N&O: Handle N.C.’s ballots with care

I wrote this op/ed out of concern that our paper ballot law would be the victim of the political foodfight in Raleigh.

Handle N.C.’s ballots with care
Raleigh News & Observer
editorial | point of view

WINSTON-SALEM — News stories about a lack of competition for ballot printing in North Carolina feed a storyline of political corruption – but before we form conclusions we need to understand why there’s a lack of competition for ballot printing, and work for a solution that does not undermine the integrity of our election process.

Calls for more competition ignore the history of elections in 2004 and earlier, when we had a multitude of voting vendors with few legislated standards. That led to the loss of thousands of votes and an election dispute that lasted months. To prevent further election nightmares, the General Assembly in 2005 passed a one of the strongest election integrity laws in the country, one that has become a model for the nation.

It mandated paper ballots, post-election audits, higher standards for voting-supply vendors and systems, and set penalties for vendors caught lying. The law helped us weed out weak, incompetent or irresponsible voting-equipment vendors. In the process, three vendors were certified by the bipartisan State Board of Elections. Only one was willing to meet the standards of the law. Diebold dropped out of the bidding after a failed attempt to gut our paper-ballot requirement.

Subsequently, our state’s elections have improved. An audit showed that our 2008 presidential election was accurately counted. In the last presidential election we cut the “undervote” rate by more than half, from around 3 percent to only 1 percent. Many states still do not even have election audits. The State Board of Elections deserves praise for its effective implementation of this important law.

Competitive bidding for printers has to be very carefully conducted, with a certification process that requires long lead times to be effective. Printer tolerances are generally measured in fractions of an inch. Mistakes are easy to make and hard to detect. Switching printers in an election year means officials might discover printer problems too late in the game to fix them in time for an election. After one or two other printers have blown it, dependable printers tend to get the inside track.

And while there may not be a lot of competition in ballot printing here, there is some. Wake and a few other counties are paying from 13 and 15 cents apiece for ballots from a local printer who has been certified. So there is no monopoly on ballot printing.

Many counties have been buying ballots from a North Carolina business, Printelect at prices of 30 and 33 cents per ballot for many years. This price may be higher, but it is within industry standards and lower than what many other jurisdictions pay for ballot printing. Counties are free to seek out a certified printer that has a lower price, but it is crucial that printers are certified to meet standards.

Lowering our standards in the name of competition will bring back the bad vendors who caused so much havoc in 2004. That won’t do anything to reduce the costs of ballot printing, but it will bring back news stories such as we saw in 2004: “A Florida-style nightmare has unfolded in North Carolina in the days since Election Day, with thousands of votes missing and the outcome of two statewide races still up in the air.”

Competition is a good thing if there are strong competitors who are willing to stand behind their products. It is not the Board of Elections’ fault there is a lack of competitors. For example Diebold, which provided equipment used in a miserable election in Gaston County in 2004 – when 12,000 votes were not reported or tallied on election night – has since been sold to our current vendor, ES&S. Carteret County has said goodbye to the Unilect voting machines that lost 4,400 votes

If we are serious about reducing costs, and if we want to retain election integrity, we need to look toward open source voting systems, still with paper ballots. This will reduce maintenance costs while making upgrades easier. Open source systems are years off.

Meanwhile, weakening the Public Confidence in Elections Act to satisfy partisan outrage will not increase competition, will not reduce the costs of ballot printing and will threaten the integrity of our elections. How much will that cost?

Joyce McCloy is with the N.C. Coalition for Verified Voting.

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Beware Absentee By Mail Ballots – mail ballot problems in the news

There are voters who need to be able to vote by mail. The option should not be denied but should be utilized carefully. If you can vote in person, you do have a better chance of having your vote cast and counted.

What could possibly go wrong with absentee by mail voting? Voters disenfranchised by clerical or technical issues, wrong postage, delivery issues such, fraud, vote buying & vote selling. Recently 1 in 10 Minnesota absentee ballots were rejected recently because of technical issues. 4,000 Lee County Florida voters may be disenfranchised because a mail sorting system failure. 12,500 mail ballots in Riverside CA were received past the deadline because of communication failure btwn election officials and post office. Fraud is easier to commit with absentee ballots as seen in Bell, CA.

Here are some news and commentary articles from this past year about problems that can arise with absentee by mail voting.

National Commentary

Chapter 5 — Lies, Damn Lies, And Mail In Elections
Dr. Charles Corry You can have an honest election, or you can have a mail in/absentee ballot election, but you can’t have both at the same time.

Why ‘Vote-by-Mail’ Elections are a Terrible Idea for Democracy
Many are unaware that their mailed-in ballots will be scanned by the same error-prone, easily manipulated optical-scan machines which handle paper ballots for precinct-based voting. But even worse, ballots mailed in, if they arrive safely, and are counted at all, are usually counted “in the dark,” versus ballots scanned either at the polls on Election Day, or at county headquarters after the close of polls when citizens are often there to watch.

Vote-by-Mail Doesn’t Deliver
Michael Slater and Teresa James, Project Vote
VBM reinforces the stratification of the electorate; it’s more amenable to both fraud and manipulation than voting at polling places; and it depends too much on the reliability of the U.S. Postal Service.

Americans deserve an equal opportunity to participate in democracy; vote by mail doesn’t deliver that.

BY STATE, in 2010

AL: Hale County officials worry voter fraud is back
Faye Cochran, head of the Hale County Board of Registrars, said many of those casting absentee ballots got help from a man convicted of voter fraud in 1998 and a woman now awaiting trial on voter fraud charges.

AR: Only ‘minor problems’ in election, officials say* (central count/M650)
http://thecabin.net/news/local/2010-05-19/only-%E2%80%98minor-problems%E2%80%99-election-officials-say …Faulkner County …
Twenty-one of the absentee ballots were set aside due to discrepancies, which included missing or mismatched signatures. These will be reviewed by the commission Wednesday.

AZ: Voters need assurance of fair elections * (March election in Yuma County)
The 10 percent rejection rate for early ballots due to signature problems is much higher than other parts of the state,

CA: Bungled ballots imperil election *
A blunder has left thousands of San Francisco voters holding the wrong mail-in ballot for the June 8 election, in which pivotal primaries for statewide offices are at stake, along with the outcomes of local and state propositions.

Last week, K&H Integrated Print Solutions, based in Everett, Wash., mailed out ballots with the wrong names to at least 1,000 voters

In addition, the company sent out duplicate ballots to 1,317 absentee voters

Arntz said they are working to contact voters…

CA: Vote-by-mail misprint in San Fernando Valley * (Los Angeles County)
…election officials on Tuesday acknowledged sending vote-by-mail guides to as many as 1,100 Democrats that erroneously listed candidates for the 43rd Assembly District in the same space as votes for or against a controversial parcel tax

CA: Thousands of mailed ballots too late to be counted in California *
(Late by county breakdown)

CA: Verifying vote-by-mail ballots is vital but time-consuming
http://www.mydesert.com/article/20100615/OPINION02/6140335/Verifying-vote-by-mail-ballots-is-vital-but-time-consuming As of Friday, more than 50 of the state’s 58 county elections offices had more than 1 million ballots combined still to verify

CA: More mail-in votes counted, election results largely unchanged
Santa Cruz. At least 11,000 ballots still need to be counted, County Clerk Gail Pellerin reported Monday. The county has until July 6 to report official results, and elections officials don’t expect to update the tally until closer to that deadline.

CA: Miscommunication with post office cited for 12,500 late ballots *
A miscommunication between Riverside County and the U.S. Postal Service may have led to as many as 12,500 ballots arriving too late to be legally counted, officials said Monday.

CA: Registrar’s resignation sought over vote-counting delay (Riverside)
Forty-three percent of the votes cast in the election remained to be counted the day after the election. Most were vote-by-mail ballots that voters put in the mail the prior weekend. 20,000 were ‘quarantined’ and not counted because they failed to reach the county election headquarters by the time the polls closed Tuesday evening.

CA: Bill seeks to redefine vote-by-mail deadline
RIVERSIDE – Assemblyman Bruce Nestande wants to correct the ‘wrong’ over the 12,500 vote-by-mail ballots that were not counted in the June 8th election.

Nestande has submitted a bill that would require future ballots postmarked on Election Day to be tabulated before the final election results are certified.

CA: County to purchase better election devices (Riverside County)
County supervisors authorize equipment to avoid future election gaffes
http://www.myvalleynews.com/story/49444/ “Sixty-two percent of ballots cast in this election were by mail. That has a whole lot of implications,” Supervisor John Benoit said during a 90-minute hearing on an Executive Office report detailing what went wrong during and after that election.

“It takes seven steps (to process) every single vote-by-mail ballot,” said Benoit, who represents desert communities on the five-member board..

CA: Residents in troubled SoCal city allege vote fraud * (absentee ballot)
Some residents of Bell say city officials asked them to fill out absentee ballots which city council members said they would submit on the voters’ behalf, according to a Los Angeles Times report published Thursday

CA: L.A. County D.A. expands probe into Bell government* (absentee ballot)
Investigators are looking into allegations of voter fraud and conflicts of interest, as well as the $100,000 salaries paid to four council members. The D.A. says several elections are targeted.

Sources with knowledge of the investigation said that among the subjects that prosecutors are looking at is the use of absentee ballots during the March 2009 City Council election…

CA: Former Bell police officer alleges serious voting irregularities in 2009 election*
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/07/former-bell-cop-alleges-serious-voting-irregularities-in-2009-election.html A retired Bell police sergeant claimed in a lawsuit filed this week that off-duty Bell police officers in the 2009 election distributed absentee ballots to voters and told them which candidates to select.

The allegations are contained in a lawsuit filed by James Corcoran, who says he was forced out of his job for informing authorities about the officers’ actions as well as for a variety of other actions that he says top city leaders did not like

CA: DA investigates allegations of voter fraud in Montebello
“I actually went to someone’s door regarding an absentee voter and I learned the person hadn’t lived there for two years,” Veneziano said. “It seems like there is a lot of voter fraud concerning absentee ballots.”

CO: Guest opinion: Keep Colorado’s voting integrity http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_14680272#axzz0iMCdFUqO
As County Clerks and Recorders around the state work to garner support for all-mail ballot elections, it is worth reviewing the vulnerabilities of this method of voting and how voting by mail weakens the integrity of our elections.

CO: Ballot TRACE glitch sends Denver voters wrong message*
On Wednesday night, a glitch caused the wrong message to go out to 177 of the 233 people signed up. Somehow, data were transposed in the system, which caused the wrong messages
to go out, said Denver Election Commission spokesman Alton Dillard.

CO: Vote early and…not at all? Ballot TRACE glitch has some worried *

CO: Uh-oh, technical glitch baffles Denver voters *
http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=144870&catid=188 That “hiccup” sent emails to approximately 170 voters telling them that their completed ballots had already been received by the Post Office despite the fact that those voters had yet to receive the actual ballots personally.

CO: Be mindful when voting
If a citizen receives a mail ballot, he or she must use that ballot to vote

CT. Absentee Ballots Can Be Decisive – yet Unaudited
September 24, 2009 Story in ConnPost, Primary loser declines to challenge absentees…As we and others have pointed out, there are many issues and risks with any type of mail-in voting, including absentee voting.

FL: Ballot blunder could keep votes from counting; envelope design to blame*
http://www.winknews.com/Local-Florida/2010-08-11/Ballot-blunder-could-keep-votes-from-counting It could be happening across Lee County. Over 40,000 absentee ballots were requested, and all sent out with the same faulty return envelope design. Lee County Elections officials are working with USPS on the problem. Still, the ballot blunder is a sorespot for many, who are trying to make their vote count in the upcoming election.

FL: Absentee ballots returned to sender * (Lee Co)
Votes boomerang thanks to automatic sorters
http://www.news-press.com/article/20100811/NEWS0107/8110373/1075/Absentee-ballots-returned-to-sender Turns out a design flaw in the envelopes causes post office machines to scan a voter’s return address instead of the destination address

FL. Editorial: The votes are in the mail
September 24 Given the choice between a mail election and a special election that asks voters to go to the polls to decide on the proposed new Pensacola city charter, voting by mail is more likely to draw a higher turnout, which is needed on such a crucial decision…The City Council’s committee of the whole approval of a mail ballot makes sense…But there are drawbacks.
Voting by mail is vulnerable to fraud. No one can know for sure who is filling out a mail ballot.

FL. Early voting reshapes campaigning in St. Petersburg elections
http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/early-voting-reshapes-campaigning-in-st-petersburg-elections/1040813 October 4. The growing numbers of people voting by mail has changed the strategies and timing of campaigns for mayor and City Council in St. Petersburg. More than half of the 37,360 ballots cast in the Sept. 1 primary were done by mail ballot.

GA: Voter Fraud Alleged in Brooks County (opposition to absentee ballots)
Brooks County residents are concerned there may be irregularities with the outcome of several local races. And now the GBI has launched a probe into these allegations.

MN: Voting absentee? Better have a witness address* (1 in 10 ballots rejected)
Statewide, at least 10 percent of absentee ballots cast in advance of the Aug. 10 primary were rejected on first pass. Some counties neared a 20 percent initial rejection rate.

If any of the envelopes don’t include the proper information, such as the voters’ address, their signature, the name of their witness or their witnesses’ address, the ballots will be rejected, and the voters will be sent a replacement. Closer to the election, officials will call or e-mail the voters to let them know to try again

NJ: Investigators probe overturned election (mail-in ballots)
State investigators questioned Passaic County Democratic Chairman John Currie this week about the 49 uncounted votes that, discovered 21 days after the city’s municipal election, reversed the election’s results.

NY: 9 targeted in vote conspiracy (DNA evidence sought)
Court records filed in connection with the investigation include allegations that the officials, and several political operatives for the Rensselaer County Democratic Party, may have conspired to file dozens of fraudulent absentee ballots last year in an attempt to seize the Working Families Party line for the general election.

The officials identified as targets of the investigation are: Rensselaer County Board of Elections Commissioner Edward G. McDonough; city Councilmen Michael LoPorto, Gary Galuski, Kevin McGrath, and John Brown; City Council President Clem Campana; City Clerk William A. McInerney; and political operatives Dan Brown, who is John Brown’s brother, and Anthony DeFiglio, a former Troy Housing Authority clerk.

NY. Update: Absentee ballots running late for 23rd Congressional District *
October 02, 2009 FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) — Military and election officials insist that hundreds of deployed Fort Drum soldiers will have enough time to return their absentee ballots in next month’s special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, even though they won’t be mailed out for another two weeks…For this election, county boards will accept ballots until Nov. 16, although they still must be postmarked by Nov. 2, elections officials said.

NJ: Informant aided vote-fraud case against Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small, report says http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/communities/atlantic-city_pleasantville_brigantine/article_5fcff138-78f7-11df-9dc5-001cc4c03286.html
Edward Colon Jr., assigned by the campaign to collect messenger absentee ballots from the city’s Hispanic community, recorded telephone conversations and secretly videotaped discussions with the councilman and other campaign workers, the report says.

NJ: UPDATE: Passaic County elections secretary charged in $384K ballot mail theft*
_manager_accuse d_ of_stealing_384000_from_county.html
A Passaic County elections secretary was charged Tuesday with stealing $384,000 through a fraud scheme in which she allegedly collected postage on ballots mailed to voters.

Di Lella said the alleged fraud was simply a moneymaking scheme and did not harm the integrity of the election process.

OH. Missing ballots cast doubt on Toledo City Council tally *malfeasance*
9/22. The Lucas County Board of Elections has 1,092 ballots that could be added to last week’s Toledo primary election count, putting the final results for Toledo City Council in doubt.
The additional ballots include 166 absentee ballots accidentally left uncounted last Tuesday, Director Linda Howe said Monday.
…In addition to the 166 uncounted absentee votes, 545 provisional ballots were determined to be valid.

PA: Another Threat to Public Scrutiny of the Election Process
http://coalitionforvotingintegrity.blogspot.com/2010/08 … The Elimination of Polling Places through Adoption of No-Excuse Absentee Ballots—the First Step to All Mail-In Voting

SC: South Carolina Proves Statewide Unverifiable Voting Cannot Be Trusted
http://www.opednews.com/articles/South-Carolina-Proves-Stat-by-Garland-Favorito-100724-239.html Alvin Greene was declared the winner based on a near landslide 60-40% margin in Election Day electronic voting results. However Vic Rawl actually won the mail-in paper ballot absentee voting by a solid 55-45% margin. The near 30% total point differential among the two candidates is unheard of in South Carolina election history and perhaps, nationally as well.

TX: Dallas County Judge: Texas Attorney General is investigating local voter fraud allegations (mail in ballots)

TX: Judge to decide Cameron County voter fraud case
The Precinct 2 Commissioner candidate alleged that mail-in ballot numbers were “blatantly discrepant” with regular in-person voting

TX: Texas Rangers investigate possible voter fraud in Starr County (absentee ballots)

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NC Ballot Printing mess-politics or excuse to gut Public Confidence in Elections Act?

Using theory of Occam’s razor, I would say that some media are generating alot of heat but little light. The less simple explanation is that our State Board of Elections Administrative Board is being batted around for political purposes. A second, even worse motive is that special interests want to gut the Public Confidence in Elections Act and lower the nationally acclaimed standards for voting vendors and systems. What questions did the media forget to ask? And what are the answers? Here’s a couple of articles and our comments follow:

Ballot printer charges more, has big advantage
August 5, 2010 Raleigh News & Observer
By Benjamin Niolet and Michael Biesecker – Staff writers
A New Bern company has a near monopoly on ballot printing in North Carolina, and the work is costly.

Printelect charges rates that are much higher than those paid by the handful of counties that have found an alternative printer…


Vendor’s ballots costly to counties
August 6, 2010 Raleigh News and Observer

It’s difficult to calculate what Printelect has made from the state. Wake, Durham and a few other counties have found ways to use a different printer, and their costs are half what other counties pay. In 2008, Printelect charged Franklin County as much as 33 cents per ballot. Mecklenburg paid 30 cents. Durham and Wake, two of the few counties that have found an alternative to Printelect, paid 15 cents and 13 cents, respectively…

The above articles infer that Gary Bartlett “picked” ES&S to be the sole voting vendor. That just isn’t true. The article also infers that PrintElect has a monopoly on ballot printing. The above prices, from .13 and .15 cents are extraordinarily low, the prices of .30 and .33 are still good compared to what some other states pay.

New Mexico and other states have a similiar situation where there are few ballot printing companies so prices are more difficult to negotiate. Robert Adams, Deputy Clerk of Bernalillo County New Mexico advises in an email August 6, 2010 that:

“If it is 100 percent pre printed ballots (absentee, early and eday) the per ballot cost for everything provided by AES is $1.26 per ballot.”

The cost of ballots in New Hampshire is about $0.23 for a one-page optical scanned ballot using 80 or 90 pound paper and paper sizes ranging from 11″ to 17.”

The fact is, the State Board of Elections certified 3 different voting vendors in December 2005. I filed a lawsuit against the NC SBoE to challenge the certification of Diebold, ES&S and Sequoia (conditionally). The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Donald Beskins represented me.

[ http://www.ncvoter.net/legalactions.html ] The court ruled with North Carolina State Board of Elections and the vendors were certified anyway.

The NC Coalition for Verified Voting opposed Diebold because Diebold went to court to gut the standards of verified voting law.
[ http://www.ncvoter.net/dieboldnews.html ]

Our activists around the state, republican, democrat and otherwise urged their counties not to buy Diebold.
[ http://www.ncvoter.net/countybattles.html and
[ December 17, 2005. Warren County NC GOP chair urged the local BOE against buying Diebold. Cited improper certification, questioned ties of SBOE members to Diebold. “Dont Buy Diebold” http://www.hendersondispatch.com/articles/2005/12/17/news/letters/let02.txt ]

Diebold fled our state at end of Dec 2005. http://www.ncvoter.net/dieboldnews.html
Sequoia couldn’t meet federal standards and bowed out. ES&S stayed, and their local rep PrintElect DID meet the standards

The NC Coalition for Verified Voting takes allegations of undue influence on our SBoE very seriously. There’s no gain from a 10 minute ride on a yacht. Its just not enough to constitute “influence”, and if the State BoE wanted to favor one particular vendor, they wouldn’t have certified 3 to do business in North Carolina. Additionally, the choice of vendors was by the vote of the 5 member bi partisan State Board of Elections, after a vote, and following the state’s open RFP process. Vendors had to meet state and federal standards to even be considered. Our new state law in 2005 set standards as well as criminal and civil penalties for voting vendors and their CEOs. Diebold didn’t like those standards.

The current vendor has acted responsibly and that has been for the better of our voters and our elections. Other states have not faired so well.
[See database of election problems around the country at http://www.votersunite.org/electionproblems.asp ]

We would like to see price of ballots come down, but first we need ballots that are printed properly. Other entrepreneurs can open up printing services if they wish to meet the demand, but that can’t be mandated by law. There is no law requiring counties to purchase their ballots from ES&S or any other voting vendor.

Do we want to out source ballot printing to China next? Changing voting machine companies won’t change the ballot printing situation nor will it improve the quality of our elections.

Competitive bidding for printers has to be very carefully conducted with long lead times (say in the off year) to be effective. Printer tolerances are generally measured in small fractions of an inch. Mistakes are easy to make and hard to recognize with the naked eye. Switching printers in an election year means you might discover printer problems too late in the game to fix them in time for an election. After one or two other printers have blown it, dependable printers tend to get the inside

Ballot printing issues ultimately led to disaster in the Florida 2000 election. From the August 2007 Dan Rather report:

“Sequoia produced the punch card ballots used in the 2000 election in Florida and also markets high-margin electronic vote machines. The company, according to the report, is alleged to have altered its ballot production process for one or more Florida counties and began printing ballots on cheaper and what seven former employees claim to be defective paper along with conspicuously inadequate production specifications. Employees are quoted extensively as having alerted the plant manager to potential problems to the point of refusing to sign off on production runs, but were repeatedly rebuffed.”

Thanks to the high standards mandated in 2005, we have weeded out weak and sloppy vendors and mandated accountability. Our statewide undervote rate for president was just under 1% in 2008, down to nearly 1/3 of what it has been in previous elections. In other words, a higher percent of voted ballots for President are being counted than before.
[See Study By Professor at Bard College NY http://www.ncvoter.net/undervote.html ]

Without the high standards passed in August 2005, North Carolina could have become the next Bush V Gore in 2008, as the election was very close. After 2005 we no longer have: Diebold (14,000 votes not counted on election night in Gaston Co 2004), Unilect (4400 votes lost in 2004), Microvote (salesman bribed former Meck Co Election Director), Hart Intercivic (caused huge undervotes in Catawba County).

Since 2005, we’ve had good elections. In 2008 Obama and McCain were 14,000 votes apart. Our election audit shows the count to be accurate.
[See An Assessment of the Recount and the Certification of the Election Result for the November 2008 Election http://www.sboe.state.nc.us/GetDocument.aspx?id=1321 ]

The problems that would have caused such a disaster had been weeded out in 2005 by the standards in our Public Confidence in Elections Act.

I believe that the State Board of Elections Administrative Board has operated at interest of voters. In 2008 the State BoE ensured that all counties provided extra voter education regarding NC’s quirky straight ticket voting law.

Gary Bartlett (was one of only a handful of State Election Officials) who urged the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, to have the Department of Defense act as a Voter Registration Agency. The SBoE offered their resources and materials to help the DOD do so. Finally, the DoD for the first time ever agreed to act as a Voter Registration Agency this January 2010.

On Oct 8, 2009 the NC State Board of Elections sent a letter to Robert Gates, Secretary of DOD enlisting their cooperation. An excerpt:

“I request that the Department of Defense, in its operation of military pay/personnel offices in North Carolina, agree to be designated as a voter registration agency. This designation would allow military citizens helped by your agency to be offered the same voter registration services given by state and county public services agencies to the persons they serve. “

I could name other instances of where the NC State Elections Administrative Board has acted in the best interest of our voters, or has acted in an impartial manner, but time does not permit.

Related articles: Printelect Of New Bern: Is It A Monopoly? http://www.witn.com/news/headlines/100162719.html?ref=719

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Alice in Internet Voting Wonderland – no hanging chads? Also no audits, no recounts

No chads? And no audits no recounts. Finland learned the hard way in 2008 when internet votes were lost and a court overturned that election. Must we learn everything the hard way? A press release for internet voting vendor Scytl is being presented as an op-ed piece by Sheila Shayon. Her piece ran in HuffPo (no comments allowed) and in several other blogs on the “net”. Shayon says with internet voting, there won’t be any of those nasty old hanging chads. No paper, no proof, no truth.

See Sheila Shayon’s utopian vision of internet voting, which closely resembles a Scytl press release:

Sheila Shayon: Digital Democracy: Scytl, MySociety Secure Funding We may never again have to suffer “pregnant chads,” “swinging chads” and other questionable voting protocols in an election thanks to the likes of Scytl, which calls itself a “worldwide leader in the enhancement of secure solutions for electoral modernization.”

Note to Sheila – most jurisidictions have long banned punch card voting machines, the only voting machine that creates “chads” on ballots.

To readers: Its a darn shame that many people may be willing to turn their votes over to the owners of a private corporation, while also making the election hackable by any computer criminal in the world.

There’ll be no hanging chads. In fact, with internet voting, there’ll be nothing to truly validate the election. There’s nothing tangible to audit to detect fraud or error.

If votes are lost, there’s nothing to recount. They learned that in Finland when Scytl helped them administer an Internet Voting Pilot for several municipalities in 2008. The results of that election were later overturned and a do over was run using paper ballots.

Finnish E-Voting Results Annulled By The Supreme Administrative Court
22 April, 2009
2% of results gone. Scytl was part of the pilots.

Finnish EVoting CoE Evaluation

Scytl website

When Honolulu Hawaii had an internet voting experiment, transpire dropped by 83%!

See “Low Turnout In Hawaii’s Internet Election”

What is driving the push for internet voting? Filthy lucre perhaps? Maybe the press releases claiming that Internet Voting is a $1.5 Billion industry? All that money couldn’t corrupt anyone, could it? Oh, thats right, voting vendors have bribed and corrupted top election officials before. Computer technologists say internet voting is inherently insecure. See Verified Voting’s informative blog posts on issues with internet voting.

If you want to be more informed on voting issues, visit Dr. Charles Correy’s online book, Vote Fraud and Election Issues. Its hard hitting and you’ll catch on quickly to the vulnerabilities and threats to our election systems.
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Democracy 4 Sale -HuffPo runs internet voting vendor press release as op-ed

Huffington Post runs a internet voting vendor press release as an OpEd – again. This time it is Scytl’s press release. The other time was EveryoneCounts press release as an OpEd.

Sheila ShayonPresident/Founder, Third Eye Media
Posted: July 14, 2010
If internet voting really is a 1.5 billion $ industry, will all of our votes be for sale? [ See Online Voting Company Scytl Raises $9.2 Million “Analysts believe that the public sector market for electronic voting systems is worth approximately $1.5 billion.”

Internet voting is the most dangerous way to run elections and removes the secret ballot.
With internet voting, there’s no way to validate the election and results are open to hackers on a global scale. If votes are lost, then there’s nothing tangible to recount:

Finnish E-Voting Results Annulled By The Supreme Administrative Court
22 April, 2009 http://www.edri.org/edri-gram/number7.8/evoting-annuled-finland
[2% of results missing. Scytl was involved.
Finnish EVoting CoE Comparison

Internet voting isn’t accessible to people who do not have easy computer or internet access, so less privileged people are left out.

When Honolulu Hawaii had an internet voting experiment, turnout dropped by 83%!

Low Turnout In Hawaii’s Internet Election

See testimony from leading computer scientist at Verified Voting’s blog on internet voting

Voter Action has some testimony from leading computer scientists about electronic ballot transmission, articles from mainstream media and a sample letter to your legislators.

Professor Doug Jones on National Popular Vote – two possible outcomes

There’s a push by some groups to promote adoption of the National Popular Vote. Some say a way to do this is by a “compact”. The idea is very appealing, but getting there could have some serious and unanticipated consequences. National e-voting expert Doug Jones has granted permission to share his comments on the National Popular Vote.

on July 12, 2010, Douglas Jones wrote:

I believe that the National Popular Vote opens a can of worms.

Specifically, despite the fact that the NPV is being adopted on a state-by-state basis for the election of state electors, I believe it will face a challenge under Federal law because the different states have differing standards for who can vote and differing standards for what votes are counted. In effect, NPV under current state election laws is not consistent with one-man-one-vote.

I believe this will lead, invariably, to a court challenge as soon as a presidential election is held with NPV rules selecting enough electors to determine the outcome. I can only see two possible outcomes:

1) A court ruling against the states’ right to use NPV.

2) A court ruling requiring uniform election standards nationwide.

Option 2 would effectively federalize the conduct of elections for President, requiring the federal government to put into place a system of strong regulation, preempting the states right to set standards for voter registration, ballot interpretation and election conduct.

Option 2 would traumatic. The Federal government does not have the machinery in place to do what would be required, and the states have deeply entrenched election administrations and a deep tradition of states rights in this domain.

Doug Jones

Disclaimer: These opinions are mine and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any institutions with which I may be affiliated, including but not limited to the University of Iowa and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee.

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Doug Jones Bio from Wikipedia: Douglas W. Jones is a computer scientist at the University of Iowa. His research focuses primarily on computer security, particularly electronic voting. He has also contributed to the field of computer architecture, including an implementation of a one instruction set computer.

Jones’ involvement with electronic voting research began in 1994, when he was appointed to the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems. He chaired the board from 1999 to 2003, and has testified before the United States Commission on Civil Rights[1], the United States House Committee on Science[2] and the Federal Election Commission[3] on voting issues. In 2005 he participated as an election observer for the presidential election in Kazakhstan. He is currently a member of the ACCURATE electronic voting project.

Jones received a B.S. in physics from Carnegie Mellon University in 1973, and a M.S. and Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign in 1976 and 1980 respectively.

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Calif voting vendor integrity bill like tough North Carolina law

If California’s SB 1404 passes, voting vendors will risk heavy fines if they hide or lie about flaws, failures or defects in their voting systems. Various voting vendors have been caught hiding serious flaws in many different states, with voters being the victim. North Carolina set similar but perhaps tougher standards in 2005 in our Public Confidence in Elections Law, SL 323. We need lemon laws for voting machines.

Calif. bill increases scrutiny of voting systems (SB1404)
(05-17) 16:30 PDT Sacramento, Calif. (AP) —

Companies that make the voting systems used throughout California would face fines if they fail to report problems quickly under a bill that has passed the state Senate.

The measure, SB1404, would require vendors to notify the secretary of state and local election officials of any product defects within 30 business days of discovering the flaws.

A vendor that fails to report known problems could face fines of up to $50,000 per violation. Opponents say the penalty is too stiff and will hurt the industry.

The bill’s supporters say it will help ensure the integrity of California’s election system.

The Senate voted 21-12 on Monday in favor of the measure, which now moves to the Assembly.

Here’s the section of North Carolina’s Public Confidence in Elections Act, passed in August 2005 setting strict standards and penalties for voting vendors.

This is the section that made Diebold run:

SECTION 2.(a) Part 2 of Article 14A of Chapter 163 of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

§ 163‑165.9A. Voting systems: requirements for voting systems vendors; penalties.

(a) Duties of Vendor. – Every vendor that has a contract to provide a voting system in North Carolina shall do all of the following:

(1) The vendor shall place in escrow with an independent escrow agent approved by the State Board of Elections all software that is relevant to functionality, setup, configuration, and operation of the voting system, including, but not limited to, a complete copy of the source and executable code, build scripts, object libraries, application program interfaces, and complete documentation of all aspects of the system including, but not limited to, compiling instructions, design documentation, technical documentation, user documentation, hardware and software specifications, drawings, records, and data. The State Board of Elections may require in its request for proposal that additional items be escrowed, and if any vendor that agrees in a contract to escrow additional items, those items shall be subject to the provisions of this section. The documentation shall include a list of programmers responsible for creating the software and a sworn affidavit that the source code includes all relevant program statements in low‑level and high‑level languages.

(2) The vendor shall notify the State Board of Elections of any change in any item required to be escrowed by subdivision (1) of this subsection.

(3) The chief executive officer of the vendor shall sign a sworn affidavit that the source code and other material in escrow is the same being used in its voting systems in this State. The chief executive officer shall ensure that the statement is true on a continuing basis.

(4) The vendor shall promptly notify the State Board of Elections and the county board of elections of any county using its voting system of any decertification of the same system in any state, of any defect in the same system known to have occurred anywhere, and of any relevant defect known to have occurred in similar systems.

(5) The vendor shall maintain an office in North Carolina with staff to service the contract.

(b) Penalties. – Willful violation of any of the duties in subsection (a) of this section is a Class G felony. Substitution of source code into an operating voting system without notification as provided by subdivision (a)(2) of this section is a Class I felony. In addition to any other applicable penalties, violations of this section are subject to a civil penalty to be assessed by the State Board of Elections in its discretion in an amount of up to one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per violation. A civil penalty assessed under this section shall be subject to the provisions of G.S. 163‑278.34(e).

The only reason voting vendors could hate the bill is they don’t want to admit how flawed and defective their software is. Its easier on them if the voters find out the hard way….

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Federal Election Legislation to Consider for 2010

Federal Election Legislation to consider supporting in 2010

This is just a list of bills that may be worth supporting this year. Still we do need to think outside of the box if possible.

  • Curtailing Citizens United – The Shareholder Protection Act H.R. 4790 and the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826), and Public Citizen has a petition in favor of a constitutional amendment entitled “Free Speech for People Amendment”Outlaw
  • Voter Caging – Caging Prohibition Act of 2009 H.R. 103 and S. 528.
  • Re-enfranchising ex-felons -The Democracy Restoration Act H.R 3335 and S. 1516 of 2009 If you are living in the community you have right to vote.
  • Veteran Voting – Veteran Voting Support Act H.R. 6625 S. 3308 of 2008 The VA acts as voter registration agency, helps vets vote, and allows reg drives.

Curtailing Citizens United The Shareholder Protection Act H.R. 4790 and the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826), and Public Citizen Petition

Letters to Congress in Support of the Shareholder Protection ActBy Brennan Center for Justice – 04/12/10The Brennan Center urges adoption of the Shareholder Protection Act (H.R. 4790). The Act would provide shareholders with notice of corporate political spending, as well as providing shareholders with the ability to vote on future political spending by corporations.

Today we sent two open letters to Congress urging support of the bill.
Citizens United: What Would Justice Brennan Do? (WWJBD)By Ciara Torres-Spelliscy – 03/30/10…So it is in the spirit of Justice Brennan that the Brennan Center has urged Congress to take strong policy responses to Citizens United including adopting public financing for congressional elections through the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826). …But we have also urged another approach which is consistent with Justice Brennan’s clearly stated belief in shareholder protection: providing shareholders a vote on future corporate political spending as embodied in the Shareholder Protection Act (H.R. 4790). This is a constitutional way to honor the rights of the investors who may be otherwise pulled into political battles after Citizens United against their will. This is precisely what Justice Brennan would do

More about the Fair Elections Now Act from HuffPo.
“Justice Thomas’ Reasoning — Dangerous for Democracy” ~ Frances Moore Lappe”
…One immediate step we can take right now step is to ensure passage of the bipartisan Fair Elections Now Act–S.752, H.R.1826. It establishes a workable system of small donations combined with voluntary public financing for congressional races. It builds on an approach that’s already proven itself in three states. (Watch this inspiring example of its impact.) The Fair Elections approach has not been blocked by the Supreme Court. While it can’t avert all the threats embodied in the Count’s decision, it enables a candidate to run for office without becoming beholden to corporate money.”

Public Citizen proposes an amendment to the US Constitution:…we must pass a constitutional amendment to ensure corporate money does not overwhelm our democracy and clarify that the First Amendment is for people — not corporations. Add your name to the petition to Congress today! http://action.citizen.org/t/10315/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=2190 http://action.citizen.org/t/10315/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=2190#Petition

Outlaw caging and purging

Voter Caging Legislation in the 111th Congress HR 103 and S528
H.R. 103 Caging Prohibition Act of 2009 [view bill text]Rep. Conyers and 10 co-sponsors [view all]January 6, 2009 [view status] S. 528 This bill would prohibit election officials from preventing individuals from registering to vote or voting in any federal election or from permitting formal voter challenges to voters’ registration status or eligibility if the basis of information gathered from voter caging documents or lists or unverified match lists. It would also establish requirements of individuals who wish to challenge the voter eligibility of another individual and prohibit challenges based on voter caging documents or lists or unverified match lists.

Deceptive Practices S 453 and HR 1281

Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act 2007 (S. 453 & H.R. 1281) The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act (H.R. 1281 and S. 453) would criminalize the knowing and intentional communication of false and misleading information about the time, place, or manner of elections, and the rules governing voter eligibility and voter registration. It would also ensure that voters affected by deceptive or intimidating practices are provided with correct information from a reliable source in a timely manner.

Re-enfranchisement HR 3335 and S1516

The Democracy Restoration Act, is now pending before Congress. That bill would restore the right to vote in federal elections to every American citizen who is out of prison, living in the community.

The Democracy Restoration Act (DRA) is federal legislation that seeks to restore voting rights in federal elections to the nearly 4 million disenfranchised Americans who have been released from prison and are living in the community. The bill was introduced by Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) as H.R 3335 and S. 1516 on July 24th, 2009.

Correcting a Centuries-Old InjusticeBy Brennan Center for Justice – 04/11/10 by Deborah J. Vagins and Erika WoodOriginally published at ACS Blog.In our recent Issue Brief for the American Constitution Society, The Democracy Restoration Act: Addressing a Centuries-Old Injustice, we examine an ongoing and deeply problematic barrier to the fundamental right to vote for millions of Americans. Currently, 5.3 million American citizens are denied this right because of a criminal conviction in their past. Nearly 4 million of those who are disfranchised are out of prison, working, paying taxes, and raising families, yet they are without a political voice.

Supporting info: Kentucky’s Disturbing Disenfranchisement NumbersBy Benjamin Rattner – 03/12/10A new report by the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights finds that nearly one-in-four African Americans has lost the right to vote in Kentucky.Kentucky is one of the last two states [see pdf map] in the country (Virginia is the other) that denies the right to vote for life to anyone with a felony conviction, unless the current Governor restores the right through his clemency powers

Helping Veterans Vote HR 6625 and S 3308

Veteran Voting The legislation would would open the VA to registration drives and require the VA to make voter registration services available at VA facilities in states that request it. It would require the VA to help veterans request and cast absentee ballots. And it would open VA facilities to non-partisan groups and election officials, so that they could provide veterans with information on registration and voting. All these services will go a long way to ensuring that veterans are able to exercise their most fundamental right as citizens: the right to vote….

Veteran Voting Support Act H.R. 6625 S. 3308
Brennan Center Letters in Support of Veteran Voting Support Act
Letter to Senate Rules Committee in Support of S. 3308 (7/24/08)
Letter to House Administration Committee in Support of H.R. 6625 (7/29/08)
Letter to Sen. Feinstein in Support of S. 3308 (9/12/08)
Letter to Rep. Brady in Support of H.R. 6625 (9/15/08)
Letter to U.S. Senate in Support of S. 3308 (9/25/08)
Blog Entries
Adam Skaggs, “Help Vets Vote; They Deserve No Less” (8/1/08)
Adam Skaggs, “Congress Considers Reversing VA Ban” (9/19/08)
Adam Skaggs, “No Time to Vote” (1/7/09)

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Disenfranchising Our Wounded Warriors

We now help our active duty troops register to vote, why don’t we help our wounded warriors? Yesterday I received an email from Attorney Scott Rafferty about a client of his who wants to help veterans institutionalized on VA campuses have the opportunity to register to vote.

Wounded veterans shouldn’t have to rely upon outside help to register to vote. The VA would be the best choice to help its own clients register to vote. Not only does the Veterans Administration fail to assist our wounded and also homeless veterans in registering to vote, but “During the 2004 and 2008 campaigns, the VA banned both individuals, party organizations, 501(c)(3)s and even the SoS of Connecticut herself from entering VA campuses for the purpose of individually registering voters.”

As a federal agency, the Veterans Administration falls under the “Motor Voter Act” and should offer voter registration assistance to its clients. The executive order implementing motor voter requires federal agencies to accept designation by state’s top election official to perform motor voter registration duties. But loopholes exist that can allow the VA to refuse to help register voters.

Why doesn’t the VA help veterans register to vote? It is purely a policy decision – there is no law to prohibit assisting our veterans in voting. Who can right this wrong? Eric K. Shinseki, The Secretary of Veterans Affairs could immediately order the Veterans Administration to act as a voter registration agency.

The United States government policy has been to disenfranchise our active duty military and veterans. Only this past December 2009 did the Department of Defense agree to act as a voter registration agency and assist our military personnel in registering to vote, updating their registration and casting a ballot.
[ NY Times: “All Military Installations to Aid in Voter Registration” Dec 18, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/18/us/politics/18vote.html?_r=1 ]

Who can right this wrong? Eric K. Shinseki, The Secretary of Veterans Affairs could order the Veterans Administration to act as a voter registration agency.

Please see below Attorney Rafferty’s email which brought the issue to my attention:

From: Scott Rafferty
Date: 12 April 2010
Subject: Helping Wounded Warriors Register to Vote

We had an opportunity to work together during the Kerry for President campaign. On behalf of my client, Santa Clara County Democratic Chair, Steve Preminger, I am asking for advice on how we can resolve a piece of unfinished business – getting homeless and institutionalized veterans the opportunity to register. The matter raises important issues for veterans rights, voter registration, and administrative law. But italso raises a policy issue – why do the Civil Division and the United States Attorney continue to defend a former administration policy that Senator Obama called “shameful” and introduced (with Senators Kerry and Feinstein) legislation to overturn? My client would be grateful for any assistance in obtaining policy review by the new Administration. And I would be grateful for legal guidance that any of you may be able to volunteer.

In 2007, after three years of litigation over a 2004 incident in Menlo Park, Steve filed a rulemaking petition seeking some solution that would comprehensively register veterans who live on VA campuses. In the middle of the 2008 campaign, the VA circumvented an adverse Federal Circuit decision (and notice-and-comment procedures) by issuing a “directive” that allowed 1400 facility heads to restrict voter registration according to their own local policies, none of which has been published. According to the VA, this directive resulted in the registration of 350 veterans nationwide in 2008, since only 176 volunteers had been “authorized” nationwide. Former VA Secretary Peake waited until 5 days before the election before denying it, stating that the unpublished directive was adequate.

During the 2004 and 2008 campaigns, the VA banned both individuals, party organizations, 501(c)(3)s and even the SoS of Connecticut herself from entering VA campuses for the purpose of individually registering voters. Additionally, the VA provides no affirmative voter registration services, and most of these wounded warriors do not get motor-voter aid from DMVs or state health and welfare agencies. The Kerry Obama bill to extend motor-voter passed the House by voice vote, but did not come to a vote in the Senate.

This basis for these restrictions was originally a Nixon-era rule that provides six months in jail for conducting an “authorized demonstration.” The VA interprets this to include any private political conversation, even voter registration. After four years of litigation, Judge Fogel dismissed the “as applied” case because the Federal Circuit held the rule was “facially” constitutional. The Federal Circuit decision later recognized a Circuit conflict on unfettered discretion in non-public forums and granted rehearing.

On rehearing, the Federal Circuit held, as a matter of regulatory interpretation, that this particular rule cannot be used as a prior restraint to censor any subject matter or to discriminate based on party affiliation. In the Ninth Circuit, Preminger prevailed on standing. However, without briefing or reference to the intervening Federal Circuit decision, the Court “affirmed on the merits” the district court judgment, which had not addressed the injunctive claim. On rehearing, the Ninth Circuit amended this decision to acknowledge that it was limited to the single incident, which had given rise to a damage claim. Judge Fogel acknowledges that the issue of injunctive relief is unadjudicated and has indicated that he would entertain a Rule 60(b) motion.

The Federal Circuit heard argument last Thursday for more than an hour. The Civil Division took the position that the Federal Circuit could neither review the directive, nor require a rulemaking, but could only send Preminger’s petition back for more reasons to be stated for its denial. “There is no end to this,” Chief Judge Michel observed. The Rule 60(b) motion was filed Friday before Judge Fogel, with
hearing sought before the May 2010 registration deadline.

Again, my client and I would be grateful for your help reversing this “shameful” policy and guaranteeing our wounded warriors an opportunity to register.

Scott Rafferty
4730 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington DC 20016
mobile 202-380-5525

Respectfully yours;

Joyce McCloy, Editor
Voting News Blog

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Press Release: Prestigious Pinocchio Award Goes to Maryland Elections Chief Linda Lamone




Prestigious Pinocchio Award Goes to Maryland Elections Chief Linda Lamone

North Carolina, Wednesday April 14, 2010/NCVVNewswire/ The NC Coalition for Verified Voting is pleased to present the first ever Spring 2010 Election Pinocchio Award to Maryland State Election Director Linda Lamone, for her “creative” elections budget forecast.

“Maryland’s top elections chief deserves to be recognized for her ability to spin her state’s expensive, buggy, paperless voting machines as accurate, reliable, and affordable in spite of the facts.” said Joyce McCloy, Director of the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting. McCloy went on to say that: “These misleading claims have been used in other states, but nowhere as successfully as in Maryland. Ms. Lamone has truly outdone herself and all other defenders of paperless voting systems.” says McCloy.

Linda Lamone is famous in her own right for her tireless advocacy of expensive unverifiable elections run on paperless machines. Lamone has overcome opposition of voters, nationally recognized computer experts, voting rights advocates, two Governors and even the Maryland State legislature. Lamone’s battle is a matter of life or death, with Lamone on record saying the state would have paper ballots “over my dead body.”

Now Lamone’s achilles heel may be the bad economy. Lamone delayed the implementation of paper ballot systems by arguing that it would be far less expensive to keep the current paperless system. This tact has worked before, but in this bad economy Lamone has to account for her numbers.

The Maryland group SAVE our Votes found discrepancies in Lamone’s cost claims:

The SBE provided cost projections … to Board of Public Works members last October showing that the cost of switching to a new optical scan voting system would be roughly $19 million for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 while the cost of using the existing equipment would be about $6 million. However, after procurement of the new system was postponed, the SBE requested nearly $11 million to operate the existing equipment in this year’s elections.

The Maryland General Assembly has ordered an independent study of voting system costs:

“The study will examine the current and projected operating and maintenance costs and the projected lifespan for the state’s existing touch-screen voting equipment as well as the costs of procuring and implementing an optical scan system in the most cost-effective manner. It will also review the voting system costs and contracts of other jurisdictions that currently use paper ballot/optical scan voting systems. The report is due December 1, 2010….” ~ SaveOurVotes.org press release.

More background:

Why Maryland STILL Does Not Have Paper Ballots

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About us: The North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting is a grassroots non-partisan organization fighting for clean and verified elections. We study and research the issue of voting to ensure the dignity and integrity of the intention of each voting citizen. The NC Voter Verified Coalition has consistently fought for increasing access, participation and ensuring the voter franchise. Contact Joyce McCloy, Director, N.C. Coalition for Verifiable Voting – phone 336-794-1240 website http://www.ncvoter.net/

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