Monday, February 16, 2009

Greene County Lever Voting Machine Update

Greene County Legislature has postponed the resolution urging that NY State maintain the lever system until March 16th. We'll remind people again when the date is confirmed.

So take tomorrow night off. Write to the Dutchess County legislators, instead!

Dutchess County To Consider Joining Lever Voting Machine Suit

The Voting Integrity Task Force in Dutchess County has recommended the following resolution to the Dutchess County Legislature. Legislator Joel Tyner has asked for a show of support to get it on the March agenda. Please send letters to each of the 25 Dutchess County legislators. Here's the resolution:

WHEREAS, over and over again year after year electronic voting machines, both touchscreen and optical scan, continue to malfunction; just last year thousands of phantom votes were reported by Sequoia voting machines in the Washington, DC September primaries, and

WHEREAS, in Upshur County, West Virginia, this past Election Day optical scan ballots had to be recounted after it was discovered that machines were double-counting early ballots, and

WHEREAS, in Palm Beach, Florida just this past November, re-scans of 262 rejected ballots revealed different results each time they were scanned; the very same thing also happened in Oakland County, Michigan as well, and

WHEREAS, there are many election commissioners all over New York who continue to strongly support being able to keep using lever voting machines in their counties, and

WHEREAS, the Dutchess County Legislature passed a resolution in December 2008 requesting the New York State Legislature and the New York State Board of Elections to enact laws, rules, and regulations that specifically authorize the continued use of lever-style voting machines, and

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature form a bipartisan committee to consider joining the lawsuit being developed by the Election Transparency Coalition of New York, and urging other counties to join the effort, as is now under consideration in Nassau County, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature send a copy of the December 2008 resolution to every state legislator in New York, urging them to amend the Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005, and be if further

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature send a copy of the December resolution to every Congressional representative in New York, providing them with background material and asking them to work to make clear that lever machines are allowed under the Help America Vote Act, and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution itself be forwarded to Governor David Paterson, New York State Senators Stephen Saland and Vincent Leibell, Members of the Assembly Greg Ball, Thomas Kirwan, Kevin Cahill, Joel Miller, and Marcus Molinaro, and Frank Skartados, Co-Executive Directors of the New York State Board of Elections Todd Valentine and Stanley Zalen, and New York State Board of Elections Commissioners James Walsh, Douglas Kellner, Evelyn Aquila, and Gregory Paterson, and Dutchess County Board of Elections Commissioners David Gamache and Fran Knapp.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

LWVUS Voting System Standards never meant to apply to lever machines

League of Women Voters LogoImage via Wikipedia

According to a statement posted and attested to by Teresa Alice Hommel on February 12, 2009, the League of Women Voters’ voting system standards adopted in 2006 were for electronic systems, and never were intended to apply to non-electronic systems such as lever machines.

New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the League of Women Voters of New York State recently published a paper[i] that intended to apply the national League’s voting system standards to lever voting machines. (I will call the national League simply “the League”.)

The paper asserts that lever machines "do not meet current standards for voting systems" and do not have the "higher level of … accountability[ii]" that optical scanners offer.

However, the League’s standards that the paper quotes are an out-of-context portion of the League’s position--which I worked to write and get adopted--that was never intended to be applied to non-computerized voting technology.

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Ulster County Passed the Lever Resolution! On to Greene County!

Many thanks and a special valentine to the Ulster County Laws and Rules Committee (Chairman Bischoff and Legislators Cahill, Decker, R.S. Parete, Rodriguez, Shapiro, Cummings, Maloney and Roberts) and Legislators Aiello, Cummings, Fabiano, Felicello, Gerentine, Hansut, Harris, Maloney, Noonan, Petit, Roberti, Roberts, Ronk, Terrizzi and Zimet for sheparding Resolution 47 through the Ulster County Legislature.

The Ulster County Legislature passed the resolution on Wednesday, February 11th.

Next Tuesday the Greene County Legislature will vote on the same resolution. Please ask your friends in Greene County to contact their representatives.

Meanwhile, the Kingston Branch of AAUW has committed to advocating to keep lever machines.

Photo credit: Matt Mahurin

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The Perfect Count - BlackBox Voting's Video Overview of NY's Issues

Here's a good overview of the voting transparency issues in a 7-minute video from Blackbox Voting. (Hat tip to Howard Stanislevic at Election Integrity)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

How SysTest Lost Its Certification to Test Optical Scanners

If you've been wondering what SysTest could do to lose its federal certification, this report on the suit Premier Election Solutions (formerly known as Diebold) filed against SysTest last month provides a glimpse.

Federal certification of election systems by independent voting system test labs is supposed to assure voters that these systems can't be hacked. The test labs are certified by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) with the National Institute of Standards and Testing (NIST).

Last October, they revoked SysTest's certification. The testing program is now suspended in New York and many other states.

According to the report from the Courthouse News Service, the EAC began questioning SysTest's procedures and requesting additional information that was not forthcoming as early as last July (08). The National Institute of Standards and Testing finally suspended SysTest last October, after an on-site review. You can read the full article by following the link, but here's an excerpt.

Courthouse News Service: "The [Premier] complaint then cites five paragraphs, attributed to the NIST report, on 'serous concerns about SysTest's performance of voting system testing.'
Excerpts include: 'the test methods being used were not fully developed, validated, mapped to the requirement of the applicable standards, and controlled under SysTest's document control policy ... it was unclear who at SysTest had the ultimate responsibility for test method development ... During the observed tests, it appeared that the testers were running the tests for the first time. ... Basic tests, such as the system ready test, were not conducted successfully. ... Some anomalies or potential problems during testing were not reported by the testers but were pointed out by members of the on-site team.' These citations are from the first two of five paragraphs."
It sure doesn't make this voter feel warm and fuzzy about the optical scanners that SysTest was certifying to replace our lever machines in New York. How about you?

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Shortchanging NJ Voters - NYTimes Editorial

Here's a link to the January 2, 2009 NYT editorial on the problems New Jersey has with Sequoia machines -- maybe they should consider lever machines.

An except:
Editorial - Shortchanging Voters - "New Jersey’s main problem is that for technical reasons it is virtually impossible to hook up a reliable printer to the Sequoia voting machines used in most of the state’s voting precincts. One assemblywoman has called the printer attachment a “Rube Goldberg” contraption that could cause more problems than it solves. A public interest lawsuit to prohibit further use of the Sequoia machines on grounds they are easily tampered with is scheduled for trial this month."
Isn't this a budget cut we could all get behind?

What 's the Value of "Certification" for Voting Machines?

Kiss Me, I Voted.Image by DoubleSpeak with Matthew and Peter Slutsky via Flickr

Last week, a Pennsylvania court ruled in favor of a county that got burned purchasing electronic voting machines from a "certified" company that has since disappeared.

Coalition for Voting Integrity News & Opinion: Northampton wins $1.7 million voting machine judgment: "Northampton wins $1.7 million voting machine judgment
County doubts it'll collect from Advanced Voting Solutions
By Tom Coombe, Morning Call, January 31, 2009

Northampton County won a nearly $2 million judgment Friday against a company that sold it faulty voting machines in 2006. Just don't look for the county to collect the money any time soon. Following a brief hearing in county court, Judge Stephen Baratta said Advanced Voting Solutions of Frisco, Texas, must pay $1.9 million, plus court costs and interest, to the county. Now the county needs to figure out how to get money from a company that seems to have vanished."
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How Lever Machines Provide a Reliable Count

Here's a thoughtful excerpt from an article, In Defense of Lever Voting Machines, by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D. who wrote the book "Witness to a Crime: A Citizens' Audit of an American Election" about the Ohio voter machine issues. I have added formating and sub-headings to make reading easier. Use the links to read the full article.

[Link to read the full article]
I still prefer hand-counted paper ballots, but only if they are counted in full public view at the polling place on Election Night. I simply will not defend the use of paper ballots if they are transported to another location before they are counted. I would much rather have lever machines counted at the polling place than any system, paper or paperless, counted elsewhere.

Lever machines are mechanical devices. The voter pulls a lever, which turns a gear, which adds one vote to the candidate's total, much like the odometer on a car. The lever makes a sound which verifies that the vote has been recorded.

Oversight of lever machines
With lever machines, three oversight methods are always necessary to protect the integrity of the vote count. Election observers need to see:

(1) before the polls open, that the counts for all candidates and ballot propositions begin at zero, and that all the levers are functioning properly;

(2) throughout the day, that the total count matches the number of voter signatures in the book; and

(3) at the end of the day, that the machine counts are observed and recorded at the polling place, in full public view.

Honest elections officials will be doing these things anyway. It is our job, as vigilant citizens, to be sure that they do.

New York State, by law, does not allow post-election recounts. Rather, New York allows a "recanvass," that is, a comparison of the counts that were transcribed in full public view from the lever machines at each polling place on Election Night with the numbers tallied and aggregated at the county level, to be sure that all the vote totals were transcribed correctly. As explained by attorney Andi Novick:

"Since 1896, the Election Law has required contemporaneously created record evidence of the count or of fraud. A verified, completed count, publicly recorded and announced at each poll site on election night, before the aggregate of the total votes is known, is still mandated." It is "historically understood that once the ongoing public scrutiny of the poll site ended and the results of the election night count were known, the count was at greater risk of subsequent tampering."

For the same reason, in the case of hand-counted paper ballots, I distrust the idea of recounts at a central location utilizing an optical scanner, allegedly as a "check" on the original hand count at the polling place. If a discrepancy arises, which count carries the day? How do we know that ballot tampering did not occur after the ballots left the polling place and before they were run through the optical scanner?

In New York State, lever machines have a "full face ballot." Every candidate for every office, and every ballot proposition, is visible all at once. The offices are lined up in columns, and the political parties are lined up in rows, the order of which is determined by the order in which the parties' candidates finished in the preceding gubernatorial election. While this does help to perpetuate the dominance of the two major political parties, it standardizes the ballot layout all across the state. Any error in the ballot layout will be noticed, and the vote tallies will be assigned accordingly.

The levers are right next to the names of the candidates. The voter is unlikely to pull the wrong lever by mistake. Nor can votes be switched from one candidate to another, as this would be as difficult as jimmying a mechanical typewriter to type the wrong letter. Nor can votes be shifted by sending the voter to the wrong machine, because the ballot layout will be the same on every lever machine in the district. Even the blind can vote on lever machines, by feel, finding the right columns and rows by counting the number of levers.

Read the whole article here
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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Certified voting mess - an editorial on NY's voting issues

The decertification of SysTest is getting a lot of press these days. This excerpt from an editorial in The Daily News -- the one serving Genesee, Wyoming, and Orleans Counties -- has some interesting budget numbers.
The Daily News Online > Archives > Opinion > Editorials > Editorial: Certified voting mess: "The county has been told it should be prepared to use both its old equipment (and hope none of it breaks down) and new machines (and hope SysTest regains its accreditation in time to certify them). The county must pay Sequoia more than $80,000 for computer software, licenses, fees and training of election workers. Add to that the $3,500 the company charged for having a technician on hand for 2008's elections, and the dedicated phone line required to troubleshoot any problems that came up on election days. Mr. Siebert says all the technician did was have a cup of coffee with staff, didn't show up for November's election and the hot line was never used."
Isn't this a budget cut we can all get behind?

Madison County voters to use lever machines 1 more time (or maybe2)

Here's a bit more information on the impact of Systest's decertification. Although the article from the Oneida Daily Dispatch quotes the election officials as saying they'll move forward with their purchasing. If I lived in Madison County I'd get busy organizing to get county officials to back off. It's just not the time to spend taxpayor money on technology that doesn't meet our needs.
Madison County voters to use lever machines 1 more time (or maybe2) - The Oneida Daily Dispatch News: Serving Oneida, NY and Madison County ( "Systest, the Denver-based company responsible for testing, quality assurance and compliance lost the required certification last fall, prior to the November elections and has yet to pass muster by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

After losing the required certification, the election commission suspended Systests accreditation.

Until the company gets the requirement back, the 40 new $5,000 machines will be kept, technician at the ready, in a secure climate controlled storage room, tested monthly and plugged in intermittently to keep it activated.

And the old reliable lever machines will be taken back out of closets all over the county. Dusted off and set-up at polling sites for most of this year. Definitely in March for village elections and maybe in November for the towns and city."
Do you live in Madison County? What are you doing to stop this? Isn't this a budget cut we could all get behind?
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Last Transparent Democratic Electoral System in the United States of America Cannot Be Allowed to Perish

An example of a plurality ballot.Image via Wikipedia

Andi Novick has written an interesting article about what contributes to making an election system transparent and theft-deterring. If you don't know Andi, she's the attorney behind the pending suit arguing that NY's Election Reform law is unconstitutional. She needs our moral and financial support. All her work has been pro bono and the costs of litigation are mounting. You can donate on the Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition site.

OpEdNews � The Last Transparent Democratic Electoral System in the United States of America Cannot Be Allowed to Perish: "This article explains what New York currently has and will lose if we fail to stop the unconstitutional Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) from replacing New York's transparent lever voting system with a secret vote counting system that permits the invisible processes of software to replace the role of the public and its election officials in protecting the integrity of election outcomes. New York's lever system, as well as its manual paper counting system, has protected the constitutional right of suffrage by enabling the potential for 100% knowledge through a transparent process that anticipates and actively prevents even the opportunity for fraud and error. Every protection, as described below, is eviscerated by ERMA."

So, things are heating up in the fight to keep our levers. Spread the word, won't you?
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Columbia County to vote on retaining lever machines

Archimedes Thoughtful (1620).Image via Wikipedia

The Register Star Online: "COLUMBIA COUNTY - Archimedes asked only for a lever and a place to stand, and he would move the world.

The Columbia County Board of Elections last week seconded that motion, saying in effect, who needs touch screens, optical scanners or paper ballots, when good, old levered voting machines beat any other electoral technology known to the franchised world.

A resolution asking that levered voting machines continue to be used in New York state will be considered by the Board of Supervisors at its Feb. 11 meeting."
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Come on, Ulster County, save our lever machines

LeversImage by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

It's time for us to let our Ulster County legislators know that we think that spending money to replace our lever machines is the wrong way to go. They can be heroes. They can take a position that will save the taxpayers millions and keep our system of voting reliable, tamper-proof, and transparent.

Dutchess County took a stand in December. Columbia County is about to vote on their resolution (early February). Let's get moving, Ulster County Legislators.

Send a message to Mr. Hein and Chairman Donaldson here. The email is all ready to go. Just add any personal comments. It will only take a minute.

Call or write to your local representative. Here's a link to the directory with their email addresses.

And, most important, talk to your friends.
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