Voter Verification Newsletter, Vol. 1, Number 12
Voter Verification Newsletter -- Vol 1, Number 12
October 12, 2003
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CALIFORNIA RECALL ELECTION
The California recall election is over, thank goodness! The main effect on us was a great deal of press coverage. The coverage further increased when, for a brief time, an ACLU lawsuit looked like it would delay the recall until March, because of the continued use of punch cards in some California counties.
A lot of reporters know a lot more about our favorite issue than before the election.
The election went very smoothly for the most part. In terms of failures and measureable errors, touch screen machines were no worse than other equipment (but, of course, there is no way to make sure they recorded their votes properly).
However, some statistics are making the rounds of the Internet showing that certain minor candidates got inexplicably large numbers of votes in a few counties. An example is Ronald Jason Palmieri, who got a large percentage of his votes from Tulare County, even though he lives far from there and reportedly told someone that he knows no one there. Such anomalies need to be looked into carefully --- they may indicate machine or procedural errors or even vote fraud that could affect future elections. At the moment, this is the third item down on http://markcrispinmiller.blogspot.com/ There is a charge of vote fraud there that is totally unwarranted at this point, but I've looked at some of the numbers in the original vote totals, and there is SOMETHING unexplained going on.
The recall provided an opportunity for people interested in the problem to see the details of some elections in action. Kim Zetter of Wired News wrote an especially interesting article about what she learned sitting in on poll worker training in Alameda County, which uses Diebold's Accuvote-TS.
As we mentioned in the last newsletter, a security review of the Diebold Accuvote-TS and the attendant election procedures was conducted by SAIC, a contractor, for the State of Maryland. Appendix B was a point-by-point response to various security threats discussed in a report earlier this summer by researchers at Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities. On many points, SAIC claimed that physical security in an actual election situation would reduce the risks to acceptable levels.
Ms. Zetter's report is not comforting.
* Officials leave voting machines at polling stations days before the election. The machines contain memory cards with ballots already loaded on them. According to the Johns Hopkins/Rice report, someone with access to the (electronic) ballot could re-arrange entries so that votes would be recorded for the wrong candidate, without the voter knowing.
* The memory card is behind a locked door on the side of the voting machine. But poll supervisors, who are selected without background checks and do not have to show identification, receive a key to the compartment the weekend before the election. The same key fits every machine at a polling station. [This is hauntingly reminiscent of Diebold's "management" of cryptographic keys.]
There's more. The full article is at: http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,60713,00.html
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE PASSES RESOLUTION DEMANDING A VOTER VERIFIABLE AUDIT TRAIL
It was submitted
Donna Brazile, At-Large / District of Columbia
Hartina Flournoy, At-Large / District of Columbia
Alice Huffman, California
Minyon Moore, At-Large / District of Columbia
Lottie Shackelford, DNC Vice Chair, Arkansas
Christopher Stampolis, California
and adopted October 4, 2003:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the DNC goes on record demanding that all electronic voting equipment used in public elections must incorporate an accessible voter-verified paper audit trail as soon as practical, but in no case any later than the November 2004 general election;
The resolution also called for full funding of the Help America Vote Act.
Now, we need a national Republican resolution (and Libertarian, and Green, etc.)
MAJOR NATIONAL UNION PASSES RESOLUTION FOR PROPER VOTING EQUIPMENT
In late August, the Communications Workers of America (a labor union affiliated with the AFL-CIO) passed a resolution in support of proper voting equipment. It condemns "touch screens" since they have no physical record to audit, and it points out that without a physical record, it is impossible to discover if the equipment is recording the voter's choice correctly.
The resolution supports optical scanning systems (which have a paper ballot) and only those DRE and "touch screen" machines with the ability to provide the voter with a view of a paper ballot that is stored and available for audits. It also resolves to communicate the need for auditable paper ballot trails to the AFL-CIO, its affiliated unions, and other civic minded organizations that the officers of CWA deem appropriate.
This is the first resolution I've seen at the national level from a major union.
BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, RETHINKS PURCHASE OF TOUCH SCREENS
Less than two years after spending $17 million to replace Broward County's election system, county Commissioners have expressed growing apprehension about electronic voting and decided to rethink what they had done.
Commissioners ordered their staff to explore retrofitting the new touch-screen voting machines to print copies of each ballot or ditching the machinery in favor of paper ballots read by optical scanners. They want the study completed in the next couple of months so they can make any changes before next year's presidential elections.
"There is no confidence in the equipment and no confidence that it will work properly," Commissioner John Rodstrom said. "We were rushed into making a decision, and now we need to figure out a better way because there is no way to go back and recount. We need to have integrity in our voting system."
Broward County's actions come on the heels of a similar decision in Miami-Dade County earlier this month. Miami-Dade officials decided against immediately installing printers on their 7,200 voting machines but to undertake a four-month study.
BENTON COUNTY, IOWA IS PLEASED WITH ACCUVOTE OPTICAL SCAN MACHINES
After borrowing Accuvote optical scan machines for an election, Benton County officials and voters are very impressed and ready to buy their own. They point out that the machines use paper ballots, that the ballots are counted immediately at the precinct, and if there's an error in the ballot it is rejected and the voter has a chance to correct the mistake. When polls close, results are transmitted by telephone to the Auditor's office. The system even allows for live broadcasts of results on a screen in the courthouse lobby.
Roger Witt of the Benton County Data Processing office said, "I don't think you will find too much wrong with this system. One of the things I heard from people was they really like the paper ballot, and they really like having their vote counted right away."
A lot has been happening in Maryland. The SAIC report on Diebold systems, ordered by Maryland's Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., was completed. Of the approximately 200 pages in the report, only 69 heavily redacted pages were released to the public on September 24, 2003. State officials say they withheld the information to avoid providing a "roadmap" for hackers to disrupt election results.
The report is very critical of the security of the Diebold system, and it confirms many of the findings of the Johns Hopkins/Rice report. Nevertheless, it also includes what seem to be politically-motivated attacks on the Hopkins/Rice report. I have posted a review of the released version at:
Inexplicably, Maryland decided to adopt the machines, and Mark Radke, a Diebold executive, said the report "really confirms our stance that our equipment is as secure, if not more secure, than any other electronic system in the marketplace."
Then, two days later, Gov. Ehrlich asked the State Ethics Commission to examine a lobbyist with a possible conflict of interest in the debate over whether Maryland should buy costly new touch-screen voting machines.
Gilbert J. Genn, who is registered to lobby on behalf of Diebold Election Systems, the manufacturer of the electronic voting machines, is also authorized to represent Science Applications International Corp. Genn claims there is no conflict of interest since he was not involved in securing the contract to SAIC.
Speaking of SAIC conflicts of interest, see the next item.
SAIC is talking about investing $5 million in voting machine vendor Hart InterCivic. Their evaluation of Diebold's machines for Ohio just got cancelled because of it.
This conflict further explains SAIC's biased evaluation of Diebold's equipment in Maryland, since they wouldn't want to raise problems that might apply to ALL electronic voting machines. Why didn't SAIC reveal this conflict of interest to the State of Maryland? Or did Maryland ignore it.
SAIC was being considered to help conduct the security review of Ohio's newly-certified voting machines. But then the office of Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell discovered that an arm of SAIC had promised to make a $5 million investment that would benefit Hart Intercivic, one of four voting machine vendors qualified to sell voting machines to Ohio counties.
Blackwell said his office's procedures for identifying potential conflicts "surfaced a potential area of conflict [for SAIC] that saved us from embarrassment and probably legal entanglements."
FLORIDA PLANNING TO SUE DIEBOLD
The Duval County elections supervisor testified Friday that he intends to sue the manufacturer of the county's voting system because ballot machines accessible to blind voters don't have the necessary certification to be used.
John Stafford told a federal judge that he is planning the lawsuit against Diebold for failing to get state certification for machines accessible to blind voters as Diebold had repeatedly promised.
NEW INTERNATIONAL DISCUSSION LIST DEDICATED TO E-VOTING
A new email discussion list has been launched, intended to provide a forum for discussing international aspects of electronic voting issues. Since most systems sold internationally tend to be partnered with U.S. vendors, we are all in this together. Currently, the group includes members from the U.S., U.K., Spain, France, and Ireland.
You can subscribe to this newsletter list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/upa-evoting/.