Good News for Election Activists in Sarasota County, Florida


Paper ballot question for Sarasota question appealed by state
DAVID ROYSE / Associated Press

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The state agency that oversees elections is appealing a Sarasota judge's decision to allow voters there to choose whether the county should have a voting system with a paper record in 2008.

Secretary of State Sue Cobb said Monday that the matter needs to be decided to maintain uniform rules for what constitutes a ballot.

The question of whether to use a voting system that includes a "paper trail" in the county will still be put to voters there Nov. 7.

State officials aren't asking judges to keep the question off the ballot, saying that even if voters say yes, there will still be almost two years to work through the legal ramifications and to void the vote if an appeal is successful.

Circuit Judge Robert B. Bennett Jr. ruled earlier this month in favor of a group, Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, that wants an auditable trail of paper records created by voting machines. The group collected enough signatures to get the measure before voters, but the county fought it, saying it was unconstitutional.

But Bennett disagreed, and after his ruling the Sarasota County Commission held an emergency vote to put the initiative on the November ballot.

Voting machines in 47 Indiana counties need software upgrade


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The Associated Press / / September 25, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS -- A voting machine company is working to fix a software glitch on 5,000 machines in Indiana that prevents voters from casting a straight-party ballot.

Officials with the Indiana Election Commission were upset that MicroVote General Corp. did not tell them sooner about the software problem. The general election is Nov. 7.

"I am disturbed by their lack of candor, and the commission is disturbed by their lack of candor," said commission Chairman Tom Wheeler, who sent a three-page letter to every county election official using MicroVote's Infinity system.

The Infinity voting machines are used in 47 Indiana counties. The company disabled the straight-party voting function so the machines could be certified for use in the primary election, but did not tell election officials.

"I don't know if they just thought they would just get it fixed or no one would notice or what," Wheeler said.

The software glitch would have allowed voters in split precincts casting a straight-ticket ballot to illegally vote for a candidate outside of the area where they live. Split precincts can straddle municipality boundaries.

Time constraints before the primary led an independent lab, Colorado-based CIBER, to recommend that the straight-ticket function be disabled, said MicroVote attorney John R. Price.

"They said you can either spend the time to fix it now or disable it and we'll fix it later," Price said. "That was an easy call. MicroVote said, 'We'll disable it now and we'll fix it later."'

Laura Herzog, Hendricks County's election supervisor, said she stands behind MicroVote. "I don't know why it's been so difficult for them to get certified," she said.

Last week, the commission approved the new upgrade after receiving a letter from the independent lab confirming that the system meets federal requirements.

"If the vendor had been more forthright and candid earlier, it probably wouldn't result in the counties having this work done in the last half of September," said Brad King, Republican co-chairman of the Indiana Election Division.

The Big Gamble on Electronic Voting


Every 15 seconds or so, however, the rogue program checks the internal vote tallies, then adds and subtracts votes, as needed, to reach programmed targets; it also makes identical changes in the backup file. The alterations cannot be detected later because the total number of votes perfectly matches the total number of voters. At the end of the election day, the rogue program erases itself, leaving no trace.

HANGING chads made it difficult to read voter intentions in 2000. Hotel minibar keys may do the same for the elections in November.
By RANDALL STROSS / New York Times / September 24, 2006
Illustration by the New York Times
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The mechanics of voting have undergone a major change since the imbroglio that engulfed presidential balloting in 2000. Embarrassed by an election that had to be settled bythe Supreme Court, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act of 2002,which provided funds to improve voting equipment.

From 2003 to 2005, some $3 billion flew out of the federal purse for equipment purchases. Nothing said “state of the art” like a paperless voting machine that electronically records and tallies votes with the tap of a touch screen. Election Data Services, a political consulting firm that specializes in redistricting, estimates that about 40 percent of registered voters will use an electronic machine in the coming elections.

One brand of machine leads in market share by a sizable margin: the AccuVote, made by Diebold Election Systems.

Two weeks ago, however, Diebold suffered one of the worst kinds of public embarrassment for a company that began in 1859 by making safes and vaults.

Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton, and his student collaborators conducted a demonstration with an AccuVote TS and noticed that the key to the machine’s memory card slot appeared to be similar to one that a staff member had at home.

When he brought the key into the office and tried it, the door protecting the AccuVote’s memory card slot swung open obligingly. Upon examination, the key turned out to be a standard industrial part used in simple locks for office furniture, computer cases, jukeboxes — and hotel minibars. Once the memory card slot was accessible, how difficult would it be to introduce malicious software that could manipulate vote tallies? That is one of the questions that Professor Felten and two of his students, Ariel J. Feldman and J. Alex Haldeman, have been investigating. In the face of Diebold’s refusal to let scientists test the AccuVote, the Princeton team got its hands on a machine only with the help of a third party.

Officials Wary of Electronic Voting Machines


By IAN URBINA / New York Times / Sept. 24, 2006

WASHINGTON — A growing number of state and local officials are getting cold feet about electronic voting technology, and many are making last-minute efforts to limit or reverse the rollout of new machines in the November elections. Less than two months before voters head to the polls, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of Maryland this week became the most recent official to raise concerns publicly. Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, said he lacked confidence in the state’s new $106 million electronic voting system and suggested a return to paper ballots.

Dozens of states have adopted electronic voting technology to comply with federal legislation in 2002 intended to phase out old-fashioned lever and punch-card machines after the “hanging chads” confusion of the 2000 presidential election. But some election officials and voting experts say they fear that the new technology may have only swapped old problems for newer, more complicated ones. Their concerns became more urgent after widespread problems with the new technology were reported this year in primaries in Ohio, Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and elsewhere.

This year, about one-third of all precincts nationwide are using the electronic voting technology for the first time, raising the chance of problems at the polls as workers struggle to adjust to the new system. “I think there is good reason for concern headed into the midterm elections,” said Richard F. Celeste, a Democrat and former Ohio governor who was co-chairman of a study of new machines for the National Research Council with Richard L. Thornburgh, a Republican and former governor of Pennsylvania. “You have to train the poll workers,” Mr. Celeste said, “especially since many of them are of a generation for whom this technology is a particular challenge. You need to have plans in place to relocate voters to another precinct if machines don’t work, and I just don’t know whether these steps have been taken.”

Paperless touch-screen machines have been the biggest source of consternation, and with about 40 percent of registered voters nationally expected to cast their ballots on these machines in the midterm elections, many local officials fear that the lack of a paper trail will leave no way to verify votes in case of fraud or computer failure. As a result, states are scrambling to make last-minute fixes before the technology has its biggest test in November, when voter turnout will be higher than in the primaries, many races will be close and the threat of litigation will be ever-present.

“We have the real chance of recounts in the coming elections, and if you have differences between the paper trail and the electronic record, which number prevails?” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and the author of the Election Law blog, Professor Hasen found that election challenges filed in court grew to 361 in 2004, up from 197 in 2000. “What you have coming up is the intersection of new technology and an unclear legal regime,” he said.

Like Mr. Ehrlich, other state officials have decided on a late-hour change of course. In January, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico decided to reverse plans to use the touch-screen machines, opting instead to return to paper ballots with optical scanners. Last month, the Connecticut secretary of state, Susan Bysiewicz, decided to do the same. “I didn’t want my state to continue being an embarrassment like Ohio and Florida every four years,” said Mr. Richardson, a Democrat, adding, “I also thought we needed to restore voter confidence, and that wasn’t going to happen with the touch-screen machines.”

In Pennsylvania, a state senator introduced a bill last week that would require every precinct to provide voters with the option to use paper ballots, which would involve printing extra absentee ballots and having them on site. A similar measure is being considered on the federal level. In the last year or so, at least 27 states have adopted measures requiring a paper trail, which has often involved replacing paperless touch-screen machines with ones that have a printer attached.

But even the systems backed up by paper have problems. In a study released this month, the nonpartisan Election Science Institute found that about 10 percent of the paper ballots sampled from the May primary in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, were uncountable because printers had jammed and poll workers had loaded the paper in backward.

Lawsuits have been filed in Colorado, Arizona, California, Pennsylvania and Georgia seeking to prohibit the use of touch-screen machines.

Deborah L. Markowitz, the Vermont secretary of state and the president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, said that while there might be some problems in November, she expected them to be limited and isolated. “The real story of the recent primary races was how few problems there were, considering how new this technology is,” said Ms. Markowitz, a Democrat. “The failures we did see, like in Maryland, Ohio and Missouri, were small and most often from poll workers not being prepared.” Many states have installed the machines in the past year because of a federal deadline. If states wanted to take advantage of federal incentives offered by the Help America Vote Act, they had to upgrade their voting machines by 2006.

In the primary last week in Maryland, several counties reported machine-related problems, including computers that misidentified the party affiliations of voters, electronic voter registration lists that froze and voting-machine memory cards whose contents could not be electronically transmitted. In Montgomery County, election workers did not receive access cards to voting machines for the county’s 238 precincts on time, forcing as many as 12,000 voters to use provisional paper ballots until they ran out. “We had a bad experience in the primary that led to very long lines, which means people get discouraged and leave the polls without voting,” said Governor Ehrlich, who is in a tight re-election race and has been accused by his critics of trying to use the voting issue to motivate his base. “We have hot races coming up in November and turnout will be high, so we can expect lines to be two or three times longer. If even a couple of these machines break down, we could be in serious trouble.”

Millions Disenfranchised by HR 4844 Voter ID Bill --- Fake "Election Integrity" Bill Addressing a Fake Crisis


Alexandra Walker / / September 19, 2006
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The 'Voter Fraud' Fraud

The most illuminating portion of an article about Georgia’s voter ID law in today’s New York Times comes, as these things usually do, near the end. In the very last paragraph the reporter notes that two Georgia election officials she interviewed say they have never—in their entire careers—encountered a single case of voter fraud based on a person posing as someone else at the polls. Their experience reflects the national pattern: Individual voter fraud is a very minor problem.
Yet to listen to the alarmist rhetoric coming from conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives, voter fraud is an epidemic threatening our democracy.

Today the House is expected to pass a bill that would require all voters to show a photo ID proving their citizenship to be allowed to vote in a federal election. In addition to Georgia, six other states have passed similar photo ID bills. Groups ranging from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights to the National Campaign for Fair Elections are working overtime to block the federal version of this proposal
because it unfairly discriminates against voters of color, rural voters, the young, homeless and transient. Click here  to learn how to voice your opposition to the H.R. 4844. [UPDATE: The House passed the bill Wednesday afternoon. Now it moves to the Senate.]

Maryland Election Problems Fuel Push for Paper Record


After Primary Day Fiasco, Some Area Officials and Activists Say Electronic Voting Systems Need Backup
By Cameron W. Barr / Washington Post / September 17, 2006
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The primary day debacle in Montgomery and Prince George's counties will add momentum to regional efforts to ensure that election systems create a paper record of each vote, according to some elected officials and activists critical of paperless balloting.

They say the crisis at the polls in Florida during the 2000 presidential race, which prompted many states to switch to electronic voting, forced the adoption of overly complex systems that now must be simplified. Image by Robert A. Reeder of the The Washington Post.

Linda H. Lamone, Maryland elections board administrator, was asked to appear before a panel this week. An aide to Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who is seeking reelection in November, said heightened concerns about electronic voting in last week's primary would strengthen calls for a return to a paper-based system.

Precinct judges in Montgomery and Prince George's counties have reported various machine-related problems, including computers that misidentified the party affiliations of voters, electronic voter registration lists that froze and voting-machine memory cards whose contents could not be electronically transmitted. The electronic voter lists, or "e-poll books," were used for the first time in Maryland.

Ehrlich remains "wary about the use of these machines in the upcoming elections," said policy adviser Joseph M. Getty, though the governor has announced he will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the security and reliability of the state's voting system.

Activists in Virginia said they hope Maryland's problems will inspire renewed efforts to require that all voting systems in the commonwealth produce a paper record of each vote. The voting in Virginia's June primary went smoothly, and Jean Jensen, secretary of the State Board of Elections, said she has not felt "a lot of unease in the population" over electronic voting.

Jensen said she is worried that opponents of electronic voting will exploit Maryland's troubles, which were partially the result of human error, and "turn this into a machine issue."

The District has a dual system in which voters at each polling station have a choice between voting electronically or casting a paper ballot that is read by an optical scanner. There were no significant problems at the polls Tuesday, but community activist Dorothy Brizill said she hopes the Board of Elections and Ethics will still conduct a review.

In Maryland, Ehrlich has requested that Linda H. Lamone, the administrator of the State Board of Elections, appear Wednesday before a three-member panel that includes the governor. Ehrlich, who has clashed frequently with Lamone, told her in a letter that last week's problems "raise questions about insufficient training, management and oversight of Maryland elections."

Colorado Lawsuit Filed to Bar E-Voting in November


Suit: Ban computer voting
Attorney fears fraud, says state 'headed for train wreck' in November
Go to original article in Rocky Mountain News

By Ann Imse / Rocky Mountain News / September 15, 2006

(Pictured right) Shauna Ruda, 18, voting in her first election, casts her ballot in the Aug. 8 primary at the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Building downtown. Critics say that voting on computer screens is subject to massive fraud, and the Colorado Democratic Party is advising all Democrats to cast absentee paper ballots in the Nov. 7 election.

Voting on computer screens is so vulnerable to massive fraud that Colorado's November election is "headed for a train wreck," says an attorney who is seeking to have the equipment barred at trial next week. An expert would need just 2 minutes to reprogram and distort votes on a Diebold, one of four brands of computerized voting systems attacked in the suit, says attorney Paul Hultin. His firm, Wheeler Trigg Kennedy, has taken on the case pro bono for a group of 13 citizens of various political stripes. And he's not the only one alarmed as details of the case spread this week.

The Colorado Democratic Party on Thursday urged all voters to cast absentee ballots for the November election to avoid potential fraud, after a key state official said in a deposition that he certified the computer voting equipment even though he has no college education in computer science and did little security testing.

But deputy attorney general Maurice Knaizer says Colorado is protected against tampering because state law now requires a printout of each computer ballot. The printout can be reviewed by the voter and is kept at the machine for post-election audits and recounts.

If the electronic and paper tallies don't match, the paper ballot is used, said Knaizer, who is representing Secretary of State Gigi Dennis.
Concerns about the machines raised in the lawsuit prompted calls for reviews from both candidates for secretary of state. State Sen. Ken Gordon, the Democratic candidate who currently is Democratic majority leader in the state Senate, called on Dennis to "immediately hire competent staff and perform an adequate and thorough testing, as the law requires."

Sarasota Initiative Offers Voters Choice of Paper or Vapor


Sarasota County (Florida) Voters Will Choose Voting Technology
From the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, Saturday, September 16, 2006
See original article in Lakeland Ledger

SARASOTA: Voters in this Southwest Florida county will be able to decide in November whether to continue using computerized voting booths or go back to paper ballots, a circuit judge ruled.

County attorneys argued a proposed ballot initiative asking voters to choose between the county's current electronic voting and the old paper system was unconstitutional. But Circuit Judge Robert B. Bennett Jr. ruled Wednesday that the initiative was legal.

Sarasota is among several Florida counties that bought paperless touch-screen voting machines after the controversy surrounding paper ballots in the 2000 election.

A group called Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections is challenging the reliability of the machines, saying electronic voting leaves no paper trail and is vulnerable to tampering.

Hack the vote? No problem


By Brad Friedman / Salon / Sep. 13, 2006
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Hack the vote? No problem: Diebold, the e-voting-machine maker, has long sworn its systems are secure. Not so, says a new Princeton study. Converting votes from one candidate to another is simple.

Having reported extensively on the security concerns that surround the use of electronic voting machines, I anxiously awaited the results of a new study of a Diebold touch-screen voting system, conducted by Princeton University. The Princeton computer scientists obtained the Diebold system with cooperation from VelvetRevolution, an umbrella organization of more than 100 election integrity groups, which I co-founded a few months after the 2004 election. We acquired the Diebold system from an independent source and handed it over to university scientists so that, for the first time, they could analyze the hardware, software and firmware of the controversial voting system. Such an independent study had never been allowed by either Diebold or elections officials.

The results of that study, released this morning, are troubling, to say the least. They confirm many of the concerns often expressed by computer scientists and security experts, as well as election integrity activists, that electronic voting -- and indeed our elections -- may now be exceedingly vulnerable to the malicious whims of a single individual.

The study reveals that a computer virus can be implanted on an electronic voting machine that, in turn, could result in votes flipped for opposing candidates. According to the study, a vote for George Washington could be easily converted to a vote for Benedict Arnold, and neither the voter, nor the election officials administering the election, would ever know what happened. The virus could also be written to spread from one machine to the next and the malfeasance would likely never be discovered, the scientists said. The study was released along with a videotape demonstration.

"We've demonstrated that malicious code can spread like a virus from one voting machine to another, which means that a bad guy who can get access to a few machines -- or only one -- can infect one machine, which could infect another, stealing a few votes on each in order to steal an entire election," said the study's team leader, Edward W. Felten, professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton.

The Princeton study is the first extensive investigation of the Diebold AccuVote DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) system, which is employed in Maryland, Florida, Georgia and many other states. Such touch-screen voting systems made by Diebold will be in use in nearly 40 states in this November's elections.
Felten and a small group of Princeton computer scientists implanted a nearly undetectable virus in a Diebold voting system. They managed to alter a voter's ballot -- after it had already been confirmed and cast -- and flip a vote to a candidate other than the one the voter had intended. As Felten explained, "We've also found how malicious code could also modify its own tracks [afterward] and remain virtually undetectable by elections officials. It wouldn't be found in the standard tests performed either before or after an election."

Electronic voting - A national disgrace and evolving disaster


Equal Justice Foundation newsletter 9/10/06
By Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A. / President

All in all electronic voting systems don't exhibit the reliability and trustworthiness of a Game Boy toy. Yet we have been forced to put our most fundamental freedom in the hands of a few opportunistic vendors with no meaningful standards for security, accuracy, reliability, or usability.

This isn't simply my opinion. Either every major newspaper and magazine, columnist, author, and expert who have examined electronic voting in detail are wrong, or our election officials and voting machine manufacturers have perpetrated an incredible fraud upon our most cherished and basic right to a democratically-elected government.

Introduction to voting problems

The waste of $4 billion dollars by the U.S. federal government is hardly noteworthy today. Probably that much was wasted within a month after hurricane Katrina last year, or on Halliburton in Iraq. But it is virtually certain that the $4+ billion federal and state governments have spent under the Help America Vote (for Bush) Act mandating electronic voting and statewide voter registration databases is among the most damaging waste our government has ever financed. A small fraction of the problems generated by electronic voting and statewide voter registration databases is documented on the Equal Justice Foundation (EJF) site Vote Fraud and Election Issues.

Elections have always been gamed and rigged, of which the Chicago Rules of Election Fraud are but one example. However, the forced introduction of electronic voting machines and statewide voter registration databases has made that possible on a scale and with ease previously unimaginable.

For those unfamiliar with elections, Prof. Doug Jones Brief Illustrated History of Voting might serve as a starting point. For more details on Stealing Elections there is John Fund's book. If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of election fraud and stealing elections then Bev Harris' Black Box Voting is probably your first choice, though the EJF tabulates many other web sites of interest.

Since its inception the EJF and I, as an individual, and working with other groups have been attempting to insure fair and honest elections utilizing a secret ballot with one, and only one vote for each eligible citizen that is openly and accurately counted.

Essays on voting problems

Electronic voting was introduced with few meaningful standards and virtually no safeguards. Toward correcting that in June 2001 the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) formed a working group dedicated to developing rigid standards for electronic precinct voting. Remarkably, standards for central tabulators, voter registration databases, and other election problems were not considered. I joined that committee in November 2001 and worked on it until it was dissolved in January 2006 because the broad range of experts on the committee could not agree on workable standards for such basic issues as security, among other problems. In fact, I was one of only 6 out of 31 experts to vote to try and continue trying to develop workable standards. Keep in mind that IEEE sets most standards for electrical, electronic, and computer equipment, about 1,300 of them. So today there are only voluntary standards for voting equipment that virtually all experts on the subject have grave concerns about and, in practice, are proving dysfunctional.

I still hear from the uninformed that if ATMs work so reliably, what is the problem with electronic voting. David Jefferson outlines why that idea is a non-starter.

Probably the leading expert on computer voting is Prof. Doug Jones with the University of Iowa. If you are not familiar with his work then Thoughts On Computers In Voting should be required reading. He puts forth this frightening, and all too probable scenario:

"If I wanted to fix an election, not this year, but four years from now, what I might do is quit my job at the University of Iowa and go to work for Microsoft, seeking to insinuate myself into the group that maintains the central elements of the window manager. It sounds like it might be fun, even if the job I'd need would largely involve maintenance of code that's been stable for years.

My goal: I want to modify the code that instantiates a "radio button widget" in a window on the screen. The specific function I want to add is: If the date is the first Tuesday after the first monday in a year divisible by 4, and if the window contains text containing the string "straight party," and if the radio buttons contain, at least, the strings "democrat" and "republican," one time in ten, at random, switch the button label containing the substring "democrat" with any of the other labels, at random.

Of course, I would make every effort to obfuscate my code. Obfuscated coding is a highly developed art! Having done so, what I'd have accomplished is a version of windows that would swing 10 percent of the straight party votes from the Democratic party to the other parties, selected at random. This would be very hard to detect in the election results, it would be unlikely to be detected during testing, and yet, it could swing many elections!"

Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting

Stupidity is an elemental force for which no earthquake is a match.
Karl Kraus Nothing has eroded voter confidence more than touchscreen DRE voting machines. Companies such as Diebold have been caught in Bald Face Lies About Black Box Voting Machines. Most essays about computer voting problems involve Diebold (our index currently list 74). But Diebold is hardly the only one and humorist Dave Barry has satirized problems with ES&S iVotronic machines, for which one suggested use is making artificial reefs (we currently index 29 problem areas).

Many Americans may support the artificial reef idea and we present many articles on why they should. For example, the New York Times compared the security of electronic voting machines to gambling in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, gambling comes out a long way ahead.

Another method of proposed electronic voting was via the Internet. In 2001 I played a major role in stopping passage of a bill to allow Internet voting in Colorado. However, Internet voting is a hydra-headed monster and by 2003 the Department of Defense(DoD) had created the SERVE program ostensibly to make it easier for servicemen and women to vote. Of course, to do this they contracted with an offshore company, Accenture, about which there is more later. Probably to their own surprise, a committee of experts managed to kill this ill-conceived boondoggle. Undeterred by reality, the DoD and several states then began an even more insecure program of voting by electronic mail (email). Despite citizen and expert testimony, in 2006 Colorado passed legislation to allow email voting. And the day after the state election director, Billy Compton, Esq., pushed the legislation through the Colorado House he resigned to head up the state Democratic political committee, leaving the implementation of his folly to others. Launched September 1, 2006, the Federal Voting Alternative Program (FVAP) site now shows you how to hack the vote for any state from anywhere.

The basic reason given for the necessity of DREs was that they would provide unassisted access for handicapped voters. However, when blind voters tried them in an election the machines didn't work any better for them than for the rest of the population despite a $1 million payoff by Diebold to the Federation for the Blind. And the only handicap most current DREs accommodate is vision impairment so major, and costly upgrades will be required in the future again, and again, and again, and again, ad infinitum, at taxpayer expense.

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