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Lab that Tests and Certifies Voting Machines Suspended
By Kim Zetter


An independent lab that tests and certifies voting machines is being suspended by the federal Election Assistance Commission from testing voting systems for failing to conform to procedures and requirements set by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The Colorado-based SysTest Labs is an independent lab that has been accredited for testing voting systems for federal certification. But according to the EAC, which assumed oversight responsibility for the testing and certification process only in 2006, SysTest failed to create and validate test methods, maintain proper documentation of its testing and employ properly trained or qualified personnel.

The lab was first suspended by NIST, which is charged with auditing labs on the EAC's behalf through its National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program. SysTest has three days to respond to the EAC, though even if it is suspended it can get its accreditation restored if it later proves it can meet the NIST standards.

In addition to SysTest, there are four other labs accredited for testing voting systems. They are Wyle Laboratories and CIBER of Huntsville, Alabama; iBeta Quality Assurance in Denver, Colorado; and InfoGard Labs in San Luis Obispo, California.

Ciber previously ran afoul of requirements and was denied an interim accreditation that the EAC gave labs during the transition period when it assumed oversight responsibility of testing from the National Association of State Election Directors. The EAC found that Ciber had poor quality assurance and failed to maintain adequate documentation of testing.

Before 1990, the United States had no standards for testing and evaluating voting equipment. Anyone who wanted to make a voting system and sell it to election officials could do so. In 1990, the Federal Election Commission addressed this by establishing national standards for designing and testing voting equipment.

The standards, however, were little more than "shake 'n' bake" tests to measure how a system performed through extreme temperatures and jostling and whether it did what the company claimed it could do. The standards also exempted any COTS software and components used in a voting system from being reviewed and tested.

The standards were revised in 2002, 2005 and 2007. But it's the 1990 and 2002 standards by which voting machines used in elections today were certified. These standards were used to pass touch-screen voting machines made by Diebold Election Systems that were found, in 2003, to -- among other things -- have a hard-coded password (1111) in the source code that was used to access every one of the company's voting systems.

In 1992, NASED, an informal association of election administrators, assumed the voluntary task of accrediting labs and overseeing the testing process along with a Texas-based non-profit called the Election Center, which handled many of the administrative tasks for pushing the machines through testing and tracking their certifications.

Wyle Laboratories became the first lab to test voting equipment in 1994. It largely focused on hardware and firmware. Ciber and SysTest began testing systems later on. Ciber focused on software review and testing, while SysTest began testing software in 2001 then added hardware and firmware to its repertoire. Some states also conducted their own tests of systems before giving them state certification, but this generally did not include a source code review of the systems, just a functional test to see if the machines worked properly.

The federal standards and testing are voluntary guidelines, and states are not required to have their systems meet the standards or undergo federal testing, but most of them do require it anyway.

Election officials have always claimed that federal and state testing were rigorous and pointed to them as proof that voting systems could not have flaws. Since the testing and reports weren't transparent, there was little proof anyone could offer to counter them.

Under the previous system of testing and certification, the testing was secretive and was paid for by the voting machine companies who forced the labs to sign non-disclosure agreements. This meant that no one but the voting machine vendors had access to reports detailing problems the testers uncovered. Even computer security experts hired by states to evaluate systems before buying them could not obtain anything but the most rudimentary test reports.

All that will change under the EAC testing and certification program. Voting machine vendors will contribute money to a fund from which the labs will be paid, and test reports will be made public to the extent that federal law allows it. This is all still theoretical, however, since the program has taken a long time to get going. Two years into it, there is still no voting system certified under it.

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More W.Va. Voters Say Machines are Switching Votes
In six cases, Democratic votes flipped to GOP

By Paul J. Nyden
Staff writer

October 18, 2008

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week.

This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for "Barack Obama" kept flipping to "John McCain".

In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. Both county clerks said the problem is isolated.

They also blamed voters for not being more careful.

"People make mistakes more than machines," said Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright.

Shelba Ketchum, a 69-year-old nurse retired from Thomas Memorial Hospital, described what happened Friday at the Putnam County Courthouse in Winfield.

"I pushed buttons and they all came up Republican," she said. "I hit Obama and it switched to McCain. I am really concerned about that. If McCain wins, there was something wrong with the machines.

"I asked them for a printout of my votes," Ketchum said. "But they said it was in the machine and I could not get it. I did not feel right when I left the courthouse. My son felt the same way.

"I heard from some other people they also had trouble. But no one in there knew how to fix it," said Ketchum, who is not related to Menis Ketchum, a Democratic Supreme Court candidate.

Ketchum’s son, Chris, said he had the same problem. And Bobbi Oates of Scott Depot said her vote for incumbent Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller was switched to GOP opponent Jay Wolfe.

"I touched the one I wanted, Rockefeller, and the machine put a checkmark on the Republican instead," Oates said of her experience Thursday.

She said she caught the mistake, called over a worker in the county clerk’s office and was able to correct her vote. But she worries other voters may not catch such a mistake.

When asked if she is sure she touched the box for Rockefeller, she said, "I’m absolutely positive."

Putnam County Clerk Brian Wood said on Saturday that he is upset there are "so many negative stories out there and not enough positive ones. We want people to vote. People need to know the facts.

"But we haven’t had any major issues. We try to explain to voters how the machines work then they come in," Wood said.

In Putnam County, early voters have the option of asking for either touch-screen machines or optical scan ballots -- paper ballots on which people mark in their election choices.

Wood said some voters might not realize that touch-screen voting machines may take a few seconds to record their choices.

"The reaction time [on the machines] may be different. And when you hit the screen a second time, it cancels your vote," Wood said. "When you get in a hurry, if you go to fast and hit it again, you can cancel what you just did.

"The main thing people need to remember is that when you are done voting, make sure everybody you wanted to vote for has a check mark beside them," Wood said.

Ketchum said, "I am educated person. I know what I wanted. I am anxious to see who wins.

"My son Chris said, ’Mom, I didn’t vote for the people who came up on that machine. I wanted to go back and vote again. I called the lady at the polls and she said it was my fault because of the way I was punching the buttons.’

"I want a paper ballot. I think it was very bad when they did away with paper ballots. I wish you had something in your hand that is a record of how you voted.

"I never felt that way before. It was early voting, so we went over there to get it over with. We won’t do that again," Ketchum said.

Last week, three Jackson County residents said they experienced similar problems when they cast early ballots at the county courthouse in Ripley.

Virginia Matheney, one of those voters, said Friday, "When I touched the screen for Barack Obama, the check mark moved from his box to the box indicating a vote for John McCain."

Retired factory worker Calvin Thomas of Ripley said he experienced the same problem.

"When I pushed Obama, it jumped to McCain. When I went down to governor’s office and punched [Gov. Joe] Manchin, it went to the other dude.

"After I finished, my daughter voted. When she pushed Obama, it went to McCain. It happened to her the same way it happened to me," Thomas said.

Jackson County Clerk Jeff Waybright, a Republican, said 400 other people voted without reporting any problems.

Wood said he and Waybright are both very careful to guarantee people’s votes are recorded properly.

Wood said, "Voting machines are very reliable. I hate the fact that stories like this are printed. It makes everybody get scared.

"That is not good for anybody. Where the fault is, I don’t know and the voter doesn’t know. There needs to be good communication between the voters and the poll workers."

Wood offered this advice to voters: "The best way to solve this whole problem is that before you leave the voting booth, make sure on the review screen that everybody you want to vote for is checked."

More than 1,000 voters from 48 local precincts in Putnam County cast early ballots in the past three days, Wood said. Putnam County has 36,000 registered voters.

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Tens of thousands illegally denied voting rights
Filed by Agence France-Presse

In Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina, eligible voters were taken off rolls, and new registrations were blocked, illegally.


WASHINGTON (AFP) - Tens of thousands of voters in at least six battleground states have been removed from election rolls or have been illegally blocked from registering to vote, according to an investigation by the New York Times published Thursday.

The anomalies, which are violations of US federal law, are largely bureaucratic mistakes in record keeping, and "do not seem to be coordinated by one party or the other, nor do they appear to be the result of election officials intentionally breaking rules," said the newspaper.

The states affected -- Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina -- are among the most crucial states that could swing either way in the November 4 presidential election between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

While neither party appears to have been guilty of violations, the Democrats will most likely suffer the most because more Democratic voters have newly registered this year than Republicans.

As such, "the heightened screening of new applications may affect their party's supporters disproportionately," the newspaper reported.

The Times also suggested the problems could keep up until election day, when people who have been removed turn up and expect to vote "only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers."

The newspaper identified the root cause as the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which allows states to remove from the rolls names of voters who should no longer be listed because they are dead, have moved out of the state or have been declared unfit to vote.

"For every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two," the newspaper reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), an influential association for civil rights, said in a statement Thursday that the Department of Justice should compel states to comply with federal law.

"These purges are in violation of federal law, including the National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits such purges of voters 90 days before a federal election," said the ACLU statement.

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New Florida Voting System Not Quite Goof-Proof
Curtis Morgan | Miami Herald

MIAMI -- No hanging chads. No votes evaporating in electronic ether. Just color an oval or fill in a line.

The optical scanners Florida voters will use Nov. 4 have been roundly praised as simpler and more trustworthy than the punch cards and touchscreens they replaced. A schoolkid could figure them out, and they leave a ''paper trail'' that can verify computer-tabulated results.

But this is Florida. Paper trails, recounts and audits only go so far. And, all too frequently, Palm Beach happens.

The county behind the infamous butterfly ballot of 2000 temporarily misplaced 3,500 ballots in a tight judicial race during the August primary. It took four weeks and three recounts, each producing slightly varying numbers, to declare a winner. But the loser's lawsuit means the recounting may not be done yet.

''I think Murphy's Law has taken up residence in the Palm Beach County elections office,'' said Mary McCarty, a Republican county commissioner and canvassing board member. ``It's a different system but the curse remains.''

One month before a presidential race expected to draw a strong turnout, the question is whether Palm Beach's problems reflect one county's inability to exorcise the demons of Bush-Gore 2000 or portend wider troubles for McCain-Obama 2008.

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Republicans Pushing to Remove Right to Vote From Victims of Credit Crunch

The Democratic party have accused the Republicans of taking advantage of the credit crisis and has attempted to block in court an attempt made by Republicans in Michigan to have people who have lost their houses stricken from the voters register.

Voting rights groups have claimed that the Republicans have been pushing for laws to make it increasingly difficult for many people to vote in the forthcoming November elections despite attempts to distance themselves from such accusations.

Republican party chairman of Macomb county said last week "We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses."
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Lou Dobbs: Electronic Voting Machine's, Democracy at Risk

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CIVIL RIGHTS -- CONGRESS INTRODUCES BILL TO FIGHT VOTER CAGING

Last week, House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Caging Prohibition Act of 2008, a bill that would target the insidious tactic of "voter caging, which is used to challenge the legitimacy of voter registrations.

"Voter caging is a practice by which mail is sent to a registered voter's address and, if the mail is returned as 'undeliverable' or if it is delivered and the voter does not respond, his or her registration is challenged in order to suppress voter turnout," explained Conyers's office.

The tactic recently gained public attention after allegations surfaced that former U.S. attorney Tim Griffin championed its use in 2004, when he was research director of the Republican National Committee. Griffin oversaw a scheme in Florida that attempted to disenfranchise African-American service members.

Among other provisions, Conyers's bill designates voter caging as a felony, carrying fines up to $250,000 and five years imprisonment. In November, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

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Ohio Sec. of State: Electronic voting machines don't meet basic standards
12/18/2007
Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane


If you thought controversy over voting machines was a thing of the past, think again. Just in time for the 2008 election season, Colorado has decertified hundreds of faulty electronic voting machines for being error-prone and easily hacked. This news comes on the heels a massive study in Ohio that also found critical flaws in Buckeye State's voting machines.

Yesterday, Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified three of the four voting equipment manufacturers allowed in the state -- affecting six of Colorado's 10 most populous counties -- for their inaccuracy and for the ease with which they could be hacked. Today, he backtracked slightly, noting that some of machines could still be used in November if a software patch was installed.

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner spoke to MSNBC about Ohio's study, where teams were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. They also concluded that hacker could break into the machines with "a magnet and a PDA."

"We learned that there are critical security flaws," she says, "because these machines are essentially computer-based voting equipment, and they don't have the basic industry-required standards for security that we would use on computers that we use for banking or communications or other things in our everyday life."

Brunner has recommended that for the March primary, counties with touch-screen machines allow voters to request a paper ballot that can be scanned optically. She also reminded voters that they can vote through the mail using absentee ballots.

In the long run, Ohio may move to optical-scan ballots that would be checked by machine but also deposited in a ballot box and counted at the Board of Elections. Brunner also proposed an early voting period 15 days before elections at vote centers located throughout the state.

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Report: Ohio Voting Machines Have 'Critical Flaws,' Could Undermine ’08 Election
Filed by Adam Doster


One of the most important swing states in America still can’t safeguard the vote. So says a new report, commissioned by Ohio’s top elections official, that found all five voting systems used in the Buckeye State to have “critical flaws” that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election.

“It was worse than I anticipated,” Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said of the investigation. “I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others.”

The $1.9 million federally financed study, conducted by corporate and academic teams in parallel assessments and released Friday, found that voting machines and central servers made by Elections Systems and Software; Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold; and Hart InterCivic; were easily corrupted.

According to the New York Times, “at polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.”

Ken Fields, a spokesman for Election Systems and Software, said his company vehemently opposed some of the report’s conclusions. “We can also tell you that our 35 years in the field of elections has demonstrated that Election Systems and Software voting technology is accurate, reliable and secure,” he said.

Brunner -- a Democrat who succeeded controversial Republican and Bush-backer J. Kenneth Blackwell -- ordered the study as part of a promise to revamp voting after the state made headlines for hours-long lines in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, also was home to a scandal that led to the convictions of two elections workers on charges of rigging recounts.

The Times reports that Brunner “proposed replacing all of the state’s voting machines, including the touch-screen ones used in more than 50 of Ohio’s 88 counties.” She also wants all counties to employ “optical scan machines” that electronically record paper ballots that voters fill in by hand.

In addition to switching machines, Ms. Brunner recommended purging polling stations that are used for fewer than five precincts and introducing an early voting period 15 days before Election Day.

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Report: Ohio Voting Machines Have 'Critical Flaws,' Could Undermine ’08 Election
Filed by Adam Doster


One of the most important swing states in America still can’t safeguard the vote. So says a new report, commissioned by Ohio’s top elections official, that found all five voting systems used in the Buckeye State to have “critical flaws” that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election.

“It was worse than I anticipated,” Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said of the investigation. “I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others.”

The $1.9 million federally financed study, conducted by corporate and academic teams in parallel assessments and released Friday, found that voting machines and central servers made by Elections Systems and Software; Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold; and Hart InterCivic; were easily corrupted.

According to the New York Times, “at polling stations, teams working on the study were able to pick locks to access memory cards and use hand-held devices to plug false vote counts into machines. At boards of election, they were able to introduce malignant software into servers.”

Ken Fields, a spokesman for Election Systems and Software, said his company vehemently opposed some of the report’s conclusions. “We can also tell you that our 35 years in the field of elections has demonstrated that Election Systems and Software voting technology is accurate, reliable and secure,” he said.

Brunner -- a Democrat who succeeded controversial Republican and Bush-backer J. Kenneth Blackwell -- ordered the study as part of a promise to revamp voting after the state made headlines for hours-long lines in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, also was home to a scandal that led to the convictions of two elections workers on charges of rigging recounts.

The Times reports that Brunner “proposed replacing all of the state’s voting machines, including the touch-screen ones used in more than 50 of Ohio’s 88 counties.” She also wants all counties to employ “optical scan machines” that electronically record paper ballots that voters fill in by hand.

In addition to switching machines, Ms. Brunner recommended purging polling stations that are used for fewer than five precincts and introducing an early voting period 15 days before Election Day.

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Uproar after Justice Department official says black voters caused their own lines in Ohio 2004 vote
10/12/2007
Filed by John Byrne


Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) rebuked a Justice Department voting official Friday night who said Ohio's African American voters faced long lines in the 2004 presidential election because blacks tend to vote at night.

Justice Department Voting Section Chief John Tanner's "investigation of the 2004 election in Ohio concluded that long lines and late voting precincts were due to the fact that white voters tend to cast ballots in the morning (i.e., before work) and black voters cast ballots in the afternoon (i.e., after work)," Conyers said in a release.

Why did African American voters suffer long lines in Ohio?

Tanner wrote in a letter TPM Muckraker uncovered that "...the principal cause of the difference appears to be the tendency in Franklin County for white voters to cast ballots in the morning (i.e., before work), and for black voters to cast ballots in the afternoon (i.e., after work). We have established this tendency through local contacts and through both political parties, and it accords with our considerable experience in other parts of the United States. Morning voters may wait in line several hours, as happened in white precincts, without keeping the polls open after 7:30 am; this is not the case, however, at sites where voters arrive after 5:30 p.m."

The comments were reported by TPM Muckraker Friday.

Voters in black counties faced far longer lines than those in the more white Ohio suburbs. Investigations showed that Ohio officials had deliberately placed fewer voting machines in some areas and in some instances even kept voting machines out of service. The resulting lines generally resulted in less individuals voting because the lines were so long.

"I am concerned about the extreme lengths Mr. Tanner went to in order to justify the reasons African-Americans were not treated equally in the 2004 Ohio election," Conyers said. "The committee needs to consider this matter. I am aware of no precedent for the Department acting in this capacity in the past.

"The Department of Justice – since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – has a responsibility to thoroughly investigate allegations of voter suppression and discrimination, like those made in Ohio in 2004," the Michigan Democrat added. "I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Tanner in our committee later this month as he testifies about his work as chief of the voting section. The 2004 election exposed serious deficiencies in this section's failure to adequately investigate and prosecute voter suppression efforts nationwide and I hope he is prepared to address this issue head on."

Conyers wrote a detailed report while in the House minority which detailed Ohio's voting discrepancies, What Went Wrong in Ohio.

"We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters," he wrote in the January 2005 report. "Cumulatively, these irregularities, which affected hundreds of thousand of votes and voters in Ohio, raise grave doubts regarding whether it can be said the Ohio electors selected on December 13, 2004, were chosen in a manner that conforms to Ohio law, let alone federal requirements and constitutional standards."

Among the irregularities in voting, Conyers listed insufficient voting machines in predominately minority and Democrat districts, provisional ballots that disenfranchised thousands, voter registrations that were rejected because of paper weight, efforts by Republicans to engage in "caging" tactics that targeted 35,000 mostly minority voters for intimidation and the use of voting "challengers," who could challenge voters' rights to have their vote counted.

The challengers, he said in his report, were "concentrated in minority and Democratic areas likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of legal voters, who were not only intimidated, but became discouraged by the long lines. Shockingly, these disruptions were publicly predicted and acknowledged by Republican officials: Mark Weaver, a lawyer for the Ohio Republican Party, admitted the challenges 'can't help but create chaos, longer lines and frustration.'"

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PARTISAN BALLOT INITIATIVE IN CALIFORNIA 'VIRTUALLY DEAD'

 The LA Times reported last week  that a controversial ballot initiative strongly backed by conservatives in California "to change the winner-take-all electoral vote allocation to one by congressional district is virtually dead with the resignation of key supporters, internal disputes and a lack of funds."

The New York Times noted that if the initiative had passed and "California abandons its winner-take-all rule while red states like Texas do not, it will be hard for a Democratic nominee to assemble an Electoral College majority, even if he or she wins a sizable majority of the popular vote.

That appears to be just what the backers of the California idea have in mind." It was later revealed that the backers of the initiative had "contributed nearly $4.5 million to the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that made unsubstantiated but damaging attacks on Kerry three years ago."

News of the initiative's demise was greeted with optimistic, but cautious comments from political strategists. "'We want to make sure this is not the Freddy Krueger of initiatives,' said one consultant today, 'that comes back to life. We'll continue to monitor it.'"

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Most vote machines lose test to hackers

John Wildermuth, Chronicle Staff Writer

State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of California's voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systems' electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday.

The researchers "were able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,'' said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the "top to bottom review" of every voting system certified by the state.

Neither Bowen nor the investigators were willing to say exactly how vulnerable California elections are to computer hackers, especially because the team of computer experts from the UC system had top-of-the-line security information plus more time and better access to the voting machines than would-be vote thieves likely would have.

"All information available to the secretary of state was made available to the testers,'' including operating manuals, software and source codes usually kept secret by the voting machine companies, said Matt Bishop, UC Davis computer science professor who led the "red team" hacking effort, said in his summary of the results.

The review included voting equipment from every company approved for use in the state, including Sequoia, whose systems are used in Alameda, Napa and Santa Clara counties; Hart InterCivic, used in San Mateo and Sonoma Counties; and Diebold, used in Marin County.

Election Systems and Software, which supplied equipment to San Francisco, Contra Costa, Solano and Los Angeles counties in last November's election, missed the deadline for submitting the equipment, Bowen said. While their equipment will be reviewed,

Bowen warned that she has "the legal authority to impose any condition'' on its use.

Bowen said in a telephone news conference Friday that the report is only one piece of information she will use to decide which voting systems are secure enough to use in next February's presidential primary election.

If she is going to decertify any of the machines, she must do it by Friday, six months before the Feb. 5 vote.

A day-long hearing in Sacramento on Monday will give the UC investigators a chance to present their finding and allow the various voting machine companies to present a response. The hearing also will be open for comments from the public.

The study was designed to discover vulnerabilities in the technology of voting systems used in the state. It did not deal with any physical security measures that counties might take and "made no assumptions about constraints on the attackers,'' Bishop said.

"The testers did not evaluate the likelihood of any attack being feasible,'' he added.

Some county elections officials in the state were among the most critical of the study, saying they worry that they could be forced to junk millions of dollars in voting machines if Bowen decertifies them for the February election.

Letting the hackers have the source codes, operating manuals and unlimited access to the voting machines "is like giving a burglar the keys to your house,'' said Steve Weir, clerk-recorder of Contra Costa County and head of the state Association of Clerks and Election Officials.

The study also determined that many voting systems have flaws that make it difficult for blind voters and those with other disabilities to cast ballots.

During her election campaign last year, Bowen made it clear she had little confidence in the security of electronic voting machines and vowed to review their use in the state.

"Voting systems are tools of our democracy,'' she said Friday. "We want to ensure that the voting systems used in the state are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible to all. This (study result) is not a big deal to me. It's a big deal for everyone in the country.''

Vendors and other advocates of electronic voting machines have suggested that because of Bowen's well-publicized concerns, she has her thumb on the scale when it comes to reviewing the systems. But the secretary of state said she purposely avoided the scientists doing the study.

Bowen admitted that she's "enough of a geek" that she would have enjoyed working closely with the study, but "I've stayed out of the way ... It's not my review,'' she said. "I didn't want (the researchers) to be influenced by my questions.''

Weir said the UC study "is only a hologram of what could be done technically without considering the real-world mitigation,'' the locks, access cards and other physical security measures typically used.

The study found "absolutely no evidence of any malicious source code anywhere,'' he added. "They found nothing that could cast doubt on the results of elections.''

Bishop, however, said he was surprised by the weakness of the security measures, both physical and electronic, protecting the voting systems. His team of hackers found ways to get into the systems not only through the high-tech equipment in election headquarters but also through the machines in the polling places.

If the testers had had more time, they would have found more flaws, he added.

"The vendors appeared to have designed systems that were not high assurance (of security)," said Bishop, a recognized expert on computer security. "The security seems like it was added on.''

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House Passes Bill to Punish Voter Deception

Those who knowingly convey false information with the intent to keep others from voting would face up to five years in prison under voter deception legislation that passed the House on Monday.

The legislation, passed by voice vote, was spearheaded by Democrats who cited alleged incidents during the 2006 elections of minorities, immigrants and other legal voters being misled about election dates, guided to the wrong polling sites or told they were ineligible to vote.

...The bill would make it a federal crime, subject to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000, to knowingly provide false information with the intent to disenfranchise another person in a federal election.

It would increase from one year to five years the maximum prison term for voter intimidation, which is already a crime.

The measure also would require the attorney general to provide voters with accurate election information when allegations of deceptive practices are confirmed, and to report to Congress on allegations of deceptions after each federal election.

Democrats cited cases from the last election where naturalized citizens in California with the right to vote were sent letters in Spanish saying it was a crime for immigrants to vote, and voters in Virginia receiving calls falsely telling them they were ineligible to vote.

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has introduced similar legislation in the Senate. People who do that stuff are scum. I hope it passes the Senate and is signed into law as quickly as possible.

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CIVIL RIGHTS -- BUSH NOMINEE RESPONSIBLE FOR 'MODERN-DAY POLL TAX' FACES SCRUTINY:

On Wednesday, June 13, the Senate Rules Committee will hold a hearing to confirm four nominees for six-year terms on the Federal Election Commission (FEC). One of those nominees, Hans A. von Spakovsky, is drawing resistance from voting rights activists, campaign finance watchdogs, and former officials in the Justice Department's voting rights section.

Spakovsky, whom President Bush temporarily placed on the FEC using a recess appointment, is said to have "used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters -- poor, minority and Democratic -- to go to the polls."

"He has devoted much of his legal career to suppressing minority voting rights, and he should NOT be rewarded with a six-year appointment to the Federal Election Commission," said J. Gerald Herbet, a former chief of the Justice Department's voting section who now serves as the executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.

"I think that Hans von Spakovsky's record demonstrates that he will use his office to elevate partisan concerns among legitimate law enforcement concerns," he added.

During his tenure as a political appointee in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Spakovsky overruled the recommendations of career attorneys and approved a controversial voter ID law in Georgia, which a federal judge later likened to a "modern-day poll tax."

Upon his initial nomination, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) said he was "extremely troubled" because von Spakovsky "may be at the heart of the political interference that is undermining the [Justice] Department's enforcement of federal civil laws."

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GOP Fundraiser Pleads Guilty In Probe
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer

Italia Federici, former head of a Republican environmental advocacy group, pleaded guilty Friday to tax evasion and obstructing a Senate investigation into the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

As part of her plea deal with the Justice Department, Federici agreed to provide information that people close to the case said could lead investigators to other officials in Congress and the Bush administration. Federici admitted in court papers Friday she acted as a link between Abramoff and J. Steven Griles, a former deputy secretary at the Interior Department who for five years was her boyfriend.

Federici acknowledged that as Griles provided Abramoff with "advice and internal DOI information" - both directly and through her - she "hindered" the Interior Department's system for tracking lobbyist contacts with Griles.

Griles also has pleaded guilty to lying to Senate investigators about his relationships with Abramoff and Federici. Abramoff currently is in federal prison for a fraudulent Florida casino deal and is awaiting sentencing in the Washington public corruption case.

Barry Hartman, Griles' lawyer, has said that Griles - who effectively was Interior's chief operating officer while at the agency between July 2001 and January 2005 - did nothing improper for Abramoff.

Federici may be able to provide information about former Interior Secretary Gale Norton, other Bush administration officials and the contacts that Federici, Abramoff and Griles cultivated in Congress, according to two people close to the investigation. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way.

In court Friday, Federici said little more than "Yes, your honor" to each of the questions asked by U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. Federici smiled and chatted occasionally while seated at a table with her lawyers. Neither she nor her lawyers talked to reporters outside the courtroom.

Federici acknowledged lying when she testified before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which in 2005 was investigating Abramoff's dealings with the Interior Department.

She also admitted not properly recording ATM withdrawals she made from the bank accounts of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, which she co-founded. Court documents say she did not pay income tax from 2001 through 2003 and owes tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes.

Huvelle accepted Federici's guilty pleas and set a sentencing hearing for Nov. 16.Federici agreed to pay $77,243 in back taxes and could face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each of the two counts. Under federal sentencing guidelines, she is more likely to get 10 months to 16 months plus a fine of $3,000 to $30,000 for each count.

Federici founded the environmental advocacy group with Norton before Norton was named Interior secretary by President Bush in 2001.

Also helping start the group was Grover Norquist, a college friend of Abramoff and a close ally of Bush.

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Return To Paper Ballots Could Be On Horizon
By David Whitney


WASHINGTON - To deal with widespread concerns about the integrity of elections, a House panel is weighing controversial legislation requiring states to bring back the paper ballot as the official record.

Many, if not most, states are concerned that Congress is moving too fast because the pending legislation would take effect in time for the 2008 national presidential elections, with primary balloting beginning in January.

Only 17 states have voter systems that would be in compliance with the proposed law now.

The legislation has divided advocacy groups. State elections officials are opposed to it. County officials don't like it. Even among those who support the idea, such as California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the consensus is that it will cost a lot more money than the cash-strapped Congress may be prepared to spend.

"Three hundred million dollars is not enough, especially for states with only touchscreen voting," Bowen said of the bill, introduced by Reps. Rush Holt, D-NJ, and Tom Petri, R-WI.

Florida, which is ground zero in the battle over fair voting because of the 2000 recount and the U.S. Supreme Court's declaring George Bush the winner, is moving ahead without federal legislation.

The state's Republican governor, Charlie Crist, told the House Administration Committee's elections panel Friday that he has proposed replacing the state's electronic voting system with an optical scanner system.

Under that system, voters would mark paper ballots that would then be scanned electronically for tabulation, but the real thing would remain to be counted and recounted if there was a dispute.

Crist said that if the legislature approves the system and funds it as he expects, it will be in force by next year and voters will be able to leave their polling places with full confidence that their ballot has been "counted, recorded, and available, if necessary."

Bowen told the panel that California has required a paper trail for electronic voting machines since 2004, and a mandatory 1 percent recount as a form of auditing since 2006.

But California has a mixed system that under the Holt-Petri legislation could require many counties to put in new equipment, and the length of time counties have taken to purchase such equipment has varied greatly - from a matter of a month or two in Placer County to more than a year in San Francisco County.

"The last thing any of us want is to truncate public review of any system, rushing through approval under the presumption that any solution is better than the current system, only to find ourselves back here in two or three years, having the same discussion all over again," Bowen said in a letter to the committee to accompany her testimony.

Bowen is one of only five state secretaries of state backing the legislation so far, according to an aide to Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, the elections subcommittee chair.

Other elections officials said they felt Congress was making them the bad guy.

"Elections officials feel like they are the targets in all this," complained George Gilbert, elections director of Guilford County, North Carolina.

And some on the elections panel said a return to paper ballots is no panacea.

"Paper ballots are notoriously susceptible to fraud," said Don Norris, public policy professor at the University of Maryland. "It takes far less skill to stuff a ballot box" than to manipulate the computer software in the electronic voting machines, he said.

Among the bill's skeptics is Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, the senior Republican on the panel even though the former California Assembly Republican leader is in his first year in Congress.

McCarthy said in an interview this week that he regards the legislation as an "unfunded mandate" because it will impose huge costs on the state for replacing voting equipment without sufficient federal reimbursement.

At the end of Friday's hearing, McCarthy said he thinks the bill should be slowed down. "I take it from all the witnesses that there's still a lot of work to be done on this," he said.

But Lofgren is a cosponsor of the legislation, and believes something can be worked this year.

"It's an aggressive schedule, but it's possible," Lofgren said.

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Voting-machine maker blasts politician
The dispute over the race to replace Rep. Katherine Harris continued with a voting machine manufacturer accusing a congresswoman of trying to intimidate the courts.
BY LESLEY CLARK
lclark@MiamiHerald.com

WASHINGTON - The manufacturer of voting machines under scrutiny in Sarasota County accused a House Democrat Tuesday of trying to ''intimidate'' and ''unduly influence'' a Florida appeals court.

The move by Election Systems & Software comes days after Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, D-Calif., chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, wrote a letter to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. She said she was ''concerned'' that a lower court judge had declined to give Democrats access to the software used in voting machines in the contested District 13 congressional election.

Democrat Christine Jennings is challenging the results of the November election. She contends in a lawsuit that the ATM-style machines malfunctioned and gave the election to Rep. Vern Buchanan, the Republican who last week was sworn into office.

Circuit Court Judge William Gary ruled two weeks ago that Democrats had no right to inspect the secret software. But Jennings is contesting the court ruling at the state level and has asked for an investigation by Congress, which seated Buchanan after formally noting the challenge.

At issue are more than 18,000 instances in which no vote was recorded. Numerous voters and a few poll workers complained about the touch-screen voting machines, but others have pointed fingers at the crowded ballot design.

In her letter, Millender-McDonald said the House would be ''well served in its own deliberations by having before it a complete record'' and she suggested that resolution at the state level could preclude the House from getting involved.

But in a motion filed Tuesday with the appeals court, Election Systems & Software -- which also supplied the machines used in Miami-Dade and Broward -- argues that Millender-McDonald ''has no standing to participate'' because she is not a party to the lawsuit. It asks that her ''unauthorized, non-party response'' be struck from the court record.

The company argues that her letter is a ''thinly veiled attempt by one member of Congress to intimidate this court and unduly influence its deliberations'' to give a fellow Democrat ``an unwarranted advantage in this election contest.''

A spokeswoman for Jennings said the filing was ``another example of ES&S putting its own interests ahead of the public good.

''Rather than providing assurance for the millions of Americans that vote on paperless touch-screen machines, ES&S is once again proving that their chief concern is in minimizing their own accountability,'' spokeswoman Kathy Vermazen said.

A spokeswoman for Millender-McDonald did not return a call for comment.

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Coulter Could Be Charged With Two Felonies for Alleged Voting Fraud

By E&P Staff

NEW YORK An election official is having trouble finding a law-enforcement agency to investigate Ann Coulter's alleged voting fraud in Florida, according to a Wednesday article by Palm Beach Post staff writer Jose Lambiet.

He reported: "When it comes to dealing with Palm Beach GOP vixen Ann Coulter -- who, police now say, could end up facing two felonies and one misdemeanor -- elections boss Arthur Anderson is starting to look like Don Quixote. Nearly a year after Coulter allegedly voted in the wrong precinct in a town of Palm Beach municipal election, Anderson is looking desperately for a law-enforcement agency willing to investigate."

Lambiet continued: "In November, Anderson went to the town's police department. But Palm Beach's finest weren't interested. And Tuesday, Anderson met with a sheriff's deputy. ... He could end up having to take it up with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Why's Anderson making those rounds? Because he was told that State Attorney Barry Krischer -- a Democrat whose recent attempt to prosecute another conservative pundit, Rush Limbaugh, for alleged doctor shopping, went limp -- needs police action before he brings formal charges. Catch-22, anyone?"

According to the Post article, the Palm Beach police department last month issued a three-page report saying Coulter -- the conservative Universal Press Syndicate columnist -- "could end up charged with one felony count for signing a voter form claiming she lived at her Realtor's Indian Road home instead of her Seabreeze Avenue homestead; one felony count for 'unauthorized possession of a driver's license,' also for providing the same wrong address when obtaining her license; and a misdemeanor for knowingly voting in the wrong precinct."

But the report's author said his agency didn't have jurisdiction because government clerks working outside the town signed off on the paperwork leading to the two potential felonies, wrote Lambiet.

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Two in California Sentenced for Voter Fraud
 
Two signature gatherers charged with tricking Orange County voters into registering as Republicans were sentenced to three years' probation.

Jason Holly, 36, and Jessica Sundell, 23, were among a dozen people arrested last fall and charged with fraudulent completion of affidavit of registration, a felony.

According to prosecutors, the recruiters went to shopping malls and campuses and asked residents to sign petitions for lower taxes or stricter sex offender laws, then tricked them into signing voter registration cards for the Republican party. The registration drive paid up to $10 per registrant.

Orange County Republican Party Chairman Scott Baugh said in October that the party did not know about the illegal signature gathering.

Holly and Sundell were sentenced Wednesday and told they couldn't recruit voters or collect signatures for petitions, said Senior Deputy District Attorney Dan Hess. He said the pair, who pleaded guilty in November, will get credit for time served: 24 days for Holly and 30 days for Sundell.

One of the other defendants remains a fugitive.

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Federal agency faults voting machines

WASHINGTON-Paperless electronic voting machines in widespread use across the country may be vulnerable to errors or sabotage and cannot be made secure, a draft report by a federal agency said.

The report by researchers at the influential National Institute of Standards and Technology said the paperless voting machines - essentially notebook computers programmed to display ballot images and record voter choices - "in practical terms cannot be made secure."

"Many people, especially in the computer engineering and security community, assert that the (voting machines) are vulnerable to undetectable errors as well as malicious software attacks," the report said.

A key weakness is that there is no audit mechanism or paper trail to verify election results other than what the machine itself reports, the report said.

"Potentially, a single programmer could 'rig' a major election," the report said.

After examining the issue, including volunteering as election workers at polling sites, NIST researchers said in their report that they concluded that they not know how to write "testable requirements" to make the machines secure and it is their recommendation that the machines "in practical terms cannot be made secure."

Many states bought the paperless electronic voting machines with money provided by Congress after the 2000 presidential election, whose disputed results went all the way to the Supreme Court.

Gail Porter, NIST's public affairs director, emphasized that the draft report is a "discussion document" whose conclusions and recommendations could change.

The report will be discussed at a meeting Monday by NIST's Technical Guidelines Development Committee at the agency's headquarters in Gaithersburg, Md. The committee is tasked under a law enacted by Congress in 2002 to advise the Election Assistance Commission on developing guidelines for voting systems.

Election experts applauded the report's findings.

"The new NIST report is confirmation that the mandatory verified voter trails the DNC and its Voting Rights Institute have championed are vital to restoring the confidence of the American people in their own democracy," Donna Brazile, chair of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, said in a statement Friday.

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It’s Voter-Fooling Time in America

The homestretch of the campaign season historically puts treacherous distortions of the truth before the voters, none more so this year than a mysterious California letter informing thousands of Latino-Americans that immigrants have no right to vote. “You are advised,” begins the Spanish-language letter, dripping with authority, that if “you’re an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration.” It now appears that someone in a Republican Congressional campaign conjured a contemporary spin on a classic scare tactic from torchlight politics.

Comparable outrages surface daily now, with an ad for black voters in six states misrepresenting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s politics in a staged chat between two black women: “Dr. King was a real man,” says one actress. “You know he was a Republican,” the other chimes in.

Democrats are no less tempted to flash bare-knuckle mischief. In a prime example, Representative Nancy Johnson, a Connecticut Republican, is being portrayed by Chris Murphy, the Democrat, as heartlessly unresponsive to a woman whose child needed insurance coverage for a cleft lip and palate. Of course, Ms. Johnson has represented Mr. Murphy as being opposed to the surveillance of terrorists.

So it goes, with some ethically challenged spinners creating false news clippings and tucking them knifelike into campaign videos of real stories. Even Lincoln is being falsely quoted by defenders of the Iraq war. The 16th president never said that Congressional critics who damage wartime morale “should be arrested, exiled or hanged.”

One of the more widespread canards is rooted in the divisive and fruitless immigration debate. Democrats in more than two dozen races are being falsely accused of wanting to give Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants — a distortion of a proposal to actually block immigrants from being credited for benefit days worked before they had legal status. One Web site coated with obvious racism and xenophobia is MuchasGraciasDebbie.com, which skewers Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, dressing her digitally in a sombrero, grinning and declaring, “No problema!”

What to do, beyond celebrating the continuing pungency of free speech across the nation? The most obvious answer is that voters need to pay ever closer attention to what the candidates say in this world of mixed media and mixed messages. The Internet is a powerful ally.

The head of Google, Eric Schmidt, is cautioning politicians stuck in the sound-bite era that “truth predictor” software is in the works so that computer-wise voters will be instantaneously able to check on the probability, if not the certainty, of what candidates claim as fact. Actually, careful parsing of egregiously misleading campaign ads is already available on the Web at factcheck.org, a nonprofit service that thinks voters should be treated as intelligent consumers entitled to the plain facts. If only the candidates saw it that way.

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New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Woes
by Ian Urbina
 
October 19, 2006
 

WASHINGTON — New electronic voting machines have arrived in Yolo County, Calif., but there is one hitch: the audio program for the visually impaired in some of them works only in Vietnamese.

“Talk about panic,” said Freddy Oakley, the county’s top election official. “I’ve got gray-haired ladies as poll workers standing around looking stunned.”

As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for an Election Day with long lines and heightened confusion, followed by an increase in the number of contested results.

In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like Monster.com. Ms. Oakley, who is also facing a shortage, raided the computer science department at the University of California, Davis, hiring 60 graduate students as troubleshooters.

Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes.

“We’ve got new laws, new technology, heightened partisanship and a growing involvement of lawyers in the voting process,” said Tova Wang, who studies elections for the Century Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. “We also have the greatest potential for problems in more places next month than in any voting season before.”

Election officials in many of the states are struggling with delays in the delivery of machines before the election as old-fashioned lever and punch-card machines are phased out. A chronic shortage of poll workers, many of them retirees uncomfortable with new technology, has worsened matters.

Wendy S. Noren, the top election official for Boone County, Mo., which includes Columbia, said delays in the delivery of new machines had left her county several weeks behind schedule and with 600 poll workers yet to be trained. Ms. Noren said she also had not yet been provided with the software coding she needed to print the training manuals.

“I think we will make it,” she said, “but my staff is already at the point of passing out, and the sprint is just starting.”

New computerized registration rolls and litigation over new voter identification laws in states like Arizona, Georgia, Indiana and Missouri have left many poll workers and voters unclear about the rules, including whether they are in effect, as the courts have blocked many of the new laws.

“We’re expecting arguments at the polls in these states that will slow everything down and probably cause large numbers of legitimate voters to be turned away or to be forced to vote on provisional ballots,” said Barbara Burt, an elections reform director for Common Cause.

Meanwhile, votes in about half of the 45 most competitive Congressional races, including contests in Florida, Georgia and Indiana, will be cast on electronic machines that provide no independent means of verification.

“In a close race, a machine error in one precinct could leave the results in doubt and the losing candidates won’t be able to get a recount,” said Warren Stewart, policy director for VoteTrustUSA, an advocacy group that has criticized electronic voting.

Deborah L. Markowitz, president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, was less inclined to sound the alarm. She said that since it was not a presidential election year and many states had encouraged voting by mail, fewer people would turn up at the polls than in 2004.

With computerized registration rolls, Ms. Markowitz said, there will be far fewer people incorrectly excluded from the new databases compared with when registration rolls were on paper.

“There will be isolated incidents, there is no doubt about that,” she said. “But over all the system will move faster and with fewer problems.”

Charles Stewart, head of the political science department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, published a study this year indicating that from 2000 to 2004, new technology helped reduce the number of improperly marked ballots by about one million votes.

“If you think things are bad and worrisome now, they were much worse before 2000,” Mr. Stewart said, adding that breakdowns in the mechanics of voting are simply more highlighted, not more prevalent.

Still, this is a year of firsts for some local election officials. Cherie Poucher, elections director for Wake County, N.C., which includes Raleigh, said she expected 350,000 voters on Election Day, up from the 30,000 in the May primary. She worries that the county’s 218 optical scan machines may be unable to handle the increased load. During the primary, 12 of the new machines would not boot up and needed to be replaced.

“In the end, we were lucky,” Ms. Poucher said. The machines were replaced within hours, she said, and since her county uses optical scan machines rather than paperless machines, voters were able to deposit paper ballots into a ballot box until replacements arrived.

“I’m an optimist,” she said. “But if we have more failures than we have total machines, it could be really difficult even with the paper ballots.”

Ms. Burt of Common Cause said there was some disagreement about the likelihood of problems, and difficulty in predicting where problems might emerge, in part because there is little uniformity in how elections are conducted.

Except for rudimentary federal rules on voting age, federal financing for states and counties, and protections for minorities and the disabled, elections are shaped by a variety of local laws, conflicting court rulings and technological choices.

“People might refer to it as a national election system but in truth there is no such thing,” Ms. Burt said.

Justin Levitt, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said that on election night his organization will be keeping particularly close watch on North Carolina, Florida and South Dakota, because of new voter registration databases there.

Under the federal Help America Vote Act passed in 2002, election officials were required to create computerized statewide voter registration rolls. These databases were intended to help streamline registration and decrease fraud, and they help political parties track potentially supportive voters. In some states, however, the databases have blocked large numbers of eligible voters from joining registration lists.

North Carolina, for example, requires that information provided by voters for registration forms match information in the motor vehicle or Social Security databases.

“If someone is listed with their maiden name in one list and their married name in another list, that voter will be blocked from the eligible voter roll,” said Mr. Levitt, adding that these voters may show up in large numbers and not realize that there is a problem.

“I certainly don’t see a disaster, but frankly I’m very concerned,” said Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Leon County, Fla., which includes Tallahassee. He said Florida has tried three times to create databases of eligible and ineligible voters but each system has had widespread inaccuracies.

“This is our fourth attempt and I’m worried that voters who have been voting for the last decade will show up at the polls and they won’t be listed anywhere,” Mr. Sancho said.

A report released last Thursday by the Century Foundation, Common Cause and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights cited concerns that most states have only vague, if any, standards for voting machine distribution.

There is no federal minimum for the ratio of voters to machines and there is wide variation in state standards.

In Wisconsin, the law requires at least one machine for every 200 registered voters. In Michigan, that ratio is 1:600, the report said. Election officials in Ohio, which had some of the longest lines in 2004, passed a law this year setting the ratio at 1:175, the report said. But the law does not take effect until 2013.

Keith A. Cunningham, director of the Allen County board of elections in Ohio and former president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, said most counties were close to the ratio required by the law.

“I don’t believe it is going to be as bad as everyone is predicting,” Mr. Cunningham said.

Whether there are problems or not, post-election litigation is likely. A study released this year by the Washington and Lee Law Review found that the number of court cases challenging elections has risen in recent years. In 2004, the number was 361, up from 104 cases in 1998.

Jonah Goldman, a lawyer and elections expert with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said his organization is prepared for the worst. With the N.A.A.C.P. and the People for the American Way Foundation, the lawyers group will have about 500 people fielding calls to a national hot line (1-866-OUR-VOTE) about problems and providing information to voters and poll workers.

In 2004, a similar hot line fielded more than 200,000 calls and created a database of about 40,000 reported problems. The coalition is dispatching lawyers in a dozen states to address reports of voter intimidation or to see if litigation is needed to extend hours at polling stations.

“We’re not sure what we will be handling,” Mr. Goldman said. “But we’re pretty confident that there will be no shortage of work that night.”

Copyright 2006 New York Times

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DIEBOLD MACHINE MAY GET BOOT IN CALIFORNIA

DEMOCRACY AT RISK: BLACK BOX VOTING

TOUCH-SCREEN VOTING MACHINES ARE NOT THE ANSWER

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Long Waits, Bad Equipment Worse than Election Fraud
by Joel McNally
 

Once again, we are reading story after story about vote fraud that didn't happen in the November elections instead of reading stories about the voter disenfranchisement that actually did happen.

One has to admire the Republican success in promoting a nonexistent issue to the news media. But the media really should spend more time covering the real election problems instead of fraudulent Republican claims.

This happens to be a subject on which I have some direct knowledge. On Nov. 2, I was an Election Day observer for the nonpartisan Election Protection Coalition.

My wife, Kit, and I were assigned to Palmer Street School, a polling place that was to achieve some public notoriety.

Kevin Kennedy, executive director of the Wisconsin Elections Board, showed up at Palmer Street and later complained publicly that election observers there, rather than poll workers, appeared to be "taking charge" of the voting process.

There was a reason for that which has never been told. I will tell all.

But first, let's dispose of the Republican claim that there were 10,000 Milwaukee voters who registered at the polls on Election Day who cannot be sent postcards verifying their addresses.

Republican state Rep. Jeff Stone has used that figure to suggest that thousands of fraudulent votes were cast in Milwaukee. From observing at Palmer Street, I happen to know what accounted for the overwhelming majority of that number.

Do you remember that all-nighter pulled at City Hall to process voter registrations? When Mayor Tom Barrett found out the City Election Commission was desperately behind in processing registrations the day before the election, the mayor, members of his family and city employees worked all night to process registrations.

Well, I hate to break it to the mayor and everyone else who worked so hard, but most of their work was ignored, at least at Palmer Street.

All day long, hundreds of voters were coming in whose names were not on the poll list even though they said they had registered weeks before. They were required to show identification and register again.

It was not until late in the afternoon that the poll supervisor found time to open a large envelope from City Hall that turned out to be just chock-full of those voter registration cards that had been processed late.

Hundreds of Election Day registrations from Palmer Street won't be sent verification cards because they were duplicates of earlier registrations.

Now about these election observers who were accused of taking charge at the polls. Someone had to. But no one did it without authorization.

Voting at Palmer Street wasn't set up in a gymnasium or any other large open space that could have accommodated it. It was jammed into a tiny classroom.

Voters filling out their ballots were literally elbowing other people waiting in line to register or receive ballots. There was one ancient voting machine that broke down several times during the day.

During those breakdowns, legitimate votes were lost. Instead of ballots being inserted into the machine and spit back out if they weren't marked properly, they were simply collected to be inserted in the machine after it was repaired.

Later, a number of those ballots were rejected by the machine. If the voters had known their ballots weren't filled out properly, they would have been allowed to correct them. Instead, they were long gone.

The polling place was woefully understaffed with three elderly poll workers and one supervisor who were clearly overwhelmed by the crush of voters waiting in a line extending outside and down the block.

Before we arrived at noon, the Election Protection Coalition already had telephoned the City Election Commission and received permission to assist the poll workers. Instead of simply observing the chaos, we decided the best thing to do was pitch in and help.

Since our group was nonpartisan, we were allowed to sit behind the table and help check off voters. Others helped outside by directing voters to proper lines by address or whether they needed to register.

That's what we did until mid-afternoon, when two men who claimed to be agents from the state attorney general's office arrived and ordered us to stop assisting the poll workers. They said we couldn't work at the polls because of the T-shirts we were wearing.

We should have known our T-shirts would be too controversial for Election Day. They said: "You Have the Right to Vote."

Two questions for the election investigators:

Would anyone in his right mind wait in line for hours to vote and then get back in line to wait for hours again to commit vote fraud?

And why isn't anyone investigating why Democratic voters in cities had to wait for hours to vote using defective equipment while Republican voters in suburbs and small towns breezed through in minutes?

Joel McNally of Milwaukee writes a weekly column for The Capital Times. E-mail: jmcnally@wi.rr.com

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Bush Administration Limits Voting Rights

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, the Justice Department has fought to protect and expand the right to vote for of all citizens. All of that has changed during John Ashcroft's tenure as Attorney General. Rather than defending voters' rights, Ashcroft is using the resources of his department to prevent eligible voters from casting their ballot and has refused to prosecute cases of voter discrimination and intimidation. 

       The Bush administration is actively trying to stop Americans from exercising their right to vote.  On Monday, the Justice Department filed an 11th-hour brief in Michigan district court opposing efforts by civil rights groups to ensure that registered voters who appear in the right city, township or village – but the wrong precinct – have their votes counted. The right to a so-called "provisional ballot" was explicitly endorsed by Congress in the 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which sought to correct many of the problems associated with the 2000 election.  Federal judge David M. Lawson yesterday ruled against the Justice Department's position and said their brief added "nothing to the arguments."    

       The Bush administration refuses to fight against voter discrimination.  Under Ashcroft's command, the Civil Rights Division of Justice has avoided prosecuting nearly all alleged cases of voter discrimination against minorities. The Justice Department has filed one discrimination case in three years, a case in Colorado it later lost.

       Americans expect their government to protect and expand voting rights, not restrict them. The Bush administration takes the opposite view – use government resources to challenge voters and restrict the rights of all Americans to express their political preferences. 

 

T4:RISE OF THE DIEBOLD VOTING MACHINES

 

By David Phillips

 

 

In case you havent heard, Electronic Voting Machines made by Diebold, will be used almost exclusively all across the United States. After the Punch Card Fiasco in Florida, for the Bush Gore 2000 Presidential Election, Congress passed a bill authorizing money for all States to convert, from outdated voting machines to the New Electronic Voting Machines, from Diebold Inc., and two other major competing companies.

 

Now one would think that with the technology available today, that this would make a lot of sense.

 

But what if the CEO of Diebold Inc. had other plans. What if the Software was vulnerable to hackers, or what if someone might want to change some votes.

THE FIRST STATEWIDE TEST: GEORGIA 2002 ELECTIONS

The Diebold paperless touch-screen voting system was first deployed on a statewide basis in Georgia for the 2002 election. The outcome in Georgia was a stunning and historical upset in which Republican candidates won both the governors mansion and a seat in the U.S. Senate. The Republican challengers in Georgia had been trailing the Democratic incumbents in both races by 5 to 11 point margins the week before the race.

Although most Georgians expected incumbent Sen. Max Cleland to win, the Diebold voting system declared the dark horse Republican candidate Saxby Chambliss the winner. Chambliss won 53 percent of the vote, according to the Diebold-generated tally. A similar upset occurred in the gubernatorial race in which a Republican candidate won for the first time in 130 years. The upset in Georgia was of national significance. As Chambliss says on his web site: With our win on Nov. 5, we returned control of the U.S. Senate to Republicans and gave President Bush the tools he needs to implement his agenda for America.

THE SOFTWARE

 

Walden O'Dell, CEO of Diebold Inc, has assured all the skeptics that the Software is hacker proof.

"We found some stunning, stunning flaws," said Aviel D. Rubin, technical director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, who led a team that examined the software from Diebold Election Systems, which has about 33,000 voting machines operating in the United States.

The experts analysis of a voting machine discovered a host of security flaws in the software and exposed how the system is virtually wide-open to vote fraud and manipulation of the results. The Diebold voting system is open to insider attacks at every point of contact on the network, including the voter, and from outsider attacks on the data as it is transmitted.

The systems, in which voters are given computer-chip-bearing smart cards to operate the machines, could be tricked by anyone with $100 worth of computer equipment, said Adam Stubblefield, a co-author of the paper.

"With what we found, practically anyone in the country from a teenager on up could produce these smart cards that could allow someone to vote as many times as they like," Mr. Stubblefield said.

Because the voting machines communicate in a network, anybody with access to the data, from the poll worker to a telephone company employee, could manipulate the data and the outcome.

A spokesman for Diebold, Joe Richardson, said that the software examined in the report was "about a year old" and that "if there were problems with it, the code could have been rectified or changed" since then. The company, he said, puts its software through rigorous testing.

"We're constantly improving it so the technology we have 10 years from now will be better than what we have today," Mr. Richardson said. "We're always open to anything that can improve our systems."

Another co-author of the paper, Tadayoshi Kohno, said it was unlikely that the company had plugged all of the holes they discovered.

"There is no easy fix," Mr. Kohno said.

The list of flaws in the Diebold software is long, according to the paper, which is online at www.avirubin.com/vote.pdf.

The researchers said ballots could be altered by anyone with access to a machine, so that a voter might think he is casting a ballot for one candidate while the vote is recorded for an opponent.

OK, they say the Software coding is fixed, and there are no more problems. Should we believe them?

THE CEO: Mr. Walden ODell

 Mr. Walden ODell is the CEO of Diebold Inc., and as we all know, the CEOs of major corporations in the United States are arguably the people with the highest of integrity, and truthfulness in business today.

Oh ya, did I mention that Mr. Walden ODell is a Republican?

Mr. Walden ODell, who is vying to sell voting machines in Ohio, told Republicans in a recent fund-raising letter on Aug 14, 2003, that he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to President Bush next year."

O'Dell attended a strategy pow-wow with wealthy Bush benefactors - known as Rangers and Pioneers - at the president's Crawford, Texas, ranch in August. The next week, he penned invitations to a $1,000-a-plate fund-raiser to benefit the Ohio Republican Party's federal campaign fund - partially benefiting Bush - at his mansion in the Columbus suburb of Upper Arlington.

The letter went out the day before Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, also a Republican, was set to qualify Diebold as one of three firms eligible to sell upgraded electronic voting machines to Ohio counties in time for the 2004 election.

"Ordinary Ohioans may infer that Blackwell's office is looking past Diebold's security issues because its CEO is seeking $10,000 donations for Blackwell's party - donations that could be made with statewide elected officials right there in the same room," said Senate Democratic Leader Greg DiDonato

THE BOTTOM LINE

Bob Urosevich is the President of Diebold Inc, his brother Todd is a vice president at a competing company, Omaha-based Election Systems & Software. These two companies count nearly 80 percent of the votes cast in the United States.

 The concept is clear, simple, and it works. Computerized voting gives the power of selection, without fear of discovery, to whomever controls the computer. James and Kenneth Colliers 1992 book, Vote Scam:

The bottom line is that all of the existing electronic voting machines are fundamentally flawed, Peter G. Neumann, principal scientist at Stanford Research Institutes Internationals Computer Science Laboratory in Palo Alto, California, said. The real problem is that the federal election system standards stink. They allow totally insecure voting systems to be certified.

Electronic voting, the report concluded, with its inherent risks, places our very democracy at risk.

The only known solution to this problem is to introduce a voter-verifiable audit trail, the report says, in which the tally of the paper ballots takes precedence over any electronic tallies.

Remember all those jokes out of Florida about paper ballots, and hanging chads in the 2000 Presidential election, not so funny anymore, are they?

Copyright 2003: yodasworld.tripod.com

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How to Hack an Election

Concerned citizens have been warning that new electronic voting technology being rolled out nationwide can be used to steal elections. Now there is proof. When the State of Maryland hired a computer security firm to test its new machines, these paid hackers had little trouble casting multiple votes and taking over the machines' vote-recording mechanisms. The Maryland study shows convincingly that more security is needed for electronic voting, starting with voter-verified paper trails.

When Maryland decided to buy 16,000 AccuVote-TS voting machines, there was considerable opposition. Critics charged that the new touch-screen machines, which do not create a paper record of votes cast, were vulnerable to vote theft. The state commissioned a staged attack on the machines, in which computer-security experts would try to foil the safeguards and interfere with an election.

They were disturbingly successful. It was an "easy matter," they reported, to reprogram the access cards used by voters and vote multiple times. They were able to attach a keyboard to a voting terminal and change its vote count. And by exploiting a software flaw and using a modem, they were able to change votes from a remote location.

Critics of new voting technology are often accused of being alarmist, but this state-sponsored study contains vulnerabilities that seem almost too bad to be true. Maryland's 16,000 machines all have identical locks on two sensitive mechanisms, which can be opened by any one of 32,000 keys. The security team had no trouble making duplicates of the keys at local hardware stores, although that proved unnecessary since one team member picked the lock in "approximately 10 seconds."

Diebold, the machines' manufacturer, rushed to issue a self-congratulatory press release with the headline "Maryland Security Study Validates Diebold Election Systems Equipment for March Primary." The study's authors were shocked to see their findings spun so positively. Their report said that if flaws they identified were fixed, the machines could be used in Maryland's March 2 primary. But in the long run, they said, an extensive overhaul of the machines and at least a limited paper trail are necessary.

The Maryland study confirms concerns about electronic voting that are rapidly accumulating from actual elections. In Boone County, Ind., last fall, in a particularly colorful example of unreliability, an electronic system initially recorded more than 144,000 votes in an election with fewer than 19,000 registered voters, County Clerk Lisa Garofolo said. Given the growing body of evidence, it is clear that electronic voting machines cannot be trusted until more safeguards are in place.


Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

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