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Verified Voting Foundation News November 2007

Verified Voting Foundation News November 2007

To read this issue online: https://www.verifiedvotingfoundation.org/article.php?id=6527
In this issue:
1. Audits, Audits, Audits...
2. Federal Notes - 2007 VVSG up for comments; New election bill introduced
3. State Notes - Maryland's voting system improvements in danger; New York and Department of Justice; more...
4. Special Announcement - Verified Voting Foundation and VoteTrustUSA

1. Audit Summit brings election officials, statisticians, lawmakers and advocates together: As one of six co-sponsoring organizations, Verified Voting Foundation is very pleased to announce that the Post-Election Auditing Summit held October 25-27, 2007 was a success that surpassed the considerable hopes of the team that put it together (American Statistical Association, Brennan Center for Justice, Citizens for Election Integrity - Minnesota, Common Cause, Florida Voters Coalition and Verified Voting Foundation) At present, while some three-fourths of the states have passed requirements for voter-verified paper ballots -- or obtained voter-verified paper ballot systems even without a requirement to do so -- only about one fourth of all states are doing any audits at all. (By audits, in this instance, we mean manual tallies of the paper ballots to compare with machine tallies as a check on the accuracy of the vote tallies. See http://electionaudits.org for the definition we used at the Summit.) Yet audits provide an essential safety check by allowing vote counts to be publicly validated.

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The organizers of this event saw an opportunity to help improve this situation, and worked to pull together 100 participants, eight panels, and much lively discussion over three days in Minneapolis. The result was lots of good energy, creative ideas, and a spirit of collegial information sharing. Attendees came from twenty states, including the Vice-Chair of the Election Assistance Commission, top state election officials from several states, lawmakers and local election officials from a number of states.

Though distinct perspectives were presented on some aspects of how audits can and should be done, the Summit seemed to nurture mutual understanding between the state and local election officials, academic experts from statistics, computer science, and political science, and election integrity advocates who participated -- valuable bridge-building between the various communities that will need to work together. READ MORE...
States working on audit provisions: We've learned that quite a number of states are working on audit provisions. This week a legislative committee in Maine is examining a proposal for LD 1550, an Act to Establish Random Audits of Voting Machines. Florida is currently working on the rules for carrying out their recently passed 1% audit provision, and considering the possibility for strengthening that provision going forward. New Jersey has an excellent statistically-based audit bill in the works, developed by several of the Audit Summit participants. Rhode Island is considering a legislative proposal for audits. Washington DC advocates are seeking to develop an audit provision. Washington State's Metropolitan King County Council has asked the state legislature to revise state law, allowing counties to conduct post-election audits (the state has a provision for auditing voter-verified paper audit trail printouts from DREs, but most of the state is now using optical scan ballots via vote-by-mail). More to come...

2. National Notes

EAC: The Election Assistance Commission has now posted the 2007 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) draft standards for public review. These would replace the current (2005) version of the VVSG once they are approved, and represent the standards by which our voting systems are to be tested at a federal level. You are encouraged to wade in (the document is very large) and comment. To comment, visit this site: http://www.congressweb.com/t/l/?CCACKIPTSMEDPDD We will be reviewing the draft and providing some comments also, and will keep you posted.

Senate: Senators Nelson (FL) and Whitehouse (RI) have introduced a voter-verified paper ballot bill: S 2295. The bill is very similar to HR811, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act introduced by Rep. Holt in the House, as that bill came out of the Committee process earlier this year, but with some significant modifications, including a phasing-out of direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines by a date certain and improvement to the software disclosure language. You can read the bill here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c110:S.2295:

3. State Notes

A positive trend: In recent weeks, several states have issued reports or begun the process of carrying out more detailed examination of their voting systems. These come in the wake of the groundbreaking California "Top to Bottom Review" reports earlier this year. Tennessee's study committee issued a strong report update recommending voter-verified paper ballots and manual audits; Alaska's Lieutenant Governor has initiated a voting system review, and Kentucky released a report on ways to strengthen voting systems and certification in the Bluegrass State. (Security expert Jeremy Epstein, a member of VVF's advisory board, was the consultant for the report.) Ohio's voting system reviews are underway also.

California: Secretary of State Debra Bowen releases detailed post-election manual tally requirements. These include some very positive provisions, including escalation requirements, and provisions which will make the audit process more transparent and more effective. These supplement the Post-Election Audit Standards Working Group report, which can be seen here in case you missed it. All in all, excellent work on audits.

Florida: Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) reports that the Appeals Court ruled against the Sarasota County Charter Amendment passed last November that resulted in a change to paper optical scan ballot systems in the County, in a split decision. The Amendment, a citizen-sponsored referendum which called for a switch from Sarasota's controversial paperless e-voting machines to voter-verified paper ballots and mandatory random manual audits, was challenged by the Supervisor of Elections and the State on the grounds that the county couldn't have a more stringent audit requirement (5% of precincts) than the state (1%) SAFE plans to pursue the case to the Florida Supreme Court. More info: www.safevote.org

Maryland: Maryland's proposed switch to paper optical scan balloting systems appears to be in jeopardy. The legislature is looking for areas to cut budget, and a few million proposed for the upgrade is potentially on the chopping block. The bill that would bring about the switch from paperless Diebold touchscreen voting machines to the voter-verified paper ballot system was signed into law in May of this year after unanimous passage in both chambers, but must be funded or it will expire. Now some of those lawmakers who voted for it are waffling, despite a recent survey showing 65% of Maryland voters want the change. Stay tuned to our Maryland page for more information.

New York: The Department of Justice says "no more levers by 2008." In a motion submitted this week in federal court, the DoJ tells New York State they cannot continue to use lever machines, suggesting that the court take over the machine selection process. The State has missed its compliance deadline for replacing the lever machines, but has been waiting to replace them with systems that meet specific rigorous standards. Optical scan with ballot-marking devices would serve the purpose, and there is strong public support for such systems from the League of Women Voters of NY, New Yorkers for Verified Voting, and many others. What happens next? The State Board of Elections must respond to the motion within the next couple of weeks, then the judge will make a determination. Stay tuned...
Thank you, to those of you who sent faxes seeking to defeat a proposal by the State Board of Elections to allow DREs to be used in each polling place as an accessible ballot-marker (using the VVPAT as the official ballot), rather than using actual ballot-marking systems designed for the purpose. Unfortunately, the proposal has gone forward, so counties could choose a DRE to meet requirements for accessibility. A significant problem is that the DREs do not permit a voter with visual disability to receive audio-verification from the paper record itself, while the ballot-marking systems do. NYVV, LWV-NY and several accessibility advocacy groups continue to oppose this plan.

Special Announcement

We are pleased to make this special announcement: Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA, the leading election integrity organizations in the U.S., are delighted to announce that VoteTrustUSA will be folded into Verified Voting Foundation's operation on December 1, 2007. Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA share complementary missions, and have worked in close cooperation since 2005.

VoteTrustUSA provides information, education, analysis and consultation to state and county election integrity organizations, the media and the public at large, and has developed a national non-partisan network of state-based Election Integrity groups across the country. VoteTrustUSA has a strong record of raising awareness on issues related to electronic voting and advocating for improvements to the election process, supported by the VoteTrustUSA website and newsletter. These are key resources for news and information about the decisionmakers and institutions that shape election reform policy in the country, and will be maintained by Verified Voting Foundation. VTU's work of coordinating and assisting election integrity groups nationwide to increase the accuracy, accountability, accessibility and transparency of elections and on the local, state and federal levels will continue under the banner of Verified Voting.

Both organizations thank you for your ongoing support of our efforts.


Please note: We have a new address!

Verified Voting Foundation
PO Box 4104
Carlsbad, CA 92018
415-487-2255 telephone
Your contributions make our work possible! 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 http://verifiedvoting.org/donate --or if you prefer to mail a check, please send to Verified Voting at the address shown above.

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