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CVF News Round-up; CA voter registration form, "software independence", JFK award and more

May 7, 2008

Hi Folks,

In this issue of CVF-NEWS:

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California's voter registration form gets redesigned

For the past several months I have been serving on a working group organized by the Secretary of State to redesign California's voter registration form. Anyone who has seen the current form knows that it is not very user-friendly, and is filled with confusing instructions.

In redesigning the form our working group reduced the amount of text and instructions on the form and also reorganized the party selection question to help ensure that would-be decline-to-state voters do not inadvertently register with a political party, as has been reportedly happening to a number of California voters.

The California Voter Foundation has placed the current form and the newly-redesigned form up on our web site and we invite you to come take a look. The current form is at and the newly-redesigned form is at

Please feel free to email your comments to me at

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CVF encourages EAC to require "software independence" in voting standards

This week the California Voter Foundation sent a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission urging the commissioners to adopt a "software independence" requirement in the new federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. Here's an excerpt:

"In the nearly six hundred pages that comprise the draft VVSG, there is one phrase that is vitally important to the future security of U.S. voting systems: software independence.

Part I, Chapter 2.7 of the draft VVSG states that: "Software independence means that an undetected error or fault in the voting system's software is not capable of causing an undetectable change in election results. All voting systems must be software independent in order to conform to the VVSG."

Software independence is a term of art that was coined by Ron Rivest and John Wack during their work on these guidelines. For years, CVF and many others concerned with the security of computer voting systems have struggled to explain exactly why it is that an entirely computerized system run on proprietary, secret software cannot deliver reasonably trustworthy election results.

What has been missing from the discussion, and what is needed in voting systems is the idea of software independence. We need voting systems that can provide the strongest possible assurance to the public that the results have not been compromised or reached in error. A system that runs on software but produces results that cannot be verified independent of that software is inadequate and under the new guidelines could not be federally qualified."

The entire letter is online at

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23 of 58 counties' post-election manual tally reports are now online

This election year marks the first time that California counties must report to the California Secretary of State the results of their post-election audits, where one percent of each counties' precincts' ballots are counted by hand and compared to the software-counted totals. Although this post-election audit has been required for over 40 years, 2008 marks the first time in California history when counties are required to publicly report the results of those audits.

Though the February Primary is long past, so far only 23 counties have complied with the new reporting requirement (SB 1235/Bowen of 2006). To view the reports that are available online go to

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California Secretary of State Debra Bowen to receive Profile in Courage award

Next Monday, May 12 California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen will be at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston to receive the prestigious 2008 Profile in Courage award. The award is presented annually to public servants "who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the personal or professional consequences", according to the library's web site. Here is some more information about the award for Secretary Bowen:

"After a $450 million investment by California counties in electronic voting systems aimed at modernizing elections, newly elected Secretary of State Debra Bowen ordered an independent review of the new voting technologies to ensure they adequately protected the integrity of the vote. When the study revealed troubling flaws in the systems, Bowen strictly limited the use of direct-recording electronic voting machines, and imposed significant security and auditing requirements on systems to be used in California's February 5 presidential primary election. Bowen's decision was met with resistance by voting system vendors and many county elections officials."

CVF congratulates the Secretary of State for receiving this honor! For more details see

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Redistricting initiative submitted for qualification

A measure that would change how California's legislative districts are drawn has been submitted for qualification for the November election. Its sponsors include Common Cause and the League of Women Voters and it's backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. To learn more about this effort, visit

That's all the news for now. Please remember that CVF's new June 2008 California Online Voter Guide is now available for your research and viewing pleasure, at

-- Kim Alexander

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This page was first published on May 7, 2008 | Last updated on May 8, 2008
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