Voter Verification Newsletter -- December 8, 2003
Voter Verification Newsletter -- Vol 1, Number 14 December 8, 2003
David L. Dill
For previous newsletters, see http://www.verifiedvoting.org/newsletters.htm Please forward this newsletter to your friends!
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There have been a number of very positive developments since the last newsletter. Momentum really seems to be building dramatically.
WHERE ARE WE ON H.R. 2239?
H.R. 2239 is Federal legislation requiring a voter verifiable paper trail on all election equipment, along with increased accessibility for voters with disabilities. We have been pushing hard for this bill, especially in the last two months, and can see the results.
Currently there are 84 co-sponsors, including three Republicans. We hear from several Representatives that they have signed on as co-sponsors, and the Thomas.loc.gov site should show the update next week. Several Senators have expressed an interest in introducing a companion bill into the Senate, and we are pursuing all these leads.
Congress is scheduled to begin its recess this week. So, it's clear that H.R.2239 will not be enacted this year. This is not a disaster, though, because the bill just continues into the next session, because the make-up of Congress will not change. We need to continue the push to to get this bill adopted as early as possible in the new year, in preparation for next year's important elections.
During the recess, many people will be meeting with their Senators and Representatives in town meetings. Our goal is to have the bill brought up in as many of these meetings as possible. If you know of a town meeting scheduled in your state, please go to the following link, find your state, and enter information about the Representative's recess schedule. http://www.verifiedvoting.org/states.asp. Then attend the meetings, if you can, and bring up the issue. Encourage others to join you.
NIST SYMPOSIUM ON BUILDING TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN VOTING SYSTEMS
There is a major opportunity for people to learn more about electronic voting. This will be a political as well as technical education. In addition to seeing advocates for verified voting, you can also find out what we're up against.
On December 10-11, 2003, the National Institute of Standards and Technology will hold a symposium that is open to the public. "The symposium will deal with issues relevant to the implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), and help foster dialogue and collaboration among voting and elections stakeholders."
The symposium will be held on the NIST main campus near Gaithersburg, MD. The symposium will be broadcast via the web and will be available for media coverage (it may be on CSPAN). There is a lot of interesting information on their web site, such as position papers by various interested parties. See http://vote.nist.gov/overview.html.
The announced registration deadline is past, so members of the general public may not be able to attend if they are not already registered.
DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES JOIN THE FIGHT FOR VERIFIED VOTING.
Kucinich: In a November 28th press release, Representative Dennis Kucinich said, "An open and honest examination of the flaws in electronic voting will lead us to only one possible conclusion: electronic voting machines are dangerous to democracy because there is no way of ensuring their accuracy. We need to have a voter-verified paper trail for every election so that any errors and irregularities caused by the voting machines can be discovered."
Edwards: Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is calling on President Bush to return more than $100,000 donated to his campaign by Diebold, saying the relationship could damage confidence in elections. Edwards also took a strong stand against electronic voting machines, saying, "We now have touch screen voting machines that some people think are just as bad as a butterfly ballot."
Kerry: On Saturday, December 6, at the Florida Democratic Party Meeting televised on C-SPAN, Senator John Kerry spoke strongly against Diebold and emphasized the need for voter-verified paper ballots. The tape is not available at this writing, but check www.c-span.org for a video of the speech.
Dean: In an interview last week with Diane Rehm, Howard Dean said he was "very worried" about the increased use of electronic voting machines. Unfortunately, he also said he didn't know what to do about it, but he would look into the problem seriously when he becomes the Democratic nominee.
PAUL KRUGMAN WRITES ABOUT PAPERLESS VOTING
December 2, Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times, was entitled "Hack the Vote." He references Wally O'Dell's comment about being committed to delivering Ohio's electoral vote to Bush in 2004. He mentions Representative Rush Holt's bill, H.R. 2239, which VerifiedVoting.org has been actively pushing. He discusses Diebold's many fiascos.
In one paragraph he asks, "Why isn't this front-page news? In October, a British newspaper, The Independent, ran a hair-raising investigative report on U.S. touch-screen voting. But while the mainstream press has reported the basics, the Diebold affair has been treated as a technology or business story - not as a potential political scandal."
Responding to those who suggest that those working for verifiable voting are paranoid, he says, "But there's nothing paranoid about suggesting that political operatives, given the opportunity, might engage in dirty tricks."
His final statement gets right to the heart of the matter, "But let's be clear: the credibility of U.S. democracy may be at stake."
Enjoy the entire article at:
MAINE LEGISLATURE TO VOTE ON VVPB BILL
In its next session the Maine Legislature will be considering a bill that requires accountability and transparency in elections. The bill, LD #2247, was introduced by Hannah Pingree.
The bill defines a ballot as "the physical artifact of the voting process, whether a hand-marked/counted ballot typical of absentee and provisional voting, a hand-marked optical scan ballot, or an electronically produced ballot which the voter, after verifying, places into an official ballot box."
The bill requires fully open source, accessible software and operating system on all computerized voting machines "(vendor claims of "proprietary rights" notwithstanding)". It requires that touch screen voting machines produce a "legible, large print ballot for each voter to verify his/her electoral choice(s) before placing it in the official ballot-box."
There is one exception to the paper ballot: the bill allows for "ballot-free" voting for disabled voters who would otherwise not be able to vote unassisted.
The bill also provides for taking machines out of service if five voters report an inaccurate paper ballot was produced. The machines are impounded and provisions are made for ensuring that the verified paper ballots produced on them are used for the official count.
The text of the bill is not currently online, but it will be within the next two weeks. To find the full text when it is available, go to http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/ and search for 2247.
SOUTH DAKOTA UPGRADES FROM PUNCH CARDS TO PAPER BALLOTS
The last nine South Dakota counties with punch card machines are upgrading to optical scan systems, using HAVA funding. The counties will continue to use the same voting booths, but voters will use a pencil to fill in an oval instead of punching a hole.
VerifiedVoting.org spoke with Secretary of State Chris Nelson to ask if he will insist on voter-verified paper ballots on all election equipment when South Dakota implements the accessibility requirements. He said he wasn't fully convinced that was necessary, but he was monitoring the controversy to see if a resolution emerged. He has no plans to make other changes in the voting machine systems until 2005.
We encourage those of you in South Dakota to contact him and let him know your concerns.
OHIO DELAYS DRE INSTALLATION
Security problems found in new touch-screen voting systems mean they won't be in place statewide in time for the November 2004 presidential election. Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell said some of the new voting machines would be installed in August, some in November and the rest in 2005.
Companies that tested the security systems of the four machine types found software that permits votes to be counted more than once, and a risk that unauthorized poll workers or others could gain access to the system. Identical passwords were discovered for more than one poll worker, while voting booth cases did not provide for locks, leaving a risk of tampering during transportation of ballots.
Each of the voting systems provided by the four vendors -- Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems, Election Systems & Software and Maximus/Hart Intercivic/DFM Associates -- has multiple but not identical problems, Blackwell said.
Read the whole story at:
SHORT TERM AND LONG TERM STRATEGY
Many people have expressed concern about whether we will have a voter verifiable paper trail requirement before November 2004. As we get closer to that time, it becomes more difficult.
For example, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced that his state will have a voter verifiable paper trail requirement -- but not until 2005 for newly purchased equipment, and 2006 for all equipment. Many people have expressed dismay that the requirement won't be in place by 2004.
We at verifiedvoting.org have been pondering what to do about this situation. We feel that it is necessary to pursue a multi-pronged strategy. First: We will push as hard as we can for a requirement for a voter verifiable paper trail requirement on all election equipment before November 2004. At the Federal level, this means fighting for HR 2239, which imposes such a requirement.
Second: We need to think about contingency plans. Suppose we can't get everything we want. The best strategy is to fight as hard and effectively as possible for a voter verifiable paper trail requirement at the earliest date we can get it. Meanwhile, we should at least discourage purchases of new touch-screen machines at the state and local level, to prevent the current problems from growing. We are thinking about what other measures could be used to help ensure the integrity of elections, even with inadequate equipment. We are now thinking about these backup strategies.
In any event, getting perfect voting equipment would not even solve all of the problems. Recount laws need to be liberalized in many states, so that candidates and voters can actually make use of voter verifiable audit trails. Overall election security needs to be re-vamped, and elections need to be monitored by the public much more aggressively than they are now.
Restoring the integrity of elections in this country is going to be a long, tough battle, regardless of what happens in the next year. Fortunately, the momentum in our direction seems to be growing.