a judgement that would have exempted them from placing their software in escrow. In spite of this decision, the State Board of Election proceded to certify Diebold anyway on December 1, the action which prompted the lawsuit that was dismissed this week. However, in bestowing the "immaculate certification" on Diebold, the board had required the vendor to place a copy of their software with a holding company in Raleigh by today.

While the company's statement focused on third-party software, Diebold's tenacious refusal to escow their source code may be motivated by their reluctance to sign off on a statement that says the software in escrow is the same software that is on the machines. Such a declaration, and Diebold's failure to adhere to it, was the cause of their initial decertification in California in 2004. However, unlike California and other states, such a violation of North Carolina's escrow requirements is a felony, and while Diebold has been willing to install uncertified software to count votes, they apparently are less willing to risk criminal penalties in doing so.Read the Entire Article

Diebold Quits North Carolina - Is It Really About Microsoft?
by Joyce McCloy, NC Coalition for Verifiable Voting - December 23, 2005

According to their letter to the State Board of Elections, Diebold's reluctance to escrow third-party software in North Carolina that led to them dropping out of the state's voting system procurement process. They were not at liberty, they claimed, to disclose the source code for "operating systems, drivers and myriad other pieces of code that are present in any computer system." Their specific concern is apparently Microsoft Windows CE. They appear to have had no qualms about escrowing Microsoft's source code in other states.

Given that Diebold was decertified in California for misrepresentation to the Secretary of State and for installing uncertified software on the machines, it is easy to be skeptical about their public statements. In this case it seems concerns about proprietary third-party software may have been less of a factor than the "harsh criminal and civil penalties for non-compliance" imposed by North Carolina law. Read the Entire Article

Oregon to Have Voter Database Soon
by Peter Wong, Statesman Jornal (Salem OR) - December 21, 2005

Effort is aimed at preventing duplicate votes in mail ballots

This article was orignally published in the Statesman Journal on December 18, 2005. It is reposted with permission of the author and the Statesman Journal.

Oregon is ready to join the ranks of states with a statewide database of registered voters. One-third of the states could miss the New Year's Day deadline to meet the federal requirement, which was set by a 2002 law known as the Help America Vote Act. The law required states to upgrade their registration and balloting systems. It was prompted by problems during the 2000 presidential election with ballots cast and counted, especially in Florida.

Under Oregon's old county-by-county system, a voter could have an active registration in two counties -- and possibly receive two mail-in ballots -- until elections officials in the voter's new home county cancel the old registration. A voter can cast only one ballot. Investigations in Oregon turned up few instances of duplicate voting in 2000, the state's first general election conducted entirely by mail, despite critics' assertions of widespread abuse.

"We have not found historical problems with duplicate voting. They have been isolated cases," said John Lindback, the state Elections Division director since May 2001. "But the public and Legislature felt the system was vulnerable, and it is important that we cut down on the opportunities for that to happen." Under the new statewide system, voter information is updated as county elections officials enter it. Oregon's 36 counties will continue to register voters, although the secretary of state is the state's chief elections officer. Marion County will be the final one to join the system. Read the Entire Article

Pennsylvania Gets a Big Lump of Coal from Harrisburg for Christmas
by VotePA - December 26, 2005

Immediately before closing up shop for the long weekend last Friday afternoon, the Pennsylvania Department of State uploaded a holiday present to its HAVA website that left election integrity activists and many voters in the state thinking they had just been whacked in the head with a lump of coal.

The lovely little Christmas package actually put quite a few lumps in Keystone State stockings -- including the announcement of yet another examination go-round with Jack Gerbel and his UniLect Patriot DRE. Pennsylvania state certification documents were also uploaded for ES&S and Diebold paperless touchscreen DREs.

The UniLect Patriot was listed as scheduled on January 4 for its fourth re-examination in less than a year by the Pennsylvania Department of State. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law allows what appears to be unlimited attempts by a decertified or denied vendor to demand re-examinations at what is at least partial taxpayer expense. Read the Entire Article

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Election Integrity News Editor: Warren Stewart
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