Will your vote count in 2008? Are you worried about inaccurate or fraudulent election results? You should be – because we know that errors are made and the stakes are high. Just this May, at least three North Carolina counties reported incorrect results on election night, and that is what the media went with. (SeeMecklenburg, Wake find vote flaws News 14 Carolina, NC and Thousands of votes missed in Tuesday tallies Jacksonville Daily News, NC May 9, 2008) .You can help protect electionsL email, call or otherwise ask your county and state political parties or other groups to AUDIT the elections. Send them this blog post. Here are the steps:
AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101 By Andy Stephenson
In 2005, Andy Stephenson (RIP) gave a “teach in” in Ohio in 2005 on how to audit your elections. These procedures can and must be used to protect this year’s elections whether your jurisdiction has has paper ballots or not. These “audits” help to check that correct procedures were followed, to check against tampering, and whether votes were counted correctly. Andy’s lesson plan for elections is after the jump:
Andy Stephenson, “1962-2005 A good man, a tireless activist, and for too short a time, a friend.” – David Allen, BlackBoxVoting.com
AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101 By Andy Stephenson
Submitted by Forrester on Fri, 07/15/2005
Verification Procedures / Audits
The following document contains Andy’s course notes for the class he gave at the CASE-Ohio “Teach-In” on May 7, 2005. This course basically contains the complete instructions for auditing an election conducted on a Diebold Optical Scan system, however Andy said that most of these instructions could also apply to ES & S or other vendors’ equipment.
AUDITING YOUR ELECTION 101by Andy Stephenson
What does that mean when I say “audit an election”? Well, an election audit looks at the election results to ensure that all proper procedures were followed, and that the votes were recorded correctly. In an audit, you can see if any votes are missing, or if any votes have been tampered with. While you’re auditing, you will need to look at every document that the system produces, from the audit log, to the poll tapes, to the numerous reports that are generated during the election. It may sound like a difficult process to audit an election, but really it’s quite simple. It comes down to following certain procedures, gathering the right materials, and taking good inventory of your records. It’s a methodical and detail oriented task that takes some time and energy, but other than that, it’s not that hard to manage. By the time you leave here today, you will have all the tools you need in order to audit your local election successfully.
Part One: Background information regarding electronic voting and terminology.
Electronic voting occurs in nearly every state to some degree. This might not be directly evident when you visit your polling site. Most ballots are counted electronically, whether the votes were cast on a touch screen computer or on paper ballots.
Election night procedure:
Once the polls have closed, paper ballots are collected and then counted with an optical scan machine. The optical scan machine then records all of the data onto a memory card. Absentee ballots are also recorded on separate memory cards. The memory cards are then delivered by hand to the central tabulator, or the data is uploaded remotely into the tabulator by modem. Then reports and vote totals are generated, and sent to the canvassing board. The canvassing board is a group of about 5-13 appointed members, who service the election. The canvassing board then certifies the results of the election, and makes them official.
There are a number of terms that I will be referring to in today’s presentation regarding voting equipment, and voting reports. Here I’ll give you a brief explanation of some of these terms.
GEMS: Global Elections Management System. “GEMS is a state of the art election management software package that runs on Microsoft’s Windows operating system.” (let me editorialize a bit here…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
Unity Election System. This is the central tabulator software. ES&S product
The ES&S Model 100 is a precinct-based, voter-activated paper ballot counter and vote tabulator. Utilizing advanced Intelligent Mark Recognition (IMR) visible light scanning technology, the Model 100 is a proven mainstay for jurisdictions worldwide utilizing precinct-level voting and tabulation.
The AccuVote-OS Tabulator: The tabulator is a multi-functional terminal that counts and tabulates the ballots at precincts on election day and communicates with the host computer at Election Central for accurate and timely jurisdiction-wide results.
Statement of votes cast (SOVC): It is a breakdown by precinct of the number of votes cast in each race in every election.
Audit Log: is equivalent to the “black box” on an aircraft. It contains everything that happens in the voting system, and tracks the times and dates of all activity that takes place within the GEMS server.
Modem Log: Records the dates and times that any external communications commenced with the server.
Windows Event Log: Shows if any changes or patches were made to Windows, which could affect the operations of voting software.
Poll Tape: A printout, similar to a cash register receipt. Zero tapes are printed before the election, showing zero votes on the machine, and at the end of the election, the tape is run again to show the results of each race in the election. Zero tape and poll tape is signed by elections workers after they are run.
Interim Report: A report printed each hour on the hour during election night, that shows the breakdown of votes cast in each precinct. These are usually timed and dated stamped automatically.Printing of this report will create an entry in the audit log.
Part Two: Overview of the public records disclosure laws’
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)/Public Records Request: State and Federal laws that you will use to obtain the documents you need for an audit.
Background info. on FOIA:
What to ask for in your public records request:
1.Zero tapes and poll tapes, date and time stamped, from the precinct you are auditing.
2.Statement of votes cast
4.Audit logs: from two weeks prior to the election, to two weeks after
5.Windows event log
6.Names of all poll workers
7.”Key” log and names of everyone who had access to the central tabulator
8.Names of all pollworkers
9.Copies of all “trouble tickets”: any recorded malfunctions, reported by pollworkers.
10.Copies of absentee totals and provisional totals
11.Copies of all e-mail and correspondence between elections office and hardware/software vendors, and their contractors.
12.Certification documents for the AccuVote and certification documents for the GEMS software being used in the county.
13.Lists of all precincts
14.Absentee and provisional reports. (Call Susan T. to get details)
Overview of public records disclosure laws, including Ohio statute.Also, an example of public records request. And a review of the FOIA,its guidelines and processes.
Part Three: Auditing the Election
1. Inventory the materials obtained from your public records request/(FOIA). Look to see if anything is missing. Any missing materials are most likely your most important ones. Look at the audit logs for any gaps or lapses in time. Check poll tape totals against the statement of votes cast. Check the statement of votes cast against the interim reports. Check poll tapes against the interim reports. Regarding interim reports, they can be obtained through FOIA, but it is best to obtain one from the central tabulator on election night. That way it establishes a benchmark, and if any changes take place later in the process, you will have a document to compare to. Also,look at the modem log to ensure that the modem was functioning properly on election night. Look at the trouble tickets to see what kind of problems were encountered on election night. Pay particular attention to hardware issues such as modem errors, memory card failures, and transmission problems. Transmission and hardware failures will appear on the audit logs and modem logs.
Note any and all discrepancies.
2.Find errors, make a list of the problems that you found. Present this information to the candidate you are working for, and recommend further action. This action includes investigation of precincts where anomalies have been found, and a hand recount of the ballots from the
3.This is people intensive and you MUST organize groups now to train . You are going to need people in every precinct and at a minimum 5 people watching at central count on election night. Take binoculars. Pen Paper ASK questions don’t be afraid. Take note…ask the names of people working on the central count computer. Become a poll worker, go through the training so you will be able to teach others what the procedures are. in the event you need them, have lawyers ready to file injunctions and lawsuits. Find lawyers you can work with locally that will work for costs only. They are out there.
Thanks goes to the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition where I found Andy’s notes safely recorded for posterity.