SAVE R VOTE Report: Election Found Expensive, Insecure, Illegal, Unqualified and Unaudited (Tom Courbat; 7/11/06)

On Tues. July 11, 2006 the SAV R VOTE Election monitoring project delivered its report on election violations documented during the June Primary election, to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. Reports were then issued to the media at a press conference immediately following.

Click to download SAVE R VOTE Report PDF | Word

This is almost certainly the most thoroughly documented citizen observation of an election ever assembled. The Riverside Registrar of Voters persisted in numerous violations of the state Elections Cod--including denying access to observe electoral processes--even after these violations were brought to her attention by the citizen observors.

The SAV R VOTE monitoring project was organized and managed by Tom Courbat and DFA-Temecula Valley. Tom and the report co-authors (below) are members of California Election Protection Network (CEPN). Tom is also the Coordinator of the Election Monitoring Working Group of

SAVE R VOTE: Riverside County Board of Supervisors Presentation 7/11/06

Members of DFA-TV have been coming to these chambers for the past two years in the interest of improving the integrity of elections in Riverside County. Just as Ellen Terich promised you earlier this year, we are not going away.

After our recommendation to form a year-round Citizenís Independent Voting Integrity Commission was declined, DFA-TV initiated the SAVE R VOTE project to monitor the June 6 primary election. With $500 and 50 trained volunteers, SAVE R VOTE monitored 8 polling places to determine the integrity of the countyís $15 million electronic voting system that was purchased in a no-bid, sole source contract against our strong objection. Until this year, there has been no outside independent assessment of the countyís electronic voting system. God only knows what went on during the past 5 years.

Our sole objective is ensuring that the election process is transparent, secure and accurate. What we observed is that Riversideís election system is none of those things. The Registrar of Voters is going to give you a rosy report of a successful election, but the details of that report coupled with critical lapses in chain of custody reported by our observers provides a more onerous perspective.

Itís really hard to find a more egregious affront to the will of the voter than the fact that voters who requested paper ballots to avoid voting electronically were asked to insert the completed ballot in an envelope without using the inner sleeve that protects voter anonymity on absentee ballots. The envelope revealing the voterís name and other information was opened at the Registrarís office, where an election worker copied votes from the paper ballots and entered them into a DRE voting machine. And we have no way of knowing that the votes were entered accurately.

At a parking lot site where electronic voting cartridges and the VeriVote printers from dozens of precincts were delivered after the polls closed to be transported to the Gateway office for tallying, SAVE R VOTE observers witnessed understandably tired, frustrated poll workers unpacking bags and cartridges from secure containers to speed up the process so they could go home. One poll worker was in such a hurry, she took off from the polling place to the collection center without the tub of printers and had to go back and retrieve it.

The election night chaos SAVE R VOTE observers witnessed helps explain how 17 voting cartridges went missing after the close of polls. The Registrarís office failed to create and maintain a ìperpetual chain of custody record for all of the memory cards used with the systemî as required by the National Association of State Election Directors on March 22, 2006. The GAO and various panels recommend best practices to secure electronic voting equipment, but the county that was first to utilize electronic voting seems to be the very last to implement recommendations designed to safeguard our votes.
The delays and indecision in the Registrar of Voters office cost taxpayers more than $6 million. Had the county simply accepted upcoming changes in election law and retrofitted the existing Edge I machines with VeriVote printers like other counties did, instead of resisting compliance, the county would not have been pressured to buy all new voting machines at the last minute.

This county inexplicably has chosen to spend well over $30 million on electronic voting machines that citizens avoid in increasing numbers. Since the inception of electronic voting, the use of paper absentee ballots has substantially increased. Of the polling places observed by SAVE R VOTE, very few voting machines recorded more than 40 votes, yet independent observers recorded an equipment failure rate approaching 20 percent. The Registrarís report is far different from ours, as once again the equipment is represented as nearly flawless.

SAVE R VOTE evaluation forms showed a much higher percentage of problems with voter activation cards, touchscreen responsiveness and printers than reflected in the Registrarís. Voters who experienced difficulty entering votes with their finger were offered a stylus, but the precincts didnít have enough to go around. These inconveniences drive more voters away from the polls in favor of the simplicity and familiarity of paper absentee ballots.

The concerns and recommendations DFA-TV has brought to this board on repeated occasions are now being reported in the mainstream media by the likes of Roger Hedgecock, Lou Dobbs and broadcast professionals. Multiple independent reports tell you the exact same thing we have been professing these past 2 years. The recent Brennan report received national attention in the press for concluding that an electronic election can be hacked by just one person and the report prescribes independent audits as a safeguard against corruption. The GAO report on electronic elections suggests independent observation of the election process as a step toward establishing the integrity of elections.

It is interesting that the Registrarís report to you today is dated June 30, 2006, yet on page 12; the report states that election totals on the countyís web site were amended on July 5 due to a discrepancy. These discrepancies do not instill confidence in Riversideís election system. Arbitrary directives that allowed photography, but prohibited tripods question the logic behind election procedures that still remain seriously flawed after 37 electronic elections.

The question the Board may want to consider is would you rather initiate an independent audit of Riversideís electronic election system on your own or wait until it is required by a court order? An independent audit of Riversideís election system is a wise investment compared to funding a legal defense. The county has spent more than 30 million taxpayer dollars on electronic voting in 6 years and the county is past due for a complete professional independent outside audit of the system and an analysis of the cost verses benefits.

As concerned taxpayers of Riverside County, we respectfully request a complete independent, outside financial audit of the Registrar of Voterís office that includes the amount spent on purchase and maintenance of electronic voting equipment, software and firmware since inception in the year 2000 up to June 30, 2006, along with a cost comparison estimate (including cost per voter) had the county continued with the tradition and security of paper ballots. This audit should separately include tracking the costs and trends for absentee ballots throughout this time period.

As citizens who have seen first hand the voting systems problems of this county, we request an independent, outside process audit of the RoVís election policies, procedures and compliance with state election code and federal laws including recommendations of actions to implement prior to the November General Election. This should include an in-progress election audit during the 2006 November General election with additional findings and recommendations for improvements following the audit of the election.

The county has spent $30 million on this voting equipment ñ weíd like to find out if it has major weaknesses that can compromise an election. While the county has embarked on the second generation of DRE touchscreen voting machines in 6 years, how is it the optical scanners that process nearly half the votes in the county have not been replaced since the 1980ís? These scanners are in fact so old that the manufacturer (DFM) refuses to submit them for federal certification, and has threatened to discontinue support if the county demands it. As taxpayers, we demand accountability.

Thirty million dollars would go a long way to build additional jail or put more law enforcement officers on the street, but instead the county has insisted on giving all that money to Venezuelan-owned Sequoia Voting Syteems without seeking competitive bids. The original justification for the switch to electronic voting was that the county would save $600,000 in annual election printing costs, but in the past 6 years, the cost of procuring and maintaining an electronic voting system has averaged over $5 million per year.

DFA-TV has repeatedly come to you offering options, while the Registrar of Voters comes to you with last minute proposals to spend huge sums of money to keep the electronic voting train running. DFA-TV pointed out the need for a performance clause (the proposed system was uncertified, contrary to what the RoV testified to) in the February 2006 purchase contract between the county and Sequoia Voting Systems and we have demonstrated errors in the Registrarís reports and shown a greater familiarity with election law than the person you rely on to run that office.

Elections can no longer be trusted to one person or one office, because the complicated technology now in place requires an interdisciplinary approach. To preserve the integrity of the process you now need experts in finance, computer programming and electronic security, just for starters. The leap in technology requires a team approach and whatever electronic voting provides in expediency, it comes at great expense.

The Board of Supervisors has authorized a huge expenditure for a convoluted electronic voting system based solely on the in-house recommendations of county executives with no independent outside consultation (except for Sequoia).

DFA-TV has proven the value of input from independent outsiders and therefore our third formal request is for the county to establish a year-round citizenís independent voting integrity commission to review electoral operations in the county and make recommendations to the Board. The commission should be comprised of one member appointed by each county Central Committee Chair from each political party and 5 members from the election integrity community.

We are eager to work with the county to ensure that Riverside Countyís election process is transparent, secure and accurate. We prefer to assist in an advisory position rather than an adversarial role. Auditing something the county has spent well over $30 million on in 6 years makes a lot of sense. The complexity of electronic election systems and changing laws begs for a year-round county commission to assure the public that the process is open, honest and accurate.

We respectfully request you schedule an open workshop meeting before August first with representatives from the Board of Supervisors, the Registrar of Voters, SAVE R VOTE and members of the public to discuss implementing these 3 recommendations vital to election integrity.