California Voter Foundation Logo

Kim Alexander's Weblog

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)

Recent Posts

Update on California legislative hearings

Please contribute to the California Voter Foundati...

CA legislative hearings next week on voter outreac...

CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen sues ES&S; seeks...

Waiting for election results in the Inland Empire

Who's giving? Who knows? States keep voters in the...

News coverage of Grading State Disclosure 2007 stu...

36 states pass, 14 fail nationwide campaign financ...

Nationwide study evaluating campaign finance discl...

California voting machines decertified

Archives

divider

Monday, November 22

Problems are cited on electronic voting 

By Sam Hananel, Associated Press, November 19, 2004

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

--------

Excerpts from the AP story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 4:33 PM)

Researchers: Florida Vote Fishy 

By Kim Zetter, Wired News, November 18, 2004

Excerpts:

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

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

------

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

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

The total number of excessive votes ranged between 130,000 and 260,000, depending on what kind of problem caused the excess votes. The counties most affected by the anomaly were heavily Democratic.
Sociology professor Michael Hout, who chairs the university's graduate Sociology and Demography group, said the chance for such a discrepancy to occur was less than 1 in 1,000.

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

-------

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 4:04 PM)

Berkeley: President comes up short 

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

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

------

Excerpts from the Oakland Tribune story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 3:57 PM)

Riverside editorial: Open the Machines 

Riverside Press-Enterprise editorial, November 20, 2004

Text:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 3:39 PM)

Registrar seeks to halt check of electronic voting 

By Michael Coronado, Riverside Press-Enterprise

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

--------

Excerpts:

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

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

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

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

-----------

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 3:36 PM)

divider

Tuesday, November 16

News Advisory: Election Verification Project Press Conference 

Election Verification Project Press Conference

(# 5:16 PM)

divider

Monday, November 15

About Those Election Results 

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 9:56 PM)

divider

Friday, November 12

Recount changes one Franklin Co. race 

Associated Press, November 12 2004

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

Excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

-------

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

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

Roots received 1.8 percent of the vote districtwide.

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

(# 4:28 PM)

divider

Thursday, November 11

E-voting firm puts adversity behind it 

By Ian Hoffman, Oakland Tribune, November 11, 2004

Excerpts:

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

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

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

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

-------

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--------

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

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

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

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

(# 5:13 PM)

divider

Saturday, November 6

Paper trail tested for e-vote devices 

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

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 1:17 PM)

divider

Friday, November 5

Group Finds Voting Irregularities in South 

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

Excerpts:

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

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

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

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

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

-------

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

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

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

The group's preliminary report made some positive observations.

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

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

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

---

On the Net:

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

(# 2:43 PM)

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

The Associated Press, November 5, 2004

Excerpts:


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

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

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

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

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

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

-------

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

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

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

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

(# 9:44 AM)

divider

Thursday, November 4

E-vote goes smoothly, but experts skeptical  

The Associated Press, November 4, 2004

Excerpts:

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

Computer scientists reserved judgment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 5:20 PM)

SF: New voting method breaks down 

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

Excerpts:

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

---------

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 5:11 PM)

FL: Defective software 'lost' votes 

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

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

Really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(# 5:06 PM)

NC: Computer Loses 4,500 Votes 

Associated Press, November 4, 2004

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Evidently, this message was either ignored or overlooked," he wrote.
County election officials were meeting Thursday with Gary Bartlett, executive director of the State Board of Elections, and did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.

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

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

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

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

(# 5:00 PM)

divider

Tuesday, November 2

OH: Judge orders officials to provide paper ballots 

The Columbus Dispatch, November 2, 2004

Excerpt:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-------

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

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

(# 7:18 PM)

Scattered problems impede some voting 

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

Excerpts:

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

------

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

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

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

-------

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

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

(# 7:10 PM)

MD: Record voter turnouts predicted, but some glitches reported 

By Tim Donnelly, The Gazette, November 2, 2004

Excerpts:

Poll workers across the county are reporting record voter turnout in the first half of this closely watched election day, despite reports of some problems with voting machines and equipment failures.

------

TrueVoteMD, the nonpartisan voter rights group that is watching polls statewide, said they have been fielding a constant stream of calls all day reporting problems with the voting machines and the cards voters use to activate the machines. But technicians have been out at the scenes trying to fix the problems, said Amanda Bowers, a staff worker for the organization. Bowers could not provide specific information about problems in Prince George’s County.

At Mother Jones Elementary School in Adelphi, election judges told people lined up first thing this morning to return later after a problem with the voting machines required fixing. Some voters left while others remained in line and waited another 30 minutes until the machines were repaired.

The phone number to the County Board of Elections was busy all morning and early afternoon.

(# 6:59 PM)

FL: Palm Beach County sees some complaints in first half of voting 

By George Bennett, Palm Beach Post, November 2, 2004

Excerpt:

There were scattered complaints from voters who said they had trouble getting touch-screen voting machines to register their choice of a candidate. Some voters said they picked one candidate, but saw another candidate's name on a review screen. The review screen gives voters another chance to make the correct selection.

(# 6:56 PM)

VA: New touch-screen voting machines present problems in Culpeper, Westmoreland 

The Free Lance-Star, November 2, 2004

Excerpt:

The large turnout created problems with new touch-screen voting machines in Culpeper and Westmoreland counties.

Two Unilect voting machines went down at Cardova precinct for about 30 minutes, creating long lines. Those waiting were told that people were voting too fast and machines didn’t have time to reset.

In Westmoreland, all four machines at the 2nd District precinct at Hague were down for an hour while Unilect manager Wout J. Kymmell worked on the problem. At least 75 people waited to vote in a line stretching around the building.

Kymmell eventually managed to get two of the machines working again. He said poll workers, in their haste to speed through the mass of voters, caused crashes by authorizing machines for the next voter before the machines had completed routines for the previous one.

“The poll workers were freaking out at the size of the turnout,” Kymmell said.

(# 6:53 PM)

Glitches thwart some S.C. voters 

By Pamela Hamilton, The Associated Press, November 2, 2004

Excerpts:

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Technical glitches with voting machines and disputes over poll watching caused delays and frustrated some voters at precincts across South Carolina.

-------

Voters at two of 137 precincts in Greenville County had to use paper ballots after workers had problems setting up touch-screen machines, State Election Commission officials said.

About 65 voters at a precinct in Mauldin used paper ballots while technicians from Electronic Systems & Software got the iVotronic machines working properly, officials said. The machines were up and running by 8:30 a.m. - 90 minutes after polls opened, said poll worker Rebecca Wood.

Wood said some voters left in frustration. "Some people had to leave, but the attitudes were wonderful," she said. "I know they were frustrated."

Poll workers marked the paper ballots with the word "emergency" to create a paper trail, Wood said.

Greenville County is one of 15 in South Carolina using electronic voting machines.

Along the coast, Georgetown County also experienced some glitches with the machines.

Voters in four precincts had to switch to paper ballots during the first hour while officials sorted out problems with the devices. They were up and running within 90 minutes, said Herb Bailey, chairman of the county commission.

(# 6:51 PM)

divider

Monday, November 1

CVF Election Announcements 

Voter hotlines, online reporting of election problems

There are several phone and online resources available for the public to use to get assistance on Election Day, report problems and voting experiences, and track reports of problems submitted by voters from around the nation. This link provides a rundown of the services available.

California Voters Have the Right to Cast a Paper Ballot

Thirty percent of California voters live in counties that will use paperless, electronic voting machines in polling places on Election Day. New voting security rules allow voters who are concerned about e-voting security to cast a paper ballot at the polls. The ten counties where e-voting machines will be used are Alameda, Merced, Napa, Orange, Plumas, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Shasta and Tehama. The California Voter Foundation (CVF) is urging voters to exercise their right to cast their ballot on paper, because the electronic voting machines produce results that cannot be publicly verified.

Top 25 E-Voting Places to Watch

Electronic voting systems will be used in an estimated 25-29 percent of the nation on November 2. Overall, hundreds of jurisdictions will use electronic voting systems in 29 states. To make it easier for the public and the media to track electronic voting in this presidential election, this list identifies the 25 most populous places in the country using e-voting.


(# 6:22 PM)

Precinct provides voters with paper trail for touchscreen ballots 

By Scott Vanhorne, Daily Bulletin, October 29, 2004

On Friday, October 22 the California Secretary of State's Voting Systems and Procedures panel gave conditional, limited certification to Sequoia's new VeriVote printer which produces a paper record of digital ballots that voters can verify before leaving the polls. This is the same printing device being used in Nevada this electin season.

The limited certification applies to San Bernardino county, which will use the VeriVote printer in one polling place on November 2. Scott VanHorne's article provides more details about this development.

-------

Excerpts:

Some voters at one precinct in Highland will make California election day history on Tuesday.

San Bernardino County plans to debut a voter-verified paper trail on three touch-screen voting machines at Arroyo Verde Elementary School. It will be the first polling place in the state to use the technology on an election day.

Sacramento County used a paper-trail system for early voting in the November 2002 election. All counties that use touch-screen systems are required to have the safeguard in place by the 2006 primary.

Electronic voting critics claim touch-screen systems are ripe for errors partly because people do not see a printout of their votes. Instead, they verify on-screen ballots before submittal.

"Honestly, I don't yet trust electronic gadgets not to have hiccups," said Dennis Hansberger, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "It's important and desirable to have that kind of information so we can verify what we've done."

Sequoia Voting Systems and San Bernardino County are teaming up to use the relatively new technology Tuesday.

"It is a joint project to help demonstrate that the printers work well in an election environment and should be approved for statewide use," said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for the voting system vendor.

Officials from the Secretary of State's Office will watch the system in action. The Voting Systems Panel, which includes staffers from the Secretary of State's Office and other voting experts, approved the limited test last week.

The system works like this: A voter completes a ballot and presses an on-screen box to print the choices. The printout appears under glass so the voter can see but not touch it. If it's correct, the voter taps a box to submit. If it's incorrect, the voter taps another box, fixes the error and repeats the process.

--------

County supervisors wanted a touch-screen system with a verifiable paper trail when they purchased about 4,000 voting machines in July 2003 for about $13 million.

But at the time, the paper-trail system was not available on any touch-screen systems. Sequoia Voting Systems, however, agreed to add the systems to all the machines once the safeguard was state-certified.

The county was under state and federal mandates to replace its punch-card system. The voting method was partly blamed for the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida.

California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander said the county could have chosen an optical scan system that uses paper ballots with a computer-counting system.

"It's the best of both worlds because the voter is holding a piece of paper that they can verify," she said.

Alexander, a major critic of the touch-screen systems, said the paper-trail tryout is a "step in the right direction."

(# 1:17 PM)

Counties quiet about paper ballots 

From Staff Reports, Alameda Newspaper Group, October 31, 2004

Excerpts:

California's electronic-voting counties agreed this summer to make paper provisional ballots available for voters wary of touch-screen machines.

But most aren't going to tell anyone, according to a survey by the California Voter Foundation.

Only two of the 10 touch-screen counties, Santa Clara and Plumas, plan to post signs letting voters know they can vote on paper.

Whether the voters are properly registered, three counties -- Alameda, Merced and San Bernardino -- plan to treat the e-voting objectors' ballots in the same manner as if they weren't registered. Those ballots will be handled like other provisional ballots given to voters of questionable registration. Voters will have to sign them and have their registration verified. The ballots will be counted last.

Santa Clara and six other counties either won't make e-voting objectors sign the ballot envelope or will mark the paper ballots to signify that the voter is registered, according to the foundation's survey.

Alameda County Assistant Registar of Voters Elaine Ginnold said, "The polling place really isn't the place to ask for paper. There's not enough for that."

California Voter Foundation President Kim Alexander said Alameda's rules unnecessarily "may jeopardize the voter's right to ballot secrecy and may raise doubts in the voters' minds as to whether their ballots will be counted. Voters who want to cast paper ballots should not be accorded second-class status."

(# 1:00 PM)

Poll: Voters show a fair amount of skepticism 

By Alexa H. Bluth, Sacramento Bee, November 1, 2004

Excerpts:

More than a third of California voters are wary of new electronic voting systems in use here and throughout the nation, and a fifth have little confidence the presidency will be decided fairly, according to a new statewide Field Poll.

"What we have here is an unusually somber view of the electoral process," said survey Director Mark DiCamillo. "There's a fair amount of skepticism that what we have in place may not actually produce a legitimate outcome."

Voters particularly are skeptical about electronic, touch-screen voting machines that will be used Tuesday for the first time in parts of California and other states.

More than a third of those polled said they are not confident in the integrity of the new machines.

"I am concerned about the whole electronic voting issue. No paper trail bothers me an awful lot," said Maureen Rooke, 47, a Republican from Porterville.

Specifically, Rooke said, she is worried about hacking or other tampering that might skew the vote.

"My son-in-law is active with computers, and I know what he can do with them so ... I don't have any faith in that at all," she said. "Somebody might win who hasn't really won."

Democrats and nonpartisan voters were less confident in the voting systems than Republicans, the poll found. Among GOP voters, one in four expressed uneasiness about the machines.

-------

The survey's findings are based on telephone interviews with 1,216 registered voters conducted Oct. 21 through Wednesday. The survey has a sample of error of 2.9 percentage points.

(# 12:54 PM)

divider

Archives

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

This page was first published on December 9, 2003
California Voter Foundation, 1996-2006, All Rights Reserved.