Tuesday, December 28, 2004

NYT: Setting Standards for Fair Elections

The New York Times Editorial, "Making Votes Count" series, December 27, 2004

The much-delayed work of setting federal standards for electronic voting machines is speeding up, and there is reason for concern. Voting machine companies and their supporters have been given a large say in the process, while advocates for voters, including those who insist on the use of voter-verified paper receipts, have been pushed to the margins. Election officials and machine makers may be betting that after the presidential election, ordinary Americans have lost interest in the mechanics of the ballot. But Americans do care, and it is unlikely that they will be satisfied by a process in which special interests dominate, or by a result that does not ensure vote totals that can be trusted.

The No. 1 goal of the new standards should be ensuring that the machines will not, by accident or design, produce false vote totals. It is increasingly clear that voters want electronic, A.T.M.-type voting machines that produce verifiable paper records, or other systems like optical scan machines, where votes are cast on paper as a check on the reliability of machines. California, Ohio and other states require paper trails by law, and New York appears poised to join them.

The Election Assistance Commission, a federal body set up after the 2000 election mess, has created a group called the Technical Guidelines Development Committee to propose federal electronic voting standards to Congress this spring. This committee includes outspoken supporters of electronic voting without paper trails, including Britain Williams, a retired Kennesaw State University professor who has worked closely with Georgia on its controversial adoption of Diebold voting machines. But disappointingly, the commission did not include any of the many respected computer scientists - such as Prof. Aviel Rubin of Johns Hopkins, Prof. David Dill of Stanford or Dr. Rebecca Mercuri - who have been warning about the unreliability of electronic voting in its current form.

The election commission is expected to rely heavily on standards being developed by a nonprofit association of engineers, computer scientists and other professionals with the unfortunate acronym of I.E.E.E., which develops technical standards for such things as wireless communications. But the voting machine industry plays a disconcertingly large role in this organization. The chairman of the working group preparing the standards for voting machines is a top executive of Election Systems and Software, a large and controversial voting machine maker. The head of the committee that oversees the working group has a seat on the election commission's voting machines standards committee. He is a consultant who has been hired in the past by companies in the elections field. Because of the insular nature of the engineering panel's meetings, ordinary voters - who have an important stake - have had little chance to participate. Over the objections of some members of the working group, the current draft of the election-machine standards merely makes voter-verified paper trails optional. The draft's scope is also too narrow: it fails to address many ways in which vote totals could be rigged.

The Election Assistance Commission has a chance to lead the nation to a new generation of technology that voters can trust. But if it fails, there are other routes. California has developed its own state standards for machines with paper trails, and other states could do likewise. And some of the nation's leading election reform advocates, election officials and voting machine makers are forming a new group, called Voting System Performance Rating, that hopes to develop standards in a more inclusive way. Whoever sets the standards, the process and the result need to give voters complete confidence that their votes will be accurately counted.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Please Donate to the California Voter Foundation

CVF's year-end appeal, December 20, 2004

It's been a great year for the California Voter Foundation. In the past twelve months, CVF has:

* led the successful effort in California to implement a voter-verified paper record requirement for electronic ballots;

* collaborated with a number of other organizations to advance transparency and accountability in voting systems nationwide;

* published a groundbreaking report, "Voter Privacy in the Digital Age", providing for the first time a comprehensive, nationwide analysis of voter registration data gathering and dissemination practices;

* graded, for the second year in a row, all 50 states on the quality of their campaign finance disclosure programs in order to improve the transparency of money in politics nationwide;

* produced the tenth and eleventh editions of our "California Online Voter Guide", providing California voters with online, nonpartisan election information for both the Primary and General elections;

* conducted and reported on our statewide survey on the barriers and incentives for voter participation in California;

* redesigned our Webby-award winning web site to make our resources even more accessible and user-friendly.

These projects have been supported through grants from various foundations. In addition, CVF relies on donations from individuals to support our work. I hope you will consider making a tax-deductible donation to CVF to support our continuing efforts to advance the responsible use of technology to improve the democratic process, in California and beyond.

You can donate to CVF by check or credit card. To donate by check, simply download and complete the online contribution form and send your check to:

The California Voter Foundation

503 4th Street, Suite B

Davis, CA 95616

You can also donate using your credit card.

On behalf of the California Voter Foundation board and staff, I wish you all a happy holiday season and thank you for your support of our efforts.

Friday, December 17, 2004

OH: Elections official doesn't believe computer was tampered with

By Malia Rulon, Associated Press, Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Ohio elections official whose sworn statement led to a request for an FBI investigation into possible vote tampering says she doesn't think anything improper happened during preparations for a recount of the presidential election.

Sherole Eaton, the deputy director of the Hocking County Board of Elections, wrote in a signed affidavit that a software technician took apart the county's main computer tabulator to fix the battery, then put it back together and told her not to turn it off.

Her story prompted Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, to ask authorities to impound the computer and investigate "likely illegal election tampering."

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has called on Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell to secure the county's computer, order a hand count of their ballots and investigate all counties where computer technicians worked on the computers before the recount.

"The integrity of using the board's computerized tabulating system to conduct the recount of the presidential election has been seriously compromised," wrote Donald McTigue, the lawyer handling the recount for the Kerry campaign.

Eaton, a Democrat, said she signed the affidavit in an attempt to document what happened.

"I never did suspect fraud and I don't now. That wasn't my intent," she said Thursday. "I was just bringing it forward. I'm not a whistle-blower."

President Bush won Hocking County in southeast Ohio by 762 votes over Democrat John Kerry, according to certified results. A statewide recount requested by third-party candidates began this week amid allegations of voting irregularities. Hocking County's recount of punch-card ballots resulted in one extra vote each for Bush and Kerry.

The FBI had not decided whether an investigation was warranted, spokesman Mike Brooks said Thursday. Blackwell and the county's Democratic prosecutor, Larry Beal, planned no investigation.

Brett Rapp, president of TRIAD Governmental Systems Inc., says the visit was standard procedure during a recount, something the Ohio secretary of state's office confirmed Thursday.

Secretary of State spokesman Carlo LoParo said every county elections board contracts with vendors to prepare their election machines. TRIAD wrote and maintains voting software used in 41 of Ohio's 88 counties.

Ohio law requires that only results from the race being recounted can appear on the county's tabulation forms. That means technicians must configure the recount file so the tabulator counts that race, LoParo said.

The software itself is not changed, Rapp said.

In Hocking County, problems arose because the county's 14-year-old Dell computer, which is used to tabulate ballots, failed to boot up. The battery was low, so the computer didn't save the information it needed to tell the hard drive how to operate, Rapp said.

To get the computer running so it could be configured for a recount, the technician had to remove the hard drive and put it into a separate, newer computer that had a viable battery to get a readout of the hard drive specifications.

The technician then re-installed the hard drive into the original computer, using those specifications to tell the computer how to communicate with the hard drive and finish booting up. To protect the battery, the computer must remain turned on, which is why the technician told Eaton to keep it running, Rapp said.

Computer experts say the company's explanation of the situation is plausible, but it underscores problems with electronic voting such as overdependence on technology and the prevalent use of outdated hardware.

"Allowing people to tweak the computers before a recount opens up possibilities for fraud," said David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford University.

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, said problems can arise when elections officials don't have a system for dealing with technology breakdowns.

"We're left in the situation where the election official is taking the technician's word for things, and yet, we don't know who this person is," Alexander said.

Monday, December 13, 2004

More Questions for Florida -- Clint Curtis' allegations

By Kim Zetter, Wired News, December 13, 2004


A government watchdog group is investigating allegations made by a Florida programmer that are whipping up a frenzy among bloggers and people who believe Republicans stole the recent election.

Programmer Clint Curtis claims that four years ago Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Florida) asked his then-employer to write software to alter votes on electronic voting machines in Florida.

He said his employer told him the code would be used "to control the vote" in West Palm Beach, Florida. But a fellow employee disputed the programmer's claims and said the meetings he described never took place.

Many questions have been raised about Curtis, the 46-year-old programmer, who said he doesn't know if anyone ever placed the prototype code on voting machines. But this hasn't stopped frustrated voters and bloggers from seizing his story. Daily Kos mentioned the allegations, and Brad Friedman of The Brad Blog has written extensively about them.

Staff members for Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) met with Curtis last week to discuss the election allegations. Representatives for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Florida) inquired about other allegations from Curtis that his former company spied on NASA.

The FBI in Tallahassee, Florida, has set up a meeting with Curtis, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said it was trying to corroborate his claims about possible election fraud and NASA spying.

The group hopes that even if the election allegations aren't proven, they will inspire legislators to pass a law requiring voting software to be open to public inspection to help deter fraud and restore public confidence in the election process. The software code used in voting machines is considered proprietary and it is protected from public examination -- an issue voting activists have been trying to address.


In September 2000, Curtis was working for Yang Enterprises in Oviedo, Florida, a software design firm that contracts with NASA, ExxonMobil and the Florida Department of Transportation, among other clients. According to Curtis, Feeney met with him and Lee Yang, the company's president, to request the voting software.

At the time, Feeney was Yang's corporate attorney and a registered lobbyist for the company as well as a member of Florida's legislature. A month later, he would become speaker of Florida's House of Representatives. In 2002 he was elected to Congress.

Curtis said Feeney asked for code that could go undetected on a voting machine and be easily triggered without any devices by anyone using the machine. Curtis had never seen source code for a voting machine, but in five hours, he said he designed code in Visual Basic that would launch if someone touched specific spots on the voting screen after selecting a candidate.

Once the code was activated, it would search the machine to see if the selected candidate's total was behind. If it was, the machine would award that candidate 51 percent of the total votes recorded on the machine and redistribute the remaining votes among the other candidates in the race.

Curtis said he initially believed Feeney wanted the code to see if such fraud were possible and to know how to detect it. The programmer told Feeney that such code could never be undetectable in source code, and he wrote a paper describing how to look for it. But when he gave the paper and code to his employer, Yang told him he was looking at it all wrong. They weren't looking at how to find code, Curtis said she told him. They needed code that couldn't be found.

"Her words were that it was needed to control the vote in West Palm Beach, Florida," Curtis said. "Once she said, 'We need to steal an election,' that put me back. I made it clear that I could not produce code that could do that and no one else should."

Curtis says he left the company in February 2001 because he found its ethics questionable. He doesn't know if his code was ever used.

Neither Feeney's spokeswoman nor election officials in Palm Beach County returned calls for comment. But a man who identified himself as Mike Cohen, Yang's executive assistant at the time whom Curtis said was in the meeting, told Wired News the meeting never occurred. Cohen said Curtis was "100 percent" wrong and that Cohen didn't attend such a meeting. He added he knew nothing of any meeting on the topic that occurred without him.

Yang attorney Michael O'Quinn called Curtis' assertions "absurd and categorically untrue." He said Curtis is an opportunist and a disgruntled former employee furthering an agenda by telling lies. According to O'Quinn, Curtis tried the same tactic in 2002 when he leveled other charges against Yang and Feeney.

Some details of Curtis' statements don't check out. West Palm Beach city didn't use touch-screen machines in 2000, something Curtis didn't know when Wired News spoke to him. It was the pregnant chad controversy in that year's presidential election that led Palm Beach county, where West Palm Beach resides, to replace its much-maligned punch-card system with touch-screen machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems in December 2001.

But Curtis said the program could have been adapted for use in the counting software used with punch-card machines and optical scan machines, or it could have been used on the new touch-screen machines in 2002, the year Feeney was elected to Congress.

Adam Stubblefield, a graduate student in computer science at Johns Hopkins University who co-authored a now-famous report (.pdf) about Diebold's voting machine code last year, thinks the chances that Curtis' code was used in a voting machine are nil.

"(Curtis) clearly didn't have the source code to any voting machine, and his program is so trivial that it would be much easier to rewrite it than to rework it," said Stubblefield.

Stubblefield also found fault in Curtis' statement that any malicious code would be detected in a source code review. This would be true only for unsophisticated malicious code, like Curtis' prototype.

Despite Curtis' concerns about statements Yang and Feeney supposedly made regarding election fraud, Curtis didn't tell the FBI or election officials in West Palm Beach about them, even after the 2000 election thrust Florida into the international spotlight.

He said he didn't worry about the code or Yang's statements because he believed if anyone installed malicious code on a voting machine authorities would find it when they examined the code. It wasn't until he read a news story last spring indicating that voting software is proprietary and is not open for inspection once it's certified that the earlier conversations began to concern him.

He claims he did later tell the CIA, the FBI, an investigator for Florida's Department of Transportation and a reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal about the voting issues when he gave them other information about Yang and Feeney. But so far this has not been corroborated. The FBI did not return calls for comment. The Department of Transportation investigator is dead. And writer Laura Zuckerman who worked closely with Curtis on several stories for the Daytona paper, told Wired News he never mentioned the voting software code.

National Academies Remarks, December 9, 2004

"The Need for Transparent, Accountable and Verifiable U.S. Elections by Kim Alexander, December 9, 2004

Last week I addressed a committee of the National Academies' Computer Science and Telecommunications board, which is developing a framework for the questions to be asked about e-voting.

I participated in this committee meeting, which took place in Washington, D.C., via teleconference from SRI International in Menlo Park, CA. Others gathered at SRI who spoke to the committee included Ren Bucholz of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and computer scientists David Wagner, David Jefferson, Drew Dean and Peter Neumann.



The loss of transparency has been underway in this country for 40 years, ever since punch card voting was introduced.  In most places, the software that is used to tabulate the vote is not verified.  This is propriety software, made by private companies, which is being managed by thousands of people with limited computer skills.  This software is not required by federal law to meet any security, accuracy or reliability standard.  It is unregulated by the federal government and in most states, is poorly regulated. 

There are ways to verify the software that’s used to count votes, but in most places it simply isn’t.  Now, with the onset of paperless, computerized voting systems, we are moving from voting systems that rely on some degree of software which can be checked for accuracy (but typically isn’t), to systems that rely solely on software and cannot be checked for accuracy.

Election issues arise quadrennially—like a blip on a radar.  Now information about the lack of transparency moves at lightening speed across the Internet.  This occasional blip in the radar is catalogued.  Speculation runs rampant.  But due to the opaqueness of the results claims of voter fraud cannot be confirmed or denied.


Cathy Cox, Georgia’s secretary of state, recently wrote in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “every major case of vote fraud” in her state has “involved paper ballots” and goes on to describe various ways vote fraud has been committed on paper voting systems.

The thing is, vote fraud doesn’t disappear just because we change voting systems.  We must be realistic and accept the fact that people can and will always try to cheat in elections. 


If someone suspects there has been a software error, or tampering, they must request a recount.  In most places, only candidates can request a recount, and must pay for it up front.  Most campaigns have no financial resources left after the election to pay for a recount. Requesting a recount is also a very unpopular choice for a defeated candidate, who must endure being called a “sore loser”.  And many election officials shudder at the suggestion of a recount, because it calls their performance into question. 

In short, we have placed the burden of verifying elections on candidates, when in fact it is election officials who should be routinely and publicly verifying election results, no matter what the margins are. 

There must be a step in between an automated count and a recount, and this is what’s missing in the vote counting process right now—routine and public verification.


Election officials who have adopted electronic voting repeatedly assure the public that the results are accurate.  We should not have to take their word for it.  After all, every election the government is on the ballot.  And most election officials work for the same politicians who are running for office.  While many election officials strive to be  impartial and professional in their duties, some take on roles in political campaigns or are active members of political parties.  Such activities raise legitimate doubts in voters’ minds about whether elections and vote counting are conducted in a fair and impartial manner.  Such doubts could be easily put to rest if computerized election results would be routinely and publicly verified.

It is not enough that election officials, or equipment vendors, or even computer scientists tell us that the results are accurate.  Any reasonable person deserves the right and opportunity to see for themselves that the results are accurate.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes Article 21, which states that “the will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government” and “shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections”.

Until we achieve greater transparency and accountability in our voting process, U.S. voters will continue to question how genuine our election results truly are. Congress may reconsider HAVA in the upcoming year, and when it does, it must step up to the election security plate in order to protect the legitimacy of its authority.  The United States deserves so much more than this rickety system we have today.  We need a voting process that serves as an example, not an embarrassment.  We need a process that utilizes computer technology in a responsible, not reckless, manner.  Such a system by design must include a voter verified paper record, routine verification of computerized vote counts, and mandatory federal security standards.

Groups detail voting problems in 2004 election

By Frank Davies, Miami Herald, December 7, 2004

Last week several organizations sponsored a forum on Capitol Hill to discuss voting problems in the November 2004 election. The forum was attended by more than 500 people, and was sponsored by The Century Foundation, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and Common Cause, which also issued a "Report to the Nation" summarizing voting problems. More coverage of the forum is also available from the Common Cause


Excerpts from the Miami Herald story:

During a day-long forum on Capitol Hill, state officials, computer experts and voting rights advocates detailed a series of flaws that persisted this year, despite reforms and upgrades since the 2000 election:

* Long lines in Ohio, New Mexico and during Florida's early voting made it difficult for some voters to cast their ballots. Because of a lack of machines and staffing problems, some Ohio voters waited seven hours in the rain to vote.

* Registration problems, including counties struggling to update rolls of new voters, prevented thousands of people from voting easily. On Election Day, many voters could not get through by phone to local election offices and had difficulty casting provisional ballots.

* While much of the new technology performed well, serious flaws occurred. A computer malfunction wiped out 4,400 votes in Carteret County, N.C., and 3,893 extra votes were recorded for President Bush in Franklin County, Ohio.

* Election offices were often late to get out absentee ballots. Thousands sent out by Broward County, Fla., were lost in the mail.

"The election did not go smoothly, despite the fact that a president was chosen without court intervention, and without the chaos that many observers feared," the Common Cause report concluded.


While no electronic voting fraud has been discovered yet, a "malicious code" to do that would be easy to write and hard to detect, warned David Jefferson, who heads California's oversight committee on the security and reliability of voting systems.

"It is a potential weapon of mass electoral destruction," Jefferson said.

Beyond technology, there was some good news in the area of voter education, reported Ted Selker, an MIT professor and computer expert. He noted that Los Angeles County "reduced its error rate significantly" in votes cast this year through a TV public-service campaign.

Shattering the Myth: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections

news release and report from People for the American Way, December 6, 2004

People for the American Way, one of several groups involved in the Election Protection Coalition, produced a preliminary report on the problems identified through the Election Incident Reporting System. A more thorough analysis is due next year. In the meantime, this report provides an overview of specific problems reported in key presidential election battleground states, such as Ohio, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania.


Excerpt from the news release:

The preliminary review, “Shattering the Myth: An Initial Snapshot of Voter Disenfranchisement in the 2004 Elections” surfaces a myriad of systemic problems. In addition to the long lines and unreasonable waiting times that kept many people - disproportionately urban minority voters - from being able to vote, the top five problems overall were registration processing, absentee ballots, machine errors, voter intimidation and suppression, and problems with the use and counting of the new provisional ballots mandated under new federal law.

Jimmy Carter on NPR's "Fresh Air"

NPR : Fresh Air from WHYY for Thursday, October 21, 2004

Back in October, former president Jimmy Carter appeared on "Fresh Air" and spoke at length with host Terry Gross about U.S. elections. The entire interview is available online in audio format. Below are excerpts from the transcript.


GROSS: President Jimmy Carter is my guest and his novel, "The Hornet's Nest," which is a Revolutionary War novel, has just been published in paperback.

One of the things you do with your Carter Center is to monitor elections around the world, and you've monitored over 50 elections around the world. We are facing a US presidential election here and I'm wondering if America was a foreign country and it had asked you to monitor the election, would it meet your criteria. Could you monitor the American elections if you were asked?

Mr. CARTER: No. We wouldn't think of it. The American political system wouldn't measure up to any sort of international standard for several reasons. One is that there has to be a provision in the countries where we monitor--we've just finished our 52nd one--that all the qualified candidates have equal access to the public through the media, through television and radio, and they don't have to pay for it. Whereas in this country, there's no way that you can hope to be the nominee of the Democratic or Republican Party unless you have the proven ability to raise nowadays $100 million, contributions from special interest groups. Some of the interest groups are benevolent, I might hasten to add. That's one thing. We wouldn't qualify.

GROSS: Why do you have that as a qualification, as a criteria?

Mr. CARTER: Why?

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. CARTER: Well, because we think that the ability to run for office and be seriously considered as a candidate should not depend on how much money you can collect to pay for the right to give your campaign platform explanations to the public.

GROSS: OK. Other reasons why we would not fulfil your criteria.

Mr. CARTER: The second reason is: We don't go into a country unless there is a central election commission that is recognized generally as being non-partisan or bipartisan, and that is a balanced position between or among the different parties. We have nothing like that. As you know in Florida, in the year 2000, the secretary of State there who was in charge of the Florida election was an avowed and fervent and very obvious Republican activist.

GROSS: This is Katherine Harris.

Mr. CARTER: Katherine Harris, and she was later elected to Congress because of the Republicans appreciated what she did for President Bush. And this time, the new secretary of State, who replaced Katherine Harris, was not elected, she was appointed to that very important partisan position by the governor who happens to be President Bush's brother. So there's no semblance of a balanced commission that would be objective among the different candidates. I mean, they don't even deny the fact that they are fervent Republican activists.

Another facet of requirements is that all the people in a country or certainly a state should vote in exactly the same way, either punch cards or touch screens or whatever. Whereas in Florida and many other states, it depends on which preferences the county officials have. So you might have like in Florida in 2000, multiple ways to vote. And quite often, the more affluent districts or precincts are the most certain to have the votes counted accurately because the rich people insist on it. Whereas the poor people don't really have the political

influence to insist that their votes be handled properly. That's another very important facet.

And the third thing is that--a fourth thing I think now, is that if there is a technological advanced way to vote, there must be some way for a physical recount if it's very close. We just finished an election not too long ago in a Third World country that had a touch-screen technique, the system was developed in the United States, previously in Spain, but in addition to casting their vote, after they punched the touch screen final button, out comes a paper ballot showing you exactly how you voted. So you look at the paper ballot and you make sure that that is the way I wanted my vote to be cast and then you fold the ballot and put it in a box. So afterwards, if there is a doubt about the technology or the touch-screen techniques, since it's all secret and you can't see it and you can recount by using the paper ballot.


GROSS: What do we do now with the electronic voting machines that don't have any kind of way of recounting? We're just, you know, days away from the election.

Mr. CARTER: I think now it's just too late. You can't change a whole technology. But when we have gone into countries, as I say, we have insisted whenever possible that there be a paper trail and the technology is completely available. In fact, the same companies that prepare these machines with the printed affirmation are the ones that we've used in other countries.

GROSS: What's your best guess about why we're not using the ones with the paper trail?

Mr. CARTER: Part of it, I think, is the pride of America. You know, we don't need other people to tell us how to run our elections. We are the greatest democracy on Earth. We are above any outside criticism. That's part of it is pride, and I would say sovereignty of our country or our state. Another one is that there are people who are very deeply interested in maintaining the outcome of the election under partial control. Our country favors incumbents strongly.


GROSS: Now let me ask you, though, some of the electronic voting machines being used in the country are manufactured by the Diebold Company.

Mr. CARTER: Yes.

GROSS: The head of that company is a very partisan, very pro-Republican. Some people think that that means that those machines might be tampered with, that there might be partisan interference. Other people see that as a really silly conspiratorial point of view. From your point of view, is that something we should be concerned about?

Mr. CARTER: I think it is. I would like to see there be a uniform standard around this nation before the next presidential election, at least, that any machine used of a touch-screen type had to have a paper trail so that you could subsequently monitor or confirm the accuracy of the vote as just. And in most touch-screen systems, including those of the Diebold Company, I understand, there's no way to recount. You have to trust the manufacturer of the machine and you have to trust the people who set the machine up, who program it, and you have to trust the people who get the decipherment of the vote out of the machine when the election's over.


GROSS: There's so much concern about whether the election will be fair and whether the votes will be fairly counted and there are so many lawsuits in the works now, do you think that elections have become more problematic than they've ever been before? Do you think that's just a question of the fact that the election was so close in 2000 that we're more sensitive to inaccuracies that have actually always existed?

Mr. CARTER: I don't have any sound evidence on which to base my answer. But my own opinion is that there have always been improprieties and distorted results promulgated by powerful local and state election officials. And it was only the Florida debacle that was going to result in the choice of a president that became so highly visible for the first time. My guess is that in the state of Georgia and in the state of Florida and maybe in the state of Pennsylvania and obviously there have been allegations about Illinois--when John Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon, there were claims that 120 votes were transferred to Kennedy by Mayor Daley and others. So I think that in the past, there have been those improprieties and a distortion of accuracy. I think now it may be a healthy thing that because of the year 2000 in Florida, that people are more aware of a threat and maybe there'll be some more cleansing.

National Federation of the Blind on E-voting and Accessibility

Voice of the Nation's Blind: Electronic Voting in the 2004 Election by Michael Nutt, December 1, 2004

Review of a Braille overlay on an electronic voting machine by Christopher Danielsen, December 1, 2004

Accounts of blind voters' voting experiences by Michael Nutt, December 1, 2004

AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminal Demonstration by Michael Nutt, December 1, 2004

The December issue of "Voices of the Nation's Blind", a publication of the National Federation of the Blind, features a series of articles about blind voters' experiences in the November 2004 election as well as thoughts about how to move forward with both accessibility and security.



Accessible voting machines are finally a reality. The Automark and many other voting machines accessible to the blind are finally in production, while the laws of our nation require the states to purchase accessible machines and make the entire process of voting accessible to the blind. The machines are only part of the system, though. There are many parts to the voting system, ranging from voter registration procedures, to election procedures, to the security and verifiability of the ballots once they have been cast. Not only must the system work, it must be seen to work, and it must have the confidence of all voters.

Many states have started requiring voter-verifiable audit trails. While in theory this could be done without paper, in reality, proponents of such audit trails argue, with some survey data to back them up, that the majority of voters in the country would not have faith in a system that lacked a paper audit trail. We are confronted with the reality that paper audit trails will be with us for the foreseeable future. Laws requiring them are now on the books in California, Nevada, and Ohio, to name only a few, and there are strong sentiments for such laws in many other states.

The NFB does not oppose such paper trails in principle, but we insist that they must be just as accessible to the blind as they are to sighted voters. All reputable advocates of paper trails agree with our position, and have stated their agreement, although perhaps not as vociferously as we might have liked. Nonetheless, it is still there, not just in the statements of groups like the California Voter Foundation, the League of Women Voters, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and VerifiedVoting.org, but also in the laws of our nation and of many of the individual states within it. Where state laws and regulations do not provide for the means of verification to be accessible to the blind, we must make sure they are changed to reflect that imperative.

Most advocates who are concerned about voting agree that the American election system is in dire need of reform, and not just in the technology employed in the voting booth. In the NFB, our primary concern is that we preserve the right for the blind to cast our ballots independently and in secret; however, we should not stand in the way of voting reforms that do not conflict with that goal, and we should bear in mind that all voters have the right to know that the system insures that all votes are counted properly.

Touchscreen voting supplier experiencing organizational turmoil

By Jay Goetting, Napa Valley Register, December 6, 2004


The company that manufactures the touchscreen voting devices, as well as other elections equipment, used in Napa County is experiencing some organizational turmoil.

Sequoia Voting Systems' parent firm, British-based De La Rue, has indicated it may sell or close Sequoia's operations. Sequoia's headquarters is in Oakland.

Tuteur said he heard last week that there could be a restructuring of Sequoia's management and that the firm that supplies Napa County is for sale.

"I don't expect any change for us," he said, although he said he will be watching with interest as events unfold.

A report in The Times of London said the action taken is "to the relief of many." De La Rue also said it will cut 350 jobs. The moves follow the closure of a major De La Rue plant in Surrey, England last year.

Sequoia has been part of De La Rue since 2001, when the Hampshire, UK business bought 85 percent of the company. The remaining 15 percent was retained by a firm known as Smurfit.

De La Rue is a multi-national firm that prints currency for a number of countries and is a leader in tamperproof technology. Among its products are American Express travelers' checks. De La Rue invented the secure cash-counting mechanisms used in automated teller machines.

The bottom line in the London Times business report regarding De La Rue stock: "Sell."

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Election surprise actually an error

By Bill Ainsworth, San Diego Union-Tribune, December 2, 2004

An electronic reporting error made by San Diego County resulted in appearing to change the outcome of Proposition 72. Such errors routinely occur and illustrate the value of having election results that are publicly verified. When errors do occur and must be corrected it is crucial that election officials can demonstrate the revised results are accurate. Without a voter verified paper record and routine verification of software vote counts, the public is less likely to accept the validity of revised results.


Excerpts from the San Diego Union-Tribune story:

A reporting error by San Diego County briefly caused a state Web site to incorrectly show that Proposition 72, a health insurance ballot measure defeated on Election Day, had actually been approved by voters.

But a proper transmittal by San Diego County yesterday reaffirmed the Election Day results. The correct figures show that the measure lost by about 200,000 votes statewide.

Proposition 72, which would have required businesses with at least 50 employees to provide health insurance to their workers or pay a fee into a state insurance fund, was the subject of a hard-fought campaign between business and labor.

The measure was narrowly defeated Nov. 2, but the brief posting of contrary results Tuesday night startled both supporters and opponents.

On Tuesday, 17 counties, including San Diego, reported final results to the state both by mail and electronic transmission, a state official said.

In the process of transmitting results electronically, San Diego County ran into a glitch that reported results of ballot propositions from 60A to 72 out of sequence, according to San Diego County Registrar of Voters Sally McPherson.

Consequently, the San Diego County totals for a popular ballot measure, 60A, which directs revenue from the sale of surplus property to pay off state debt bonds, were submitted incorrectly as the results for Proposition 72, she said.

"The wrong numbers went into the wrong spaces," McPherson said.

Those extra votes, when added to the statewide total, were enough to make it seem like Proposition 72 had experienced a stunning come-from-behind victory.

In San Diego County, Proposition 60A won approval from 77 percent of San Diego County voters, while Proposition 72 won approval from 44 percent of county voters.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Problems are cited on electronic voting

By Sam Hananel, Associated Press, November 19, 2004

Last week I was in Washington, D.C. and participated in the Election Verification Project's news conference. The project issued a statement that calls for federal and state legislation requiring a voter-verified paper record, mandatory national electronic voting standards and routine auditing of computerized vote counts.


Excerpts from the AP story:

WASHINGTON -- The record use of electronic voting machines on Nov. 2 led to hundreds of voting irregularities and shows the need for higher standards, a voting rights group said yesterday.

The companies that make the electronic machines said their equipment was reliable and had relatively few problems considering the millions who cast their ballots.

The Election Verification Project reviewed nearly 900 reports of electronic voting problems on Election Day, ranging from lost votes in North Carolina to miscounted votes in Ohio and breakdowns in New Orleans that caused long lines and shut down polling places.

''The documented problems with touch-screen machines, vote-counting irregularities, and the fact that votes cannot be verified or recounted show us how vulnerable our democracy will be in the future when there are disputed or unclear results," said Kim Alexander, a project member and president of the California Voter Foundation.

The members of the verification project said they hadn't seen evidence that the problems would change the election results -- President Bush captured 60.5 million votes to Senator John F. Kerry's 57.1 million. But they said the problems raised the specter of that possibility in a closer race.

Without a paper trail of electronic votes, they said, officials can never be sure that machines are recording votes correctly. ''If this were the banking industry, the gambling industry, there would be standards for making sure the software was working right," Alexander said.

Researchers: Florida Vote Fishy

By Kim Zetter, Wired News, November 18, 2004


Electronic voting machines in Florida may have awarded George W. Bush up to 260,000 more votes than he should have received, according to statistical analysis conducted by University of California, Berkeley graduate students and a professor, who released a study on Thursday.

The researchers likened their report to a beeping smoke alarm and called on Florida officials to examine the data and the voting systems in counties that used touch-screen voting machines to provide an explanation for the anomalies. The researchers examined the same numbers and variables in Ohio, but found no discrepancies there.


The researchers examined numerous variables that might have affected the vote outcome. These included the number of voters, their median income, racial and age makeup and the change in voter turnout between the 2000 and 2004 elections. Using this information, they examined election results for the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates in the state in 1996, 2000 and 2004 to see how support for those candidates and parties measured over eight years in Florida's 67 counties.

They discovered that in the 15 counties using touch-screen voting systems, the number of votes granted to Bush exceeded the number of votes Bush should have received -- given all of the other variables -- while the number of votes that Bush received in counties using other types of voting equipment lined up perfectly with what the variables would have predicted for those counties.

The total number of excessive votes ranged between 130,000 and 260,000, depending on what kind of problem caused the excess votes. The counties most affected by the anomaly were heavily Democratic.

Sociology professor Michael Hout, who chairs the university's graduate Sociology and Demography group, said the chance for such a discrepancy to occur was less than 1 in 1,000.

"No matter how many factors and variables we took into consideration, the significant correlation in the votes for President Bush and electronic voting cannot be explained," he said in a statement. "There is just a trivial probability of evidence like this appearing in a population where the true difference is zero -- less than once in a thousand chances."


Susan Van Houten, cofounder of Palm Beach Coalition for Election Reform, was not surprised by the Berkeley report.

"I've believed the same thing for a while that the numbers are screwy and it looks like they proved it," Van Houten said.

Van Houten said her group had received a number of reports from voters who said that when they voted for Kerry on the Sequoia machines, the review screen showed that the vote had been cast for Bush. The review screen lets voters review their choices before casting their ballot. Van Houten said she was concerned that the same thing may have happened to many other voters who didn't carefully check the review screen before casting their ballot.

"From the computer experts I spoke to, it’s relatively easy to program something into the system so that only every 50th vote would automatically go to Bush," Van Houten said. If this were the case, election officials would be less likely to think there was a problem with the machine if only a few voters noticed it.

But Walter Medane, a professor of government at Cornell University, said the study showed no indication of fraud or that something was out of place with the election results.

"All their study truly demonstrates is what was already well known, which is that the counties that used electronic touch-screen machines differ from the counties that used optical scan ballots in many respects," Mebane wrote in an e-mail. "Whether those differences include fraud specifically involving the electronic machines cannot be determined from regression models such as the UC Berkeley study uses."

Jenny Nash, press secretary for the Florida Department of State, said she would not comment on a report that she had not yet read. She said Florida had been using its current voting systems since 2002 and had "delivered hundreds of successful elections using the systems."

"Florida has one of the most rigorous certification processes in the nation," Nash said. "After a system is certified for use ... then every single voting systems is tested prior to the election, sealed, and then that seal is not broken until Election Day. We have never had any reports from supervisors of machines malfunctioning or of votes being lost."

"I think that's a joke," Van Houten said. "As a poll worker in the primary (election), I personally witnessed three machines go down."

Van Houten's group, which monitored polling places on Nov. 2, found that at least 40 of 798 machines they monitored were unable to print out a final tally tape at the end of the night. In Florida, poll workers are supposed to print out two tallies from each machine -- one for county officials and another for posting at the polls so that voters can see what the tallies were.

"In around 40 cases that didn't occur," Van Houten said. "I personally observed that during the primary as well. A machine just went down and flashed a message that it needed service repair. It didn't print out a tally."

Berkeley: President comes up short

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, November 19, 2004

Last Thursday, a group of UC Berkeley graduate students and Professor Michael Hout, Hout, chair of the university's graduate Sociology and Demography group released a working paper which finds that President Bush received tens of thousands more votes in Florida's electronic-voting Democratic counties than past voting patterns would have suggested.


Excerpts from the Oakland Tribune story:

In the nation's first academic study of the Florida 2004 vote, University of California, Berkeley, graduate students and a professor have found intriguing evidence that electronic-voting counties could have mistakenly awarded up to 260,000 votes to President George Bush.

The discrepancy, reported Thursday, is insufficient by itself to sway the outcome of the presidential race in Florida, but the UC Berkeley team called on Florida elections officials for an investigation.

"This is a no-vote-left-behind kind of project, not a change-the-president project," said UC Berkeley sociology professor Michael Hout, who oversaw the research. "We're as interested in the next election as the one just over."

Broadly speaking, the UC Berkeley team found that President Bush received tens of thousands more votes in electronic-voting Democratic counties than past voting patterns would have suggested. No such pattern turned up in counties using optical scanning machines.

The UC Berkeley report has not been peer-reviewed, but a reputable MIT political scientist succeeded in replicating the analysis Thursday at the request of the Herald and The Associated Press. He said an investigation is warranted.

"There is an interesting pattern here that I hope someone looks into," said MIT Arts and Social Sciences Dean Charles Stewart III, a researcher in the MIT-Caltech Voting Technology Project.

Stewart isn't convinced the problem is electronic voting. It could be absentee voting or some quirk of election administration. But whatever the problem, it didn't show up in counties using optical scanning machines. Rather than offer evidence of fraud or voting problems, the UC Berkeley study infers they exist mathematically.

Frustrated at the low-brow, data-poor nature of allegations of election fraud flooding the Internet, three Berkeley grad students decided to apply the tools of first-year statistics class.

"We decided, well, you might as well test it properly instead of sitting around speculating," said first-year sociology grad student Laura Mangels. She and two colleagues downloaded voting and demographic data, ran them through statistics software and in the first night had results that produced a collective "Wow" among the students, she said.

They shopped their results to faculty and finally to Hout, a well-known skeptic who chairs the university's graduate Sociology and Demography group.

"Seven professors later, nobody's been able to poke a hole in our model," Mangels said. "Our results still hold up."

Hout agreed. "Something went awry with the voting in Florida."

They found nothing out of the ordinary in Ohio. But in Florida they discovered a small, unexplained boost in Bush support in three heavily Democratic counties, compared to how those counties voted in 1996 and 2000.

The counties -- Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade -- were at the eye of Florida's 2000 election storm. All traded out their reviled punchcards for touch-screen voting machines sold by either Omaha-based Election Systems & Software or Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems.

The Kerry-Edwards campaign and allies concentrated most of their Florida effort in those three counties.

In Broward County alone, the students found, President Bush appeared to have received 72,000 more votes than would be forecast based on Broward's past voting patterns.

The UC Berkeley study estimates that all 15 electronic voting counties in Florida produced at least 130,733 and as many as 260,000 "ghost votes" for President Bush -- votes that either weren't cast by voters or were registered for a candidate other than the one intended by the voter.

Hout said the odds that those people simply chose to re-elect the president are "less than one in a thousand." The students tested and retested their data to see what other factor might explain the results -- income levels, the Latino population, changes in voter turnout. According to their report, the data show with 99 percent certainty that a county's use of electronic voting is associated with a disproportionate increase in votes for President Bush.

In early voting in Broward County, poll monitors reported that poll workers displayed zero tapes, printed out when touch-screen machines are booted up, dated as much as 10 days before early voting opened. That leaves room for doubt on whether votes could have been recorded beforehand.

In Palm Beach County, several voters on Sequoia machines reported their ballots were pre-selected for President Bush before they began voting.

MIT's Stewart wants more detailed analysis in the three counties.

Riverside editorial: Open the Machines

Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial, November 20, 2004


Remember the wise adage, trust but verify? Polls show that voters remain wary of touch-screen voting. This despite few reported glitches and repeated assurances from officials that the systems are reliable. To boost public confidence, the inner-workings of electronic voting must be transparent.

If only the Riverside County registrar of voters agreed. Since the Nov. 2 election, Barbara Dunsmore has dismissed the need for a paper voting trail and persisted with a court fight to withhold electronic voting data from this year's balloting.

An October Field Poll found that only 23 percent of California voters felt "very confident" in touch-screen machines. Such numbers are one reason federal law requires all counties to provide a "voter verifiable paper trail" by 2006.

Dunsmore's comments that such trails are wasteful do not enhance voter confidence.

Nor do her court fights to suppress voting data. Former Board of Supervisors candidate Linda Soubirous has filed separate lawsuits demanding to check the backup records the county kept during the March and November elections to see if they matched the votes logged by the machines.

Dunsmore argued against releasing the information, insisting that the machines are accurate and that the law lets the registrar decide how much data the public can review.

Two state courts sided with the registrar. But Soubirous plans more appeals.

Dunsmore may have the law on her side. But this isn't a debate over technicalities. The health of our democracy rests on the public's confidence in the integrity of elections.

If the registrar wants to crush qualms of local voters, she should release all the information, and let the people judge.

Registrar seeks to halt check of electronic voting

By Michael Coronado, Riverside Press-Enterprise

The strangest thing about this story is that neither the reporter nor the county of Riverside appears to be aware of the fact that the voter verified paper trail is now a requirement in law in California. The entire California legislature, including those members who represent Riverside County, voted to pass a law, which Governor Schwarzenegger signed in September, to require that a voter verified paper record back up every digital ballot cast by the next statewide election.



Riverside County Registrar Barbara Dunmore will ask Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to re-examine an agreement that requires counties using electronic voting terminals to provide a paper printout by 2006.

Dunmore said Monday that the success of the state's parallel monitoring program during the November election showed why the paper trail is not needed.

"I think that the parallel monitoring and the small number of paper ballots requested at the polls show that voters in this county are comfortable with our process and confident with our machines," she said.

Under an agreement reached with the secretary of state, counties using electronic voting were required to participate in a parallel monitoring program on election day.


In Riverside County, six state monitors randomly chose two of the county's electronic voting terminals which tested and cast votes in a simulation for 13 hours while recording the results using a video camera.

About 1.1 percent of county voters requested paper ballots at their local polling place. That's about 3,719 of 351,418 ballots cast on election day, Dunmore said.

Supervisor Bob Buster last week called the paper ballots a waste of taxpayer expense.

Dunmore said the county under state law is required to store the estimated 125,000 paper ballots for 22 months. Then those ballots must be destroyed, adding another expense Dunmore said.

The secretary of state's full report for all counties is due out later this month and will again prove why Riverside County's voting machines are accurate and secure, Dunmore said.

"It shows that this (paper ballots) was an unnecessary option in our county," she said.

Monday, November 15, 2004

About Those Election Results

New York Times Editorial, "Making Votes Count" series, November 14, 2004

Sunday's New York Times editorial sums up the post-election situation quite well.


There have been a flood of reports, rumors and theories over the last 12 days about problems with the presidential election. The blogosphere, in particular, has been full of questions: Why did electronic voting machines in Ohio add nearly 4,000 phantom votes for President Bush, and why did machines in Florida mysteriously start to count backward? Why did the official vote totals for Ohio's largest county seem to suggest that there were more votes cast than registered voters? Why did election officials in yet another part of Ohio lock down the building where votes were being counted, turning away the press and public?

Defenders of the system have been quick to dismiss questions like these as the work of "conspiracy theorists," but that misses the point. Until our election system is improved - with better mechanics and greater transparency - we cannot expect voters to have full confidence in the announced results.

Electronic voting proved to be, as critics warned, a problem. There is no evidence of vote theft or errors on a large scale. But this country should have elections in which the public has no reason to worry whether every vote was counted properly, and we're still not there. In Franklin County, Ohio, one precinct reported nearly 4,000 votes for President Bush, although the precinct had fewer than 800 voters. In Broward County, Florida election officials noticed that when the absentee ballots were being tabulated, the vote totals began to go down instead of up. Voters in several states reported that when they selected John Kerry, it turned into a vote for President Bush.

These problems were all detected and fixed, but there is no way of knowing how many other machine malfunctions did not come to light, since most machines do not have a reliable way of double-checking for errors. When a precinct mistakenly adds nearly 4,000 votes to a candidate's total, it is likely to be noticed, but smaller inaccuracies may not be. There is also no way to be sure that the nightmare scenario of electronic voting critics did not occur: votes surreptitiously shifted from one candidate to another inside the machines, by secret software.

It's important to make it clear that there is no evidence such a thing happened, but there will be concern and conspiracy theories until all software used in elections is made public. Voters who use electronic machines are entitled to a voter-verified paper trail, which Nevadans got this year, so they can be sure their votes were accurately recorded.

The outrageous decision by Warren County, Ohio, to lock down the building where votes were being counted is an extreme example of another serious problem with the elections: a lack of transparency. In some states, reporters are barred from polling places. The wild rumors about Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where the official results appeared to include an extra 90,000 votes, were a result of its bizarrely complicated method of posting election results, which is different in even- and odd-numbered years. The nation needs to develop an election culture in which officials in every part of the country automatically keep things as open - and as simple - as humanly possible.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Recount changes one Franklin Co. race

Associated Press, November 12 2004

A computerized vote counting error in Franklin County, Indiana, provides a good example of the value of paper ballots. Had this counting error happened with an all-electronic voting system, the county would have had no independent audit trail to rely on once the vote-counting programming error was discovered.


A Democrat gained enough votes to bump a Republican from victory in a county commissioner's race after a recount prompted by a computer glitch in optical-scan voting.

The glitch in the Fidlar Election Co. vote-scanning system had recorded straight-Democratic Party votes for Libertarians.

When votes in southeastern Indiana's Franklin County were recounted by hand Thursday night, Democrat Carroll Lanning leaped from fifth to third in the three-seat commissioners race and Republican Roy Hall fell to fifth.

Fidlar confirmed the error on Wednesday, a day after Democrats raised questions about preliminary results that included a Libertarian candidate for Congress winning 7.7 percent of the vote in Franklin County. That was more than four times the percentage of votes he had won across the entire district.

No programming problems were found in Fidlar's optical scan Accuvote 2000 ES system, said Dana Pittman, an account manager for the Rock Island, Ill.-based company.

However, Fidlar also is verifying programming of its optical scan equipment in Wisconsin and Michigan, which, like Indiana, have straight-party voting, Vern Paddock of Fidlar technical support told the Palladium-Item of Richmond.


Franklin County Democratic Chairman Jim Sauerland had questioned the local results Tuesday after seeing information on the final tally he could not decipher, county Clerk Marlene Flashpohler said.

Preliminary tallies showed Libertarian Chad Roots had received 740 votes, or 7.7 percent, of the 9,609 votes cast in Franklin County for the 6th District congressional seat, which Republican incumbent Mike Pence won by a wide margin.

Roots received 1.8 percent of the vote districtwide.

Kate Shepherd, a spokeswoman for the Indiana secretary of state's office, said the state Election Division was aware of the vote-counting problem in Franklin County. She said tests with Fidlar's optical-scan equipment before the election found no problems.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

E-voting firm puts adversity behind it

By Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune, November 11, 2004


California's attorney general and Alameda County endorsed a $2.68 million settlement with Diebold Election Systems Inc. on Wednesday, yielding a stock bump for Diebold's parent company that paid for the settlement 17 times over.

If approved by a state judge, the proposed agreement -- and few problems with Diebold's touch-screen machines in the Nov. 2 election -- lifted the market cloud that had gathered since last November over Diebold's voting business in California.

"In making false claims about its equipment," said Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Diebold treated California voters and taxpayers "cavalierly."

"This settlement holds Diebold accountable and helps ensure the future quality and security of its voting systems," Lockyer said in a prepared statement.


The company admitted no fault or violation of state law in the proposed agreement, which would end a False Claims Act lawsuit filed last November by two e-voting critics on behalf of state and local taxpayers. They vowed to oppose the settlement at a hearing tentatively set for Dec. 10.

"If it meant throwing Diebold out of the state, we'd gladly take it," said Jim March, a Sacramento-based e-voting activist and board member of BlackBoxVoting.org. "But Diebold gets a slap on the wrist and isn't required to do anything seriously new in terms of security? I don't think so. This stinks."

Under the settlement, Diebold would pay $1.6 million to the state and $475,000 to Alameda County, plus give $500,000 to the University of California, Berkeley's Institute of Government Studies for research on training poll workers for electronic voting.

The payment to Alameda County was not meant as reimbursement for any part of the $12 million in local and state money used to buy 4,000 Diebold touch-screens in 2002.

Rather, the settlement was intended to reimburse Alameda for extra personnel costs tied to widescale breakdowns in voting equipment during the March primary and the correcting of vote totals last fall, when a Diebold computer misawarded thousands of gubernatorial votes to the wrong candidate.

Diebold also agreed to several security measures, most of which already were implemented -- such as changeable passwords and encryption codes in its software -- or are required by state law. Diebold promised, for example, to share previously secret testing reports from its contractor laboratories with the secretary of state's office.

A new state law authored by Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland, already requires the delivery of those reports.


March and BlackBoxVoting.org founder Bev Harris sued Diebold on behalf of California and Alameda County. March said the settlement was "steamrolled" by state officials and was "ugly."

Attorneys for the county and the state took over the case, left March and Harris out of settlement negotiations and rewrote their lawsuit to remove most of its claims of poor security in Diebold's central vote-tabulating software, known as GEMS.

"I don't know what Lockyer is thinking," said March. "I do know he's not paying attention to the core, structural problems with GEMS. And the timing of shutting down this case so close after the election sucks."

March plans to urge the judge to reject or postpone the settlement until more data is available on the performance of Diebold touch-screens in the presidential election.

Saturday, November 6, 2004

Paper trail tested for e-vote devices

By Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News, November 6, 2004

Nevada officials happy with system that's likely for Santa Clara County


An example of what can go wrong was given by election officials in Ohio's Franklin County on Friday morning. An electronic voting system manufactured by Danaher Controls awarded an extra 3,893 votes to Bush, they said.

A new California law could make such snafus easier to catch by requiring all electronic voting machines to produce paper trails by January 2006.

The equipment that will most likely be used in Santa Clara County got an early workout in Nevada, where printers were attached to 2,740 electronic voting machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems -- the same machines used in Santa Clara County.

Despite initial fears that the printers would create complexity and extra problems, Nevada election officials said the equipment functioned well. ``We've been very happy with it,'' said Steve George, a spokesman for Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller.

George said the biggest problems occurred during early voting at a polling place in Pahrump, a rural town 60 miles west of Las Vegas, where paper in the Sequoia printers was misfed or jammed. ``It was fixed immediately,'' George said.

Larry Lomax, the registrar of voters for Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, said the use of the printers ``totally eliminated complaints'' from his 684,313 registered voters.

``We can just hardly wait to get it,'' said Jesse Durazo, the registrar of Santa Clara County. Durazo said the county will ask Sequoia to provide the printers as soon as they are certified by California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. State regulations require voting equipment be certified before it can be used.

Caren Daniels-Meade, a spokeswoman for Shelley, said he was waiting for a report from Sequoia Voting Systems and San Bernardino County, which was allowed to try the printers at one polling place.

Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation and a proponent of paper-trail systems, noted that one hurdle the Sequoia printer faces is that it doesn't randomize ballots. It stores the voting records sequentially on a strip of paper that rolls out under a glass cover as voters make their choices.

Before voters press the ``cast ballot button,'' they can review the paper record to make sure their votes were accurately recorded.

In theory, a polling place observer could figure out how someone voted by tracking who used a particular machine and later comparing names on the polling place sign-in sheet to the paper trail. A randomized paper trail would prevent that.

In practice, such behavior also could be stopped with proper polling-place procedures, said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for Sequoia. Charles said this printer design was the most reliable. He noted that other ballots, such as absentee ballots favored by one in three California voters, also can be tied to voters if election officials are careless.

Lomax, the Clark County registrar, said counties that follow in Nevada's footsteps need to be aware that printers are expensive. Lomax said he spent $200,000 to build a secure vault to store the printers and the paper records. And, he said, there were substantial labor costs to set up, maintain and monitor the printers during the election.

Lomax also cautioned that the system was best used to increase voter confidence during an election -- not for a recount. A manual recount would be ``unbelievably cumbersome and slow'' and, most likely, inaccurate because human counters make mistakes, Lomax said.

Instead, the paper trail on a number of randomly selected machines could be checked against the software. California and Nevada routinely conduct manual audits after every election.

Friday, November 5, 2004

Group Finds Voting Irregularities in South

By Doug Gross, The Associated Press, November 5, 2004


ATLANTA -- A national voting rights group said Friday it documented hundreds of voting irregularities affecting poor and minority voters in seven Southern states - from long lines and faulty equipment to deliberate voter intimidation.

"While the United States of America is a strong democracy, it is also a flawed democracy," said Keith Jennings, director of Count Every Vote 2004, formed after the 2000 election to assure voting rights for "underrepresented and marginalized sectors of the population."

The group sent monitors Tuesday to 700 precincts in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina. Their goal was to observe such issues as the timely opening of polls, the presence of correct ballots and functioning machines, and the impartiality of elections officials.

Among their preliminary findings, the group listed a shortage of early voting locations in Duval County, Fla., the largest county in Florida in area and voting-age population, the failure of electronic voting machines in three South Carolina counties, and the loss of votes at a North Carolina precinct when too much information was stored on a computer unit.

"In one case, sprinklers came on while people were waiting to vote and the poll workers didn't know how to turn them off," said Alma Ayala, who monitored voting in St. Petersburg, Fla.


Randall Tussaint, who helped register voters and monitor polls in an eastern Georgia congressional district, cited a precinct at historically black Savannah State University where the 25 provisional ballots provided were gone by 11 a.m.

Some voters whose registration status was unclear after that time left without voting, he said.

In Florida, monitors said they observed prospective voters leaving polling places when they saw long lines for last week's early voting. Faulty equipment and sub-par facilities in some poor neighborhoods also contributed to possible voter disenfranchisement, they said.

The group's preliminary report made some positive observations.

The report applauded increased voter participation and numerous "get out the vote drives" and called elections throughout the South "relatively well administered."

But members said the fact that the presidential election's outcome is not being challenged - as it was in 2000 - should not obscure problems that still occurred.

"We had an election on Nov. 2 that fell outside the zone of litigation," said Patrick Merloe, an attorney and human rights activist who has observed elections in 27 countries. "That does not mean we had an election that met acceptable standards."


On the Net:

Count Every Vote 2004: http://www.counteveryvote2004.org

Voting machine error gives Bush 3,893 extra votes in Ohio

The Associated Press, November 5, 2004


COLUMBUS, Ohio – An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.

Franklin County's unofficial results had Bush receiving 4,258 votes to Democrat John Kerry's 260 votes in a precinct in Gahanna. Records show only 638 voters cast ballots in that precinct.

Bush actually received 365 votes in the precinct, Matthew Damschroder, director of the Franklin County Board of Elections, told The Columbus Dispatch.

State and county election officials did not immediately respond to requests by The Associated Press for more details about the voting system and its vendor, and whether the error, if repeated elsewhere in Ohio, could have affected the outcome.

Bush won the state by more than 136,000 votes, according to unofficial results, and Kerry conceded the election on Wednesday after acknowledging that 155,000 provisional ballots yet to be counted in Ohio would not change the result.

The Secretary of State's Office said Friday it could not revise Bush's total until the county reported the error.


In the Ohio precinct in question, the votes are recorded onto a cartridge. On one of the three machines at that precinct, a malfunction occurred in the recording process, Damschroder said. He could not explain how the malfunction occurred.

Damschroder said people who had seen poll results on the election board's Web site called to point out the discrepancy. The error would have been discovered when the official count for the election is performed later this month, he said.

The reader also recorded zero votes in a county commissioner race on the machine.

Workers checked the cartridge against memory banks in the voting machine and each showed that 115 people voted for Bush on that machine. With the other machines, the total for Bush in the precinct added up to 365 votes.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

E-vote goes smoothly, but experts skeptical

The Associated Press, November 4, 2004


"It was a very positive day for the American voting system generally and for electronic voting machines particularly," said Harris Miller, president of the industry trade group Information Technology Association of America, which represents voting equipment companies. "The machines performed beautifully ... Instead of theories about catastrophes, the simple reality is that the machines produce accurate results and the voters love them."

Computer scientists reserved judgment.

Many acknowledged that the hardware performed well. But software errors may have changed results, they said. The vast majority of touch screens in the United States do not produce paper records. And that means, critics say, that the machines could alter or delete ballots without anyone noticing.

"What has most concerned scientists are problems that are not observable, so the fact that no major problems were observed says nothing about the system," said David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. "The fact that we had a relatively smooth election yesterday does not change at all the vulnerability these systems have to fraud or bugs."

Avi Rubin, one of the nation's leading critics of e-voting, said he was relieved and encouraged that the machines didn't fail en masse on Election Day.

But Rubin, who worked in Maryland as a poll judge Tuesday, still supports major changes in election technology -- including requirements that the machines produce paper records, and that independent researchers be permitted to examine their software for problems.

"I've been saying all along that my biggest fear is that someone would program a machine to give a wrong answer," said Rubin, a Johns Hopkins computer scientist. "If that were to happen, the machine would still work fine -- we just wouldn't know it."

Statisticians at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and California Institute of Technology are asking county election officials throughout the nation for raw election data and hope to perform "forensic tests" that could take at least a month. The fledgling U.S. Election Assistance Commission is also compiling data and plans to issue a report later this month.

SF: New voting method breaks down

By Suzanne Herel, San Francisco Chronicle, November 4, 2004


The computer software designed to tabulate the results of San Francisco's first election using ranked-choice voting malfunctioned Wednesday, and the outcome of contested races for district supervisor likely won't be available for at least two weeks, said Elections Director John Arntz.


But trouble arose at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Arntz said, when election workers began to merge the first, second and third choices of voters and run a computer program that sequentially eliminates low vote-getters and redistributes their votes based on voters' second and third choices until one candidate receives a majority of the remaining votes.

Arntz said the numbers didn't add up. "We compared the numbers we had to first-choice results, and it wasn't matching," he said after a press conference at which he had planned to release more complete results of the ranked-choice voting contests.

Arntz said that he didn't want to release incomplete results and that the department was awaiting troubleshooters from Election Systems and Software, the Omaha, Neb., firm that sold the city the computer equipment. The system premiered in this year's board races, and it is scheduled to be used in citywide elections for local offices, the next one being the election of city attorney in 2005.

By state law, Arntz said, his department has until Nov. 30 to certify the results of this election, and he couldn't say whether results would be ready before then.

The new system has undergone federal and state testing as well as pre- election tests in which its accuracy was examined. "Every step of the way, this system has worked properly," Arntz said, acknowledging that he was blindsided by Wednesday's glitch.

Arntz stressed that no votes had been lost and that each ballot cast had a paper trail. And he has enough confidence that the system will be fixed soon that he isn't contemplating a handcount. "This is a surprise, but I don't think it's going to be something that stops RCV (ranked-choice voting) for this election."

FL: Defective software 'lost' votes

By Erika Bolstad, Miami-Herald, November 4, 2004


Thousands of new votes on some constitutional amendment questions were discovered early Thursday, potentially forcing a recount on the question of a South Florida vote on slot machines.

As absentee ballot counting wound down after midnight in Broward County's elections warehouse, attorneys scrutinizing the close vote on Amendment Four noticed that vote totals changed in an unexpected way after 13,000 final ballots were counted.

Election officials quickly determined the problem was caused by the Unity Software that pulls together votes from five machines tabulating absentee ballots.

Because no precinct has more than 32,000 voters, the software caps the total votes at that number. From there, it begins to count backward.


Attorney Ron Book, who represents the pro-slots group Floridians for a Level Playing Field, said he believes the new Broward votes, along with about 21,000 just-counted absentees from Palm Beach County, will give Amendment Four a ''yes'' margin of about 86,000 votes. Final Miami-Dade numbers are not yet available.

The error only affects the count of absentee votes on countywide questions. In this election, it only affected one page of the ballot, including amendment questions four through eight.

The glitch was discovered two years ago, and should have been corrected by software manufacturer ES&S of Omaha, Neb., according to Broward County Mayor Ilene Lieberman.

''I was so angry last night,'' Lieberman said. She spoke to representatives from ES&S early Thursday morning, and later was having a spirited telephone conversation with Secretary of State Glenda Hood.

ES&S said it had been trying to fix this software problem since it first came to their attention in Broward in 2002, but isn't able to get certification for the change from the state.

An attorney for the Secretary of State's office disputed that on Thursday, saying that fixing this problem is not something that needs state certification.

NC: Computer Loses 4,500 Votes

Associated Press, November 4, 2004


JACKSONVILLE, North Carolina -- More than 4,500 votes have been lost in one North Carolina county because officials believed a computer that stored ballots electronically could hold more data than it did. Scattered other problems may change results in races around the state.

Local officials said UniLect, the maker of the county's electronic voting system, told them that each storage unit could handle 10,500 votes, but the limit was actually 3,005 votes.

Expecting the greater capacity, the county used only one unit during the early voting period. "If we had known, we would have had the units to handle the votes," said Sue Verdon, secretary of the county election board.

Officials said 3,005 early votes were stored, but 4,530 were lost.

Jack Gerbel, president and owner of Dublin, California-based UniLect, said Thursday that the county's elections board was given incorrect information. There is no way to retrieve the missing data, he said.

"That is the situation and it's definitely terrible," he said.

In a letter to county officials, he blamed the mistake on confusion over which model of the voting machines was in use in Carteret County. But he also noted that the machines flash a warning message when there is no more room for storing ballots.

"Evidently, this message was either ignored or overlooked," he wrote.

County election officials were meeting Thursday with Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, and did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

This isn't the first time that North Carolina experienced this problem. In early voting for the 2002 general election, touch-screen voting machines made by a different company, Election Systems & Software, failed to record ballots cast by 436 voters.

The company said the problem was a software glitch that caused the machines to believe the memory cards were full when they actually weren't. Like UniLect, ES&S claimed that the machines flashed a warning to voters telling them the memory was full but it did not prevent voters from continuing to cast ballots, something that critics say any voting machine should do.

This year's lost votes didn't appear to change the outcome of county races, but that wasn't the issue for Alecia Williams, who voted on one of the final days of the early voting period.

"The point is not whether the votes would have changed things, it's that they didn't get counted at all," Williams said.

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

OH: Judge orders officials to provide paper ballots

The Columbus Dispatch, November 2, 2004


A federal judge has ordered the Franklin and Knox County boards of elections to provide paper ballots or other forms of voting to help process the people remaining in long lines.

Lawyers from the Franklin Board and Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell vehemently objected and vowed an immediate appeal, saying any votes not cast on the regular electronic machines would be illegal.

And it was not immediately clear just what the Franklin County elections board would do to comply with the judge's order.

U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley held an emergency hearing at the request of the Ohio Democratic Party and issued his order just as the polls were closing.

Ohio law requires that everyone in line when the polls close be allowed to vote, no matter how long it takes. A poll worker stands at the end of the line if necessary to mark where voting will end.

But Democrats argued with lines snaking out the door of many polling places and waits of several hours, voters are getting discouraged and leaving before casting their votes.

"Participation in this Democracy should not be as onerous as it is being made today," Marbley said before issuing his order.

During testimony at the rapidly held hearing, Franklin County elections chief Matthew Damschroder said there is no practical way for the county to make the voting go any faster for those in line.

Using absentee ballots would take longer, and trying to use absentee booklets or other forms of a paper ballot would be too difficult to use, he said.

Richard N. Coglianese, an assistant Ohio attorney general representing Blackwell, argued the court lacked the authority to issue such an order and that any votes not cast on the machines at this late hour would be illegal.

He asked the judge to stay his orders pending an appeal, but the judge refused.

Marbley suggested the election boards should have done more to prepare for the heavy turnout today, but Damschroder said the board deployed all of the electronic machines it could.

"Voting equipment isn't like buying a loaf of bread," he said. "You can't just go down to the local store and get one."


Several callers to The Dispatch today complained that some voters were holding up lines by taking up to 15 minutes to make decisions once they reached the voting machines.

At other polling places, some voters objected that poll workers were enforcing a five-minute limit for using the voting machines. The Franklin County Board of Elections confirmed that poll workers are allowed to enforce that time limit to keep long lines moving.

Scattered problems impede some voting

By Deborah Hastings, The Associated Press, November 2, 2004


Machines malfunctioned, tempers flared and edgy voters often waited hours Tuesday to pick a president in a contentious race watched by thousands of monitors who expected the worst.


In Pennsylvania, zealous GOP election monitors complained that some Philadelphia voting machines already had thousands of recorded votes when the polls opened at 7 a.m.

Local election officials quickly explained that voting machines registered every vote ever cast on them — like mileage on a car odometer — and that did not constitute evidence of fraud.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," said Deputy City Commissioner Ed Schulgen.


But in New Orleans, problems with electronic machines, some of which did not boot up, forced precinct workers to tell voters they would have to come back, said voting activists.

"New Orleans wins the award for the worst voting situation in the country when it comes from electronic voting machines," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.