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Around the States

 

California: "It's Outrageous," Says Busby On Dismissal Of Election Contest PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Brad Friedman, The Brad Blog   
August 31, 2006
Strong Statement, in Wake of Lawsuit Tossed on 'Jurisdictional Grounds', a First Since Illegally Adminstered June 6th U.S. House Special Election!

'North County Times' Provides Decent Coverage of Debacle…

 

This article was posted on The Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

 

"It's outrageous," says Francine Busby, "that this judge just said the state of California doesn't have jurisdiction over our own elections, over this election."

Busby's remarks, in a report today by William Finn Bennett in the North County Times, were a suprising departure from her previously guarded stance concerning the challenge of the June 6th U.S. House Special Election between herself and Brian Bilbray.

 

"What happened today should be of concern to all voters," Busby reportedly said.

 

Bennett's coverage of yesterday's debacle in the San Diego County courtroom where Judge Yuri Hoffman dismissed the election contest in support of the defendants' arguments that the U.S. House, not the voters or courts of California, have jurisdication to adjudicate election challenges after the House has already seated a member, is quite good. Indeed, it was a refreshing departure from previous sloppy, sometimes wholly inaccurate and occassionally entirely partisan North County Times reports and commentary on the case (see this embarrasing commentary from Jim Trageser for the most egregious.)

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California: Measure To Improve and Open Up Election Audit Process Heads To Governor PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By California State Senator Debra Bowen   
August 31, 2006

Closing a loophole in California’s election auditing procedures and opening the entire process to the public are the goals of SB 1235 by Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach, pictured at right), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee, which cleared the full Senate today on a bipartisan 40-0 vote and now heads to the Governor’s desk.

 

"Nearly half of California’s voters use an absentee ballot to vote and thousands of others take advantage of in-person early voting opportunities before every election, so the fact that some counties don’t include nearly half of the ballots cast in any given election in the auditing process undermines the integrity of the audit and the election itself," said Bowen. "The 1% manual audit is designed to ensure the electronic voting machines and the ballot counters tallied the results correctly, but there’s no way to conduct a meaningful review if more than half of the ballots cast aren’t subject to the 1% audit requirement.”

 

Under California law, elections officials are required to conduct a public manual tally of the ballots cast in at least 1% of the precincts to check the accuracy of the votes tabulated by the electronic or mechanical voting systems.  The law also requires the precincts subject to the audit to be randomly selected by elections officials, but it doesn’t define “random.”
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New York: To Avoid Glitches, Council Pushes For Vote Machine Tests PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Reuven Blau, The Chief-Leader   
August 30, 2006

This article appeared in The Chief Leader. It is reposted with permission.

 

As the Sept. 12 primary nears, the City Council has unanimously passed a resolution urging the city Board of Elections to conduct public tests of the new voting systems that are under consideration for the fall 2007 elections.

The resolution, which is largely based on research conducted by voter advocate Teresa Hommel (pictured at left), also asks the Board to publish an analysis of the "acquisition, transition, and continuing costs of new voting systems."

Electronic Kinks

Ms. Hommel and other election integrity advocates have charged that computerized Direct Recording Electronic systems are fundamentally flawed, and have been urging the Board to use only paper ballots and optical scanner devices.

They contend that computerized voting systems similar to ATM machines cannot be properly audited after elections and that the technology can be easily hacked into and manipulated. In addition, purchasing enough DREs for the entire city will cost approximately four to six times more than the simpler and more manageable optical scan machines, according to Ms. Hommel.

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Democracy Denied: San Diego Judge Dismisses Busby/BilBray Election Contest On Jurisdictional Grounds PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Emily Levy, for The Brad Blog   
August 30, 2006
Finds Rushed Swearing in of Presumed Winner Bilbray by U.S. House — Just 7 Days After Election and 16 Days Before Certification — Transferred Power to Decide Election Outcome to Congress - California Voters, Courts Left Powerless to Challenge Illegally Administered Election According to Ruling

This article appeared on The Brad Blog. It is reposted here with permission of the editor.

 

A judge in the San Diego challenge to the Francine Busby/Brian Bilbray U.S. House Special Election in California's 50th Congressional District has found in favor of the defendants' motion to dismiss the case based on jurisdictional grounds, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

 

We have covered the defendants' argument, that the swearing in of Bilbray — just seven days after the election and a full 16 days prior to certification by San Diego County — effectively transferred power to decide any election challenges from the California courts to the U.S. House of Representatives. Those arguments are discussed in detail in several previous BRAD BLOG articles (here, here, here and here.)

 

The defendants' attempts to force plaintiffs to cover the cost of attorneys fees (a so-called "SLAPP back" motion) was denied by Judge Yuri Hofmann based on the same jurisdicational arguments used to dismiss the case, according to the plaintiffs' attorney, Paul Lehto. Since the California court has no jurisdication to adjudicate an election contest for a California U.S. House election, it also has no jurisidiction to find against plaintiffs in the "SLAPP back" motion, says Lehto.

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What Do Paper Trails And The Gestation Period Of A Baby Elephant Have In Common? PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Office of State Senator Debra Bowen   
August 30, 2006

Bowen Bill To Ensure Voting Machine Paper Trails Retain Their Integrity And Readability  Signed Into Lawa By California Governor

 

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Electronic voting machines used in California will have to produce an accessible voter-verified paper audit trail (AVVPAT) that will retain its integrity and readability for 22 months under SB 1760 by Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), which was signed into law Monday night.

“These machines use thermal paper, and as anyone who has ever left an ATM receipt on the passenger seat in their car for too long knows, there’s far too great of a risk that the vote results on these paper trails could vanish into thin air,” said Bowen, the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee. “Under current law, elections officials already have to keep all ballots and AVVPATs for 22 months, but if the actual votes on the audit trail disappear, it undermines the requirement to keep the ballots and the paper audit trails.”

 

Current law requires elections officials to retain ballots and other items – including the paper record copies produced by a touch screen’s AVVPAT – for 22 months after an election. SB 1760 precludes the Secretary of State from approving an electronic voting system for use in California unless he or she ensures the paper used for the machines audit trail is of sufficient quality to maintain its integrity and readability throughout the required 22-month post-election retention period.

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Wyoming: Yet Another ES&S Ballot Programming Error PDF  | Print |  Email
Wyoming
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 29, 2006
Error Similar To Earlier Problem In Iowa Effects Municipal Race in Wyoming Primary

Initial results published Wednesday in local Jackson Hole, Wyoming newspapers indicated that incumbent Jackson Town councilman steve Harrington had been rejected by voters. However, after a “recalculation” of the vote totals, Harrington will be a candidate in the November general election and council member Scott Anderson will take his place on the sidelines.

Another election, another “glitch”. Fortunately this one was caught. As the Jackson Hole News reported, the problem involved a rotation system intended to prevent the same candidate from always appearing at the top of ballots in each voting precinct. In creating the rotation, a tabulation program substituted one of the two blank spaces provided for write-in candidates on the ballot with one of the candidates listed.

The effect was someone may have voted for a particular person, but the program counted the vote toward a write-in candidate instead of the person for whom the vote was intended. The programming error affected 331 ballots and significantly altered the outcome of the race.

While local news coverage focused on the embarrassment of the announcement of incorrect pre-recalculated vote totals, little attention was focused on the possibility that such ballot programming errors may have happened in other Wyoming counties. The problem in Jackson Hole is nearly identical to problems encountered earlier this summer in Pottawattamie County, Iowa where nine Republican primary races were effected by a similar ballot programming error.

Thousands Will Be Disenfranchised By Missouri's New Photo ID Law PDF  | Print |  Email
Missouri
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 29, 2006

While estimates vary on the precise number of eligible Missouri voters that will be disenfranchised under Missouri’s new photo identification requirements, there seems little question that thousands will be effected. Earlier this year, Missouri joined Georgia and Indiana in requiring photo identification in order to have one's vote counted.

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan initially estimated that the number of eligble voters lacking the required ID would be 240,000. A recent o Associated Press article suggests that this number may be slightly high, with a more accurate number being 170,000. Either way, that’s plenty of dienfranchisement. There has been no evidence of any significant "voter fraud" that photo ID requirements like Missouri's are indended to curb - certainly nothing to justify denying the right to vote to thousands of eligible citizens.

The new law is being challenged by the Missouri ACLU (Jackson County v. State of Missouri), and there is also a motion for a preliminary injunction pending. A provision of the state constitution, the Hancock Amendment, prohibits the imposition of financial burdens on counties without state funding and the ACLU is arguing that the State of Missouri has imposed an unfunded mandate on Missouri counties by requiring voter ID.

According to the Kansas City Star, minimal efforts are being undertaken by the Department of Revenue to provide necessary identification for disabled and elederly voters, but there seems little doubt that thousands of eligible voters will be turned away from the polls. Of course, they can still vote absentee, which requires no identification at all.

Ohio: Election Science Institute Report PDF  | Print |  Email
Ohio
By Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University   
August 28, 2006

This article was posted on Avi Rubin's blog and is reposted here with permission of the author. 

 

About a week ago, the Election Science Institute released a report analyzing the performance of a DRE with a VVPAT in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The report appears to me to be well written and the study well thought out. It has also generated a lot of chatter on the Internet. I have found on some "pro paper trail" mailing lists that I am on that people have used this report to show that DREs are error prone, and that the paper is more important than ever. Groups such as Voters Unite produced reports to that effect (e.g. this one). Likewise, people who might be categorized as "anti paper trail", such as Dan Tokajo at Ohio State, have used this report to criticize VVPAT (see Tokajo's blog entry).


I find it interesting that different people on different sides of the issue have used this report to back up the claims they've been making all along. One thing that is absolutely clear to me, and something I believe pretty much everybody would agree on is that such studies are extremely valuable, and we need more of them.

I will take this opportunity, as I have in the past, to respectfully disagree with Dan Tokaji, although not entirely. I will concede that the machines used in this study clearly did not implement an ideal paper audit trail. In fact, if you read the study, it is pretty clear that there were many faults with the paper audit trail. Where I part ways with Tokaji's is in his conclusions. I do not believe that the concept of a voter verified paper audit trail should be thrown out just because there was a poor implementation of it. In fact, if you consider a ballot marking system, where there is no electronic tally, such a system qualifies as a VVPAT, and would by its nature avoid many of the problems that arose in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

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California: Election Nullification II - Speaker's Special Source PDF  | Print |  Email
California
By Michael Collins, for Scoop Independent Media   
August 28, 2006

Election Nullification II: Speaker of House had Special Source for Election “Certification California Assistant Secretary of State for Elections Tells House Clerk, it’s all good!

 

This article appeared on Scoop and is repostyed with permission of the editor. 

 

What would you think if you heard that a Member of Congress was sworn in prior to the official certification of his hotly contested and controversial election?

 

Would it matter to which political party the Member of Congress belonged?

 

On August 25, 2006, "Scoop" revealed that there was something very wrong with Brian Bilbray’s swearing in as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican Bilbray allegedly defeated Francine Busby in a close and controversial special election in California’s 50th Congressional District. There were immediate cries of foul and demands for both an investigation and a recount. The problems were well publicized before the swearing in.

Read more...
Indiana: ES&S Agrees To Pay State $750,000 PDF  | Print |  Email
Indiana
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 28, 2006
MicroVote Still Under Investigation

Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita has announced the settlement of an enforcement proceeding concerning Election Systems & Software (ES&S) in which the voting machine vendor  agreed to contribute $245,000 to help the State fund a Voting System Technical Oversight Program (VSTOP). According to the Secretary of State’s office, that program will provide counties and the State with much needed technical support in the use of election equipment and the establishment of voting system standards. In addition to the VSTOP contribution, ES&S has agreed to pay almost $500,000 to the 27 counties it had contracted with to pay for training videos, onsite support and additional services such as ballot layout assistance and voter outreach through the 2007 elections, especially for disabled voters.

The state's began investigating ES&S even before the state’s May 2 primary, when Rokita's office accused it of breaking the law by providing poor service, defective equipment, and uncertified voting system software. The problems included improperly programmed memory packs used to tally votes in machines, mistakes on ballots and missed deadlines. Later, the investigation was expanded to include problems that several Southern Indiana counties had after the polls closed for the primary. Rokita's office had frozen over $300,000 in HAVA payments to counties pending the completion of the investigation. That money now will be released.

The state still is investigating separate complaints involving Indianapolis-based MicroVote General Corp., according to Rokita.

The ES&S agreement resolves the dispute without any fines or judgments and allows ES&S to deny any criminal wrongdoing. ES&S Senior Vice President John Groh acknowledged customer service had not lived up to the company's own standards. According to an Associated Press article, Groh said ES&S had compiled a "bible" of lessons learned from the Indiana situation and was changing some of its business practices as a result. ES&S has doubled the size of its election support staff for all states, adding about 50 workers overall, and is reconfiguring its staff into teams for each state, he said.
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Nevada Congressional Candidate To Challenge Primary Election Results PDF  | Print |  Email
Nevada
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 28, 2006
Republican Congressional candidate Sharron Angle (pictured at right) has aanounced that she will challenge the results of her August 15 primary loss to Secretary of State Dean Heller in the hope of nullifying the election and holding a re-vote. Official results gave Heller a 421 margin of victory in the contest to choose a candidate to run against Democrat Jill Derby for Nevada’s Second District congressional seat, currently held by gubernatorial hopeful Jim Gibbons.

At a press conference in Reno on Friday, Angle said that rather than requesting a recount, she would challenge the election results in district court "based on errors in the voting process," which she maintained "clouded the outcome of the election to the point that the true winner is unknown."

"In this situation, the voters do not know who would have received the majority of votes if errors did not occur," said Angle. "Out of respect for the will of the people and their right to vote, I am obligated to contest the outcome of this election and request a special election."

According to an article in the Nevada Appeal, Elections Deputy Ellick Hsu said Nevada's 17 county elections officials estimated costs totaling $115,000 to do the recount and Sequoia Voting Systems, which manufactured and programmed the machines, said it would charge $175,000 - a total of $290,000. This money would need to be deposited by Angle campaign before a recount would be conducted.

The cost of a re-vote would be significantly more and would be borne by the counties effected. While the total cost is unknown, Washoe county registrar of Voters Dan Burke estimated that the cost would be $400,000 in his county alone.
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Alaska: Diebold Failures Mar Primary Election PDF  | Print |  Email
Alaska
By Warren Stewart, VoteTrustUSA   
August 27, 2006

Another primary election has been marred by voting technology failures. As usual, election officials were quick to defend the technology and the integrity of election results, eagerly dismissing any concerns. According to an Associated Press article problems with Alaska's Diebold TSx touchscreen voting machines forced elections officials to hand count and manually upload vote totals from several precincts across the state. Touchscreen machines in Kodiak, Nenana, Healy, Tok, and Unalakleet counties were unable to upload their vote totals to the Division of Elections' central computing system.

Division of Elections Director and former Mrs. Alaska Whitney Brewster (pictured at right) noted "just because they're not being uploaded doesn't mean they're not being recorded accurately." Of course there is no reason to assume that they were recorded accurately either.

State Democratic Party spokeswoman and former state representative Kay Brown was quoted in an Ars Tecnica post "there are many systematic problems with Diebold machines that have been identified in many contexts," and feels that the occurence of "technical glitches with the machines is not surprising." Brown has been a vocal critic of Diebold's technology since a 2004 election in which a catastrophic hardware malfunction caused the company's machines to miscount votes and report inexplicable 200 percent voter turnout in just under half of Alaska's House districts.

 

Brown has written several articles criticizing Diebold, including one posted earlier this month on VoteTrustUSA in which she observed that Diebold's hardware may have been certified fraudulently, and is therefore illegal according to Alaska state law.

While Brewster was defending her machines Brown pointed out that the slowdown caused by the touchscreen machines is indicative of larger problems with the machines. “I can say there are many systematic problems with Diebold machines that have been identified in many contexts. That there were technical glitches with the machines is not surprising, and it’s one indication of the kinds of things that can go wrong with the machines and it’s something to be concerned about.”

 

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Comment on the Pennsylvania State HAVA Plan PDF  | Print |  Email
Pennsylvania
By Rebecca Mercuri, Notable Software   
August 27, 2006

This article was posted on OpedNews.com. It is reposted here with permission of the author.

 

Numerous citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania requested that I submit a comment regarding Pennsylvania's amended HAVA State Plan. I am an expert on electronic voting matters, a former (long-time) resident of Pennsylvania, as well as a former Bucks County poll worker and committeewoman. I have testified before numerous PA legislative committees on the subject of Voter Verified Paper Ballots, and continue to closely follow your State's HAVA implementation activities.

I am deeply concerned about Pennsylvania's interpretation of the HAVA Section 301 requirements with regard to the production of "a permanent paper record with a manual audit capacity" by voting systems that "allow the voter to correct any error before the permanent paper record is produced." I have examined all of the voting system certification reports on your Secretary of State's website and note that only your optically scanned paper systems appear to meet this dual mandate. That there is considerable debate about the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) systems is reflected in your State Plan Element 12 section entitled "Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail." Although you have observed that the EAC has not mandated VVPATs in their 2005 VVSG, actually none of their guidelines are mandatory (they are all voluntary). As well, the EAC has abstained from commenting with respect to the ability to apply "uniform and nondiscriminatory standards" in states where diverse voting systems are employed that exhibit different rates of disenfranchisement (such as via high undervote rates). These are points of concern.

With regard to the semantic discussion that appears on pages 53-55 of your State Plan, the terminology has been incorrectly applied. The balloting process (whether on optically scanned paper or via a VVPAT-equipped DRE) always requires a casting action that confirms that the voter has had an opportunity to examine the paper record and has deemed it to be correct. Thus, all ballots are "verified" (in the same way that a signature on a loan contract indicates that the signer has reviewed the document, whether they actually did or not) through the casting action following the verification opportunity. Most federal and state legislative efforts in this regard have consistently used the word "verified" and not "verifiable" for this reason. I therefore recommend that the phrase "voter verified" (including in the phrase "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail") be used in all instances in the PA HAVA Plan, rather than "voter verifiable." For additional purposes of understanding, an optically scanned ballot is a voter verified ballot, and a DRE with a VVPAT printing device also produces voter verified ballots if the printed documents are used to create the vote totals.

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Florida: Sarasota County Moves to Block Citizens' Paper Ballot Referendum PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By Kindra Muntz, Chair, Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE)   
August 24, 2006

Over 14,500 Sarasota County voters from all parties, all precincts, and all age groups signed a petition to put a referendum on the ballot in November to amend our County charter to require voter verified paper ballots and mandatory random independent audits of election results

 

The ES&S (Election Systems and Software) touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines used in Sarasota County have no way to verify the accuracy of our votes in an open and transparent manner. Problems with similar DRE touchscreen machines and their central processors have resulted in tallying errors in other counties such as Miami-Dade, and in other parts of the country.

 

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Florida: CNN's Lou Dobbs Reports On Pinellas Co. Florida E-Voting Test Fails PDF  | Print |  Email
Florida
By John Gideon, VotersUnite.org and VoteTrustUSA   
August 22, 2006

Logic and Accuracy Test of The County's Sequoia Machines Fails

 

Click Here to View The Video 

 

Tonight Kitty Pilgrim reports that Pinellas Co.'s voting machines passed Logic and Accuracy (L&A) Tests until a Sequoia Voting Systems technician changed some software. A subsequent test failed so the county changed the software back and re-did the test successfully. There was no report as to what caused the problem or why Sequoia tried to install software that was, very apparently, unnecessary; or was it?

 

The text-transcript of tonight's segment on Lou Dobbs Tonight follows in full…

 
More painful lessons could be in store for voting districts that use e-voting. The machines are tested for accuracy before an election, but in Florida, one series of tests only raised new fears.

 

PILGRIM (voice-over): Pinellas County, Florida wanted to make sure its Sequoia electronic voting machines were tested and ready for the September 5th primary. They ran a controlled test knowing what the results should be. Initially, they got the correct results, but after a Sequoia technician modified the database, supposedly to upgrade it, the machines failed the next test.

 

LINDA MCGEEHAN, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: My concern is if — this was controlled results going in. They knew what the results were. They programmed it in. They knew what the results were going to be, and so you could compare it to something. But in an actual election, there's no controlled result. So you don't know what it's going to be. How would you know if it's incorrect or not?

 

PILGRIM: The modification was reversed and the system passed yet another test. According to county officials, the 3,800 machines will read almost 1,200 different ballot configurations for this election alone. The complexity of the election begs for answers.

 

DAVID DILL, VERIFIEDVOTING. ORG: We don't really know what happened there. I'm glad that they do fairly thorough logic and accuracy testing. As I mentioned, some places don't do that, which is just an absolute invitation to disaster. On the other hand, the observers who were present still don't have answers as to exactly what happened.

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