Disability Voter Advocates Call for Ban on DREs

Originally published at BradBlog.com: http://www.bradblog.com/?p=4270

BLIND AND DISABLED VOTER ADVOCATES, GROUPS CALL FOR 'IMMEDIATE BAN' OF DRE VOTING SYSTEMS!

Two Different Statements from Civil Rights Leaders Call for Discontinuation of Insecure, Unverifiable, Disenfranchising DRE/Touch-Screen Voting Technology Both Destroy Myth of Need to Sacrifice Verifed Ballots for Accessibility...

"Electronic ballot systems such as DRE machines, are neither fully accessible nor secure and accurate methods of recording, tallying, and reporting votes ... [They] are inappropriate for use, because these systems make it impossible for voters to verify that their votes will be counted as cast."
- Statement released today by DISABLED VOTER ADVOCATES


Hallelujah! Voters with disabilities are finally beginning to speak out against the use of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, often known as "touch-screen") voting systems! After years of DRE supporters, and indeed the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002, using the canard that blind and disabled voters must use DREs to vote privately and independently, a number of leaders in the disabilities community are speaking out against their having been used as a wedge to force the nationwide implementation of such disenfranchising, dangerous voting systems! Two different landmark statements on the issue have now been released, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

One statement [PDF] released last week by the Disability Law Center and the ACLU speaks in support of the decision by the Massachusetts Secretary of State to approve the use of ballot marking devices, as opposed to DREs, for use by the state's disabled voters. The second, released today to The BRAD BLOG in advance of Congressional subcommittee hearings tomorrow, is signed so far by more than 20 leaders of the blind and disabled communities and calls for "an immediate ban" on DRE voting systems.

Like the release from the Disability Law Center, the newly released statement crushes the long-overused myth that such unsecure, disenfranchising, failed technology is required for disabled access to private, independent voting. (The complete statement is posted at the end of this item.) "Providing secure voting machines for voters with disabilities is part and parcel of protecting [disabilities voters'] rights to equal access to the ballot and to having their votes reliably counted," said Stanley J. Eicher, Executive Director of the Disability Law Center in their March 5th statement. "We must debunk the myth that we have to choose between accessible voting and verifiable voting. Democracy requires that we have both." - Stanley J. Eicher, Exec. Dir. of the Disability Law Center "The decision by the Secretary shows that it is both possible and essential to build common ground between the disability rights community and the growing number of citizens who are concerned that many of the proposed new technologies are subject to tampering and error," said Eichner, adding notably, "We must debunk the myth that we have to choose between accessible voting and verifiable voting. Democracy requires that we have both." The statement today from the disabilities advocates calls for a nationwide ban on the use of DRE technology. "Electronic ballot systems such as the direct record electronic (DRE) machines...now in use," the statement reads, "have quickly proven to be neither fully accessible to all voters nor secure and accurate methods of recording, tallying, and reporting votes. While the goal of private voting has been achieved by some voters, this has often been without meaningful assurance that our votes have been counted as cast." The disabilities leaders go on to point out that verification of ballots and the accuracy of their tabulation need not be sacrificed for accessibility or privacy. A similar point was at the heart of a report recently released by one of the letters authors, blind technology expert, Noel H. Runyan. His report, published simultaneously by both Demos and VoterAction.org, concerns the failure of DRE systems to meet both HAVA requirements and the accessibility and verification needs of disabled voters. More from the statement today describing DRE electronic balloting systems as "inappropriate for use" and calling on "all disability rights groups, other civil rights groups, election protection groups, and elected officials to recognize the necessity for an immediate ban" on such dangerous, unreliable and unsecure technology: It is now clear that in order to guarantee reliability and security in our elections, it is necessary for the voter to be able to truly verify the accuracy of his or her ballot--the ballot that will actually be counted. The only voting systems that permit truly accessible verification of the paper ballot are ballot marking devices. These non-tabulating devices, either electronic or non-electronic, assist the voter in marking and verifying votes on paper ballots that can either be optically scanned or hand-counted." ... We leaders and members of the disability rights community assert that neither accessibility for all voters nor the security of the vote can be sacrificed for the sake of the other. Fortunately, true accessibility and election security can both be achieved; there is no inherent incompatibility between voting system accessibility and security. We recognize that electronic ballot systems are inappropriate for use, because these systems make it impossible for voters to verify that their votes will be counted as cast. We call upon all disability rights groups, other civil rights groups, election protection groups, and elected officials to recognize the necessity for an immediate ban on any voting system that fails to meet the twin requirements of full accessibility and election security. This new and most welcome statement from this particular community is in stark contrast to the only other major voices previously allowed to testify to Congress on such matters, such as the National Federal for the Blind (NFB) and the American Association of Disabled People's (AAPD) Jim Dickson. Despite both of those groups having received large donations from voting machine companies such as, Diebold, Inc., both have been granted extraordinary access to Congressional members and have leveraged that access to call for the use of DRE systems for their communities (and even paperless ones at that.) The NFB received $1 million from Diebold, and Jim Dickson's group, though he lied to The BRAD BLOG about it previously, received at least $16,000 from the voting machine vendors according to the New York Times. We are happy to see new, uncompromised voices from this important community finally speaking up and adding their concerns to others such as Johns Hopkins computer scientist Avi Rubin who testified last week that DRE systems, with or without a so-called "voter verified paper audit trail", is "not a reasonable voting system." It would be nice if Runyan and some of the other signatories were invited to testify before Congress as well, and equally nice if Congress held hearings devoted to the issue of the safety, accuracy and accessibility of DRE systems before moving forward on Election Reform bills such as Rep. Rush Holt's HR811 which unfortunately falls short of banning DRE technology in American democracy. NOTE: We will be Guest Hosting Cynthia Black's Action Point this Sunday 3/18/07 @ 3pm ET (12noon PT) on Phoenix's Air America/NovaM affiliate 1480 KPHX. We hope to have Runyan as one of our featured guests. The complete statement from the disabilities leaders, including Runyan and many others, follow in full below... Americans with Disabilities Call for Election Systems Featuring Both Accessibility and Security Voters with disabilities, sensory impairments, and special language needs have long been disenfranchised in large numbers as a result of lack of access to the voting process. For many of us, the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 held tremendous hope and promise for secure and reliable voting, a guarantee that every voter would have access to the voting process. Electronic ballot systems such as the direct record electronic (DRE) machines (formerly called "touch screens") now in use have quickly proven to be neither fully accessible to all voters nor secure and accurate methods of recording, tallying, and reporting votes. While the goal of private voting has been achieved by some voters, this has often been without meaningful assurance that our votes have been counted as cast. Additionally, many other voters have been disappointed and frustrated because we have not been able to vote privately and independently as we had hoped and as voting-system vendors had promised. It is now clear that in order to guarantee reliability and security in our elections, it is necessary for the voter to be able to truly verify the accuracy of his or her ballot--the ballot that will actually be counted. The only voting systems that permit truly accessible verification of the paper ballot are ballot marking devices. These non-tabulating devices, either electronic or non-electronic, assist the voter in marking and verifying votes on paper ballots that can either be optically scanned or hand-counted. (Some DRE voting machines that have already been purchased may be adapted to be used as acceptable ballot marking devices, assuming their accessibility can be preserved or improved.) The technology for inexpensively providing good accessibility to voting systems has been commonly available for more than a decade, and it can and should immediately be required for and applied to all modern voting systems. This is clearly illustrated by the report "Improving Access to Voting: A report on the Technology for Accessible Voting Systems," by Noel Runyan, (WORD | PDF | large-print | braille) posted at VoterAction.org and Demos.org. Design of new systems must include, from the beginning, accommodations to allow private and independent voting by individuals with a broad range of access needs. These systems must simultaneously ensure secure elections. We leaders and members of the disability rights community assert that neither accessibility for all voters nor the security of the vote can be sacrificed for the sake of the other. Fortunately, true accessibility and election security can both be achieved; there is no inherent incompatibility between voting system accessibility and security. We recognize that electronic ballot systems are inappropriate for use, because these systems make it impossible for voters to verify that their votes will be counted as cast. We call upon all disability rights groups, other civil rights groups, election protection groups, and elected officials to recognize the necessity for an immediate ban on any voting system that fails to meet the twin requirements of full accessibility and election security.

List of signatories as of 3/14/07 (affiliations are listed for identification purposes only):
Noel Runyan, Voting access technology engineer and author of "Improving Access to Voting"
Roger Petersen, member, Santa Clara County Advisory Commission for Persons with Disabilities and Santa Clara County Voter Access Advisory Committee
Bernice Kandarian, President, Council of Citizens with Low Vision International
Robert Kerr, ACB Maryland
Shawn Casey O'Brien, KPFA-FM in Los Angeles, and California Secretary of State's Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force member
Suzanne Erb, Chairperson of the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on Disabilities
Mike Keithley
A. J. Devies, Past President, Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVOC); Charter Member, Daytona Beach Mayor's Alliance for Persons with Disabilities; Disability Consultant and Board Member, Florida Fair Elections Coalition
Marta Russell, independent journalist and author
Judith K. Barnes, Life Member, Council of Citizens With Low Vision; Former President, Silicon Valley Council of the Blind George Moore, Accessibility Advocate, Californians for Disability Rights
Mike May, President, Sendero Group
Margaret Keith, VP, Monterey Co. Chapter, Californians for Disability Rights
Adrienne Lauby, Host/Producer, Pushing Limits, disability program on KPFA fm
David Andrews
Jean Stewart, Writer
Ruthanne Shpiner, Pushing Limits Radio 94.1 FM, Northern California ADAPT
Mike Godino, President, American Council of the Blind of New York, Systems Advocate, Suffolk Independent Living Organization
Louis Herrera
Dawn Wilcox, BSN RN, Past President Silicon Valley Council of the Blind, Board member CCCLV