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Verified Voting Newsletter - July 25, 2006

Verified Voting Newsletter - July 25, 2006

To read this newsletter online, please visit

July 25, 2006

I. VV Comments - US House of Representatives Hearing on Voting Systems Guidelines; Verified Voting submits testimony; Take Action on HR550

II. News Briefs - Arizona newest state to adopt verifiable voting, Voting System Security report released, more...


I. Hearing - On July 19, the Administration Committee and the Science Committee of the US House of Representatives held a joint hearing to review the Voluntary Voting Systems Guidelines (VVSG) required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Verified Voting submitted an expanded version of the following testimony (full version available at ).

There is a crisis of confidence today in the electronic voting systems used across our nation. It grows each day as the public gains awareness of their inadequacies and vulnerabilities. The concern is perhaps greatest among those with technical understanding of the computing systems that control the voting equipment.

There will be those who say that system problems can be solved with a set of procedures. But a procedural fix cannot solve a system problem.

The current guidelines do not resolve the current crisis.

First, the process for voting system certification is wholly insufficient for security.

Second, voluntary guidelines, no matter how well written, cannot secure a broken system. Voting systems cannot be made secure without the essential safeguard of a voter-verified paper record (VVPR) of every vote and mandatory random manual audits of these paper records to ensure the accuracy of the vote count.

Third, the most significant thing the current VVSG could have done to bolster the public’s confidence was not done. On January 18, 2005, Professor Ron Rivest introduced a resolution (#13-05) to require VVPR at a Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) meeting where voting system standards were being drafted. Professor Rivest is the member of the TGDC with by far the greatest expertise in computer security. That resolution was voted down, by members of the committee who know less about computer security than the person who introduced the measure. Just as the Food and Drug Administration would not approve of a pharmaceutical based on a vote where accountants out-voted physicians, it is important that decisions affecting technical requirements be made by technical experts.

Finally, now that the lion’s share of HAVA equipment funding has been spent, the VVSG serve only as a theoretical or philosophical guideline for what you would want in a voting system, if one were going to buy a new one today... but almost no one is buying now.

Verified Voting makes the following recommendations:

1. Prevent Unrecoverable Lost Votes; Mandate VVPR and Audits
With each election, new examples arise of situations where votes were irretrievably lost, but could have been recovered if a VVPR requirement were in place. Only such a requirement can prevent losses of votes due to malfunction, programming error, set-up error, or tampering.

2. Accelerate VVSG Update Process
These voluntary guidelines do not take effect until December 2007. The lag between their development and their effective date almost ensures that they will be obsolete by the time they are in effect. They offer too little, too late.

3. Certification Process Should Not Be Cloaked in Secrecy
The scheme remains one in which private voting system vendors contract with (and pay for) private testing laboratories to carry out certification testing in secret. Public confidence in the integrity of certification will not be achieved if testing continues to be carried out behind a veil of secrecy. The EAC should require that, as a condition of certification, the report produced be publicly released, along with the technical data package.

4. Stronger Security Testing
Any certification system that subjects voting systems to hundreds of hours of expensive "testing" and yet fails to discover grave security vulnerabilities which can be successfully exploited in a manner of minutes is completely ineffective. Security evaluations should be conducted by experts not chosen by the vendors, and those experts should be allowed to do open-ended research on possible attacks.

5. Proprietary Interests Should Not Outweigh Security and Performance Requirements
The current (and future) certification scheme appears to be biased in favor of maintaining the proprietary interests of voting machine vendors rather than ensuring the integrity of the voting systems. An example is the inclusion of wireless networking, which facilitates vendor interests but is unnecessary and inherently unsafe, and should be banned outright.

6. Encourage (Secure) Usability Advances.
The current practice of certifying whole voting systems has the potential to stifle the independent development of add-ons to existing voting systems that could greatly enhance usability, especially accessibility.

7. Address Defects Discovered After Deployment
When defects in other types of products affect public safety, product recalls are initiated and product defects corrected at vendor expense, but we have no clear mechanism for decertifying defective voting systems that put our elections at risk.

Need for Prompt Action

On June 24, 2004, Dr. Michael Shamos, a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University who serves as statutory examiner of voting systems for Pennsylvania, testified to the House Science Committee that the system for testing and certifying voting equipment in this country "is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent. It must be re-created from scratch or we will never restore public confidence in elections."

Two years later, little has changed. Instead of making that process "transparent, easily-understood" and "viewable" by the public, the revised guidelines leave intact the existing opaque and secretive system which Professor Shamos describes as "grotesque." That system can continue no longer. It must be made transparent. It is time for Congress to act to safeguard our elections.


NOTE: Two days after the hearing, the number of co-sponsors for the leading bill requiring audits and VVPR for all voting systems used in federal elections passed the 200 mark. HR 550, sponsored by Rep. Holt (D-NJ), now has 201 bi-partisan co-sponsors in the US House. A few more co-sponsors are needed for passage. Verified Voting needs a minute of your time for a final push to get HR 550 passed. Please visit the Action Center to send a message to your lawmaker today:


II. News Briefs

On June 28, Arizona became the 28th state to pass a VVPR requirement, and the 13th to mandate manual audits, when Arizona Governor Napolitano signed SB 1557 into law. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ted Downing (D-Tucson) and Sen. Karen Johnson (R-Mesa), passed the Arizona House unanimously, then passed in the Senate 25 to 3. The law requires each electronic voting machine to produce a voter-verified paper record of every vote, and mandates a hand-counted audit in 2% of precincts, with expansion of the hand count if discrepancies are found. Our congratulations and gratitude go out to Arizona's election integrity advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

In June the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law published a comprehensive analysis of voting system security which concludes that the easiest of several ways to subvert a computerized voting system is to install corrupt software, and that there are no strong defenses without voter-verified paper trails. The report was the focus of a staff briefing on Capitol Hill on June 28. The good news: effective countermeasures are available. Will your jurisdiction be using them? Specific recommendations included requiring random audits of voter-verified paper records, and banning the use of wireless networking. For more information and a link to the report, see

Cindy Cohn, member of the Verified Voting Board of Directors and legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (, was recently named one of the 100 most influential lawyers in the United States by the National Law Journal, which highlighted her work supporting activists challenging unverifiable electronic voting machines in Maryland, California, Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey. Congratulations, Cindy!

El Nuevo Herald, Miami's premiere Spanish-language newspaper, covers issues relating to electronic voting at length in an in-depth interview with Verified Voting Founder, computer scientist David Dill, in its July 2 issue. Please pass it along to your Spanish-speaking friends and associates. You can find the article, entitled "Votacion electronica puede ser manipulada" ("E-voting can be manipulated") here:

On June 12, the League of Women Voters of the United States, the oldest election integrity organization in the country, passed a resolution in support of VVPR and mandatory random manual audits of voting systems nationwide. The support of this venerable non-partisan organization represents an enormous step forward for election integrity.

The June 2006 oversight hearing of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), conducted by the US House of Representatives Committee on Administration, resulted in some very interesting questions and responses on voting system issues, so Verified Voting published analysis and commentary. We emphasize the urgent need to establish nationwide requirements for voter-verified paper records on all voting systems and for mandatory manual audits of those records in all federal and state elections. More here: launches a new home page ( ). The home page now features a map that identifies states with a VVPR requirement, states with VVPR and routine manual audits, and states with neither. 28 states currently have a VVPR, but only 13 states require a mandatory manual audit. Verified Voting needs your help to push for both.

In this phase of our campaign for verifiable elections, we are urging every voting jurisdiction with voter-verifiable paper ballots -- state, county, parish, district or township -- to carry out an audit after every election to check the vote count for accuracy. If you want to get an audit requirement passed in your state, contact us -- we'll be happy to help.


Verified Voting Foundation
1550 Bryant St., Suite 855
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-487-2255 telephone

The Verified Voting Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation; your contributions to the Foundation are tax-deductible to the extent provided by U.S. tax law. To donate online, visit --or if you prefer to mail a check, please send to Verified Voting at the address shown above. To unsubscribe from this newsletter, please send a message to

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