FROM:   Kim Alexander
DATE:   July 24, 2003
RE:   RE: CVF-NEWS roundup: recall, voting software flaws, NASS conference

Hi Folks,

In this CVF-NEWS roundup:
* Davis recall effort certified by Secretary of State
* "Stunning flaws" found in Diebold voting software
* Dan Gillmor column calls for voter verified paper trail
* NASS conference this weekend in Portland, Maine

* * * * * * * * * *
* Davis recall effort certified by Secretary of State

Last night California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced that proponents of recalling California Governor Gray Davis have collected more than enough valid signatures to qualify the recall petition. Shelley said a special, statewide election will be called within the next 60-80 days. It will mark the first time in California history that a recall election of a governor has ever been held. For links to news stories about the recall visit

Proponents and opponents of the recall will be stepping into high gear now in anticipation of the election being held sometime in late September or early October. Meanwhile, local California election officials will be scrambling to prepare ballots and polling places for the special election. It was reported in yesterday's San Diego Union-Tribune that some counties that are planning to get new computerized voting equipment to be used in local November elections have already gotten rid of their old equipment and may not have anything to use in their polling places for the recall election. The Union-Tribune's story is at

* * * * * * * * * *
* "Stunning flaws" found in Diebold voting software

The New York Times today carries a story about a team of highly-respected computer scientists finding "stunning flaws" in Diebold's touchscreen voting machine software. The computer scientists obtained the proprietary code after it was discovered by Bev Harris, who has been researching problems with computerized voting systems for months and in January discovered and downloaded thousands of Diebold election software files from a public, Internet FTP site.

According to the computer scientists who inspected the code, Diebold's touchscreen voting machines could allow voters to cast extra votes and pollworkers to alter ballots without being detected. Here's an excerpt:

"The systems, in which voters are given computer-chip-bearing smart cards to operate the machines, could be tricked by anyone with $100 worth of computer equipment, said Adam Stubblefield, a co-author of the paper."

"With what we found, practically anyone in the country - from a teenager on up - could produce these smart cards that could allow someone to vote as many times as they like, " Mr. Stubblefield said."

The 24-page code analysis by the computer scientists is online at

The New York Times story, "Computer Voting is Open to Easy Fraud, Experts Say" by John Schwartz is online at (registration required).

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* Dan Gillmor column calls for voter verified paper trail

Sunday's San Jose Mercury News featured an eloquent appeal by tech columnist Dan Gillmor calling for a voter verified paper trail to back up digital ballots. In light of the flaws recently discovered in Diebold's software, the need for a voter verified paper trail could never be greater. In his column, Gillmor urges California Secretary of State to implement a voter verified paper trail requirement. Gillmor writes:

"The companies that make these machines, and their supporters, insist all kinds of safeguards have been built in and that the systems will work as advertised.

"So it gets down to what and whom to believe.

"I believe Bruce Schneier, founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security in San Jose, who says he's ``terrified'' about the prospect of voting with the current lineup of paperless DRE machines. ``Building technology that allows people to untraceably rig the vote seems like a bad idea,'' he says in the understatement of the year.

"I believe Ed Felten, computer science professor at Princeton University, who calls these machines ``black boxes'' -- opaque to scrutiny and potentially subject, as Schneier notes, to tampering.

I believe David Dill, a Stanford University computer science professor who has worked hard to bring this issue to public attention. "

Gillmor's column is at

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley is still seeking input from the public on this issue as he considers the recommendations made by his Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force. Comments may be submitted through August 2 to: Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, Attn: Touch Screen Report, 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA 95814,, fax (916) 653-9675.

The task force report is online at

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* NASS conference this weekend in Portland, Maine

I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend in Portland, Maine tomorrow for the summer conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State. At the conference I will be providing a "sneak peek" at CVF's forthcoming report, "Grading State Disclosure". The grading project is part of the Campaign Disclosure Project, a joint effort between the California Voter Foundation, the UCLA School of Law and the Center for Governmental Studies to evaluate and improve public access to state campaign finance data. For more information, please visit More information about the NASS conference is online at

-- Kim Alexander, President, California Voter Foundation,, 916-441-2494

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This page was first published on July 24, 2003 | Last updated on July 24, 2003
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