Position Papers

This is a compilation of the position papers issued by EDA.

Fingerprints Of Election Theft

Fingerprints Of Election Theft: Were Competitive Contests Targeted?

Comparison Between Exit Poll and Vote Count Disparities in Competitive vs. Noncompetitive Contests in Election 2006
Jonathan Simon, JD, Bruce O’Dell, Dale Tavris, PhD, Josh Mitteldorf, PhD1
Election Defense Alliance

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In this report, we describe results from a telephone poll conducted the night of the national election of November, 2006. The poll methodology was explicitly designed to detect partisan manipulation of the vote count, and to separate evidence for manipulation from poll sampling bias. Our premise was that politically motivated tampering would target races that were projected to be competitive, while the perpetrators would be less motivated to interfere in races that were not projected to be close. Designing our poll to be maximally sensitive to such a pattern, we selected 16 counties around the country where, of the three most prominent races (Governor, Senator or US House), there was at least one competitive contest and one noncompetitive contest. In our study, the responses of the same group of respondents were compared to official election results for pairs of races, one competitive and one noncompetitive. We used paired data analysis to compare discrepancies between poll and official count for these matched pairs. Our results revealed much larger discrepancies in competitive than in noncompetitive races (p<0.007), suggesting manipulation that consistently favored Republican candidates. We also found a linear relationship between the size of the pro-Republican disparity and the tightness of the election (p<0.000022). These results corroborate analyses published elsewhere, also suggesting significant vote manipulation in favor of Republican candidates in the November, 2006 election.

1 Jonathan Simon (http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/jonathan_simon) is Co-founder of Election Defense Alliance; Bruce O'Dell (http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/bruce_odell) and Dale Tavris (http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/about_dale_tavris) are Co-Coordinators of the EDA Data Analysis Working Group; Josh Mitteldorf (http://mathforum.org~josh) is a frequent EDA project contributor and member of the Data Analysis Working Group.


Recent American elections have been tabulated by computerized voting equipment that has been proven through independent investigation by qualified security experts to be wide open to systematic insider manipulation.2 This fact has been acknowledged in the mainstream American press, and indeed in government reports.3

Nevertheless, those who, taking the next logical step, gather and present evidence to suggest that at least some recent elections may have actually been compromised continue to be met with skepticism and indifference. In light of this skepticism, election forensics experts have endeavored to take the measure of recent elections from several complementary perspectives. Several methods by which systemic election theft can be perpetrated electronically and invisibly—and with high confidence of evading immediate detection–-have been documented.4

With vote-counting software and hardware both ruled ‘proprietary’ and off-limits to inspection—and with limited access to, and the scheduled destruction of, paper election records, where they exist—direct proof of an electronically-altered election outcome may well be impossible.5

Yet although systematic electronic vote manipulation may well go undetected both during and after an election, it can still leave behind rather glaring mathematical ‘fingerprints’. And when multiple analytic methods find mathematical ‘fingerprints’ that are all consistent with the same pattern of apparent mistabulation, the case becomes very strong—at least for anyone willing to contemplate the evidence, even though the implications are profoundly disturbing.

In Landslide Denied: Exit Polls vs. Vote Count 2006,6 a study published shortly after the 2006 election (‘E2006’), authors Simon and O’Dell analyzed the nationwide discrepancy between official vote counts and the E2006 exit polls. They concluded that mistabulation of votes reduced the Democratic margin in total votes cast for the House of Representatives by a minimum of 4%, or 3 million votes.

Based on the official margins of House races, the authors further concluded that, accurately tabulated, E2006 would have been an epic landslide, netting the Democrats a very substantial number of additional seats in Congress. By examining in detail the 2006 US House exit poll data’s underlying demographic and voter-preference questions, the authors were able to confirm both the validity of the exit poll sample and the size of the official mistabulation.

Past comparisons between exit polls and official results have been questioned on the grounds that sampling bias may have played a role. By comparing the national sample’s responses to a variety of established demographic and voter-preference benchmarks, Landslide Denied established that the national exit poll certainly did not ‘oversample Democrats’.7

Landslide Denied also argued that the Republicans might have succeeded in holding on to the House and the Senate, but for the fact that they calibrated and engineered a theft based on pre-October polling numbers, which subsequently shifted dramatically further toward the Democrats in the final weeks before the election. If the election had been held a month earlier, the vote-shift evidenced by the exit poll discrepancy would have sufficed to keep the Republicans in power.

This analysis has not been rebutted or challenged, although its evidence and conclusions are clearly presented and quite straightforward. On the other hand, it has gone almost completely unreported.8

In the 2006 elections, the national House exit poll could provide, at most, an indication of aggregate mistabulation on a nationwide basis. Even so, in planning and preparing for forensic analysis of the 2006 elections, it was fair to assume that any damning evidence exit polls might provide would once again face skepticism in the press (as in ‘as usual, the exit polls oversampled Democrats and cannot be relied upon’), and among official voices of both political parties. Therefore, Election Defense Alliance sought to capture data from the 2006 election from a different and, we hoped, complementary angle.

2 See for example (http://brennancenter.org/dynamic/subpages/download_file_39288.pdf), (http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/ts-paper.pdf), (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vsr.htm), (http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVtsxstudy.pdf), or (http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVreport.pdf).

3 See, e.g., Government Accountability Office, Oct. 2005, at (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05956.pdf).

4 See fn. 2.

5 To these difficulties we may add the simple-enough employment of self-deleting tabulation code, which would leave no trace of foul play even in the unlikely event inspection was permitted.

6 (http://tinyurl.com/y5fk4r).

7 The national sample that had allegedly ‘oversampled Democrats’ gave President Bush approval numbers at or above established benchmarks. Several other key indicators (such as racial composition, party ID, vote for President in 2004, and Congressional approval) all corroborated the fact that the sample leaned, if anything, to the right.

8 Landslide Denied was posted on the Election Defense Alliance website on 11/17/06, and simultaneously distributed through US Newswire to hundreds of media outlets. It was picked up by one, a passing reference in a small publication in North Dakota. Landslide Denied was also submitted for inclusion in the record of Senate Rules Committee hearings on election fraud and security. It was not accepted and no explanation was offered for its rejection.

Our Approach and Methodology
In order to counter the anticipated dismissal of 2006 national exit poll evidence on the basis of sample bias, we turned to an approach that would effectively remove sampling bias as a factor by measuring how the same sample of voters responded with respect to different electoral contests.

Our study was based on the premise that vote theft would be targeted to races that were within striking distance of a shift. We hypothesized that races that appeared close in the pre-election polls would be targeted for theft, while races that were projected to be landslides would not be corrupted.

We designed a study to compare pairs of competitive and non-competitive races in such a way that responses from the same polling respondents would be used for both. Therefore we selected counties in which we anticipated, based on pre-election polling, that there would be at least one competitive contest and at least one noncompetitive contest among the races for U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and the governorship of the state.9

We viewed contests decided by a margin smaller than 10% as ‘competitive’ and contests decided by a margin of 10% or greater as ‘noncompetitive’.10 All contests in each selected county were sampled by a single Election Night survey of actual voters (whether at-precinct, early, or absentee) conducted by telephone on our behalf by the polling firm Survey USA.

As a result, the same set of respondents was asked to indicate how they had voted in each of the contests within each selected county. This ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison, rather than any presumed freedom from bias in the samples themselves,11 provided the basis for our analysis.

9 Although hundreds of counties nationwide would have met this basic criteria, our selection was further constrained by budgetary considerations: with approximately $36,000 available for this project, the counties chosen had to be sufficiently small that the cost of obtaining the voter lists would not be prohibitive, and so that enough counties could be surveyed to generate a statistically meaningful number of data points for analysis. Altogether 19 counties were surveyed for this project, of which 16 turned out to meet the criterion of having at least one competitive and one noncompetitive contest. These 16 counties form the basis of our primary analysis.

10 Our ‘paired’ analysis of course necessitates a categorical line of demarcation. While 10% is a common-sense choice, others might be imagined. As will be seen below, the actual race margins tended to a bi-polar distribution (mean margin for competitive races = 3.2%, mean margin for noncompetitive races = 20.5%), generally distant enough from the 10% line to remove any concern about its arbitrariness. In fact, the divider could have been placed at 9% or 8% without having any impact on our paired analysis.

11 In this type of survey, calls are placed on Election Night to all voters on the county registration lists, but only those respondents who indicate they actually cast a vote are included in the survey results. Response rates are typically quite low and there is no attempt to eliminate self-select response bias (e.g., if Republicans or Democrats have a greater tendency to respond and are therefore over-represented) via stratification techniques. Such efforts are not necessary for our purposes because response bias does not adversely affect our comparison between competitive and noncompetitive races drawn from the same set of respondents.

Hypothesis Our hypothesis was that, although there would of course be discrepancies between survey results and vote counts in most (if not all) contests, in the absence of vote shifting foul play selectively targeted to competitive races there would be no statistically significant pattern of discrepancies by which competitive and noncompetitive contests could be distinguished.


Table 1 below presents our core data for the 16 counties which had both competitive and noncompetitive contests. An expanded table—showing the actual winning margins of these contests, as well as the actual vote count and exit poll percentages within the sampled counties—is presented as Appendix 1. Reading from left to right, Table 1 presents the county surveyed, the office contested, whether that contest proved to be competitive or noncompetitive, the disparity between vote count and survey results in competitive and noncompetitive races respectively, and the difference within each county between the disparities found in competitive and noncompetitive races (using the mean disparity when there were two competitive or noncompetitive races within a county).

'Red Shift' and 'Blue Shift' Defined

We designate an official vote count more Republican than the survey results to be a ‘red shift,’ and an official vote count more Democratic than the survey results to be a ‘blue shift’. The right-hand column conveys the overall picture. A positive percentage in the right-hand column indicates that there was more of a red shift (or less of a blue shift) in competitive than in noncompetitive contests in that county. That is, a positive percentage indicates a net shift toward the Republican candidate in the competitive versus noncompetitive contest(s) within a given county.

An Individual County Example

To take Hardee County, Florida, as an example: the competitive contests were for Governor and US House and the noncompetitive contest was for the US Senate. The competitive contests exhibited a red shift of 7.5% and 8.0% respectively: meaning the official vote counts in Hardee in those races were 7.5% and 8.0% more Republican than the survey results, an average of 7.75%. In the noncompetitive contest for US Senate we see a blue shift of 3.5%, meaning the official vote count was 3.5% more Democratic than the survey results. Overall, therefore, in Hardee County - as measured by the survey responses of precisely the same group of voters - the official vote counts in competitive contests were shifted by a net of 11.25% (that is, by 7.75% + 3.5%) to the Republican candidates, relative to the official vote count in the noncompetitive contest.

Sixteen-County Analysis

We find that relative red shift toward the Republican candidate in competitive contests occurred in 11 of the 16 counties. Only four counties exhibited a relative blue shift away from the Republican candidate in competitive contests.12 One county exhibited no net shift, red or blue. More significantly, we found that for the 19 competitive contests, the average survey vs. vote count disparity was a red shift of 3.6%, and for the 20 noncompetitive races the average disparity was a blue shift of 1.7%. Competitive contests were therefore relatively more red-shifted by an average of 5.3% per contest.13

Statistical significance of competitive race ‘red shift’
Employing the paired t-test (two-tailed) to evaluate the statistical significance of this result, we find it to be statistically significant at the p = 0.007 level, meaning that that much of a difference between disparities in competitive and noncompetitive contests would be expected by chance only seven in 1000 times14 According to our hypothesis, the string of positive percentages in the right hand column should not occur unless systematic election mistabulation is occurring–selectively, in competitive contests, and favoring Republican candidates. In the absence of targeted mistabulation, the mean value at the bottom of the right-hand column would be at or very close to zero.

12 Interestingly, two of the four ‘net blue shift’ counties are located in Pennsylvania, a state which stood out in E2006 for bucking the red shift pattern in statewide US Senate races. While a total of 21 Senate races exhibited red shifts (mean = 4.2%), Pennsylvania, a state under Democratic administrative control, was one of only five states to exhibit a blue shift (2%) in its Senate race. At this point we can do little more than speculate about the possible effects of partisan administrative control upon both aggregate mistabulation and targeting patterns. See also, for example (http://kdka.com/topstories/local_story_311194635.html).

13 Because of the above-mentioned averaging within counties, the 16-county mean difference between disparities in competitive and noncompetitive contests was a slightly higher 5.47%.

14 A one-tailed t-test, justifiably employed if we are testing only for the likelihood of an overall competitive contest red shift, would yield a p value of 0.003, a 3/1000th prospect of chance occurrence. It should also be noted that a regression analysis of magnitude/direction of shift relative to magnitude of contest margin yields an F value of 21.9, corresponding to a p value of p<0.000022 and strongly corroborating our finding of strong correlation using the paired testing approach. Such an analysis also dispenses with what some might consider an arbitrary dividing line between competitive and noncompetitive contests at a margin of 10%, necessary for the paired-test approach. The shift-margin correlation is powerful using either approach. Please see Appendix 2 for this analysis.


We have already discussed the evidence for an aggregate mistabulation of votes in E2006 of a magnitude sufficient to alter the outcome of dozens of federal and statewide elections.15 The aggregate evidence is based on the quasi-official exit polls conducted by Edison Research and Mitofsky International (‘Edison/Mitofsky’) for the media consortium known as the National Election Pool (‘NEP’).

In Landslide Denied,16 it is shown not only that the NEP sample of the national electorate (i.e., the aggregate vote for all House races) was of a size that makes it a virtual impossibility that the 4% poll-vote discrepancy could occur as a result of chance or sampling error but also, more significantly, that the alleged political bias of the sample towards the Democrats did not exist, as proven by the demographics of the exit poll sample itself.

Yet whenever a direct comparison between poll results (whether pre-election, exit, or post-election) and official vote counts is made and a discrepancy is noted, it is, inexplicably, always the polls that the media chorus hastens to discount and dismiss. Demonstrating the lax standards of computer security and the inadequate procedural safeguards universally applied to our electronic voting systems seems to make no impression.

The present study was undertaken because we anticipated—correctly, as it turned out—that direct poll-vote comparisons, if they appeared to indicate outcome-determinative mistabulation, would likely face hasty dismissal, predictably on the grounds of sample bias. We therefore sought a methodology that would serve to eliminate any effect of sampling bias from the equation.17

15 In Landslide Denied (http://tinyurl.com/y5fk4r), the authors established a net shift to the Republican candidates for US House of Representatives of at least 3 million votes nationwide.

16 pp. 2 - 16.

17 Much of the analysis in E2004 focused on the astounding individual exit poll-vote count disparities that turned up in certain states and in the national popular vote. But some attention was also given to the telling distribution of disparities between states that were considered ‘battlegrounds’ on the one hand and ‘safe’ states on the other. It emerged that, of the 11 battleground states, 10 were red-shifted. It further emerged that, relative to their respective average MOEs (the battleground states were more heavily sampled than the safe states, which makes a shift of the same magnitude less likely to occur in a battleground state), the battleground states as a group were nearly three times as red shifted as the safe states. So in a sense, in E2004, there was already a rough but glaring comparative analysis of competitive and noncompetitive states, pointing strongly to targeted vote-shifting. The question raised was, if the exit poll-vote count disparity was caused by ‘reluctant Bush responders’, why did this very useful phenomenon (for which no evidence was ever presented) occur so disproportionately in competitive states; that is, why were Bush voters reluctant in Ohio and Florida (where it counted) but not in, say, Utah or Idaho (where it did not)? No cogent answer was ever given.

How Our Study Neutralizes the Impact of Sample Bias

In the vast majority of federal and state political contests, it is possible to ascertain well in advance of Election Day the degree to which the race will be competitive. It is therefore possible to target competitive contests for fraudulent manipulation in a timeframe that allows the necessary mechanisms to be selectively deployed18 (for example, tainted memory cards,19 or malicious code or code parameters installed under the guise of a legitimate software distribution).

We found that we could identify such targeting patterns using poll-vote comparisons from which sampling bias had been eliminated as a factor. In the 16 counties we studied, in the absence of fraud targeted to competitive contests, we would expect no particular correlation between poll-vote disparities and the competitiveness of the contests. Disparities would of course be expected, both as predicted by the statistical margin of error (‘MOE’) of each poll and as a result of any sampling bias independent of such pure statistical considerations.20

But, since we are not relying upon a direct poll-votecount comparison, but rather upon comparison between disparities, we are not concerned with the impact of either sampling error or sampling bias on the poll-votecount disparities which constitute our data set. Indeed sampling bias in any given county survey could be very substantial without affecting the validity of our competitive-noncompetitive comparison, because the same putatively biased set of respondents would be our benchmark for both competitive and noncompetitive contest votecounts.

Take, as an example, Van Buren County, Iowa. In this county the noncompetitive Governor’s race votecount margin was shifted 8% towards the Republican relative to the poll, a result on which it might be suggested that sampling bias (oversampling of Democrats) might have had an impact.

But in the same county, and with the same set of respondents, the competitive House race votecount margin was shifted 18.5% towards the Republican relative to the poll. We can see that sampling bias, whether or not it was in fact present, drops out of the equation entirely, because it would be equally present in both races (using the same set of respondents) and could not account for the 10.5% difference between the two shifts.

Thus, in the absence of a competitive contest targeting pattern, disparities would be just about equally likely to occur, and equally likely to be in the “red” or “blue” direction, in competitive and noncompetitive contests alike.21 This is not what we found. We found a strong correlation between the competitiveness of a contest and the poll-vote disparity for the county we surveyed. Competitive contest votecounts, taken as a group, were strongly red-shifted, with an official vote count more Republican than poll result, as compared to noncompetitive contest vote counts. The goal of our study was not to identify particular contests, counties, or districts as having been targeted for rigging, but rather to determine whether there existed an overall pattern indicative of a targeting process, an indelible fingerprint of electoral manipulation. In this we succeeded, to a high level of statistical significance.

18 See http://brennancenter.org/dynamic/subpages/download_file_39288.pdf pages 37-39 for parameterized attacks on voting systems.

19 See http://itpolicy.princeton.edu/voting/ts-paper.pdf for attacks on voting systems via centrally-programmed memory cards.

20 It is important to understand the distinction between sampling error and sampling bias. Sampling error, generally reflected in a poll’s stated MOE, derives from the statistical chance that a fairly drawn sample (i.e., one drawn at random and without bias) will misrepresent the whole to some quantifiable, and usually very small, degree. Sampling bias, on the other hand, extends beyond any such purely statistical limitations to impound any intentional or inadvertent biases in the sampling process that yield further misrepresentation. A classic example would be interviewers who ignore random selection instructions to choose respondents whom they know or who look more ‘like them’; another would be a differential response rate based on categorical receptivity to being interviewed or ownership of the technology (e.g., telephone, computer) used for the poll. Effects of sampling bias can be virtually eliminated by a thorough demographic weighting process such as that employed by the NEP prior to publication of their poll results. Such a process was not, however, necessary to the design of the current study, as explained in fn. 5.

21 “Just about equally” because the MOE decreases very slightly between a 50%-50% contest and a 75%-25% contest (most competitive and least competitive ends of our spectrum of contests). At the 200 – 300 sample sizes we are primarily working with, the MOE decrease is about 1%. This minor variation had no quantitative impact on our analysis.

Methodological Limitations

No discussion would be complete without a frank acknowledgement of our study’s limitations. We were compelled by budgetary considerations to select a small set of relatively small counties for our study. We could not afford to test any of the larger counties, where the cost of registration lists and survey completions would have been prohibitive. In applying our approach to future elections, in particular to 2008, we hope to significantly expand the number and scope of counties surveyed.

Should E2008 be as much a victim of targeted rigging as E2006 appears to have been, the expanded study we expect to undertake will expose and quantify the pattern to a ‘DNA-level’ of statistical certainty.

Or, put another way, it would appear that in light of political circumstances any effort to seize national control through manipulation of the vote counting in 2008 will have to be either of an aggregate magnitude that is truly shocking and so carries a high risk of exposure, or so well-targeted that the targeting pattern itself sticks out like a sore thumb. To deter or expose massive electoral subversion, both modes of attack must be anticipated and monitored.


Our study was modest in scope because of financial constraints, but it was tightly-focused in its design. The result shines a powerful triple beam into the dark corner of secret electronic vote-counting in American elections.

• First, it detects a clear pattern indicating a wholesale shift in tallied votes. This is consistent with our study of aggregate vote shifting presented in Landslide Denied.

• Second, it identifies the overall direction of the shift: in favor of Republican candidates, once again corroborating our aggregate findings in Landslide Denied.

• Third, it confirms the common-sense notion that any group with the will and ability to secretly manipulate vote tabulation would likely focus their efforts on changing the outcomes of close contests, where the power of electronic vote-shifting would be maximized through selective targeting, while at the same time minimizing the size of the aggregate shift—and the corresponding risk of discovery.

We found evidence, in Landslide Denied, of an aggregate net shift of 3 million votes nationwide from Democratic to Republican candidates for the US House. If one imagines those shifted votes distributed randomly and evenly across the 435 contests, it would amount to a net shift of just under 7000 votes per contest. If we apply this model by taking 3500 putatively shifted votes from each Republican candidate and transferring them back to the Democratic candidate (for a net shift of 7000 votes), it would reverse the outcome of 15 House contests in 2006. This is not an inconsiderable effect, as it would have given the Democrats a 30-seat greater margin (248 – 187).

If, however, we target and apply those same 3 million shifted votes to the most competitive Republican victories, we find it would instead reverse the outcome of 112 contests, giving the Democrats an overwhelming 345 – 90 majority in the House. We naturally do not suggest that vote-shifting in 2006 was, or could be, targeted with such hindsight-aided precision. Our point is rather that targeting, even at the modest level of precision obtainable months in advance (from historical voting patterns and pre-election polling) can vastly increase the bottom-line effect of the covert shift of a given total number of votes or—conversely and more ominously—can enable a political control-shifting electoral manipulation that leaves only the smallest and all-but-undetectable fingerprint of aggregate mistabulation.22

In E2006, the explosive movement toward the Democrats in the month of October23 would have overwhelmed a rational targeting plan finalized during the pre-October period, after which the logistics of further deployment or recalibration of vote-shifting mechanisms would most likely have been prohibitively problematic.24 Such an extraordinary pre-election dynamic certainly cannot be counted on again to defeat attempts to seize political control via electoral manipulation. We submit that our findings regarding targeting in the present study, coupled with our earlier findings in Landslide Denied, sound an alarm for democracy, and make a compelling case for expanded monitoring of future elections.

We restate here the concluding sentences of Landslide Denied, as these latest findings only serve to increase the urgency of our warning: ‘The vulnerability is manifest; the stakes are enormous; the incentive is obvious; the evidence is strong and persistent. Any system so clearly at risk of interference and gross manipulation cannot and must not be trusted to tally the votes in any future elections.’

* * *

22 This is especially ominous in light of the fact that, in the absence of any effective system of intrinsic electoral audits, the only check mechanism of sufficient sensitivity and statistical power to effectively challenge the official numbers spit out by the computers is the demographically validated national exit poll (assuming that ‘unadjusted’ exit poll results are made available in 2008). But this check mechanism detects only an aggregate disparity. Targeted rigging allows the theft of both the Presidency and Congress with a footfall light enough to avoid setting off this sole remaining burglar alarm.

23 See Landslide Denied, pp. 13 - 15. 24 See Landslide Denied, Appendix 2. Although the vulnerabilities of vote-counting computers make it possible to shift (or delete or fabricate) virtually unlimited numbers of votes, the size of the footprint and the likelihood of detection of course increases accordingly. The logical vote-shifting algorithm therefore remains ‘take no more than you need’. A possible exception is the Presidential race, in which there is a rather compelling advantage to shifting enough votes nationwide to ensure a popular-vote victory, even though an Electoral College victory might be secured with a well-targeted fraction of those votes. A popular vote victory–as reflected in the contrasting behavior of the Democratic candidates in 2000 and –2004—plays a major role in granting or denying a Presidential candidate the standing, in the media and in the court of public opinion, to challenge even quite egregious anomalies in decisive battleground states.

Appendix 1 - Expanded Table 1

Appendix 2 - Regression Analysis

The purpose of regression analysis was to look at the correlation between vote margin and within-county exit poll-vote count disparity. We included in this analysis as a separate data point each of the 39 races in each of the 16 counties that served as the basis for our paired t-test analysis. This analysis represents a way of looking at the same data as we looked at in our paired t-test analysis, but from a different angle, with two advantages over the paired t-test analysis and two disadvantages. The disadvantages were: 1. The regression analysis doesn’t completely eliminate bias (though it eliminates the great majority of potential bias) as an explanation for our results, since some counties contributed data points to a non-competitive race without being matched by a competitive race, or vice versa. Therefore, the exact same population was not used for competitive and non-competitive races in this analysis. However, the two populations were very similar, and whereas a potential for a small amount of bias exists in this analysis, we see no reason to suspect that it does exist. 2. The rationale for using the paired t-test was that competitive races were characterized by the potential for fraud, whereas there would be no reason for committing fraud in non-competitive races. With that assumption, the vote margins would be unimportant, as long as the races could be characterized as competitive or non-competitive. If this assumption was accurate, then an analysis that included the vote margins of the race would include meaningless data, which could weaken the ability to detect meaningful differences between competitive and non-competitive races. The advantages were:

1. When analyzing continuous variables (which vote margins are), regression analysis generally provides more power to detect meaningful differences than t-tests, which do not make use of the continuous nature of the variable, but dichotomize it instead.

2. To the extent that it might have been difficult to ascertain whether a race was competitive vs. non-competitive prior to the election, it would be reasonable to assume that the more competitive a race was the more likely that it would be subject to fraud. And, it is reasonable to suspect that the closer a race was presumed to be, the more susceptible it would be to fraud.

The regression analysis provided an F value of 21.85, corresponding to a p value of p<0.000022. That means that the correlation between vote margin and within-county exit poll-vote count disparity was so strong that it would have occurred only about one out of 50,000 times on the basis of chance alone (see graph below).

Appendix 3 – Survey USA Data Links

State  County       Link

MO     Henry           http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=a6e072a1-a39e-4f6c-95e4-af1a0150bcac
MO     Cedar           http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=cfd957af-bc6d-406e-b05e-23f025dd91a3
TN      Haywood      http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=f5256fb4-48be-434f-a8ac-1e6c9c768e00
FL       Hardee         http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=7bf59ee4-894f-43fd-9113-23bc4a8a21a8
FL       Okeechobee  http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=aae0d44f-8fd7-426b-9186-cdd8d2222292
PA       Bradford       http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=d3b628f5-5da3-42c7-96b9-350bc4fd11d2
PA       Wyoming      http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=f04c2158-acee-4a6e-912f-14eef91303f0
MN      Mower          http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=f065fa14-3452-4321-99dc-42fa8c48ee53
MN      Pipestone     http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=6889cbbc-ade1-400e-a49e-c629be32bce0
OH      Adams         http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=42f186df-1fdc-4f41-b5d6-b9b30026106d
GA      Jefferson      http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=b962e036-0513-423b-9a5b-5d29892bf0c3
GA      Emanuel       http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=dd565bbb-8dfc-4143-bd8c-016ac197203b
IA       Van Buren    http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=b19fd14c-f493-406f-a18c-cf62dc1e1df6
IA       Jefferson      http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=2b03ce9c-121a-45f4-a3d5-5453d177465d
NV      Humboldt     http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=a36dfabf-2b31-4513-bc83-5b416056f84d
VA      Lancaster     http://www.voterrollcall.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=70c3610b-c22e-49ed-b5a1-e102cf6ad4cf

FingerprintsOfElectionTheft.pdf179.41 KB

Open Letter to the Media: Don't Print as True What You Can't Prove

The following Open Letter to the Media is an ongoing campaign to change the way the newsmedia thinks and reports about the inherently unverifiable nature of the U.S. electoral system.

We are asking the Fourth Estate to consider their obligations to verify what they report as fact to the public, and to acknowledge that in the case of U.S. election results, they have no basis for doing so.

We are asking reporters to seriously question their responsibility for perpetuating an illusion of democracy when the vote-counting process is hidden, unobservable, and unaccountable to the public.

We are asking journalists to change news culture by signing on to this letter and sending it to their journalistic peers. Everyone can participate by sending this letter to the editorial departments of newspapers, news magazines, radio and television news departments, and to individual reporters.


We Do Not Consent - Open Letter To The Media

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Send This Letter as an E-mail to Reporters in Your Regional Newsmedia

Dear Media Colleagues,

You are receiving this message because you are known to American progressives as a truth-teller. In this presidential campaign, despite the typical horse-race coverage, we also see the overall corporate media narrative influenced by daily debunking efforts from candidates’ rapid response teams, the blogosphere, and the reality-based coverage and reporting that you provide. We need to take this to the next level.

There are three very simple basic facts about the way US federal elections are conducted now, and we think they lead to an inescapable conclusion that must be addressed. See if you agree:

1. We have secret corporate vote counting computers counting more than 95% of the votes cast in the United States;

2. The absence of paper ballots, and in some cases state’s law, prevents meaningful re-counts throughout much of the country;

3. These electronic voting machines frequently produce results impossible in a legitimate election, such as John Kerry’s negative 25 million votes in Youngstown, OH (Nov. 2004), or Palm Beach County’s 12,000 votes in excess of the number of voters (Aug. 2008).

To us this suggests the conclusion that federal election results are unprovable, even though the media reports them as fact. Can you draw any other conclusion?

It will surprise nobody this November when the outcome is a spoiled mess, riddled with controversy. In fact, we can already say the results –- based on the conditions –- are guaranteed to be inconclusive, unknowable and unprovable.

We must challenge our industry to refuse to report as fact what can’t be proven and hasn’t been independently verified, particularly when the only source of the information is the government itself.

The reality is that the media should be the greatest advocates of hand counting paper ballots because this method of counting allows media greatest access to observing and documenting the process, affording the reported results the greatest credibility.

Transparent coverage of a transparent counting process would create a basis for confidence in the reported results where none currently exists.

As we all know, there is a vibrant community of engaged citizens across the US who collectively self-identify as the “election integrity community.”

They are asking us truth-tellers to challenge our industry, essentially reframing the debate. Many of them have appeared on our shows and in our columns over the past few years, and they are eager to be sources for us now.

But they are also counting on us to take this message forward and we don’t see how we can be truth-tellers without doing that.

Please join us in this concerted effort to use truth-telling yet again to change the corporate media narrative of this presidential campaign.

Respectfully yours,

Dave Berman, WeDoNotConsent.blogspot.com; Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt, CA
Mark Crispin Miller, Author, www.markcrispinmiller.blogspot.com
Alastair Thompson, Co-Editor/General Manager, www.Scoop.co.nz
Peter B. Collins, syndicated talk show host. www.peterbcollins.com
Michael Collins, “The Money Party,” usacoupscoop.co.nz/?tag=michael-collins; electionfraudnews.com/MichaelCollins.htm Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers www.crisispapers.org/
Bernard Weiner, Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers www.crisispapers.org/
Rob Kall, Executive Editor & Publisher, www.OpEdNews.com
David Swanson, Co-Founder, www.AfterDowningStreet.org
Joan Brunwasser, Election Integrity Editor, www.OpEdNews.com
Rady Ananda, Senior Editor, www.OpEdNews.com
Lynn Landes, freelance journalist, www.thelandesreport.com
Tom Courbat, Founder, SAVE R VOTE, www.savervote.com
Dan Ashby, Co-Founder and Director, www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org
Linda Milazzo, OpedNews Senior Editor; HuffingtonPost blogger, www.OpEdNews.com
Jan Baumgartner, Managing Editor, www.OpEdNews.com
Cheryl Biren-Wright, Managing Editor, www.OpEdNews.com
Amanda Lang, OEN Managing Editor, www.opednews.com
Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition, www.re-mediaetc.org Joanne Lukacher, Communications Director, Andi Novick, Legal Counsel
Paul R Lehto, Juris Doctor, Author of Election Law Encyclopedia articles lehto.paul@gmail.com
Mark A. Adams JD/MBA founder of www.ProjectVoteCount.com and attorney for Clint Curtis.
Catherine Austin Fitts, Scoop “Mapping The Real Deal” Columnist, solari.com
John Gideon, Co-Executive Director, VotersUnite.Org
Ellen Theisen, Co-Executive Director, VotersUnite.Org
Bev Harris, founder and director, Black Box Voting (Web site http://www.blackboxvoting.org)
John Chuckman, Columnist & Cartoonist More Websites: Postcards, Trading Cards, Places
Bernie Ellis Organizer, Gathering To Save Our Democracy (Tennessee) and Convener, National Election Reform Conference Nashville, TN April, 2005 - http://www.votesafetn.org
Steve Freeman, author, academic and founder of Election Integrity.org
John Russell (FL-5) D - www.johnrussellforcongress.com
Jason Leopold, investigative journalist, author - TPR: The Public Record
David L. Griscom, Ph.D., impactglassman.blogspot.com; Co-Founder, AUDITAZ; Member Coordinating Committee, Election Defense Alliance.
David Earnhardt, filmmaker, “UNCOUNTED: The New Math of American Elections”

Sign on to the letter

A current list of this letter’s signers can be found (as of 11pm - 28 October 2008) at:

If you would like to add your name, please use the form on that page or submit your name and affiliation via e-mail to: unprovable@scoop.co.nz.

Landslide Denied

Landslide Denied: Exit Polls vs. Vote Count 2006

Demographic Validity of the National Exit Poll
and the Corruption of the Official Vote Count

Jonathan Simon, JD, and Bruce O’Dell1
Election Defense Alliance

Click to Download This Article

Introduction: Pre-Election Concern, Election Day Relief, Alarming Reality

There was an unprecedented level of concern approaching the 2006 Election (“E2006”) about the vulnerability of the vote counting process to manipulation. With questions about the integrity of the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections remaining unresolved, with e-voting having proliferated nationwide, and with incidents occurring with regularity through 2005 and 2006, the alarm spread from computer experts to the media and the public at large. It would be fair to say that America approached E2006 with held breath.

For many observers, the results on Election Day permitted a great sigh of relief—not because control of Congress shifted from Republicans to Democrats, but because it appeared that the public will had been translated more or less accurately into electoral results, not thwarted as some had feared. There was a relieved rush to conclude that the vote counting process had been fair and the concerns of election integrity proponents overblown.

Unfortunately the evidence forces us to a very different and disturbing conclusion: there was gross vote count manipulation and it had a great impact on the results of E2006, significantly decreasing the magnitude of what would have been, accurately tabulated, a landslide of epic proportions. Because much of this manipulation appears to have been computer-based, and therefore invisible to the legions of at-the-poll observers, the public was informed of the usual “isolated incidents and glitches” but remains unaware of the far greater story: The electoral machinery and vote counting systems of the United States did not honestly and accurately translate the public will and certainly can not be counted on to do so in the future.

1 Jonathan Simon, JD (http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/jonathan_simon) is Co-founder of Election Defense Alliance. Bruce O'Dell (http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/bruce_odell) is EDA Data Analysis Coordinator.

The Evidentiary Basis

Our analysis of the distortions introduced into the E2006 vote count relies heavily on the official exit polls once again undertaken by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International (“Edison/Mitofsky”) on behalf of a consortium of major media outlets known as the National Election Pool (NEP). In presenting exit poll-based evidence of vote count corruption, we are all too aware of the campaign that has been waged to discredit the reliability of exit polls as a measure of voter intent.

Our analysis is not, however, based on a broad assumption of exit poll reliability. Rather we maintain that the national exit poll for E2006 contains within it specific questions that serve as intrinsic and objective yardsticks by which the representative validity of the poll’s sample can be established, from which our conclusions flow directly.

For the purposes of this analysis our primary attention is directed to the exit poll in which respondents were asked for whom they cast their vote for the House of Representatives. 2 Although only four House races (in the single-district states) were polled as individual races, an additional nationwide sample of more than 10,000 voters was drawn,3 the results representing the aggregate vote for the House in E2006. The sample was weighted according to a variety of demographics prior to public posting, and had a margin of error of +/- 1%.4

When we compare the results of this national exit poll with the total vote count for all House races we find that once again, as in the 2004 Election (“E2004”), there is a very significant exit poll-vote count discrepancy. The exit poll indicates a Democratic victory margin nearly 4%, or 3 million votes, greater than the margin recorded by the vote counting machinery. This is far outside the margin of error of the poll and has less than a one in 10,000 likelihood of occurring as a matter of chance.


2 Edison/Mitofsky exit polls for the Senate races also present alarming discrepancies and will be treated in a separate paper. The special significance of the House vote is that, unlike the Senate vote, it offers a nationwide aggregate view.

3 The sample size was roughly equal to that used to measure the national popular vote in presidential elections. At-precinct interviews were supplemented by phone interviews where needed to sample early and absentee voters.

4 We note with interest and raised brows that the NEP is now giving the MOE for their national sample as +/-3% (http://www.exit-poll.net/faq.html#a15). This is rather curious, as their published Methods Statement in 2004 assigns to a sample of the same size and mode of sampling the expected MOE of +/-1% (see Appendix 2 for both NEP Statements). Perhaps the NEP intends its new methodology statement to apply to its anticipated effort in 2008 and is planning to reduce the national sample size by 75% for that election; we hope not. It of course makes no sense, as applied to E2004 or E2006, that state polls in the 2000-respondent range should yield a MOE of +/-4%, as stated, while a national poll of more than five times that sample size should come in at +/-3%. It would certainly be useful in quelling any controversy that has arisen or might arise from exit poll-vote count disparities far outside the poll’s MOE, but it is, to our knowledge, not the way that statistics and mathematics work.

The Exit Polls and The Vote Count

In E2004 the only nontrivial argument against the validity of the exit polls—other than the mere assumption that the vote counts must be correct—turned out to be the hypothesis, never supported by evidence, that Republicans had been more reluctant to respond and that therefore Democrats were "oversampled." And now, in E2006, the claim has once again been made that the Exit Polls were "off" because Democrats were oversampled.5 Indeed this claim of sampling bias is by now accepted with something of a “so what else is new?” shrug. The 2006 Exit Poll, however, contains intrinsic yardsticks that directly refute this familiar and convenient claim. But before turning to the yardstick questions themselves, we need to clarify certain aspects of exit polling data presentation that have often proven confusing.

Any informed discussion of exit polling must distinguish among three separate categories of data:

1) “Raw” data, which comprises the actual responses to the questionnaires simply tallied up; this data is never publicly released and, in any case, makes no claim to accurately represent the electorate and can not be usefully compared with vote counts.
2) “Weighted” data, in which the raw data has been weighted or stratified on the basis of numerous demographic and voting pattern variables to reflect with great accuracy the composition and characteristics of the electorate.
3) “Forced” or “Adjusted” data, in which the pollster overrides previous weighting in order to make the "Who did you vote for?" result in a given race match the vote count for that race, however it distorts the demographics of the sample (that's why they call it "forcing").

Because the NEP envisions the post-election purpose of its exit polls as being limited to facilitating academic dissection of the election’s dynamics and demographics (e.g., “How did the 18-25 age group vote?” or “How did voters especially concerned with the economy vote?”), the NEP methodology calls for correcting or "adjusting" its exit polls to congruence with the actual vote percentages after the polls close and actual returns become available. Exit polls are "corrected" on the ironclad assumption that the vote counts are valid. This becomes the supreme truth, relative to which all else is measured, and therefore it is assumed that polls that match these vote counts will present the most accurate information about the demographics and voting patterns of the electorate. A distorted electorate in the adjusted poll is therefore a powerful indicator of an invalid vote count.

We examined both “weighted” and “adjusted” exit polls of nationwide vote for the House of Representatives published by the NEP. On Election Night, November 7, 2006 at 7:07 p.m., CNN.com posted a national exit poll that was demographically weighted but not yet adjusted to congruence with the vote counts.6 We call this the Weighted National Poll. At various intervals over the next 18 hours, as polls closed and official tabulations became available, the results presented in the Weighted National Poll were progressively “corrected” to match the official vote totals, culminating in a fully adjusted national exit poll posted on CNN.com at 1 p.m. November 8, 2006. We call this the Adjusted National Poll. We will make reference to both polls in the analysis that follows.

The 2006 national vote for the House, as captured by the Weighted National Poll, was 55.0% Democratic and 43.5% Republican—an 11.5% Democratic margin. By 1:00 p.m. on November 8, the Adjusted National Poll reported the overall vote for the House as 52.6% Democratic and 45.0% Republican, just a 7.6% margin.7 This 7.6% Democratic margin of course matched the tabulated vote count but was 3.9% smaller than that recorded by the Weighted National Poll the night before. This was a net difference of 3 million votes fewer for the Democrats.
5 See for example David Bauder, AP, in a November 8 article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2006/11/08/AR2006110800403.html. Oddly enough, “oversampling” of Democrats has become a chronic ailment of exit polls since the proliferation of e-voting, no matter how diligently the nonpartisan collection of experts at the peak of their profession strives to prevent it. Of course the weighting process itself is undertaken to bring the sample into close conformity with the known and estimated characteristics of the electorate, including partisanship; so the fact that more of a given party’s adherents were actually sampled, while it would be reflected in the unpublished raw data, would not in fact bias or affect the validity of the published weighted poll. That is the whole point of weighting, in light of which the hand-wringing about Democratic oversampling strikes us as misunderstanding at best, and quite possibly intended misdirection.

6 The 7:07 p.m. poll reported a 10,207 sample size and, in accordance with NEP methodology, the raw data had been weighted to closely match the demographics of the electorate.

7 Analysts noticing the substantial increase in “respondents” between the Weighted (10,207) and Adjusted (13,251) National Polls may understandably but erroneously conclude that the shift between the two polls is the result of a late influx of Republican-leaning respondents. This is not the way it works. Since these are both weighted polls, each is in effect “tuned” to a profile of the electorate assumed to be valid—the Weighted National Poll to a set of established demographic variables and the Adjusted National Poll to the vote count once it is tabulated. The published number of respondents is irrelevant to this process and has significance only as a guide to the poll’s margin of error. 10,000+ respondents is a huge sample (cf. the 500 – 1500 range of most tracking polls), and obviously an ample basis on which to perform the demographic weighting manifest in the Weighted National Poll.

Did The 2006 Exit Poll Oversample Democrats? Cross-tabs Answer This Question

The national exit poll administered by Edison/Mitofsky for the NEP is not, as some may imagine, a simple “Who did you vote for?” questionnaire. It poses some 40 to 50 additional questions pertaining to demographic, political preference, and state-of-mind variables. Voters are asked, for example, about such characteristics as race, gender, income, age, and also about such things as church attendance, party identification, ideology, approval of various public figures, importance of various issues to their vote, and when they made up their minds about whom to vote for.

When the poll is posted, these characteristics are presented in a format, known as “cross-tabs,” in which the voting choice of respondents in each subgroup is shown. For example, respondents were asked whether they thought the United States “is going in the right direction.” In the Weighted National Poll the cross-tab for this characteristic (see below) shows us that 40% said Yes and 56% said No; and further that, of the 40% subgroup who said Yes, 21% voted Democrat and 78% voted Republican for House of Representatives, while, of the 56% who said No, 80% voted Democrat and 18% voted Republican. We also see that this question is quite highly correlated with voting preference, with fully four-fifths of the “pessimists” voting Democratic.

Cross-tabs vary greatly in the degree to which the characteristic is correlated with voting preference. The more strongly correlated, the more important the cross-tab becomes in assessing the poll’s validity as an indicator of the vote.

Prior to public posting the exit poll data is weighted according to a variety of demographics, in such a way that the resulting cross-tabs closely mirror the expected, independently measurable characteristics of the electorate as a whole. The cross-tabs, in turn, tell us about the sample, giving us detailed information about its composition and representativeness. This information is of critical importance to our analysis because among the many questions asked of respondents there are several that enable us to tell whether the sample is valid or politically biased in one direction or another. These are the “intrinsic yardsticks” to which we have made reference.

Among the most salient yardstick questions were the following:

• Job Approval of President Bush
• Job Approval of Congress
• Vote for President in 2004

With respect to each of these yardsticks the composition of the sample can be compared to measures taken of the voting population as a whole, giving us a very good indication of the validity of the sample. Examining these cross-tabs for the Weighted National Poll—the 7:07 p.m. poll that was written off by the media as a “typical oversampling of Democrats”—this is what we found:

• Approval of President Bush: 42%
• Approval of Congress: 36%
• Vote for President in 2004: Bush 47%, Kerry 45%

When we compare these numbers with what we know about the electorate as a whole going into E2006, we can see at once that the poll that told us that the Democratic margin was 3 million votes greater than the computers toted up was not by any stretch of the imagination an oversampling of Democrats. Let’s take each yardstick in turn.

Presidential Approval Rating

We can compare the 42% approval of President Bush in the Weighted National Poll with any or all of the host of tracking polls measuring this critical political variable in the weeks and days leading up to the election. It is important when comparing approval ratings to make sure that we compare apples with apples, since the question can be posed in different ways leading to predictably different results. The principal formats of the approval measure are either simply “Do you approve or disapprove. . .?” or “Do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove. . .?” We can call these the two-point and four-point formats respectively. By repeatedly posing the question in both formats on the same days, it has been determined that the four-point format consistently yields an approval rating 3-4% higher than the two-point format.8

Bearing this in mind and comparing the Weighted National Poll respondents’ approval of President Bush with that registered by the electorate going into the election, we find very close parity. PollingReport.com catalogues 33 national polls of Presidential approval taken between October 1 and Election Day using the two-point format, with an average (mean) approval rating of 37.6%.9 This translates to a 41% approval rating in the four-point format used for the Weighted National Poll. A direct comparison is also possible with the Rasmussen tracking poll, which unlike the other tracking polls uses the four-point format. The Rasmussen approval rating for October 2006 is also 41%, with 57% disapproving.10 Thus, the 42% approval of President Bush in the Weighted National Poll matches the figure established for the electorate as a whole going into the election; in fact it is 1% “over par.” As Bush approval correlates very strongly with voting preference (see below), an oversampling of Democrats would unavoidably have been reflected in a lower rating. The rating at or above the established level thus provides the first confirmation of the validity of the Weighted National Poll.

Congressional Approval Rating

As with the Presidential approval yardstick, comparison between the 36% of the Weighted National Poll sample that approved of how Congress was handling its job and the value established for the electorate in numerous tracking polls corroborates the Weighted National Poll’s validity. The mean of the 17 national polls catalogued by the PollingReport.com measuring approval of Congress between October 1 and Election Day (all employing the two-point format) was 27.5% approval.11 Translating to the four-point format used for the exit poll yields a comparable approval rating of 31%, a full 5% below the Congressional approval given by the Weighted National Poll respondents. As with the Presidential rating, approval of what was at that point a Republican Congress correlates strongly with voting preference (see below). We would have expected an oversampling of Democrats to give a lower approval rating to Congress than did the electorate it was supposedly misrepresenting. Instead the Weighted National Poll yielded a significantly higher Congressional approval rating—indicative, if anything, of an oversampling of Republicans.

8 http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/polling_methodology_job_approval_ratings. As Rasmussen notes, the 3-4% upwards adjustment in the four-point format impounds the virtual elimination of the “Not Sure” response obtained with greater frequency in the two-point format.

9 http://www.pollingreport.com/BushJob.htm. Typical of the national polls included are Gallup, AP-Ipsos, Newsweek, Fox/Opinion Dynamics, CBS/New York Times, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and ABC/Washington Post. The median approval rating is 37.4%, indistinguishable from the mean, and there is no discernible trend up or down over the Oct.1 – Nov. 7 period.

10 http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/political_updates/president_bush_job_approval. The rating combines “strong” and “somewhat” approve and is the average of Rasmussen’s daily tracking polls conducted throughout the month.

11 http://www.pollingreport.com/CongJob.htm.

Vote for President in 2004

Edison/Mitofksy asked all respondents how they had voted in the 2004 Presidential election. The Weighted National Poll sample included 45% who said they had voted for Kerry and 47% who said they had voted for Bush (8% indicating they had not voted or voted for another candidate). This Bush margin of +2% closely approximates the +2.8% margin that Bush enjoyed in the official popular vote count for E2004.

While poll respondents have often shown some tendency to indicate they voted for the sitting president when questioned at the time of the next presidential election (i.e., four years out), Bush’s historically low approval rating, coupled with his high relevance to this off-year election, and the shorter time span since the vote in question, make such a generic “winner’s shift” singularly unlikely in E2006.

And while we present the reported 2.8% Bush margin in 2004 at face value, it will not escape notice that the distortions in vote tabulation that we establish in the current paper were also alleged in 2004, were evidenced by the 2004 exit polls, and were demonstrably achievable given the electronic voting systems deployed at that time. We note that, if upon retrospective evaluation the unadjusted 2004 exit polls prove as accurate as the 2006 exit polls appear to be, and their 2.5% margin for Kerry in 2004 is taken as the appropriate baseline, a correctly weighted sample in 2006 would have included even more Kerry voters and even fewer Bush voters than Edison/Mitofsky’s Weighted National Poll, with a substantial consequent up-tick in the Democratic margin beyond the 3 million votes thus far unaccounted for.

The three yardsticks presented above clearly refute the glib canard that the National Exit Poll disparity was due to an oversampling of Democrats. Two other cross-tabs are worthy of note in this regard: Vote By Race and Vote By Party ID.

Vote By Race

The Weighted National Poll sample, as can be seen below, is 80% White, 10% African-American, and 8% Latino in composition, with Whites splitting their vote evenly between the parties while Latinos and particularly Blacks voted overwhelmingly Democratic.

We can compare these demographics with an established measure of the electorate published by the University of Michigan Center for Political Studies. The ANES Guide To Public Opinion and Electoral Behavior, is a longitudinal study of many aspects of the American electorate, including racial composition.12 The chart below presents the ANES results for the past six biennial national elections.13

As can be seen by comparing the charts above, in none of the past six elections was the White participation as high or the Black participation as low as represented in the Weighted National Poll.14 The average White proportion of the electorate was 74%, 6% below the exit poll’s representation of Whites, while the average Black proportion was 13%, 3% above the exit poll’s representation of Blacks. The relative under-representation of every strong Democratic constituency in this cross-tab, in favor of the least Democratic voting bloc, hardly jibes with the “Invalid: Oversampled Democrats” label cheerfully pasted on the Weighted National Poll.

12 The American National Election Studies; see www.electionstudies.org. Produced and distributed by the University of Michigan, Center for Political Studies; based on work supported by the National Science Foundation and a number of other sponsors.

13 The full chart, dating to 1948, may be referenced at http://www.electionstudies.org/nesguide/toptable/tab1a_3.htm.

14 Asian and Native American voters, also strong Democratic constituencies, likewise seem to be significantly under-represented in the Weighted National Poll. The ANES results for 2006 are due to be published later this year. In E2004 the Weighted National Poll was 77% White and 11% Black, as opposed to the ANES proportions of 70% and 16% respectively. It was this disproportionately White sample—supposedly short on “reluctant” Bush responders, but in reality overstocked with White voters who favored Bush by a margin of 11% and understocked with Black voters who favored Kerry by a margin of 80%!—that gave Kerry a 2.5% victory in the nationwide popular vote.


Vote By Party ID

Though Vote By Party ID generally fluctuates relatively modestly from one election to the next, it is, not surprisingly, nonetheless sensitive to the dynamics of atypical turnout battles. While we will address the E2006 turnout dynamics more fully in a later section, for the present we will simply note that a Democratic turnout romp was generally acknowledged in 2006, Republican voters having a number of late-breaking reasons for staying home.

In the Weighted National Poll, Democratic voters comprised 39% of the sample to 35% for the Republicans, as shown below.

Only 20 states register their voters by party so there is no direct comparison to be made to actual registration figures. But the ANES Guide once again proves useful. The chart below records party identification amongst the electorate as a whole on a seven-point scale, but the comparison is convincing.15

In each of the past six biennial national elections through 2004, self-identified Democrats have outnumbered Republicans. The margins for 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004 have been +4%, +10%, +11%, +10%, +4%, and +5% respectively. If Independent leaners are included, the Democratic margin increases every year, to +5%, +12%, +14%, +12%, +6%, and +10% respectively. These are very consistent numbers confirming a consistent plurality of self-identified Democratic voters from election to election.16 The 4% Democratic plurality in the Weighted National Poll sample is seen to be at the extreme low end of the margins recorded since 1994, matching only the 4% Democratic margins recorded in the major Republican victories of 1994 and 2002. But E2006 was a major Democratic victory and, as will be seen, a likely turnout landslide.

While it would probably insult the intelligence of the media analysts who proclaimed that the E2006 Weighted National Poll was “off” because it had oversampled Democrats to even suggest the possibility that one or more of them took the 39% - 35% Democratic ID margin in the poll to be indicative of Democratic oversampling—such misinterpretation quickly spreading among, and taking on the full authority of, the Election Night punditry—it is very difficult to comprehend by what other measure the Election Night analysts, and all who followed their lead, might have reached that manifestly erroneous, though obviously comforting, conclusion.

In short, there is no measure anywhere in the Weighted National Poll—in which the Democratic margin nationwide was some 3 million votes greater than tabulated by the machines—that indicates an oversampling of Democrats. Any departures from norms, trends, and expectations indicate just the opposite: a poll that likely undersampled Democratic voters and so, at 11.5%, understated the Democratic victory margin.


15 The full chart, dating to 1952, may be referenced at http://www.electionstudies.org/nesguide/toptable/tab2a_1.htm.

16 It is worth noting that among the most suspicious demographic distortions of the Adjusted National Poll in E2004 was the Party ID cross-tab which indicated an electorate evenly divided between self-identified Democrats and Republicans, at 37% apiece. Not only was this supposed parity unprecedented, but it flew in the face of near-universal observational indications of a major Democratic turnout victory in 2004: not only in Ohio but nationwide, long lines and hours-long waits were recorded at inner-city and traditionally Democratic precincts, while literally no such lines were observed and no such complaints recorded in traditionally Republican voting areas (see EIRS data at https://voteprotect.org/index.php?display=EIRMapNation&tab=ED04).


The Adjusted National Poll: Making The Vote-Count Match

In the wake of our primary analysis of the validity of the Weighted National Poll, consideration of the Adjusted National Poll is something of an afterthought, though it does serve to further reinforce our conclusions.

As we described earlier, in the “adjusted” or “corrected” poll the pollster overrides all previous weighting to make the “Who did you vote for?” result in a given race (or set of races) match the vote count for that race, however it distorts the demographics of the sample. In the Adjusted National Poll, which appeared the day after the election and remains posted (with a few further updates not affecting this analysis) on the CNN.com website, Edison/Mitofsky was faced with the task of matching the tabulated aggregate results for the set of House races nationwide. This translated to reducing the Democratic margin from 11.5% to 7.6% by giving less weight to the respondents who said they had voted for a Democratic candidate and more weight to the respondents who said they had voted Republican. Of course this process, referred to as “forcing,” also affects the response to every question on the questionnaire, including the demographic and political preference questions we have been considering.

The most significant effect was upon “Vote for President in 2004.” In order to match the results of the official tally, the Adjusted National Poll was forced to depict an electorate that voted for Bush over Kerry by a 6% margin in 2004, more than twice the “actual” margin of 2.8%, taken charitably at face value for the purposes of this analysis.

As might be expected, other yardsticks were also affected: Bush approval increases to 43%; Congressional approval to 37%; and Party ID shifts to an implausible 38% Democratic, 36% Republican.

There were, as we identified earlier, indications that the Weighted National Poll itself may have undersampled voters who cast their votes for the Democratic House candidates.17 The Adjusted National Poll compounds such distortions in order to present an electorate cut to fit the official vote totals. If such an adjusted poll yields inaccurate and distorted information about the demographics and voting patterns of the electorate, then very basic logic tells us that the vote count it was forced to match is itself invalid. This of course corroborates the story told by the Weighted National Poll, as well as by the pre-election polls, as shown in the graph below.18

See Appendix 1 for detailed tabular presentation of the above data.

17 To the extent that weighting is based on prior turnout patterns, a significant shift in the turnout dynamic, as was apparent in E2006, would be one cause for this undersampling. A second and more disturbing cause: “actual” results from recent elections, which themselves have been vulnerable to and distorted by electronic mistabulation, fed into the weighting algorithms.

18 The 11.5% Democratic margin in the Weighted National Poll was strictly congruent with the 11.5% average margin of the seven major national public opinion polls conducted immediately prior to the election. Indeed, this 11.5% pre-election margin was drawn down substantially by the appearance of three election-week “outlier” polls, which strangely came in at 7%, 6%, and 4% respectively. To put this in perspective, excluding these three polls, 30 of the 31 other major national polls published from the beginning of October up to the election showed the Democratic margin to be in double-digits, and the single exception came in at 9% (http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2006/house/us/generic_congressional_ballot-22.html). It is also worth noting that most pre-election polls shift, in the month before the election, to a "likely-voter cutoff model" (LCVM) that excludes entirely any voters not highly likely (on the basis of a battery of screening questions) to cast ballots; that is, it excludes entirely voters with a 25% or even 50% likelihood of voting. Since these are disproportionately transients and first-time voters, the less educated and affluent, it is also a correspondingly Democratic constituency that is disproportionately excluded. Ideally these voters should be down-weighted to their estimated probability of voting, but that probability is not 0%. By excluding them entirely, these pre-election polls build in a pro-Republican bias of about 2-5%, which anomalously in 2006 appears to have been offset by the significantly greater enthusiasm for voting on the part of the Democrats, reflected in an elevated LCVM failure rate among Republicans responding negatively or ambivalently to the battery question about their intention to vote in E2006. Dr. Steven Freeman, visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Organizational Dynamics, has examined this phenomenon in great detail. Of course, one of the reasons for the recent shift to the LVCM—a methodology that pollsters will generally admit is distorted but which they maintain nonetheless “gets it right”—is that pollsters are (i>not paid for methodological purity, they are paid to get it right. From the pollster’s standpoint, getting it right is the measure of their success whether the election is honest or the fix is in. The reality is that distorted vote counts and a distorted but “successful” pre-election polling methodology wind up corroborating and validating each other, with only the exit polls (drawn from actual voters) seeming out of step.


Plausible Explanations?

Since, as we have seen, the Weighted National Poll’s inclusion of Democratic voters (or, better put, voters with characteristics making them likely to vote Democratic) either jibes with or falls somewhat short of established benchmarks for the electorate, there are only two possible explanations for the dramatic disparity between it and the official vote count: either Republicans unexpectedly turned out in droves and routed the Democrats in the E2006 turnout battle, or the official vote count is dramatically “off.”

To our knowledge no one has contended the former. With good reason: there are a plethora of measures, including individual precinct tallies and additional polling data that we will examine in the next section, that confirm the obvious—the Democrats were the runaway winners of the 2006 Get-Out-The-Vote battle. Indeed it is generally acknowledged that Republican voters stayed home in droves, dismayed and turned-off by the late-breaking run of scandals, bad news, and missteps.19

Hence it must be the reported nationwide vote tally which is inaccurate. Although this is, to put it mildly, an unwelcome finding, it is unfortunately consonant with the many specific incidents of vote-switching and mistabulation reported in 2006, with an apparent competitive-contest targeting pattern,20 and with a host of other evidence and analysis that has emerged about electronic voting technology as deployed in the United States.

19 Indeed, once on-going analysis fully quantifies the extent of the Democrats’ turnout victory, it will be time to recalculate upward the magnitude of the vote miscount in 2006.

20 Our paper on competitive contest targeting is scheduled for publication in August 2007.


So Why Did The Republicans Lose?

It will no doubt be objected that if such substantial manipulation of the vote counts is possible, why would it stop short of bringing about a general electoral victory? While we would naturally like to credit the heightened scrutiny engendered by the untiring efforts of election integrity groups, an awakening media, and a more informed and vigilant public; an alternative, more chilling, explanation has emerged--simply that the mechanics of manipulation (software modules, primarily; see Appendix 3) had to be deployed before late-breaking pre-election developments21 greatly expanded the gap that such manipulation would have been calibrated to cover.

To quantify the extraordinary effect of the various "October surprises," we reference the Cook Political Report National Tracking Poll's Generic Congressional Ballot, ordinarily a rather stable measure:22

Thus the Democratic margin among most likely voters increased from 9% (50% - 41%) to 26% (61% - 35%) during the month of October, a 17% jump occurring after the vote-shifting mechanisms were, or could be, deployed.

It should be noted that among the various tracking polls, there were some that did not pick up the dramatic trend reflected in the Cook poll. Indeed, Cook’s own parallel tracking poll of all registered voters (not screened for likelihood of turnout) found only a modest gain of 2% in the Democratic margin over the same period. This is indicative of the phenomenon to which we have already made reference: what most boosted the Democrats during the month of October was an extraordinary gain in the relative motivation and likelihood of turning out among their voters. It supports our belief that it was primarily the exceptional turnout differential, understandably missed by exit polls calibrated to historical turnout patterns, that would have given the Democrats an even greater victory than the 11.5% reflected by the Weighted National Poll, in an honestly and accurately counted election.

21 The powerful impact of the succession of lurid scandals (Foley, Haggard, Sheerwood, et al) is clear from the Weighted National Poll responses in which voters were asked about the importance of "corruption/ethics:" 41% responded "extremely important" and another 33% "very important," the highest response of all the "importance" questions, outstripping even the importance of "terrorism." Iraq, another source of late-breaking negatives for the GOP, also scored high on the importance scale (36% "extremely," with this category breaking for the Democrats 61% - 38%).

22 http://www.cookpolitical.com/poll/ballot.php.


The 2006 Election gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress, by margins of 31 seats (233 – 202) in the House and two seats (51 – 49) in the Senate. The Democrats won 20 House races and four Senate races by margins of 6% of the vote or less.23 The odds are very good that the outcomes of most if not all of these races would have been reversed a month earlier, post-deployment of vote shifting mechanisms but pre-October surprises, before the resulting dramatic movement to the Democrats as reflected in the 17% Generic Ballot jump. The ballpark sans-October Surprise numbers: 222R – 213D in the House and 53R – 47D in the Senate.

Absent a very Blue October, which came too late to be countered by deployment of additional vote-shifting mechanisms, we can conclude that, with the assistance of the vote-shifting mechanisms already deployed, the Republicans would almost certainly have maintained control of both houses of Congress.

This should be a rather sobering observation for Democrats looking ahead to their electoral future and assessing to what extent the system is broken as they contemplate the various legislative proposals for reform.24

23 In the House: four races by 1%, four races by 2%, one race by 3%, 5 races by 4%, one race by 5%, five races by 6%, one race by 7%, five races by 8%, two races by 9%; in the Senate: two races by 1%, one race by 3%, one race by 6%, one race by 8%.

24 If we are correct in our assessment that the limitations on vote shifting were more temporal than spatial—that is, had more to do with timing of deployment than with the potential size of the shift—then only extraordinary and unanticipated eleventh-hour pre-election surges a la E2006 will suffice to overcome future foul play. However, whatever quantitative limits may apply to electronic vote shifting, it should obviously not be necessary to enjoy super-majority support in order to eke out electoral victories.


There is a remarkable degree of consensus among computer scientists,25 security professionals,26 government agencies,27 and independent analysts28 that U.S. electronic vote tallying technology is vulnerable both to unintentional programming errors29 and to deliberate manipulation—certainly by foul-play-minded insiders at voting equipment vendors, but also by other individuals with access to voting equipment hardware or software.30

We have arrived at a system of “faith-based” voting where we are simply asked to trust the integrity of the count produced by the secret-software machines that tally our votes, without effective check mechanisms. In the context of yet another election replete with reported problems with vote tallying,31 the continuing mismatch between the preferences expressed by voters as captured in national exit polls and the official vote tally as reported to the public is beyond disturbing. It is a bright red flag that no one who values a democratic America can in good conscience ignore.

False elections bequeath to all Americans—right, left, and center—nothing less sinister than an illusory identity and the living of a national lie. Our biennial elections, far more than the endless parade of opinion polls, define America—both in terms of who occupies its seats of power and as the single snapshot that becomes the enduring national self-portrait that all Americans carry in their mental wallets for at least the biennium and more often for an era. It is also, needless to say, the portrait we send abroad.

While the reported results of the 2006 election were certainly well-received by the Democratic party and were ballpark-consistent with public expectations of a Democratic victory, the unadjusted 2006 exit poll data indicates that what has been cast as a typical midterm setback for a struggling president in his second term was something rather more remarkable – a landslide repudiation of historic proportions.

We believe that the demographic validity of the Weighted National Poll in 2006 is the clearest possible warning that the ever-growing catalog of reported vulnerabilities in America’s electronic vote counting systems are not only possible to exploit, they are actually being exploited. To those who would rush to find “innocent” explanations on an ad hoc basis for the cascade of mathematical evidence that continues to emerge, we ask what purpose is served and what comfort is given by relying on a series of implausible alibis to dispel concerns and head off effective reform?

The vulnerability is manifest; he stakes are enormous; the incentive is obvious; the evidence is strong and persistent. Any system so clearly at risk of interference and gross manipulation can not and must not be trusted to tally the votes in any future elections.


25 For instance http://www.acm.org/usacm/weblog/index.php?cat=6.

26 See the credentials of the interdisciplinary Brennan Center Task Force membership at

27 http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d05956.pdf.

28 See http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVtsxstudy.pdf, http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVtsxstudysupp.pdf, and http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVreport.pdf.

29 Credible reports of voting equipment malfunctions are all too common; one good starting point is

30 For example, http://brennancenter.org/programs/downloads/SecurityFull7-3Reduced.pdf.

31 Election 2006 incidents at http://www.votersunite.org/electionproblems.asp.

2. Exit Poll Screen Captures

Exit poll screen capture files will be posted at http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/ExitPollData after the release of this report.

Apprendix 2 - NEP Methodology 2004 and 2007


November 2, 2004


Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International conducted exit polls in each state and nationally for the National Election Pool (ABC, AP, CBS, CNN, FOX, NEC). The polls should be referred to as a National Election Pool (or NEP) Exit Poll, conducted by Edison/Mitofsky. All questionnaires were prepared by NEP.

The National exit poll was conducted at a sample of 250 polling places among 11,719 Election Day voters representative of the United States.

In addition, 500 absentee and/or early voters in 13 states were interviewed in a pre-election telephone poll. Absentee or early voters were asked the same questions asked at the polling place on Election Day. The absentee results were combined in approximately the correct proportion with voters interviewed at the polling places. The states where absentee/early voters were interviewed for the National exit poll are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington state. Absentee voters in these states made up 13% of the total national vote in the 2000 presidential election. Another 3% of the 2000 total vote was cast absentee in other states in 2000 and where there is no absentee/early voter telephone poll.

The polling places were selected as a stratified probability sample of each state. A subsample of the state samples was selected at the proper proportions for the National exit poll. Within each polling place an interviewer approached every nth voter as he or she exited the polling place. Approximately 100 voters completed a questionnaire at each polling place. The exact number depends on voter turnout and their cooperation.

For the national tabulations used to analyze an election, respondents are weighted based upon two factors. They are: (1) the probability of selection of the precinct and the respondent within the precinct; (2) by the size and distribution of the best estimate of the vote within geographic subregions of the nation. The second step produces consistent estimates at the time of the tabulation whether from the tabulations or an estimating model used to make an estimate of the national popular vote. At other times the estimated national popular vote may differ somewhat from the national tabulations.

All samples are approximations. A measure of the approximation is called the sampling error. Sampling error is affected by the design of the sample, the characteristic being measured and the number of people who have the characteristic. If a characteristic is found in roughly the same proportions in all precincts the sampling error will be lower. If the characteristic is concentrated in a few precincts the sampling error will be larger. Gender would be a good example of a characteristic with a lower sampling error. Characteristics for minority racial groups will have larger sampling errors.

The table below lists typical sampling errors for given size subgroups for a 95% confidence interval. The values in the table should be added and subtracted from the characteristic's percentage in order to construct an interval. 95% of the intervals created this way will contain the value that would be obtained if all voters were interviewed using the same procedures. Other non-sampling factors, including nonresponse, are likely to increase the total error.

* chart bolding ours

From National Election Pool FAQs 2007

What is the Margin of Error for an exit poll?
Every number estimated from a sample may depart from the official vote count. The difference between a sample result and the number one would get if everyone who cast a vote was interviewed in exactly the same way is called the sampling error. That does not mean the sample result is wrong. Instead, it refers to the potential error due to sampling. The margin of error for a 95% confidence interval is about +/- 3% for a typical characteristic from the national exit poll and +/-4% for a typical state exit poll.* Characteristics that are more concentrated in a few polling places, such as race, have larger sampling errors. Other nonsampling factors may increase the total error.

* bolding ours

Appendix 3 – Mechanics of Vote Manipulation

Practical Constraints on any Nationwide Covert Vote Manipulation Capability

Some critics of the initial draft of this paper released in November 2006 questioned whether it was possible that a systematic tabulation bias could ever be deployed to electronic voting equipment on a nationwide scale without being detected. Others claimed that if that capability truly existed, it should guarantee that one party would remain in permanent control.

The technical and logistical challenges inherent in any attempt to secretly corrupt vote tabulation on a nationwide basis are of course hardly trivial, but expert consensus is that there are multiple credible methods. We believe that the potential methods that could feasibly be used to implement widespread electronic vote manipulation on a national scale with a high probability of remaining undetected are such that a significant lead time would be required prior to the election. There is therefore a risk that any unexpected late-breaking pre-election developments could overcome a pre-programmed bias.

Voting systems risk assessment

Modern American electronic voting systems are geographically dispersed, distributed computer systems which are used intensively but infrequently. The end-to-end voting systems contain thousands of central tabulators and hundreds of thousands of in-precinct voting devices, all of which are purchased, maintained, upgraded, programmed, tested and used in actual elections in over 170,000 precincts across the United States on irregular schedules.

Through hands-on access, individual voting machines can be compromised one at a time through a variety of well-documented exploits.32 But the sheer number of devices in use makes hands-on vote manipulation on a national scale a massively labor-intensive enterprise. The more individuals that are involved, the greater the likelihood of disclosure. The very ability successfully to orchestrate the collective behavior of tens of thousands of devices to achieve a desired outcome—election after election, without being detected—would depend on minimizing the number of people involved and so would require a significant degree of sophistication.

Undetected widespread vote count corruption would certainly be not only the greatest computer security exploit of all time, it would be the greatest—and, in terms of the ultimate stakes, most lucrative—undetected crime in history. One must presume that any individuals capable of successfully pulling off such an exploit are clever, ruthless, and utterly determined to cover their tracks. We would not expect them to display naiveté nor simplicity, but rather to act at every step to preserve total secrecy of their presence and activities.

Voting system attacks that minimize the number of people involved

The June 2006 Brennan Center report described in great detail precisely how software patches, ballot definition files, and memory cards could be used to enable just one individual to alter the outcome of an election conducted either on touchscreen DREs33 or on optical scan equipment.34

As the Brennan Center report notes:

. . . [I]n a close statewide election . . . “retail” attacks, or attacks on individual polling places, would not likely affect enough votes to change the outcome. By contrast, the less difficult attacks are centralized attacks: these would occur against the entire voting system and allow an attacker to target many votes with few informed participants.

Least difficult among these less difficult attacks would be attacks that use Software Attack Programs. The reason is relatively straightforward: a software attack allows a single knowledgeable person (or, in some cases, small group of people) to reach hundreds or thousands of machines. For instance, software updates and patches are often sent to jurisdictions throughout a state. Similarly, replaceable media such as memory cards and ballot definition files are generally programmed at the county level (or at the vendor) and sent to every polling place in the county.

These attacks have other benefits: unlike retail denial-of-service attacks, or manual shut off of machine functions, they could provide an attacker's favored candidate with a relatively certain benefit (i.e., addition of x number of votes per machine attacked). And if installed in a clever way, these attacks have a good chance of eluding the standard inspection and testing regimens currently in place.35

Long-term evasion of detection

Since it is clear that the motivation exists to take covert control of electronic voting in the United States and that there are credible mechanisms for a small number of malicious insiders at voting equipment vendors to do so, long-term success boils down to evading detection—and so maintaining this power over time. One critical element of maintaining long-term secrecy would be the tradeoff of carefully calibrating the degree of vote manipulation to avoid attracting suspicion, while also ensuring the desired political outcome.

An individual in the position to introduce a covert vote manipulation software component into the operating system, firmware, device driver, or voting application itself would want to minimize risk of future detection and maximize the ease of changing the outcome of future contests. Ideally covert vote manipulation logic itself should be built into the machine as close to the factory as possible, rather than requiring redistribution of malicious program logic every election cycle; any change to the logic of a complex system could introduce new errors into the behavior of “benign” tabulation logic. And since political circumstances change, not all contests, elections and machines would be subject to the same type and degree of vote manipulation in every election, or the existence of the “Trojan Horse” itself would become all too evident.

Perhaps the easiest method to achieve both goals—long-term secrecy and long-term flexibility—is to introduce a general-purpose vote manipulation component which remains hidden within in the voting equipment for a long period of time, and which can be activated on demand by receipt of an external trigger. The trigger would not only activate the malicious software, but would also contain a parameter defining the size of the manipulation to implement. This is far from science fiction; parameterization is a basic computer software technique in use since the dawn of computing, and parameterization of voting equipment exploits is a powerful attack that is certainly technically feasible.36

Although of course we cannot know for certain in the absence of a proper investigation whether this was actually done in 2006, there is strong support for a hypothesis that the logistics of introducing malicious programming on a targeted nationwide basis is both technically feasible and would likely require a substantial lead time, necessitating deployment prior to this past October’s “perfect storm.”


32 See footnotes 16-22 above.

33 Brennan Center June 2006 Report: "The Machinery of Democracy: Protecting Elections in an Electronic World," pp. 34 - 40.

34 ibid, p. 78.

35 ibid, p.48

36 ibid, p. 38.

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The Ponzi Scheme of Election Machine Certification

The EAC Certification Ponzi Scheme

by Nancy Tobi

The 2002 Help America Vote Act (sic) put in place an Executive Commission called the Election Assistance Commission. Among other responsibilities, the EAC is tasked with administering a certification program for voting equipment used in the nation.

Since 2003 billions of American taxpayer dollars have been washed through the EAC, back to the taxpayers via the States, which then used the funds to purchase highly defective voting equipment from companies of questionable intent.

The EAC promised that in addition to the payback for electronic voting machines, the return on this investment will be a crackerjack election system, secure from risks of failure and tampering.

But what's happened to our investment?

Anyone following the news these days knows, of course, that the nation's election systems are far from secure. In fact, a close look at the whole EAC certification program reveals it to be a complete illusion.

American taxpayers are now left with crummy products, a compromised election system, and a federally sanctioned certification program that can not possibly deliver on its promise.

In legal terms, when an operator takes money from investors, promising returns on a product that doesn't really exist, it's called a Ponzi scheme.

This is the premise of the following presentation, which was delivered last Saturday afternoon at the We Count Conference in Cleveland, Ohio.

Click to download full-length PDF

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Democracy Is Worth the Wait: No Early Concessions

A Citizen Call to Respect the Vote Counting Process

Contact the Candidates you Support and Make Your Expectation Clear
Premature Concessions or Claims of Victory are an Insult to Democracy


Candidates have no right to concede a race (or claim victory) if votes remain uncounted,
if recounts are being called for, if allegations of election misconduct exist. Elections are
not personal contests between the individual candidates. They are the only basis for
legitimate transfer of power in our government, based upon the Will of the People. It is
the votes that determine the winner, not the candidates, therefore candidates have no
right to short circuit the process, but have a duty to the voters to respect it.

Shaken Confidence and Illegitimate Results:

Since 2000, the American public has become painfully aware of the damaged and shaky condition of our
election process. Over the past six years, elections across the nation have produced outcomes that
many Americans suspect are illegitimate. From Presidential elections to local elections, American voters have lost faith that their precious votes will be counted as cast. They question whether the election outcomes are truly reflecting the Will of the People.

History of Devastating Concessions: Will of the People Ignored

In 2000, many Americans watched in dismay as no U.S. Senator would join with the Congressional Black
Caucus to challenge the electors in Florida that emerged from a chaotic and aborted election.
Apparently some Senators who might have stood with them were persuaded by Senator (and
Presidential candidate) Al Gore not to do so. In 2004, Senator (and Presidential candidate) John Kerry conceded the race in the deciding state of Ohio before the vote count was complete and long before recounts and challenges would be decided. His concession came despite his later statement that “There are very troubling questions that have not yet been answered by Ohio election officials”. Despite Kerry’s available funds and lawyers, it took concerned citizens and third party candidates to actually mount a campaign for a recount in Ohio. More recently we had the 2006 election in California’s HD 50, where election integrity was compromised when election workers took voting machines home for “sleepovers” in the weeks before the election. This flawed election went unchallenged by the “losing” candidate and by her political party. Once again, citizen activists mounted the challenge to the election’s integrity and outcome.

Demoralizing Effect of Candidate Concessions:

Concerned citizens who challenge suspect election outcomes have too often found themselves brushed
aside with the statement that “The candidate already conceded. Why are you upset?” While Al Gore
and John Kerry are the two most high profile candidates to break trust with the voters, candidates at all levels of government need to understand that they are expected to commit themselves to ensuring that elections reflect the Will of the People.

Take Action:

Candidates must stand up to the political “schoolyard bullies” who will taunt them with cries of “Sore Loser.” They must put aside their concerns about possible future political comebacks. They must put the voters, the country, and the integrity of our elections first! Please join us in demanding that every candidate respects the integrity of the election process and waits to claim victory or concede defeat until ALL the votes are counted.

Download and distribute by clicking the file attachment immediately below.

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Call for Open, Public Debate on HR 811

By Nancy Tobi

There is a raging and often destructive debate among voting activists. The source of the discord is "The Holt Bill," a piece of federal election reform legislation named for its primary author, Democratic Congressman Rush Holt from the great state of New Jersey. The destructive nature of the exchanges among activists has led some of us who oppose the bill to propose, in the best of our American democratic traditions, a public debate on the merits of the bill.

We who oppose believe anything that stands to so dramatically transform, and possibly violate, the nature of American democracy deserves robust public debate, based on facts and principle.

Congress has already held its so-called public hearings on the bill, but those hearings were stacked with many pro-811 witnesses, and the few opponents of the legislation were not debating what we oppositional citizens believe are the real issues that need a good, public airing:

* The bill violates state sovereignty and cements control over the nation's voting systems in the hands of four white house appointees.
* The bill codifies into federal law the use of secret vote counting technologies in the United States of America.
* The bill mandates impossible, ineffective and controversial audit and reporting requirements and timetables.
* The bill confuses technology with democracy, embracing the tenets of the one over the other.
* The bill furthers the misguided and undemocratic direction initiated with the Help America Vote Act that replaces observable voting with verifiable voting

Unfortunately, in what appears to be a desperate desire to keep the rhetoric flying and the facts suppressed from any public discourse, supporters of the bill have refused every offer for real public debate.

Some of the more vocal supporters of the bill state that if we opponents are questioning the confusing language of the bill, it must be that we are not as "intelligent" as they are. Sort of like the way a sales person for an exclusive item will look down his nose and tell you, "if you have to ask what it costs, you obviously can't afford it."

If we have to ask what this bill means to our democracy, we are obviously in the wrong shop.

I, for one, would like to see robust debate on the merits of this complex bill. For one thing, the principles of democracy are at stake.

The American people deserve to hear honest debate on if and how this proposed election reform supports the fundamental principles of American democracy without which our elections are nothing but a sham.

As well, the language of the 62 page bill is so dangerously ambiguous in so many critical areas, that we ought to expose the ambiguities to the light before HR811 becomes the law of the land and our elections are thrown to the courts to decide what means what.

And finally, public debate is called for because of the complex, often conflicting, and seemingly impossible and impractical requirements of the bill. These requirements are outrageously expensive, the costs of which will be borne in large part by American property taxpayers as the nation's towns, cities, and counties struggle to meet the bill's unfunded high tech mandates.

And a careful analysis of the bill's timelines, equations, and reporting requirements indicates they just don't seem to add up to anything that will actually work in the real world. This fundamental flaw in the bill puts every state in the nation at risk if it forces them to try to run legal elections when the law itself is unsupportable.

This is not the birthright of democracy the framers of the U.S. Constitution bequeathed us.

The Holt Bill, in its former incarnation as HR 550, languished in committee under the former Republican majority, and was never released to the full House for a vote. With the Democratic takeover, the bill resurfaced in its current incarnation, HR 811. Within days of the November 2006 victory, Dem leaders were predicting the swift passage of election reform. They were going to "own" the issue that had been stymied under the Republican rule.

Unfortunately, the new leadership was stuck holding the same moldy bag of election reform that had been decaying in the former Republican majority's pantry. And time was not kind to the Holt Bill. As it languished, its unpleasant odor wafted through the ranks of citizen activists, many of whom, one by one, began to experience an unmistakable squeamishness about the bill.

When HR 550 was whisked out of the pantry, washed down, spiced up, and placed on the table of the House Administration Committee in its new form as HR 811, many former supporters found they could no longer stomach the bill, even in its shiny new form. One might even say, especially in its shiny new form.

The ranks of ordinary citizens, who laboriously studied the bill and its implications, the nation's election officials, counties, legislators, and even the e-voting industry itself, uniformly rose in loud and raucous opposition to its passage.

HR 811 quickly became a disputed and controversial bill, left only with its primary supporters being well funded lobbying groups like Common Cause, MoveOn, TrueMajority, Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA.

Nonetheless, rumors abounded that the bill was going to be "fast tracked" through the Committee, on to the House floor, where it would be swiftly passed by a leadership-sponsored "unity" Democratic vote and dropped into the laps of the American people.

But apparently the bill's controversial nature has slowed down the fast track. Now the bill sits on the table, waiting for someone to take a bite. But while it is tempting and delectable to some activists and their seemingly well funded lobbyists, others of us are as repelled by the odor emanating from the bill as ever before.

The arguments proposed by HR 811 proponents are as effective in addressing the problems of the bill as spitting on a house on fire:

* "This is the best bill we can get passed by Congress."
* "If we don't pass this bill now we won't have any election reform in place for 2008."
* "Even if the bill supports secret vote counting, at least we'll force the states to conduct election audits."
* "At least our elections will be, if not observable by the citizenry, verifiable by 'qualified' persons and 'experts'."
* "If you oppose the bill you are not as intelligent as we are."

The problem is that the defects of the bill are not small and can not be dismissed, as has been attempted with each new version of the bill, through copyediting, wordsmithing, and vagaries of text. In fact, the bill's flaws touch - at the deepest levels - our very notions, ideals, traditions, and fundamental constitutional rights with respect to American democracy.

In a recent email exchange inviting Holt proponents to a public debate, activist and attorney Paul Lehto was accused by a central Holt Bill proponent of "blowing hot air and quoting 18th century statesmen." Does this mean that this particular HR 811 proponent, whose organization has recently hired a high powered lobbyist just to get the bill passed, agrees with what George W. Bush is rumored to have stated, that our Constitution is "just a piece of paper"?

God bless Paul Lehto for quoting "18th century statesmen." They are the revolutionary spirits and first American patriots, who rose in opposition to a centralized power that used its authority to make bad and dangerous decisions for the people of this country. It is to them that we owe our freedoms and our dignities.

It is not enough for us to breeze past their messages and to sit content in our air conditioned homes, driving our Mercedes, eating our abundance of food.

Our country, the United States of America, was founded on ideals and principles, the principles of freedom and democracy, bolstered by robust public dissent, dialog, and debate. It is the strength of these principles that have enabled us to become the greatest superpower on earth. It is the words of those "18th century statesmen" that we must shine like a beacon to light for us the way forward, to remind us that our country is a country of the rule of law, and the basis and foundation for that rule of law is the U.S. Constitution.

This revolutionary document and declaration of democratic principles, written in the midst of much public debate and honest dissent and discourse, has stood the test of time. Our Constitution must be in the forefront of everything we do when tinkering with anything as crucial as the foundation of our democracy: our elections.

Lehto provides this quote from 18th century statesman, American patriot and founder James Madison:

. . . [T]he Declaration of Independence is the ring-bolt to the chain of your nation's destiny. . . . The principles contained in that instrument are saving principles. Stand by those principles, be true to them on all occasions, in all places, against all foes, and at whatever cost." --James Madison

Lehto also reminds us that the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence are clear: we the people are the masters, our elected officials are the servants. Our democracy guarantees us the right to "kick the bums out" when our servants are misbehaving. And this means that we can not allow our elected representatives to enact laws facilitating the rigging of our elections, debasing the tenets of our democracy, and enshrining secret vote counting, which is the foundation of fascism and not democracy.

Lehto, like Madison, reminds us that this right is worth defending, at whatever the cost.

We who oppose HR 811 believe that a public debate on the merits of this legislation is not too high a cost to pay in defense of our country.

EAC Certification as a Ponzi Scheme: Summary

The Election Assistance Commission's
Voting Equipment Certification Program
as a Ponzi Scheme

 The Holt Bill perpetuates a failed system of electronic voting that was created in large part by the Help America Vote Act, which HR 811 amends. The report "Voting Machines as a Ponzi Scheme" (http://www.democracyfornewhampshire.com/node/view/3505 ) explains this failure in an analysis of the EAC Voting Equipment Certification Program.

The report contends the Program is a Ponzi scheme in which American taxpayers are asked to invest in a never ending cycle of investment for a product that is, in fact, an illusion. The initial payback came in the form of HAVA disbursements, but is now a financial bleed.

The report explains that the EAC system can not possibly work for the following reasons:

a. The guidelines in and of themselves are impossible to attain and contradict the standards of democratic elections.

    The technology standards are above and beyond what is required for a voting system, and the complexities of the recommended technologies further obscure the vote casting and counting processes, which is in direct contradiction of transparency and citizen oversight required for democratic elections.

b. The timelines for implementation do not sync up with reality.

    The 2005 EAC Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG I) becomes law in Dec. 2007, but EAC test labs will not have their test suites complete until at least 2010, the manufacturers will not have proper specs for their equipment until the test suites are available, at which time they will need time to develop, test and certify the products.

c. The financial model does not work.

    Voting jurisdictions operate on a 10-15 year lifecycle for their voting equipment, but the EAC program is operating (on its face) on a 2-3 year cycle, in which new requirements are defined which obsolete all existing equipment. Voting jurisdictions can not financially afford this approach, and neither will the American taxpayers agree to continue to subsidize the voting industry, particularly in view of the poor record the industry has to date in terms of delivering reliable, accurate, and secure products.

For more information contact:

Nancy Tobi

PonziSummary.pdf13.21 KB

Riverside County Urged to Dump Sequoia DREs: A Citizen Plea

Honorable Riverside County Board of Supervisors and Registrar of Voters,

There comes a time to abandon a company that cannot be trusted. Sequoia’ s days are numbered and so should the days that Riverside County continues to hang on to a secret vote counting system controlled by foreign nationals with interests generally considered to be contrary to the U.S.’

1. On October 14, 2005, Antonio Mujica, CEO of Smartmatic, was refused entry into the United States. His Visa was revoked by the U.S. Embassy in Venezuela. See (http://www.vcrisis.com/index.php?content=letters/200510160629)

VotersUnite.Org’s Information Manager, John Gideon said, “The irony of this situation shows how irrational the administration of elections in the U.S. has become. While U.S. law allows this Venezuelan man to control the secret counting of Americans’ votes, the U.S. State Department doesn’t consider him fit to enter the country, even temporarily.”

The organization's Executive Director, Ellen Theisen, added, “It’s also ironic that when we take vote-counting to Iraq, we take it in the form of paper ballots deposited into clear plastic ballot boxes, but in our own country, vote-counting is in the form of electronic ballots and secret software controlled by a man our government has declared ineligible to set foot in the country.”

2. Recently (in the last 60 days) the federal government initiated an investigation into the Sequoia/Smartmatic purchase which may have violated U.S. laws – allowing a foreign company to control voting systems in the U.S.

3. Today we learn the Brennan Center has to issue a special media alert after Sequoia tried to claim ""Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge, a touch screen Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting system, received the top usability rating of any voting machine in the Brennan Center for Justice ", along with two other fallacious claims. The Brennan Center release, below, states "Nothing could be further from the truth".


4. Please support legislation introduced today by Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold and Christopher Dodd to reimburse counties for making paper ballots available to all voters.


The election integrity community in Riverside County will NOT stand by quietly while our election system (costing many, many millions more than the purchase price) utilizes equipment and secret software that make it impossible for citizens to verify the reported outcome. A total cost calculator will be issued by the Brennan Center next week to show what E-Voting is REALLY costing us. It will show what we have been telling you all along – it is incredibly expensive and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, while at the same time providing no security that our votes are counted as cast.

As Art Cassel told you on September 12th, it is YOU who are out of sync with the American public – 90%+ of survey respondents believe that electronic voting machines should NOT be utilized until/unless it can be proven they cannot be manipulated. And as the Princeton University hack of last week clearly demonstrated, E-Voting machines CAN be easily hacked, opened with a mini-bar key, the result completely reversed, and no trace left behind. Not even the election officials or the Board of Supervisors would know unless they were personally involved.

There are many outstanding uses for computers. But electrons and elections do not mix.

Tom Courbat



Written by ReformNY

Sunday, 24 September 2006

On Wednesday, Sequoia voting systems issued a press release claiming that their AVC edge received a "top usability rating of any voting machine" in our usability study. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sequoia makes at least three misstatement of facts:

1) "Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge receives best rating in new Brennan Center report on usability."

2) "Sequoia Voting Systems' AVC Edge, a touch screen Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting system, received the top usability rating of any voting machine in the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law's recent report."

3) "Sequoia's AVC Edge, which was used statewide in Nevada for the 2004 presidential election, produced a residual vote rate of 0.3% - significantly lower than all other comparable systems."

All of these statements are untrue. First, and most simply, the Report does not rate any voting systems. The first two statements are therefore patently false.

Second, as explained on page 16 of our usability report, because no states other than Nevada include a "none of the above option", which reduces the residual (or lost) vote rate, and because no states other than Nevada used the DRE system with VVPT, the Report states that the data for the DRE system with VVPT "are too limited to draw any conclusions regarding residual vote rates," and that the .3% residual voter rate "is not directly comparable to that produced by other jurisdictions with different ballot options." Therefore, Sequoia's statements that suggest a comparison of the Sequoia Voting System with other voting machines are false and misleading.

Finally, Sequoia uses these misstatements to suggest that New Yorkers should purchase their full face DREs. But one thing is quite clear from our study: full face DREs have significantly higher residual vote (or lost vote) rates than other electronic voting systems. So the Brennan Center study most certainly does not make this suggestion.

An Exit Strategy for Electronic Voting

By Bruce O'Dell

Original Article at

Even though there are fundamental technical considerations which should rule out use of electronic vote tallying technology, some of my Information Technology colleagues are still trying hard to salvage it (see, for example, the web site of the research group called

When it comes to electronic voting technology, we do not need a better mousetrap – we need an exit strategy.

I've done my best to explain why, in detail, elsewhere – but the main points bear repeating.

Voting systems are national defense systems (!) deserving the highest level of protection. Undetected compromise of our nation's voting systems is equivalent to our being invaded and occupied by a foreign power, since the American people lose control of their lives and destinies in either case - except that "coup by covert election manipulation" occurs under the reassuring guise of business as usual. I am ashamed that my profession has enabled voting systems to be deployed with mechanisms inadequate to protect mere financial transactions - much less, to safeguard the foundation of our national sovereignty.

Voting is inherently hard to protect. All the conventional techniques for electronic auditing of transactions rely on strong proofs of identity and complete transparency. We can conduct electronic financial transactions well enough that embezzlement is the exception and not the rule because all counterparties to a financial transaction are required to provide strong, legal proof of identity to the others, all parties to electronic financial transactions are strongly motivated to verify accuracy of results, and the laws regulating resolution of financial disputes are mature. None of these conditions apply to voting.

Voting is private and anonymous. You cannot provide a voter with a record of her transaction sufficient to prove how she voted after the fact (or you enable sale of votes, coercion and a host of other problems...). But if you do not provide such an unambiguous receipt, all that electronic vote-auditing protocols can do is simply enshrine a computer's assertion that it recorded your touch on a screen or your mark on an optical scan ballot as you intended.

Any program that generates an electronic audit trail -- no matter how complex -- can easily be programmed to consistently lie about what truly happened when your choice was presented to the machine for tallying. Electronic auditing of electronic vote tallying simply shifts the issue of trust from one suspect set of software to another.

Can we ensure that machines count our votes as cast?
Our only recourse to ensure correct electronic tallying is to generate an anonymous non-volatile receipt of the voter's choices, verified by the voter, retained by electoral authorities, and always audited - by hand - after the fact. And even this approach has limitations; for VVPATs (Voter-verified paper audit trails) there is ample evidence that many people do not actually "verify" their "PAT." Optical scan ballots are a much more desirable paper record.

OK - if we always have to audit the electronic tally, how should we do it?
The conventional approach is to have election insiders audit 100% of the vote in a few percent of the precincts, days or weeks after the election, in private beyond public view. If, of course, there are any paper ballot records to audit.

But as reported irregularities in Ohio in 2004 reveal, this approach is both inaccurate and highly vulnerable to gaming.

In response, Jonathan Simon, Steven Freeman, Josh Mitteldorf and I have just published a paper that recommends nothing less than a 10% in-precinct hand count of all paper ballot records to be done by the public and on election night, everywhere we allow electronic tallying. This will provide 99% certainty of detecting errors or deliberate manipulation, regardless of their source, that affect 1% or more of the official electronic tally. Nothing less will provide the indisputable statistical rationale to enable candidates to actually dispute a tainted election in a toxic political environment like the one we find ourselves mired in at the moment.

But all this begs the question: if we have to always hand-audit electronic vote tallies . . . then what, exactly, is the point of electronic tallying?

Requiring electronic voting to enable accommodation of voters with disabilities is a red herring – cheaper, better, non-computerized alternatives already exist.

And so we advocate a 10% hand count in 100% of the precincts only as a transitional step in an exit strategy for electronic voting. Because I for one firmly believe that wherever and whenever we actually do start hand-counting ballot records in public on election night, we will find such a catalog of horrors, such unconscionable sloppiness, such pervasive backdoor manipulation of the electronic tally that the American people will rise up and demand that we take back control of our elections into our own hands – and cast and count
our paper ballots ourselves.

I'm not accusing my colleagues – such as Avi Rubin, Director of ACCURATE – who are working to salvage electronic voting of "being on the take." In fact I commend their hard work to expose the risks of electronic voting. But, on the other hand, as a technology professional I would refuse to work on electronic voting systems because, for all of the above reasons, I believe it to be a violation of the professional code of ethics of the Association of Computing Machinery, the world's largest and oldest computer society - of which I am a member.

The ACM Code of Ethics states in part:

"Ethical tensions can best be addressed by thoughtful consideration of fundamental principles, rather than blind reliance on detailed regulations. These Principles should influence software engineers to consider broadly who is affected by their work; to examine if they and their colleagues are treating other human beings with due respect; to consider how the public, if reasonably well informed, would view their decisions; to analyze how the least empowered will be affected by their decisions; and to consider whether their acts would be judged worthy of the ideal professional working as a software engineer. In all these judgments concern for the health, safety and welfare of the public is primary; that is, the 'Public Interest' is central to this Code."

I say again: "to consider how the public, if reasonably well informed, would view their decisions." According to Zogby's latest poll, the American people, if properly informed, are hardly likely to continue to tolerate secret elections, run by insiders, "certified" by "experts", and tallied by machines. I prefer to stand with the people.

And again: The issue at hand is the integrity of the systems that grant sovereignty over the world's largest economy and only superpower military. There are overwhelming indications those systems can be and likely have been hijacked in pursuit of a radical agenda contrary to the wishes of the majority of the American people.

Beyond the technical considerations that preclude placing our trust in electronic vote tallying is the most important principle of all:
We, the people, have the inalienable right to run our own elections.

My colleagues working to salvage electronic voting are free to disagree. But I wonder why such a talented group is preoccupied with inventing a better voting mousetrap when the people are fully capable of running our elections in the absence of the inappropriate technologies that have precipitated our election integrity crisis.

In fact, there are a host of other, far more pressing problems that confront us technologists – consider that the public is just now waking up to one fact that security insiders have known for some time: the barbarians are at the gates of the internet. These are the kinds of problems that should demand our urgent attention so that we can protect and serve the public, who have become almost totally dependent on the technologies we provide them.

Author's Bio: Bruce O'Dell is a self-employed information technology consultant with more than twenty five years experience who applies his broad technical expertise to his work as an election integrity activist. He lives just outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, and shares a love of good books with his wife - and her beautiful garden, with their talkative cat.

LINKS to sources referenced in this article:

The ACCURATE project

O'Dell on Auditability

Cuyahoga recount indictments

HR550 Audit Accuracy paper.pdf


Also see Equalivote

ACM Code of Ethics

Zogby Poll

Scientific American article on Internet security

Critique of H.R. 550 Audit Methodology and EDA's Proposed Solution

The HR 550 Election Audit Methodology in U.S. Congressional Elections:
Fundamental Shortcomings and Proposed Solutions

By Bruce O’Dell, Jonathan D. Simon, JD,
Josh Mitteldorf, PhD, and Steven Freeman, PhD
on behalf of Election Defense Alliance.[1]

Downloads: Report on HR 550 Audit Deficiencies (PDF) / Press Release (PDF) / Calculator (PDF)

Our key finding is that in a typical U.S. Congressional race a hand-count audit of 100% of the vote in a random 2% of the precincts would fail about 40% of the time to detect vote count corruption large enough to alter the outcome. This result is derived theoretically and confirmed by computer simulation.

The purpose of this paper is to assess the accuracy and efficacy of the proposed election audit mechanism defined in HR 550, “Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005,” sponsored by Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey.[2] The audit requirement described in Section 5 of HR 550 calls for a mandatory hand count of 100% of the ballots in at least 2% of the precincts in each state, for each general election for federal office and, optionally, for state contests. This paper assesses the ability of the HR 550 hand count audit scheme to reliably uncover deliberate or accidental corruption of an electronic vote tally, through two complementary methods: (1) theoretical analysis of the statistical power of the HR 550 audit protocol and (2) computer simulation of the HR 550 protocol as it would be applied in auditing elections to the United States House of Representatives.

Our key finding is that in a typical U.S. Congressional race a hand-count audit of 100% of the vote in a random 2% of the precincts would fail about 40% of the time to detect vote count corruption large enough to alter the outcome. This result is derived theoretically and confirmed by computer simulation. Even in those cases where HR 550 can detect a discrepancy, there will often be only a single precinct in which corruption is detected. We question whether such a finding would be sufficient to trigger a recount, given a real world in which public perceptions have already been framed, and political
pressures to accept the initial count are substantial. HR 550 offers no guidelines or criteria for a mandatory recount. Instead, the decision is left to a commission appointed by the President and inherently subject to partisan pressure.

The problem with HR 550 is not solvable simply by sampling more precincts. In order to have a 99% confidence level of detecting outcome-altering vote count corruption affecting a small number of precincts in an average U.S. Congressional District, the HR 550 protocol would need to hand-count up to 65% of the total precincts. An alternative to HR 550 with high confidence of detection of outcomealtering vote count corruption is described, and its accuracy was also simulated; those results are presented as a potential alternative to HR 550 well worth exploring.

Since a 10% hand-count sample could be drawn in 100% of precincts on election night, the alternative has additional practical advantages: minimizing chain-of-custody concerns which are inherent to the HR 550 approach; starting the transition to universal hand-counting of elections; and placing responsibility for the integrity of the vote count in the hands of the American people, where it rightfully belongs.

1 See www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org for further information on Election Defense Alliance and for biographies of the
authors. Josh Mitteldorf is affiliated with the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona;
Steven Freeman is on the faculty of the Center for Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania.

2 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c109:H.R.550:

California's CD 50 Election: Why This Race is a Stark Warning to the Nation

Click here for an easy to print PDF version of this document.
Follow up story in NY Times

The election on June 6, 2006 to fill San Diego’s 50th Congressional District seat is extremely important to the entire nation and to our democracy. It is an ominous warning of chaos ahead because it highlights almost every unsolved dysfunction that plagues our broken election system today, namely:

* Suspicious, compromising activities involving electronic equipment that blatantly violate both Federal and State election standards,

* The counting of ballots without public oversight by unverified “trade secret” software,

* Serious unanswered questions about the “chain of custody” of equipment and ballots, receipts, tally cards, etc. both before and following the election,

* Unquestioning acceptance of declared results without any official analysis of the serious security breaches or their possible effects,

* Politicians, pundits and the general public taking the reported results and trying to “explain” them in political terms as if the results themselves are already proven accurate,

* Everyone’s rush to move on and leave the election behind,

* Total lack of investigation into how, how much and why the election protocols had been so compromised, leaving the burden of costly investigations or contests to candidates and voters,

* The alleged “loser” conceding before all votes are counted, and the alleged “victor” being sworn-in in a mock ceremony before the election is even certified,

* The absence of mainstream media coverage of all these issues,

* Citizens having NO basis for confidence in the reported results,

* Marginalizing patriotic citizens who demand election integrity and proof as “a few conspiracy theorists”

We face an electoral crisis in this country. The CD 50 election is a textbook case of the chronic problems, long in evidence, that have degraded our elections and put our very democracy at serious risk. We must stand up now for fair elections. Please join us.

United We Count
CD 50 Textbook Case of Dysfunction.pdf30.27 KB
CA Busby pre-election poll 7 point lead.pdf182.21 KB

Comments to Election Assistance Commission on Certification Manual

Last month the Election Assistance Commission accepted public comments on their draft Procedure Manual for Voting System and Certification Program. The Election Defense Alliance, in collaboration with Democracy for New Hampshire Fair Elections Committee, submitted these comments to the EAC.

EAC_Certification_Comments_Final.pdf44.56 KB

Democracy Is not a Spectator Sport

Originally published at




January 20, 2007

Democracy is Not A Spectator Sport and What "We The Patriots" Are Doing About That

By Joan Brunwasser

Democracy is Not A Spectator Sport and What We The Patriots Are Doing About That
By Joan Brunwasser, Voting Integrity Editor, January 18, 2007

All of the House co-sponsors of the bill formerly known as "HR 550" (the "Holt Bill") received a surprise package this week. This jumbo mailing contained almost two hundred copies of HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America, a collection of chapters about electronic vote fraud authored by experts from around the country such as Bev Harris, Lynn Landes, Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Victoria Collier, and others. Included with the book was a letter, a "Request By Voters", outlining why HR 550 needs to be amended in order to ensure that our elections provide transparency, accountability and citizen oversight. The petition has been signed thus far by more than 1,500 individuals and groups. The link to sign this letter can be found at http://www.wethepatriots.org

The original collaborators behind this effort are Nancy Tobi, Chair of Democracy for New Hampshire, Bev Harris, founder of Black Box Voting, who was featured in the recent HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy," Vickie Karp, a board member for Black Box Voting, Chair of the Coalition for Visible Ballots, co-editor of the book HACKED! High Tech Election Theft in America; and Abbe Waldman DeLozier, Political and Media Strategist for the Coalition for Visible Ballots and co-editor of HACKED!, and Paul Lehto, Election Law Attorney. The purpose of their website, WeThePatriots.org, is to "help citizens sign on to communicate formal, unified citizen requests to public officials."

After last November, it became clear that there was a public will to reform a voting system that is sadly out of whack. News of one election debacle after another seeped out and joined the reports already released about the many serious failings of the present system of electronic voting – the GAO Report of September 2005, the BlackBoxVoting/Harri Hursti authorized hack in Leon County, Florida (seen in the recent HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy"), the Carter-Baker Commission, the Brennan Center Report, the SAIC Report, the Princeton Center Report and the recent NIST recommendations. What happened in Florida's 13th congressional district, and the ongoing controversy surrounding it, is a prime example of high tech voting at its worst. (Read Paul Krugman's article "When Votes Disappear", New York Times, November 24, 2006:
http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/66/24064 ).

While there is strong sentiment across all political lines that something needs to be done to shore up the understandably drooping confidence of voters across the country, there is no unanimity on what exactly that might be. The Holt Bill, once viewed as the 'gold standard' of election reform, was written prior to November 2004 and the many reports issued since then and listed above. The Holt Bill is presently under review and we are not privy to the specific changes and whether they will suffice for meaningful reform. Prior to the opening of the new session of Congress, the bill had over 220 co-sponsors and it has become clear that momentum and the Democratic agenda demand that the bill (in whatever form) will be introduced soon, coming up for a vote in the next several months. There is no time to waste.

The Holt Bill is alternately called "The Voter Confidence Bill". Yet, it is hard to reconcile this title with the bill itself which "enables the continued use of high risk voting equipment and further entrenches private corporate ownership of our elections" WeThePatriots contend that a commitment to democracy should trump "confidence" in the e-voting industry, which has fallen short by every conceivable measure. Their "Request By Voters" (RBV) letter prefers to use citizen oversight and freedom of access to election information as the standards for democratic elections. RBV focuses on four ways to amend the Holt Bill:
• RBV supports democratic standards over technology standards.
• RBV requires voter-marked paper ballots, not voter-verifiable paper ballots.
• RBV will insure that the counts are right on election night. It does not depend on post election audits.
• RBV requires citizen oversight and not industry oversight of the nation's elections.

This citizen action of supplying both information (HACKED!) and recommendations (the "Request By Voters") is based on the premise that many members of Congress are not aware of the intricacies of voting, and especially electronic voting. WeThePatriots have worked with the nation's elections officials to make common sense recommendations that support the practical realities of election administration and management. They believe that the high tech, high cost recommendations of legislation like the Holt Bill do not reflect the realities faced by the nation's election officials who are trying to run clean elections.

As a result, WeThePatriots contend that legislation such as the Holt Bill as written, will cause chaos and confusion in the nation's election systems, at a very high cost to American taxpayers.

The Holt Bill allows for electronic voting machines with "paper trails", but it has been proven that, through malicious viruses or malfunctioning, machines can record something totally at variance with the voters' wishes. A paper trail can, therefore, seemingly verify outright vote fraud, and there would be no evidence to contradict it.

WeThePatriots.org consists of dedicated voting activists who have been studying these issues for years. They want our elected officials in Congress to have the information at hand when it is time to make some decisions.

They highly recommend a GAO report accounting for the more than three billion tax dollars spent on HAVA, how the money was spent and what it achieved. Only with a greater understanding of the entire picture can wise decisions be made. HAVA was supposed to be a cure for Florida 2000. Sadly, it is a cure that is much worse than the original disease.

Vickie Karp says:
"Members of Congress, even those who co-sponsored HR 550 or some of the other proposed HAVA amendments, have not been able to study election problems 24/7 the way many of us in the election reform community do. We want to give these Congressional leaders some detailed information, information they likely have never seen before, which will give them the justification and the political will to turn the "paper trial" and "2% audit" ship around; to bring about paper ballot elections, hand-counted in public view with totals posted at precinct level."

Another purpose for this action is to put these members of Congress on notice: they now have the hard facts and if they proceed with bad decisions with further disastrous ramifications for our elections, they will be held accountable by the voting public. Too often lately, political leadership has shrugged off responsibility for its actions. This deep-seated lack of accountability is part of the problem facing us today. WeThePatriots feel that Congress is lagging behind the public in its desire and will for meaningful election reform to restore integrity and democracy to our elections.

Nancy Tobi contends:

"The integrity of our elections does not depend on the next exciting technological possibility. It does not depend on a computer programmed to inform the voter whether or not he has voted right or wrong according to technological standards. The integrity of our elections does not depend on outrageous expenditures into a profit-driven high tech industry that to this point has failed abysmally in delivering any kind of product or process that meets the standards of democracy.

We offer our Remedies and Recommendations in our RBV to Congress to amend the Holt Bill as a practical, feasible, affordable, and democratic means for achieving this worthy goal. Our solutions are not high tech, high cost, or profit-driven. Our Remedies and Recommendations, if incorporated into the Holt Bill and passed by Congress, will have a profound influence in restoring democratic elections to every jurisdiction in the nation."

It is hard to go back to 2000 and realize that simply cleaning out the troughs of the voting machines would have taken care of those infamous hanging chads. Instead we have been sold one of the biggest boondoggles in our history. Private corporations grabbed at the opportunity to sell a concept they weren't in a position to successfuly implement. HAVA enabled a great marketing strategy by the voting industry which combined the carrot and the stick: offering millions of tax dollars for high tech machinery that was neither reliable, affordable, secure nor open to voter scrutiny. We are still reeling from the aftershocks of that misstep.

HAVA purported to address issues raised by the disability rights advocates. WeThePatriots embrace the right of all Americans to vote privately and independently, but HAVA solutions did not protect those rights as promised. WeThePatriots believe that a common sense solution that really works can be found without disrupting the integrity of our nation's elections.
What does this group WeThePatriots propose? Parallel counts to verify the results on election night rather than post election audits; once an election is called, an audit is unlikely to trigger a reversal of the results. Putting the citizens back in charge, rather than leaving elections in the hands of the e-voting vendors. When their technicians come in, sometimes even in the midst of the voting, and tinker with machines, removing parts, exchanging parts, calibrating, adjusting, who can vouch for what they're doing? Who understands what they're doing? Where is citizen oversight and transparency?

Bev Harris personally authored the section in the "Request by Voters" to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as it relates to election records. She and other citizen election watchdogs have made FOIA requests for election records from counties across the country. Often, the very records needed for true citizen oversight are withheld from citizens and claimed to be "proprietary information" or "trade secret information", maintained by the vendors! How can citizens truly oversee election challenges when, as in recent cases on 2006, the ballots themselves (among other documents) were considered to be the property of the vendors? In other cases, exorbitant costs are charged for the records; or, the delay in providing them prohibits any possible election challenge until after the election results have been certified.
Other crucial issues? We have uncertified, uncertifiable software and hardware that has been proven continually to break down and operate erroneously, and is susceptible to tampering and failure. Grandfather clauses, which allow the machines to be used despite all their grave problems, are a slap in the face of the voters. What is at stake here? Nothing less than representational democracy: how do you determine the will of the people if the vote-counting process is suspect?

All in favor of greater transparency, accountability and citizen oversight in our elections, please step forward. Now is the time to translate your sentiments into action. Merely nodding complacently from the sidelines is far from enough. There is a tremendous array of groups which will oppose us: the vendors, of course, who have been the clear victors here, the members of Congress who are influenced by those vendors and their lobbyists or have an incomplete understanding of what's involved and what's at stake, the Boards of Elections who fear having to start all over with another new system ahead of the rapidly approaching Presidential elections, public apathy and feelings of hopelessness. Ironically, also working against the principles of democratic elections (transparency and citizen oversight) are large civil rights organizations going down the erroneous path that finds answers for all voting issues in high cost, high-tech e-voting equipment.

We acknowledge how difficult it is to get the powers-that-be to listen, let alone respond positively to citizens' overtures. Just look at our President. He admitted to receiving "a thumpin'" in November and has he adapted his Iraq policy to reflect that? I'm afraid not.
I'm currently reading The Devil in the White City about the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, which took place in Chicago, my hometown. It is an awe-inspiring tale of colossal challenges: the ambitiousness of the vision, the shortness of time to accomplish it, the vagaries of the Chicago soil, the harshness of the winter, labor disputes, fire, torrential downpours, delays, on-site injuries and deaths, countless committees which complicated matters rather than streamlining them, massive cost overruns and a quickly worsening national economy. The project suffered from practically every calamity you can think of. Yet, somehow, this miraculous feat was accomplished, despite all odds. France was the site of the 1889 World's Fair, the brand-new Eiffel Tower causing quite a stir. Burnham and his cohorts wanted to out-Paris Paris in flair as well as attendance - and, with the help of the deceptively fragile looking, forty-six and a half ton Ferris Wheel, they did! It's really quite amazing.

We citizen patriots should take heart from this massive collaborative effort. The impossible always starts as a mere thought, a germ of an idea. A visionary articulates something and it gains momentum as people jump aboard until it reaches that critical 'tipping point' where it becomes inevitable. Right now, the luxury of time is something we simply don't have. Our future, the future of our children and even those of the citizens beyond our borders, all depend on our success at bringing about meaningful election reform now. Elections that are secure, accurate, transparent, and reflect the people's will. Anything else is a threat to the foundations of our historical democracy. We must do everything in our power to achieve this goal. Our country may not survive another questionable election and its aftermath. So, we simply can't afford to fail.

Links and What You Can Do:


-Sign the "Request by Voters" petition now: http://www.wethepatriots.org
-Sign the Velvet Revolution petition for paper ballots now: http://www.velvetrevolution.us/Campaigns/PaperBallots/

Links to articles to bring yourself up to speed:
-"Electronic Voting & Fair Vote Counts: Annotated Bibliography of 15 Expert Reports on Voting Systems and Fair Vote Counts" by Rady Ananda http://www.opednews.com/articles/opedne_rady_ana_070117_annotated_biblio...

-"Security Of Electronic Voting Is Condemned; Paper Systems Should Be Included, Agency Says" By Cameron W. Barr http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/30/AR200611...

-"When Votes Disappear" by Paul Krugman, the New York Times, (about what happened in Florida's 13th Congressional District) http://www.truthout.org/cgibin/artman/exec/view.cgi/66/24064

-"E-vote systems certifier de-certified; We can't prove anything, so neither can the Feds" by Thomas C. Greene (about Ciber, Inc., the largest 'independent' e-voting machine testing lab)

-"Wrong Winner Chosen by Same Voting Machine Twice: Congress Seats Two Clear 'Losers'" by Michael Collins http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0701/S00173.htm

I am now hearing rumblings that Rep. Holt and his advisors are moving away from transparency and citizen oversight in their revisions to his bill. This is very disturbing. While our country has become polarized to an unprecedented degree in the last several years, one thing we all seemingly agree on is that vote counting is heading in the wrong direction. In fact, 92% want the "right to view vote counting and obtain information about vote counting" according to the August 2006 Zogby poll commissioned by election law attorney Paul Lehto. http://www.zogby.com/News/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1163

This raises an important question. If the rumblings prove correct and legislation steps away from meaningful election reform, what will we do? What are we prepared to do? While I hope and pray that legislators seize this propitious moment to get America back on track, we must be in standby mode if that proves not to be the case. Use this short window of time to think about strategies to let Congress know, in no uncertain terms, that walking away (or heading in the wrong direction) is simply unacceptable. The scuttlebutt is that the revised Holt Bill may be introduced as early as next week. Catch up on your sleep now. This is going to be a fight to the finish. If you've been hanging back waiting for the perfect moment to jump in, wait no longer!
We need every able-bodied citizen who cares about the principles our country was founded on: "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

This is a perfect opportunity to gaze backwards almost 150 years to another war and another America, also terribly fractured and divided. What came to be known as the Gettysburg Address was given by President Abraham Lincoln in the midst of the Civil War,which still had more than a year to run. His words were spoken at the dedication of a national cemetery at Gettysburg, the site of a huge battle several months before involving over 150,000 soldiers and resulting in an unprecedented number of dead and wounded. The task of collecting the wounded and burying the thousands of bodies was an overwhelming one for the 2500 residents of Gettysburg. The countryside was turned into a giant makeshift hospital and morgue for months. The ceremony that day in November, 1863, was to bring consolation to the many relatives of the dead and help the country bind its wounds. Lincoln's speech was one of five. One gifted speaker, Edward Everett, spoke for two hours. Lincoln's remarks consisted of less than three hundred words, took well under five minutes to deliver and still somehow captured the essence of that moment in time in a way that none of the other speeches did. While the Civil War was what brought them all there, Lincoln's words did not mention the battle, the two sides or the Emancipation Proclamation. Yet, with a few broad brushstrokes, he captured the essence of American democracy and the challenges that faced the American people at that moment in history.

"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion-that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

This government that Lincoln spoke of put the people squarely in the center as its reason for being and its fulcrum. This is the essence of our democracy. And, that is what we, today, are fighting for, no less. It is up to us to complete the "unfinished work" of assuring free, fair, secure, transparent elections for our people. We have before us an historic opportunity to change course and return to what the Founding Fathers had in mind. It is a sacred task that we face. Are we up to the challenge? Very soon, one way or the other, we shall see.


Tax-deductible contributions can be made to support Joan's work by going to:
International Humanities Center is a not-for-profit organization under Section 501 (c)(3) of the IRS code.

Authors Website: http://www.CountEveryVote.BlogSpot.com

Authors Bio: Joan Brunwasser of Citizens for Election Reform is a citizen activist working hard to restore and preserve free and fair elections. Her main focus is distributing "Invisible Ballots" through her lending library project. Since mid September, she has loaned the DVD to 'borrowers' in 37 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Canada, Holland, England, Ireland and Japan. She has now enlisted 3,188 individuals and groups in her project and is always looking for new contacts. Her latest target is the local press, local elected officials and other community movers and shakers. She is the Voting Integrity Editor for Op Ed News.

O'Dell Testimony to NH Legislature on UBS Auditing, 11.05.07

My name is Bruce O’Dell, and I am a self-employed information technology consultant based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have twenty five years professional experience specializing in the design of very large scale computer systems with extraordinary requirements for security and integrity. For example, while an employee of American Express, I led a project to design a central computer security service to authorize access to financial systems across that company and exchange data and transact on our customers’ behalf, with other financial institutions throughout North America. In 2005 I was the architect in charge of deploying a comprehensive new company-wide security environment at one of the 20 largest public companies in America. I would like to thank the Sub-Committee for the opportunity to share my perspective on electronic voting as someone accountable for the security and integrity of computer systems which safely handle billions - or even trillions - of dollars of other people’s money.

Since the heady days of the 1960s, a new, multi-billion-dollar electronic voting industry with world-wide growth aspirations has emerged. Whether the original drive to automate our voting was driven by genuine desire to improve elections or a simple faith that the latest and greatest technology must necessarily be the best, that industry is now so entrenched it has now become almost impossible to question the original decision to automate voting through application of computer technology.

Problems with computerized voting equipment are well-documented in the computer security community, and began to surface as soon as it was first deployed more than 40 years ago. As early as 1984, as reported in the well-respected “Risks to the Public of the Use of Computer Systems” forum a “series of articles by David Burnham in The New York Times documented vulnerabilities to tampering in equipment sold by Computer Election Systems, then the dominant electronic vendor; elections with their machines were challenged in Indiana, West Virginia, and Maryland, with rigging suspected in the 1984 election in the first two states; Federal Election Commission standards were described as inadequate; Texas also investigated numerous discrepancies involving Business Records Corporation - formerly known as Computer Election Systems; the NSA was asked to investigate if CES systems were open to fraud; California and Florida also investigated; [voting systems examiner] Michael Shamos was quoted as saying CES systems equipment "is a security nightmare open to tampering in a multitude of ways."

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, in the fall of 1988, noted: "America’s fundamental democratic institution is ripe for abuse... It is ridiculous for our country to run such a haphazard, easily violated election system. If we are to retain confidence in our election results, we must institute adequate security procedures in computerized vote tallying, and return election control to the citizenry."

In a pattern often to be repeated over the years, little attention was paid to those reports nor to the urgent warnings from independent security experts; while Business Records Corporation prospered and grew rapidly, eventually merging into the company known as Election Systems & Services, currently the leading vendor of computerized election equipment and services.

Yet despite these warnings - which in hindsight seem remarkably prescient - several generations of increasingly complex and expensive computerized voting technology were subsequently developed, marketed and deployed. At the same time, for nearly twenty years, the catalog of reported problems, outages and security vulnerabilities also continued to grow - and recently, accelerated rapidly thanks in part to the “Help America Vote Act” of 2002 (HAVA). Passed in the aftermath of the disputed presidential election in 2000, HAVA was intended to improve the process of voting in America. But as a direct result of its enactment, a new wave of secret and proprietary computerized voting technology has completed the process of computerization of American elections.

With thousands of reported problems nationwide affecting newly-deployed electronic voting equipment in the subsequent elections of 2002, 2004 and 2006, it is clear that HAVA has had precisely the opposite effect to its stated intention. As an information technology professional I am dismayed that all this has been allowed to happen with the blessing and active participation of so many of my colleagues, many of whom make their living promoting e-voting technologies. Billions of dollars have been spent on new voting equipment in the absence of what I would consider adequate disclosure of the true costs and risks to policy makers and the general public. This is a disservice to those who must rely on IT professionals to assess the technologies they do not understand.

As we will see, not only are there fundamental limitations to our ability to prove the accuracy and trustworthiness of any complex real-world computing system, voting itself deserves the strongest degree of protection. Many of my colleagues, as well as their clients and the general public, seem to utterly misunderstand the essential point: computerized voting systems should be classified as national defense systems demanding a much higher standard of protection than more conventional applications.

Undetected widespread covert manipulation of computerized voting systems is the functional equivalent of invasion and occupation by a foreign power. In either case the people lose control of their own destinies, perhaps permanently. Undetected covert manipulation of voting systems could even be worse than mere invasion, since the “electoral coup” would appear to occur with the illusion of the manufactured consent of the governed, and there would be no “tanks in the street” to galvanize resistance.

Voting systems used in American federal elections grant regulatory powers over the world’s largest economy, disbursement authority for the federal procurement budget, control of the composition of the Supreme Court and federal judiciary, and command of the world’s only superpower military. The financial rewards alone for covert influence over the outcome of state elections are potentially very lucrative as well.

Yet despite the fact that our computerized voting systems collectively represent the most irresistible target for insider manipulation in the history of the world, they are not even currently given the same level of protection as systems I’m familiar with in banking and financial services, much less than to computerized gaming equipment in Las Vegas. This is a national scandal, and a disgraceful lapse on the part of my profession.

You may hear from those who believe, to the contrary, that there are powerful information technology industry quality assurance and inspection techniques - such as certification of hardware and software by independent testing laboratories, county-sponsored Logic and Accuracy Testing, or even source code inspection - that can ensure the integrity and accuracy of New Hampshire’s computerized vote tabulation software

Yet, ensuring the integrity of systems is the hardest of all challenges in computing. Once again I believe my profession has failed to adequately inform our clients and the general public.

One of the primary reasons why trustworthy technology is so hard to achieve is that the mind-boggling complexity of real-world systems provides an enormous number of potential points of vulnerability. Voting hardware is deployed at more than 180,000 precincts and in more than three thousand counties in the US -not to forge those of the 309 voting locations in New Hampshire that tabulate votes by machine. The mere physical logistics of moving all that equipment out to the field and getting election results back to the central tabulators for the official canvass is challenging.

Not only are there potentially hundreds of New Hampshire voting devices, there are thousands of individual hardware and software components within each device. This includes proprietary software developed by voting equipment vendors, mass market consumer products like Microsoft Windows, and a host of highly complex, very specialized software - most with no visible behaviors - supplied by a long list of other vendors, many of them offshore.

In addition to all the devices and their individual components, we must also consider the collective actions of the thousands of people who participate, directly or indirectly, in designing, programming, testing, distributing, manufacturing, installing, maintaining, configuring, operating, transporting, monitoring, repairing and storing the vast number of hardware and software components that collectively add up to our system of electronic voting.

You may well hear advocates for rigorous testing and controls to be applied throughout the end-to-end voting process, but the truth is, no amount of testing alone can conjure trust in the overall system.

It is well known in the information technology profession that computers are ultimately "black boxes" - you cannot actually see what bits are really present and executing; and all methods to attempt to do so require other software that itself has the same problem, in an infinite regress. There is no workaround.

The only way to truly know what is running in a computer at any given moment is to observe its behavior: give all possible inputs, measure its corresponding outputs, and then check to see if the inputs and outputs you observe match the specification.

It is reasonable to ask if computer software is always tested before use, why bother to double-check after the fact? Unfortunately, you really have no guarantee that a given computer program's behavior as measured, say, at 10:00 AM will have any relationship to the same program's execution at noon. Computers have clocks and can tell time, and can easily be programmed to behave differently at different times, on different dates – or under an endless variety of different circumstances.

When it comes to systems processing high-value transactions of interest to potential criminal embezzlers - like money or votes - the inherent limitations of point-in-time behavioral testing make it unacceptably risky. Instead, some kind of computer behavioral monitoring system is required to record a vulnerable system's inputs and corresponding outputs while it is processing critical transactions. This would provide all the information needed to enable a human auditor or another automated auditing system to spot processing errors or manipulation of the transactions. But as I will point out, the inherent nature of voting severely limits our ability to monitor the behavior of voting systems.

Independent inspection and certification of source code has no real benefit. If a malicious insider at Diebold or ES&S truly wanted to corrupt vote tabulation logic, they would hardly put it in the official release handed over for review. There’s simply no reason to trust that any software delivered for inspection bears any relationship whatsoever to the logic that actually runs on voting devices in an election.

Since real-world computer systems involve complex inventories of hundreds or even thousands of application program modules, firmware, device drivers and operating system components, static inspection alone will never be able to reliably determine what those components will actually do at any given point in time. There’s simply no reason to believe that a given executable binary file corresponds to the given source code, and no way to truly know what the executable is doing - except by running it. Static inspection is not a security measure.

If source code inspection could allow us to reliably predict how a particular instance of a program will actually work in the field, Microsoft Windows would be a rock-solid, bulletproof product - after all, tens of thousands of programmers spend their professional careers scrutinizing its source code every day. It’s simply absurd for serious IT professionals to state that it would be anything more than a sham to “inspect” whatever source code a vendor supplies. Worse yet, it misleads the public, making it seem as if IT professionals have the power to “know” the source code is benign, and to “know” precisely what it will and won’t do, and to “know” where and how it is actually running in a particular device in the field - when of course, we do not.

Nor can we test security into software. It is a truism in my profession that the purpose of testing is to find “bugs” - not to indicate that a piece of software contains no flaws. It’s a subtle point, but what it really means is that if I’ve found 100 errors, there is simply no magic oracle that will then tell me “well, that’s all, we’re done, no more bugs”.

If it was possible to test quality - much less security - into any piece of software Microsoft Windows would also be the bug-free, highly secure platform we all know it to be, since Microsoft has the world’s most sophisticated automated testing tools, thousands of paid testers, and hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who volunteer to help. Yet even so several critical Microsoft security defects have been reported every month for the last several years. But not to pick on Microsoft; Secunia, a Danish company, maintains an online listing of security issues in popular software; in every case these flaws were discovered after completion of formal testing. The list itself is currently over 700 pages long.

As socially-responsible professionals we must openly acknowledge the inherent limitations of our ability to ensure voting is as trustworthy as a critical national security system should be. We cannot and should not ask the public to simply trust the outcome of any testing and certification process, no matter how many “experts” say so.

I know that some may at this point draw an analogy between computerized banking and computerized voting. For example, Michael Shamos, a noted advocate of computerized voting, and a long-time consultant to states on the certification of their electronic voting systems has stated:

“Why should voting systems be held to a standard of perfection when nothing else in society is? Nonetheless, electronic voting watchdogs insist that election equipment must be perfect or it is totally unusable. The analogy between voting systems and the bank is particularly apt because (1) the chance of a system being tampered with successfully is low; (2) even successful tampering does not necessarily result in the wrong candidate being elected; and (3) only a small portion of the vote is cast on one machine.”

Unfortunately, computerized voting and computerized banking actually have almost nothing in common.

One reason why electronic financial transactions are as secure as they are (by which I only mean that embezzlement is the exception and not the rule) is that while financial transactions are private, they are hardly anonymous; you need to prove your identity to all the other counterparties involved. Each counterparty gets and keeps their own independent records of the transaction, all counterparties are strongly motivated to spot discrepancies and compare their records with others, while procedures relating to resolution of financial disputes are legally mature.

Why are voting systems so different? In contrast with banking, voting is both a private and an anonymous transaction. Applying counterparty-based financial auditing mechanisms to voting transactions as they occur would compromise the confidentiality of the vote and voter.

To meet the standards of banking, not only would multiple independent copies of audit records fully describing the voter’s identity and ballot choices need to be generated and shared with multiple parties, 100% of those transaction records would be routinely audited and the results double-checked by external auditors as well as the voters themselves.

Although some computer scientists feel they can maintain both voter privacy and vote count integrity by some magical all-electronic secret internal audit, ultimately there is no reliable means to do so. At the moment of creating the electronic audit record, the computer could be programmed to electronically assert you input “Smith for Governor" even though you actually input "Jones for Governor". Every such all-electronic auditing scheme, no matter how elaborate, would from that point on then simply record a lie with every appearance of the truth.

The only way voters can protect themselves from such a consistently-told electronic lie is with some kind of corresponding tangible, visible record that can be used as a proof you really voted for Jones. Unlike in banking, we cannot give a voter a receipt or a monthly statement; the best we can do is receive from the voter an anonymous receipt that says the equivalent of "Someone Voted for Jones", and then entrust it to the electoral authorities to count (by hand or machine) and to retain for future auditing or recounting.

In voting, on the other hand, only a relative few states routinely audit their paper ballot records (if they have any) and then in only a few percent of the precincts are any ballots checked at all. Yet if a bank audited only a few percent of its accounts - or none at all unless one of their depositors paid for it themselves - its customers would flee, regulators would shut it down, and under current Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, its Board of Directors would face possible jail time.

To its credit the state of New Hampshire has avoided purchase and deployment of the most risky and problematic class of voting equipment: Direct-Recording Electronic voting equipment (with or without a so-called “voter verified paper audit trail”). Unfortunately it has chosen to continue to rely on Diebold optical scan voting equipment known to be vulnerable to manipulation. Yet by legally enshrining a voter-marked paper ballot, whether tallied by people or by machines, as the definitive record of voter intent, New Hampshire is far better prepared than many other states to ensure the integrity of its democratic processes.

The risks of errors and covert manipulation are inherent to the use of computer software. Human nature being what it is, those risks are ever-present in all systems that process high-value transactions - especially those involving money or voting. So to achieve trustworthiness, independent auditing of an electronic vote count via of an independent should always be performed.

Both the accuracy and integrity of any paper ballot record must also be assured.

To ensure integrity, no one must be able to alter, delete, or substitute paper ballot records after they are verified by the voter and until they are tallied. Immediately after the election, traditional paper-based audit and control concerns take precedence. In general, the more time passes since creation and the further it travels from point of origin, the more risk there is of manipulation or destruction of paper records.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as perfect security; the best we can do is to mitigate the risks as best we can. In recognition of this inherent problem, the Canadian system of counting paper ballots in-precinct on election night - in concert with their absentee/early voting procedure - is highly secure. The paper flow is always under observation, and ballots are immediately counted in front of multiple adversarial counterparties - namely the political party representatives.

Admittedly, even rigorous paper-handling processes are not perfectly secure - but on the other hand, in the last 600 years of general use of paper records, we have figured out some pretty good procedures. Yet I doubt that many jurisdictions in America handle paper election records with the level of custodial care that we find, say, in handling real estate collateral in the mortgage-backed securities market, much less in Canadian elections.

There are additional practical problems with checking the trustworthiness of an electronic vote tally after the fact. Since paper ballot records are typically not recounted unless margins are very close, brazen theft would be rewarded in practice. No candidate losing by a large margin wants to challenge an election and force a recount. Political culture being what it is in America, such candidates quickly get labeled as "sore losers" who "waste the public's money and the government's time" on pointless recounts, and who use "conspiracy theories" to compensate for their inability to admit they lost.

Although New Hampshire’s experience with recounts appears to show that electronic and paper tallies seldom differ by a significant number of votes, relatively few “top ticket” races have been recounted - presumably the rewards of altering the outcome of major state or federal offices are more likely to outweigh the risk of discovery.

When statewide recounts of paper ballot records for high-stakes races occur, recent experiences in Ohio and Washington state clearly reveal the potential for flaws in both approach and execution in conventional recount and spot audit protocols.

I personally believe that New Hampshire is better served by enhancing its hand-counted paper ballot protocols, to retain full citizen control and oversight of the electoral process. On the other hand, as long as optical scan tabulation is performed (especially on equipment known to be vulnerable to covert manipulation), counting some of the ballots by hand and comparing to the electronic tally can identify accidental or deliberate mistabulation of the vote. The details of the independent hand count protocol determine the probability of detection.

There are two general approaches for hand count validation of electronic vote tabulation: precinct random spot audits and universal ballot sampling. Several states currently rely on precinct random spot audits; for example, California counts 1% of its precincts by hand, and Minnesota performs a random post-election hand-count audit of 2 precincts per county (amounting to somewhat more than 4% of the total number of precincts). Due to differences between the human and the electronic and mechanical interpretation of voter intent, small discrepancies are not necessarily a sign of systematic mistabulation - although there are credible exploits in close elections where outcome-altering results can be determined by just a few votes per precinct. Typically there is a formal or informal standard for expanding the hand-count validation if significant discrepancies are detected; in Minnesota the standard for expanding the audit is a 0.5% discrepancy between the hand and machine tally.

There are several potential drawbacks with conventional precinct spot-audit protocols. (1) There are classic concerns about chain of custody which are proportional to the time which passes between casting the ballot and performing the hand count validation. Ideally, the spot audit would occur in precinct on election night. (2) The recent conviction and sentencing of election officials in Ohio who “gamed” the selection of precincts for the Ohio partial recount to ensure that no discrepancies would be detected illustrates the difficulty of ensuring true random selection is followed. (3) If hand count validation occurs in only a few percent of precincts and mistabulation is clustered, the laws of statistics tell us that there can still remain a significant chance that the mistabulation is not detected. (4) Clustered mistabulation may be detected, but the magnitude of the discrepancy may be too small to expand the audit further. Political pressures may be placed on a candidate such that even if a suspicious pattern of discrepancies is detected - but it appears to be insufficient to change the outcome - it would not be practical to continue to contest the result and expand the audit. (Candidates do not wish to be labeled a “sore loser” - those who do may find their career in peril.)

The Election Defense Alliance has created and published the results of computer simulations of a variety of precinct spot-audit protocols - such as the ones proposed in Washington DC in 2006 as HR 550, and this year, as HR 811. Our findings indicate that especially in the case of the US House of Representatives (involving on average about 440 precincts, nationwide), there is an unacceptably high rate of failure to detect outcome altering mistabulation in many credible scenarios as modeled.

The alternative hand-count election verification protocol involves a somewhat counter-intuitive approach: hand-counting a few percent of the vote in 100% of the precincts, rather than hand-counting 100% of the vote in a few percent of the precincts.

This protocol - which Election Defense Alliance calls UBS, or “Universal Ballot Sampling” - randomly selects a sample of individual ballots from every precinct voting location, and hand-counts just those ballots. The rationale for doing so is that this is an analogy to a “public opinion poll”, in that it randomly samples ballots for hand-counting in much the same way that an opinion poll randomly samples a population. If enough ballots are sampled and hand-counted, the accuracy of that sample can be estimated to a high degree of precision - just as the margin of error of a random public opinion poll can be estimated to a high of precision. It turns out that randomly sampling approximately 15,000 - 20,000 votes in any contest should produce a sample that reflects the outcome of the election as a whole within plus or minus 1%, with 99% certainty.
Since most US House races generate 150,000 - 200,000 votes, simply randomly sampling every tenth ballot in a precinct should ensure that when the precinct hand count sample results are rolled up, the votes for US House candidates in the sample match the votes in the electorate as a whole within plus or minus 1% with high confidence.

Election Defense Alliance has created computer simulations of the UBS protocol and empirically verified that, if the precinct ballot sample is random, indeed UBS did detect 100% of simulated mistabulations > 1% of the vote.

This addresses several problems with the alternative, precinct spot-audit approach. If the UBS and the optical scan tally are within 1% with the sample sizes indicated, there should be high confidence that there was no significant machine mistabulation. The false-positive rate should be very low.

On the other hand, if the difference between the UBS result and the optical scan tally is greater than 1%, there is a strong and objective mathematical case for a candidate to challenge the official tally and request an expanded hand (re)count. Since the UBS results are available as soon as the optical scan tally is available, a candidate is also empowered to challenge suspect results before the “official” tally becomes fixed in the minds of the voting public and their political peers.

We have identified a number of ways to ensure that the sample of ballots selected for UBS handcount is random. It is also important to make sure that absentee ballots are pooled with in-precinct ballots, and that both are sampled randomly. Once again the election practices in New Hampshire seem well-suited to a UBS-style protocol, since early voting (which introduces additional chain of custody risk) is not allowed, and absentee ballots are counted in-precinct on election night, and the pool of people familiar with efficient hand-count procedures is large.

Returning to the question posed earlier: the fundamental question - why should machines tally our votes in secret - remains unanswered. Other than for the obvious financial benefit of the vendors, why should voting be a transaction tallied in secret by machines, rather than a civic transaction performed by people in public view?

In fact, there is a fascinating study from 2001 (interestingly enough, published shortly before HAVA was enacted) which concluded that not only were hand-counted paper ballots the most accurate of all vote counting methods, measuring by residual vote rate, but that every single technological “innovation” of the last century - lever machines, punch cards, optical scan, DRE - actually measurably decreased the accuracy of the voting process. Their conclusion:

These results are a stark warning of how difficult it is to implement new voting technologies. People worked hard to develop these new technologies. Election officials carefully evaluated the systems, with increasing attentiveness over the last decade. The result: our best efforts applying computer technology have decreased the accuracy of elections, to the point where the true outcomes of many races are unknowable.

There is an entire industry which is predicated on the belief that computers are better than people when it comes to counting votes, yet the precise nature of the problem that electronic voting was intended to solve remains unclear. The balance of evidence indicates that while voting by computer may well be wide open to insider manipulation, and in practice has been plagued by glitches and inaccuracies, at least it’s more expensive than the alternatives. Even when legal paper ballots are tabulated on optical scanners, the effort required to put in place a statistically-valid hand-check of the machine tallies does tend to undermine the rationale for automation in the first place.

In the final analysis, I believe computer automation of voting will be regarded by future historians as one of the greatest blunders in the history of technology. Our choice now is to determine at what price - both in money and public good will - that realization will finally strike home. In the meantime, states like New Hampshire can take action to engage its citizens in safeguarding its democratic processes, though effective hand-count validation of optical scan vote counts.

Paper Ballots v. VVPAT

Click here (PDF) to view this position paper.


Response to Factual Errors in Salon: "Was the New Hampshire Vote Stolen?"

by Bruce O’Dell and Theron Horton, Election Defense Alliance

Problems with Manjoo’s Source Data

In Farhad Manjoo’s article, “Was the New Hampshire vote stolen?” the author acknowledged in the text that he had based his article on an anonymous partisan website, checkthevotes.com, stating

“The most thorough analysis I've seen was performed by an anonymous supporter of Ron Paul.”

The origin of the http://www.checkthevotes.com site was described by its webmaster as follows:

This site was birthed out of a late night whim to try to see if I could make better sense of the numbers I saw coming in from the New Hampshire primaries. It was originally just an exercise in data formatting, but during the night, with the great help of fellow Ron Paul supporters from http://www.RonPaulForums.com, I began to add data points to my charts.[1]

However, this “most thorough analysis,” though well intentioned, was initially based on incorrect data and on ad-hoc statistical categories.

In fact, the webmaster, who has consistently acted responsibly to correct all issues with his new site/project, subsequently removed the voting district size categories that Manjoo used as the basis of his January 11 article. According to a checkthevotes.com screenshot from the evening of January 12:

I have changed the size of the town breakdown because it was brought to my attention by another person offering vote stats that for the hand-counting in large towns, there wasn't enough data for it to be statistically significant.”[2]

Nor did Majoo check his source’s primary data. The official tallies were available on the Official New Hampshire Secretary of State Website on the morning of January 10. Yet as-of 9:18 AM CST on Monday, January 14, 2008, a full six days after the New Hampshire Presidential Primary, checkthevote.com still listed the total vote for Clinton as 112,238 and the total vote for Obama as 104,757, while the New Hampshire Secretary of State website’s official vote total for Clinton was 112,610 and the total vote for Obama is 105,007. Also as of that time, checkthevotes.com had not corrected the voting methods for numerous voting districts.

Errors on Size of Hand-count Voting Districts

In paragraph 11 Manjoo, utilizing the checkthevotes.com data, states “in places with more than 1,500 votes, here, Clinton, not Obama, did better in hand-count areas”.

However, there were no hand-counted voting districts that had “more than 1500 votes”. The largest Democratic hand-counted voting district had only 1,172 votes, in Newport in Sullivan County. When we brought this the attention of the author, he indicated that he was referring to “Claremont and Franklin Counties”.

The three voting districts that comprise each of these towns - rather than “counties” - had been consolidated into a single number on the website at the Concord Monitor Online[3]. The consolidation of the voting districts’ vote totals distorted Manjoo’s analysis of the data. But there is a more serious problem with his analysis.

Error on Voting Method in Claremont

If Majoo truly intended to use Claremont as one of the “places with more than 1,500 votes” to make the assertion that, “Clinton, not Obama, did better in hand-count areas” there is a problem. According to the Official New Hampshire Secretary of State Website, Claremont Wards 1, 2 and 3 are actually not hand-count voting districts; they use Accuvote optical scanners. In fact, the Claremont City Clerk’s Office verified by phone that they Accuvote[4]. Again in this case, Manjoo was using checkthevotes.com as his source. Checkthevotes.com has subsequently acknowledged that the Claremont voting method data that they had originally provided was incorrect.

Error on Clinton Performance in Large Hand-count Voting Districts

Additionally, the hand counted paper ballot analysis provided in paragraph 12 states (emphasis from the original document) :

Manjoo: “Let me say that again: In large areas, Clinton did better in places where votes were counted by hand than where votes were counted by machine.”

First, “large areas” is a spurious category; second, there is no apparent factual basis for Manjoo’s statement.

According to the Secretary of State’s original posted data, Clinton won 35.56% of the vote in “the larger hand-count voting districts” (defining those, as voting districts between the maximum size of 1,172 votes and ones half that size, or 550 voters) and Clinton got 41.02% of the vote in the “larger optical scan districts” (defining those as voting districts between the maximum of 5,542 and one half that size, or 2,771 votes). Even if you simply look at the 32 largest hand count v. the 32 largest optical scan voting districts, Clinton’s margin was 35.56% for the 32 largest hand count districts, and 40.85% for the 32 largest optical scan districts.

Finally, paragraph 13 identifies Amherst as a “county”; it is a voting district.

Errors Should Be Corrected

These factual errors should be corrected, and the thesis of the article should be re-examined.

Why Is It that People Vote Differently on Optical Scan?

We wish that it was possible to dismiss concerns about the outcome in New Hampshire simply by saying optical scan tallies vary from hand-count results because people who use optical scan equipment are clustered in communities that tend to vote differently. If you accept the basic integrity of the current voting system, that’s a reasonable and comforting position; but assuming the integrity of the vote as a premise of your argument against those impeaching the integrity of the vote is circular reasoning. It is also possible that optical-scan voting districts have different voting patterns than hand-counted paper districts simply because that’s how the equipment says they tend to vote.

There is no certain way to resolve which alternative is correct as long as votes are counted in secret by machine.

Where Do We Go from Here?

That’s why we do agree with Manjoo, when he says that that “…as many voting-reform experts have argued, manually counting the votes should be a routine in any race… we should, at least, conduct a randomized, accountant-approved audit of ballots” - but we would add, only if ballots can one day be handled with the same care – and controls - we apply to cash. You’ll not likely soon see boxes of cash at the corner bank stored in a cardboard boxes secured with stick-on paper seals, and grudgingly brought in to be double-checked weeks after their deposit - only if and when someone else offers to pay for it.

We wish we could share Mebane and Manjoo’s confidence that the host of well-documented computer system and voting procedural vulnerabilities are not being actively exploited, and specifically, their stated faith in the official outcome of the Ohio Presidential election and recount there in 2004. The jailed election officials who gamed the Cuyahoga County recount and their counterparts in the fifty seven Ohio counties that lost or destroyed their 2004 ballot records, despite court orders to preserve them, hardly require “conspiracy theorists” to call attention to their actions.

No one calls an IT auditor at a bank an “embezzlement theorist” when he or she states that security vulnerabilities discovered in accounting procedures or in the bank’s software might actually have been exploited.

[1] See: http://www.checkthevotes.com/home

[2] See: screenshot of the checkthevotes.com website 1/12/07 10:06 PM CST

[3] http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2008/by_county/NH_Dem_0108....

[4] Claremont County Clerk’s contact information: VOICE 603.542.7003 • FAX 603.542.7014

Stop the Executive Branch from Taking Over our Elections: Amend or End HR 550

What's wrong with the Holt Bill in three easy bullets
Common Cause, MoveOn.org, TrueMajority, VerifiedVoting.org, and many other large election reform groups are pushing - and pushing hard - for passage of HR550 (the Holt Bill), national legislation aimed to amend the Help America Vote Act. The bill is being sold as a way to put "auditable paper trails" into national law. Sounds like a great idea. But many activists disagree with the approach to support "paper trails" that might be audited when what we want are real paper ballots that are - not might be - counted.

The other problem with HR550 is that it is about much more than paper trails. Read below the dangerous details that the groups pushing for passage of HR550 "as written" aren't talking about.

The democratic processes of the American Republic are based on decentralized power. Centralized power led to the American Revolution. Centralized power is the antithesis of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

1. Centralization of Executive Power—White House Control over Counting the Votes: HR550 extends beyond the existing expiry date the power and authority of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), establishing a Presidential Commission authorized to control the counting of votes in every election--federal, state,and local--in the nation.

2. Centralization of Executive Power—Crony Appointments: The potential for stacking of the EAC is evident in the scenario already played out under the current Administration. In early 2006, the Bush White House made numerous recess appointments, putting political cronies into positions of power and authority without any Congressional oversight or checks and balances. Of the eight recess appointments made on January 4, 2006, three were Commissioners to the Federal Election Commission. Two of those appointed Commissioners are known for their opposition to voting rights and clean elections. The third is a political crony of Senate Minority Leader Reid of Nevada. (Nevada is now positioned to take a lead role in the Democratic presidential nomination process. For this privilege, Nevada has promised to play the nomination process by Party
rules, financed by the Casino industry.)

3. Centralization of Executive Power—Regulatory Authority: Federal regulatory authority means the federal entity preempts state and local authorities. The EAC was created as an advisory commission with one exception: it was granted regulatory authority over the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). The EAC has been steadily positioning and even suing to assert its regulatory authority in other areas under its domain. Even if it does not succeed through litigation, the EAC could, with the insertion of a single line of text in ANY congressional act, become regulatory. This is how the FEC gained regulatory powers. A regulatory EAC means that a Presidential Commission—potentially stacked with political cronies—would have legal decision making and enforcement power over the following areas, for every state in the nation:

A recent editorial in the New York Times, entitled "Strong Arming the Vote" (August 3, 2006) describes how the Department of Justice under the Bush Administration has been heavily involved in partisan ploys to negate necessary checks and balances in election practices. HR 550, if passed as written, will establish a whole new arm of Executive power with dangerous authority to subvert the entire democratic process of elections that supports our system of government. It would result, in effect, in a bloodless coup.

People often ask, so what DO you support?

Here's an amended bill that might gain grassroots support:

We, the grassroots, can support the Holt Bill when it is amended to remove those dangerous provisions that centralize Executive power and expand Judicial election decision making authority. A Holt Bill that amends HAVA and provides real solutions to the problems in our election system need only include three items:

What can you do?
Contact your Congressional representatives and tell them to amend or end HR550.

Stopping H.R. 550 Because We Can't Compromise on Democracy

This article was originally published at OpEdNews

Stopping H.R. 550 Because We Can't Compromise on Democracy

Links for sending letters at foot of article

November 18, 2006
by Nancy Tobi and Paul Lehto

Following the General Election of 2006, which returned control of the U.S. House and Senate to the Democrats, Common Cause sent a mass email to its members exhorting them to support House Resolution 550, also known as the Holt Bill. H.R. 550 provides for the addition of "paper trails" to electronic voting, provides for audits of 2% or more of the paper trails with discrepancies to be resolved in favor of the paper trail, makes permanent and further strengthens the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and requires that source code for e-voting machines be disclosed and placed in escrow.

Yet Common Cause is DEEPLY wrong about H.R. 550 as a solution to the problems in America's election systems. Citing the Sarasota Florida's now-famous 18,000 undervotes in a disputed Congressional race, they suggest we lobby for H.R. 550 paper trails, yet Sarasotans themselves learned from their experience, blew right past H.R.550's paper trails for touchscreens, and went to paper ballots. If citing Sarasota, why not follow the Sarasotan example and ban touchscreens instead of validating them?

Touchscreens make one's own ballot invisible, and at best create a paper trail that studies suggest only 25% of people actually check, and most of those who do check still miss many errors, making errors, fraud and legitimate votes equally "voter-VERIFIED" to use H.R. 550's deceptive terminology. Thus, H.R. 550 paper trails as applied to touchscreens is the gold standard of fraud-approval, allowing 75% and then some to sail through totally unnoticed, but nevertheless earning public confidence. With H.R. 550, Common Cause seems to want to do something "realistic", but these "realistic" Band-Aids don't help; they actually make things worse.

In the case of H.R. 550, this is not entirely unsurprising. The legislation, in its first iteration (H.R. 2239), was first proposed in 2003, shortly after the passage of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) that it purports to favorably amend, and a lot has happened since then.

The election integrity movement has shown that the technology solutions HAVA foisted on the American public--with the full support of the federal government to the tune of an appropriated $4 billion-- were based on a singularly faulty premise that was not fully disclosed to the American public: the idea that private ownership of elections through proprietary technology and trade secret software has a legitimate place in a truly democratic election system, and that the safekeeping of our ballots and the counting of our votes should be outsourced to private corporate interests who claim the Constitution is inapplicable to them as private actors, rather than held in the hands of our American communities and overseen by local citizens.

This premise of HAVA, that secret vote counting and privatization of elections and removal of public oversight is somehow OK, flies in the face of one of the most widely held political values ever measured. This political value is the 92% of the American public which support, as measured in an August 2006 Zogby poll, the right of the public to witness vote counting and obtain information about vote counting: the necessities of public oversight of elections. That HAVA is trying to make this sacred democratic value extinct is the brewing scandal of the century in elections.

Because it questioned this faulty premise, the citizens' election integrity movement was able to uncover many other holes in the approach taken by HAVA.

The movement discovered that HAVA undermined community-centered, paper ballot-based voting systems, along with transparency in elections. It discovered that by giving primacy to technology, HAVA spawned a myriad of voter suppression nightmare scenarios: (1) voters waiting hours in bottlenecked lines because there weren't enough expensive e-voting machines in their polling stations (2) Voters being handed provisional ballots, many of which were never counted, because their names had been stripped from the HAVA-mandated computerized voting registration systems, and (3) Voters stripped of their ability to understand the basics of election vote counting due to the complexity of computerization even if the software were not secret.

The movement discovered that the HAVA-created Election Assistance Commission effectively hands oversight of the nation's elections squarely to the Oval Office and the Executive Branch, causing a dangerous shift in the balance of governmental powers. This shift takes a sharp turn away from the time-honored system of checks and balances necessary for election integrity, and toward the dangerous precedent of consolidating the power of incumbents to control the terms and circumstances of their own re-election in unhealthy ways.

And the movement also discovered, with astonishment and sadness but not surprise, that HAVA was largely written and funded by lobbyists working for an industry for whom profit trumped patriotism. It should go without saying that elections are to be utterly neutral, and the need for accuracy and transparency and checks and balances should not be limited by profitability concerns. Indeed, state Supreme Courts have observed that the integrity of our Republic is only as strong as the integrity of our elections, and sometimes doing the right thing involves falling on a sword that a for-profit entity may not wish to fall on.

Rather than taking into account these lessons, H.R. 550 continued to build on the false premises of HAVA, and as a result, H.R. 550, if passed as written, now promises to become HAVA II, building an even more expensive and elaborate superstructure on top of an undemocratic foundation that is radically hostile to the public's right to supervise its own elections and be a watchdog on the only mechanism of power and money transfer to government: elections.

H.R. 550's defects are stated below in brief form.

Paper Trails Can't Work
H.R. 550 calls for "paper trails" and "verified voting". Paper trails might be paper ballots, but H.R. 550 still allows for machine-produced records rather than voter-produced ballots. Paper trails can not work to protect American democracy. Placing technology, as opposed to the tried and true paper ballot, as the start and end of the voting system, H.R. 550 invites the e-voting industry to open its palms for the federal handout to pay for the development of printing "add-ons" to its already substandard product, at around $1000 per printer.

Printing technology solutions provided in 2006 to many jurisdictions around the nation have already failed to deliver on this promise. The printers jam, the paper records can not be used effectively in any kind of a recount, and then there is always the question of the software that programs the machine and its printer. In black box technology, we never really know if what is printed out on a paper trail is what has actually been recorded and counted inside the e-voting machine's bits and bytes, and there's no way to guarantee the two are in fact the same. Under H.R. 550, the electronic ballot is always still the first ballot counted, and in almost all cases is the only ballot ever counted (barring a recount or 2% audit).

When voters mark their ballots by hand, they know exactly where they are making their marks, and,through the experience of marking the ballot, they express their political will and intent without having to look back and "verify" a second time that what they have marked reflects their intent.

Legislation like H.R. 550 supplants definite visible indelible ballots with the notion of indefinite "verifiable" paper trails, or trails "able to be verified" instead of those that most certainly are verified (paper ballots). But voters do not inspect paper trails at rates greater than 25% or so, just as customers in grocery stores don't typically inspect the secondary paper receipt handed to them by the teller after electronic entry of the prices. In fact, studies that show that even when voters do check the paper, they don't catch most of the errors, so the true rate of "error approval" when paper trails are used is significantly higher than 75%.

The verified paper trail directly causes false voter confidence and tells the election hacker that at least 75% of his hacks and more will get through and further get the Good Hacker Seal of Approval by the misleadingly 'verified' paper trails themselves! This has got to keep the hackers and riggers laughing as they prepare for Election Day in e-voting jurisdictions!

In any truly defective or defrauded election, many election officials (whether to protect their jobs OR to protect themselves if they are involved in the fraud) in fact resist production of paper trails and all other information. In actual election contests, it is often difficult or impossible to get at "paper trail" information of any kind. (Co-author Lehto, an attorney that has been involved in both federal and state election contests, has found this to be true in every election contest example he knows of or has been involved with). For a check and balance to be most effective, it must be triggered before election results are released for the first time.

Auditing as Described in H.R. 550 Won't Work
Interestingly enough, at the prescribed 2% audit in H.R. 550 lacks the statistical power to detect even half of likely errors. If the district is a congressional district (H.R.550 has 220 cosponsors in the House, a companion in the Senate is being proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein) as opposed to a statewide district like governor or Senator, this is particularly true.

Beyond this statistical failure, the whole notion of 'audits' is misleading in all elections, because of the unique nature of ballot secrecy laws. To truly audit you must trace back to the original source of the data, which in elections is the voter herself, but secrecy of the ballot prevents re-connecting voters with their ballot to confirm its accuracy, thus you can not ultimately or truly audit anything in elections to determine whether it has changed since it was voted by the voter. Only a RIGOROUS chain of custody that is truly reliable can save a secret balloting system from near total unreliability. Electrons in computerized voting can not possibly provide such a rigorous chain of custody.

H.R. 550's 2% or more audit provision presents legal challenges as well. H.R. 550 includes an extra requirement that the paper totals from an audit TRUMP the electronic totals and replace them if they conflict. This, however, makes the "audit" the functional equivalent of a partial recount in its scope and effect. Partial recounts are unconstitutional under Bush v. Gore, as Al Gore found out by requesting that only certain counties be recounted. Does anybody doubt that in 2008 the Supreme Court will have no trouble seeing the similarity of 2% audits that trump results and partial recounts, and rule accordingly? Blurring the lines between audits and recounts creates an open playing field for the litigiously inclined who may prefer judicial selections over elections when determining who will hold the reins of power in the country. While these types of challenges will not be met in smaller elections, they are likely to come up and be fully litigated when it counts the most: in close elections, at the national and Presidential level.

Imbalance of Power
It was against the dangerous centralization of power that the Patriots of American history arose in revolt and revolution. By making permanent and strengthening the EAC, H.R.550 pushes us to a dangerous brink. It's a simple matter for the White House to stack the EAC with crony appointments, leading to any number of dangerous decisions about our elections. With technological elections in place, it also puts the "keys" to the codes programming our elections in the hands of the incumbent administration, precisely the folks (of whatever party) who are most likely to throw elections so they can stay in power. The Founders were adamant about not allowing an aristocracy or self-perpetuating class to rule this country.

H.R. 550 calls itself the voter confidence act but the biggest problem is confidence itself. We need distrust and observation throughout the whole voting process, because only THAT, in the end, brings about a trustable result. "Confidence" is necessary only for a fraud, not for a reliable result.

Transparency and Citizen Oversight
The only solution to the problems caused by HAVA is radical transparency and observation, combined with the robust checks and balances that are available, if and when they are used, by a physical paper balloting system. Although fraud or incompetence in elections has occasionally caused the proper checks and balances to not be in place in paper balloting systems, at least with paper the average payoff per election crime is low and evidence is created. Whereas, with electronic voting the average payoff is high, little or no evidence is created, making the prospects of undetected fraud unprecedented in our history as a democracy. As previously mentioned, the Zogby poll in August 2006 showed 92% of the public supports a system in which the public can view and witness vote counting and obtain information about it, as opposed to one which does not allow that because of trade secrecy. This also happens to constitute strong support for a system that keeps the damage to the integrity of the election to a minimum when it does occur.

Even a weak politician can run on 92% numbers, from any political party. Every politician should favor election integrity. The notion that we need to sacrifice transparency in favor of legislation reinforcing all that is wrong with HAVA in order to be "realistic" with H.R. 550 is entirely bogus, entirely undemocratic, and an abdication of the integrity of our system.

Again and again, the same mistake is made; a conflict arises between some consideration of convenience or administration of elections and election integrity or public oversight itself, and in nearly all cases, it is determined that election integrity should be sacrificed. For example, when the question of hand counting paper ballots comes up, the objection of long ballots requiring significant counting labor is raised, it is simply assumed that the answer is that the integrity of the election must be sacrificed, and rarely is it considered that the ballot is too long or perhaps the ballot should be shorter with an additional election each year. While many other examples of sacrificing our democracy could be given, the bottom line is that it is hard to imagine what could possibly be worth sacrificing our democracy for.

The sine qua non of democracy is not elections per se, it is the fact that all legitimate power comes from the people. In light of this, there is simply NO consideration that has the weight necessary to sacrifice public supervision of elections and public observation of elections, particularly the concern for vendor profitability or election official convenience. The HAVA-caused elimination of public oversight and official accountability via computerization and privatization ultimately means the end of government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" if the people can not fully understand and check the legitimacy of their own elections. As such, HAVA, and anything that attempts to put a shiny coat of confidence on HAVA, must not be tolerated by democracy-loving Americans.


Take action -- click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
No Compromise on Democracy: Oppose H.R. 550

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

Nancy Tobi is the author of numerous articles on election integrity, including "The Gifts of HAVA: Time to Ask for a Refund," "What's Wrong with the Holt Bill,"and the newly released "We're Counting the Votes: An Election Preparedness Kit." She is co-founder and Chair of Democracy for New Hampshire and Chair of the Democracy for New Hampshire Fair Elections Committee. Her writings may be found at www.democracyfornewhampshire.com

The Time for Election Protection is Now (CD 50: Busby/Bilbray)

(1) Election Defense Alliance response to (2) report from DNC Voting Rights Institute (appended below)

This open letter from the Election Defense Alliance in response to the Democratic Party's plan for meaningful election protection action has been delivered to the chairs of Democratic Party assembly district and regional district committees and numerous Democratic clubs in California, and to election integrity groups, journalists, and newsmedia around the nation.

Our message is: Now--not next November-- is the time to put these expressed intentions into action in the 50th Congressional District in California.

Either the "No Concessions" policy set forth in the DNC Voting Rights Institute Summit plan means what it says, or it is an empty promise.

Dear Cheryl Lilienstein and Democratic grassroots leaders,

Congratulations to you for having impressed upon the DNC the seriousness of the electoral legitimacy crisis. The party's announced intention to finally confront these issues is good news, indeed!

Election Defense Alliance, a coordinating body for grassroots election integrity groups throughout the nation, is willing to work with the DNC -- and any party -- that exhibits the serious intent to reclaim the nation's privatized, corrupted electoral system at every level.

We implore the DNC to immediately commit all necessary resources to an emergency legal intervention in the Busby/Bilbray contest, to thoroughly scrutinize and either validate or contest that suspect election before the deadline for intervention passes.

Appalling security breaches occurred and are documented. The Diebold TSx and Accu-Vote machines--that in under two minutes in the wrong person's hands can be indetectably hacked in a way to defraud the entire election--spent days and nights in the homes, garages, and cars of pollworkers, violating the state and federal security certification requirements for legal use of those machines. Under these unsecured and illegal voting conditions, the public has zero basis for confidence in the announced outcome of that entire election.

The DNC, as its first action under this newly announced Election Protection plan, must act quickly and decisively to bring legal action challenging the outcome and the protocol of the Busby-Bilbray race, by demanding a hand count of every ballot and voter verified audit trail, with complete accounting for ballot chain of custody since the election to prove that the ballots have been properly safeguarded.

There is no time to lose. The last opportunity to intervene closes 5 days after the official canvass is announced, which is expected any day. Delay or neglect in reponding to this most hotly contested race of Primary 2006 will signal the hollowness of the Democractic Party's Election Protection efforts going forward. If the Democratic Party allows the high-profile and grossly illegitimate Busby/Bilbray election to stand unchallenged, it will be issuing an open invitation for more of the same in November -- when there will likely be as many as 40 or 50 congressional races under a similar cloud.

The California Election Protection Network has issued a statewide press release and Resolution of No Confidence in the San Diego election, calling for a hand count of the ballots as the only acceptable remedy. Velvet Revolution.us has launched a national petition calling for the same. Election Defense Alliance endorses both responses, and commends them to the Democratic Party as the corrective action necessary to demonstrate the Democratic Party's commitment to its own declared intentions.

We urge you to apply every measure of influence you have to move the DNC to immediately and effectively challenge this election as the first enactment of its announced Election Protection and No Concessions policies.

Sincerely yours,

Sally Castleman, Jonathan Simon & Dan Ashby
Co-Founders, Election Defense Alliance

Ginny Ross, Bruce O'Dell, Nancy Tobi, Jerry Adams, Judy Alter, Tom Courbat, Marj Creech, Bob Wilson, Vicki Lovegren
Coordinating Council, Election Defense Alliance

Referenced sources:




Report from the DNC Voting Rights Institute Summit, June 20 2006

Recently, Cheryl Lilienstein accepted an invitation to attend the Democratic Party DNC Voting Rights Institute summit June 20 2006. This is her report.

The DNC introduced the plan for year-round election protection for every voting jurisdiction in the United States. Attending were National Lawyers Council, reps from DCCC and DSC, and various non-profits in support of fair elections.

This excellent DNC plan includes:
Training state party Chairs for year-round election protection.
This will take place at the DNC conference, Chicago, August 18.
A "NO CONCESSION until all votes are counted" candidate position,
and advocating for precinct-based optical scan equipment.
Mark Brewer, Chairman, Association of Democratic State Chairs is in charge of this.

Creating state legal teams to produce state-by-state election code guidebooks for attorney and activist teams in each county. These handbooks will include information on how to investigate voting processes, including:

voter ID laws and voter rights
pollworker training for consistency with election code
voting systems for consistency with election code
elections administration for consistency with election code
following the election through to the end of vote counting and auditing

The goals of these investigations are:
-to proactively influence the processes and procedures to produce fair elections,
-to pursue litigation where warranted,
-to accumulate data to support legislation for election integrity.

The second guidebook is for pollworker training:
the party is encouraging volunteers to become pollworkers in order to ensure that all laws are applied fairly and consistently, and that all voting systems have whatever oversight can be ensured by the pollworker. These guidebooks are supplements to the ROV training manuals.

There will be a Centralized 888 DemVote phone system for:
Automated answer to the questions: "where do I go to vote?", "am I registered?"
AND rerouting problem calls to LOCAL attorneys for immediate problem-solving/legal action related to vote suppression, issues with access or equipment, or pollworker problems. Ken Smuckler, Voterlink

Useful print materials for voter rights are available from Jack Young, National Lawyers Council, Virginia.
One of these featured a door-hanger with the precinct location, voter rights and ID requirements, and the 888 Dem Vote hotline number on one side, and "who to vote for" on the other side.

A timeline was offered by Joe Sandler, general counsel, DNC, which starts now.

Recommended immediate effort:
Compare statewide voter reg databases with last year's databases to find voters who erroneously removed from the voter rolls, contact those voters, and get them re-registered. If disenfranchisement appears along racial/ethnic lines, file lawsuits, get injunctions.

There was also information available about voting systems and provisional ballots, from Election Data Services:
what are the rates of provisionals cast and rejection rates for each state: helpful to determine the amount of attention this will require ( in other words, in states where provisional ballots are not counted, voters need to fight for the right to vote in the normal manner rather than cast provisionals.)

Also contains maps of voting system usage for every county, and trends in voting patterns.
Election Data Services, Kimball Brace, President

-presentation by Dan Wallach on the insecurity of electronic voting systems.
-presentation by Spencer Overton on voter ID, and studies that show that claims of widespread voter fraud are false.

Karl Rove's strategy:
Identify all jurisdictions that have a 2-1 margin for Reps, and make it 2 1/2 to 1, and,
Prevent the vote for those not "entitled" to vote.

We know what that means. Onslaught of voter suppression. My take; very important to have strong minority area attorney-response teams in every county.

Well, that's all for now. I have no idea when this will be officially announced, but the DSC phone banker asking me for money today was able to respond to me that there was a plan for a 50 state election protection effort. He was in Wisconsin at the DSC call center, so it seems that "the word" has been coordinated, already. This is good news... Very good news.

I guess the effort has started to bear fruit.
Please forward this email to any attorneys you know and get the volunteer minds oriented.

And, if you get a request from the DNC to fund this effort, please give.


View Brennan Report With Caution

Posted with permission from Jonathan Simon – 6/28/2006

Election Integrity activists must be very careful about allowing the Brennan Report to be parlayed into a convenient bipartisan rush (sorry) for the shelter of Holt.

Please remember, the very cynical syllogism still holds, Brennan or no Brennan: Election Rigging is The Goose That Lays The Golden Eggs; as long as the right can continue to rig (and Holt certainly permits that), they need not fear the electorate; hence, given their governing majority in Congress, they will not kill the Golden Goose, no matter how much apparent "pressure" is brought to bear. With their power secured by compromised elections, all such apparent pressure is illusory. So we can conclude with confidence about federal election "reform" legislation: if it passes, it won't work; if it would work, it won't pass.

Going to Congress to fix this mess is a sucker's play. Allowing even apparently "good" federal legislation to be the chalice carrying our fond hopes leaves those hopes at the mercy of a Conference Committee which will be taking it's marching orders from Karl Rove. Then the word-up will be "problem solved, move on."

But it won't be solved, not by a long shot, it will only be federalized and hence even more under the regime's control. It won't be solved until we either: 1) get rid of the machines altogether, or 2) implement an effective mandatory jurisdiction-wide handcount sample protocol to test overall results, not merely the stray machine. Voter verified means NOTHING when dealing with black-box computers. Auditability means virtually NOTHING when chain-of-custody is violated, when there are Blackwells in the picture, when the fees are prohibitive, when results thresholds are set for audits.

If the Brennan Report is used to bring us VVPT, it will be a great boon worse than wasted. Stimulating Congress to act in any way is a critical mistake in the current situation. The only hope of a real solution will come from states, localities, and the people acting at those levels.

It is up to those of us who recognize the critical distinctions in REMEDIES to rapidly educate those who are first recognizing the PROBLEM before they join a stampede in the worst possible direction. We need to put out a position paper, talking points, etc., bridging from the Brennan Report (recognizing the problem) to Effective (i.e., non-Holt, uniform omni-precinct handcount sampling) Audits as THE NEXT STEP.

Let's get on it. Will have a detailed Effective Audit paper out asap --Jonathan Simon

What's Wrong with the Holt Bill (HR 550)?

Click here for an overview of this controversial legislation. EDA does not support passage of this bill due to the serious flaws that make it a potential danger to fair, state governed elections if passed without significant amendments. See also, our HAVA and related legislation link here.