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March 15, 2012

Voting machines are so smart/dumb they reject ballots because of one dot

The Mobile Press-Register reports: A printing mistake on some Mobile County ballots in Tuesday's election caused electronic voting machines to reject them -- forcing poll workers to count roughly 3,000 ballots by hand into the early morning hours, Probate Court officials said today.

"This little white dot," said Probate Judge Don Davis, pointing to a white, donut-shaped mark barely one-tenth of an inch wide.

The tiny error, though, ended up in an important spot, on the security markings that let the electronic machines know whether to count it. The markings look like a bar code stretching along the side of the ballot.

The faulty marks appeared only on Republican primary ballots for precincts within the contested Mobile County Commission District 3. Not all of the District 3 ballots were affected, officials said. -- Read the whole story (and see a picture of the dot) --> Mobile County ballot problems caused by tiny printing error | al.com

January 19, 2012

Jefferson County will not provide services for city elections

The Birmingham News reports: County Manager Tony Petelos said today Jefferson County will not be able to assist this year with municipal elections because not enough county workers remain to do the work.

Because of funding cuts financially stricken county, the general services department has 94 workers, down from 215 one year ago. In 2007, it had 373 employees.

General services has provided equipment, personnel, supplies and printing for all elections in Jefferson County. -- Read the whole story --> Jefferson County will not help with municipal elections because of cuts | al.com

May 22, 2010

Dominion Voting Systems buys assets from ES&S

Dominion Voting Systems, Inc. [on Wednesday] announced that it has acquired from Premier Election Solutions, Inc. (Premier) a wholly owned subsidiary of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the primary assets of Premier, including all intellectual property, software, firmware and hardware for Premier’s current and legacy optical scan, central scan, and touch screen voting systems, and all versions of the GEMS election management system. -- DominionAcquiresPremierReleaseFinal4.pdf (application/pdf Object)

July 28, 2009

How to hold an election if the county won't deliver the voting machines

Jefferson County, Alabama, is in a financial crisis. Because a court has voided the county's occupational tax (a tax on wages), the county will not have the money to pay its workers on 21 August. But the City of Birmingham will be holding an election for the city council and school board. As the Birmingham News reports:

The county doesn't have the money to pay for personnel to deliver or test voting machines for the Aug. 25 Birmingham elections, officials said Monday.

Jefferson County has provided the tabulation machines for past municipal elections.

That means the city will have to find a way to deliver 236 voting machines for City Council and city school board elections.

[Mayor Larry] Langford said city workers will fill the void.

"We will send public works workers over to help deliver the machines to the appropriate places," he said.

Read the whole story --> Birmingham employees will deliver voting machines

May 20, 2009

New Jersey: "E-Voting Machines on Trial"

Danielle Citron writes on Concurring Opinions: On Monday, a New Jersey Superior Court wrapped up a fifteen-week trial in Gusciora v. Corzine. There, plaintiffs challenged New Jersey’s use of e-voting machines on the grounds that the machines cannot be trusted to count the votes accurately given how easily they can be hacked. The trial centered on security problems of the state’s 11,000 e-voting machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems. Plaintiffs argued that the machines are vulnerable to physical and digital attacks that could compromise elections. Expert witnesses in the case included Professor Andrew Appel from Princeton University, Dr. Roger Johnston of Argonne National Laboratory, and Professor Wayne Wolf of Georgia Institute of Technology, who testified that vote-stealing software could be installed by attackers without specialized training or expensive equipment. At trial, the experts demonstrated multiple hacks of the machines’ source code and user interface, attacks on the machines’ circuitry, and methods for bypassing New Jersey’s physical security measures. ---> Read the rest at E-Voting Machines on Trial

December 27, 2008

Gambling machines more regulated than voting machines

News From Underground compares Slot machines vs. e-voting machines

UPDATE: a reader informs me: The images posted by MCM on News From Underground is generalized and only partially accurate. More importantly, it's lifted directly from a 2006 Washington Post story.

December 25, 2008

Maryland: states claims $8.5 million from voting machine company

The Washington Post reports: Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler filed a claim against Premier Election Solutions to recover $8.5 million spent by the state to fix problems with the company's touch-screen voting machines.

The claim against Texas-based Premier, formerly Diebold, alleges that state elections officials were forced to spend millions of dollars to address a host of security flaws in the machines from 2003 through the November election.

Many of the problems could have compromised the integrity of the election had they not been fixed, officials said. Now the state wants its money back. ...

Maryland plans to withhold payment of approximately $3.5 million it owes Premier for preparations for the 2008 election until the matter is resolved, Schlick said. -- State Files Claim Against Texas Firm - washingtonpost.com

December 16, 2008

Alabama: SOS Chapman wants to copy Florida model of overseas Internet voting

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Military members and residents overseas need a better way to cast their ballots, the state's top elections official said. ...

On Monday, Chapman and members of her task force on military and overseas voting heard a presentation by Pat Hollarn, supervisor of elections for Okaloosa County in Florida, on the Internet voting pilot program she ran this year.

The program put secure voting kiosks in three overseas locations -- England, Germany and Japan -- during the general election.

Chapman said she anticipates a bill will be introduced during Alabama's next legislative session. Similar legislation did not pass during the last session. ...

The kiosks in the pilot program used secure laptops and operated for a 10-day period. Since it was a pilot program, voting officials from Okaloosa County accompanied the kiosks to verify voters' identity and eligibility. Ballots were encrypted and transmitted to a secure server. The Okaloosa Canvassing Board validated, decrypted and tabulated the ballots. -- Task Force eyeing Florida voting model | montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

October 24, 2008

Pennsylvania: suit filed over back-up paper ballots

The New York Times reports: Concerned that voting machine breakdowns could cause long lines on Election Day, particularly in minority neighborhoods, several groups filed a lawsuit on Thursday to force Pennsylvania election officials to provide paper ballots when half the machines in a precinct have failed.

The top election official, Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortés, has directed poll workers to provide paper ballots to a precinct only when all of its touch-screen voting machines are broken.

The lawsuit was filed in Philadelphia by the Pennsylvania N.A.A.C.P.; the Election Reform Network, a nonpartisan group; and a coalition of individual voters. It asks a federal judge to declare Mr. Cortés’s directive unconstitutional on the grounds that it puts an undue burden on residents who may have to wait hours to vote.

Mr. Cortés said that current safeguards should ensure an efficient election and that forcing a change could confuse poll workers who had already been trained. -- Lawsuit Is Filed Over Ballot Rule in Pennsylvania - NYTimes.com

October 9, 2008

Ohio: more voting machine problems

Computerworld reports: Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner will be under the national spotlight next month, overseeing what's expected to be the state's largest-ever turnout for a presidential election. It will also be her first as the state's chief election official.

The stakes will be just as high as they were for her Republican predecessor, J. Kenneth Blackwell, four years ago, when the narrowly decided state election was marred by charges of questionable results and complaints that some residents, largely in minority areas, were forced to wait hours to cast their votes.

This year, denizens of the Buckeye State who mistrust touch-screen systems will be allowed to vote on a paper ballot if they prefer. The directive to allow "paper or plastic" came in the wake of Brunner's landmark 2007 "Evaluation & Validation of Election-Related Equipment, Standards & Testing" analysis, otherwise known as EVEREST, in which "critical security failures" were found in every system tested by several teams of both corporate and academic computer scientists and security experts.

Ohio officials discovered in March that some voting systems manufactured by Premier Elections Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of Diebold Inc., dropped votes as they were being uploaded to a main server. Because the problem is in the tabulator system, it affects votes cast on both Diebold's direct recording electronic (DRE) systems, which are usually touch screen, and paper ballot optical-scan systems. The same central tabulators will be used in more than 30 states next month. -- Q&A: E-voting security results 'awful,' says Ohio secretary of state

August 20, 2008

Hawai'i: voters must pick party on primary ballots

An AP report begins: Hawaii voters for the first time must pick a political party when voting in this year's primary election, a requirement that election officials hope will result in fewer ballots being thrown out.

But members of both the Democratic and Republican parties worry that voters could get confused during the Sept. 20 primary, resulting in their votes not being tallied correctly. ...

Voters in Hawaii, as in most states, have always only voted for one party's candidates in primary elections, which are used to narrow each party's candidates to one per race before the Nov. 4 general election.

The 2008 election is different because voters will have to choose a political party before filling out the rest of the ballot. In previous years, voters were handed ballots color-coded by party; this year, everyone fills out the same white ballot. -- The Associated Press: Hawaii ballots add pick-a-party box

August 16, 2008

Forecast for November: flawed machines will probably count your votes

A New York Times report begins: Flaws in voting machines used by millions of people will not be fixed in time for the presidential election because of a government backlog in testing the machines’ hardware and software, officials say.

The flaws, which have cast doubt on the ability of some machines to provide a consistent and reliable vote count, were supposed to be addressed by the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency that oversees voting. But commission officials say they will not be able to certify that flawed machines are repaired by the November election, or provide software fixes or upgrades, because of a backlog at the testing laboratories the commission uses. ...

As a result, machine manufacturers and state election officials say states and local jurisdictions are forgoing important software modifications meant to address security and performance concerns. In some cases, election officials in need of new equipment have no choice but to buy machines that lack the current innovations and upgrades.

The federal government does not require that states use machines that the commission certifies, but most states depend on the commission to approve new machines and software, and at least 10 states have rules or laws requiring federal certification. -- Officials Say Flaws at Polls Will Remain in November

August 9, 2008

California: "Group seeks tighter ballot security in San Diego"

An AP report begins: A voting-rights group has asked a judge to order tougher enforcement of anti-fraud measures in San Diego County for November's presidential elections, saying officials failed to investigate lapses in ballot security during February's primary.

"We goofed!" was the explanation a poll worker offered for why the total number of ballots cast at one precinct did not match the number of signatures in the voter log book, according to documents in the lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court.

Election workers at county headquarters accepted unsealed and unsigned boxes of ballots for processing, according to statements from volunteers who observed the February tally. A troubleshooting log indicated dispatchers told poll workers not to worry about missing seals after the county ran out of the red locking tabs. -- The Modesto Bee | Group seeks tighter ballot security in San Diego

August 8, 2008

Ohio: Secretary of State sues voting machine company

The Washington Post reports: The voting-machine wars in Ohio continue.

Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner is assuring voters in the battleground state that November's tally will be accurate even as she asserts -- in court filings yesterday -- that there is a problem with the touch-screen machines to be used in half of the state's 88 counties.

Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, said in May that its machines had some problems tabulating votes. But the company has contended in court filings that it had fulfilled its contract to deliver an electronic system.

During the May primary, Brunner said officials in Butler County, north of Cincinnati, realized that 150 votes were dropped when they were being transferred from memory cards. When Brunner looked into it, she found that the software problem had come up in 11 counties. No vote was lost, she said, because local officials had caught the discrepancies. -- Ohio Sues Over Trouble With Voting Machines - washingtonpost.com

July 19, 2008

Georgia: cyber-security expert says Diebold patch may have swung 2002 Senate and Governor election

Raw Story reports: A leading cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has fresh evidence regarding election fraud on Diebold electronic voting machines during the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial and senatorial elections.

Stephen Spoonamore is the founder and until recently the CEO of Cybrinth LLC, an information technology policy and security firm that serves Fortune 100 companies. At a little noticed press conference in Columbus, Ohio Thursday, he discussed his investigation of a computer patch that was applied to Diebold Election Systems voting machines in Georgia right before that state's November 2002 election. ...

Spoonamore received the Diebold patch from a whistleblower close to the office of Cathy Cox, Georgia’s then-Secretary of State. In discussions with RAW STORY, the whistleblower -- who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation -- said that he became suspicious of Diebold's actions in Georgia for two reasons. The first red flag went up when the computer patch was installed in person by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, who flew in from Texas and applied it in just two counties, DeKalb and Fulton, both Democratic strongholds. The source states that Cox was not privy to these changes until after the election and that she became particularly concerned over the patch being installed in just those two counties.

The whistleblower said another flag went up when it became apparent that the patch installed by Urosevich had failed to fix a problem with the computer clock, which employees from Diebold and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office had been told the patch was designed specifically to address. -- The Raw Story | GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election

Hat-tip to TalkLeft for the link.

June 20, 2008

Alabama: SOS wants online voting for military by 2010

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Online voting is inevitable, Alabama s Secretary of State Beth Chapman says. ...

On Thursday, Chapman hosted the third meeting of the recently created task force on military and overseas voting. Chapman chairs the group founded by Gov. Bob Riley at her request.

At the meeting, three vendors briefed task force members, military members, state officials and residents on the capabilities of their systems. Currently, they are the only companies facilitating state and national elections worldwide. It was the first time they had assembled in one place, Chapman said.

She wants to have online voting available for military members and residents overseas in time for the 2010 election cycle. -- montgomeryadvertiser.com | Montgomery Advertiser

May 27, 2008

Florida: Okaloosa County to allow Internet voting by military overseas

The Miami Herald reports: A small Panhandle county that is home to one of the world s largest air bases is embarking on a sweeping experiment in Internet voting that could transform elections in the 21st century.

But the push by Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Pat Hollarn to use the Internet to make it easier for U.S. soldiers overseas to vote is drawing fire from voting activists who call her project unsafe and contrary to a new law that requires the state to use paper ballots.

Frustrated by the pace of overseas voting efforts undertaken by the Department of Defense in recent years, Hollarn has championed a plan that will let those living on, or near, three military bases in the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan cast ballots in the November election.

During a 10-day period just before Election Day, voters living abroad will be able to enter a computer kiosk and vote on an encrypted electronic ballot, which will eventually be shipped to Florida via the Internet and then counted. Poll workers will be on site to verify that the person is a registered Okaloosa County voter. -- Web vote offered to military abroad - 05/26/2008 - MiamiHerald.com

May 15, 2008

Ohio: Kerry really won, says researcher

John Q. Jacobs writes: The 2004 Ohio Presidential voting results do not accurately reflect voter intentions. In Cuyahoga County, the election was flawed and the design appears to have been manipulated. At locations with several ballot orders in use, many votes were cast by voters crossing precincts, hence counted other than as intended. At precincts with the highest Kerry support, the percentage of uncounted votes is inexplicably high. The obvious inference—intentional manipulation produced concentrated undercounting, cross-voting, and vote-switching in areas of highest Kerry support—cannot be ignored in the face of the evidence and statistics. The possibility that ballots were switched to different precincts, post-voting to effect vote-switching, must be considered in a complete chain of custody context.

Many individual ballots resulted in a vote-switch, a two-vote margin difference from the intended result. Switched-votes cast for Kerry and counted for Bush had twice the impact as their actual occurrence, by each subtracting one from Kerry and adding one to Bush. Bush and Kerry votes also went uncounted as non-votes or were miscounted as minor candidate votes. A high percentage of all Cuyahoga County votes were cast at locations with multiple ballot orders. The manner in which precincts and ballot orders were combined increased the probability of a Kerry cross-vote being recorded as a Bush vote. Quantitative analyses of candidate votes and of non-vote percentages evidence the cross-voting and the patterns of cross-voting and vote-switching. -- How Kerry Votes Were Switched to Bush Votes.

April 29, 2008

New Jersey: independent reivew of e-voting machines approved

Ars Techinca reports: In a decision issued last week, superior court judge Linda R. Feinberg ruled that a technical review of voting machines used in New Jersey may proceed despite the objections of the manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems.

Serious problems emerged in five counties where Sequoia voting machines were used during the New Jersey presidential primaries. Audits conducted by election officials revealed that the electronic tallies didn t match the total counts from the paper trail generated by the machines. Sequoia attributes the problem to operator error and argued that it isn t indicative of a technical malfunction.

In response to that glitch and other irregularities, election officials from Union County decided decided to subject the voting machines to an independent review. They went to Ed Felten, a voting machine security expert who serves as the director of Princeton s Center for Information Technology Policy. Although preliminary evidence from the audit indicated the potential presence of some serious malfunctions, Union County decided not to go forward with the review after receiving legal threats from Sequoia. The voting machine company claimed that an unauthorized third-party review would violate the county s license agreement. Sequoia also argued that unauthorized examinations expose the its proprietary trade secrets to public disclosure and threaten its intellectual property rights. -- Review of NJ e-voting approved; won t be in time for election

April 28, 2008

Military forces and electronic voting

AP reports: U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan can speak to their families by Web camera and fight insurgents using sophisticated electronic warfare. Yet when it comes to voting, most troops are stuck in the past.

Communities in 13 states will send overseas troops presidential election ballots by e-mail this year, and districts in at least seven states will also let them return completed ballots over the Internet, according to data compiled by The Associated Press and the Overseas Vote Foundation.

That still leaves tens of thousands of service members in far-flung military bases struggling to meet voting deadlines and relying largely on regular mail to get ballots and cast votes -- often at the last minute because of delays in ballot preparations in some states.

Adding an electronic boost to the process would ease those problems, but it raises security and privacy concerns. -- Military struggling with electronic voting

April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania: polls will close on time, judge rules

Philly.com reports: Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ramy Djerassi has rejected a request to extend Philadelphia poll hours to 10 p.m., and to distribute emergency paper ballots to all precincts where there have been reports of broken voting machines. -- Judge: Polls Will Close As Scheduled | Philly | 04/22/2008

Voter Action, a national voter rights group, has asked a Philadelphia judge to extend voting hours tonight until 10 p.m., and to use paper ballots at all voting places where broken machines have been reported. The city's Board of Elections seems certain to object. The hearing is expected to begin momentarily. -- Voter Group Requests Extended Poll Hours

April 17, 2008

New Jersey: Andrews sues for proper ballot position

Politiker NJ reports: Rob Andrews wants to render Frank Lautenberg’s county line advantage obsolete.

Andrews announced today that he’s filing suit against 13 mostly northern county clerks to seek a “fair and open Democratic primary” that requires county clerks give “fair and equal” ballot position to both U.S. Senate candidates at the State Superior Court. The challenge was first reported on the liberal Web site Blue Jersey.

While Andrews has the county line in seven southern counties, Lautenberg has the line in the 12 other counties that award it -- a big advantage in a primary with an expected low turnout.

Andrews cited a state statute, N.J.S.A. 19:23-26.1, that says primary candidates for Senate or Governor must appear in the first column and apart from candidates for lower offices. -- Andrews sues for an open primary | Politicker NJ

March 21, 2008

Colorado: paper-ballots plan abandoned

The New York Times reports: A plan to use only paper ballots in Colorado in this November’s election, which was announced with bipartisan hoopla in January to replace the state’s troubled electronic voting machine system, died quietly in a state legislature committee room on Thursday.

Opponents of the plan said it was no longer needed, because what was broken then is now fixed. But supporters said that questions of reliability and security of the electronic voting and vote-counting machines remained unresolved, and could yet resurface before November.

The debate exploded in December, when Colorado’s secretary of state, Mike Coffman, a Republican, announced that voting machines used all over the state, including in many of the most populous counties, had failed tests by his office.

The proposed solution of using paper ballots faced immediate and stiff opposition from county clerks, who administer the elections and who said the logistics of a one-year transformation were insurmountable. -- Plan to Use Paper Ballots Is Reversed in Colorado

March 7, 2008

Scotland: vote-counting firm could not count the votes because software license had expired

The Herald reports: The firm behind last year s election fiasco has been blamed again after a local council by-election was thrown into disarray.

More than 100,000 votes were not counted in last May s debacle but fewer than 3000 were involved in the latest count, which saw the declaration abandoned overnight in South Lanarkshire.

Only 2594 votes were cast in South Lanarkshire Council s Cambuslang East ward on Thursday but candidates had to wait until noon yesterday to find out the result after the system could not process the data once the votes were counted.
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It emerged the software that was being used by DRS, the firm used to supply the equipment and staff for the count, did not work because the licence had expired. The same counting software was used for the Cambuslang East count as that used in last May s Holyrood election. -- Holyrood Election Firm In New Poll Shambles from The Herald

Will that be paper or electronic?

Pam Fessler reports on NPR: Voting officials across the country have been trying to find a secure, reliable voting system ever since the 2000 presidential elections. After electronic machine failures, a number of states are returning to paper ballots. But not everyone agrees that is the right way go. -- NPR: Shift Back to Paper Ballots Sparks Disagreement

February 11, 2008

Ohio: local officials resist order for optional paper ballots

The New York Times reports: Ohio’s effort to clean up its voting system before the presidential primary on March 4 has pitted state election leaders against local officials over an order to provide a paper ballot to any voter who requests one.

Secretary of State Jennifer L. Brunner, a Democrat, wants to eliminate touch-screen machines for the November election from the 53 counties that still use them and install optical scan machines to provide a paper trail.

Because the conversion cannot be completed in time for the primary in most counties, Ms. Brunner ordered the printing of paper ballots as an interim step.

“The paper ballots are not only going to provide a voter alternative for those who prefer not to use touch-screen machines, but they may also alleviate long lines,” Ms. Brunner said. “We expect a much higher than normal turnout in the primary.”

But some local officials contend the paper ballots are unnecessary and have gone to court to fight the requirement. -- Ohio Officials at Odds Over Paper Ballot

February 9, 2008

Potomac Primary: IO, IO, it's off to vote we go

The Washington Post reports: Adam Bigenho, tech guy for the Montgomery County Board of Elections, spent part of yesterday training election judges how to match up computer plugs at polling places Monday night as they prepare for the next day's primary.

"If something is wrong Monday night, it's a problem. If something is wrong Tuesday, it's a crisis," said Bigenho, 24, one of hundreds of ground troops in a massive mobilization by local officials to ensure that all systems are good to go for Tuesday's Potomac Primary.

Across the District, Maryland and Virginia, election board employees are testing an array of voting machines and computerized voter check-in systems, conducting last-minute training, updating software and completing low-tech tasks such as replacing batteries and stockpiling emergency paper ballots. ...

Officials were optimistic as they completed their tuneups of the touch-screen voting machines that will be in wide use across Maryland and in about half of Virginia's jurisdictions. In the District, paper ballots read by optical scanners are the system of choice, with touch-screen machines used only for disabled voters or those who don't want to use the paper and scanners, said D.C. election spokesman Bill O'Field. -- Scouring the Screens And the Scanners - washingtonpost.com

January 29, 2008

Ohio: ACLU sues to block touch-screens (court docs linked)

UPI reports: A rights group filed a legal challenge on voting technology to be used in and around Cleveland in the March 4 presidential primary elections.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed the challenge Monday in U.S. District Court to Cuyahoga County's move back to paper ballots away from electronic touch-screen systems, a release on the group's Web site stated. ...

A hearing was set for Tuesday on the ACLU's request for an injunction, the report said. -- Ohio ACLU challenges primary ballots - UPI.com

The ACLU website has the press release and court documents.

January 27, 2008

Scotland: Vote-counting firm refuses to appear before Scottish parliamentary committee

The Sunday Herald reports: THE FIRM that provided the e-counting technology at last year's botched Holyrood election is refusing to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the fiasco.

DRS, which supplied the equipment for scanning and reading the ballot papers, said it has had to "regrettably decline" a request for oral evidence.

The company believes the "quantity of information" it provided to a previous inquiry makes an appearance at Holyrood unnecessary.
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The snub comes as the parliament's local government and communities committee looks at the problems surrounding last year's Scottish elections.

Around 140,000 ballots were spoiled last May after voters failed to get to grips with the new single ballot paper.

An official inquiry into the bungled election, led by Canadian Ron Gould, blamed political parties and the Scotland Office for putting their own interests above those of the public. -- Votecount Firm Snubs Holyrood Inquiry (from Sunday Herald)

January 24, 2008

Colorado: governor calls for all-paper election

The Daily Sentinel reports: Gov. Bill Ritter asked lawmakers Wednesday to require counties to conduct the 2008 election using paper ballots so that the election will be secure.

“We have a bipartisan agreement struck in the Legislature that would take us to paper ballots with precinct voting,” Ritter said.

He said voters still could cast absentee ballots through the mail, and there would be a verifiable paper trail of each ballot following the election.

Ritter said he wants an all-paper election because he fears the “specter of litigation,” citing a 2006 court decision that nearly barred counties from using electronic voting machines.

The governor said Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s decision in December to decertify most of the electronic voting equipment used in Colorado made him doubt the reliability of the machines. -- Ritter wants ballots on paper statewide

January 21, 2008

Over there: Democrats Abroad to hold Internet primary

AP reports: This year, for the first time, expatriate Democrats can cast their ballots on the Internet in a presidential primary for people living outside the United States.

Democrats Abroad, an official branch of the party representing overseas voters, will hold its first global presidential preference primary from Feb. 5 to 12, with ex-pats selecting the candidate of their choice by Internet as well as fax, mail and in-person at polling places in more than 100 countries.

Democrats Abroad is particularly proud of the online voting option - which provides a new alternative to the usual process of voting from overseas, a system made difficult by complicated voter registration paperwork, early deadlines and unreliable foreign mail service. ...

U.S. citizens wanting to vote online must join Democrats Abroad before Feb. 1 and indicate their preference to vote by Internet instead of in the local primaries wherever they last lived in the United States. They must promise not to vote twice for president, but can still participate in non-presidential local elections. -- The Modesto Bee | Americans abroad can now vote online

January 18, 2008

Ohio: ACLU sues to require counting OCR ballots in precincts

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio filed a lawsuit Thursday to block Cuyahoga County's switch to a paper ballot voting system for the March 4 primary election.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, argues the county's new system violates the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act of 1965 because it doesn't give voters a chance to fix mistakes on their ballots.

The ACLU said it will seek an injunction next week to block the voting-system switch.

The county already is deep into its transition to paper ballots. Poll-worker training is under way, and ballots compatible with the new equipment are being designed. -- ACLU files suit to block paper ballots - cleveland.com

The case is American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Inc. et al v. Brunner et al, No. 1:08-cv-00145-KMO. Download the complaint here.

January 16, 2008

New York: court approves plan to bring state into HAVA compliance

AP reports: A judge who had threatened to jail elections officials Wednesday approved the state's plan for bringing New York into compliance with federal voting law by making it easier for disabled voters to cast ballots.

New York is years behind federal deadlines under the Help America Vote Act, which was enacted after the contested 2000 presidential elections to ensure better accuracy and access for the disabled.

If the state acts on the timeline approved by U.S. District Judge Gary Sharpe, voting machines accessible to the disabled will be available in every polling place around the state by this fall's federal elections. The state would then follow up by replacing all pull-lever machines by the fall 2009 state elections.

The state Board of Election must send a progress report to Sharpe every Friday to verify it has met each deadline. -- Judge OKs NY state voting remedies

December 15, 2007

Ohio: scrap 'em all, says the Secretary of State

The New York Times reports: All five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward President Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election, a report commissioned by the state’s top elections official has found.

“It was worse than I anticipated,” the official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said of the report. “I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others.”

At polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.

Ms. Brunner proposed replacing all of the state’s voting machines, including the touch-screen ones used in more than 50 of Ohio’s 88 counties. She wants all counties to use optical scan machines that read and electronically record paper ballots that are filled in manually by voters. -- Ohio Elections Official Calls Machines Flawed

November 28, 2007

Ohio: paper trail goes blurry sometimes

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports: A recount after next year's presidential election could mean disaster for Cuyahoga County based on problems discovered Tuesday with paper records produced by electronic voting machines.

More than 20 percent of the printouts from touch-screen voting machines were unreadable and had to be reprinted. Board of Elections workers found the damaged ballots when they conducted a recount Tuesday of two races, which involved only 17 of the county's 1,436 precincts.

The recount lasted more than 12 hours. Reprinting the damaged records and hand-counting them created an extra step that added hours. ...

Board of Elections Director Jane Platten said recounting the entire county for the 2008 presidential election could take more than a week. -- 20 percent of election printouts were unreadable - cleveland.com

November 21, 2007

California: Sec of State sues ES&S for uncertified changes to voting machines

The New York Times reports: The California secretary of state, Debra Bowen, filed a lawsuit yesterday against a voting machine manufacturer for the reported sale of uncertified machines to five counties in northern California.

The suit follows an investigation that Ms. Bowen began in July after an employee of the company, Election Systems and Software Inc., mentioned to her that changes had been made to machines bought by the counties. After a similar suit against Diebold Election Systems in 2003, California required that all changes made to voting machines be reported to its secretary of state. ...

The suit, filed in San Francisco, seeks $9.72 million from the company for the sale of 972 machines with internal hardware changes that were not reported or submitted for re-certification. It also asks for an additional $5 million for each county, Colusa, Marin, Merced, San Francisco and Solano.

Changes to the machines, AutoMARK A200 models, are not apparent in outward appearance or function, county election officials said. -- California Sues a Voting Machine Maker Over Changes

Disclosure: About 6 years ago, I did a little securities-related work for ES&S.

October 13, 2007

Florida: touch screens being scrapped

The New York Times reports: It used to be that everyone wanted a Florida voting machine.

After the history-making presidential recount of 2000, Palm Beach County sold hundreds of its infamous Votomatic machines to memorabilia seekers, including a group of chiropractors in Arizona, the cable-news host Greta Van Susteren and the hotelier André Balazs. One machine ended up in the Smithsonian Institution. Dozens were transformed into pieces of contemporary art for an exhibition in New York.

But now that Florida is purging its precincts of 25,000 touch-screen voting machines — bought after the recount for up to $5,000 each, hailed as the way of the future but deemed failures after five or six years — no one is biting. ...

Across the nation, jurisdictions that experimented with touch-screen voting after 2000 are starting to scale back or abandon it based on a growing perception that the machines are unreliable and concern that they do not provide a paper trail in case questions arise. California will sharply scale back touch-screen voting next year after a review by the secretary of state found it was vulnerable to hackers.

Florida is the biggest state to reject touch screens so sweepingly, and its deadline for removing them, July 1, 2008, is the most imminent. For the 15 counties that must dump their expensive systems, buy new optical-scan machines and retrain thousands of poll workers, hurdles abound. -- Voting Machines Giving Florida New Headache - New York Times

September 22, 2007

Scotland: poor areas had more spoilt ballots

The Herald reports: Voters in Scotland's poorest communities were twice as likely to have their votes rejected in last May's ballot fiasco as the average for Scotland.

The astonishing finding has come from Strathclyde University research, which suggests that Glasgow was by far the worst affected.

Social deprivation - including low educational attainment, poor health and unemployment - was the biggest factor leading to variation in rejection, even after other factors have been calculated out of the complex equation.

Glasgow had eight of the 10 constituencies with the highest number of spoiled papers. In Glasgow Shettleston, 12% of votes cast were spoiled. -- The Herald : Politics: MAIN POLITICS

September 18, 2007

New Jersey: paper trail delayed

The Home News Tribune reports: A judge has declined to mandate new voting machines for New Jersey, agreeing that the state should instead extend a Jan. 1 deadline for installing printers on 10,000 electronic voting machines.

Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg's decision on Monday means voters in February's presidential primary won't approve paper receipts to ensure their votes were cast properly.

In 2005, the Legislature required electronic voting machines to be fitted with printers by January to protect against vote-tampering and help with recounts. After voting electronically, voters would view printouts to ensure their ballots were properly cast.

But scientists at the New Jersey Institute of Technology found flaws with printers, and state Attorney General Anne Milgram decided to ask the Legislature to extend the deadline. The judge on Monday accepted that position but scheduled January hearings on whether the machines are constitutional. -- Judge extends deadline to bolster voting machines in N.J. | Home News Tribune Online

July 21, 2007

Voting machines: the good is the enemy of the great, or vice versa, depending on your point of view

The New York Times reports: Democrats in Congress who are trying to redesign the nation’s voting system generally share the same goals: an affordable, easy-to-use system with durable paper ballots that can be used by the disabled without help from poll workers.

But yesterday, as House leaders failed for a second day to reach agreement on the outlines of a new system, the tension reflected in those competing needs was clear. The desire to make every voting machine accountable is running head-on into other needs, from the desires of the disabled to the budgets of states and localities.

Given the tensions, voting analysts say, the decision disclosed Thursday by Democratic leaders to put off the most sweeping changes until 2012 — four years later than planned — was easy. Congressional leaders are reluctant to tell states to junk hundreds of millions of dollars of relatively new voting equipment until it is clear when better technology will emerge.

But questions also arose yesterday about other aspects of a proposed compromise now being negotiated. Voting experts criticized a stopgap proposal to add spool-like printers to thousands of computerized touch-screen machines for 2008 and 2010, saying it would not be feasible in some states. -- Accessibility Isn’t Only Hurdle in Voting System Overhaul

July 20, 2007

Paper trails delayed

The New York Times reports: Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are slowing their drive to revamp the nation’s voting systems, aides said yesterday.

Under pressure from state and local officials, as well as from lobbyists for the disabled, House leaders now advocate putting off the most sweeping changes until 2012, four years later than planned.

Overhauling voting systems before next year’s presidential election had once been a top Democratic priority, primarily to allow greater accountability and be certain that all votes registered on computerized touch-screen systems were counted. But state and local elections officials told Congress they could not make the changes in time for the balloting in November 2008, particularly in light of the extra workload involved in preparing for next year’s much-earlier presidential primary season.

Confronted by similar concerns, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California and the chairwoman of the Senate Rules Committee, said she had already decided against seeking any major changes in voting equipment before 2010. -- Overhaul Plan for Vote System Will Be Delayed

June 23, 2007

Scotland: University study finds ballot-paper design caused spoilt ballots

Scotland on Sunday reports: THE record number of spoilt votes at last month's Scottish elections were largely caused by major faults in the design of the ballot paper, according to an academic study.

Researchers at Strathclyde University have concluded that thousands of people made mistakes because they did not understand the instructions on the papers which, for the first time, asked them to mark two votes on a single sheet.

In both Glasgow and Edinburgh, some of the instructions were truncated to make room for the 23 different parties on the regional list. This, the researchers concluded, was a key reason why people got confused and spoiled their papers.

The findings, by Dr Christopher Carman and Professor James Mitchell, concluded that there were a total of 146,097 spoiled papers. This compares to just 15,107 in the 2003 election. Of Scotland's 73 constituencies, there were 16 where the winning margin was less than the number of ballots spoiled. -- Scotland on Sunday - Politics - Ballot paper design at fault for record number of spoilt votes

May 22, 2007

"Local officials take on voting rights groups"

Politico.com reports: Two days before legislation aimed at changing how the nation's votes are recorded was scheduled for a March markup in a House committee, the National Association of Counties realized it was in trouble.

Worried that the legislation would sail to the floor without amendments, NACo officials alerted their network of more than 27,000 elected officials to contact their lawmakers. In less than 24 hours, dozens of e-mails and faxes poured in to key committee members. Officials called the bill -- which would require paper records of all votes cast in time for the November 2008 election -- an unfunded mandate with an unworkable deadline.

Election reform has been a political priority for Democrats since the 2000 presidential election made hanging chads a household term. The issue provoked more debate last year when a closely contested Florida congressional seat was captured by Republicans after 18,000 votes cast on electronic touch-screen machines in a Democratic stronghold went unrecorded.

Democrats plan to bring verifiable vote legislation before the House as soon as next month. The bill's sponsor is Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who may have made an early strategic error by not reaching out to the secretaries of state and other local leaders who would have to oversee the changes. -- Local officials take on voting rights groups

May 15, 2007

Scotland: change in ballot may have increased voters' errors

BBC reports: Another clue has emerged as to why more than 140,000 ballots were rejected in the Scottish elections.

BBC Scotland has established that voters in two of the biggest cities did not receive the ballot papers they had been led to expect.

The papers had been redesigned after the nominations closed to cope with the high number of parties and individuals. ...

In Lothian and Glasgow, no fewer than 23 parties and individuals were vying for the list vote.

It was feared there would be too many on the ballot paper to permit electronic counting.

So in both regions arrows designed to help voters put one cross in each column were scrapped.

It meant thousands of voters went to the polling booths expecting to see one design of ballot paper and were faced with another. -- BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Clue over voter ballot confusion

April 21, 2007

Florida: FL-13's outcome vital to 2008's fairness

John Nichols writes in The Nation (subscription required): Election protection activists are already busy promoting legislative fixes designed to assure that all eligible Americans can vote and get those votes counted in 2008. It's vital work. But if we are serious about addressing what's wrong with our electoral system, we must look backward as well--to what happened in Florida's 13th Congressional District last year.

That contest was "decided" for Republican Vern Buchanan over Democrat Christine Jennings following a recount that put Buchanan up by 369 votes. What the recount did not resolve, however, were questions raised by apparent voting machine malfunctions in Sarasota County, a base of strength for Jennings. Machines manufactured by Election Systems & Software Inc. (ES&S) recorded 18,000 "undervotes"--ballots with votes cast for other positions but not for the House seat--in precincts that tended to favor Jennings. -- Protecting the Vote

April 4, 2007

Scotland: computer count of regional vote may be nixed if there are too many candidates

The Edinburgh Evening News reports: ELECTION chiefs today admitted they could be forced to abandon plans for electronic counting of next month's Holyrood vote in the Lothians if more candidates come forward.

The counting machines, being used for the first time, are only programmed to cope with up to 21 names on the Scottish Parliament regional list - and with a week still to go until nominations close, there are already 19 candidates in Lothian.

If just three more come forward, the electronic count - in preparation for two years - would have to be abandoned in favour of the traditional count by hand.

But that would almost certainly mean a last-minute dash to recruit extra counting staff and could lead to a delay in the results of the city council elections being held on the same day. -- Edinburgh Evening News - Politics - Electronic counting faces axe if candidate numbers increase

March 27, 2007

FL-13: ES&S memo shows company's "guidelines" in recount inquiry

The Bradenton Herald reports: Another memo from the maker of Sarasota County's touch-screen voting machines has mysteriously surfaced, with critics questioning whether this one showed the company tried to influence a review of the machines' source code.

In a Dec. 15 e-mail sent to a top Florida elections official, an Election Systems & Software vice president outlined several "guidelines" the company wanted an independent team of computer scientists to follow in its review. Among them were prohibitions against any statements about possible causes of more than 18,000 blank votes in the disputed 13th Congressional District race, which prompted the review.

The company also said it wanted to review the team's findings before they were made public, and that anything that violated a confidentiality agreement would be "destroyed (all copies hard of (sic) soft) and rewritten."

Critics quickly pounced Monday on the memo, first posted on a Wired magazine reporter's blog last week. -- Bradenton Herald | 03/27/2007 | Company's memo involving District 13 draws criticism

Maryland: paper-trail for voting machines appears dead in Senate

The Baltimore Sun reports: The Maryland Senate effectively sank a bill yesterday that would have required voting machines to generate a paper record that could be reviewed prior to election results being certified as official.

"This is obviously a ploy to kill any hope of getting it done in time for an election," said Del. Sheila E. Hixson, the Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored a House version of the bill. The measure mandated that the paper records be kept at polling places at a cost of $17 million to the state for fiscal year 2008 and $1.5 million for fiscal year 2009.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. was reluctant to back the Senate measure, which differed in some details, at a time when the state faces the prospect of significant deficits. Rather than vote on the bill, senators decided to send it back to committee. With two weeks left in the 90-day session, the measure is unlikely to be resurrected. ...

Last year, the House of Delegates approved similar paper-trail legislation, but the proposal died in the Senate. Linda H. Lamone, Maryland's elections chief, has warned lawmakers that rushing to implement a new system could complicate ballot counting in the 2008 presidential election. -- Vote trail hits dead end in Senate - baltimoresun.com

March 22, 2007

Maryland: paper-trail bill passes House

The Washington Post reports: Voters in Maryland would have their electronic ballots backed up by a paper record under legislation that unanimously cleared the House of Delegates yesterday, one of several efforts underway in the General Assembly to change the way elections are run.

But like many proposals in the legislature this year, the move to create a paper trail system could fall victim to a lack of funding because of a looming budget shortfall that's putting a crimp in new spending.

Maryland would join 27 states that require paper receipts, amid concerns that the touch-screen machines now used across the country can't be verified for accuracy or checked in case of a recount. The House bill would not require paper records in time for next year's presidential election and allocates no funds to put a system in place. -- Electronic Ballot Backup Clears Md. House

California: suit over Bilbray's election dismissed as moot

The North County Times reports: The appeal of a lawsuit that challenged the June 2006 election of Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, to fill the remaining six months of disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's term in office was dismissed Tuesday because Bilbray already has completed that term.

Bilbray won the election in November 2006 to his own full, two-year term in office.

A state appeals court in San Diego ruled Tuesday that the appeal of a judge's dismissal of the lawsuit was moot. ...

Voters Barbara Gail Jacobson and Lillian M. Ritt filed a lawsuit July 31, 2006, in which they alleged problems existed with the voting machines used in the June 2006 election and asked for a hand-recount of the votes and a declaration that the candidate who received the most votes be declared elected to congress, the appeals court's written opinion stated. -- Appeals court dismisses challenge to Bilbray election - North County Times - San Diego / County -

February 25, 2007

Massachusetts: Royalston to use electronic voting machines

The Worcester Telegram reports: There are races in town this year for selectmen and the Planning Board, but they are not what has poll watchers talking.

When residents go to vote in the April 2 annual town election, they will see what some might view as a sacrilege in their polling places. Voters used to the efficient clunking of the wooden hand-crank ballot boxes will also be able to cast votes at an electronic machine.

Town Clerk Melanie Mangum said Friday the state has provided the town with two electronic machines to allow handicapped voters better use of the polls. The machines will have a voice option for the sight-impaired, a touch screen, and other options to make it easier for people to vote. -- Worcester Telegram & Gazette News

February 20, 2007

Paper trail legislation gets more looks

The Washington Post reports: Efforts are intensifying in Congress to pass legislation that would require electronic touch-screen voting machines used in federal elections to provide paper trails that could be checked in the case of a recount.

The new momentum is the result of lingering concerns about the machines as the 2008 presidential primaries fast approach, as well as strong support for changes by the new Democratic majority, with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Rules Committee, taking a leading role. ...

The work at the national level echoes moves in many states. Often under pressure from voting-rights groups, 27 states have decided to require paper trails.

Last month, Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida went a step further, asking the legislature to pay for replacing touch-screen machines by next year with optical-scan devices, which read paper ballots. Virginia and Maryland are considering similar moves. -- Campaign Strengthens For a Voting Paper Trail - washingtonpost.com

February 18, 2007

Texas: Democrats attack eSlate machines used in 102 counties

The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports: A federal lawsuit contending that elections in about 100 Texas counties could be flawed originated in Madison County, where last year's race for county judge is still being disputed in state court.

The suit, filed in Austin on Tuesday by the Texas Democratic Party, suggests a glitch in Hart InterCivic's popular eSlate voting machine - which is used by Brazos, Burleson, Grimes, Madison and 98 other Texas counties. ...

According to Democratic Party officials, the problem with the Hart InterCivic machines is their method for counting "emphasis" votes. For decades, Texas law has allowed people to vote a straight ticket - meaning all Republican or Democratic candidates - by marking one box at the top of the ballot. ...

"The Texas rules uniformly provided that by making these 'emphasizing' selections, the voter will not be disenfranchised in those races. The voters' intent is clear. They not only voted a straight ticket, but they 'made sure' their vote counted."

But printouts from the Madison County race indicate that when people tried to emphasize their votes there, the eSlate machines interpreted it to mean they were canceling the individual votes, both lawsuits state. For instance, a straight-ticket Democratic voter who lodged an emphasis vote for Bullard would have ended up voting for all the Democrats on the ballot except Bullard, Wood said. -- Democrats: Voting glitch intolerable | The Bryan-College Station Eagle

February 15, 2007

Demos issues reports on Election Day Registration and Accessible Voting Systems

Election Day Registration Continues its Winning Streak in 2006
In Voters Win with Election Day Registration, Demos finds that Election Day Registration (EDR) was widely successful in the 2006 midterm election. EDR states continue to boast turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states that do not offer EDR. Montana, the most recent state to adopt Election Day Registration, saw 4,000 state residents register and vote with EDR last November.
> Click here to download report

New Voting Machines Do Not Accommodate Voters with Disabilities
Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, once considered essential to ensuring private and independent voting for voters with disabilities, often do not work as promised. Improving Access to Voting: A Report on the Technology for Accessible Voting Systems -- authored by Noel Runyan, an electrical engineer and access technology expert, and published by Demos and Voter Action -- shows that the DREs purchased by states to comply with the Help America Vote Act fail to meet federal standards. The report recommends that election administrators instead adopt blended systems, such as a combination of optical scan ballots, ballot marking devices with appropriate accessibility features, and multilingual paper ballots.
> Click here to download report

February 14, 2007

Ohio: Kerry may have won

J.Q. Jacobs has sent me the link to his article on how Kerry actually won in Ohio. Here is his thesis.

To keep elections fair, Ohio candidate names rotate to the top of the ballot list an equal portion of the time, a statutory requirement. Election officials ensuring this equal rotation combined differing ballot orders at locations shared by several precincts, creating an opportunity for fraud and a greater problem than the one the law seeks to solve. In punch card voting Ohio counties (72.4% of the state-wide vote in 2004), multiple ballot orders resulted instead in the unfairness of wrong-precinct voting. I define "wrong-precinct voting" as ballots cast with a voting machine for one precinct then counted with a different precinct's ballot counter, possibly counted other than as intended. With greater specificity, I define the hyphenated term "cross-vote" as a vote counted other than as intended. Wrong-precinct voting does not result in cross-voting when adjacent precincts have the same ballot order.

Defining the vote outcome probabilities of wrong-precinct voting has revealed, in a sample of 166,953 votes (1 of every 34 Ohio votes), the Kerry-Bush margin changes 6.15% when the population is sorted by probable outcomes of wrong-precinct voting.

The Kerry to Bush 6.15% vote-switch differential is seen when the large sample is sorted by probability a Kerry wrong-precinct vote counts for Bush. When the same large voter sample is sorted by the probability Kerry votes count for third-party candidates, Kerry votes are instead equal in both subsets.

Read the report for yourself at http://jqjacobs.net/politics/ohio.html.

February 8, 2007

Documents from hearings on paper trails

beSpacific has links to statements from, and documents relating to, Hearing on The Hazards of Electronic Voting: Focus on the Machinery of Democracy

Paper trail bills in Congress

NPR Morning Edition reports: Two bills have been introduced in Congress that would require a paper trail for electronic voting in future elections. The measures follow disputed midterm races. But some experts say changing the voting system by the 2008 presidential elections will be difficult. -- NPR : 'Paper Trail' Voting a Challenge for 2008

February 1, 2007

Florida: Governor announces end to touch-screen voting

The New York Times reports: Gov. Charlie Crist today announced plans today to abandon the touch-screen voting machines that many of Florida’s largest counties installed after the disputed 2000 presidential election, instead adopting a statewide system of casting paper ballots counted by scanning machines.

Voting experts said Florida’s move, coupled with new federal voting legislation expected this year, could largely signal the death knell for the paperless electronic machines. If as expected the Florida Legislature approves the $32 million cost of the change, in fact, it will be the nation’s biggest repudiation yet of touch-screen voting, which was widely adopted after the 2000 recount as a state-of-the-art means of restoring confidence that everyone’s vote would count.

Several counties around the country, including Cuyahoga in Ohio and Sarasota in Florida, have exchanged touch-screen machines for others that provide a paper trail. But Florida could become the first state that invested heavily in recent rush to touch screens to reject them so sweepingly. -- Florida Moves to End Touch-Screen Voting - New York Times

January 12, 2007

New York: paper or digital for voting machines?

Courier-Life Publications reports: The City Council is poised to make its voice heard on the controversial issue of which voting machines the Board of Elections should choose for New York City.

A resolution recommending that the Board of Elections select paper ballot optical scanners, was introduced earlier this year by City Councilmember Charles Barron and has 44 additional sponsors. The council will be holding a hearing on the matter in January, with the city’s election commissioners supposed to be making a decision in February.

In general terms, the choice the Board of Elections faces is between optical scanners and touch screen voting machines, also known as DREs (Direct Recording Electronic).

As the last state in the union not to have complied yet with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which was passed in 2002 in the wake of the controversial 2000 presidential election, New York is under orders from the federal Department of Justice to replace its old lever machines with machines that comply with HAVA’s requirements. -- Courier-Life Publications - Paper ballots vs. touch screens - NYC Council mulls over new way for Brooklynites to vote

January 11, 2007

Paper trails to you, until we vote again*

Adam Cohen writes in the New York Times (available on Times Select): In the summer of 2004, I attended a national meeting of state election directors, and one of the biggest laugh lines was how activists were demanding that electronic voting machines produce a paper record of every vote cast.

An election official stood in front of the group, produced a roll of paper and started to unroll it while saying, to the delight of many in the audience, that the paper record would have to be mighty long to record all of the votes on a California ballot. Ha! Ha! Ridiculous!

The tinfoil-hat-wearing conspiracy nuts who hate electronic voting could complain all they wanted, the consensus in the room seemed to be, but paper records for electronic voting were impractical and unnecessary, and they were not going to happen.

What a difference two years makes.

Today, 27 states — including such large ones as California, New York, Illinois and Ohio — require electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail. There is paper-trail legislation pending in a dozen more states. -- The Good News (Really) About Voting Machines - New York Times

*To be sung to the tune of Roy Rogers' theme song.

January 10, 2007

Florida: ES&S moves to strike letter from Rep. Millender

The Herald-Tribune reports: The maker of the voting machines used in Sarasota County's contested Congressional election wants a state appeals court to ignore a letter from a member of Congress.

Attorneys for Election Systems & Software filed a motion with the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee on Tuesday, urging the court to strike the letter from U.S. Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif.

In her letter dated Jan. 4, Millender-McDonald, chairwoman of the House Committee on Administration, said she was disappointed when a lower court ruled against Democrat Christine Jennings' attempt to require ES&S to provide access to voting machine source codes.

The codes are key in determining whether voting machines malfunctioned on election day, and the state has already commissioned a contractor to examine them as part of an audit of Sarasota's touch-screen voting machines. -- ES&S urges court to ignore letter from congresswoman

January 4, 2007

Ciber, Inc., barred from e-voting machine testing

The New York Times reports: A laboratory that has tested most of the nation’s electronic voting systems has been temporarily barred from approving new machines after federal officials found that it was not following its quality-control procedures and could not document that it was conducting all the required tests.

The company, Ciber Inc. of Greenwood Village, Colo., has also come under fire from analysts hired by New York State over its plans to test new voting machines for the state. New York could eventually spend $200 million to replace its aging lever devices.

Experts on voting systems say the Ciber problems underscore longstanding worries about lax inspections in the secretive world of voting-machine testing. The action by the federal Election Assistance Commission seems certain to fan growing concerns about the reliability and security of the devices.

The commission acted last summer, but the problem was not disclosed then. Officials at the commission and Ciber confirmed the action in recent interviews. -- U.S. Bars Lab From Testing Electronic Voting - New York Times

December 26, 2006

Venezuelan owners offer Sequoia Voting Systems for sale

AP reports: A major voting machine company owned by Venezuelan investors said Friday it plans to sell its U.S. subsidiary, ending a federal investigation into alleged ties between the company and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

In March 2005, Smartmatic Corp. acquired Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., which produces touch-screen and other machines and is one of the largest voting equipment makers in the U.S.

The U.S. government began informally reviewing the deal earlier this spring after a request by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (news, bio, voting record), D-N.Y., who cited a potential risk to the integrity of U.S. elections.

Smartmatic CEO Antonio Mugica, who has dual Spanish-Venezuelan citizenship, later called for an official investigation to clear the company. He and other company officials insist the Venezuelan government has never had any stake in Smartmatic, which is headquartered in Boca Raton, or in Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia. -- Venezuelan co. to sell U.S. subsidiary - Yahoo! News

December 12, 2006

California: study blames poll workers for e-voting machines' problems

The San Jose Mercury News reports: Malfunctions by electronic voting machines in the Nov. 7 election were mostly caused by poll workers, all of whom were new to the system, according to a preliminary report released this week.

The report, which will be presented to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors today, touches on some successes and struggles that came with using eSlate voting machines for the first time.

``The eSlates appear to have performed well,'' Supervisor Mark Church said. ``There were no malfunctions that we're aware of. Overall, the election went smoothly for San Mateo County.''

Church, along with Supervisor Rose Jacobs-Gibson, formed a subcommittee to examine the introduction of the machines after dozens of people raised concerns about their purchase in August. The machines, made by Austin-based Hart InterCivic, were purchased to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002. -- MercuryNews.com | 12/12/2006 | Workers to blame in voting problems

December 8, 2006

Voting machine changes expected

The New York Times reports: By the 2008 presidential election, voters around the country are likely to see sweeping changes in how they cast their ballots and how those ballots are counted, including an end to the use of most electronic voting machines without a paper trail, federal voting officials and legislators say.

New federal guidelines, along with legislation given a strong chance to pass in Congress next year, will probably combine to make the paperless voting machines obsolete, the officials say. States and counties that bought the machines will have to modify them to hook up printers, at federal expense, while others are planning to scrap the machines and buy new ones.

Motivated in part by voting problems during the midterm elections last month, the changes are a result of a growing skepticism among local and state election officials, federal legislators and the scientific community about the reliability and security of the paperless touch-screen machines used by about 30 percent of American voters.

The changes also mean that the various forms of vote-counting software used around the country — most of which are protected by their manufacturers for reasons of trade secrecy — will for the first time be inspected by federal authorities, and the code could be made public. There will also be greater federal oversight on how new machines are tested before they arrive at polling stations. -- Changes Are Expected in Voting by 2008 Election - New York Times

December 5, 2006

Florida: audit of voting-machine computer code draws complaints of partisanship

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports: The computer source code that tells touch-screen voting machines how to run will be analyzed in the next phase of a state audit to determine what, if anything, went wrong in the Nov. 7 election.

The source code analysis has not started yet, but it is already generating controversy in the contested Congressional District 13 race, in which Republican Vern Buchanan was certified the winner by 369 votes.

The state Division of Elections' top choice for heading the review is Florida State University associate computer science professor Alec Yasinsac, an outspoken Republican who has advocated paperless voting machines in the past.

Democrats and voting rights activists charge that Yasinsac is too partisan to conduct an objective investigation. -- Audit to review computer code

Florida: why the roll-off in FL-13?

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports: Sarasota County's party faithful were the most reliable voters on election day, rarely skipping any of the high-profile races.

But something odd happened when they were supposed to choose their U.S. congressional representative.

A Herald-Tribune analysis of every ballot cast shows these loyal party voters -- on both sides of the aisle -- were largely responsible for the massive undervote in Sarasota's House District 13 race. Nearly 60 percent of the 18,000 undervotes in that race came from people who otherwise did their best to ensure their party's candidate won.

The bizarre trend has convinced a growing number of election experts that the most important factor in the undervote was bad ballot design -- something state auditors aren't considering as they continue this week to examine voter machines for malfunctions.

The experts theorized that straight ticket voters would be more vulnerable to a ballot design flaw because they are looking for three letters -- 'DEM' or 'REP' -- instead of carefully scanning the ballot for a particular candidate. -- Analysis points to bad ballot design

EAC rejects call for paper trail on voting machines

AP reports: A federal advisory panel yesterday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines whose results could be independently verified.

The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.

The failed resolution, proposed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member Ronald Rivest, closely mirrored a report released last week that said that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.

Some panel members who voted against the proposal said they support paper records but don't think the risk of widespread voting machine meltdowns are great enough to rush the requirement into place and overwhelm state election boards. -- Lexington Herald-Leader | 12/05/2006 | Federal panel rejects paper trail for elections

December 1, 2006

NIST advises EAC that electronic voting machines must have paper trails

The Washington Post reports: Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout the Washington region and much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The assessment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the government's premier research centers, is the most sweeping condemnation of such voting systems by a federal agency.

In a report hailed by critics of electronic voting, NIST said that voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine's software. The recommendations endorse "optical-scan" systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts. ...

NIST's recommendations are to be debated next week before the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, charged by Congress to develop standards for voting systems. To become effective, NIST's recommendations must then be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission, which was created by Congress to promote changes in election systems after the 2000 debacle in Florida. -- Security Of Electronic Voting Is Condemned - washingtonpost.com

NIST advises EAC that electronic voting machines must have paper trails

The Washington Post reports: Paperless electronic voting machines used throughout the Washington region and much of the country "cannot be made secure," according to draft recommendations issued this week by a federal agency that advises the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

The assessment by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the government's premier research centers, is the most sweeping condemnation of such voting systems by a federal agency.

In a report hailed by critics of electronic voting, NIST said that voting systems should allow election officials to recount ballots independently from a voting machine's software. The recommendations endorse "optical-scan" systems in which voters mark paper ballots that are read by a computer and electronic systems that print a paper summary of each ballot, which voters review and elections officials save for recounts. ...

NIST's recommendations are to be debated next week before the Technical Guidelines Development Committee, charged by Congress to develop standards for voting systems. To become effective, NIST's recommendations must then be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission, which was created by Congress to promote changes in election systems after the 2000 debacle in Florida. -- Security Of Electronic Voting Is Condemned - washingtonpost.com

November 30, 2006

Florida: video testimony of voters in FL-13

Josh Glasstetter of People for the American Way emails: We've gone through the video of the 11/16 hearing that People For the American Way Foundation and others held in Sarasota for FL-13 voters to go public with the problems they faced with voting machines and posted some of the best testimony online.

They put a human face on the problem that led over 18,000 people in Sarasota County (and 21,000 in all of FL-13) to leave the voting booth without having their vote in the congressional race counted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC6zuT5VTqs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOtpen7zzS0
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoFMdxuhZyU

Massachusetts: DOJ investigating lack of handicapped-accessible voting machines

The Boston Globe reports: The US Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the state's failure to ensure that equipment for disabled voters was provided at polling places across Massachusetts during this year's elections, according to three people who spoke with federal investigators this week.

Two investigators from the voting section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division -- trial lawyer James "Nick" Boeving and special litigation counsel Susana Lorenzo-Giguere -- are to arrive in Boston today to begin gathering documents and conducting interviews, according to one of the two people.

Boeving is planning to inquire about the state's failure to comply with the federal Help America Vote Act, which requires that every polling place have at least one machine that allows disabled people to vote privately and independently, said Brenda Wright, managing attorney at the Boston-based National Voting Rights Institute. Wright received a call from a Department of Justice lawyer Tuesday. -- US is said to probe Bay State elections - The Boston Globe

November 29, 2006

Florida: testing on Day One in FL-13

The Orlando Sentinel reports: Tuesday kicked off the state's testing of the touch-screens at the center of the dispute. But by the end of the day, few answers had materialized.

The results of the test varied from Election Day totals by five votes, but it was unclear what that meant. Jennings' camp said it suggested the machines were fallible; Buchanan's team said the differing numbers proved nothing.

Today, officials will review videotapes of the tests -- to ensure testers selected the correct candidates -- and the scripts that the testers worked from. At first blush, the five-vote variance didn't alarm state election officials.

"The machines performed as they should," said Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for the Florida Division of Elections. Any discrepancies, she said, are likely to be "human error." -- Testers re-enact Election Day -- results differ - Orlando Sentinel : State News Testers re-enact Election Day -- results differ - Orlando Sentinel : State News

Comment: Oh, I get it: conclusion first, evidence later.

Ohio: Cuyahoga County considers scrapping present voting machines

The Washington Post reports: The commissioners of the state's most populous county are considering getting rid of touch-screen voting machines and putting in a new system for the presidential election in 2008.

Cuyahoga County spent $14 million on the Nov. 7 election and cannot afford to spend that much every time voters go to the polls, especially the high volume that a presidential race generates, commissioners Tim Hagan and Jimmy Dimora said. ...

Because of concerns about a repeat of problems in the county's botched May primary, when equipment and other problems caused lengthy delays, the count spent millions more than budgeted in November to cover poll worker training, extra machines and mailing absentee voting applications to every voter to avert polling-place lines and problems.

The general election ran more smoothly, although a judge ordered 16 polling locations to stay open an extra 90 minutes because early voting machine problems caused delays.

Hagan and Dimora said they want high-speed, optical-scan machines, which read paper ballots, to replace the touch-screen machines. Hagan said the commissioners need to decide this year. -- Ohio County May Junk E-Voting Machines - washingtonpost.com

November 26, 2006

"the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts"

The New York Times reports: After six years of technological research, more than $4 billion spent by Washington on new machinery and a widespread overhaul of the nation’s voting system, this month’s midterm election revealed that the country is still far from able to ensure that every vote counts.

Tens of thousands of voters, scattered across more than 25 states, encountered serious problems at the polls, including failures in sophisticated new voting machines and confusion over new identification rules, according to interviews with election experts and officials.

In many places, the difficulties led to shortages of substitute paper ballots and long lines that caused many voters to leave without casting ballots. Still, an association of top state election officials concluded that for the most part, voting went as smoothly as expected.

Over the last three weeks, attention has been focused on a few close races affected by voting problems, including those in Florida and Ohio where counting dragged on for days. But because most of this year’s races were not close, election experts say voting problems may actually have been wider than initially estimated, with many malfunctions simply overlooked. -- Experts Concerned as Ballot Problems Persist - New York Times

November 16, 2006

Florida: manual recount of non-existent paper trail begins in FL-13

The Orlando Sentinel reports: As officials begin a manual recount Thursday of more than 18,000 disputed ballots in the race for the 13th Congressional District, a handful of voting-rights and ballot-reform groups seeking to force a new election have put out a call to unhappy voters.

The organizations are holding a public hearing Thursday at a downtown hotel to hear from residents who fear their votes were incorrectly recorded or who failed to choose a candidate in the race because the ballot design was confusing. ...

More than 18,000 ballots cast in Sarasota County showed no choice was made in the hotly contested congressional race between Republican Vern Buchanan and Democrat Christine Jennings. The so-called "undervote" in that race - which Buchanan now leads by 401 votes - was about 15 percent among voters who used computer touch-screen machines. That compares to undervotes of less than 3 percent in parts of the district with different voting machines.

Dozens of voters complained that they may have inadvertently missed the race because they were confused by the layout of the computer screen ballot. Others - some have sworn out affidavits - insist they made a choice, but noticed on a final review page that it had not registered. -- KRT Wire | 11/16/2006 | Florida officials begin manual recount of 18,000 ballots

November 15, 2006

Rep. Holt calls for national paper-trail law

AP reports: Citing the disputed vote in a Florida congressional district, a Democratic lawmaker on Wednesday urged Congress to approve his measure requiring a paper trail for electronic voting.

Rep. Rush Holt (news, bio, voting record), sponsor of the bill, said the inaccuracy of electronic touch-screen voting machines "poses a direct threat to the integrity of our electoral system." The New Jersey congressman argued the Florida district, in which more than 18,000 votes have gone uncounted, has exposed the system's flaws.

Florida law requires a recount in all five southwest Florida counties in the 13th Congressional District. But scrutiny is focused on Sarasota County, where touch-screen voting machines recorded that 18,382 people — 13 percent of voters in the Nov. 7 election — did not vote for either Republican Vern Buchanan or Democrat Christine Jennings, despite casting ballots in other races on the ballot. That rate was much higher than other counties in the district.

Rep. Robert Wexler (news, bio, voting record), D-Fla., said he found it "unfathomable" that more than 18,000 people would cast votes in other races but not in the congressional race. He added there's a host of theories that could explain what happened to those votes, but without a paper trail no one knows the truth. -- House member wants e-voting paper trail - Yahoo! News

November 14, 2006

Paper trail? We don't need no paper trail!

Wired.com reports: In the wake of yet another election marred by technical glitches, critics of electronic voting machines are repeating their call to restore old-fashioned paper to the increasingly computerized election process.

But a smaller, quieter group is convinced the real solution lies in the other direction. Now is the time, they say, to make elections completely electronic, and allow voters to cast their ballots from home, over the internet.

"The technology is done," said Jim Adler, founder of election-auditing firm VoteHere. "It's really an issue now of politics and people's will."

If it seems insane to put democracy's most crucial function on wires shared by viruses and spam, consider that it's already happening. The 2000 Arizona Democratic primary was the first binding election that offered online voting, and 41 percent of voters (39,942) voted using the internet. The 2004 caucus conducted by the Democratic Party in Michigan offered internet voting and 46,000 of 163,000 votes were cast online.

Switzerland, Estonia, England and Canada all have run successful small-scale trials of internet voting. Estonia now plans to use national internet voting for its 2007 parliamentary elections; the internet will, quite literally, decide the future of its government. -- Wired News: Election '08: Vote by Tivo

Comment: Of course, those countries have national election commissions that has the authority to test election equipment and procedures in real-world situations. And we have a national election commission (the EAC) that may provide assistance and very little command.

November 10, 2006

Illinois: supreme court stays count of late votes in Kane County

The Courier News reports: The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday afternoon ruled that any votes cast in Kane County after 7 p.m. Tuesday don't count yet.

The court issued a stay of 16th Circuit Court Judge Keith Brown's order that kept polls in all 223 of Kane County's precincts open until 8:30 p.m. on Election Day. The stay affects 1,124 votes, which should not change the outcome of any countywide or local races.

Brown made the ruling Tuesday afternoon at the request of the Kane County State's Attorney's Office on behalf of County Clerk John Cunningham because some precincts had trouble with the eSlate voting machines, causing those polling places to open late.

Although the late openings took place in only 62 precincts, Brown ordered that all precincts be kept open later because it would be hard to know as of Tuesday afternoon exactly where all voters were turned away during the morning. -- The Courier News :: News :: Court: Kane's late ballots do not count yet

Florida: voting machines may not have recorded votes in Orlando Congressional race

In Florida, Echoes of 2000 as Vote Questions Emerge - New York Times
The New York Times reports: A Democrat who narrowly lost the Congressional race here is seeking a recount after dozens of people reported problems using Sarasota County’s touch-screen voting machines and a significant number of ballots had no recorded votes in the high-profile race.

The Democrat, Christine Jennings, lost to her Republican opponent, Vern Buchanan, by just 373 votes out of a total 237,861 cast — one of the closest House races in the nation. More than 18,000 voters in Sarasota County, or 13 percent of those who went to the polls Tuesday, did not seem to vote in the Congressional race when they cast ballots, a discrepancy that Kathy Dent, the county elections supervisor, said she could not explain.

In comparison, only 2 percent of voters in one neighboring county within the same House district and 5 percent in another skipped the Congressional race, according to The Herald-Tribune of Sarasota. And many of those who did not seem to cast a vote in the House race did vote in more obscure races, like for the hospital board.

More than 100 voters have told the Jennings campaign that their votes for her did not show up on the summary screen at the end of the touch-screen voting process, and that they had to re-enter them. The candidate’s lawyers said they feared that not everyone had noticed the problem or realized that they could re-enter the vote. --

November 9, 2006

Florida: 18,000-vote rolloff on House race?

AP reports: The touch-screen voting machines Katherine Harris championed as secretary of state after the 2000 presidential recount may have botched this year's election to replace her in the U.S. House, and it's likely going to mean another Florida recount.

More than 18,000 Sarasota County voters who marked other races didn't have their vote register in the House race, a rate much higher than the rest of the district, elections results show.

Sarasota County Elections Supervisor Kathy Dent defended her staff and the voting machines, arguing that the thousands of voters must have either overlooked the race -- which was pushed to a second screen by a glut of minor U.S. Senate candidates on the ballot -- or simply decided not to vote for either candidate in a race marked by mudslinging. ...

Florida law requires a machine recount if the difference between the top candidates is less than half a percent. If the machine tallies find a margin of less than a quarter percent, a manual recount is conducted.

To do a manual recount for touch-screens, officials go back over the images of the electronic ballots where the machine didn't register a choice. But state rules essentially say that if the machine doesn't show that a voter chose a candidate, the voter is assumed to have meant to skip the race -- it would be tough to prove otherwise. -- Florida deja vu: Race to replace Harris could go to recount - CNN.com

November 8, 2006

"Predictions of disaster turned out wrong"

AP reports: There were occasional hiccups Tuesday in the nation's all-too-human voting systems -- long lines in Denver, slow election machines in Ohio, a longshot Texas candidate who briefly, and incorrectly, enjoyed a big lead -- but no major breakdowns.

"Overall, it looks like all the predictions of disaster turned out wrong," said Doug Lewis, executive director of Election Center, a nonpartisan organization of state election officials.

Experts cautioned against complacency as states continue to adjust to their new electronic voting equipment, however. Several states are still likely to face recounts, including two tight races that could determine control of the U.S. Senate. -- E-Commerce News: Technology: E-Voting Systems Worked Despite a Few Hitches

November 7, 2006

Virginia and Maryland: last minute problems in elections

The Washington Post reports: As Maryland and Virginia voters prepared to decide tight races that could hinge on turnout, unusual attention was being paid yesterday to how the votes will be cast and counted, particularly in Maryland, where September's primary was marred by mechanical and human errors.

In both states, record numbers of voters were continuing to cast absentee ballots. In Maryland, a last-minute fight broke out over the deadline for mailing those ballots. Elections officials across the state delivered electronic voting machines, performed final training for election judges and vowed that the primary problems would not be repeated. ...

On Sunday in Maryland, a group of top Democratic lawmakers joined a coalition of civil rights groups in calling for the deadline for absentee ballots to be moved from yesterday to today. The groups cited delays in delivery of the ballots -- some were mailed to voters as late as Saturday -- because of the unprecedented number requested this election. They said voters who don't get their ballots on time could be disenfranchised. ...

Yesterday, the Election Protection Coalition, a group of civil rights groups, filed a lawsuit in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on behalf of two voters who they said had not received the absentee ballots they requested and can't get to the polls today to vote. One requested the ballot in mid-August and cannot not get to her polling place today because she is away at college. The other lives in a nursing home and doesn't have a way to get to the polls. Judge Joseph P. Manck said in denying the petition: "What you're asking me to do is a situation that can cause more damage to the entire election than just those who you're saying may be disenfranchised." -- Primary Bugs, New Glitches Fueling Jitters In Md. and Va. - washingtonpost.com

Congresswoman Jean Schmidt's voting problem


November 4, 2006

Alaska: voters choose paper ballots over touch-screens

The Anchorage Daily News reports: Alaska voters had little enthusiasm for new touchscreen voting machines during their shaky debut in the August primary election.

In 20 percent of the precincts, not a single voter cast a ballot on the machines, according to the state Division of Elections.

Voters may have been suspicious of the technology, unaware that touchscreen machines were an option or disappointed to find the machines out of service. In two precincts, the touchscreens arrived damaged and didn't work at all, according to the division. In others, they may have worked only part of the day.

Most Alaska voters used the familiar paper ballots that were then fed into machines that quickly tabulated results. They will probably do so again Tuesday on Election Day. -- adn.com | front : Voters favor paper ballots

November 3, 2006

"E-voting may be scarier than hanging chads"

The Los Angeles Times reports: After the 2000 presidential election in Florida exposed the dangers of relying on punch-card ballots and other vintage voting systems, the federal government spent more than $3 billion to help state and local authorities overhaul the way Americans record their votes. When the polls open for Tuesday's midterm election, 90% will be equipped with new high-tech systems.

But instead of bringing the accuracy, efficiency and reliability of the corner ATM, the wholesale makeover of the nation's voting system has brought a new set of concerns: the possibilities of software bugs, freeze-ups, vulnerability to hackers and new forms of human error that could bring their own chaos and controversy. ...

The six states that are considered most likely to determine which party controls the Senate all have adopted touch-screen voting systems, but they differ widely in the safeguards they require. According to the nonpartisan Election Reform Information Project, four of the states don't insist on what experts consider the most fundamental protection — a paper trail. -- E-voting may be scarier than hanging chads - Los Angeles Times

November 2, 2006

Hacking Democracy (2)

I have a distinctly uneasy feeling about our election structure after watching "Hacking Democracy" on HBO. It's a thrill a minute -- well, maybe every few minutes.

Watch dumpster-diving, video-camera-carrying citizens pull original voting-machine tabulation tapes out of trash sacks. Listen as they tell election officials that the original tapes don't match up with the totals shown on the tapes the officials ran for the citizens.

Watch a Finnish computer scientist modify a program on a Diebold memory card (which Diebold's engineer says contains only data and no executable code) so that it changes the results of an election.

If you want to watch it, there are 17 more opportunities over the next two weeks on various HBO channels. If you have a TiVo or DVR, do a search for the name and record it. It will also be on HBO OnDemand (available on many cable systems) beginning next Monday.

California (and other places?): the yellow button on Sequoia voting machines

The Broad View reports: Debra Bowen, Democratic candidate for California's Secretary of State, told us about this the other night on a blogger conference call. Brad Friedman follows up:

It seems there's a little yellow button on the back every touch-screen computer made by Sequoia Voting Systems, that allows any voter, or poll worker, or precinct inspector to set the system into "Manual Mode" allowing them to cast as many votes as they want.

Concerns about the flaw were first reported some thirty days ago to California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson's office by Ron Watt, a Tehama County, CA precinct inspector who has been a poll worker in the county for the last fifteen years. And yet, as recently as a radio interview last Tuesday, McPherson — who has been crowing about having the country's most stringent security process for voting systems — denied he was aware of any security issues with Sequoia systems...

-- The Broad View: Vote early and often — just push the little yellow button

Diebold demands HBO cancel documentary ... or post a disclaimer

Bloomberg News reports: Diebold Inc. insisted that cable network HBO cancel a documentary that questions the integrity of its voting machines, calling the program inaccurate and unfair.

The program, "Hacking Democracy," is scheduled to debut Thursday, , five days before the 2006 U.S. midterm elections. The film claims that Diebold voting machines aren't tamper-proof and can be manipulated to change voting results.

"Hacking Democracy" is "replete with material examples of inaccurate reporting," Diebold Election System President David Byrd said in a letter to HBO President and Chief Executive Chris Albrecht posted on Diebold's Web site. Short of pulling the film, Monday's letter asks for disclaimers to be aired and for HBO to post Diebold's response on its Web site. -- Diebold demands that HBO cancel documentary on voting machines

"Hacking Democracy" on HBO starting tonight

Salon reports: "When people see what is really going on, there is no way we will allow this to continue," the crusading election-reform activist Bev Harris declares at the beginning of "Hacking Democracy," a documentary film about the flawed American election system that premieres on HBO on Nov. 2. It's a nice thought, one you want to believe: If only Americans could be made to understand the true, gut-sinking atrociousness of just about everything involved in U.S. elections -- from the gerrymandered districts to the undemocratic distribution of electoral power to the enormous influence wielded by partisan officials to the underfunded, overwhelmed local offices to, finally, the insanely dangerous technology we use to run the whole thing -- well, then, maybe folks would actually do something about the problem.

But it's been four years since Harris launched her campaign to expose the dangers of new voting technology -- and it's been six years since we witnessed a presidential election in which the winner actually lost, and two years since we saw one in which errors were so widespread that rational people are still arguing over whether what actually happened was historic theft or historic incompetence. Reports of voting irregularities are now a mainstay of the mainstream media, and politicians and political parties regularly vow to fix the problem. Still, in all this time, little has changed. Surveys suggest that many Americans will go to the polls on Nov. 7 feeling (justifiably) uncertain about the integrity of the vote. If you're not already among that number, watch this film. -- "Hacking Democracy" | Salon Arts & Entertainment

October 31, 2006

"Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections"

NPR : Voting Problems Crop Up Ahead of Elections
NPR's Morning Edition reports: Signs of possible voting trouble are popping up ahead of midterm elections. The reports range from hackers getting into an official registration database to ballots being printed incorrectly. Pam Fessler reports.

Note: Audio for this story will be available at approx. 10:00 a.m. ET.

October 30, 2006

Sequoia asks government to investigate it

AP reports: A U.S. manufacturer of touch-screen voting machines has asked the government to investigate reports the company is connected to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, company officials said Sunday. They deny any connection to Chavez.

Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., based in Oakland, California, said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States was conducting the formal inquiry into it, as well as its parent software company, the Smartmatic Corp., at the firms' request after news articles suggested improper ties.

The inquiry was focusing on last year's acquisition of Sequoia by Smartmatic, a company owned by three Venezuelans based in Boca Raton, Florida. The government also is investigating whether Chavez's leftist government has any influence over the companies' operations. -- Vote machine firm seeks inquiry into reported Chavez ties - CNN.com

October 29, 2006

US is investigating Venezuelan owners of Sequoia Voting Systems

The New York Times reports: The federal government is investigating the takeover last year of a leading American manufacturer of electronic voting systems by a small software company that has been linked to the leftist Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chávez.

The inquiry is focusing on the Venezuelan owners of the software company, the Smartmatic Corporation, and is trying to determine whether the government in Caracas has any control or influence over the firm’s operations, government officials and others familiar with the investigation said.

The inquiry on the eve of the midterm elections is being conducted by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or Cfius, the same panel of 12 government agencies that reviewed the abortive attempt by a company in Dubai to take over operations at six American ports earlier this year.

The committee’s formal inquiry into Smartmatic and its subsidiary, Sequoia Voting Systems of Oakland, Calif., was first reported Saturday in The Miami Herald. -- U.S. Investigates Voting Machines' Venezuela Ties - New York Times

"How to Steal an Election by Hacking the Vote" available as PDF

Arstechnica announces: Shortly after we published our newest feature on electronic election fraud, "How to Steal an Election by Hacking the Vote," we received a flood of requests that we release a free copy of the article's PDF, which is typically only available to Premier Subscribers. Quite a few readers also suggested that the PDF should be emailed to elected officials, especially congresspersons and Secretaries of State, as a kind of wake-up call for how insecure our elections are.

So, you asked for it, and here it is: How to Steal an Election by Hacking the Vote, in a portable, easily readable/printable PDF format. -- Send your elected officials our free PDF guide to hacking the vote

Thanks to Jim Blacksher for the tip.

Maryland: Diebold replaced motherboards on 4,700 voting machines without informing election officials

AP reports: Diebold Election Systems quietly replaced flawed components in several thousand Maryland voting machines in 2005 to fix a "screen-freeze" problem the company had discovered three years earlier, according to published reports Thursday.

State Board of Elections Chairman Gilles W. Burger said Diebold's failure to fully inform board members of the repairs at the time raises questions about whether the company violated its state contracts. ...

The screen freezes prompted Diebold, a division of ATM maker Diebold Inc., to replace motherboards on 4,700 machines in Allegany, Dorchester, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the Washington Post reported. Those counties introduced the machines in 2004 in the first phase of Maryland's transition to a uniform electronic voting system.

The unpredictable freezes don't cause votes to be lost, officials said, but they confuse voters and election judges who sometimes wonder whether votes cast on a frozen machine will be counted. -- Wired News: Diebold Made Fixes, on the QT

October 24, 2006

Virginia: candidates' long names chopped off by voting machines

The Washington Post reports: U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.

Although the problem creates some voter confusion, it will not cause votes to be cast incorrectly, election officials emphasized. The error shows up only on the summary page, where voters are asked to review their selections before hitting the button to cast their votes. Webb's full name appears on the page where voters choose for whom to vote.

Election officials attribute the mistake to an increase in the type size on the ballot. Although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot.

Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and nickname only -- or "James H. 'Jim' " -- on summary pages in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, the only jurisdictions in Virginia that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin. -- Some Voting Machines Chop Off Candidates' Names - washingtonpost.com

Comment: Don't you just love computers?

October 20, 2006

Maryland: FBI invetigating possible theft of voting machine software

The Washington Post reports: The FBI is investigating the possible theft of software developed by the nation's leading maker of electronic voting equipment, said a former Maryland legislator who this week received three computer disks that apparently contain key portions of programs created by Diebold Election Systems.

Cheryl C. Kagan, a former Democratic delegate who has long questioned the security of electronic voting systems, said the disks were delivered anonymously to her office in Olney on Tuesday and that the FBI contacted her yesterday. The package contained an unsigned letter critical of Maryland State Board of Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone that said the disks were "right from SBE" and had been "accidentally picked up."

Lamone's deputy, Ross Goldstein, said "they were not our disks," but he acknowledged that the software was used in Maryland in the 2004 elections. Diebold said in a statement last night that it had never created or received the disks.

The disks bear the logos of two testing companies that send such disks to the Maryland board after using the software to conduct tests on Diebold equipment. A Ciber Inc. spokeswoman said the disks had not come from Ciber, and Wyle Laboratories Inc. said it was not missing any disks. -- Officials Probing Possible Theft of Voting Software in Md. - washingtonpost.com

October 19, 2006

Former secretaries of state worry about voting machinery

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: In the past six years, the federal government has spent billions of dollars on election reform, hoping to prevent a replay of the 2000 Florida election debacle.

But, with less than three weeks to go before a critical mid-term election that could decide which party controls Congress, some experts still see the potential for significant mishaps as Americans head to the polls, many using a new generation of voting technology for the first time.

"We know more about car tires than we do about voting machines," the Rev. DeForest Soaries, a former New Jersey secretary of state, said yesterday during a conference call with reporters and other election administration specialists. ...

"We don't know what we don't know," he said. "No news is not good news, necessarily." ...

Miles Rapoport, former secretary of state in Connecticut, proposed a significant expansion of EAC's powers and resources, making it into a "NASA-style agency" that could research the development of electronic machines and set strict standards for the technology. --
Experts warn of foul-ups with new voting machines

Thanks to Brenda Wright for the tip.

"New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes"

The New York Times reports: As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for an Election Day with long lines and heightened confusion, followed by an increase in the number of contested results.

In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like Monster.com. Ms. Oakley, who is also facing a shortage, raided the computer science department at the University of California, Davis, hiring 60 graduate students as troubleshooters.

Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes.

“We’ve got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process,” said Tova Wang, who studies elections for the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. “We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.” -- New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes - New York Times

October 17, 2006

California: Vote-PAD files claim against secretary of state

The Eureka Reporter reports: Vote-PAD Inc., the developer of a disabled-assistive voting device by the same name, filed a formal claim against California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson on Monday, asserting that the certification process McPherson followed for the device violated a number of state and federal laws.

The claim, filed with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, names McPherson, the Secretary of State’s Office, Assistant Secretary of State for Elections Susan Lapsley and Voting Systems Program Manager Bruce McDannold.

In late August, following two days of testing and a public hearing, McPherson announced that he would not grant certification to the Vote-PAD on the grounds that it presented limitations that could disenfranchise blind voters.

The decision threw a number of California counties — including Humboldt County — into a tailspin as they scrambled to find a compliant replacement in time for the November elections. -- The Eureka Reporter - Article

October 3, 2006

Maine: vote-by-phone system will aid voters

The Portland Press Herald reports: For most Americans, being able to vote independently and privately is taken for granted. For Ross Dorr, however, voting has always meant having someone else fill out his ballot.

Dorr, who has been blind for 30 years, is excited that a new federal law will change that come Election Day, Nov. 7. ...

The most ground-breaking change will be a $1.2 million vote-by-phone system. A large-keypad phone and fax combination on a dedicated line will be set up -- at the government's expense -- at all 600 local polling places in Maine on voting days. According to the director of elections for the Maine Secretary of State's Office, Melissa Packard, the system can be used by the elderly, people with a problem reading and understanding the ballot, or those who are simply curious.

A clerk will explain the system to the voter, then will dial the system's computer server on a secure line. Identification codes for the polling place and the ballot will be punched in and the voter, using a handset or headset, will be left to cast a ballot. -- Blind, others can vote by phone head voting goes here

October 2, 2006

Florida: Wexler's touchscreen suit goes to the Supreme Court

Lisa Cohen emails: The Center for Constitutional Litigation (CCL), a pro-consumer law firm that pursues Supreme Court cases, is representing Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), two Florida county commissioners, and a voter in a Supreme Court challenge to Florida's use of touchscreen voting machines.

The CCL recently filed a cert petition with the Supreme Court to take the case. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will be looking at the legal issues surrounding the touchscreen voting machines, which have caused all sorts of problems in terms of accurately recording votes and have been the subject of widespread attention in recent weeks. The CCL's brief argues that the Court should take the case given that it goes to the equal protection of voters and whether indeed every vote is being counted.

Given the problems being experienced around the country (the Maryland Governor is advocating a return to paper ballots to avoid the problems that bedeviled the primary vote; Dodd and Boxer offering a bill to pay for paper ballots; OH in 2004; FL in 2000), the timing could be good to take a look at this case (we recognize it is a cert petition but wanted to pass on the item given the timeliness of it all).

September 27, 2006

3 Senate Democrats propose federal government payment for paper ballots

The New York Times reports: Three Senate Democrats proposed emergency legislation on Tuesday to reimburse states for printing paper ballots in case of problems with electronic voting machines on Nov. 7.

The proposal is a response to grass-roots pressures and growing concern by local and state officials about touch-screen machines. An estimated 40 percent of voters will use those machines in the election. ...

Republican leadership aides were skeptical about the prospects for the measure. It would have to advance without opposition from any senator and then make it through the House in the short time available before Election Day.

Dozens of states are using optical-scan and touch-screen machines to comply with federal laws intended to phase out lever and punch-card machines after the hanging-chads confusion of the 2000 presidential election. Widespread problems were reported with the new technology and with the poll workers using them this year in primaries in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio and elsewhere. -- Bill Would Reimburse States for Printing Alternate Ballots - New York Times

September 21, 2006

Maryland: governor says "don't fix it, junk it"

The Washington Post reports: A week after the primary election was plagued by human error and technical glitches, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) called yesterday for the state to scrap its $106 million electronic voting apparatus and revert to a paper ballot system for the November election.

"When in doubt, go paper, go low-tech," he said.

Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections, quickly denounced the plan to swap voting systems just seven weeks before the general election as "crazy." And Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said it "cannot happen. It will not happen."

Ehrlich said that, if necessary, he would call a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to change the law to allow paper ballots. But Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) dismissed the idea of a special session, saying elections officials should focus instead on fixing the current system. -- Ehrlich Wants Paper Ballots For Nov. Vote - washingtonpost.com

Virginia: elections board decertifies punch-card and lever voting machines

The Richmond Times Dispatch reports: The State Board of Elections voted unanimously yesterday to decertify the use of punch-card and mechanical-lever voting machines in Virginia.

Punch-card machines gained infamy in the Florida presidential election in 2000 when the question of how to count pregnant, dimpled and hanging chads created a near constitutional crisis.

Congress then passed the Help America Vote Act, which required all the states to replace the punch-card and mechanical-lever machines by 2006. Congress appropriated $3 billion to do it.

All the old machines were replaced in Virginia by the end of last year. The state expects about $67 million to buy and install the new machines and make other voting upgrades. -- TimesDispatch.com | Board votes to decertify use of old voting machines in state

New York: high cost, low turnout on the accessible voting machines

The New York Daily News reports: As few as 29 disabled voters may have participated in the city's limited use of electronic voting machines in last week's primary election - at a cost of nearly $52,000 per voter.

Intended to be used primarily by disabled voters, 22 electronic ballot scanners were deployed at polling sites set up in each of the Board of Elections' five borough offices.

The board spent at least $500,000 to buy the machines, and an additional $1 million on an advisory mailing about them that was sent to all 3.7 million enrolled voters before the primary.

Election officials have said that 580 voters used the voting devices, but gave no information on whether those voters were disabled or not. -- New York Daily News - Politics - Disabled vote tab: 52G each

September 18, 2006

Colorado: suit against computer voting machines

The Rocky Mountain News reports: Voting on computer screens is so vulnerable to massive fraud that Colorado's November election is "headed for a train wreck," says an attorney who is seeking to have the equipment barred at trial next week.

An expert would need just 2 minutes to reprogram and distort votes on a Diebold, one of four brands of computerized voting systems attacked in the suit, says attorney Paul Hultin. His firm, Wheeler Trigg Kennedy, has taken on the case pro bono for a group of 13 citizens of various political stripes.

And he's not the only one alarmed as details of the case spread this week.

The Colorado Democratic Party on Thursday urged all voters to cast absentee ballots for the November election to avoid potential fraud, after a key state official said in a deposition that he certified the computer voting equipment even though he has no college education in computer science and did little security testing. -- Rocky Mountain News: Elections

Thanks to Vince Leibowitz for the link.

September 16, 2006

Florida: Sarasota county to decide on electronic voting machines

The Ledger reports: Voters in this Southwest Florida county [Sarasota] will be able to decide in November whether to continue using computerized voting booths or go back to paper ballots, a circuit judge ruled.

County attorneys argued a proposed ballot initiative asking voters to choose between the county's current electronic voting and the old paper system was unconstitutional. But Circuit Judge Robert B. Bennett Jr. ruled Wednesday that the initiative was legal. -- Voters Will Choose Voting Technology | theledger.com

September 13, 2006

How to steal an election with a Diebold AccuVote-TS machine

The abstract of a paper by Ariel J. Feldman, J. Alex Halderman, and Edward W. Felten states: This paper presents a fully independent security study of a Diebold AccuVote-TS voting machine, including its hardware and software. We obtained the machine from a private party. Analysis of the machine, in light of real election procedures, shows that it is vulnerable to extremely serious attacks. For example, an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities — a voting-machine virus. We have constructed working demonstrations of these attacks in our lab. Mitigating these threats will require changes to the voting machine's hardware and software and the adoption of more rigorous election procedures. -- Center for Information Technology Policy » Voting Study

Comment: Instead of reading the paper, just watch the video of the researchers stealing an election.

Maryland: finger-pointing over the voting snafus

The Baltimore Sun reports: Maryland's first statewide run of an all-electronic voting system stumbled out of the gate yesterday, with major glitches in Baltimore City and Montgomery County that frustrated thousands of would-be voters and forced election officials in those two localities to hold polls open an extra hour.

The snafus, which also cropped up to lesser degrees in other counties, were so severe that they produced a flurry of finger-pointing between Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates and promised to become an issue in the final two months of the campaign. ...

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wasted no time after learning that voters in two of the state's largest jurisdictions were having trouble voting before setting up a toll-free hot line in his office so he could compile complaints. ...

The Maryland Democratic Party and its nominee for governor, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, instead laid the blame at the feet of Ehrlich's nominees to boards of election around the state who manage elections county-by-county. -- Electronic system beset by problems - baltimoresun.com

Maryland: widespread voting problems in primary

The Washington Post reports: The irregularities that led Maryland courts to extend voting hours yesterday in Montgomery County and Baltimore under some circumstances could provide a basis for challenging the outcomes of contests decided in part or entirely by voters in those jurisdictions, experts said.

From the top of the ticket to the bottom, campaigns remained focused into the evening on efforts to get voters to the polls. Many declined to say whether they considered legal challenges likely even as the Democratic Party filed court petitions asking judges to keep the polls open in the county and the city.

But election experts said the narrower the margin in any race, the more likely a future challenge. As a general rule, they said, challengers need not prove intentional fraud, only that errors were widespread enough to give a potentially decisive boost to one candidate.

Yesterday's irregularities in Maryland presented "the kind of scenario that could lead to a challenge," said Steven J. Mulroy, a professor at the University of Memphis law school who is an expert on revotes. -- Voting Problems Could Spark Legal Challenges to Results - washingtonpost.com

August 30, 2006

California: Secretary of State rejects Vote-PAD because of problems for blind voters

The Eureka Reporter reports: When it comes to providing access to disabled voters by the November election, Humboldt County is firmly wedged between a rock and, well, a rock, county Registrar of Voters Carolyn Crnich observed Tuesday — and the only way out is a costly one.

On Friday, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson made the long-awaited announcement on the certification of the low-tech Vote-PAD voting device: no deal.

“(T)he current version of Vote-PAD does not accurately or reliably record and verify votes,” he stated in a letter explaining his decision. “(A)fter conducting two days of extensive testing of the system’s accuracy, reliability and accessibility, ...it was very clear that some voters who are blind would be disenfranchised if this system were approved for use in California.”

The Vote-PAD devices, essentially transparent sleeves with various assistive elements, were the county’s first choice for meeting the federal mandates of the Help America Vote Act, a 2002 law that, among other things, required counties to improve disabled voters’ access by January of this year. -- The Eureka Reporter - Article

Indiana: state settles with ES&S and will get money for technical assistance on elections

Indiana announces in a news release: Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita last week announced the settlement of an enforcement proceeding concerning voting equipment vendor Election Systems & Software (ES&S). ES&S agreed to contribute $245,000 to help the state fund the Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP). That program will provide counties and the state with much needed technical support in the use of election equipment and the establishment of voting system standards. In addition to the VSTOP contribution, ES&S has agreed to provide, at no charge, each of the counties it services in Indiana with ballot layout assistance and voter and poll worker outreach through 2007.

"Hoosiers deserve voting systems that comply with the high standards mandated by Indiana law," said Rokita. "This settlement will give counties additional support and provide the Secretary of State's office with the resources it needs to better protect voters, election administrators, and vendors. Working together, we can help ensure that Indiana has some of the best run elections in the country." Rokita added that "ES&S has been very professional in its handling of the enforcement proceeding and I am confident that future elections will be better." -- Indiana Announces Settlement of Election Machine Enforcement Hearing

August 28, 2006

Washington State: new voting machines give privacy to the disabled

AP reports: Mike Corsini has relied on others to help him vote for more than two decades. Next month, he will roll his wheelchair into a voting booth and select his favored candidates through a touch-sensitive electronic screen -- the first ballot he'll cast on his own since an injury rendered him a quadriplegic 28 years ago.

Corsini, 43, will be able to vote on an electronic voting machine configured specially for use by the blind and the disabled, allowing them access to voting in a completely private way -- the first time such equipment has been available statewide.

Corsini of Spanaway has voted by mail in Pierce County for a decade. But even then he needed help because he can't grasp things in his hands. Now, all he'll need to do is press on the touch-screen machine to register his vote.

"When you're a person with a disability and you need assistance, you lose privacy," said Corsini, who has been paralyzed since a motorcycle accident at the age of 15. -- High-tech voting booths give disabled privacy

Brennan Center reports that many have trouble with new voting machines

The New York Times reports: With New York State facing a looming deadline to modernize its election technology, a new report offers evidence that one of the two major types of voting machines being considered has a higher rate of unrecorded votes, suggesting that it is too confusing for many people.

The report, which the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law intends to release today, examined election records from thousands of counties across the nation since 2000. It is likely to animate long-simmering debates across the state’s 62 counties, which face a December deadline for deciding how to replace antiquated voting equipment.

For an overwhelming majority of the state’s 11.6 million registered voters, the changes will mean the end of the creaky lever machines that have been used for decades. ...

The direct-recording electronic system is not inherently flawed, the report found, but when it is combined with full-face ballots, there seems to be more difficulty, particularly in areas with more black, Hispanic and low-income voters. -- Voters Find Some Machines Harder to Use - New York Times

August 23, 2006

Alaska: problems with electronic voting in yesterday's primary

AP reports: Problems with Alaska's new touchscreen voting machines in several precincts slowed election returns Tuesday and caused elections officials to hand count and manually upload a still-unknown number of votes.

Election coordinator Lauri Wilson said several Diebold touchscreen machines in Southeast Alaska, the Interior and near Nome did not upload their votes into the Division of Elections' central computing system. The machines' modems either did not get a dial tone or had other problems, Wilson said.

The votes from touchscreen voting machines four Kodiak precincts had to be manually uploaded because the electronic ballots were required to be presented in more than one language, Wilson said. ...

One precinct's optical scanner voting machine also could not connect by modem, Wilson said. -- adn.com | alaska wire : Problems with touchscreen machines slow vote count

August 15, 2006

Pennsylvania: suit filed against electronic voting without paper trail

AP reports: Voter advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to stop most Pennsylvania counties from using "paperless" electronic voting machines, saying that such systems leave no paper record that could be used in the event of a recount, audit or other problem.

The suit asks the state's Commonwealth Court to decertify machines being used in 58 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. The plaintiffs argue that the state should replace paperless machines with systems in which voters fill out a bubble sheet that is then fed into a machine for quick scanning.

"Whatever the initial promise may have been for electronic voting, we now know ... that they are simply not ready for prime time," said Lowell Finley, an attorney with the nonprofit group Voter Action, which has been involved in similar suits nationwide. -- AP Wire | 08/15/2006 | Voter's rights advocates sue over paperless voting systems in Pa.

Comment: If you have a copy of the complaint in the case, please email it to me.

Update: The case name is Banfield et al v. Cortes, No. 442 MD 2006.

Georgia: Rep. McKinney calls on blacks to oppose electronic voting machines

AP reports: U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, in her first public appearance since losing her re-election bid last week, said today that the black community needs to oppose electronic voting machines, which she says are designed to steal elections.

During a meeting in Augusta, McKinney also said the state of Georgia should not allow crossover voting among political parties in primary elections.

McKinney said she considers herself a "black political paramedic," adding that the "black body politic is near comatose." -- Macon Telegraph | 08/15/2006 | Cynthia McKinney says blacks must oppose electronic voting

August 14, 2006

Massachusetts: voting machines for the disabled still not ordered

The Boston Globe reports: State elections officials say specially designed voting machines for people with disabilities might not be available at every polling place in time for the Sept. 19 primary election, despite a federal requirement that the machines be in place this year.

Secretary of State William F. Galvin said he is near the end of a lengthy vetting process and could order the machines within days, depending upon an outside expert's evaluation of three models. He said he hopes to have at least some of the machines for the primary but does not want to rush into purchasing a potentially flawed model.

``I'm more interested in resolving the issue to the satisfaction of the disabled than I am to resolving it to the satisfaction of bureaucrats," Galvin said in an interview last week, adding that the machines would almost certainly be available in time for the Nov. 7 general election.

Some advocates for the disabled, however, say they are disappointed that the state is lagging behind the federal deadline. Joseph M. Collins , chief executive of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind , praised Galvin for embracing the project with enthusiasm but said he had hoped they would be available in time for the primary. -- Voting tool for disabled delayed for primaries - The Boston Globe

August 6, 2006

"How to Hack a Diebold Voting Machine"

Take a look at Marty Kaplan: How to Hack a Diebold Voting Machine on The Huffington Post.

I suppose it might help to know the file format of the information you need to put on the flash drive and the number of people who signed in at the polling place (minus the number who have voted at the other machines). Oh, and don't take too long doing all this, lest the election officials become suspicious.

Memo to self: submit this to "The Mythbusters" to see how long it takes to get it done.

August 2, 2006

California: suit alleges voting machines discriminate against disabled voters

The Contra Costa Times reports: Three disability groups filed suit Tuesday against the California secretary of state and five counties -- including Alameda -- claiming they did not meet federal law providing full accessibility to disabled voters.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, claims Alameda, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma and Yolo counties failed to comply with the Help America Vote Act. It seeks a court order requiring the secretary of state to present to the court a plan and a timetable for bringing the entire state into compliance.

The plaintiffs say Alameda County violated the act by having its touch-screen voting machines produce a paper receipt of votes, which is required under state law. The lawsuit says that requirement denies blind voters the ability to verify their vote because they cannot read the receipt. -- ContraCostaTimes.com | 08/02/2006 | Disabled voters' rights violated, lawsuit claims

Note: The case is Paralyzed Veterans of America et al v. McPherson et al, CASE #: 3:06-cv-04670-JL (N.D. Cal.). The complaint is not available on PACER. If you have a copy of the complaint, please email or fax it to me.

August 1, 2006

Maine: DOJ announces HAVA settlement with Maine

From a Justice Department press release on Friday: The Justice Department today announced that it has reached an agreement with Maine officials that will help to ensure full access to voting for Maine's citizens with disabilities and to protect the accuracy and integrity of Maine's statewide voter registration list in accordance with the provisions of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).

"I commend Attorney General Rowe and Secretary of State Dunlap for their willingness to protect the integrity of the voting process without delay and to ensure that individuals with disabilities have the same opportunity to cast a ballot privately and independently as other voters," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "These reforms should give all eligible voters in Maine greater confidence in the state's elections."

The agreement sets forth the state's plan for ensuring that each polling place has a voting system that is fully accessible to individuals with disabilities and can generate a permanent paper record that can be manually audited. The agreement also sets forth the state's plan for creating a statewide computerized voter registration database that will help to identify and remove ineligible voters from the state's voter rolls. A lawsuit, filed contemporaneously with the agreement, followed a Justice Department investigation that found that Maine had not yet fully complied with HAVA's requirements that each polling place have a voting system accessible to disabled voters, and that the state create a statewide computerized voter registration database. The Justice Department's investigation also found that Maine's voter rolls contained a significant number of ineligible voters. -- U.S. Newswire : Releases : "Justice Department Announces Agreement to Protect Voting Rights in Maine"

Hat tip: Electionline.org.

July 24, 2006

Ohio: Blackwell's role in elections causes criticism

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports: Lingering debate over the 2004 presidential election, continues to haunt Secretary of State Ken Blackwell in his campaign to become governor.

Those who blame the Cincinnati Republican for long lines and rulings leading up to the 2004 election predict even more chaos during the upcoming Nov. 7. election.

That's when a new law requiring identification for voters at the polls takes effect statewide for the first time.

Add to that a federal requirement that 68 of Ohio's 88 counties replace punch card ballots with electronic voting machines, and politicians and voting experts worry that the stage is set for another difficult election. -- The Enquirer - Blackwell's dual role criticized

July 19, 2006

Georgia: McKinney claims Diebold machines "flipped" her votes

Atlanta Progressive News reports: "You've got electronic voting machines. Many people called in and shared their concern. They pushed the button for Cynthia McKinney and Hank Johnson came up. It wasn't one time, it wasn't two times, it was many, many times," Karen Fitzpatrick, who has been monitoring elections for US Rep. McKinney's re-election campaign, told Atlanta Progressive News in an exclusive interview. ...

"It started early this morning. There were well over 25 to 30 calls that came in [to the campaign office]. Many of them went to the poll manager [after this happened]. In some cases, the poll managers said there's nothing we can do. In some cases the voter left frustrated as if their vote had been compromised, as if it had been stolen," Fitzpatrick said.

And many voters hadn't even selected the "cast ballot"ť button yet, when they were told it was already too late, Fitzpatrick said. -- Atlanta Progressive News

June 15, 2006

Florida: if you don't like the test results, stop doing the tests

AP reports: Florida elections supervisors opposed a state proposal Monday that would require them to get approval before testing voting equipment.

The issue, in part, resulted from a secret test several months ago when elections-office workers hacked into a Diebold optical-scan voting system in Leon County to show that it could be made to produce false results.

"The action by the Division of Elections to limit how I can do these tests, I find an imposition on my statutory authority," said Ion Sancho, the Leon County supervisor who questioned the secretary of state's standing to make a rule change without legislative approval.

Maria Matthews, the assistant general counsel for the Division of Elections, which hosted the 90-minute workshop, said the state was comfortable it had the authority to go ahead with the rule changes. -- Elections chiefs don't like rules - Orlando Sentinel : State News Elections chiefs don't like rules - Orlando Sentinel : State News

May 30, 2006

Computerized-voting problems debated

The Washington Post reports: The already-cantankerous debate over high-tech voting machines, which have been installed in great numbers in recent years, is growing more intense and convoluted as primaries get underway and the midterm election nears.

A coalition of voting rights activists and prominent computer scientists argues that some of the machines are not sufficiently secure against tampering and could result in disputed elections, while voting machine vendors and many election officials say that view is exaggerated.

The latest dispute occurred several weeks ago after it was discovered at a test in Utah that someone with a reasonable knowledge of computer code could gain access to and tamper with the system software on a popular brand of voting machine manufactured by Diebold Election Systems. The developments prompted California and Pennsylvania to send urgent warnings to counties that use Diebold's touch-screen voting systems to take additional steps to secure them.

But the vastly differing assessments of the severity of the problem offered by computer scientists, Diebold and election officials made clear that four years after Congress passed a law to improve the reliability of elections, Americans still lack definitive word on whether the nation's voting machines are secure. -- Debating the Bugs of High-Tech Voting

May 8, 2006

Colorado: a litany of problems with Sequoia Voting Systems

The Rocky Mountain News reports: The company Denver is relying on for voting machines for this year's elections has a history of computer glitches, delayed counting, supply problems and a brush with a bribery scandal.

Malfunctions in Sequoia Voting Systems' machines contributed to a four-week delay in getting full results in Chicago's March primary election - prompting a Cook County official to threaten to withhold payment of some of the $50 million the county owes Sequoia.

Although Denver will be using some of the same machines implicated in Chicago, city election officials say they have worked with Sequoia for decades and they will be ready for the Aug. 8 primary.

Essex County, N.J., election officials, however, are waiting for Sequoia to deliver 616 machines for its June primary. If they don't arrive in time, the county could lose $5 million in federal funds. -- Rocky Mountain News: Elections

March 29, 2006

Pennsylvania: "glitch" found in Allegheny Co.'s voting machines

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: After four hours of testing yesterday, a glitch was found in the voting system Allegheny County is planning to use in the May 16 primary.

"So far, it's not fatal," said Michael Shamos, the Carnegie Mellon University professor who will recommend whether the system should be certified in Pennsylvania.

"You do have some diagnosing to do," he told representatives of Sequoia Voting Systems, the Oakland, Calif.-based manufacturer of the AVC Advantage voting machines tested yesterday.

A week ago elections were disrupted in Chicago and the rest of Cook County because of a rash of problems with two of Sequoia's other voting systems. Problems occurred there when poll workers tried to transfer results from the machines onto tabulators that compile vote totals, said Joan Krawitz, executive director of Vote Trust USA and a resident of Cook County. -- Minor glitch found in Allegheny County voting machines

Florida: AG sends subpoenas to voting machines companies

AP reports: Attorney General Charlie Crist said Wednesday that his office has issued subpoenas to the three companies certified to sell voting machines in Florida as he reviews a dispute between the firms and Leon County's elections supervisor.

Diebold Election Systems Inc., Election Systems & Software Inc., and Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. have refused to sell equipment to let disabled voters cast ballots without help in Leon County. Elections supervisor Ion Sancho has been outspoken about his concern that the devices can be easily manipulated to change race outcomes.

The subpoenas are seeking information about whether the companies agreed among themselves not to do business with Leon County, which is in violation of the federal Help American Vote Act without the equipment.

"It is critical for our democratic process to work efficiently and effectively, but of most importance, fairly," Crist said. "These subpoenas are to ensure that the rights of our voters with disabilities as well as all Florida voters are secured." -- AP Wire | 03/29/2006 | Attorney general subpoenas voting machine companies

March 16, 2006

Alabama: county in the red over the voting machine blues

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Montgomery County officials are ready to take Alabama's chief election official to court to get back the $2 million they spent on a new voting system.

Secretary of State Nancy Worley returned the Jan. 11 reimbursement request herself, saying the county had not met her office's guidelines.

County commissioners have gone into executive session in their last two meetings to discuss Worley's decision with the county attorney. ...

Worley contends the county bought its system, which uses paper ballots and an optical scan reader to tabulate votes, before she had set purchasing guidelines and a reimbursement procedure. ...

County officials counter that Worley established her rules more than a month after the Jan. 1 deadline for compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act and after they submitted their documentation. -- montgomeryadvertiser.comďż˝::ďż˝ County might sue over $2 million vote system

March 13, 2006

Pennsylvania: Allegheny Co. wants paper trail

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: In Allegheny County, everyone seems to want a veepat.

County Chief Executive Dan Onorato wants it. All 15 County Council members, both Republicans and Democrats, want it. And VotePA, a group of impassioned voting rights activists, desperately wants it.

The "veepat," or VVPT, is a voter-verified paper trail, a printed record that voters can check before casting their choices on electronic voting machines.

Because of the federal Help America Vote Act, electronic machines are making their debut in thousands of voting precincts across Pennsylvania in the May 16 primary. But many won't have a paper trail for voters, a distinction that puts Pennsylvania in a shrinking minority. -- Allegheny County officials, voters group want paper trails

March 7, 2006

New York: county election commissioners move to intervene to defend lack of e-voting

The Daily Star reports: Hank Nicols wants to be sued by the federal government, which is suing New York state over its slow implementation of voting regulations and installation of equipment.

On Wednesday, the federal Justice Department sued the state in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District, prodding the state to move more quickly.

On Friday, Nicols, Otsego County’s Democratic elections commissioner, joined the League of Women Voters of New York State; New Yorkers for Verified Voting; Stephen DeWitt, Democratic elections commissioner of Tompkins County; and others in filing a memorandum with the court, asking to be included as defendants in the case.

Nicols said Monday that he is trying to intervene in this case because he is not confident that state officials will do what is best for the voters of the state. -- Local commissioner joins voting-reform suit

March 2, 2006

California: "Live Free or Diebold"

The Sacramento Bee reports: Dan Ashby's button asked, "Who did your voting machine vote for?" Michelle Gabriel held a sign accusing Secretary of State Bruce McPherson of flip-flopping on voting security procedures.

Other activists promoted the slogan, "Live Free or Diebold."

Electronic voting critics rallied Wednesday at McPherson's downtown headquarters to denounce his decision last month to certify Diebold machines for 2006 and testify against three other computer-based systems under review.

They charged that electronic voting machines are prone to hackers and testified they would prefer paper ballots.

McPherson certified Diebold on Feb. 17 after receiving a state-conducted analysis that found Diebold's election system had "a number of security vulnerabilities," but concluded that "they are all easily fixable" and "manageable." -- Politics - No-confidence vote on electronic system - sacbee.com

New York: DOJ sues NY State over voting machines

The New York Sun reports: A lawsuit filed by the federal government yesterday against the state of New York could mean chaotic elections this fall, experts warn.

With the lawsuit, the Department of Justice seeks to force the state Board of Elections to purchase voting machines that are accessible to the disabled in time for the primary election in September.

But some experts who have criticized New York for doing next to nothing in recent years to procure new voting machines warn that the lawsuit might prompt state officials to make the wrong decisions.

"After all the fiddling of thumbs at the state Board of Elections, we're in no position to have a wholesale change to our voting process in time for this September election," an election law expert at the New York Public Interest Research Group, Neal Rosenstein, said. "If the Justice Department's goal for this year's election is chaos they should go full steam ahead." -- Critics Say Voting Machines Suit May Cause Chaos at Fall Elections - March 2, 2006 - The New York Sun - NY News

February 24, 2006

Pennsylvania: US threatens to sue over voting machines

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports: The U.S. Department of Justice has waded into Pennsylvania's growing crisis over voting systems, threatening to sue the state if its counties fail to be in compliance with federal law by the May primary election.

In addition to the potential lawsuit, Wan J. Kim, assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, also warned in a letter to Pennsylvania Attorney General Thomas Corbett dated Feb. 21 that $23 million in federal funds might be at risk. He said he plans to file a complaint in federal court within 10 days.

"We hope to resolve this matter through a negotiated consent decree," Kim wrote.

It is not clear with whom the U.S. Justice Department would negotiate a consent decree, and the federal agency did not return phone calls seeking to clarify the letter. In addition to Corbett, Kim's letter went to the Pennsylvania Department of State and the solicitor of Westmoreland County, which was successfully sued in Commonwealth Court to block the switch to new voting machines without voter approval.

The Westmoreland case has been appealed to the state Supreme Court, which is expected to issue its ruling next week. -- Philadelphia Inquirer | 02/24/2006 | U.S. threatens to sue Pa. over voting measures

Florida: group says electronic voting machine tampering may have made a difference in 2004 presidential election

AP reports: An examination of Palm Beach County's electronic voting machine records from the 2004 election found possible tampering and tens of thousands of malfunctions and errors, a watchdog group said Thursday.

Bev Harris, founder of BlackBoxVoting.org, said the findings call into question the outcome of the presidential race. But county officials and the maker of the electronic voting machines strongly disputed that.

Voting problems would have had to have been widespread to make a difference. President Bush won Florida -- and its 27 electoral votes -- by 381,000 votes in 2004. Overall, he defeated John Kerry by 286 to 252 electoral votes, with 270 needed for victory.

BlackBoxVoting.org, which describes itself as a nonpartisan, nonprofit citizens group, said it found 70,000 instances in Palm Beach County of cards getting stuck in the paperless ATM-like machines and that the computers logged about 100,000 errors, including memory failures. -- Watchdog group finds Florida vote error-ridden

February 17, 2006

Maryland: gov. Ehrlich wants paper trail, top election official satisfied with touch-screens

The Washington Post reports:
The state's top elections official declared her confidence in Maryland's voting machines yesterday and said that changing systems seven months before the primary election would be a "catastrophe" and a waste of money.

Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone's comments came one day after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) questioned the reliability of the state's touch-screen machines and called for a system that provides a paper record to verify election results.

Since 2002, Maryland has paid more than $45 million to phase in electronic voting across the state. The security of the machines, manufactured by Diebold Election Systems, has since come under scrutiny, with critics saying computer hackers could manipulate election results. -- Md. Official Resists Call to Change Voting System

February 15, 2006

Pennsylvania: judge orders referendum before buying touch-screen voting machines

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: State officials plan to fight a judge's decision to make Westmoreland County -- and possibly dozens of other Pennsylvania counties -- hold a referendum before buying high-tech voting equipment to replace aging lever machines.

Loida Esbri, director of communications for the Pennsylvania Department of State, said department attorneys today will ask Commonwealth Court to reconsider Monday's ruling by Judge Dan Pellegrini.

If that court doesn't act, she said, the issue likely will go before the state Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, counties across Pennsylvania still must acquire voting machines that meet the standards of the federal Help America Vote Act by the May 16 primary election or face losing millions of dollars in aid.

Commonwealth Court Judge Pellegrini, ruling in favor of a group of voting rights activists, blocked Westmoreland County from buying more than 700 touch-screen machines from Nebraska-based Election Systems and Software Inc. He instructed the county to use paper ballots for all federal elections until voters have a chance to approve new technology in a referendum, a requirement under state law. -- State officials to challenge ruling halting voting machine purchases

January 5, 2006

Connecticut: state won't use electronic voting this year

The Connecticut Post reports: Connecticut electors this year will return, one more time, to the state's clunky but dependable mechanical voting machines, after a computer-based model failed to meet crucial criteria.

The announcement was made at a Capitol news conference Wednesday, when Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said they now hope to have the new technology in place for the 2007 municipal elections.

They said the planned contract with a Simsbury company, selected to provide about 3,300 electronic voting machines statewide, was withdrawn after a recent meeting when the firm said it had not won approval for its design from federal authorities.

The firm, Danaher Controls of Simsbury, had not started manufacturing the machines, nor had it set up a contract to create certified paper trails with its German subcontractor. -- The Connecticut Post Online - News

December 15, 2005

Florida: election supervisor ditches Diebold machines, because too hackable

The Miami Herald reports: A political operative with hacking skills could alter the results of any election on Diebold-made voting machines -- and possibly other new voting systems in Florida -- according to the state capital's election supervisor, who said Diebold software has failed repeated tests.

Ion Sancho, Leon County's election chief, said tests by two computer experts, completed this week, showed that an insider could surreptitiously change vote results and the number of ballots cast on Diebold's optical-scan machines.

After receiving county commission approval Tuesday, Sancho scrapped Diebold's system for one made by Elections Systems and Software, the same provider used by Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The difference between the systems: Sancho's machines use a fill-in-the-blank paper ballot that allows for after-the-fact manual recounts, while Broward and Miami-Dade use ATM-like touchscreens that leave no paper trail.

''That's kind of scary. If there's no paper trail, you have to rely solely on electronic results. And now we know that they can be manipulated under the right conditions, without a person even leaving a fingerprint,'' said Sancho, who once headed the state's elections supervisors association. -- Herald.com | 12/15/2005 | New tests fuel doubts about vote machines

Hat tip: Taegan Goddard's Political Wire.

December 7, 2005

Will computer voting machines be ready by January?

AP reports: The potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines' reliability.

Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills.

These are not theoretical problems -- in some states they have led to lost or miscounted votes.

One of the biggest concerns -- the frequent inability of computerized ballots to produce a written receipt of a vote -- has been addressed or is being tackled in most states. -- Voting Machines Under Scrutiny

May 28, 2005

Florida: Miami-Dade may drop touch screens in favor of optical scan ballots

TalkLeft reports: Paper ballots that can be counted by an optical scanner are easy to use and they leave a verifiable paper trail that enhances voter confidence in the legitimacy of an election result. Miami-Dade County will become the first venue to replace controversial touch-screen machines with optical scanners if the county's election supervisor gets his way. -- TalkLeft: Miami-Dade May Replace Voting Machines

May 27, 2005

UK: demand for reform of military forces voting

The Herald reports: MILITARY campaigners are preparing a detailed submission for the Electoral Commission, the watchdog body that oversees voting in the UK, in an attempt to ensure that service personnel are not disenfranchised in future ballots.

Up to 200,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and their families were effectively denied the chance to take part in the general election three weeks ago because of delays in delivering postal votes to those serving abroad and the failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide registration advice in time.

With the promised backing of both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, a handful of serving and former officers are drawing up proposals aimed at streamlining the system for servicemen and women scattered in garrisons from Basra to Benbecula and on patrolling ships and submarines around the world.
One key proposal is that the MoD reverts to the system of allowing the armed forces to register once for the duration of their careers. ...

A second suggestion is that a system of electronic voting be introduced. -- Campaign demands voting rights for the forces - The Herald

Trivia: I have spent a weekend on the Royal Artillery base on Benbecula. Look it up in a good atlas and you'll know where I was.

January 17, 2005

Florida: study shows optical scan voting machines have lower error rate than touch-screens

The Sun-Sentinel reports: Florida's touch-screen voting machines performed better in the Nov. 2 presidential election than they did in the March primary, but were still outmatched by older voting devices that use pencil and paper ballots, according to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis.

Voters using the ATM-style voting machines in November were 50 percent more likely to cast a flawed ballot or have an unregistered vote in the presidential race, compared to voting machines employing simple paper ballots. ...

Fifteen of Florida's 67 counties use touch-screen voting machines, including Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade. The pros and cons of the newer technology have been debated around the country, with the secretary of state in Ohio this week announcing touch-screen machines would no longer be used in elections. ...

While optical-scan machines once again seemed to outperform touch screens in November, both obtained an error rate of less than .5 percent. In the 2000 presidential election, the undervote rate in Florida counties using punch cards was 1.5 percent; the rate for optical-scan counties was 0.3 percent, according to a University of Florida study. -- Touch screens more likely to be flawed, analysis finds: South Florida Sun-Sentinel

January 9, 2005

Washington State: untested election systems used

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports: Voting systems in King, Pierce, Snohomish and four other counties skipped typically required testing procedures before being used in last fall's elections.

But although the systems weren't tested to ensure they properly functioned to federal standards, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed said he's confident they tallied and recorded ballots accurately.

The lack of outside testing "didn't affect the way the ballots were counted in King County or anywhere else," Reed, a Republican, said this week. "The systems operated accurately. We ran a lot of our own tests and had a lot of observers to make sure of that."

But some reform activists say Washington's failure to meet its own elections standards by skipping the independent tests -- recommended by federal officials and required under Washington rules -- only raises more questions about the integrity of this state's elections process. -- Untested voting systems used

Thanks to How Appealling for the link.

December 26, 2004

Ireland: Electronic Voting Commission report

The Irish Commission on Electronic Voting concludes in its recent report: The Commission accordingly concludes that, having regard to the issues of secrecy, accuracy and testing as set out in its terms of reference, it is unable to recommend the use of the proposed system at the local and European elections and, by extension, at the referendum due to be held on 11 June.

The Commission wishes to emphasise that its conclusion is not based on any finding that the system will not work, but on the finding that it has not been proven at this time to the satisfaction of the Commission that it will work.

In addition, the Commission recognises that the threshold of proof required to support its recommendation against the use of the proposed system is much lower than that which would be required to recommend in its favour. It is for this reason that, although its work is incomplete, the Commission is in a position to make its recommendation within the timeframe of this report. -- FIRST REPORT of the Commission on Electronic Voting on the Secrecy, Accuracy and Testing of the Chosen Electronic Voting System

The second paragraph is a judicious use of the burden of proof.

Thanks to Schneier on Security for the link.

December 15, 2004

Ohio: federal judge rules punch-card voting does not violate constitution

AP reports: A federal judge has ruled voting rights are not denied to those who cast ballots on systems that use punch cards.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd Jr. upheld punch-card voting in the nation's first trial challenging that method of voting.

The American Civil Liberties Union argued that punch-card machines are not uniform, are outdated in several counties and don't allow voters to correct mistakes. The ACLU also claimed that Ohio violated the voting rights of blacks, who live predominantly in punch-card counties.

"All voters in a county, regardless of race, use the same voting system to cast a ballot, and no one is denied the opportunity to cast a valid vote because of their race," Dowd said in a 32-page ruling. -- AP Wire | 12/15/2004 | Judge ruled punch-card voting does not deny right to vote

December 7, 2004

Conference tallies voting problems

AP reports: Voting and civil rights advocates contended Tuesday that the election did not go as smoothly as Americans might think.

Reports of long lines at some polling places, voting machine errors, absentee ballots that never arrived and problems with provisional ballots dominated a daylong conference Tuesday, and experts said more changes are needed to eliminate obstacles to voting.

"We learned on Election Day that our voting methods remain troubled and that many Americans continue to experience difficulty navigating a system that falls far short of our view of ourselves as the world's greatest democracy," said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree, who moderated the conference.

Registration problems were the most frequent complaint in 2004, according to a database kept by a coalition of voting rights groups. Some voters registered by the deadline but did not show up on voter lists, while others received cards with incorrect information. -- Conference focuses on 'troubled' voting system

November 28, 2004

Trusting electronic voting won't come easily

James Fallows writes in the New York Times: When I worked briefly on a product design team at Microsoft, I was sobered to learn that fully one-fourth of the company's typical two-year "product cycle time" was devoted to testing. Programmers spend 18 months designing and debugging a system. Then testers spend the next six months finding the problems they missed. It is no secret that even then, the "final" software from Microsoft, or any other company, is far from perfect.

Today's mature systems work as well as they do only because they are exposed to nonstop, high-stakes torture testing. EBay lists nearly four million new items each day. If a problem affects even a tiny fraction of its users, eBay will be swamped with reports immediately.

Millions of data packets are being routed across the Internet every second. If servers, domain-name directories or other components cannot handle the volume, the problem will become apparent quickly. Years ago, bank or airline computers would often be "down" because of unforeseen problems. Now they're mostly "up," because they've had so long for flaws to become exposed.

The second crucial element in making reliable systems is accountability. Users can trust today's systems precisely because they don't have to take them on trust. Some important computer systems run on open-source software, like Linux, in which the code itself can be examined by outsiders. -- The New York Times > Business > Your Money > Techno Files: Electronic Voting 1.0, and No Time to Upgrade

November 23, 2004

Many precincts in Maryland had e-voting problems

The Industry Standard reports: Poll observers in about 6 percent of Maryland's precincts recorded 201 problems with electronic voting machines during the Nov. 2 general election, according to a report released Tuesday by TrueVoteMD.org. Poll watchers trained by the voting integrity activist group reported 42 cases of crashed e-voting machines, 37 cases of access card or encoder problems, and 30 screen malfunctions, according to the report. More than 400 TrueVoteMD poll watchers observed the elections at 108 of the state's 1,787 voting precincts.

TrueVoteMD poll watchers saw problems that were "easily observable" and not problems that may have happened inside the electronic voting machines, said Linda Schade, co-founder of TrueVoteMD. While the problems observed in the precincts where the poll watchers were stationed may not be typical of all precincts, they were likely a "small fraction" of the actual problems with e-voting machines in Maryland, Schade said.

"One of our greatest resources is the widespread common sense of Maryland voters, and also their passion to defend our democracy from what we see is a clear threat, which is nontransparent elections, unverifiable elections using error-prone secret software with gaping security holes and with a history of election failures," Schade said at a press conference. "They are in complete agreement about one thing -- that is that blind faith has no place in the voting booth."

TrueVoteMD, along with several national groups, has called for electronic voting machines to include voter-verified paper trails, which are printouts of each voter's choices that can later be used to recount ballots. E-voting critics say independent recounts are impossible without such paper trails; when a recount is demanded, most e-voting machines will spit out the same electronically generated set of disputed numbers again and again. -- Observers find 201 e-voting problems in Maryland: Internet News: The Industry Standard

What happens when a newspaper owns part of the company it is reporting on?

CJR Daily reports: On Nov. 4, The Lincoln Journal Star ran a story about Nebraska Democrats calling for a ballot recount in Lancaster County. Voting machines there had broken down on election night, prompting the county election commissioner to stop counting until technicians from Election Systems & Software (ES&S), the Omaha-based company that provided the machines, could be brought in to fix them.

The election commissioner and deputy secretary of state determined that, despite the problems, an accurate tally had been recorded. But the Democrats were skeptical. The Journal Star ran the story on the front of its local section, and followed up with another a few days later.

The Journal Star isn't the biggest paper in Nebraska. That distinction belongs to the Omaha World-Herald, which has a daily circulation of roughly 200,000, nearly three times that of the Journal Star. While the World-Herald made a passing mention of the problems in Lancaster County as part of an election roundup, it didn't run a stand-alone story. "There are always conflicts and controversies over elections," says Larry King, editor of the World-Herald. "A two-hour delay with voting machines is a pretty minor story."

What isn’t minor, however, is the fact that the World-Herald owns part of ES&S, an arrangement that thrusts the objectivity of all its voting machine coverage into the spotlight. -- CJR Campaign Desk: Archives

November 16, 2004

Indiana-9 to have a recount

The Indianapolis Star reports: A recount will begin Nov. 29 to determine the winner in the 9th Congressional District race.

The Indiana Democratic Party sought the recount, as well as a contest of the election results, after the Nov. 2 election showed Republican Mike Sodrel defeated Democratic incumbent Baron Hill by 1,485 votes. ...

Democrats sought the recount, which will begin in Dubois County, because of a voting machine glitch in Franklin County that wrongly tabulated straight-ticket Democratic votes as Libertarian votes. Although that county is not in the 9th District, the same kind of voting machines also were used in three counties in the 9th -- Ripley, Scott and Switzerland.

Today, Jim Bopp, a Terre Haute attorney representing Sodrel, filed a motion contesting the results in Monroe County and alleged that voter fraud may have occurred there.

Bopp said 12,000 new voters were registered in Monroe County and that about 4,000 mailings by the county's Republican Party to those voters were returned as undeliverable by the U.S. Postal Service. -- Recount approved for 9th District race

November 10, 2004

Diebold and California settle

AP reports: Diebold Inc. agreed Wednesday to pay $2.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by California alleging that the electronic voting company sold the state and several counties shoddy voting equipment.

Although critics characterized the settlement as a slap on the wrist, Diebold also agreed to pay an undisclosed sum to partially reimburse Alameda, San Diego and other counties for the cost of paper backup ballots, ink and other supplies in last week's election. California's secretary of state banned the use of one type of Diebold machine in May, after problems with the machines disenfranchised an unknown number of voters in the March primary.

Faulty equipment forced at least 6,000 of 316,000 voters in Alameda County, just east of San Francisco, to use backup paper ballots instead of the paperless voting terminals. In San Diego County, a power surge resulted in hundreds of touch-screens that wouldn't start when the polls opened, forcing election officials to turn voters away from the polls.

According to the settlement, the North Canton, Ohio-based company must also upgrade ballot tabulation software that Los Angeles County and others used Nov. 2. Diebold must also strengthen the security of its paperless voting machines and computer servers and promise never to connect voting systems to outside networks. -- SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Politics -- Calif. settles electronic voting suit against Diebold

November 7, 2004

Hey, kids, let's start our own voting machine company

DhinMI suggests on DailyKOS: Sometimes it's just an offhanded comment that contains the seed of a great idea. Like this one, where the writer joked that problems with voting wouldn't go as unnoticed if George Soros owned Diebold. It got me thinking. Why should't George Soros own Diebold?

I'm not an anti-trust attorney, so there may be some obvious problems with my idea, but in rough form, here it is: George Soros, Peter B. Lewis, John Sperling and the rest of the mega-wealthy people who care about this country and are willing to use their money to make a difference, should make hostile takeover attempts of any publicly-owned manufacturer of voting and tabulating systems. Try to buy out the owners of the privately held companies like Diebold by offering them obscene amounts of money. If that doesn't work, drive them out of the voting equipment sector or completely out of business. Use the companies purchased or new companies formed with large amounts of capital to drive down the price of the equipment, and after they achieve market dominance, put the companies in a public trust. -- Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation.

November 3, 2004

E-voting machines

E-Commerce Times reports: Hundreds of separate instances of electronic voting problems were reported in the U.S. during yesterday's elections, enough to give critics of e-voting ammunition for their continued battle against its use, but not nearly enough to affect the outcome of the election, as some had feared.

In a press conference late yesterday, representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation Latest News about Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), VerifiedVoter.org and other groups that have raised concerns about e-voting said they had received more than 1,100 individual reports of e-voting problems to a toll free number it had established to monitor the e-vote.

The most common problem involved voting machines indicating that the candidate chosen was one other than that picked by the voter. In other places, e-voting machines were unavailable for stretches of time, causing delays, with machines in the supposed swing states of Florida and Pennsylvania among those that experienced glitches or slowdowns. Some activists said they witnessed voters leaving lengthy lines caused by such delays.

Cindy Cohn, a lawyer for the EFF, which has raised a host of concerns about e-voting -- from potential lost votes to possible hacking -- said it's logical to assume the problems reported are a fraction of those that occurred and that some voters might have miscast ballots without knowing it. -- E-Commerce News: Politics: E-Voting Debate Continues in Aftermath of Election

November 2, 2004

E-voting problems

AP reports: Voters nationwide reported some 1,100 problems with electronic voting machines on Tuesday, including trouble choosing their intended candidates.

The e-voting glitches reported to the Election Protection Coalition, an umbrella group of volunteer poll monitors that set up a telephone hotline, included malfunctions blamed on everything from power outages to incompetent poll workers.

But there were also several dozen voters in six states - particularly Democrats in Florida - who said the wrong candidates appeared on their touch-screen machine's checkout screen, the coalition said. ...

The Election Protection Coalition received a total of 32 reports of touch-screen voters who selected one candidate only to have another show up on the summary screen, Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a coalition member.

David Dill, a Stanford University computer scientist whose Verified Voting Foundation also belongs to the coalition, said he wouldn't "prejudge and say the election is going smoothly just because we have a small number of incident reports out of the total population. -- AP Wire | 11/02/2004 | Electronic Voting Machine Woes Reported

November 1, 2004

Don't forget the e-voting machines

Wired News reports: In 1996, a federal testing lab responsible for evaluating voting systems in the United States examined the software for a new electronic voting machine made by I-Mark Systems of Omaha, Nebraska.

The tester included a note in the lab's report praising the system for having the best voting software he had ever seen, particularly the security and use of encryption.

Doug Jones, Iowa's chief examiner of voting equipment and a computer scientist at the University of Iowa, was struck by this note. Usually testers are careful to be impartial.

But Jones was not impressed with the system. Instead, he found poor design that used an outdated encryption scheme proven to be insecure. He later wrote that such a primitive system "should never have come to market." -- Wired News: E-Voting Tests Get Failing Grade

October 19, 2004

Suit against electronic voting machines in New Jersey

The New York Times reports: With just two weeks remaining before the Nov. 2 presidential election, a coalition of private citizens and local elected officials in New Jersey plan to file a lawsuit today to block the state's use of electronic voting machines.

At its heart, the complaint - a draft of which was provided to The New York Times - will ask the State Superior Court in Trenton to block the use of nearly 8,000 electronic voting machines, because they "cannot be relied upon to protect the fundamental right to vote."

More than three million registered voters in 15 of New Jersey's 21 counties are scheduled to use the electronic voting machines, which have been dogged nationwide by concerns over their reliability and fairness. Five New Jersey counties use the old mechanical lever machines, like the ones in use in New York and Connecticut. One New Jersey county uses optically scanned ballots. Most counties also have optical scan machines in place for handling absentee ballots, and the draft lawsuit suggests the expanded use of these in lieu of the electronic machines. -- New Jersey Lawsuit Challenges Electronic Voting (New York Times)

October 18, 2004

How early voting leads to missing votes

John Dougherty writes in The Phoenix New Times: With less then three weeks before the general election, I have serious doubts that whatever "official" results the Maricopa County Elections Department posts will be an accurate reflection of what voters intended.

After a week of investigating the department's mishandling of last month's controversial recount in the District 20 state House of Representatives race, I won't believe the results of any election in this county if the contest is within a couple of percentage points.

There is just too much slop in the current system to have any confidence in the winner of an election closer than this.

My concerns over the accuracy of Maricopa County's election numbers result from the widespread and popular use of mail-in ballots. I have discovered ample evidence that the county elections department is covering up serious shortfalls in its ability to accurately count such early mailed-in ballots.

The uncontrolled circumstances of voting at home plus the wide variety of writing utensils commonly used to mark ballots greatly increases the likelihood that early ballots will be misread by the county's optical scanning machines provided by the Omaha, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software, Incorporated (ES&S). -- Election Eve Nightmare (phoenixnewtimes.com)

October 16, 2004

Florida: new recount rules; judge wants fast action on rejected voter applications

AP reports: The state set a new rule for recounting touch-screen ballots Friday -just 18 days before the presidential election. The move angered voter rights groups that had sought to help shape the language.

In other Friday actions affecting Florida voting, a Miami judge urged a quick trial on a lawsuit challenging the rejections of more than 10,000 voter registration cards, and Palm Beach County officials completed a critical test of their touch-screen system after a computer crash delayed it by several days. ...

If the Nov. 2 election is as close as the 2000 contest between President Bush and Democrat Al Gore, county elections supervisors will be told to review each electronic ballot image to see if the number of so-called undervotes, those on which no candidate was chosen, matches the undervote totals given by the machine.

If the numbers don't match up, the machines will be checked for problems. If that doesn't solve the discrepancy, the elections officials are told to trust that the original machine count was accurate.

The new rule is a far cry from what a coalition of voter activists was seeking. ...

With the election looming, U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King of Miami urged quick work in a lawsuit against Florida's largest counties over the rejection of more than 10,000 voter registration forms that officials say were improperly filled out.

Nearly 45 percent of the challenged forms in one county, Duval, came from blacks.

The lawsuit challenges state rules that let counties disqualify people who provided a signature affirming their eligibility to vote but failed to list an identification number, such as from a driver's license, or failed to check boxes affirming they were citizens, were mentally competent and were not felons. -- New Rule Is Set on Recount Methods (AP via theledger.com)

October 14, 2004

Vote Litigate early and often

The New York Times reports: Not a single ballot has been counted in the presidential election, yet Florida is already teeming with lawsuits charging the state and its county elections supervisors with voter disenfranchisement, a legal muddle likely to grow worse before Election Day.

On Wednesday, the State Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to require election officials to count provisional ballots - which voters can cast when their names do not appear on precinct rolls - regardless of where they are cast. And on Tuesday, labor unions and voting-rights groups sued to stop the disqualification of more than 10,000 incomplete registration forms in Florida, accusing the state of overly restrictive rules that disproportionately hurt minority voters.

Also on Tuesday, plaintiffs in another suit met with aides to Secretary of State Glenda Hood to discuss how counties with touch-screen voting should conduct manual recounts. The state had banned recounts in such counties, but an administrative law judge, responding to a suit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups, threw out that rule in August.

"The 2000 election signaled the era of lawsuits in elections," said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida, "and it's escalated markedly not just in Florida, but everywhere. Both parties are playing the pre-emption game as much as the reactive game this time out." -- In '04 Florida, Lawsuits Begin Before Election (The New York Times)

October 13, 2004

Maryland sued over lack of paper trail

The Washington Post reports: A Maryland group seeking paper trails on touch-screen voting machines today sued the State Board of Elections to win the right to monitor polling places on Election Day.

The lawsuit, filed at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, also seeks the right for TrueVoteMD members to warn voters about possible problems with touch-screen voting machines while standing within 100 feet of Maryland polling places, traditionally a forbidden zone for candidates, campaigns and other groups.

TrueVoteMD co-founder Linda Schade, a Takoma Park resident, said the group will "invite people to fill out a complaint form" if they report problems with the machines. TrueVoteMD is considering whether to file legal challenges to Maryland's election results if any voter complaints arise on Election Day.

Linda Lamone, the state's elections administrator, said allowing the group's members to talk to voters in that zone "would be improper." -- E-Voting Group Sues Maryland Elections Board (washingtonpost.com)

October 7, 2004

Wexler's paper-trail suit gets status hearing Friday

AP reports: A lawsuit demanding that touch-screen voting machines be made to produce paper records moved ahead Thursday after a federal appeals court refused to reconsider its decision to revive the case.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a motion by Secretary of State Glenda Hood to have all 12 judges hear the case. Last week, a three-judge panel ordered a federal judge hold a trial.

The case could affect 15 Florida counties whose electronic voting terminals do not issue paper records.

U.S. District Judge James Cohn of Fort Lauderdale has scheduled a status hearing for Friday. Democratic U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, who filed the lawsuit, said he would ask for an expedited trial. -- Hearing on lawsuit over touch-screen voting set for Friday (AP via Bradenton.com)

September 27, 2004

Wexler's case on touch-screen voting gets a reprieve

The Eleventh Circuit today vacated and remanded the decision of a district court to abstain from deciding Rep. Robert Wexler's claim that Florida's 15 counties using touch-screen voting must have a paper trail. The district court had abstained from deciding the federal claim because Wexler also had brought a state court suit seeking the same relief (on different grounds).

Thanks to Howard Bashman for the link to the decision.

September 19, 2004

Gimme those old-fashioned ballots

The New York Times reports: After the pandemonium over dimpled and pregnant chads in the 2000 election, nearly everyone agreed it was time to rethink old vote-counting ways. But the stampede to touch-screen voting was not inevitable.

Another, demonstrably more reliable technology was already on the rise: optical scan voting, introduced in some parts of the country in the late 1970's. By the 2000 election, optical scanning - which involves marking a paper ballot that is ultimately read and counted by a computer - had overtaken all other voting methods as the most common way to vote in the United States. This year, optical scan systems will be used in more than 45 percent of all counties, according to Election Data Services, a political consulting firm in Washington.

After the 2000 election, a study by the Voting Technology Project, a joint effort by the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took a hard look at the nation's voting systems. Using a measure of what they called "residual votes" - overcounting, undercounting or not counting votes for any reason - researchers found that two existing voting methods had produced relatively low error rates in the last four presidential elections: old-fashioned hand-counted paper ballots and optical scan systems.

The study found that the mechanical lever system, which dominated the market in 1980 and has been in decline ever since, performed considerably worse. In overall performance, electronic voting - both the older push-button variety and the newer touch-screen units - performed scarcely better than punch cards. -- > Washington > Campaign 2004 > The Hand-Marked Ballot Wins for Accuracy (New York Times)

Look at the map attached to this story. I am pround to note that all but three of Alabama's counties use optical scan equipment.

Here come the e-voting machines

The New York Times reports: Just over six weeks before the nation holds the first general election in which touch-screen voting will play a major role, specialists agree that whatever the remaining questions about the technology's readiness, it is now too late to make any significant changes.

Whether or not the machines are ready for the election - or the electorate ready for the machines - there is no turning back. In what may turn out to be one of the most scrutinized general elections in the country's history, nearly one-third of the more than 150 million registered voters in the United States will be asked to cast their ballots on machines whose accuracy and security against fraud have yet to be tested on such a grand scale.

Because of the uncertainties, experts say there is potential for post-election challenges in any precincts where the machines may malfunction, or where the margin of victory is thin. Sorting out such disputes could prove difficult.

"The possibility for erroneous votes or malicious programming is not as great as critics would have you believe," said Doug Chapin, the director of Electionline.org, a nonpartisan group tracking election reform. "But it's more than defenders of the technology want to admit. The truth lies somewhere in between." -- Ready or Not (and Maybe Not), Electronic Voting Goes National (New York Times)

There's a nice map in the side bar showing how each county in the country votes.

September 8, 2004

California AG sues Diebold

The Los Angeles Times reports: California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer on Tuesday said he will join a lawsuit against voting machine manufacturer Diebold Election Systems for allegedly lying to state regulators about the security of some of its equipment.

The lawsuit was filed in November by two voting-rights activists who contend that Texas-based Diebold sold vote-counting equipment to Alameda County that was susceptible to tampering.

The lawsuit seeks damages under the state false claims act, which allows "whistle-blowers" to sue companies for defrauding the state and to share a portion of any damages that the state collects. Lockyer's staff investigated and decided there was enough evidence of misconduct to take on the lawsuit, a spokesman said.

"These cases boil down to allegations of lying to receive taxpayer money," said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar. "The allegations are that they didn't tell the truth to the state or the county in providing electronic voting systems. They misrepresented material facts related to those systems." -- State Joins Suit Over Voting Machines (LATimes.com)

September 7, 2004

E-mail those votes?

NPR audio report: NPR's Eric Niiler reports on a new effort to let U.S. soldiers serving overseas to vote by e-mail in upcoming elections. While some tout this as a better way to get ballots in a timely fashion, others fear that relying on e-mail will comprise the security of the vote. -- E-Mail Votes by Soldiers Sparks Security Concerns (NPR)

The Kansas City Star reports: Missouri's recently announced plan to allow combat-zone soldiers to vote by e-mail has triggered concerns among voting experts over the secrecy and security of those ballots.

They said the system, which would use both e-mail and fax machines to get ballots from military service people in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan back to local election offices in Missouri, could be subject to hacking, viruses and other chicanery because they would not be encrypted.

“These machines are highly vulnerable,” said Barbara Simons, a member of the nonpartisan National Committee for Voting Integrity and a former president of the Association for Computing Machinery. “We could have a virus that changes ballots and then erases itself. It's certainly feasible technically.”

In addition, voting-rights advocates and other political experts said because the system required that ballots be identified by the voters' names for validation purposes, and because they were handled by others several steps along the way, that people serving in the military would lose the right to a secret ballot. -- Right to vote vs. right to secrecy (Kansas City Star via MaconTelegraph.com)

August 28, 2004

Missouri to allow military in Iraq to vote via Internet

The Washington Post reports: A plan to make the presidential battleground of Missouri the first state to allow military voters serving in combat zones such as Iraq to cast their absentee ballots via e-mail is renewing concerns about the security of online voting.

Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt, a Republican running for governor, announced the plan Wednesday, saying that "simplifying the voting process for these heroes is the least we can do." The move surprised some computer security experts and voting watchdog groups, who said yesterday that the new rules could lead to Election Day fraud.

Under a deal with the Defense Department, Blunt's office said, Missouri voters serving in designated combat areas will have the option of filling out absentee ballots, scanning them into a computer file and e-mailing the scanned document back to the Defense Department. The department will fax the ballot to local Missouri election officials.

Missouri is the first state to adopt such a system, according to the Defense Department, which sees it as a way to ensure that mail delays do not disenfranchise military voters. "This provides an alternative . . . for citizens who believe the regular absentee ballot cannot be received, voted and returned by mail in time to be counted," said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a department spokeswoman. -- Missouri Plan to Let Military Cast Votes by E-Mail Draws Criticism (washingtonpost.com)

August 22, 2004

Mum's the word for voting machine testers

AP reports: The three companies that certify the nation's voting technologies operate in secrecy and refuse to discuss flaws in the ATM-like machines to be used by nearly one in three voters in November.

Despite concerns over whether the so-called touch-screen machines can be trusted, the testing companies won't say publicly whether they have encountered shoddy workmanship.

They say they are committed to secrecy in their contracts with the voting machines' makers — even though tax money ultimately buys or leases the machines.

"I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing," Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting expert, told lawmakers in Washington. The system for "testing and certifying voting equipment in this country is not only broken, but is virtually nonexistent." -- Secrecy surrounds voting machines (AP via ajc.com)

August 7, 2004

Wexler loses his paper-trail suit in Florida court

The Sun-Sentinel reports: A panel of [Florida] state appellate court judges dismissed U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler's lawsuit over touch-screen voting machines Friday, saying that while the right to vote is fundamental state officials don't need to guarantee a perfect voting system.

Wexler, D-Boca Raton, sued in both federal and state court to compel the state government to install paper receipts for Florida's ATM-style touch-screen machines. Fifteen counties -- including Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade -- currently use the electronic voting systems.

Wexler still has an active appeal in the federal court system.

His state-court case ended up in the Fourth District Court of Appeals because Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Karen Miller dismissed Wexler's complaint in state court in February, saying the congressman had no legal right to make a case since he has no opponent in the fall elections. -- Court rejects U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler's lawsuit over touch-screen voting machines (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

July 28, 2004

Punch card suit suspended till November

AP reports: The nation's first trial challenging punch-card voting was postponed Wednesday, removing the possibility of a ruling before the presidential election.

The American Civil Liberties Union had wanted a federal judge to declare Ohio's punch-card system unconstitutional, even if there was no hope of getting the system changed before November.

The trial opened on Monday. But U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd suspended the proceedings until Nov. 1 - one day before the presidential election - to allow the ACLU time to examine an expert report the state filed last Friday.

Kim Norris, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, said the expert's conclusions were identical to a previous version filed, and alleged the ACLU was using the report as "an excuse to regroup."

ACLU lawyer Dan Tokaji said even if the conclusions are the same, the ACLU must review any new information in the report. -- Nation's First Punch-Card Trial Postponed (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

Will Florida be the "next Florida"?

The New York Times reports: Almost all the electronic records from the first widespread use of touch-screen voting in Miami-Dade County have been lost, stoking concerns that the machines are unreliable as the presidential election draws near.

The records disappeared after two computer system crashes last year, county elections officials said, leaving no audit trail for the 2002 gubernatorial primary. A citizens group uncovered the loss this month after requesting all audit data from that election.

A county official said a new backup system would prevent electronic voting data from being lost in the future. But members of the citizens group, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, said the malfunction underscored the vulnerability of electronic voting records and wiped out data that might have shed light on what problems, if any, still existed with touch-screen machines here. The group supplied the results of its request to The New York Times.

"This shows that unless we do something now - or it may very well be too late - Florida is headed toward being the next Florida," said Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, a lawyer who is the chairwoman of the coalition. -- Lost Record of Vote in '02 Florida Race Raises '04 Concern (New York Times)

Thanks to LaweyerNews for the link.

July 27, 2004

ACLU sues Florida over the lack of paper trail

AP reports: Election reform groups asked a judge Tuesday to strike down a state rule preventing counties that use touchscreen voting machines from conducting manual recounts from the machines.

State election officers say manual recounts are not needed since the machines tell each voter if they are skipping a race, known as an undervote, and will not let them vote twice for the same race, known as an overvote. The officials also maintain that the computer systems running the machines can be trusted to count the votes accurately as they're cast, and give the final numbers when needed.

But lawyers representing the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups said the state should require a paper trail in case a physical recount is needed, as it was in the 2000 presidential race in Florida.

"I have concern about votes that are cast but not recorded," said Howard Simon, executive director for ACLU of Florida. -- Groups Challenge Florida Ban on Recounts (AP via Ledger-Enquirer)

Thanks to LawyerNews.com for the link. I recommend LawyerNews for ... well, lawyer news.

July 25, 2004

ACLU suit against Ohio punch cards begins Monday

AP reports: Four years after Florida's hanging chads captivated a nation and less than 100 days before what could be another tight presidential race, this swing state's punch-card voting system is being challenged in court.

The trial, set to begin Monday, is the first in the nation, voting experts say. Lawsuits filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against several other states have been settled with agreements that punch-card ballots will be replaced.

But even a victory by the ACLU in Ohio would be unlikely to bring change before this year's presidential election because there would be too little time to make a conversion, experts said.

The ACLU wants all punch-card ballots in the state removed before November, saying the system is antiquated and causes errors that lead to undercounting of minority group votes. -- ACLU Punch Card Lawsuit Goes to Trial (AP via TimesDaily.com)

July 7, 2004

Federal judge upholds tighter rules on California e-voting machines

AP reports: [California] Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's push for safer electronic voting appears to be gaining momentum with a fresh victory in federal court and new agreements from counties with touch-screen machines to make extra security arrangements.

Shelley, who banned electronic voting in the state's Nov. 2 presidential election unless it met strict new security tests, called anew Wednesday for stronger measures after a federal judge in Los Angeles upheld his actions. His office also announced that more than half the counties affected by the conditional ban have agreed to new rules allowing them to use their machines. Napa County became the newest this week.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper denied requests by disability rights activists and four California counties - Riverside, San Bernardino, Plumas and Kern - to overturn Shelley's conditional April 30 ban on touch screens for the November election.

Cooper's ruling, from a state where 43 percent of voters used touch-screen machines in March and thousands experienced problems, provides new ammunition to critics nationally who call electronic voting untrustworthy without a paper backup. Activists in several states, including Maryland, Ohio, Florida and Texas, are challenging the use of paperless voting in a November presidential election expected to be tight. -- Push for safer electronic voting bolstered by court decision (AP via Tallahassee.com)

Groups sue Florida over recount rule

Reuters reports: Voting rights groups sued Florida election administrators on Wednesday to overturn a rule that prohibits manual recounting of ballots cast with touch-screen machines, a lawsuit with echoes of the state's disputed 2000 presidential election voting.

The lawsuit said the rule was "illogical" and rested on the questionable assumption that electronic voting machines perform flawlessly 100 percent of the time. It also said the rule violated a Florida law that expressly requires manual recounts of certain ballots if the margin in an election is less than 0.25 percent of the votes cast.

Court disputes over how to conduct manual recounts of punch card and absentee ballots delayed Florida's results in the 2000 presidential election, which George W. Bush won after taking the state by 537 votes.

The lawsuit was filed against the Florida Department of State, which oversees elections and which issued the rule in April. -- Groups Sue to Allow Vote Recounts (Reuters via Wired News)

June 20, 2004

"The Trouble With E-Ballots"

In a visit last week to NEWSWEEK, [Walden] O'Dell, whose company [Diebold] is under increasing pressure as more citizens learn about the details of touch-screen voting (the League of Women Voters just retracted its support of the technology), presented a spirited defense. Introducing himself as "Wally," and accompanied by experienced PR fire-putter-outers, he explained that Diebold, which makes billions in financial devices like bank ATMs, isn't in the voting game solely for lucre (though he'd like to see a profit down the line). It's about patriotism. "In November 2000 we couldn't elect a president," he says. "America had a problem. We could help."

If touch-screen devices with coherent interfaces replaced confusing systems like butterfly ballots, he explained, overvoting and unintentional undervoting could be virtually eliminated. The high-tech devices, equipped with audio readbacks, could also serve blind voters. So Diebold bought one of the pioneering companies in the field, and now its elections division is the leader among several firms selling touch-screen devices. It won contracts to supply all of Georgia and Maryland. O'Dell has a stack of documents and video testimonials attesting to the successful elections conducted by his machines (he didn't mention the March 2 debacle in California, where many polls opened late because the devices wouldn' boot correctly). "On our very worst day," he says, "we're 10 times better than what was out there before." -- The Trouble With E-Ballots (Newsweek)

June 3, 2004

Electronic Freedom Foundation joins Maryland e-voting case

EFF has filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a Maryland case that challenges the integrity of that state's electronic voting machines, which are manufactured by the troubled electronic voting machine company, Diebold Election Systems. EFF presented evidence of problems with electronic voting machines from more than 18 elections nationwide in the past few years, including the 2002 gubernatorial election and March 2004 primaries in Maryland. The evidence includes reports of lost votes, votes registering for the wrong candidate, and voters turned away from the polls using both Diebold and other electronic voting systems. ...

In Schade v. the Maryland State Board of Elections, the plaintiffs are a group of concerned Maryland voters who ask that the state of Maryland address widely publicized security and reliability concerns with the Diebold machines and implement a voter verified paper ballot as required by state and federal law. In the short term, the voters are seeking an injunction that would require the state to either take steps to remedy these concerns before the November 2004 elections or follow California's lead in decertifying the machines altogether. The interim steps the lawsuit asks the state to take include implementing the same 23 basic security standards that California is now implementing, and offering Maryland voters the alternative of a paper ballot if they do not wish to have their vote counted by the Diebold machines. -- EFF press release

Thanks to beSpacific for the link.

The press release has links to the EFF brief and the early pleadings in the Maryland case.

May 30, 2004

Open Source Voting

Electronic voting has much to offer, but will we ever be able to trust these buggy machines? Yes, we will -- but only if we adopt the techniques of the ''open source'' geeks.

One reason it's difficult to trust the voting software of companies like Diebold is that the source code remains a trade secret. A few federally approved software experts are allowed to examine the code and verify that it works as intended, and in some cases, states are allowed to keep a copy in escrow. But the public has no access, and this is troublesome. When the Diebold source code was accidentally posted online last year, a computer-science professor looked at it and found it was dangerously hackable. Diebold may have fixed its bugs, but since the firm won't share the code publicly, there's no way of knowing. Just trust us, the company says.

But is the counting of votes -- a fundamental of democracy -- something you want to take on faith? No, this problem requires a more definitive solution: ending the secrecy around the machines.

First off, the government should ditch the private-sector software makers. Then it should hire a crack team of programmers to write new code. Then -- and this is the crucial part -- it should put the source code online publicly, where anyone can critique or debug it. This honors the genius of the open-source movement. If you show something to a large enough group of critics, they'll notice (and find a way to remove) almost any possible flaw. If tens of thousands of programmers are scrutinizing the country's voting software, it's highly unlikely a serious bug will go uncaught. The government's programming team would then take the recommendations, incorporate them into an improved code and put that online, too. This is how the famous programmer Linus Torvalds developed his Linux operating system, and that's precisely why it's so rock solid -- while Microsoft's secretly developed operating systems, Linux proponents say, crash far more often and are easier to hack. Already, Australians have used the open-source strategy to build voting software for a state election, and it ran like a well-oiled Chevy. A group of civic-minded programmers known as the Open Voting Consortium has written its own open-source code. -- Idea Lab: A Really Open Election (New York Times) **


May 26, 2004

Civil rights groups see more election problems

Civil rights groups warned Wednesday that the same problems with voter access and ballot confusion that plagued the 2000 election will happen again in November unless election officials act now. ...

They cited:

_Voter registration problems

_Voters being wrongly purged from rolls

_Improper implementation of a new requirement that newly registered voters show ID on Election Day if the state hasn't verified their identity

_Difficulties with voting machines and ballots

_Potential failure to count newly required provisional ballots.

They proposed better education for voters and poll workers, notifying people before removing them from voter lists and setting statewide standards for counting provisional ballots, which are supposed to be available for people who think they're eligible to vote but don't find their name listed at a polling place. -- Nov. Election Worries Civil Rights Groups (AP via philly.com)

May 24, 2004

Wexler suit on touch screen dismissed again

A judge threw out Monday a Democratic congessman's lawsuit [in Florida] that sought to require that electronic voting machines produce a paper trail.

It's the second time U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler has been denied in his challenge of the legality of paperless touchscreen voting machines. A similar case filed in state courts was dismissed in February, although that ruling is being appeal.

In dismissing the federal complaint, U.S. District Judge James Cohn said he can't get involved because the issue is being considered by state courts.

Also, Cohn ruled that the lawsuit would require the federal courts to become deeply involved with election procedures, which typically are left to the states. -- Congressman's suit seeking touchscreen voting printouts dismissed (AP via heraldtribune.com)

May 23, 2004

Paper trails

A coalition of computer scientists, voter groups and state officials, led by California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, is trying to force the makers of electronic voting machines to equip those machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.

Following the problems of the 2000 election in Florida, a number of states and hundreds of counties rushed to dump their punch card ballot systems and to buy the electronic touch screens. Election Data Services, a consulting firm that specializes in election administration, estimates that this November 50 million Americans - about 29 percent of the electorate - may be voting on touch screens, up from 12 percent in 2000.

But in the last year election analysts have documented so many malfunctions, including the disappearance of names from the ballot, and computer experts have shown that the machines are so vulnerable to hackers, that critics have organized to counter the rush toward touch screens with a move to require paper trails.

Paper trails - ballot receipts - would let voters verify that they had cast their votes as they intended and let election officials conduct recounts in close races. -- Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes (New York Times)

May 20, 2004

Billboards attack e-voting

Billboards popped up around town [Austin, Texas] last week warning of the alleged dangers of electronic voting. Austin activists Susan Bright, Abbe Waldman Delozier, Vickie Karp, and Genevieve Vaughan say they designed the billboards in what they intend to be a national advertising campaign, beginning in Austin. Naked City (Austin Chronicle)

There is a picture of the billboard with the article.

May 17, 2004

Group calls for VVAT in Ireland

The terms of reference of the [Irish] Commission on Electronic Voting (CEV) do not allow it to examine the issue of a VVAT (Voter Verified paper Audit Trail), and this must change according to Irish Citizens for Trustworthy Evoting (ICTE).

In the Seanad on Wednesday, Deputy Pat "The Cope" Gallagher, speaking about the inclusion of an VVAT [1] said "There are arguments on both sides but the commission will consider the matter. We should await its further report." [2] yet the CEV stated in their report that the matter did not fall within their terms of reference, but that it has "a bearing on the successful implementation of the chosen system" [3]. The secretariat of the CEV has confirmed that that the Commission has not been asked to consider VVAT and it still remains outside their terms of reference.

"It is clear from the report", said Margaret McGaley, spokesperson for ICTE, "that the commission considers this to be an important question. It is also clear, however, that they believe it falls outside their terms of reference. The commission should be allowed to consider the merits of a paper audit trail." -- Electronic voting commission must be allowed to examine VVAT - ICTE (Politics.ie)


May 15, 2004

California has misplaced certifications of e-voting systems

As state prosecutors weigh criminal and civil cases against Diebold Election Systems Inc. for using uncertified software in California elections, the state faces a potentially bigger problem: Other brands of voting software that record and count more than a million Californians' votes also may lack state or federal approval.

State elections officials acknowledge that the state failed to maintain a master list of tested and certified voting software from as early as 1999 to the spring of 2003, a period of rapid evolution for computerized voting systems in California.

In those years, the administration of then-Secretary of State and current U.S. Senate candidate Bill Jones approved new generations of voting machines. But scant record of state certification has been found for the all-important software inside, running everything from touchscreens and optical scanning machines for vote tallying and reporting of election results.

During a two- to four-year gap -- from a vague series of approvals in late 1999, 2000 and 2001 to none from 2002 to April 2003 -- the nation's largest suppliers of voting systems, Elections Systems & Software and Diebold Election Systems Inc., flooded California with new versions of voting software without a clear record of whether they were nationally tested or certified for use in state elections, as required by state law. -- E-voting software problem worsens (Oakland Tribune)

May 7, 2004

Arizona language minorities object to voting equipment plan

Hispanic and Native American state lawmakers on Tuesday sent a letter to [Arizona] Secretary of State Jan Brewer opposing her $44.7 million voting-system plan.

Some will meet today with federal officials to discuss objections. They argue that part of the $44.7 million should go to hire bilingual workers and to encourage Hispanic voting.

The U.S. government is providing most of the money for such upgrades as new optical-scan ballot systems, more frequent checkups on voting equipment and better access for disabled voters.

"We need to recruit more bilingual election workers to help the mostly monolingual voters," said Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, one of 15 legislators who signed the letter. -- Hispanic, Native American legislators dislike voting plan (Arizona Republic)

May 6, 2004

Election Assistance Commission hearings

Passions ran high Wednesday at the first public hearing of the Election Assistance Commission, where activists and manufacturers of electronic voting machines clashed over whether new e-voting systems should include a voter-verifiable paper trail that auditors could use to recount votes if necessary.

The newly formed commission, which is just beginning to oversee the certification of voting systems and the standardization of elections across the country, held its first meeting to examine the state of elections and voting systems. The commissioners were collecting testimony from special-interest groups, election officials, computer scientists and voting-machine makers. -- Wired News: E-Voting Commission Gets Earful

IT security researchers have uncovered significant vulnerabilities in the electronic voting systems that nearly 30% of all registered voters will use in the upcoming presidential election, raising concerns about what already looks to be one of the most divisive elections in U.S. history.

In testimony before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission yesterday, security researchers said that without voter-verifiable paper receipts, the 50 million Americans who will use electronic voting machines this fall will have no way of knowing if their votes were recorded properly. Even worse, the code base powering the systems is so large and complex that there's little way for election officials to be sure it is free of malicious code designed to manipulate election results. -- E-voting system security, integrity under fire (Computerworld)

With TV cameras and a standing-room-only crowd watching, the newly-formed U.S. Election Assistance Commission held its first public hearing Wednesday and agreed to look closely at using open source software to do the job in the future. ...

To address this issue [if voter-verified audit trails], the EAC assembled five panels of experts to testify at Wednesday's hearing. The panels covered e-voting from the perspectives of diverse groups: technologists, voting system vendors, election administrators, human/computer interation researchers, and advocacy groups. -- New federal commission begins examining e-voting issues (NewsForge)

Testimony before the EAC

Ludovic Blain III, Associate Director of the Democracy Program of "Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action" (that is pronounced DEE-mos) has sent his organization's testimony for the U. S. Election Assistance Commission's May 5 public hearing on the use, security, and reliability of electronic voting systems.

If other organizations would like to send their testimony (or better yet, a link to their testimony), I will be happy to post them.

May 3, 2004

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts ...

The fix was in, and it was devilishly hard to detect. Software within electronic voting machines had been corrupted with malicious code squirreled away in images on the touch screen. When activated with a specific series of voting choices, the rogue program would tip the results of a precinct toward a certain candidate. Then the program would disappear without a trace.

Luckily, the setting was not an election but a classroom exercise; the conspirators were students of Aviel D. Rubin, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. It might seem unusual to teach computer security through hacking, but a lot of what Professor Rubin does is unusual. He has become the face of a growing revolt against high-technology voting systems. His critiques have earned him a measure of fame, the enmity of the companies and their supporters among election officials, and laurels: in April, the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave him its Pioneer Award, one of the highest honors among the geekerati. -- Who Hacked the Voting System? The Teacher (New York Times)

April 28, 2004

Ballot format challenged in West Virginia

Democratic secretary of state candidate Mike Oliverio has filed court petitions against ballot commissioners in eight counties challenging the placement of the seven secretary of state candidates' names on those counties' May 11 Democratic primary ballots.

A petition challenging ballots in Boone, Jackson, Lincoln, McDowell, Nicholas, Summers and Webster counties was filed Wednesday in the state Supreme Court. The court ordered the prosecutors in those counties to file responses by noon Thursday. ...

On the ballots, which are all to be read by optical scanners, the Democratic secretary of state candidates' names appear at the bottom of one column and spill over into another. Five names appear in one column and two in the next. Because the order of candidates is randomly chosen in each county, Oliverio's name appears in the second column on about half the ballots.

Oliverio said state law requires that if the candidates in a particular race have to be split between two columns, the columns have to be "nearly equal.'' Instead of a five-two split, there should be a four-three or three-four split.

Also, at the end of the first column on each county's ballot is the notation "continued on the following column.'' But at the top of the second column, the two names appear alone, without any indication they are candidates for secretary of state.

Oliverio said the notation at the end of the first column should be "secretary of state candidates continued'' and there should be a notation at the top of the second column indicating the next two names are secretary of state candidates. -- Oliverio challenges ballots in Supreme Court, Raleigh County (AP via Charleston Gazette)

April 21, 2004

Suit against Maryland e-voting machines

A citizens' group in Takoma Park will file suit Thursday against the state Board of Elections, charging that Maryland's 16,000 new electronic voting machines fail to comply with state law.

The lawsuit, to be filed in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, asks that the machines be decertified until the manufacturer remedy security flaws, and they are upgraded to print paper records of cast ballots.

The lawsuit brought by the Campaign for Verifiable Voting -- better known as truevotemd.org -- alleges that state elections officials violated the law when they certified the touch-screen devices and failed to decertify them once computer experts found they were susceptible to vote-switching.

The suit cites Maryland election law that states the elections board cannot certify a voting system unless it determines that the system is secure, reliable and "capable of providing an audit trail of all ballots cast so that, in a recount, the election can be reconstructed."

State law also requires that the board decertify a system if it "no longer protects the security of the voting process," the suit adds. -- Lawsuit challenges Md. voting machines (baltimoresun.com)

April 19, 2004

Irish FOIA docs reveal e-voting problems

Recently released government documents, obtained under the [Irish] Freedom of Information Act, reveal shocking lapses in both security and accuracy in the pilot tests of Electronic Voting in the 2002 General Election, according to Green Party local election candidate Catherine Ansbro. Ms Ansbro, who is standing for election for both the Roscommon County Council and the Boyle Town Commission in the upcoming European elections, is calling for the immediate postponement of electronic voting.

Ms Ansbro said today that, "The problems included large differences between the number of votes cast, as recorded by the Presiding Officers in Dublin North and Dublin West, and the number of votes recorded electronically on the ballot modules. The size of the discrepancies is significant. They are many times larger than what could be easily explained away by spoiled votes or other reasons." -- Major flaws in electronic voting according to newly released Government document (Politics.ie)

How much to steal an election"

Here's another way to look at the issue: what are the economics of trying to steal an election?

Let's look at the 2002 election results for the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. In order to gain control of the House, the Democrats would have needed to win 23 more seats. According to actual voting data (pulled off the ABC News website), the Democrats could have won these 23 seats by swinging 163,953 votes from Republican to Democrat, out of the total 65,812,545 cast for both parties. (The total number of votes cast is actually a bit higher; this analysis only uses data for the winning and second-place candidates.)

This means that the Democrats could have gained the majority in the House by switching less than 1/4 of one percent of the total votes -- less than one in 250 votes.

Of course, this analysis is done in hindsight. In practice, more cheating would be required to be reasonably certain of winning. Even so, the Democrats could have won the house by shifting well below 0.5% of the total votes cast across the election. -- Stealing an Election (Schneier.com: Crypto-Gram)

The rush to adopt e-voting in Ireland

Several Sunday papers raise major issues with Ireland's full-forward electronic voting plans. Professor David Parnas, who is advising an independent commission on push-button voting has said that checking the reliability of the software could take up to 12 months. The commission has a deadline of May 1 to advise on whether it should be used in the June elections. -- Electronic voting issues (IrishEyes)

April 16, 2004

"Faking Democracy: Americans Don't Vote, Machines Do, & Ballot Printers Can't Fix That"

Machines will produce 99.4% of the election results for the upcoming 2004 presidential election. With all the hoopla over voting machine "glitches," porous software, leaked memos, and the creepy corporations that sell and service these contraptions, and with all the controversy that surrounds campaign financing, voter registration, redistricting issues, and the general privatization of the election process--we are missing the boat on the biggest crisis facing our democracy. ...

Think of voting as a three-step process: marking, casting, and counting ballots. Once a machine is involved in any one of those steps, the result is hard evidence of the machine's output--and only circumstantial evidence of the voter's input. ...

The voting process must be transparent in order for voting rights to be enforced. Machines are not transparent, and adding printers won't cure the defect. -- Faking Democracy: Americans Don't Vote, Machines Do, & Ballot Printers Can't Fix That by Lynn Landes (BaltimoreChronicle.com)

April 4, 2004

Scotland tests e-voting

Technology expected to contribute to the abolition of traditional polling stations was pioneered in Aberdeen [Scotland] last night.

City council election chiefs tried out an electronic voting system as they counted votes cast in the Queen's Cross by-election.

Although votes were officially counted by hand, they were also fed through an electronic scanner.

The machine was set too slow for the full results to be matched against the official result, but election officers said the early indications were that the equipment had proved successful - albeit with some "teething problems". -- ELECTRONIC VOTING PASSES ABERDEEN ELECTION TEST (The Press and Journal)

April 2, 2004

India's e-voting will solve all problems

Electronic voting machines [in India] will greatly reduce, if not eliminate, electoral malpractices, claimed officials, because the machines can be used only once in 12 seconds and need to be re-set before the next vote is cast.

The machine will automatically switch off after every vote is cast. In other words, even when workers of a political party "capture" a booth, they will find it impossible to cast more than five votes in a single minute. That too is possible only with the connivance of polling personnel.

At the end of polling, the personnel will also be able to report any misadventure or abuse of the machines, which would lead to cancellation of polling at that booth, they explained. Since polling personnel will be drawn from different districts and at every booth 50 per cent of the poll personnel will be from other districts, it will be difficult for political parties to influence all of them. -- Rest easy, your vote is safe (The Telegraph - Calcutta)

Irish public opposes e-voting

The independent watchdog set up to assess the secrecy and accuracy of electronic voting [in Ireland] has received a decisive thumbs down on the system from its consultation with the general public.

The overwhelming majority of the submissions to the Commission on Electronic Voting express criticisms and concerns about the e-voting system's introduction but the number of actual observations is extremely low.

Recurring themes are the need for a back-up, voter-verifiable paper record, the undermining of democracy, the damage to voter confidence, worries over the lack of secrecy, the reliability of computers and allowing spoiled votes.

Objections were also expressed from people with disabilities to the change in the voting system. -- Public blackballs e-voting in consultation (Irish Examiner)

More April Fool's Day fun

For those who thought that my "information" that Tom DeLay would become our next viceroy in Iraq was a little too subtle, how about this little gem. Avi Rubin -- Mr. "watch out for electronic voting" himself -- announced on his weblog, ATAC: Abusable Technologies Awareness Center, that he was taking a job as Chief Security Officer at Diebold.

In addition to the usual comments, he posted one he received from the Assistant Corporate Council for Diebold, Inc., who said, "My office is in receipt of an InterNet message from you (dated today, April 1, 2004) in which you make false, misleading and damaging representations regarding your supposed employment with Diebold" and demanding that he cease and desist.

What a bunch of humorless clods, I thought. Read further in the letter and you find this paragraph:

Finally, you and all members of your family are directed to register and vote in the 2004 Presidential election, for a candidate chosen by my client as communicated to you at a future time. Diebold reserves the right to install software and other monitoring features in its systems to ensure your compliance with this clause.

The letter is signed, "J.A. Kass."

Gotcha again, didn't he?

March 31, 2004

Florida bill to bar manual recounts of touchscreen voting

Daily Kos has a little rant on the bill in the Florida Senate to prohibit manual recounts of touchscreen voting machines.

No Internet voting at the Pentagon

The Pentagon has decided to drop a $22 million pilot plan to test Internet voting for 100,000 American military personnel and civilians living overseas after lingering security concerns, officials said yesterday.

The program ran into trouble late in January when a group of academics who had been invited to review the system released a report saying the Internet was so insecure that the integrity of the entire election could be undermined by online voting. Two weeks later, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz decided not to allow Internet ballots to be counted in the presidential tally. At the time, the Pentagon said the program would go forward on an experimental basis.

Now, the Pentagon has decided that even the experiment is over.

"It's not that it's never going to go in test mode," said Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood. "It's that right now we're not going to do it. We have to step back and look at everything that we've done for two or three years in this thing. But right now we're not going forward." -- Pentagon Drops Plan To Test Internet Voting (TechNews.com)