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CVF President and Founder Kim Alexander highlights voting technology developments around the state and nation and shares her views in her weblog. Contact Kim via email at kimalex at calvoter dot org. (XML Available)

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California voting machines decertified

Archives

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Sunday, May 30

Lax controls over e-voting test labs 

By Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News, May 30, 2004

Excerpts:

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley had a simple question: Had a new electronic voting machine been approved by an independent testing lab?

State law requires such approval before the device could be used by California voters. It guaranteed the machines counted votes accurately and would work reliably during an election. As the state's top election official, Shelley figured he could get a quick answer.

He figured wrong.

Wyle Laboratories of El Segundo refused to discuss the status of its testing of the AccuVote-TSx machine made by its client, Diebold Election Systems. The information was proprietary, Wyle said, and could be revealed only to Diebold.

And so the secretary of state was introduced to the looking-glass world of voting-machine regulation. Over the years, repeated references to ``federal testing'' by election officials have given the impression that the government oversees the certification of touch-screen voting systems. While there are guidelines for the machines, no federal agency has legal authority to enforce them.

Instead, state officials rely on what amounts to a privately operated testing system -- a small group of for-profit companies overseen by a private elections group to ensure the integrity of elections increasingly dependent on electronic voting machines.

Neither the testing procedures nor the testing results are considered to be public information, and these testing laboratories have not traditionally been subject to direct oversight by election officials. For years, the testing system was managed by a private center that also accepted donations from voting-equipment manufacturers.

``I was shocked,'' Shelley recalled. ``Everyone seemed to be in bed with everyone else. You had these so-called independent testing authorities floating out there in an undefined pseudo-public, pseudo-private status whose source of income is the vendors themselves.''

Recent testing by states and university scientists has shown that these labs, called independent testing authorities, or ITAs, are signing off on some software with serious flaws.

------

Forty-two states, including California, rely on three independent testing labs to safeguard elections. By holding voting-equipment manufacturers accountable to national standards and keeping copies of software programs in escrow, the independent labs are supposed to help stop defective computer code from reaching the polling place.

But critics contend that the labs are too close to the elections industry to serve as effective watchdogs. ``The only thing they are independent from is state and federal regulators,'' Shelley told the U.S. Election Assistance Commission this month.

Dan Reeder, a spokesman for Wyle, which functioned as the nation's sole testing lab from 1994 to 1997, said the company's policy is to provide information to the manufacturers who are its customers.

``We would not even acknowledge who we have done business with because of the proprietary nature of the relationship,'' Reeder said. ``It's much like a lawyer-client relationship.''

-----

Only two independent labs test voting software: CIBER of Greenwood Village, Colo., and SysTest Labs of Denver. And only one, Wyle, tests the physical machinery.

SysTest Labs President Brian Phillips said the security risks identified by the outside scientists were not covered by standards published by the Federal Election Commission. ``So long as a system does not violate the requirements of the standards, it is OK,'' Phillips said.

(# 8:10 AM)

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Saturday, May 29

Conny McCormack Q&A 

By Andrew Gumbel, L.A. CityBeat, May 27, 2004

Excerpts:

As Los Angeles’ registrar-recorder, Conny McCormack is responsible for running elections in the most populous county in the United States, with more than four million registered voters and almost 5,000 precincts covering 88 cities, 100 school districts, and every conceivable ethnicity and language. This has made her an important national figure in the growing controversy over electronic voting systems.

------

McCormack spoke to CityBeat in response to our report that she had asked Diebold to make software changes in L.A. County for last October’s recall election without getting the changes certified. She offered no denial of the charge that she had circumvented the legal requirement for certification; when pressed on the issue, she ended the conversation.

–Andrew Gumbel

CityBeat: How do you respond to the charge by Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation that you put 40,000 votes at risk by asking Diebold to alter the software on the eve of the recall election?

Conny McCormack: That woman has absolutely no credentials in elections. It’s almost laughable. She says I put 40,000 votes at risk. I would never do that. I wouldn’t have a job if I did that.

Isn’t proper certification of election software an issue?

We have been using and patching software in L.A. County for over 30 years. Whenever changes are made, an incredible amount of testing is done – literally thousands of checks. Now, there have been infractions by all vendors, including in L.A. County. We have not been dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” to certify all the software. But it would be the biggest irony, to me, to have someone say that because we hadn’t done it by such-and-such a date we couldn’t do it. We saw a similar situation in Maryland when they had their primary on March 2. They wanted to put in some security enhancements which hadn’t gone through all of the testing labs, so they decided they were going to waive [the certification process], because it was more important to have the security enhancements than to have finalization of the process.

(# 8:42 PM)

Making Votes Count: Who Tests Voting Machines? 

New York Times editorial, May 30, 2004

Excerpts:

Whenever questions are raised about the reliability of electronic voting machines, election officials have a ready response: independent testing. There is nothing to worry about, they insist, because the software has been painstakingly reviewed by independent testing authorities to make sure it is accurate and honest, and then certified by state election officials. But this process is riddled with problems, including conflicts of interest and a disturbing lack of transparency.

-----

...there is, to begin with, a stunning lack of transparency surrounding this process. Voters have a right to know how voting machine testing is done. Testing companies disagree, routinely denying government officials and the public basic information. Kevin Shelley, the California secretary of state, could not get two companies testing his state's machines to answer even basic questions. One of them, Wyle Laboratories, refused to tell us anything about how it tests, or about its testers' credentials. "We don't discuss our voting machine work," said Dan Reeder, a Wyle spokesman.

Although they are called independent, these labs are selected and paid by the voting machine companies, not by the government. They can come under enormous pressure to do reviews quickly, and not to find problems, which slow things down and create additional costs. Brian Phillips, president of SysTest Labs, one of three companies that review voting machines, conceded, "There's going to be the risk of a conflict of interest when you are being paid by the vendor that you are qualifying product for."

------

If independent testing were taken seriously, there would be an absolute bar on using untested and uncertified software. But when it is expedient, manufacturers and election officials toss aside the rules without telling the voters. In California, a state audit found that voters in 17 counties cast votes last fall on machines with uncertified software. When Georgia's new voting machines were not working weeks before the 2002 election, uncertified software that was not approved by any laboratory was added to every machine in the state.

(# 8:34 PM)

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Wednesday, May 26

Calif. Senate approves bill giving tighter deadline for e-voting paper trail 

Associated Press, May 25, 2004

Excerpt:

Electronic voting machine manufacturers, already facing a July 1, 2005, deadline in California to make touch-screen machines that provide paper backup copies of votes, would face an even tighter deadline under a bill that passed the state Senate Tuesday.

The Senate voted 32-0 to move up the deadline by six months, to Jan. 1. After that date, cities or counties could not buy or use electronic machines that lack a paper printout of every vote.

The bill passed Tuesday would make voting machine makers print a paper backup copy on which voters could visually verify their electronic vote. Voters would not be able to take the copy with them.

(# 9:14 PM)

County dumps Diebold voting machines 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, May 26, 2004

Also see:

County dumps Diebold voting machines

By Warren Lutz, Fairfield Daily Republic, May 26, 2004


Yesterday the Solano County Board of supervisors voted to abandon its $4 million contract with Diebold and switch to an optical scan system from ES&S. Solano is one of several California counties impacted by Kevin Shelley's April 30 decertification order. Solano had purchased 1,171 Diebold TSX machines and used the equipment in the March election. Now that equipment will be sent back to Diebold, presumably to its McKinney, Texas facility.

We'll see in the upcoming days and weeks what Diebold's other California touchscreen counties plan to do. These counties include Alameda, San Diego, Kern, San Joaquin, and Plumas.

-----

Excerpt from Ian Hoffman's story:

Diebold lobbied Solano hard to keep its contract. The McKinney, Texas-based firm had offered a full optical-scanning system and printed ballots, all free, for the November election. Solano had its choice of keeping the system afterward or returning to use of the touch-screens if Diebold later got it certified to produce a paper, backup record that voters could check, known as a voter-verified paper trail.

Solano's new registrar of voters had recommended staying with Diebold's proposal as the least disruptive route through the November elections.

"They were very anxious to keep us as customers and were willing to spend almost any amount of money to keep us," said Solano registrar and chief information officer Ira Rosenthal.

On Tuesday, Solano County supervisors said no in a 3-1 vote and sent packing the nation's largest supplier of touch-screens and second largest supplier of voting systems.

"There was a confidence issue with the way Diebold conducted business with the county and the state in the past year," Rosenthal said.

------

Excerpt from Warren Lutz' story:

David Bear, a spokesman for the McKinney, Texas-based company, had no comment on the board's action.
"It would be hard for me to comment until I could review" the decision, Bear said.

The county also turned down Diebold's free offer to send more optical scanning equipment, whereby voters cast paper ballots, which are scanned electronically. Instead it chose similar equipment from Election Systems & Software, one of the finalists for the county's voting contract two years ago.

--------

Supervisor Duane Kromm, who sided against his colleagues, called their decision "a colossal blunder" and suggested the county may owe Diebold money.

"I think this is going to cost us a million bucks," Kromm said.

He added the county's election department has been unfairly "whipsawed" by the Diebold controversy. Four people have left the 10-person office since the March primary, including Registrar of Voters Laura Winslow.

Silva, who became a frequent critic of Diebold after the company's problems began making news last fall, didn't agree.

"I don't feel like we're whipsawing staff," Silva said. "This board has been whipsawed."

(# 10:19 AM)

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Saturday, May 22

Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes 

by Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times, May 23, 2004

Excerpts:

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

------

Mr. Shelley said he was requiring counties to allow voters to vote on paper if they wanted to, even if there were no apparent problems with the touch screens. "It's a voter-confidence issue," he said in an interview. "It should be a no-brainer."

More than a dozen other states are considering legislation to require paper backups, and Congress, which had left the matter on the back burner, is considering several similar proposals.

"People are demanding this," said Representative Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who has introduced a bill to require that by November, all voters be able to cast ballots that they can verify. This would entail either retrofitting touch screens with printers or requiring a county to go back to a paper-based system like optical-scan equipment or even punch cards.

------

"The Maryland primary was a very instructive learning experience for all activists," said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, a grass-roots watchdog group in Sacramento that is helping to organize voter groups across the country.

"There are movements in a lot of states, and we're sharing information," she said. She said she took it as a mark of success that 75 percent of the voting jurisdictions in the country will be using the same equipment in November as they used in 2000.

"I'd rather have voters vote on punch cards than on an electronic system that can't be verified," she said.

(# 7:40 PM)

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Wednesday, May 19

A view from Texas about California and Hart Intercivic 


The E-Vote Backlash Grows


By Lee Nichols, the Austin Chronicle, May 14, 2004

Excerpt:

Despite having a major contract with Orange Co., Hart InterCivic (whose eSlate system is also used here in Travis Co.) does not expect much immediate impact to its business from Shelley's decision. Hart spokeswoman Michelle Shafer told us that its sale to Orange Co. is already final, so now its responsibility is just to "work with them to provide whatever assistance we can so their voters can vote. We're working through the different scenarios" to meet the 23 security conditions. She said Hart will not be providing the voter-verifiable option to Orange Co.

(# 8:19 AM)

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Monday, May 17

Electronic Voting Vulnerable To Hacking 

Click2Houston.com, May 15, 2004

On Wednesday, the California Senate Elections Committee hold a hearing to investigate the e-voting problems in Orange County, CA with the county's new electronic voting system from Hart Intercivic.

Here's a story from Harris County, Texas, that also uses the Hart eSlate machines, that discusses concerns from computer scientist Dan Wallach that the eSlate system could be hacked. The story also features a video.

Excerpts:

Is Harris County gambling with your vote? Are electronic voting machines used here and across the county an open invitation to election fraud?

According to Rice University professor and often-quoted critic of electronic voting Dan Wallach, e-voting leaves too much to chance.

"Elections could be stolen," Wallach said. "The question is not, 'Can I hack the eSlate machine?' The question is, 'How hard is it to hack?.'"

On the other side of the issue is Harris County Clerk Beverly Kaufman. The chief election official says electronic voting machines are even more secure than the older paper-ballot system.

"I'm not interested in a lot of hypothetical theory that the academics are working with," Kaufman said. "Someone is not going to meddle with the process without there being readily available evidence of it."

However, Wallach says that is just not true and that electronic machines easily be hacked without leaving any evidence.

To prove his point, Wallach put his computer science students to work setting up a mock electronic voting system -- one that mimics the eSlate system used in Harris County. One group of students was assigned to hack and corrupt the system; the other group was assigned to catch them.

During the class, the hackers successfully tampered with the machines without leaving a trace 50 percent of the time.

" I actually thought most people would find the hacks. When I saw they only found four of the eight, that was really scary," Rice University graduate student Anwis Das said.

In class, each undetected hack could have changed the outcome of the mock election, according to Wallach.

"In the systems being used here in Harris County and elsewhere in the United States, there's no reason that they wouldn't be vulnerable to the same problems," Wallach said.

Beverly Kaufman says there is no way an outsider can tap into the system electronically and says no one inside would do it if they could.

"If something unusual were to happen with my voting system for an election, I think the first place I would ask the district attorney to look are those people that keep predicting dire circumstances," Kaufman said. " We don't have a desire or the ability to go in and change the logic that is built into these systems."



(# 9:52 AM)

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Sunday, May 16

California e-voting quandry unravels 

Tri-Valley Herald Online - Local & Regional News

Excerpts:

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

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

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

------

In San Francisco, Colusa, San Mateo and Stanislaus counties, a recent state audit shows, ES&S runs the vote-tallying and elections-reporting software on election day. There, working behind the scenes, the nation's largest voting-systems corporation -- under varying degrees of local supervision -- counts and reports the choices of almost a million registered voters, using software for which no clear state approval can be found. Elections chiefs in San Francisco and San Mateo said they had no documented certification for their voting software. San Francisco elections director John Arntz said he was certain the system was certified.

"You talk to ES&S about this. They're the experts on the software and the system," Arntz said.

In a recent review of proposed modifications to San Francisco's voting system to allow instant runoff voting, state analysts suggested that none of the current voting software used to read ballots, tally votes and report results appears to have undergone federal testing and approval.

The optical scanning machines were certified by California in 1996 for a defunct company but only for use with a certain type of vote-tallying software. ES&S since has changed to new vote-tallying software and appears to have changed the optical scanning software as well. San Mateo County uses a nearly identical system.

Officials in both counties say their tests and state-mandated recounts of1 percent of ballots show the systems are accurate.

One of the latest California officials to handle voting-system testing and certification is Lou Dedier, who now works for ES&S as vice president and California general manager. He referred all questions to ES&S' public relations firm, Fleishman-Hillard Inc.

Fleishman's Becky Vollmer initially directed inquiries back to California's Office of the Secretary of State.

Given three weeks by the Oakland Tribune, neither California elections officials nor ES&S officials nor Fleishman-Hillard could supply a full, detailed list of state-approved ES&S voting software.

-----

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has launched criminal and civil investigations of the Texas-based firm for alleged violations of several election laws, most concerning the deployment of uncertified software in its client counties as of late 2003.

Diebold attorneys knew that a second, more sweeping audit of California voting systems was underway and hinted at mounting a plausible defense of selective prosecution: The state wasn't enforcing its own law, and other voting-system vendors -- and many California counties -- were doing what Diebold was doing.

(# 11:52 AM)

Voting machine business stormy for Diebold 

Associated Press, May 13, 2004

Excerpts:

"In November of 2000, I was embarrassed for this country," said Walden W. O'Dell, Diebold's chairman and chief executive.

The Florida fiasco also inspired Congress, which appropriated $3.9 billion for an overhaul of the nation's voting systems -- one that was to be fueled by technology promised by the likes of Diebold.

But Diebold has yet to realize large rewards for its shift into electronic voting.

-----

On Friday, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed a bill authorizing up to 31 counties to switch to electronic machines for the November election. The state released only a portion of the money, $38 million, to pay for the machines this year and to educate voters and poll workers.

Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell still would have to figure out how to keep votes secure.

"Every time there is an independent test, security flaws have been identified," said state Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat on the state's review committee. "It's an indication we need to slow down the process."

Diebold has "not shown they know how to build really secure systems, and to me election security is national security," said David Jefferson, a computer scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

"I don't think there is much likelihood of someone hacking into voting systems," Jefferson added, "but we do know with Diebold's system there can be some mischief."

(# 10:56 AM)

A Bad Run for Elections Firm 

By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2004

This article profiles Diebold, one of the top e-voting machine vendors in the country, and the vendor that was the most severely impacted by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's decertification order. Diebold sold 14,000 touchscreens to four California counties that were not federally qualified for use in elections.

------

Excerpts:

Last spring, the outlook for Diebold Election Systems Inc. couldn't have been brighter. The Texas-based company was the nation's leading producer of touch-screen voting machines and appeared likely to tap billions of dollars in federal and state funding set aside to replace the nation's aging and disparaged punch-card voting systems.

But management missteps, technological glitches and simple bad luck have made the company — whose voting machines are now banned in four California counties — a symbol for all that could go wrong in the nation's transition to electronic balloting.

In 10 months, the company's voting systems have been assailed as vulnerable to manipulation, its chief executive has faced questions about his Republican Party activism, some of its equipment malfunctioned in the March primary, and the California secretary of state has called for criminal and civil investigations of the company.

--------

The firm stumbled a second time in August. Walden O'Dell, chief executive of the election system division's corporate parent Diebold Inc., sent invitations to a $1,000-a-plate political fundraiser at his Ohio home and announced that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president."

Some now question whether the company can impartially help to count millions of ballots in November. O'Dell insisted he would never use his position to influence an election and announced that he would no longer be politically active.

But to some, the company's connection to political activism is still troubling — particularly because 60,000 of its touch-screen machines have been sold in eight states. The machines, most of them in California, Georgia and Maryland, make up more than half of the roughly 100,000 electronic voting machines expected to be used in the November election.

"The [O'Dell] fundraising letter is the kind of incident that raised doubts in people's minds and adds to those perception problems, even if he has no intention of exercising his influence in an illegal manner," said voting systems watchdog Alexander.

Diebold spokesman David Bear said O'Dell regrets the stir that his invitation caused. He blamed the problem on O'Dell's lack of experience in politics and the media.

"He never thought that anyone would think there was a connection between his personal involvement and his business," Bear said.

-------

Diebold officials say there has not been one documented security breach. They say they are willing to wait for the debate to play out in statehouses, courts and in Washington.

"We happen to be the ones out front and are getting some arrows," said Diebold's Swidarski. "We certainly didn't expect this public debate to unfold the way it has…. There's a lively and open debate. As a result, hopefully we'll end up with a situation that's improved."

(# 10:52 AM)

San Diego County staff recommends paper ballots 

By the North County Times, May 14, 2004

San Diego, the largest California county impacted by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's April 30 decertification order, is headed to implement paper, rather than electronic voting systems in its 1,600 polling places this November. A decision from the county executive, Walt Eckard, is expected this week.

See also Greg Lucas' May 13 articlearticle in the San Francisco Chronicle for more updates on how counties plan to address the decertification orders.
------

Excerpts:

County policy advisors forwarded a recommendation to their bosses Friday stating that local voters should use paper "optical-scan" ballots in November's Presidential election.

Officials said the recommendation was presented to County Chief Administrative Officer Walt Ekard on Friday afternoon, and that Ekard was expected to approve the recommendation next week.

--------

County officials say their contract with Diebold stipulates that the company must pay for the county's cost of using paper ballots in November. They also say they have not paid Diebold any of the $31 million they agreed to pay for 10,200 machines.


(# 10:27 AM)

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Saturday, May 15

Blind voters rip e-machines, say defects thwart goal of enfranchising sight-impaired 

By Elise Ackerman, San Jose Mercury News, May 15, 2004

Excerpts:

Disabled-rights groups have been some of the strongest supporters of electronic voting, but blind voters in Santa Clara County said the machines performed poorly and were anything but user-friendly in the March election.

``Very few of our members were able to vote privately, independently, despite Santa Clara County's supposed `accessible' touch screens,'' Dawn Wilcox, president of the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind, wrote in a letter to the registrar of voters after the March primary. ``I feel this is an unacceptable state of affairs.''

------

Wilcox said in an interview that she surveyed more than 50 members of her group after hearing anecdotal accounts of Election Day snafus. Only two members said the machines had functioned smoothly. About a dozen provided detailed descriptions of the problems they experienced using the audio technology that was supposed to guide them through the ballot and help them cast a vote in secret.

Four voters said the audio function did not appear to work at all. Others waited up to half an hour for poll workers to trouble-shoot the devices. Sam Chen, a retired college professor, said he was happy to finally hear an initial message, but then the machine balked. After struggling for an hour, Chen asked a poll worker to cast a ballot on his behalf. ``I wish I had voted on my own,'' he said.

-------

Wilcox's survey of blind voters has roiled the disabled-rights community, which lobbied heavily for a federal law requiring every polling place in every state to provide at least one electronic voting machine equipped for disabled voters by 2006.

-------

The report by the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind shows ``the gap between the advertised accessibility of these machines and the reality,'' said Will Doherty, an executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation, an advocacy group that supports Shelley's directive.

-------

Noel Runyan, a blind voter and computer scientist who is an expert in designing accessible systems, said touch screens are a good idea in theory, but they need a thorough redesign to work in practice. He said the voting companies appeared to have ignored feedback they solicited from groups of blind voters as they were developing their systems.

Among the criticism provided by voters was poor sound quality, delayed response time and braille that was positioned so awkwardly it could only be read upside down. Chen, the college professor, also said the audio message required blind voters to press a yellow button. ``Yellow means nothing to me,'' Chen said.

``I personally want them to be decertified for this election,'' Runyan said. ``We need to make a strong statement that all these machines need to be redesigned on the user interface side. We've got a mistake here.''

(# 7:35 AM)

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Friday, May 14

Members of Congress ask GAO to investigate e-voting 

By Michael Hardy, Federal Computer Week, May 13, 2004

Excerpts:

Thirteen members of the House of Representatives have asked the General Accounting Office to investigate electronic voting and the security and reliability of voting machines.

In a letter sent today to Comptroller General David Walker, the members write that the topic concerns "a critical aspect of American democracy — the ability of Americans to have confidence that the votes they cast in an election will be counted accurately and fairly."

---------

Government Reform Committee chair Tom Davis (R-Va.) and ranking minority member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), signed the letter, as did Judiciary Committee chair F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wisc.) and ranking minority member John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.)

The other signers are:

* William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.)
* John Larson (D-Conn.)
* Doug Ose (R-Calif.)
* Todd Russell Platts (R-Pa.)
* Adam Putnam (R-Fla.)
* Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.)
* Robert Scott (D-Va.)
* Christopher Shays (R-Conn.)
* Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio)

(# 11:18 PM)

Count Crisis? Election official warns of glitch that may scramble vote auditing 

By Matthew Haggman, Miami Daily Business Review, May 13, 2004

This is a very thorough article about the recent discovery that ES&S'a iVotronic touchscreen voting system used in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, FLA produces an unreliable audit log.

Excerpts:


A scathing internal review of the iVotronic touch-screen voting machines used in Miami-Dade and Broward, Fla., counties, written by a Miami-Dade County elections official, has raised fresh doubts about how accurately the electronic machines count the vote.

The review, contained in a June 6, 2003, memo that came to light last month, concludes there is a "serious bug" in the voting machine software that results in votes potentially being lost and voting machines not being accounted for in the voting system's self-generated post-election audit.

The Miami-Dade County Commission's elections subcommittee has scheduled meetings today and Friday to discuss the issues raised in the memo.

The memo could cast a new shadow over the credibility of electronic voting as the November presidential election approaches. Electronic voting machines are coming under increasing criticism for being glitch-prone, not providing an adequate way to perform a recount in close races, and being vulnerable to computer hacking and fraud.

In the e-mail memo, Orlando Suarez, division manager of the county's Enterprise Technology Services Department, wrote that the system is "unusable" for auditing, recounting, or certifying an election. Suarez came to his conclusion after analyzing one precinct in a North Miami Beach municipal runoff election held May 21, 2003.
"Unfortunately, if my observations are correct, we cannot use these reports in their present state for any of these purposes," he wrote. The e-mail memo was sent to a Miami-Dade elections official named Jimmy Carmenate, who is a director of administrative services in the Miami-Dade courts. Suarez declined comment for this article.

-------

"In my humble opinion (and based on my over 30 years of experience in the information technology field)," Suarez wrote, "I believe that there is/are a serious 'bug' in the program(s) that generate these reports making these reports unusable for the purpose that we were considering (audit an election, recount an election and if necessary, use these reports to certify an election)."

Adding to the mystery, Rodriguez-Taseff said her group just discovered that one of the apparent phantom voting machines actually exists -- based on its serial number -- in the county's touch-screen machine inventory. But it was not used in the North Miami Beach precinct examined by Suarez for that May 2003 election.

-------

Some experts say the Suarez memo proves that the state of Florida's process for certifying the iVotronic system is flawed, and that the system was certified without rigorous research, standards and review. "Certification did not protect us against this problem coming through," Mahoney said. "They tested the software and it did not detect whatever process is causing these anomalies to appear."

Rebecca Mercuri, a research fellow in computer science at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a prominent critic of electronic voting systems, said the Suarez memo has "very serious connotations" for the November presidential election.

"Now we have evidence that at least some component does not work correctly," she said. "This is very bad."

(# 9:18 AM)

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Thursday, May 13

New Voting Commission Seeks More Funding 

By Erica Werner, Associated Press, May 12, 2004

Excerpts:

WASHINGTON — Members of a new federal voting commission appealed to Congress Wednesday to double their budget, arguing that the extra cash would allow them to help states run more efficient elections.

"We've promulgated no rules. We've worked hard to get stationery, office space, business cards. We've had one public hearing," DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

-------

About $650 million already has been provided to states. The money is from $3.86 billion authorized in the Help America Vote Act.

Rep. John Olver, D-Mass., expressed surprise that the commission planned to distribute the money without having conducted research on voting system guidelines.

"We're going to distribute $2.3 billion to them now and we haven't done a bit of the research, none of the research, that would have helped them make the best possible decision?" Olver said.

"That's an accurate description," Soaries said.

"I don't know what else to say," Olver said.

"Welcome to our world," Soaries replied.

(# 7:19 AM)

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Thursday, May 6

Bill calling for e-vote ban advances 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, May 6, 2004

Excerpt:

Faced with local elections officials' resistance to new state safeguards on electronic voting, a California Senate committee approved a bill banning use of touch-screen voting machines in the November elections.

Senate Majority Leader Don Perata, co-sponsor of the legislation, was visibly angered that Riverside County plans a lawsuit today to challenge California's new e-voting security and reliability measures -- and that other counties, such as Napa, also were weighing legal challenges.

"If they decide to cowboy it and decide which of these things to comply with, we'll take the ball and we'll take it away from them immediately," said Perata, D-Oakland. "The registrars can spend their time trying to comply with (Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's) order, but if they choose not to, we're going to make sure they have no decision at all."

(# 9:58 AM)

E-Voting Commission Gets Earful 

By Michael Grebb, Wired News, May 6, 2004

Excerpts:

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

-------

...the commission's chairman said he didn't expect the bipartisan panel would issue national standards requiring paper receipts when it makes preliminary recommendations next week, followed by more detailed guidelines next month.

"We will not decide on what machines people will buy," said the chairman, Republican DeForest B. Soaries Jr., saying it wasn't the panel's role to tell states what to do. "We will say, if California wants to have a backup paper system, what national standards it should follow."

--------

When California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley took the podium, a crowd of supporters cheered.

On Friday, Shelley banned the use of one model of Diebold's voting machines in four California counties, and decertified all touch-screen systems unless counties that own them implement 23 security requirements. At least one county is filing suit against Shelley for his actions, and others may follow.

(# 9:52 AM)

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Wednesday, May 5

Senate committee approves bill to ban all e-voting machines in November 

By Anna Oberthur, The Associated Press, May 5, 2004

Today the Senate Elections Committee passed SB 1723, a bill that would ban e-voting in California this November, on a bipartisan 3-1 vote.

At the beginning of the hearing, Senator Don Perata (D-Alameda), who co-sponsored the bill and also chairs the committee, said that given Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's decertification orders last Friday and plan to implement tighter e-voting security, he was ready to put this bill aside. But he changed his mind after learning that Riverside and possibly other counties and their registrars are preparing to sue the Secretary of State over his decertification order.

The next stop for this bill is the Senate floor, where it must receive a two-thirds vote before May 28 in order to advance to the Assembly.

Excerpt:

"The key to democracy is that everyone's vote counts and is counted. The electronic voting machines used in the March primary failed to meet that fundamental test," said one of the bill's authors, Sen. Ross Johnson, R-Irvine.

The bill would not allow the use of any form of electronic voting, including touch-screen machines, in the Nov. 2 general election. It would apply only to that election.

-------

On Tuesday, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to sue Shelley for decertifying the county's touch-screen voting system.

The board decided in closed session to go to court to stop Shelley's "assault on the touch-screen voting system pioneered by Riverside County," board chairman Roy Wilson said.

(# 5:28 PM)

E-Vote controversy comes to commission 

by Andy Sullivan, Reuters, May 5, 2004

The first of what will be many reports on today's Election Assistance Commission hearing.

Excerpt:

A new U.S. election commission said on Wednesday it could not require districts using electronic voting machines to install printers or other secure backup systems to ensure that votes are counted properly.

Amid a heated debate over the merits of new touch-screen systems, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission said it hoped to develop voluntary guidelines for the electronic systems that will be used by one in three voters in November.

"At the end of the day, we can't tell districts what to do," said commission chairman DeForest Soaries at the first hearing held by the commission.

The commission, set up after the controversial 2000 U.S. election, is set to give out $2.3 billion to help states upgrade error-prone voting systems such as punch-card ballots that led to a protracted recount battle in Florida that year.

E-voting systems will be used in precincts in more than half of all states in November.

Election officials from Georgia, New Mexico and Los Angeles said the systems were easy to use, cut down on voting errors and allowed blind voters to cast their ballots in private.

Others were less enthusiastic. California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley decertified one-third of the state's e-voting machines last week following revelations that manufacturer Diebold Inc . installed untested software.

"Touch-screen systems can be reliable and secure, but the evidence to date suggests that they are neither right now," said Shelley, who mandated printers or other security measures for the state's remaining e-voting machines.

(# 5:12 PM)

Kevin Shelley's decertification orders issued April 30, 2004 

Withdrawal of TSx certification

Decertification and conditional certification for certain DREs

(# 5:08 PM)

Time Magazine: The Vexations Of Voting Machines 

Time Magazine, April 26, 2004

This issue is already off the newstands but the article is still online.

Excerpt:

Jeffrey Liss had finished making his selections on Maryland's Democratic-primary ballot and strolled out of the polling place at Chevy Chase Elementary School on the morning of March 2, Super Tuesday. On the sidewalk, he spied a campaign poster for Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is running for her fourth term. Funny, he thought, he didn't remember voting in the Senate race.

Liss went back inside to talk to an election official. And another, and another. He was told he must have overlooked the Senate race on the electronic touch-screen voting machine. But Liss, a lawyer, finally persuaded a technician to check the apparatus. Sure enough, it wasn't displaying the whole ballot.

(# 5:04 PM)

League of Women Voters' News Release on EAC hearing 

LWV release, May 5, 2004

Excerpt from LWV President Kay Maxwell's remarks to the EAC:

"The League takes quite seriously the questions raised about DRE security, and the management and operational practices that affect DRE performance in the real world. It is vitally important to ensure that DRE systems, as well as other systems, are properly managed," she said. "Some have proposed a particular solution -- the so-called voter-verified paper trail (VVPT). There are many questions to be answered before we go down the VVPT route. After careful examination of these questions, the League has not been persuaded of the wisdom of the voter-verified paper trail for 2004," Maxwell said.

(# 5:00 PM)

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Monday, May 3

Stateline.org: Integrity of electronic voting questioned 

By Kavan Peterson, Stateline.org, May 3, 2004

This article from a state policy oriented web site provides a good overview of how California's recent move to pull back on touchscreen voting may impact other states.

Excerpt:

Legislation requiring voter-verified paper ballots has been introduced in 15 states (Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin) that currently use electronic voting machines, and four states (Arizona, Maine, Minnesota and Vermont) that have yet to upgrade their voting equipment. Sixteen states with electronic voting machines have not discussed paper ballots: Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming.

Election officials in Illinois, Oregon, Nevada and New Hampshire already have banned paperless, electronic voting systems.

Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller recently made Nevada the only state to mandate that printers be installed on all electronic voting machines by November, despite the fact that Nevada had experienced no problems with the machines used by 70 percent of the state’s voters in 2002.

(# 9:16 PM)

E-Voting Oversight Overwhelms U.S. Agency 

By Rachel Konrad, The Associated Press, May 3, 2004

AP's Rachel Konrad reports on the upcoming Election Assistance Commission hearing. Details:

Wednesday, May 5, 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
EPA Headquarters
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Ariel Rios North Building
Room 3000, Rachel Carson Great Hall
Washington, DC

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will be addressing the EAC, along with a number of other speakers representing election officials, advocacy groups, and vendors.

-----

Excerpts from the AP story:

SAN JOSE, Calif. - As alarm mounts over the integrity of the ATM-like voting machines 50 million Americans will use in the November election, a new federal agency has begun scrutinizing how to safeguard electronic polling from fraud, hackers and faulty software.

But the tiny U.S. Election Assistance Commission says it is so woefully underfunded that it can't be expected to forestall widespread voting machine problems, which would cast doubt on the election's integrity.

The commission - which on Wednesday conducts the first federal hearing on the security and reliability of electronic voting - laments its predicament in a new report.

"We've found some deeply troubling concerns, and the country wants to know the solution," said DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., a Republican and former New Jersey secretary of state named by President Bush in December to lead the agency.

The Washington, D.C. hearing will focus on the security risks of touchscreen machines, which computer scientists say cannot be trusted because they do not produce paper records, making proper recounts impossible. Despite reassurances from the machines' makers, at least 20 states are considering legislation to require a paper trail.

-------

NASED plans to transfer its certification authority to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which is supposed to update the decade-old standards the labs use to make sure voting equipment is secure and reliable.

But that also is on hold because NIST "did not receive funding to support the work," the commission report says.

"I wish the EAC luck, but oversight of these systems is illusory," said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation. "As long as federal voting system standards are voluntary, voters across the country will not have the peace of mind they need to feel confident in their voting systems."

Currently certified by NASED to test all voting hardware for U.S. elections is a Huntsville, Ala.-based division of Wyle Laboratories Inc. All software is tested by two other entities - a Huntsville, Ala., lab operated by Greenwood Village, Colo.-based Ciber Inc., and Denver-based SysTest Labs LLC.

(# 9:13 PM)

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