EDA STUDY FINDS FATAL FLAWS IN POPULAR HR 550 ELECTION AUDIT PROPOSAL

August 16, 2006

Contacts: Bruce O'Dell, Election Defense Alliance, 612.309.1330
Jonathan Simon, Election Defense Alliance, 617.538.6012

For Immediate Release
Attn: Political assignments

PRESS RELEASE:

STUDY FINDS FATAL FLAWS IN POPULAR HR 550 ELECTION AUDIT PROPOSAL
U.S. Congressional Elections would remain wide-open to manipulation

Summary

A new study released today by a group of computer security and statistical analysts reveals that, far from protecting Americaís elections, the proposed election audit mechanism in pending bill HR 550, popularly known as the Holt Bill, would in practice actually leave the election of the US House of Representatives wide-open to undetected programming error or deliberate fraud. The study proves that even widespread fraud or error affecting one out of ten precincts in an average US House race would be totally missed by HR 550 about 40% of the time!

The study also details how, even if fraud or error is actually detected by an HR 550 audit, candidates would in practice have little or no chance of assessing how many votes were affected with sufficient certainty to challenge a corrupt election, and HR 550 offers no standard for either candidates or administrators to apply in determining when a discrepancy is actionable and what action to take. A much simpler and vastly more statistically powerful alternative election validation process is described, and is urgently recommended as an alternative to HR 550.

Background

Despite credible reports of widespread error-prone programming and severe, inherent security vulnerabilities, millions of votes in America are now tallied by machines that lack any independent means of verifying that they tallied the vote accurately. Even where such means exist, they are most often not employed, or not employed properly.

In response to this unacceptable risk, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) recently re-introduced HR 550, "The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2005" -- a pending bill to require creation and auditing of a fraction of the paper record of all electronic votes cast in federal elections. According to Representative Holt, HR 550 has received ìbipartisan endorsement from one-third of the members of the House of Representatives, and has been endorsed by good-government groups as the "gold standard" in [election] verifiability legislation. 

A new study released today by a group of computer security and statistical expertssponsored by the Election Defense Alliance reveals that, despite its good intentions, the proposed election audit mechanism in HR 550 -- far from protecting Americaís elections -- would in practice actually leave the US House of Representatives elections wide open to undetected programming error or deliberate fraud. The theoretical critique of HR 550 is fully confirmed by data from computer simulation of 10,000 Congressional elections. As the EDA study clearly shows, the problems with HR 550 are so fundamental, they cannot be remedied simply by auditing more precincts.
A much simpler alternative is described which could detect fraud or error affecting 1% the electronic tally with 99% confidence ñ and it is urgently recommended as an alternative to HR 550.

About the Authors

Bruce O'Dell, Coordinator of Data Analysis, Election Defense Alliance. O'Dell is an information technology consultant with 25 years' experience who applies his expertise to analysis of the technical security and integrity of voting systems. His current consulting practice centers on e-Commerce security and the performance and design of very large-scale computer systems for Fortune 100 clients, most recently as the chief technical architect in a company-wide security project at one of the top t20 public companies in America.
http://www.digitalagility.com/Odell_home_page.htm

Jonathan Simon, JD, Co-founder of Election Defense Alliance. Simon is a graduate of Harvard College and New York University School of Law and is a member of the Bar of Massachusetts. He applies his prior experience as a political survey research analyst for Peter D. Hart Research Associates to studies of the accuracy of exit polls and other election integrity mechanisms. He collaborated on several studies assessing the accuracy of the 2004 presidential exit polls.
http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/jonathan_simon

Josh Mitteldorf, PhD, is affiliated with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, and is currently specializing in computer simulations that demonstrate how natural selection can act on groups and communities. He has taught physics, mathematics, astronomy, and evolution at Harvard, Berkeley, Temple, the University of Pennsylvania, LaSalle and Bryn Mawr. Since the 2004 presidential election, he has been part of a net-organized coalition of statisticians who analyze voting patterns for evidence of errors or fraud.
http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jmitteld

Steven Freeman holds a Ph.D. from MIT's Sloan School of Management and an M.S. in Social System Science from the University of Pennsylvaniaís Wharton School. Since 2000, he has held several academic positions at the University of Pennsylvania, where he currently serves as Visiting Scholar and a member of the teaching faculty of the Graduate Program of Organizational Dynamics in the School of Arts and Sciences. His election research has won an award from Project Censored as one of the three most important ìcensoredî stories of 2005. He is the author, with Joel Bleifuss, of Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? Exit Polls, Election Fraud, and the Official Count (New York: Seven Stories Press 2006).
http://www.phil.upenn.edu/faculty/freeman/CV.pdf

About Election Defense Alliance
Election Defense Alliance [http://www.ElectionDefenseAlliance.org], founded July 4, 2006, is a coalition of election integrity activists working at the state and local levels across the nation to detect and counter covert, antidemocratic manipulation of voter registration databases and electronic voting machines, and to promote honest, transparent, secure elections in which every vote is counted as cast.

EDA Contacts:

Jonathan Simon, 617.538.6012
Jonathan[at]ElectionDefenseAlliance[dot]org

Sally Castleman,
SallyC[at]ElectionDefenseAlliance[dot]org

Dan Ashby, 510.275.5723 [voicemail] 510.740.0572 [fax]
Dan[at]ElectionDefenseAlliance[dot]org

For example see http://brennancenter.org/programs/downloads/SecurityFull7-3Reduced.pdf
A well-known but by no means isolated example is the Ohio 2004 "recount," in which precincts were cherry-picked rather than being chosen at random, as required by law, and vendors introduced "cheat sheets" to avoid triggering full hand recounts. Of Ohio's 88 counties, only one proceeded to a full recount.

June 12 press release at http://holt.house.gov/list/press/nj12_holt/061206.html

See full report [ and updated HR 811 version with new audit detection calculations ] at http://www.electiondefensealliance.org/HR550/hr550auditaccuracy.pdf