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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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Friday, June 25

E-voting skeptics rally for paper 

Federal Computer Week, June 25, 2004

Voter verified paper trail advocates held a rally this week in Washington, DC to urge Congress to move Rep. Rush Holt's bill, HR 2239, and bring it to the floor. HR 2239 would require electronic voting machines to produce a voter verified paper trail by November 2004.

Rep. Holt hosted the rally, which was attended by hundreds of people. One of the most poignant speakers was Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), who was a key leader in the civil rights movement and today is an ardent supporter of the paper trail. Lewis declared at the rally that he was not about to let his vote be taken away by a machine after laying his body on the line for the right to vote.

Excerpts from the FCW article:

Joined by other legislators and representatives from several activist groups including Common Cause, Rock The Vote and Democracy For America, Holt urged passage of his Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. Despite having attracted more than 140 co-sponsors, the bill remains locked up in the House Administration Committee, chaired by Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio.).

"I don't doubt that if this [legislation] came out to see the light of day, and members of Congress heard the concern and the outrage [that people have], this legislation would move and it would become law," Holt said, flanked by dozens of supporters holding signs urging ballot verification.

-------

Time is running out for this year, Holt said. "Unless we act very soon, we will not have in place for this fall's election the degree of trust that every voter deserves."

Holt did not identify Ney by name as the reason the bill remains in committee, but Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) did.

Ney, she pointed out, led the effort to rename French fries "Freedom fries" at the Capitol, which she considered petty compared to the integrity of the election process.

"He has the power to move this forward," she said.

Ney was one of the original sponsors of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which Holt's legislation would amend. In April, he and the three other principal authors of the act sent a letter to members of Congress to oppose Holt's bill.

(# 3:19 PM)

One million black votes didn't count in the 2000 presidential election  

By Greg Palast, San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 2004

Greg Palast, author of the book, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy", is an investigative reporter who broke the story of the Florida voter roll purge that disproportionately disenfranchised African American voters in the Florida 2000 Presidential election.

Palast's new piece provides an analysis of the "spoiled ballot" rate in the U.S., finding that half of the spoiled ballots are cast by African American voters, who make up only 12 percent of the electorate.

Excerpts:

In the 2000 presidential election, 1.9 million Americans cast ballots that no one counted. "Spoiled votes" is the technical term. The pile of ballots left to rot has a distinctly dark hue: About 1 million of them -- half of the rejected ballots -- were cast by African Americans although black voters make up only 12 percent of the electorate.

This year, it could get worse.

These ugly racial statistics are hidden away in the mathematical thickets of the appendices to official reports coming out of the investigation of ballot-box monkey business in Florida from the last go-'round.

How do you spoil 2 million ballots? Not by leaving them out of the fridge too long. A stray mark, a jammed machine, a punch card punched twice will do it. It's easy to lose your vote, especially when some politicians want your vote lost.

While investigating the 2000 ballot count in Florida for BBC Television, I saw firsthand how the spoilage game was played -- with black voters the predetermined losers.

Florida's Gadsden County has the highest percentage of black voters in the state -- and the highest spoilage rate. One in 8 votes cast there in 2000 was never counted. Many voters wrote in "Al Gore." Optical reading machines rejected these because "Al" is a "stray mark."

By contrast, in neighboring Tallahassee, the capital, vote spoilage was nearly zip; every vote counted. The difference? In Tallahassee's white- majority county, voters placed their ballots directly into optical scanners. If they added a stray mark, they received another ballot with instructions to correct it.

In other words, in the white county, make a mistake and get another ballot; in the black county, make a mistake, your ballot is tossed.

-----

But let's not get smug about Florida's Jim Crow spoilage rate. Civil Rights Commissioner Christopher Edley, recently appointed dean of Boalt Hall School of Law at UC Berkeley, took the Florida study nationwide. His team discovered the uncomfortable fact that Florida is typical of the nation.

Philip Klinkner, the statistician working on the Edley investigations, concluded, "It appears that about half of all ballots spoiled in the U.S.A. --
about 1 million votes -- were cast by nonwhite voters."

-----

And once again, the history of computer-voting glitches has a decidedly racial bias. Florida's Broward County grandly shifted to touch-screen voting in 2002. In white precincts, all seemed to go well. In black precincts, hundreds of African Americans showed up at polls with machines down and votes that simply disappeared.

(# 10:29 AM)

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Sunday, June 20

CVF-NEWS -- June 18, 2004 

CVF-NEWS by Kim Alexander, June 18, 2004

Check out the latest issue of CVF-NEWS for updates on numerous items, including:

* California Secretary of State issues voter verified paper trail standards
* Commonwealth Club address Wednesday, July 7 in San Francisco
* CA Task Force on Voter Privacy releases report and recommendations
* Update on 14 California counties' recertification status & Nov. election plans
* CVF files amicus brief in CA voting tech lawsuit; hearing July 2 in L.A.
* CA Voting Systems Panel to meet July 12, 19 and 26

(# 1:44 PM)

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Thursday, June 17

Venezuelan Recall Is in Dispute Even Before the Vote 

By Juan Forero and John Schwartz, New York Times, June 11, 2004

Venezuela has a recall election coming up in August, and questions are being raised about the new, electronic voting system the government is planning to use. While the system reportedly does produce a voter verified paper record, critics are urging those records be used to verify the accuracy of the software vote count. The New York Times gives a review and update on the situation from Caracas, Venezuela.

Excerpts:

Touch-screen voting machines, which have been plagued by security and reliability concerns in the United States, will be used in the recall vote on President Hugo Chávez, prompting his foes and foreign diplomats to contend that the left-leaning government may use the equipment to manipulate the vote.

A new touch-screen system here, bought earlier this year by Mr. Chávez's government, uses voting machines made by the Smartmatic Corporation of Boca Raton, Fla., and software produced by a related company, the Bizta Corporation, also of Florida. Neither company has experience in an actual election.

-------

One solution, electoral and computer experts say, is the use of manual audits of the receipts the machines produce for every vote cast.

"That is the most normal thing in an electoral process, and that they would deny it is absurd," said a diplomat in Caracas who has closely monitored elections here and in other Latin countries. "What serious electoral board would not permit an observation, as is done everywhere?"

-------

Mr. Chávez's opponents have suggested that an independent observer like the Organization of American States or the Atlanta-based Carter Center, audit the signatures.

But the electoral council has opposed an audit, saying that as an autonomous body it would tally the votes and ensure there is no fraud. Some pro-Chávez members of the council, in fact, have suggested that the O.A.S. does not need to monitor the election, or that its role should be restricted.

Opposition leaders contend that three of the electoral council's five members are partisan to the president, an opinion echoed by diplomats in Caracas.

Leaders of the Democratic Coordinator, an umbrella group of opposition groups, had initially pushed for a manual count. But now the opposition says it simply wants to carry out an audit of a sampling of the votes, perhaps on as few as 400 of the 12,000 machines that are to be used.

"We are not asking that they do an electoral count on all the receipts," said Jesús Torrealba, an opposition leader. "What we're asking for is a statistical sampling."

-------

The government has raised a host of questions since announcing earlier this year that it was replacing voting machines made by a Spanish firm, Indra, with Smartmatic's equipment. The Miami Herald reported in May that the Venezuelan government had invested in Bizta, a new company that makes the software to be used in the machines.

------

Glitches and tampering with voting machines has been seen before in Latin America, where there is a long history of stolen elections.

The government of then-President Alberto K. Fujimori stole the 2000 Peruvian presidential election. Days before, the O.A.S. examined the software used in the machines and found technical problems that would permit manipulation.

The Fujimori government, though, refused to make corrections, and the O.A.S. abandoned the country before the election. The government was later accused of fraud in the election. Mr. Fujimori resigned soon after.



(# 6:05 PM)

State Sets Standards for E-Voting 

By Ian Hoffman, Alameda Newspaper Group, June 16, 2004

By Kim Zetter, Wired News, June 15, 2004

California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has issued standards for an accessible, voter verified paper audit trail. California is the first state in the nation to issue such standards, which will give vendors the guidance and direction they need to develop this essential voting security feature. The standards have been in development throughout this year and reflect many of the recommendations made by the Secretary of State's Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force, which I served on last year.

The standards and a news release are available from the Secretary of State's web site.

Excerpts from Kim Zetter's story:

"California is making sure that voters will be able to verify that their votes are being counted correctly," Shelley said in a statement. "I call upon (federal election officials) to follow my lead and establish nationwide testing and qualification standards for (paper-trail verified) systems as soon as possible."

Under the standards, the voter-verified paper trail would consist of a printout that voters could examine to confirm that the machine recorded their vote accurately. Voters wouldn't be able to touch the paper receipt or leave the polls with it. Instead, the paper record would likely roll behind a glass partition, allowing the voter to accept or reject the choices presented on the ballot. Voters would be able to discard inaccurate ballots and have correct ones transferred to a secure ballot box.

According to the standards, paper-trail systems would be designed so that disabled voters, including those who can't see, could cast ballots and verify their vote in private without assistance. For non-English speakers, the records would be printed in the voter's preferred language and English for election officials.

-----

Excerpts from Ian Hoffman's story:

California approved the nation's first standards Tuesday for a paper record to be produced by electronic voting machines and verified by voters.

Congress and at least 20 states are debating laws requiring that electronic voting machines produce a "voter-verified paper trail" so voters can be sure their electronic vote was properly recorded and so local officials would have something to recount.

But no one is certain what such a paper trail would look like, although about a half-dozen voting-system vendors have developed or are working on e-voting machines that generate a printout.

------

"California is at the forefront of the movement toward a paper trail and these standards help lead the way," said Kim Alexander, a paper-trail advocate and president of the Davis-based California Voter Foundation.

-----

In an ordinary election, the electronic ballot would still serve as the record of a voter's intent. But in the event of a recount, the paper record, having been verified personally by the voter, would become the ballot and resolve election challenges "unless there is clear evidence that the paper record copy is inaccurate, incomplete or unreadable."

Clearing up the language, handicapped accessibility and legal role of the new paper records were among the largest unknowns of a paper trail.

(# 9:47 AM)

E-voting regulators often join other side when leaving office 

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

Excerpts:

Shortly after leaving office, former California Secretary of State Bill Jones sent letters to each member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, reassuring them that the electronic voting machines they wanted to buy were reliable.

``The touch-screen system Santa Clara is considering purchasing has been been successfully used in Riverside County since 1999,'' Jones wrote in January 2003.

One month after Jones sent the letters, the Republican became a paid consultant for Sequoia Voting Systems, a touch-screen manufacturer that was bidding for Santa Clara County's $19 million contract and ultimately won it.

------

While a revolving door between government service and private-sector jobs is common, some observers argue such cozy familiarity has led public officials to overlook flaws in controversial electronic voting systems, putting elections at risk.

------

Jones, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Barbara Boxer in the November election, explained in an interview that he wrote the letters to Santa Clara County supervisors because he wanted to defend ``a technology whose time had come.'' He stressed he had not talked with Sequoia about a job at the time and was not writing on the company's behalf.

Jones said Sequoia paid him $10,000 a month from March to August 2003 in exchange for talking to people who wanted to know about touch-screen machines. He said he did not earn any bonuses for helping to secure contracts.

"I talked to people who called me,'' he said. "I was not interested in selling.''

Santa Clara County registrar of voters Jesse Durazo said he didn't see Jones' letters. But he noted the two months that Jones waited before becoming a Sequoia consultant did not seem like a sufficient cooling-off period. "The public at large should feel that there is no undue influence,'' Durazo said.

-----

Former secretaries of state from Florida and Georgia also have lobbied on behalf of voting-equipment manufacturers. Lower-ranking elections officials have taken jobs with the companies as well. Three of Jones' former staffers and two of his predecessor's staffers work for the three largest voting-machine companies.

"It made sense for me because my expertise has been in voting technology and public education,'' said Alfie Charles, a former Jones' press aide who is now a Sequoia spokesman.

For others, joining voting equipment companies has proven lucrative. Former Florida Secretary of State Sandra Mortham scored a $172,000 bonus from Election Systems & Software (ES&S) after helping the Nebraska-based company win a $17 million contract from Broward County, Fla. She also earned undisclosed amounts from sales of electronic voting systems to Miami-Dade and 10 other counties.

------

In addition to hiring former secretaries of state and their staffs, voting equipment companies help pay for a multitude of industry conferences, including those sponsored by organizations like the National Association of Secretaries of State, or NASS.

At these events, companies routinely underwrite everything from trade exhibits to dinner dances. Last year, Accenture invited election officials to "an authentic Island Lobster Bake'' at NASS' annual summer meeting in Maine. A Bermuda-based consulting firm, Accenture was developing an Internet-based voting system for the Pentagon and putting together voter databases for individual states. Other companies sponsored an evening dessert cruise and performance by the Maine State Theater.

"Personally, I've known a lot of these people for a long time, and we've become a family,'' said Rebecca Vigil-Giron, New Mexico's secretary of state and NASS' president-elect.

According to an NASS spokeswoman, the fees paid by corporate sponsors such as Diebold, ES&S, IBM and Accenture account for more than half of the association's $420,000 budget.

NASS does not regulate electronic voting. However, many of the association's individual members are responsible for administering election laws in their states, including rules governing the use of electronic voting systems.

Last summer, when independent computer scientists published an analysis detailing serious security flaws in a Diebold touch-screen voting system, the association asked Sequoia spokesman Charles for help in drafting a response.

-----

While equipment makers have routinely sought the support of state officials, some of the closest relationships exist on the county level, where some underfunded elections departments depend on voting equipment companies to set up ballots and troubleshoot on election day.

"Years ago, when I worked in the secretary of state's office, I remember looking at the small counties, and I thought, `Gee, if it wasn't for the vendors, these elections would never get pulled off,' '' said Alameda County registrar of voters Brad Clark.

Dependence breeds loyalty. One of electronic voting's strongest defenders is Mischelle Townsend of Riverside County, the first California registrar to introduce touch-screen machines. Last summer, Townsend flew to Florida to appear in an infomercial sponsored by Sequoia, the manufacturer of Riverside's voting machines.

Townsend disclosed the $1,080 trip as a gift but declined to discuss it with the Mercury News. Other registrars said their voting equipment suppliers have offered them tickets to football games and invited them to restaurants.

"Because the election officials have a close relationship with the voting machine companies, they believe them and they trust them, instead of performing their functions with due diligence,'' contends Will Doherty, an executive director of the Verified Voting Foundation, an advocacy group that has been critical of touch-screens.

Clark acknowledges that may be true. Last year, Diebold installed uncertified software on voting equipment used in Alameda County, a move that could have jeopardized the election.

"It made me be aware of the need to more carefully monitor what the vendor was doing,'' Clark said. ``I should have checked more carefully.''



(# 9:22 AM)

NYT Kevin Shelley profile: He Pushed the Hot Button of Touch-Screen Voting 

The New York Times >by Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times, June 15, 2004

Excerpts:

Kevin Shelley is a big and voluble Irish politician, the son of a former San Francisco mayor, and not the sort you would figure for the heretofore semi-obscure job of California secretary of state. But Mr. Shelley, who was elected to the post in November 2002 after a career as a state legislator, has adapted the job to suit his style, taking the arcane matter of voting machines and turning it into a hobbyhorse that some predict he could ride to the governor's office.

Mr. Shelley, a Democrat, has gained national notice for his skepticism toward touch-screen voting and his insistence that voters be able to look at a paper record inside the voting booth to verify their ballots. He says such paper trails are crucial if government wants voters to have confidence that their ballots are being counted correctly.

------

His directive has national implications because 40 percent of all touch-screen voting machines in use are in California. If vendors start making equipment to the specifications of the huge California market, that market is likely to dictate what is available to the rest of the country.

But Mr. Shelley's advocacy of paper trails has set off a fierce and emotional reaction among local election officials in California and elsewhere and has brought the purchase of such systems to a near standstill. Nearly one third of voters nationwide this November will vote on touch screens.

-----

To those who say he is only fanning fears, Mr. Shelley laughs.

"If a machine breaks down in San Diego, and it breaks down in Georgia, and they break down in Maryland, and they break down in Alameda and we have high schools where they can hack into the systems, the deficiencies are in the machines," he said.

"Look," he added, "I believe these machines have a very, very firm place in our future, but I also believe that in responding to the chaos in Florida in 2000 these machines were rushed out before all the kinks were worked out."



(# 9:09 AM)

Sequoia announces SoS has approved its touchscreens for use in Santa Clara this November 

Sequoia Voting Systems News Release, June 14, 2004

Sequoia Voting Systems announced that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has re-approved use of Sequoia's AVC Edge touchscreen voting machine in Santa Clara county. In order for Sequoia to be recertified, the vendor must provide its source code to the Secretary of State. Santa Clara is one of six California counties using Sequoia's e-voting equipment. Two other Sequoia clients -- Riverside and San Bernardino -- are suing the Secretary of State over his recertification requirements.

Excerpts from the Sequoia news release:

Sequoia Voting Systems supplied the nearly 15,000 touch screen voting machines used by the California counties of Santa Clara, Riverside, San Bernardino, Shasta, Napa and Tehama. Nationally, Sequoia has provided more than 50,000 electronic voting units dating back nearly 25 years.

This September, Sequoia will be providing the State of Nevada with AVC Edge touch screen units for use in conjunction with the Sequoia VeriVote(R) printer. The printer will permit voters to see and verify a printed paper record of all of their selections before they leave the voting booth.

(# 9:01 AM)

League of Women Voters drops support of e-vote machines 

By Rachel Konrad, Associated Press, June 14, 2004

The League of Women Voters held its national convention in Washington, D.C. last weekend, providing an opportunity for League members who have opposed the organization's position supporting paperless touchscreen voting systems to challenge that position. They succeeded in rescinding the League's previous position, which expressed support for touchscreens, and replaced it with a neutral position.

The League's prior position stated that "The LWVUS does not believe that an individual paper confirmation for each ballot is required....The experts that we have consulted say that there are many safeguards other than an individual ballot paper confirmation that can protect the sanctity of the ballot and that other issues are far more important in safeguarding our election systems.

The new position is:

"In order to ensure integrity and voter confidence in elections, the LWVUS
supports the implementation of voting systems and procedures that are
secure, accurate, recountable, and accessible."

The League was not happy with the AP story, and issued a press statement on June 14 that said, "The League continues to support voting systems that are well-managed and meet the above four criteria, including electronic voting systems. Each voting system should be looked at on a case-by-case basis to ensure that it meets each of these four criteria and that the operational and management systems supporting it will be well-run."

Excerpts from the AP story:

------

The League of Women Voters rescinded its support of paperless voting machines on Monday, after hundreds of angry members argued that paper ballots were the only way to safeguard elections from fraud, hackers and computer malfunctions.

About 800 delegates who attended the nonpartisan league's biennial convention in Washington voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that supports "voting systems and procedures that are secure, accurate, recountable and accessible."

That relatively neutral stance was a sharp change from last year, when leaders endorsed paperless terminals as reliable alternatives to antiquated punch card and lever systems.

-----

"My initial reaction is incredible joy and relief," said computer scientist Barbara Simons, 63, past president of the Association for Computing Machinery and a league member from a chapter in Palo Alto, Calif. "This issue was threatening to split the league apart. ... The league now has a position that I feel very comfortable supporting."

(# 8:53 AM)

Gambling on Voting 

New York Times Editorial, June 13, 2004

The New York Times compares touchscreen voting to gambling, and finds that gamblers can bet with more confidence than touchscreen voters, since oversight of the gambling industry is more rigorous than the e-voting industry. The editorial names six ways in which gamblers are more protected than voters.

Excerpts:

-----

1. The state has access to all gambling software.....Electronic voting machine makers, by contrast, say their software is a trade secret, and have resisted sharing it with the states that buy their machines.

2. The software on gambling machines is constantly being spot-checked. Board inspectors show up unannounced at casinos with devices that let them compare the computer chip in a slot machine to the one on file.... A surreptitious software change on a voting machine would be far less likely to be detected.

3. There are meticulous, constantly updated standards for gambling machines....Voting machine standards are out of date and inadequate.

4. Manufacturers are intensively scrutinized before they are licensed to sell gambling software or hardware....When it comes to voting machine manufacturers, all a company needs to do to enter the field is persuade an election official to buy its equipment.

5. The lab that certifies gambling equipment has an arms-length relationship with the manufacturers it polices, and is open to inquiries from the public.....The federal labs that certify voting equipment are profit-making companies. They are chosen and paid by voting machine companies, a glaring conflict of interest....Wyle Laboratories, one of the largest testers of voting machines, does not answer questions about its voting machine work.

6. When there is a dispute about a machine, a gambler has a right to an immediate investigation....If voters believe a voting machine has manipulated their votes, in most cases their only recourse is to call a board of elections number, which may well be busy, to lodge a complaint that may or may not be investigated.

....the truth is, gamblers are getting the best technology, and voters are being given systems that are cheap and untrustworthy by comparison. There are many questions yet to be resolved about electronic voting, but one thing is clear: a vote for president should be at least as secure as a 25-cent bet in Las Vegas.

(# 8:29 AM)

Blind group moves to drop suit over voting machines in Ohio 

Associated Press, June 11, 2004

Organizations that advocate on behalf of blind voters filed have filed lawsuits in at least three states -- Florida, Ohio and California -- that aim to compel these states to purchase touchscreen voting machines. The National Federation for the Blind, which filed such a suit in Ohio, moved Friday to drop its Ohio lawsuit. The California lawsuit, Benavidez v. Shelley, is scheduled to be heard in Los Angeles on July 2.

Excerpt:

The federation said at least five counties mentioned in the April 20 federal lawsuit -- Hardin, Lorain, Mercer, Putnam and Trumbull -- have moved forward with blind-friendly direct recording voting machines.

As for the others, the Baltimore-based federation said dropping the lawsuit would allow more time for training and implementing machines allowing the blind to vote securely and without assistance.

(# 8:04 AM)

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Saturday, June 12

The Disability Lobby and Voting 

New York Times editorial, June 11, 2004

For those wondering why some groups in the disability advocacy community are so enthusiastically supportive of e-voting and opposed to the voter verified paper trail reform, the New York Times provides some suggestions in this editorial.

Excerpts:

... the move to provide paper trails is being fought by a handful of influential advocates for the disabled, who complain that requiring verifiable paper records will slow the adoption of accessible electronic voting machines.

The National Federation of the Blind, for instance, has been championing controversial voting machines that do not provide a paper trail. It has attested not only to the machines' accessibility, but also to their security and accuracy — neither of which is within the federation's areas of expertise. What's even more troubling is that the group has accepted a $1 million gift for a new training institute from Diebold, the machines' manufacturer, which put the testimonial on its Web site.

-------

Last year, the American Association of People With Disabilities gave its Justice for All award to Senator Christopher Dodd, an author of the Help America Vote Act, a post-2000 election reform law. Mr. Dodd, who has actively opposed paper trails, then appointed Jim Dickson, an association official, to the Board of Advisors of the Election Assistance Commission, where he will be in a good position to oppose paper trails at the federal level. In California, a group of disabled voters recently sued to undo the secretary of state's order decertifying the electronic voting machines that his office had found to be unreliable.

Some supporters of voter-verifiable paper trails question whether disability-rights groups have gotten too close to voting machine manufacturers. Besides the donation by Diebold to the National Federation of the Blind, there have been other gifts. According to Mr. Dickson, the American Association of People with Disabilities has received $26,000 from voting machine companies this year.

The real issue, though, is that disability-rights groups have been clouding the voting machine debate by suggesting that the nation must choose between accessible voting and verifiable voting.

It is well within the realm of technology to produce machines that meet both needs.

------

Disabled people have historically faced great obstacles at the polls, and disability-rights groups are right to work zealously for accessible voting. But they should not overlook the fact that the disabled, like all Americans, also have an interest in ensuring that their elections are not stolen.


(# 3:56 PM)

EAC Chairman calls for better vote security 

By Andy Sullivan, Reuters, June 10, 2004

Also:

Feds Call for Tougher Restrictions on Electronic Voting

By the Associated Press/FoxReno.com, June 9, 2004


DeForest Soaries, Chairman of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission, announced this week his recommendations for improving e-voting security for the upcoming November election.

While Soaries stopped short of endorsing a voter verified paper trail, he did embrace a number of other reforms that demonstrate the EAC and its chairman acknowledge that e-voting poses the kind of serious risks computer scientists and voting reform activists have been bringing to public attention for the past eighteen months. The most important reform Soaries is endorsing is a requirement that vendors make their e-voting source code available to the government agencies that purchase their systems.

------

Excerpts from FoxReno/AP:

DeForest B. Soaries, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, said he wants election officials to be able to analyze software source code in the electronic systems they pay for, which some vendors have resisted.

"The increased use of electronic voting devices has created security concerns that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission must address," he said in remarks prepared for delivery at a Maryland conference of election officials.

In an interview before the speech, Soaries said the issue of paper ballots that voters can verify -- perhaps the most-debated aspect of the controversy over electronic voting -- requires more study and that calling for such receipts by November would be unrealistic. He said it was possible the panel would recommend paper ballots in the future.

Some critics of electronic voting also want vendors to make their software source codes public so they can be widely scrutinized for security flaws.

Soaries said he wasn't prepared to ask software developers to release such proprietary information. But he said he wants the commission to urge vendors to share their source codes with local election officials who use federal money for electronic voting machines.

--------

Excerpts from Reuters:

"We're recommending that every voting jurisdiction that uses electronic voting do something about security that they have not done before," US Elections Assistance Commission Chairman DeForest Soaries said in an interview.

It could be a printer that creates a paper trail of votes, more advanced technologies like voice identification and cryptography, or a simple random check of the machines on Election Day, he said.

Soaries declined to endorse a specific remedy like the printers, which some advocates say could create a reliable paper trail to guard against malfunctioning machines.

------

Avi Rubin, a Johns Hopkins computer-science professor who has uncovered security flaws in a Diebold system, said Soaries was constrained by limited resources and a need to avoid alienating local officials who will oversee the elections.

"He knows he can't take giant steps right now, but he took some baby steps and they were in the right direction," Rubin said. 

(# 3:48 PM)

State Lifts Ban on Orange County E-Voting 

By Stuart Pfiefer, Los Angeles Times, June 11, 2004

Orange County became the second county, after Merced, to gain recertification of its paperless, electronic voting system. Merced and Orange counties have both agreed to comply with Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's 23 new security requirements that must be met for paperless electronic systems to be used in California this November.

Among these 23 requirements is one that requires counties to give voters the right to cast a paper ballot at their polling places if they prefer to do so. The recertification rules also require the counties' vendors to provide their source code to the Secretary of State. ES&S, which is Merced's vendor, and Hart Intercivic, Orange's vendor, have agreed to do so.

------

Excerpts from the LA Times story:

Orange County was the first large county to win the secretary's approval to use electronic balloting in November; Shelley approved Merced County's system Monday.

"They came to Sacramento and answered tough questions. I'm very pleased with their assurances," Shelley said. "One of the conditions of the recertification was that the poll workers be trained in the use of these technologies and that they submit a poll worker training plan. That gives me a level of confidence."

------

Orange County met the secretary's requirements last month, but the secretary delayed approving its system until Hart agreed to hand over its "source code," the complex software that controls the voting and tabulating machines, so the secretary of state could test it.

Computer scientists who tested the source code of one of Hart's rivals, Diebold Election Systems, produced reports that suggested that system could be vulnerable to manipulation. It was such reports, as well as problems in Orange and other counties in March, that led Shelley to temporarily ban the systems.

(# 3:31 PM)

E-voting profits no pot of gold 

By Alec Rosenberg, San Mateo County Times, June 12, 2004

Excerpts:

Electronic voting looked to be a gold mine for vendors after the hanging chad fiasco of the 2000 presidential election led the U.S. government to set aside a few billion dollars to pay for new voting machines.

But the business has yet to deliver on the bottom line, bogged down by politics, reliability problems and a growing concern about security, highlighted by leading vendor Diebold's problems in California, where the Secretary of State banned its machines in four counties.

Even vendors that have avoided Diebold-style controversy are finding it difficult to reach profitability.

Oakland's Sequoia Voting Systems, the No. 2 e-voting vendor, said its sales rose 75 percent last year to $81 million, but margins fell and it had a $3.5 million operating loss.

Parent company De La Rue, based in England, took a $23 million goodwill write-down on the Sequoia business and expects Sequoia's losses will increase this year.

A London Times Online report last week said a broker suggested caution after De La Rue's new Chief Executive Leo Quinn "may consider the closure of Sequoia, its loss-making U.S. electronic voting business."

Sequoia refuted the closure report, saying it was supposition from an analyst.

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The company remains committed to e-voting, but Graham acknowledged it is a tough business.

"This industry has been in turmoil," Graham said. "Who would have ever anticipated the series of events as they unfolded?"

------

The U.S. e-voting machine market is led by Diebold with sales of about 55,000 e-voting machines (18,000 in California), Sequoia with

50,000 (14,000 in California) and closely held Election Systems & Software with 35,000 (440 in California).

Diebold Elections Systems' 2003 operating profit dropped 32 percent to $6.4 million as revenue fell 10 percent to $100 million, and the firm significantly scaled back its 2004 election systems revenue and profit projections.

Diebold and Sequoia are each part of profitable, billion-dollar-plus companies that focus on cash and security.

In May 2002, De La Rue paid up to $35 million for an 85 percent stake in Sequoia, which has more than 100 employees in seven U.S. locations. De La Rue attributed Sequoia's operating losses to "intense price competition over the last 18 months with unit prices falling by an average of 25 percent" and cited the "uncertain legislative environment and political resistance." Sequoia's biggest test may come in September, when it debuts 3,500 machines in Nevada with paper printouts.

(# 3:22 PM)

League of Women Voters Is Split on Paperless Computer Voting Systems 

By Rachel Konrad, the Associated Press, June 11, 2004

The League of Women Voters' national convention is taking place this weekend. Members of the league are expected to contest the organization's failure to support the voter verified paper trail reform. Barbara Simons, a technology expert, e-voting critic, and League member, is seeking the League presidency in order to challenge the League's position.

Rachel Konrad's AP story provides more background on the organization's internal controversy.

Excerpts:

Electronic voting is at the center of an internal battle in the League of Women Voters, whose national leadership is refusing to endorse demands by hundreds of members for a paper trail to guard against fraud, hackers and malfunctions.

Some local chapters are so angry that they are flouting regulations and planning to speak against the group's national position on Friday and Saturday at the league's convention in Washington. They are threatening to nominate new board members and a new candidate for president who would rescind the league's support for paperless voting systems.

"We think the league has in some way failed us," said Genevieve Katz, 74, a member of the Oakland, Calif., chapter, who has collected more than 700 signatures from members upset with the league's position on paperless terminals. "I can't remember an issue that has gotten members so upset."

The league, a nonpartisan group with 130,000 members, weighed in on the electronic voting controversy last year. Leaders said paperless terminals, which about 30 percent of the electorate will use in the November election, were reliable.

-------

Founded by suffragettes, the league rarely shies from controversial subjects and has a history of vigorous internal debate.

Despite overwhelming support among members for the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the league took no national stance. Outraged members demanded systemic changes, and by 1974 the league amended its bylaws to give the national organization more power to advocate social change.

For current members, Ms. Maxwell said, voter registration problems and dismal turnout, particularly among minorities, should be bigger worries than potential hackers.

"From a voting rights perspective, we care a great deal about the openness of the system and access to the system, that everyone eligible be able to participate freely," Ms. Maxwell said. "But simply printing out a piece of paper will not, in our opinion, address all the security concerns. People are talking about a simple solution to a complicated issue."

------

Some say the League of Women Voters' support of paperless systems has lulled politicians into thinking the machines are reliable. E-voting critic and league member Kim Alexander called the league's support of paperless systems "a significant roadblock on the path to reform."

------

Marian Beddill, 68, recently resigned as second vice president for the chapter in Bellingham, Wash., because of the league's position on electronic voting.

"It was pretty severe,'' Ms. Beddill said of her action, "but I'm passionate about protecting our votes and our ability and competence in having our votes counted correctly."


(# 3:14 PM)

Fake Diebold Ads  

The Diebold Variations

Here's a collection of fake Diebold ads that makes fun of the darker side of the e-voting debate....

(# 2:47 PM)

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Wednesday, June 9

San Diego County OKs paper ballot plan 

By Gig Conaughton, North County Times, June 2, 2004

Excerpts:

County officials have completed contract negotiations that will clear the way for local voters to use paper-and-pen ballots in November's elections, they said Wednesday.

County advisers recommended using "optical scan" paper ballots ---- the kind voters fill in with a pen or pencil ---- nearly three weeks ago, shortly after state officials barred the county from using the 10,200 electronic touch-screen voting machines it agreed to buy last year.

But county managers waited to approve the recommendation until they were sure that troubled electronic-voting machine manufacturer Diebold Systems Inc. ---- the company that sold San Diego County its machines ---- would foot the bill for the replacement system.

County officials have maintained for months that Ohio-based Diebold was contractually bound to pay for a replacement system if their machines could not be used.

But they also acknowledged that Diebold had legal grounds to resist providing a replacement system because the county still has not paid the company one cent of the $31 million in state and federal grant money it agreed to pay the company for the banned machines.

On Wednesday, county policy adviser Mikel Haas said the county and Diebold had clarified their contractual terms.

Diebold officials could not be reached for comment.

Haas said that according to the county's agreement, Diebold would pay whatever it cost the county to use an estimated 2 million optical-scan paper ballots this November.

In return, the county has promised not to sue Diebold and to pay a substantial first payment to Diebold ---- roughly $18 million ---- after the Nov. 2 elections, but not until the electronic "TSx" voting machines the county bought from Diebold have been cleared for use by the federal and state governments.

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Haas said the county will order the ballots, polling booths and optical scanning machines from Diebold. He said the county hasn't yet decided whether to ask for 40 scanners and have the machines count ballots at a central location after polls close, or whether to request 1,400 scanners that can start counting at individual polling places.

(# 11:40 AM)

Kevin Shelley Profile: E-Vote Fight Has Plenty of Human Drama Too 

By Stuart Pfeifer, Los Angeles Times

Excerpts:

By taking a tough stance on questions about electronic voting, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley has gained a national profile — and made some enemies among local election officials along the way.

------

On the most public level, Shelley is at odds with many local election officials over his decision to ban electronic voting systems in four counties and require extensive modifications in 10 others, a decision that many said would force them to return to paper ballots for the November election.

Four of the 14 counties affected — Riverside, Kern, Plumas and San Bernardino — responded by filing a federal lawsuit. A hearing on that suit is set for July 2 in Los Angeles.

But many registrars say the problem is broader than that. They say Shelley makes little effort to consult them on key issues, including how to spend millions of dollars the state received from Washington to improve voting systems. And some registrars, accustomed to being treated as colleagues by the secretary of state, say they are offended by his personal style.

"We reel from one directive to the next. We're not being consulted or involved in a process that requires teamwork to be successful," said L.A. County Registrar of Voters Conny B. McCormack. "I don't understand this. There's no part of this that makes any sense to me."

------

He said he regularly has sought suggestions from local registrars and hopes to resolve the dispute about the future of electronic voting outside the courtroom.

"It was disappointing many of the lawsuits were filed prior to us having an opportunity to work things out. It was something of a rush to judgment," Shelley said. "My job is not to please everybody. My job is to see that we have an election that is free from doubt."

Toward that end, Shelley on Monday granted Merced County the right to use its electronic voting machines in November after officials there met his requirements. It is the first county to regain certification. He said other counties, including Orange and Santa Clara, are also close to winning his approval.

Shelley supporters say the registrars who are unhappy are not used to a statewide elections chief who stands up to them.

"I think they're all in a state of shock," said Yolo County Registrar of Voters Freddie Oakley. "They never expected to have to submit to authority in the way they're asked to now."

-----

Shelley said his motivation is not politics but serving voters. Requiring a paper backup of all votes cast on electronic machines will add to voter confidence and provide an additional means of conducting recounts should the outcome of a race be questioned, he said.

"My fundamental responsibility is to the voters. The voters have grave concerns about the integrity of the systems…. They want to know the equipment is reliable."

Shelley has been lauded by voter rights groups, who see his pursuit of a paper backup for all electronic voting as essential.

"It's not that Kevin Shelley is not listening to the registrars. It seems to me they're upset he isn't only listening to them," said Kim Alexander of the California Voter Foundation.

"I think that some of the registrars that are opposing his reforms are in denial about the grave threat we face with our voting systems right now…. It's like the sausage factory: A lot of people don't want to look at the process; they just want the finished product."

(# 8:05 AM)

Voting-machine maker may pay for paper ballots 

By David Siders, the Stockton Record, June 6, 2004

Excerpts:

San Joaquin County elections officials are negotiating a deal in which the maker of banned electronic voting machines would pay the costs of a paper ballot election in November, elections officials said last week.

In return, San Joaquin County would neither sever its contract with nor sue Texas-based Diebold Election Systems to recover the cost of mothballing its voting machines in a county warehouse, Registrar of Voters Deborah Hench said.

Elections officials paid $5.7 million for the machines in 2002.

Machines used in March in San Joaquin, Kern, San Diego and Solano counties were banned in April by Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, who said Diebold installed machines that were not certified and lied to the state about it, a charge Diebold has denied.

The agreement being negotiated in San Joaquin County is similar to one announced Wednesday between Diebold and San Diego County. Kern County, meanwhile, has joined a lawsuit against the state to undo the ban, while Solano County has terminated its contract with Diebold altogether.

Hench said she does not want to kill her contract with Diebold, because it took a long time to complete and because "Diebold works well with us."

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Elections officials would borrow extra scanning machines from Diebold in November and would ask Diebold to pay the costs to print ballots. Ballots are expected to cost $300,000 to $600,000, depending on whether the ballot is one or two pages, she said.

(# 7:56 AM)

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