Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Judge sides with county in dispute over electronic voting records

By Rachel Konrad, The Associated Press, September 27, 2004


In a defeat for activists urging for more transparency into voting technology, a judge ruled that a candidate who questioned the accuracy of paperless voting terminals is not entitled to view electronic election data.

California Superior Court Judge James S. Hawkins ruled that Riverside County voting officials do not have to provide computer disks, memory cartridges and other data to Linda Soubirous, who lost a chance to stage a runoff election for the county's board of supervisors by fewer than 50 votes. Soubirous sued the registrar's office in March, after it refused to provide audit logs and other data.

Officials in the sprawling county east of Los Angeles, which has more touch-screen voting terminals than almost any other county nationwide, have said for years that electronic data could be used in case of a recount or audit.

But Hawkins' Sept. 22 ruling stated that county officials may use discretion to determine which, if any, data candidates may view. They "did not abuse discretion" in denying Soubirous access to that data, stated the ruling, which parties received in the mail Monday.

Soubirous' attorney, Gregory Luke, said he planned to appeal on Tuesday.

"California law guarantees the right to a meaningful recount and guarantees candidates the right to review relevant materials," Luke said. "We asked for the only relevant materials that exist and were denied that, and I believe an appeal court would be troubled by that."

Ex-Diebold employee to run Solano elections

By Warren Lutz, The Daily Republic, September 29, 2004


Diebold Election Systems may have lost Solano County's voting machine contract, but that didn't stop the county from hiring a former Diebold employee to run local elections.

Deborah Seiler - who helped sell Solano County nearly 1,200 touchscreen voting machines that were not officially certified and were later banned and returned to their manufacturer - became Solano County's elections manager this week.

Although a county official described Seiler as the most qualified candidate for the job, the move jarred at least one county supervisor who voted to end the county's contract with Diebold several months ago.

"I am so angry," District 1 Supervisor Barbara Kondylis said. "And it's done without telling us. I got it from another employee."


One of four finalists for the elections manager job, Seiler was the best qualified to take the helm of the county elections division, Chief Information Officer Ira Rosenthal said.

Former Registrar of Voters Laura Winslow resigned last spring. The county has since moved the Elections Department under the Department of Information Technology, which Rosenthal oversees.

Rosenthal said he expected Seiler's hiring might ruffle the feathers of supervisors who were critical of Diebold before and after the March primary, when the company's Accu-Vote TSx machines were used for the first and last time.

In June, the board threw out its contract with Diebold, which has faced criticism that their machines were insecure and could be tampered with.

But Rosenthal stood by Seiler, who was the unanimous choice of a three-person hiring committee.

"She's absolutely the best person for the job, especially long term, for what this county needs," he said. "I don't think you can put the company we dealt with and the people in the same box."

Seiler spent eight years working for Sequoia Voting Systems, a competitor of both Diebold and Election Systems and Software, the vendor Solano County chose to replace Diebold's equipment. She also spent 12 years working for the Secretary of State's election division.

"She's very well respected as someone who knows election law and procedures and has been an adviser to election officials for some time," said Alfie Charles, a Sequoia spokesman.

While it's relatively common for election officials to take jobs in the private sector, it's somewhat rare for people in the elections equipment industry to take government jobs.

Kondylis said Seiler's qualifications are "excellent" but was afraid how the public would view her hiring considering Diebold's problems.

Florida -- More Officials Seek Paper Vote Files

By Rachel Konrad, The Associated Press, September 29, 2004


On Monday, a federal appeals court revived a lawsuit filed by Florida Democratic Rep. Robert Wexler, who is demanding that all touch-screen voting machines in Florida produce a paper record of every vote cast.

A three-judge panel in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale to reopen the case, which could affect 15 Florida counties whose electronic voting terminals do not issue paper records.

Wexler claims that paperless ballots cannot be recounted as accurately as those cast on paper. He sued state election officials, arguing that the Constitution would be violated by a voting system that varies from county to county.

"I became involved because my district was the butterfly ballot district in 2000," Wexler, a Democrat who represents parts of Palm Beach and Broward counties, said Monday. "My constituents are extremely sensitive about the fact that many of their votes weren't counted."


Critics say such systems expose elections to hackers, software bugs and hardware failures and cannot be accurately recounted. They are urging election officials to ban paperless machines -- and provide stacks of paper ballots instead.

"You can't go into an election without clear procedures at the outset describing how recounts will be conducted," said e-voting critic Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. "The only truly meaningful recount is to recount the voter's paper record."

Calif. bill bans paperless voting systems

By Rachel Konrad, The Associated Press, September 28, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a law requiring that all electronic voting machines produce paper records of every ballot cast, beginning in 2006.

Under the bill, signed Monday, voters will not be able to touch or keep the records; instead, election officials will put them in lock boxes in case a recount becomes necessary.

Computer scientists and voter advocates have warned that touch-screens and other electronic voting machinery are vulnerable to hackers, software bugs and hardware failures, and that a paper trail is needed in case something goes wrong.

Legislators in nearly two dozen states have introduced similar bills. New Hampshire, Illinois and Oregon have laws requiring paper backups, but those states have few, if any, touch-screen voting terminals.

By contrast, about 4.5 million registered voters in 10 California counties are eligible to vote on paperless terminals in November, representing one in 10 of all voters nationwide who cast electronic ballots.

"This will definitely help advance the paper trail issue elsewhere," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. "California represents a huge part of the voting equipment market, and all the major vendors have equipment here. If they want to keep their business here, they'll have to come up with a paper trail feature."

Monday, September 27, 2004

State's E-Vote Trust Builds Slowly

After March problems, fewer voters will see electronic machines this fall. But counties are as resolute as ever to switch from paper ballots.

By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2004


Counties across California are preparing for another election day, as determined as ever to convert from paper to electronic voting. But because of a series of blunders in the March primary, fewer Californians will cast their ballots on touch-screen voting machines in November.

About 30% of the state's voters — 4.5 million people in 10 counties, including Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino — are expected to use electronic voting machines in November, down from about 40% in the spring.


Voter-rights advocates say they are encouraging voters in counties with electronic voting to cast absentee ballots or request paper ballots at polling places because of concerns over the new technology.

"People are totally freaked out, and for good reason," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, which promotes the responsible use of voting technology. "When people vote, they want their votes to count. That's why we're going to make sure California voters know they have a right to vote on paper."

Indeed, most California voters in November will still cast ballots by filling in circles on paper ballots that will be counted by optical scanning machines.


In Alameda County, election officials are entangled in a lawsuit with the Texas-based company that produced its touch-screen voting machines, Diebold Election Systems. Alameda County and the state attorney general say Diebold misled them about the security and reliability of the voting system and are seeking millions of dollars in compensation.

There also were questions in Alameda County about problems in the March election when polling-place machines that encode ballots malfunctioned, leaving some voters unable to call up the appropriate ballot. A similar problem created lengthy delays at polling places in San Diego County.

Brad Clark, Alameda County's registrar of voters, said he is confident that an upgraded version of the Diebold machines is accurate and secure.

The county is using a different style of encoding machine in November, and Clark said he does not expect a repeat of the March problems.

"I have a good level of confidence," he said. "The touch screens themselves worked well."


Other counties say they remain unconcerned about reports that electronic voting machines are vulnerable to fraud. They point to numerous safeguards, including the sealing of machines before and after the polls close and the fact that no electronic voting machine in the state is accessible through the Internet. Fraud, they note, was more likely to occur with paper ballots.

"Anything is theoretically possible, but the probability of those situations happening is exceedingly small," said Orange County's Rodermund. "We're very confident. There's no way someone could get in and tamper with the system without us knowing about it."

Said Clark of Alameda County: "These people go around saying paper is the panacea. I think they've forgotten about stolen ballot boxes and stuffed ballot boxes."

Analysis of e-voting coverage in SF Bay Area newspapers

By Henry Norr,, August 26, 2004

I meant to post this a while ago....last month Henry Norr, former columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, published a long, in-depth comparison and analysis of San Francisco Bay Area newspaper coverage on electronic voting. Norr contrasts the San Francisco Chronicle's relatively light coverage to that of the San Jose Mercury News and the Oakland Tribune/Alameda Newspaper group.

Hillsborough, FL: Slow count blamed on computer indexing

Machine vendor Sequoia Voting Systems diagnoses what delayed the ballot tabulation.

By Jeff Testerman, St. Petersburg Times, September 4, 2004


TAMPA - Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said Friday he'd slept only about 12 hours since election night, while he fretted over the cause of a computer malfunction responsible for a dramatic slowdown in vote tabulation.

Finally, two full days after the election, the problem had been diagnosed, not by Johnson's staff but by Sequoia Voting Systems, the Oakland, Calif., company which sold the county a $12-million package of touch-screen voting machines.

The failure of a software indexing system that sorted the votes by each race caused the problem. The malfunction caused Johnson's computer server to repeatedly search its entire data base before recording any single vote, Sequoia said, a process that slowed the election tabulation to one-fifteenth the normal speed.


Johnson said he made a "management decision" not to tinker with the Sequoia equipment on election night, letting the computers work at a snail's pace to preserve the accuracy of the tabulation.

Then, he sought Sequoia's help. Its technicians discovered the indexing problem and told Johnson's staff how to remedy it if it ever crops up again. No one seems sure why it happened in the first place.

"We haven't seen this in the past," Sequoia director of public affairs Alfie Charles said Friday.

Activists Find More E-Vote Flaws

By Kim Zetter, Wired News, September 22, 2004


Voting activist Bev Harris and a computer scientist say they found more vulnerabilities in an electronic voting system made by Diebold Election Systems, weaknesses that could allow someone to alter votes in the election this November.

Diebold said Harris' claims are without merit and that if anyone did manage to change votes, a series of checks and balances that election officials perform at the end of an election would detect the changes.

Harris demonstrated the vulnerabilities to officials in the California secretary of state's office several weeks ago ....


David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a member of the California secretary of state's voting systems panel, agreed with Diebold that election procedures could help prevent or detect changes in votes, but said that election officials and poll workers do not always follow procedures. Therefore, election observers need to know about the vulnerabilities so they can help reduce the risk that someone could use them to rig an election.

Jefferson added that he doesn't believe that the vulnerabilities show deliberate malice on Diebold's part to aid fraud, as Harris has sometimes contended in public statements. But the vulnerabilities do show incompetence and indicate that Diebold programmers simply don't know how to design a secure system.


Harris said it's possible to alter the vote summaries while leaving the raw data alone. In doing so, the election results that go to state officials would be manipulated, while the canvas spot check performed on the raw data would show that the GEMS results were accurate. Officials would only know that the summary votes didn't match precinct results if they went back and manually counted results from each individual polling place and compared them to the vote summaries in GEMS.

Diebold said because the two sets of data are coupled in GEMS it would be impossible for someone to change the summaries without changing the precinct data that feeds the summaries. And if they did, the system would flag the change.

But Harris said it's possible to change the voting summaries without using GEMS by writing a script in Visual Basic -- a simple, common programming language for Windows-based machines -- that tricks the system into thinking the votes haven't been changed. GEMS runs on the Windows operating system.

The trick was uncovered by Herbert Thompson, director of security technology at Security Innovation and a teacher of computer security at the Florida Institute of Technology. Thompson has authored several nonfiction books on computer security and co-authored a new novel about hacking electronic voting systems called The Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency.


Thompson acknowledged that the hack would take an insider with knowledge of the voting system and election procedures and access to GEMS. But this could include technical people working for a county or Diebold employees who sometimes assist technically challenged election officials on election night. It's unlikely that unsavvy election officials or observers would notice or understand the significance of someone writing five lines of code in Notepad.


....speaking generally on the vulnerabilities Harris mentions, Diebold spokesman David Bear said by phone that no one would risk manipulating votes in an election because it's against the law and carries a heavy penalty. He also said that election "policies and procedures dictate that no (single) person has access or is in control of a (voting) system," so it would be impossible for anyone to change votes on a machine without others noticing it. And even if someone managed to change the votes, auditing procedures would detect it.

Diebold spokesman Mark Radke said that after an election, counties are supposed to go back to the memory cards taken from voting machines and manually add vote totals stored on the cards as well as vote totals on a paper printout that poll workers take from each machine at the close of the polls. Officials compare these totals to the GEMS summary totals and if there is a discrepancy, Radke said, the totals from the memory cards take precedence over the GEMS totals.

Jefferson, the Lawrence Livermore computer scientist, agreed that election procedures usually indicate that there should not be one person operating the counting software. He also agreed with Bear that officials could catch discrepancies in vote totals if they went back and manually added up the results from every individual polling place and compared the totals with the tallies in the summary report. But Jefferson said that election officials and poll workers don't always follow procedures. In the California March primary, he pointed out, several counties refused to follow procedures that were requested by the secretary of state's office and others failed to follow procedures that are mandated under California election law.

Rather than creating a system that relies on the "perfect execution of (poll worker) procedures," Jefferson said, Diebold should have designed the system to better prevent fraud.

"You don't want to make up for poor design by adding more burden to beleaguered poll workers and election officials who don't understand the reasons for all of the rules that they have to obey and (are therefore) likely to cut corners," Jefferson said.

As for why Diebold would have designed such a poor system, Jefferson thinks the company simply didn't know how to do it any better.

"There are a lot of reasons why you might want parallel tables of vote totals," Jefferson said. "But there are better designs that avoid (these vulnerabilities) entirely. If you are not a world-class designer, if you're making it up as you go along and not deeply educated in data management, this is the kind of design you might come up with.

"I think the designers of the Diebold system never seriously understood what it would take to prevent vote manipulation by insiders," Jefferson said. "I consider that to be inexcusable."

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Activists show alleged vote machine flaws

By Erica Werner, Associated Press, September 22, 2004


WASHINGTON -- Activists and computer programmers Wednesday demonstrated what they said were flaws with electronic voting machines that could allow hackers to change vote outcomes Nov. 2. They recommended new procedures for states and counties to put in place before Election Day.

Voting machine manufacturers, however, denied their machines could be tampered with and dismissed the demonstration as scare tactics. The head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission said at least some of the proposed changes were unrealistic.

Bev Harris, an outspoken critic of electronic voting and author of "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century," led the National Press Club demonstration that included a film of a chimpanzee hacking an election.

Using a laptop computer, she demonstrated what she said were easy hacks to software by Ohio-based Diebold Inc., which is used in central tabulators that will count votes Nov. 2 in some 1,000 counties. Harris contended that hackers could easily change vote totals by entering the database through a backdoor method. She also claimed hackers could enter the standard way after obtaining passwords, then manipulate vote totals and cover their tracks.

"It's astonishingly easy to get in," she said. "There's no security whatsoever."


"What you witnessed was a staged event to convey something that isn't possible," said Diebold spokesman David Bear. "The fact of the matter is touchscreens have been around for many, many years, they've conducted hundreds of elections, and there's never been a single factual problem with touchscreens."

"It's so amazing to see people use fear tactics this close to a major election on issues that are so remote and unlikely," said Sequoia spokesman Alfie Charles. "They still haven't explained to people how these attackers would be able to walk into a county voting system, get the password and start reprogramming elections."

Harris offered several suggestions for eliminating potential problems with electronic systems.

Up to 50 million voters will use touchscreen machines in November; even more will have their votes tabulated electronically by central vote tabulators.

Harris said that poll workers should print out vote totals on the precinct level. Those could then be checked against the county total. She also recommended that jurisdictions with touchscreen machines allow voters to vote by absentee ballot on Election Day, and that precincts not relay vote totals to counties via modems, which could be vulnerable to hackers.

Another activist at the event, National Ballot Integrity Project co-founder Joan Krawitz, said that all races for federal offices should be done on paper ballots Nov. 2 - even if that means voters going back to the most primitive system of checking off someone's name on a slip of paper.

DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the new U.S. Election Assistance Commission, said the idea of all federal races being conducted on paper was "a farce," and that it was irresponsible to recommend absentee ballots nationwide given that each state has their own system.

But, he said, "No one in their right mind would disagree that there are vulnerabilities."

His commission has recommended a list of security procedures, and he said there will be improvements Nov. 2 over past elections, including election administrators working harder to keep track of who has access to voting equipment.

Tallying the Woes of Electronic Balloting

By Chris Gaither, Los Angeles Times, September 24, 2004


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — More than 45 million people in 29 states and the District of Columbia are set to vote using touch-screen machines Nov. 2. But the devices once hailed as the answer to the nation's voting woes are stirring up some serious cases of buyer's remorse here and across the country.

California officials have accused the companies that make electronic voting machines of delivering shoddy equipment and are suing to get their money back. Candidates in other states seeking to overturn questionable election results have turned to the courts as well. Election reform advocates rallied in 19 states this summer, demanding that the machines be retrofitted to produce paper ballots that could be tallied in the event of a recount.

Meanwhile, computer scientists from coast to coast have warned that the machines sometimes err in counting votes and could be easily compromised by amateur hackers intent on disrupting elections. In either case, they say, a manual recount would be meaningless if it was based on corrupted electronic data.

All of this has left officials like Palm Beach County Commissioner Addie Greene wishing they hadn't rushed to spend millions of dollars on the new touch-screen machines so soon.

In the last few months, as Greene campaigned for reelection, she told dozens of senior citizens to forget the newfangled voting terminals and put pencil to paper on their absentee ballots instead.

"I want our votes to be counted," said Greene, a 61-year-old Democrat. "I'd rather do absentee ballots than take a chance on the machines."

Greene is an unlikely critic of the electronic voting machines. After all, she helped get 5,000 of them deployed throughout this seaside county of 1.2 million residents.


In April 2001, Greene flew to Riverside County with a delegation of South Florida officials to see the touch-screen machines in action. They came home with rave reviews and spent $56 million to deploy electronic voting terminals in Florida's three most populous counties: Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.

"We were not as knowledgeable as we are now, so we made a lot of mistakes," Greene recalled. "We didn't ask the questions we should have asked."

Chief among them: How can we conduct a recount if we don't have any ballots to count?

Thursday, September 16, 2004

CVF-NEWS Round-up: paper trail progress in CA, NV; CA HAVA funds

Newsletter by Kim Alexander, September 15, 2004

In this CVF-NEWS Round-up:

* California paper trail legislation update

* Commonwealth Club address on KQED FM tonight, 9/15

* Nevada implements electronic voting reform

* California HAVA funds update

How It Works: Holding the Vote-Counting Machines Accountable

By Lisa Guernsey, New York Times, September 16, 2004

Today's New York Times' Circuits sections features a "How It Works" story that focuses on how electronic voting machines, and Diebold's machines in particular, are tested and prepared for elections. The article focuses on specific security risks that have been discussed and debated in recent months, such as connectivity to the Internet, software testing and smart cards.



Computerized voting machines are attracting a lot of attention in this election year, but one system is being watched particularly closely: the AccuVote-TS.

The AccuVote-TS has been the subject of at least four studies over 14 months that expose security holes. This spring California's secretary of state, Kevin Shelley, blasted the manufacturer, Diebold Election Systems, for not following proper procedures in updating its software. Those problems and a battery defect that rendered some machines unusable for hours during the March primary prompted Mr. Shelley to order all counties using touch-screen machines to offer a paper alternative.

Still, the AccuVote-TS will be used by more voters than any other electronic system this fall. Precincts with more than 6 percent of registered voters will use Diebold's system, according to the research company Election Data Services. It says that over all, 29 percent of voters are registered in precincts where ballots will be cast electronically.

Nearly all voters in Maryland and Georgia will use AccuVote-TS, which is also the primary machine used in the California counties of Alameda and Plumas.


Officials say that no matter what machines are used, hackers and malfunctions will be kept at bay. "The voters can be assured that we've done everything humanly possible to make the voting equipment secure and safe for them to use," said Linda Lamone, administrator of Maryland's State Board of Elections.

What exactly is being done to build that confidence? Here is a look at some of the oft-cited risks related to the Diebold machine and how they are, or are not, being mitigated.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Nevada Touch-Screen Voting Has Paper Trail

By Rachel Konrad, The Associated Press, September 8, 2004


Nevada residents became the first in the nation to vote on computers that leave a paper trail, taking part in a primary that produced scattered reports of delays though none of the serious problems that have cast doubt upon electronic voting systems in other states.

A delegation of federal election officials monitored the equipment's debut Tuesday in the state capital as voters cast ballots for congressional candidates, state legislators, school officials and judges. Results matched expectations.

Scattered reports of problems including in Nye, Washoe and Pershing counties delayed vote tabulation, but didn't throw election results into question.

Officials in Nye County couldn't read the data on one computer but weren't overly worried. If they couldn't tease the results out of the machine which held an unknown number of votes they could count paper ballots by hand instead.

"If we can't ever read it, we'll use the paper trail as the backup," said Nye County deputy clerk Laura Zubia, who helped recover the data shortly after midnight. "That's the whole point of the paper trail, isn't it?"


Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller said the system represented a "huge leap forward" for Nevada, where seven of 17 counties used old-fashioned punch card machines in the previous election.

"From what I've seen, voters seem to enjoy the experience," said DeForest B. Soaries Jr., chairman of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, who traveled through Nevada on Tuesday with out-of-state voter registrars and other federal officials. "There hasn't been frustration or confusion."

The printers, developed by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems Inc., address some concerns of computer scientists and voting activists. Critics say paperless touchscreens which as many as 50 million Americans will use Nov. 2 cannot be properly audited or recounted, and votes can be altered or deleted.

Voter advocates praised Nevada's system, which requires county registrars to randomly select a small percentage of machines from 1 percent to 3 percent of a county's total and compare printed records with the vote totals taken from computers' memory cartridges after polls close. The paper records which voters can see through a plastic window but cannot touch or take home will be kept in county election offices for 22 months and used in case of a recount.

"It's no panacea, but it's a huge improvement over paperless systems because there will be a paper record of every electronic ballot," said Kim Alexander, president of Davis, Calif.-based California Voter Foundation.

Calif. Joins Electronic Voting Lawsuit

By Rachel Konrad, Associated Press, September 8, 2004


California Attorney General Bill Lockyer joined a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that voting equipment company Diebold Inc. sold the state shoddy hardware and software, exposing elections to hackers and software bugs.

California's Alameda County also joined the false claims case, originally filed by a computer programmer and voting rights advocate. Faulty equipment in the March primary forced at least 6,000 of 316,000 voters in the county east of San Francisco to use backup paper ballots instead of the paperless voting terminals.

The lawsuit is the first e-voting case to rely on an obscure legal provision for whistleblowers who help the government identify fraud. Programmer Jim March and activist Bev Harris, who first filed the case in November, are seeking full reimbursement for Diebold equipment purchased in California.

Alameda County has spent at least $11 million on paperless touchscreen machines. State election officials have spent at least $8 million.

Because the lawsuit relies on an obscure provision called "qui tam," March and Harris could collect up to 30 percent of a reimbursement. The state could collect triple damages from Diebold, or settle out of court.

The attorney general's decision to join the e-voting lawsuit is unusual. The government declines to participate in about 70 percent of all qui tams filed, said Bob Bauman, a private investigator and former government consultant.

"The state clearly believes there's merit to the case," said Berkeley, Calif., attorney Lowell Finley, who represents March and Harris. "This is a significant event and good news for us."

Thomas W. Swidarski, Diebold senior vice president, said the state's intervention could lead to a "fair and dispassionate examination of the issues raised in the case."

Also Tuesday, the attorney general announced he would not pursue criminal charges against Diebold. Earlier this year, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley banned one Diebold system after he found uncertified software that "jeopardized" the outcome of elections in several counties, and state voting officials began considering filing a criminal lawsuit against the company.

"We fully cooperated with the state as it looked into the issues and have always believed that the attorney general would reach this conclusion," Swidarski said.

Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar said the decision to join the lawsuit came after months of investigating problems with Diebold equipment. In the March primary, 573 of 1,038 polling places in San Diego County failed to open on time because of computer malfunctions.

The state will likely file its own complaint or an amended complaint within several weeks, if the parties don't settle out of court, Dresslar said.

Friday, September 3, 2004

Board Begins Process Of Firing Maryland Election Administrator

The Associated Press, September 3, 2004

Maryland's State Board of Elections began the process of firing the state's election administrator, Linda Lamone. Lamone is a key supporter of touchscreen voting machines, and oversaw statewide implementation of $54 million worth of Diebold paperless touchscreen voting machines. She is also currently the president-elect of the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), a self-appointed body organized on behalf of election officials that orchestrates the federal voting equipment testing process.

If she is removed from her post, Lamone will join a number of other election officials who has been removed, resigned or retired this year. Theresa LePore, Palm Beach County FL election supervisor who pushed for and got paperless electronic voting machines, was defeated in her re-election bid this week. Mischelle Townsend, who as registrar for Riverside County was the first to purchase paperless touchscreens in California, retired in July. Laura Winslow, who purchased paperless toucshcreens from Diebold that were not federally qualified, resigned after the March election. In Washington State, David Elliott, who has been a supporter of paperless e-voting, has also recently retired.


Excerpts from the AP story:

A move by the Republican-dominated State Board of Elections to fire state election laws administrator Linda Lamone drew stinging rebukes Friday from Democratic lawmakers who charged that the board is trying to politicize a nonpartisan office.

"This is raw, partisan politics, and smacks of Florida being revisited in Maryland," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, said.

"I can't imaging that the Republicans could trump up any charges that could be sustained in a court of law in terms of reasons for her dismissal," Miller said.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, also defended Lamone, saying she "has been acknowledged as running a model election board for the nation."

Miller and Busch noted that Lamone has the respect of election administrators in other states, who have chosen her as president-elect of their national organization.

Busch said it has been the goal of the Ehrlich administration "to take over the election board for well over a year."

Gilles Burger, chairman of the board, said it "is hard to address this kind of perception" that the board was motivated by political considerations.

"I can tell you this has nothing to do with partisan politics," he said.

A statement issued by the board said the members were responding to "several complaints from multiple sources, including several local boards of elections...." about Lamone's performance as head of the office that oversees Maryland elections.


Burger said the board voted Thursday night after meeting privately for more than seven hours to file administrative charges against Lamone. He said he is prohibited by law from disclosing details of the charges, but the law allows her to be dismissed only for "incompetence, misconduct or other good cause."

The next step in the process will be a hearing before an administrative law judge, where Lamone would have the right to contest the findings included in the charges filed against her. Burger said a decision on whether to fire Lamone would not be made until the board received a report from the administrative law judge affirming or rejecting the complaints against the administrator.

Ballot-counting mistake in Palm Beach County deemed simple human error

By Cadence Mertz, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, September 3, 2004

Palm Beach County, Florida, experienced a "human error" problem this week while counting its ballots. Luckily for Palm Beach, the "human error" happened with their paper absentee ballots. Turns out an election worker made a mistake and a stack of absentee ballots were counted twice.

It's only logical to expect that "human errors" will also occur with paperless electronic voting systems. When they do, and when the problems are supposedly corrected but election officials can't provide the public with verification that the corrected results are accurate, it is inevitable that voters will lose confidence in the accuracy of election results.


Excerpts from the Sun-Sentinel story:

Palm Beach County election officials on Thursday downplayed ballot-counting discrepancies as they officially certified polling results a few days early in anticipation of Hurricane Frances.

An apparent double-count of 6,701 absentee ballots capped off a difficult week for Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore, who lost her bid for re-election in Tuesday's primary. But elections officials said charges that problems with the absentee ballot count amounted to a flaw in the system were overblown.

The discrepancy was the result of simple human error. And the fact that it was found and dealt with so quickly demonstrates the system is working, said County Judge Barry Cohen, chairman of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board.

"The final certification today means that we got it right," Cohen said Thursday.


Elections workers ran into trouble with the absentee ballots when an employee ran a batch through the counting machine and forgot to reset the counter. That meant the machine reported the two batches of ballots instead of one, officials said.

Workers ran the ballots back through the counting machines and came up with the correct tally, County Attorney Denise Nieman said.

The kind of glitch that happened this week does not qualify as a recount under the legal statutes, Nieman said. A recount, legally, occurs if votes were not counted or if a candidate requests it, she said.

But when election workers counted the ballots on Wednesday, one result of the 70 races decided in Tuesday's primary was overturned. Robert Beasley defeated Tom Mullings by a little more than .5 percent to win a seat on the district 85 Republican Executive Committee.

Designer of Florida's butterfly ballot loses job

By John-Thor Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times, September 2, 2004


As a final irony, there has been a last-minute discrepancy in tallying absentee ballots. But Theresa LePore, the elections supervisor in Palm Beach County who gained national notoriety as designer of the "butterfly ballot" that contributed to Florida's 2000 election chaos, appeared Wednesday to have lost her job.

"The voter anger was obvious, and LePore became the target this year," when she sought a third term, said Shari MacLachlan, professor of political science at Palm Beach Community College.

The Democratic Party, the dominant force in her county's politics, criticized LePore, 49, for refusing to add safeguards to new touch-screen voting machines that would generate a paper trail for use in the event of a recount.

According to complete but still uncertified results from Tuesday's primary, LePore lost to Arthur Anderson by 5,533 votes out of more than 177, 000 cast. Anderson, 63, is an education professor at Florida Atlantic University and former member of the county school board.

Though the race was nonpartisan, Anderson was championed by Democratic U. S. Rep. Robert Wexler of Boca Raton, and boosted by campaign appearances by former Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Joe Lieberman and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.


On Wednesday, co-workers in the supervisor's office said LePore did not come to work. LePore began working in the county elections office in West Palm Beach as a file clerk 33 years ago.

"She's worked in that office since she was 16 years old. So this is a significant shock and a loss that's going to take some time to heal," spokesman Marty Rogol said.

LePore remains in office until January and therefore will oversee another presidential election.


"Unfortunately, Ms. LePore did not help matters for herself because she never took responsibility," said Carol Ann Loehndorf, chair of the Democratic Party of Palm Beach County. "There was a continuous effort to blame the voters. "

If LePore had advocated additional technology to create a paper record for the new touch-screen machines -- which the supervisor purchased to prevent a repeat of the 2000 debacle -- Loehndorf said Democrats would probably not have challenged her this year.

Asked to explain his boss' defeat, Rogol blamed "residual anger from 2000 and the relentless effort by Congressman Wexler to defeat her."

Wexler, who has sued in state and federal court to demand that the touch- screen machines be modified -- so far to no avail -- paid for a barrage of TV ads against LePore and brought in Dean and Lieberman to stump for her rival.


On Wednesday, a problem with tallying absentee ballots delayed certification of Palm Beach County returns until today at the earliest. Rogol said 31,095 ballots were received, but that the counting machine for some unknown reason showed it tallied 37,839. A recount was ordered. Rogol said he did not believe the county's latest election-related glitch would affect the final results.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Solano County pays $415,000 to get out of e-voting contract

Associated Press, September 1, 2004


Solano County paid $415,000 to get out of a contract with voting equipment manufacturer Diebold Inc., and county officials will instead buy $4.2 million in new equipment from a rival company.

Deputy County Counsel Wendy Getty said the county reached a settlement Aug. 16 with Diebold. The North Canton, Ohio-based company installed nearly 1,200 paperless touchscreen voting machines throughout the county after winning the contract in 2002.

The county was one of dozens across the country that opted for electronic ballots to avoid problems with "hanging chads" that plagued the 2000 presidential election.

But in May, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley banned the type of machines used in Solano and three other counties after discovering uncertified software and other problems that potentially "jeopardized" the outcomes of the March presidential primary and other elections.


After the secretary of state's discovery, Solano County voter registrar Laura Winslow, a staunch defender of touchscreen voting systems, resigned.

Last week, the county sent about $4 million worth of Diebold Accu-Vote TSx machines back to a company office in McKinney, Texas. Diebold offered to replace the banned machines for free with its own optical-scan systems, which include a paper ballot.

County officials rejected the offer, opting to buy new equipment from Diebold rival Election Systems & Software Inc. for nearly $4.2 million, Solano County Chief Information Officer Ira Rosenthal told the Fairfield-Suisun City Daily Republic.

Solano County residents will use ES&S optical-scan equipment in November.

The trouble with e-voting - Aug. 30, 2004

By Paul R. La Monica, CNN/Money Magazine, August 30, 2004


Considering all the controversy about hanging chads and butterfly ballots four years ago, you would think a company that makes electronic voting machines would have a banner year in 2004.

But for Diebold, the largest manufacturer of touch screen voting machines, that hasn't been the case.


Mike Jacobsen, a spokesman for Diebold said that Diebold has never had security lapses with any of its voting machines but that it has nonetheless taken extra steps during the past few months, including adding enhanced encryption technologies, to ensure that there are no problems this November.

Jacobsen said that between 8 million and 9 million registered voters in parts of Georgia, Maryland and California would be using its machines this November. He added that the federal government would hopefully issue more guidelines about standards for electronic voting, including the need for a paper trail, in the coming months.


Analysts estimate that Diebold controls about 50 percent of the electronic voting machine market, which could generate between $1 billion and $2 billion in revenues over the next few years.

Sequoia Voting Systems, owned by British printing firm De La Rue, and Election Systems & Software (ES&S), a private company based in Omaha, are two of Diebold's top competitors in this business.

But what's more frustrating for investors is that the focus on the relatively small election systems business has overshadowed Diebold's strong position in ATMs and security devices.

"The election controversy has had a negative impact on Diebold's stock," said Kartik Mehta, an analyst with FTN Midwest Research. "The remaining 97 percent of the business is doing extremely well."


But Franklin's Taylor wonders whether it's worth the hassle for Diebold to stay in the election terminal business. He thinks that even though the company has now barred executives from engaging in political activities, that won't completely silence the company's critics.

"If you get into next year and Diebold's ownership is still a problem, the company should be able to sell it. I don't think they are absolutely wedded to the voting machine business," said Taylor.

Jacobsen said, however, that Diebold is committed to the election systems business, pointing out that there is also strong potential for growth internationally. Diebold has a subsidiary in Brazil that makes voting machines used in that country.

Diebold Learns What Edison Knew: Voting Machine Sales Are Tough

By Bob Drummond, Bloomberg News U.S., September 1, 2004


Diebold Inc. got off to a fast start in the voting machine industry. After almost 150 years of making safes, bank vaults, jailhouse doors and, more recently, automated teller machines, Diebold bought Global Election Systems Inc. and its AccuVote line of computerized voting terminals in 2002.

In a little more than three months, Diebold snared the biggest U.S. voting machine contract ever: a $54 million deal with the state of Georgia. ``It was successful beyond our wildest dreams, initially,'' says Diebold Chief Executive Officer Walden O'Dell, 59.

As the 2004 elections near, the euphoria has faded. Computer security experts at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Rice University in Houston say Diebold's touch-screen voting machines are vulnerable to vote rigging; security concerns and operating flaws have led to a ban on their use in November in parts of California and Ohio.

Diebold's election system sales are headed for a second straight drop, to a company forecast of $75 million to $85 million, from $100 million in 2003 and $111 million in 2002.

Diebold, based in North Canton, Ohio, learned that it's tough in the U.S. to profit from elections -- a market that has bedeviled entrepreneurs since Thomas Edison tinkered with vote- counting machinery in the 1860s. ``We walked into a minefield,'' O'Dell says.


Diebold shares have fallen 9.2 percent this year, compared with a 0.1 percent gain for the S&P Midcap 400. The decline came even though ATM sales and services, which account for 70 percent of Diebold's revenue, rose 16 percent during the first half of 2004.

Share prices didn't fall because of the company's financial performance, says Don Taylor, who manages $1.8 billion, including 524,000 Diebold shares, in the Franklin Rising Dividends Fund in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Investors are selling Diebold shares because the company makes touch-screen voting machines, he says.

``The voting machine business has been a disappointment since they got into it,'' Taylor says. ``I'd like to see them sell the business, personally, though I highly doubt that's going to happen.''

`A Crisis'

O'Dell, known as Wally, says he has no intention of selling the unit. He says he wants to help the U.S. solve a serious problem, not to help mischief makers fix elections. ``The country had a crisis,'' O'Dell says, sporting a navy blue tie spotted with U.S. flags.

``It was instantly apparent to me that we could help, that there was going to be money spent on the problem and that it was synergistic with what we were doing,'' he says. Diebold plans to stick with the voting machine unit regardless of profit, O'Dell says.

``They got more than they bargained for,'' says Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consultant on voting equipment. ``A lot of people suddenly came into this market thinking, `Hey, let's get some of all this federal money they're going to spend.' And they found out this is a very demanding business.''

Profits from a hoped-for boom in voting machine sales after the 2000 election crisis have been elusive at other companies as well.


The industrial age introduced mechanical voting machines. Those are the booths in which voters click levers to make their selections. After New York State amended its constitution in the 1890s to permit the debut of the lever-action machines, faith in new technology helped drive their acceptance.

``Should the tally of voters who entered the booth kept by the election inspectors and poll clerks not agree with the machine, the conclusion would be that fallible man was mistaken, and that the machine's record was accurate,'' Scientific American magazine reported on Nov. 24, 1894.

Punch-Card Ballots

Computers came onto the scene in the 1960s, after Joseph Harris, a political science at the University of California in Berkeley, came up with the idea of a voting machine that put holes in punch-card ballots that could be counted automatically.

The Harris Votomatic was first used in 1964 in California, Georgia and Oregon, according to a 1980 oral history interview with Harris, who died in 1985. International Business Machines Corp., which developed the punch card for other computer uses, bought the Votomatic company and stayed in the field only briefly.

It sold the rights in 1969 because voting machine makers were inherently targets of controversy and complaint, Harris said. ``All candidates believe that they are going to win, and if a new system is tried out, they will explain their failure to be elected by saying it was because the machine failed to function properly,'' he said.


O'Dell may be right that citizens want new voting machines, but one thing that hasn't changed since Thomas Edison invented his vote counter is that it's tough to make voting in a democracy more efficient -- and make a profit doing it.