Thursday, January 27, 2005

Riverside: County to lobby for e-vote funding

By Dave Downey, North County Times, January 25, 2005

Good news from Riverside -- the county's board of supervisors voted unanimously to reject a proposal from their registrar that they lobby the state legislature to repeal the voter verified paper record requirement. Instead, they will lobby the state to seek more funding to pay for retrofitting their Sequoia touchscreens with printers.



Riverside County officials Tuesday decided against challenging a new state law requiring touch-screen machines to be retrofitted by January 2006 with devices that provide voters with backup paper records of their ballots.

Instead, the county Board of Supervisors decided to focus on lobbying for state funding to cover the millions of dollars it may cost to retrofit the machines.

The board's 5-0 decision spurned a recommendation by the county elections chief to set a goal of lobbying to repeal the state law, or at least scale it back because of its cost implications for Riverside County.

Registrar of Voters Barbara Dunmore said in an interview Tuesday that it would be easier for the county to retrofit, say, one machine per polling place.

If the county were to attach paper-trail devices to all 4,250 electronic voting machines, it would face a cost of $3 million to $8 million ---- on top of the $14 million it paid for the touch screens in the first place five years ago, Dunmore said. And she said that cost would be an enormous financial hardship at a time when money is tight.


During the board meeting, several community activists urged supervisors not to challenge the state law, saying that the paper-trail devices are needed to ensure widespread voter confidence as computer-voting technology spreads.

"This debate, I believe, was settled," said Joe Lucsko of Banning. "It's almost like, with this proposal, the county is trying to swim upstream."

Art Cassell of Lake Mathews added: "This is a message Riverside County should not be sending."

Supervisor Bob Buster suggested the county had reason to challenge the law because of its success with the system. But other supervisors said a challenge would be a mistake because many people are insisting on a paper trail to guard against potential computer fraud and to give voters reason to trust the system.

"I just don't see that (the paper trail) is going to go away," said Supervisor John Tavaglione. "Let's pick our battles appropriately."

Instead, Tavaglione said, the county should be lobbying for state and federal funding to cover the cost of retrofitting its machines, a strategy to which his colleagues agreed.

But getting state funds will be tricky, Dunmore said. That's because Riverside County is ineligible for money from Proposition 41, the measure that provides funds for counties to switch to computer systems. The county already obtained $7 million for its initial system from that source.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

State OKs e-vote printer

By Michelle Dearmond, Riverside Press-Enterprise, January 22, 2005



Secretary of State Kevin Shelley approved a voting-system printer Friday that will allow San Bernardino County residents to view a paper record of their ballot while casting their votes

electronically on a touch-screen machine.


The paper will be on a reel-to-reel printer behind glass next to the touch screen - allowing voters to see but not touch their ballot. Proponents of the printers have argued the machines will strengthen the security of the systems and boost voters' confidence in electronic voting. Opponents have criticized the machines as costly and redundant.

Shelley locked horns with county registrars last year when he implemented new security measures for counties that use electronic-voting machines, prompting a legal battle and months

of negotiations between the two sides.

Legislators then ordered all of those counties to install printers by January 2006 that will let voters review their choices on paper before casting the ballot.

"This final element, this voter-verified paper trail, in the county's view will eliminate once and for all any concerns that have been raised about electronic voting," said David Wert, a spokesman for San Bernardino County.

Wert said the county likely will use the machines in some locations in a small June election and use them on a large-scale basis in November.

Riverside County, which paved the way statewide for the ATM-style devices in 2000, has no plans to install printers yet. Unlike San Bernardino County, which recently began using the machines, Riverside County's contract with Sequoia did not cover the costs of retrofitting and installing printers on the machines. Purchasing the machines could run between $ 3.4 million and $ 4.7

million, although those figures could double, said Barbara Dunmore, Riverside County's registrar.

Those costs don't account for retrofitting the older machines, buying the paper or storing the printouts, she said.

If other vendors get approval to offer the devices at a lower cost, the county will consider those, she said.

Riverside County's Board of Supervisors also might ask the Legislature to repeal the law or modify it to allow counties to install printers on some but not all machines, Dunmore said.

Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the printers are a step in the right direction, and Riverside County is unlikely to get the law changed.

"Riverside is in a tough position, because they were the first county in California to go all touch-screen," said Alexander, who has questioned the integrity of electronic voting.

"Making changes may be more difficult, but they need to come along with what the rest of the state is doing in implementing reforms."

Machine that lost votes in N.C. did same in Pennsylvania

The Associated Press, Sunday, January 23, 2005



The same model of voting machine that lost 4,438 votes in Carteret County also erased votes in three Pennsylvania counties, officials in that state said.

"We continue to be uncertain about these machines," said Michael Coulter, who heads an independent committee examining voting machine mishaps in Mercer County, Pa., where he said machines in 13 precincts erased some voters' choices.

Mercer County, as well as Beaver and Greene counties along the Ohio border, use the Unilect Patriot voting machine. The electronic mechanism, which does not produce a paper ballot, is the same model that lost votes on the Nov. 2 Election Day in coastal Carteret County.

The Carteret votes were lost because the machine's memory was incorrectly set.

The Pennsylvania malfunction "sure does raise questions," said North Carolina Sen. Ellie Kinnaird, D-Orange, who co-chairs a special committee examining electronic voting machines.

The committee is drafting legislation that could recommend the use of voting machines that include a paper ballot that can be examined afterward to correct errors.

All three of the western Pennsylvania counties recorded a high percentage of "undervotes" for president, which occurs when a voter doesn't vote in that race. Mercer County's undervote was 7.8 percent, four times higher than in 2000, when they used old, lever machines.

Similar problems occurred in Burke County, the only other North Carolina county that uses Unilect machines.

State lawmakers are scrutinizing why more than 10 percent of Burke County voters were recorded as not making a choice in the presidential race, an "undervote" rate that is four to five times as high as nearly all the other counties in the state.

A member of the Burke County board of elections assisted a voter who had touched the screen to vote for president and vice president, but didn't realize that her vote selected the candidates for both of those offices. When she touched the screen a second time, thinking she was voting for vice president, her choice was unselected.

"We've seen no evidence that (the presidential undervote) was the machine's fault," said Greer Suttlemyre, director of the Burke County board of elections.

State Board of Elections officials concluded that voters were confused by the straight party ticket selection and that it does not include the presidential candidate from that party.

The California-based manufacturer also blamed human error for the Pennsylvania mishaps.

"We didn't have anything to do with" the Pennsylvania malfunction, said Jack Gerbel, president of Unilect, highlighting a programming error by Mercer County's elections director.

Gerbel said the machine is not confusing for voters, but explained that a pop-up window has been added to the electronic display in Michigan to tell voters who pick a straight-party ticket that they can skip ahead to the nonpartisan races. That helps avoid their touching any individual races and deactivating their choice.

"We're going to have to suggest to our customers," Gerbel said, "to do a better job of training the poll workers to train the voters."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Ohio reverses course, moves to optical scan instead of touchscreen voting equipment

Press statement by J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State, January 12, 2005

Last week Ohio's Secretary of State, J. Kenneth Blackwell, announced he is moving to implement paper-based optical scan voting technology statewide. The announcement is a reversal of Blackwell's previous plan to implement electronic voting systems in Ohio. Blackwell was an early supporter of e-voting, but pulled back on implementation prior to the November 2004 election.

Blackwell's change of plans represents a major victory for the election verification movement, since Ohio is a populous state and large-scale purchasing of e-voting machines there would significantly increase the percentage of voters voting on such equipment nationwide. Ohio's legislature passed a voter verified paper trail requirement, but with this change of plans it appears Ohio will satisfy that requirement by having voters cast paper ballots, rather than casting e-ballots with a voter-verified paper record.

Monday, January 17, 2005

"We must get our house in order"

By Paul Jacobs, columnist for the Californian, January 15, 2005

In his MLK holiday column, Paul Jacobs considers the election reform work that lies ahead before the civil rights leader's dreams are realized.



Tomorrow's holiday honors Martin Luther King Jr., who raised America's consciousness and directed this nation on an enlightened, moral path toward equality for humankind. Almost 37 years after his march for civil rights was cut short by an assassin's bullet, his dream has yet to be fully realized.

Progress has been made in the absence of pointing out accomplishments of African-Americans as though they somehow beat the odds. When Chuck Washington was elected to the Temecula City Council in 2003, thankfully there was no headline screaming, "First African-American elected to Temecula council." This is an encouraging sign that our society is finally learning to be colorblind.

But in the same week that we celebrate the life of MLK Jr. and inaugurate the president, there are painful indications that more must be done before we reach that promised land where all men and women are created and treated equal.

It hardly made a blip on the news cycle, but a historic event occurred Jan. 6 when Senator Barbara Boxer joined with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Democrat from Ohio, in objection to the certification of Ohio's electoral votes, resulting in the Senate and the Congress adjourning for two hours to discuss and vote on the objection ---- an event that hasn't happened in this democracy since 1877.


Ohio's secretary of state, who also co-chaired the state Bush-Cheney campaign, faithfully certified Ohio's election results despite nonsensical voter tallies in a number of precincts, such as in Franklin County where Bush originally received an extra 4,258 votes in a precinct where only 638 people voted. These incongruities were fixed with no explanation for the original corrupt data.

Affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods in Ohio had plenty of voting machines and polling booths for voters, but in poorer, predominantly African-American precincts, voters were made to wait hours to vote, some in pouring rain. It is estimated that thousands of Ohio voters gave up on voting, rather than standing several hours in line to cast their vote. Before we force democracy in faraway lands, we need to get our own house in order so every American can cast their vote and have it counted with a verifiable paper trail.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Broadcast of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing

The California Channel

Yesterday's Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing at the California Legislature is being broadcast on the California Channel today -- both on television and online. The seven hour hearing was held yesterday at the State Capitol, and begins broadcast today at 10:30 a.m. The first witness was Doug Chapin of; the second was state auditor Elaine Howle. The third witness was Tony Miller, special counsel to California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Corruption Probe Dims Shelley's Once-Rising Star

By Jim Wasserman, The Associated Press, Monday, January 10, 2005

Today the California Legislature's Joint Legislative Audit Committee will hold a hearing to discuss the state auditor's report assessing Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's handling of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds.

Today's AP article provides some background on the controversy.



Five months ago, California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley could have been considered one of the state's rising Democratic stars, the man who coordinated the 2003 recall election that ousted a governor and then earned favorable national attention on electronic voting issues.

Now that prominence is being battered by allegations of campaign finance improprieties and of mishandling of millions of federal dollars sent to states to modernize voting.

Gone are the flattering media profiles, the suggestions he's a top Democratic contender for the governor's office after Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger departs. Instead, Shelley faces the wrath of federal elections officials and a potential federal audit of his office.


Much of the attention is focused on Shelley's handling of federal Help America Vote Act money. Congress passed HAVA in 2002, steering $3 billion to the states to fund voter education efforts, improve voter access and modernize voting systems after Florida's notorious problems with paper ballots in the 2000 presidential election.

On Monday, a committee of the Democrat-controlled state legislative committee will consider findings that Shelley spent some of the state's first $180 million on contractors who wrote his speeches and attended partisan events to promote him. A December state audit charged Shelley's office with failing to fulfill much of California's responsibility to modernize voting systems, saying he paid consultants for work that had little to do with the funds' mission and avoided competitive bids for services.

"I think the spirit of the law suggested this is not money that would be used for purely partisan purposes," said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, the Ohio Republican who wrote HAVA. Ney has said reports of Shelley's use of the funds may inspire the Republican-ruled Congress to change the law.

Shelley's handling of the money will play out in a fiercely partisan landscape in which a Democrat-controlled Legislature will investigate him in Sacramento while Republican majorities may investigate him in Washington. Schwarzenegger's Republican administration has also joined the fray, studying whether it can wrest control of the election funds from Shelley.


Only 10 months ago, activists across the United States who questioned the security of touch-screen voting machines hailed Shelley's aggressive adoption of their agenda for backup paper records. Shelley shut down 15,000 electronic voting machines in four counties because they lacked federal certification, and blocked the use of 28,000 more machines until 10 counties adopted tough security to prevent voter fraud.

"It was a very divisive debate, but it won him a lot of fans across the country," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, a nonpartisan analyst of voter trends.

Shelley's staff says he isn't going anywhere soon. Spokeswoman Caren Daniels-Meade said of rumors that he is considering resignation: "At this point, no, he is not. He is still fully engaged in the office and has an agenda of things he'd like to accomplish."

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Congress certifies Bush's win after protest

By Joanne Kenen, Reuters, January 6, 2005


The U.S. Congress on Thursday formally certified President Bush as the victor of the November elections after two Democrats symbolically stalled the event in protest at alleged voting irregularities in Ohio.

California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, formally lodged objections because of Ohio, although they said they recognized Bush had won and were not trying to overturn the results.

They said their goal was to force lawmakers to heed problems that had been particularly evident in Democratic-leaning minority and urban neighborhoods and to consider the need for more voting reforms including standard election rules in all states.

"This objection does not have at its root the hope or even the hint of overturning or challenging the victory of the president," Tubbs Jones said. Boxer called it a matter of "electoral justice."

The rare objection to vote certification, the first filed in decades, forced the House and Senate to halt their joint session, usually a routine and ceremonial affair. Each chamber then debated the objection, and rejected it, the Senate by a 74-1 vote, the House 267-31. The state-by-state certification was completed a few hours later.


About 200 protesters near the White House, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, beat drums and urged Congress not to certify the results because they said unreliable voting machines and partisan election officials had tilted the closely fought swing state of Ohio to Bush.

Tubbs-Jones and Boxer listed a number of problems in Ohio, including rejection of provisional ballots, long lines and inadequate numbers of voting machines in urban neighborhoods that tended to back Kerry.

But one of Ohio's senators, Republican Mike DeWine, called the complaints "wild, incoherent and completely unsubstantiated." Several lawmakers in both chambers noted that Ohio votes had been recounted and the results certified by bipartisan local election boards.

In the much more rancorous aftermath of the 2000 race between then-Texas Gov. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, which was decided in the Supreme Court, no senators stepped up to lodge an objection. Boxer said she had refrained from objecting then at Gore's request, but had since come to regret her silence.