Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ballot Scanners Switched Votes/New York SBoE Certifies Ballot Scanners

Representatives of ETC attended the State Board of Elections Meeting yesterday where optical scan voting machines made by Dominion (Sequoia) and ES&S were certified for use in New York elections to replace the lever voting machines. We will post further about this meeting late in the day. In the meanwhile please read this important post from Howard Stanislevic at the E-Voter Education Project concerning the implications of vote-switching incidents in the New York state op-scan pilot programs during the November elections.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Officials Were Warned

Brad Friedman of runs down the run-up to and aftermath of the New York State Op-Scan pilot program and the November '09 elections. Reprinted from The Gouverneur Times.

Officials Were Warned
Northern NY News
Written by Brad Friedman
Friday, 11 December 2009 07:09

Following the recent November election, the Operation Director for New York's State Board of Elections, Anna E. Svizerro declared the experiment of testing new, uncertified voting systems on live voters in a real election to be "very successful." The Watertown Daily Times reported Svizerro's comments, nearly verbatim and wholly uncritically, on Nov. 13th, despite serious concerns that had already emerged about the equipment used in the NY-23 Special Election for the U.S. House, and the errors discovered in its reported results.

Many of those problems, machine failure, inaccurate results, and the difficulty or impossibility of verifying them as accurate following the election, have been reported on in aggressive detail by The Gouverneur Times over the last several weeks.

But concerns about the dangers and pitfalls of New York's pilot program were voiced long before the questionable election of November 3rd. State officials were warned about those dangers via a virtual blizzard of letters sent to them over the past year by state and national election integrity organizations and advocates recommending modifications to the pilot program to ensure voters would not be disenfranchised. Indeed, many of the very same groups who have supported the state's move from mechanical lever systems to computerized secret vote counting were nonetheless extremely critical of the way in which voters were to be used "as guinea pigs" to test uncertified hardware and software in both the primary and general elections this year as part of the pilot program.

The concerns of the election advocates now seem to have been quite prescient, even as they appear to have been largely ignored by state and federal officials.

As early as April 2009, the League of Women Voters of New York State (LWVNYS) - who describe themselves as "a multi-issue, nonpartisan political organization which... has been a supporter of... the replacement of lever voting machines in New York" - had sent a letter [PDF] to both federal attorneys and state election officials urging them to reconsider their proposed pilot program to test machines in this year's elections.

The letter from LWVNYS President Martha Kennedy to Brian F. Heffernan in the U.S. Attorney's office, and CC'd to six different New York State Board of Elections officials, found "merit" in a pilot deployment of the state's new Sequoia/Dominion optical-scan voting systems, but disagreed with the way they were to be prematurely forced upon voters during real elections.

"We cannot support pilot projects using uncertified machines throughout the state," Kennedy wrote, "unless it were coupled with a mandated 100% hand count of the paper ballots which would become the official count." No such mandate was instituted and, instead, uncertified results tainted by the failing and flawed secret vote counting computers were used to install Democratic Party candidate Bill Owens to the U.S. House of Representatives shortly thereafter.

Kennedy also expressed her concern about the "disenfranchisement of many voters because proper and complete testing of equipment and adequate training of election workers would not be possible within an abbreviated time frame."

Two months later, in June, the LWVNYS was joined by the election integrity group New Yorkers for Verified Voting (NYVV) and the public advocacy organization New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) to issue a press release [PDF] about the groups' joint concerns about the pilot project. The release highlighted a report [PDF] from NYVV's Bo Lipari who represented the League on the state's Citizen Election Modernization Advisory Committee.

Lipari, as quoted from his report in the press release, warned the pilot program, as then planned, "gives insufficient regard to the scale of the project, the need for independent verification of results, the potential for problems arising, or a plan for how to learn from and apply the result.

In the press release, Aimee Allaud, Election Specialist with the League also slammed the state's proposed pilot for "using real voters as guinea pigs in the upcoming elections."

"Elections should be transparent, secure and inspire public confidence," NYPIRG's Neal Rosenstein also chided in the release. "Unfortunately, the Board's plan to have over 900,000 voters use new uncertified voting systems this year without requiring meaningful audits of results undermines the credibility of the election and sets a dangerous precedent for the future."

Days later, the three groups were joined by still more election integrity experts and advocacy groups sharing their concerns with the State Board of Elections.

On June 10, representatives from LWVNYS, NYVV and NYPIRG, along with representatives from the Catskill Center for Independence, Citizens' Union, E-Voter Education Project and the Task Force on Election Integrity sent an "urgent" plea to state officials to amend the pilot program.

In their letter "Re: Urgent steps toward election integrity with the 2009 Pilot Program," [PDF] the groups decried the state's "Failure to modify the current plans for the pilot use of uncertified scanners," and noted - correctly, as it turns out, given the uproar following voting equipment failure on Election Day - that it "could lead to a decrease in the public's confidence in the results.

The six organizations - several of which were in opposition to each other on the point of using computerized optical-scanners at all, some preferring the state's continued use of what they regard as more transparent mechanical lever systems - came together to urge the state "to fill these gaping holes in your plan to deploy uncertified ballot scanners," and asked again that they follow the recommendations of Lipari, a retired software engineer and a longtime advocate for the state's new op-scan voting system.

"We believe these corrections of inadequacies in the planned program are essential and quite realistic," they wrote. They urged, among other recommendations, that the state ask counties to "limit deployment of the new machines to 10% of registered voters, even if they earlier agreed to do a full county wide implementation."

That recommendation would not be heeded, and their letter would go unanswered by officials.

In July, after failing to receive a response from either federal or state officials over the previous month, LWVNYS and NYVV tried again, following up their June 3 letter with an "Open Letter to the New York State Board of Elections" [PDF] about the "serious weaknesses of your published 'Pilot Plan' for the deployment of uncertified scanners in the primary and general elections of 2009."

In the wake of a resolution adopted by the Board during their June meeting, the organizations excoriated what seemed to be a "direct repudiation" of their earlier request that the state allow counties to reduce their participation in the pilot program to just 10% of registered voters, as Lipari and the others had called for during the previous month.

"You thus ignored the fact that experts recommend a 10% limit on the size of deployments of new technical equipment, even when nothing as important as votes are involved," they wrote.

While they lauded the Board for taking steps to lay out procedures for the post-election "audits" of results, as they had also recommended, they were highly critical at the Board's failure to revise those protocols "in the direction recommended by experts so that New York would have statistically meaningful risk-limiting audits."

The following week Common Cause of New York, Yad HaChazakah - The Jewish Disability Empowerment Center, Inc. and national election integrity watchdog would join with several of the other groups to send yet another joint letter to federal officials at the U.S. Attorneys office as well as to state elections officials, trying yet again, ultimately in vain, to see changes made to the ill-fated pilot program - ("ill-fated", at least as many voters undoubtedly saw it, if not officials such as Svizerro who would, implausibly, declare it a success) - even as the primary and general election drew near.

In their four page letter [PDF] on July 15, detailing ten recommendations "to correct inadequacies in the planned pilot program and to ensure compliance with New York's Election Laws as well as the [federal] Help America Vote Act," they echoed unanswered concerns originally expressed by the NY State League of Women Voters three months earlier, back in April.

"The New York State Board of Elections is now planning a pilot of uncertified optical scan voting systems to be used by up to 1.4 million voters in 46 counties in the upcoming 2009 Primary and General elections," they wrote. "These new systems have not yet been used in real elections anywhere in the country, and still have not completed either New York State or Federal EAC [Election Assistance Commission] certification tests."

"Therefore, voters who use these systems cannot be assured that their votes will be counted as cast. We believe the failure to make meaningful changes to the pilot will raise serious questions about the results of these elections," they said, before detailing their recommendations "incorporating the work of Bo Lipari" and averring that "implementation of the... proposals will greatly reduce the possibility of voter disenfranchisement raised by the planned pilot program and by the use of scanners in future elections."

Virtually all of those repeated warnings, from all of those often disparate groups, sent across several months, seem to have fallen on deaf ears, before voters were both disenfranchised and have likely come to lose confidence in results in the wake of the various failures in the pilot program voting system, many of which have been reported by this news outlet, and others, in the wake of the election.

So why didn't election officials heed the dire, repeated and often "urgent" warnings of both local and national election experts? At this point, we don't know. Calls and emails seeking comment from the New York State Board of Elections co-chairs Douglas Kellner and James Walsh, as well as to Jeffrey Dvorin in the office of the Asst. Attorney General in Albany, NY have so far gone unreturned.

Additional research by The Gouverneur Times' Nathan Barker and Howard Stanislevic of the E-Voter Education Project.

Brad Friedman is an investigative reporter, blogger, election integrity advocate and expert, and the creator and publisher of The BRAD BLOG. He is a broadcaster and contributor to the UK's Guardian, Huffington Post, Computer World and other periodicals, a Fellow at the Commonwealth Institute, and a frequent guest on radio and television outlets from Air America to Fox News. In addition to offering expert testimony on these matters to a number of federal and state electoral oversight commissions, he recently contributed a chapter on the disaster for voters that was the 2008 Election for the book Censored 2010: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-2009 and co-wrote an investigate report on the illegally certified Sequoia touch-screen voting machines, still in use in Nevada, for Mark Crispin Miller's book, Loser Take All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000 - 2008. This year his work on the mysterious death of Republican IT guru Mike Connell was cited with an award for "Excellence in Investigative Journalism" by Sonoma State University's 33-year old "Project Censored" organization

Monday, November 30, 2009

State Moving Toward Certification of Concealed Vote-Counting Systems Even As Reports of Failures in November's Election Mount

The State Board of Elections is scheduled to certify several optical-scan electronic voting systems at their meeting in Albany on December 15. Yet as that day approaches, serious problems with the use of these systems in the November 3 election are emerging.

Most glaring so far are irregularities in the NY-23 special congressional election. NY-23 happens to be the home of Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D., nationally renowned election fraud investigator. His rapid investigation into the November 3 election reveals election results Phillips says are "impossible," including more votes than voters, negative totals, and the like. His early findings are published in two online articles, "Impossible Numbers in NY-23," and "First the Impossible, Now the Improbable in NY-23."

"Given the mess in CD-23, certification of the scanners at this point would be a travesty," testified Ulster Park's Susan Holland at the Monday hearing before the State Senate Standing Committee on Elections in Albany.

At least one election official, Dem-EC Virginia Martin of Columbia County, has testified that she would refuse to certify an election where she could not verify the count. With optical scan voting systems, vote counting takes place inside a computer where it cannot be seen by observers, candidates, or election officials.

"Voters may never again see a lever voting machine in a NY polling place, but that's not the biggest thing that would be missing from our elections," according to Andrea Novick, attorney and founder of the Election Transparency Coalition. "If the levers disappear, so do our voting rights, because we'll never again know if the votes have been counted accurately." ETC is preparing to file a lawsuit against the state of NY to have the new optical scan voting machines declared unconstitutional because they conceal vote counting from public view. Over 200 years of case law protecting the public's right to transparency in its vote-counting processes would be obliterated by the new voting system. "Even when optical scanners appear to be performing smoothly, there is absolutely no way to know that their secret software has not been corrupted."

The Association of Towns and 20 counties appealed to the State Legislature to repeal the Election Reform and Modernization Act, the law mandating the changeover from NY's current transparent voting system to the optical scan system, yet the State appears determined to certify the new machines apparently regardless of whether or not they are trustworthy.

Oppose Certification of Optical Scanners! Attend State BoE meeting 12/15 in Albany!

Let's fill the room and show the State Board of Elections that the public cares about our elections and insists on constitutional, transparent election systems.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
State Board of Election Offices
40 Steuben Street, 4th Floor
Albany, New York

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Plunging Pilot Project: Impossible Vote Totals in NY-23

Re-posted from our "Levers" site

Last night, on the eve of Thanksgiving, election fraud investigator Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D. published an article in the Governeur Times revealing Impossible Numbers Certified in NY-23. Phillips is best known for his book, Witness to a Crime: A Citizens’ Audit of an American Election, detailing the investigation he led of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio. But he actually lives in St. Lawrence County, NY. So when questions began being raised about the vote counts in the special Congressional election earlier this month, Phillips was quickly on the case.

His article released last night reveals, “The election results certified by the St. Lawrence County Board of Elections for New York’s 23rd Congressional District contain some numbers that are mathematically impossible.” The article goes on to detail the negative numbers included in certified vote totals. Read it. It reveals important information everyone concerned about democracy should know.

St. Lawrence County was part of the State’s “pilot project,” an early rollout of the optical scan voting technology that will be required to replace lever voting systems by our next election — if not stopped by legal action. The Election Transparency Coalition is preparing to file litigation to have concealed vote counting — such as the counting that takes place inside optical scan voting systems — declared unconstitutional.

St. Lawrence County’s now-certified election results cannot be accurate. The true vote count cannot be known. And while other counties involved in the early rollout of electronic vote-counting systems may have produced possible vote totals, their true vote counts are no more knowable. Only with a system where the public has access to meaningful observation of every step of the vote-counting process do we have a basis for confidence in election results.

This is why Virginia Martin, Democratic Election Commissioner from Columbia County, recently testified that she would refuse to certify an election in which she could not verify the accuracy of the vote count.

Richard Hayes Phillips joins ETC in supporting NY’s time-tested and transparent lever voting system. The reasons for his support are detailed in his article, “In Defense of Lever Voting Machines,” published on his own website, and reiterated in the Gouverneur Times piece.

While the pilot project is clearly in a nosedive, the State is proceeding with its plan to certify the very electronic voting system responsible for the impossible numbers in the NY-23 race. This certification would be meaningless and would lead to elections that are just as meaningless. As Phillips says, “How can we have a democracy if we cannot know if the vote count is accurate? If election officials cannot know, and if the candidates cannot know, and if the voters cannot know that the official results are true and correct, why even have an election?”

Please join us in our work to stop the abandonment of NY’s working, affordable, trustworthy voting system and its replacement with systems that keep the true vote count secret from the voters themselves.

by Emily Levy

Emily Levy is the Election Transparency Coalition project coordinator.


On this Thanksgiving, we at ETC are thankful for the work of Dr. Phillips, Commissioner Martin and all those who dedicate themselves to the constitutional principles of transparent democracy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Problems Seen with New Voting Machines Are Tip of The Iceberg

Electronic Voting Machines Sell Tammany Hall Repackaged as “Modern”

Breakdowns of new electronic voting machines have already made news in St. Lawrence, Fulton and Lewis Counties. Official results in some races may not be known for a week or more, frustrating NY voters accustomed to results on election night. But fury may have been their response had they fully understood that with the state's new optical scan technology, the genuine results of NY's elections will never be known.

The optical scan machines mandated to replace all lever voting machines by next year count paper ballots electronically using concealed software that can undetectably alter the outcome, whether intentionally or unintentionally. "What you don't know can hurt you," said Andrea Novick, attorney and founder of the Election Transparency Coalition (ETC). "The problems seen by voters and election workers Tuesday are nothing compared to the problems that are invisible. In the counties participating in the state's early rollout of the optical scanners Tuesday where machines broke down, election officials are at least aware that there was a problem. Where the scanners appeared to run smoothly, election officials, candidates and voters are led to believe everything is fine. But either way, whether the optical scanners appear to be functioning properly or not, the true count is unknowable."

Because the working parts of a lever machine are visible, elections officials and observers can witness all critical steps and know the machine’s count is accurate. But under ERMA (the Election Reform and Modernization Act) the certainty of the election night count is replaced with an unreliable electronic count, subject to verification if a subsequent 3% manual count matches the computer tally. “We are abandoning our transparent, secure system for knowingly exploitable vote-counting computers,” explained Novick.

State Elections Commissioner Douglas Kellner confirmed the new computers’ untrustworthiness, stating, "The system in New York is not to rely on the machines, but to rely on the paper," referring to ERMA’s post-election night hand count of some paper ballots. Historically, NY, learned not to trust any step taken outside of public view after repeated Tammany Hall style elections. Now ERMA mandates reliance on paper ballots that have been removed from the public eye. "If we don't stop ERMA," says Novick, "elections will from this day forward become what a New York court has already declared to be 'a useless formality.'" The ETC is preparing to file suit to stop the changeover to electronic vote-counting on constitutional grounds.

# # #

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NY: Election Official Would Refuse to Certify Electronic Vote Count

Columbia County Election Commissioner Testifies at Public Hearing

New York City,
Oct. 23, 2009 --

What might have been a quiet hearing of the State Assembly's Standing Committee on Election Law today became instead a public altercation as speaker after speaker criticized the State's move to electronically counted ballots. The change is slated to take effect next year, as outlined in the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), which outlaws the state's time-tested and widely trusted lever voting machines.

Speakers took issue with the new voting systems on multiple grounds including cost, accuracy, and dependability. Concerns about votes counted in secret and the ease of manipulation of election results with the new system abounded.

Columbia County Democratic Election Commissioner Virginia Martin testified that "the mandated transition to electronic voting and vote-counting will likely prevent me as commissioner from doing my job, which is to certify to the accuracy of election numbers."

While she praised some of the State's actions to comply with new election law, she said the new computerized voting systems are poorly made and break down often, in contrast to the dependable lever voting systems currently in use. "If Columbia County starts using software to count votes, I will not certify an election unless an appropriately designed audit of the paper ballots is conducted. So far, the State Board [of Elections] has not mandated an audit that audit experts agree will expose inaccurate counts."

Commissioner Virginia Martin Testifying (Photo by Russell Branca)

Exorbitant costs are also of concern to Martin. "Boards [of Elections] across the state have encountered enormous resistance from their counties when they have tried to get the funds these unfunded mandates would have us incur. I know of two cases in which county budgets have tripled."

The panel was surprised to know that Commissioner Martin has an understanding of how the lever machines work. "I believe it’s critically important that commissioners and poll workers across the state understand how the machines work," Martin said. "In the case of lever machines," she added, "it’s simple."

More photos and testimony are available here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NYC Never Sleeps! Village Independent Dems Opt Out of Op Scan

Keep-the-Levers Resolution passes after informed public debate.

The more you know about lever voting machines, the more you want to stay with them. This experience - that an informed public prefers lever voting over the vagaries of electronic vote scanners - was demonstrated once again on July 9th at a debate at St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery in Manhattan. The event was sponsored by the Village Independent Democrats, a 53-year-old organization established to provide a constant and rigorous examination of local and national issues in the light of independent, liberal Democratic principles. True to their goals of promoting measures designed to serve all the people and to further the interest and participation of all citizens in the civic affairs of their community, the VID presented "The Threat to Voting in New York and What to Do About It" featuring Douglas Kellner, Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections, New York University Professor Mark Crispin Miller, renowned author of "Fooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform" and attorney Andi Novick, founder of the Election Transparency Coalition.

The pros and cons of computerized vote counting, paper ballots, and lever machines were discussed in a well-structured format that, while strictly controlled by the moderator, eventually allowed everyone to participate. For perhaps the first time in a public forum, the hard questions about computerized vote counting were asked -- and at least partially answered.

Among the public participants during the energetic question and answer period, were Columbia County Democratic Election Commissioner Virginia Martin; Teresa Hommel, Chair of the Community Church of New York's Task Force on Election Integrity; and E-Voter Education Project Founder Howard Stanislevic. The experiences of these professionals added an even broader perspective to the information presented by the invited speakers and elicited by audience questions.

Highlights of the evening have been distilled into the following 15-minute video. With additional commentary explaining the precedents established by the rulings of New York's highest court, this video demonstrates concisely how New York's new election law will violate the inalienable right to self-government. We urge all New Yorkers and voters everywhere to watch it:


Professor Miller discussed the culpability of vendors in the punch card debacle that brought us the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida, paving the way for the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and the resulting rush to more electronic vote counting. Miller also spoke of the relative lack of media coverage regarding such events, and the questionable results of more recent optical scan elections. He said that such negligence leaves the majority of the public unaware of the extreme hazards of e-vote counting both here and abroad.

Commissioner Kellner agreed with, and in fact was the first to promulgate, the position of Andi Novick and the ETC that lever voting machines are allowed under HAVA and that it is ERMA -- the New York State legislation -- which mandates the replacement of the lever machines with electronics. But the Commissioner then confused the issue by declaring that New York is under federal court order to replace the levers, as if the federal court had determined HAVA required the levers' replacement. But it is New York that entered into a voluntary agreement with the Department of Justice and federal court judge to replace the levers, as mandated in ERMA. The court 'so ordered' that agreement of the parties. The court never made a ruling that the levers had to be replaced. No one asked for such a ruling. The State was agreeing to comply with its own state law. As Andi Novick explained, the state law is unconstitutional, and an agreement based on unconstitutional law is void and unenforceable.

Although Commissioner Kellner stated that elections should never be decided on faith and trust, he was unable to respond when it was made clear by other speakers that New York would not be relying on the paper ballots to determine the outcomes of elections, but would in fact be trusting the computers. Commissioner Kellner is a conscientious administrator and, in all fairness, it should be noted that his equivocation is a reflection of the extreme duress our election officials are under to institute a fatally flawed system.

It was obvious and understandable that the State Board of Elections is ill-prepared to run elections on computerized voting systems. For example, Kellner, who routinely consults with computer experts, seemed unaware of the difference between source code and object code (the latter being the software that actually resides in optical scanners and the Election Management System PC that programs them). He incorrectly claimed that computer scientists, and presumably even election officials, could tell that the code running on the machines was the correct "source code." Notwithstanding his confusing source code with object code, however, the fact remains that no one can verify that correct software is running in a computerized voting system on election day. With such a misunderstanding prevalent, it's no wonder that election officials are willing to trust our votes to computer code and the vendors who write it.

Kellner finally admitted that New York will not be trusting the electronic machines after all, but instead, will be relying on the paper ballots. But this was clearly wishful thinking on his part. While Kellner seemed to imply that recounts could be had more or less at the drop of a hat, he offered no examples other than recounts of relatively few absentee ballots.

Novick insisted that the State's highest court has repeatedly declared post-election-night counting of ballots already counted at the polls to be far too dangerous to be used to determine correct election results. Only absentee, emergency and disputed ballots are counted post-election, she said, leaving the vast majority of paper ballots to be counted only by computers.

Columbia County Election Commissioner Martin asked Kellner about the costs of replacing levers with scanners. Kellner said the Federal government gave New York about $50-million to replace the levers, but he explained that it would cost closer to $200-million to finish the job. This is consistent with independent cost studies that have shown that all the Federal money provided to the State under the Help America Vote Act will be depleted after only one year of lever replacement by scanners.

Howard Stanislevic commented on the State Board of Elections' lack of action to beef up New York's future post-election auditing. The state will only verify 3% of scanner tallies -- barely enough to confirm the winners of landslide elections in gerrymandered districts -- despite many calls for stronger auditing requirements
for over a year by good government groups such as NYPIRG, Common Cause/NY and the League of Women Voters.

After the forum on July 9th, the Village Independent Democrats joined over twenty counties, several labor unions, the Association of Towns of the State of New York, individual towns, villages, good government organizations and thousands of New Yorkers in passing resolutions in favor of retaining lever voting machines. When the public is given the facts, they make the right decisions.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Statement of Support from National Election Integrity Experts

It is essential to the maintenance of a democratic society that every critical component of the electoral process be subjected to contemporaneous public scrutiny in order for the people to retain control over those who are our public servants. We, the undersigned, have been working toward this end, many of us full time and at little or no compensation for many years. Together we have a broad and deep range of knowledge and experience.

We understand that New York's statutory and judicial law has upheld these constitutional requirements, mandating a transparent election process in which authorized observers have the responsibility to witness and verify each step of the canvass before it is completed, resulting in a demonstrably accurate and certain count on election night, arrived at under conditions of uninterrupted public scrutiny.

We consider the New York litigation to be one of the best opportunities the nation has for serious judicial consideration of the constitutional implications of concealed vote counting. We encourage all who are dedicated to the constitutional principles of democracy to offer whatever help they can to achieve this breakthrough ruling.

Bev Harris, WA - investigative reporter, founder and executive director of Black Box Voting, author of Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century.

Abbe Waldman DeLozier, TX - co-editor, co-author Hacked! High Tech Election Theft in America-11 Experts Expose the Truth.

Nancy Tobi, NH - founder Democracy for New Hampshire, Chair of the Fair Elections Committee (NH), and Legislative Coordinator of Election Defense Alliance.

Dave Berman, CA - co-founder Voter Confidence Committee of Humboldt County, California.

Sally Castleman, MA
- Co-founder and first National Chair, Election Defense Alliance.

Judith B. Alter Ed.D., CA - Emeritus UCLA Professor, Director, ProtectCalifornia Ballots.

Emily Levy, CA - election integrity advocate who has worked on crucial projects in New Mexico, Ohio, California, and NY, as well as projects of national scope.

Jonathan Simon, MA - co-founder of Election Defense Alliance, former political polling research analyst and author numerous papers addressing statistical anomalies and other evidence of computerized election fraud.

Joan Brunwasser, co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) and the Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews. Her own articles also appear at RepublicMedia.TV and

Mark Crispin Miller, NY - Professor of Culture and Communication at NYU, author of Loser Take All: Election Fraud and the Subversion of Democracy andFooled Again: The Real Case for Electoral Reform.

Dr. Victoria Lovegren, Ohio - Ohio Vigilance, governing board member; Computer Science, Systems Analysis, Data Analysis, Decision Science, Mathematics

Mary Ann Gould, PA - Executive Director of Coalition for Voting Integrity, host of "Voice of the Voters.

Richard Hayes Phillips, NY- professor, researcher, Author of Witness to a Crime: A Citizens' Audit of an American Election.

Bruce O'Dell, MN - E-commerce security consultant; co-founded US Count Votes and founding member of Election Defense Alliance.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Election Commissioners Party With Vendors

More than 18 New York counties have passed resolutions asking to keep their lever voting machines and the governor has issued directives to limit state employee travel expenses; nevertheless 180 county election commissioners and staff spent their evenings partying at events sponsored by voting machine vendors who plied their wares at the four day annual Election Commissioners Association meeting at the Finger Lakes in late June.

Here are some highlights of the Daily News report of the event which is worth reading in full, especially for the photos:

At this conference, vendors seeking business with election boards across the state picked up the tab for food and open bars...

On Wednesday, commissioners and staffers attended work sessions about paper ballets, vendor contracts and other election issues. At one point, Sequoia and ES&S - two companies vying to supply electronic voting machines to election boards across New York - pitched their wares...

As the party ended, some revelers re-created a scene from "Animal House" by jumping up and down, yelling "Shout!" to the Isley Brothers' hit.

[New York Election Commissioners Association president William]Scriber said he didn't know which vendor paid for the private party room and liquor and had "no recollection" of who threw the costume party. A hotel sales rep did not return calls.

Read more:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lever Voting Advocates Go Head-To-Head with State Board of Elections Commissioner in Public Forum on Thursday

As State Pushes Ahead with Rollout of Computerized Voting Systems, Election Watchdogs Threaten Legal Action

What: Public Forum: The Threat to Voting in New York and What to Do About It

When: Thursday, July 9, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.

Where: Main Sanctuary at St. Marks Church in the Bowery, 10th Street and 2nd Ave in Manhattan

Who: Douglas Kellner, Commissioner of NYS Board of Elections
Mark Crispin Miller, renowned author of "Fooled Again, The Real Case for Electoral Reform"
Andi Novick, attorney and driving force behind efforts to preserve New York's constitutionally-compliant lever voting system, founder of the Election Transparency Coalition

Sponsored by the Village Independent Democrats

Why: New York State is the only state in the U.S. that conducts elections in a transparent and verifiable manner. All other states have moved to electronic vote-counting systems that make it impossible for election officials, official observers, candidates, or the public to determine whether the announced vote totals accurately represent the votes cast. These concealed vote-counting systems violate the principles of a constitutional democracy as represented in two centuries of statutory law and judicial precedence interpreting New York’s Constitution, and as recently held by Germany’s Constitutional Court.

Yet electronic voting systems are slated to be fully operational in New York by 2010. And 1.4 million of New York's registered voters will be forced to vote on them this year, without even the weak assurance of State or Federal "certification" or a 100% election-night hand count to confirm that the systems' count was accurate.

At this free public event, Andi Novick will outline the reasons New York's Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) is unconstitutional, Mark Crispin Miller will discuss the dangers of electronic vote counting systems, and Douglas Kellner will explain the state's insistence on an expensive change in election technology beyond what is required by the federal government.

Links: Andi Novick/Election Transparency Coalition:
Mark Crispin Miller:
Douglas Kellner:
Village Independent Democrats:

# # #

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Voting Rights Groups Respond to Holt Bill

Reposted from our friend Mark Crispin Miller , the response of some voting rights groups to the recent New York Times endorsement of the Holt Bill.

From Bev Harris:


(You may discuss this at

As far as I can tell, the editorial–which did not even provide the correct name for the bill
–did not contact or seek any input from the many voting rights and election reform groups
that oppose this legislation. Among those omitted were Black Box Voting,,
Open Voting Consortium, and Democracy for New Hampshire, whose Nancy Tobi has been examining Holt’s various renditions of his bill for years; nor did the Times note the opposition
of Brad Friedman of Bradblog, interview voting rights scholar and attorney Paul Lehto, or
confer with the Election Defense Alliance.

Read more.

Columbia County Election Commissioner Rejects "Pilot Project."

Columbia County Election Commissioner Virginia Martin writes on why her county will continue to use lever voting machines in the fall elections:

Uncertified Machines Do Not Serve Voters

A sentence in the June 17 editorial, "Iranians' fight for democracy," sent a chill down my spine.

"...Iran's supreme leader ... has called for a limited recount."

Hold that thought. Something else -- that I literally shudder to connect to the above -- has been nagging at me for some weeks. It is this:

How many candidates running for office this fall know that the votes that will decide their fate will be counted by an uncertified computer program?

And how many of those candidates know that only a small fraction of those votes will be hand counted after the fact to see if that uncertified computer program (which also has not yet proved to be accurate, reliable or tamper-proof) worked as it was intended to and was not hacked into?

"A limited recount."

Across New York, 47 counties with 1.4 million registered voters will participate in a "pilot project" in which uncertified optical-scan voting machines, manufactured and programmed by Sequoia Voting Systems or Election Systems & Software, will count the votes. Some of these counties signed on for full participation, so that all the votes in every election district will be cast and counted using uncertified machines. Other counties signed on for participation of a more modest scope, in which just a few districts, perhaps, will be involved.

And the recounts of these votes?

They'll be limited.

Right now, and the regulations are now being considered, it appears that three percent of all machines will be subjected to a hand recount. Additionally recounted, and fortunately at 100 percent, will be any race in which there is a margin of one percent or less between candidates. (Think about that one. If Candidate A receives 51 percent and Candidate B receives 49 percent, there will be no full recount.) Fortunately, it does seem that each race will be subject to at least a partial recount.

It's been suggested that any candidate will have the option of going to court to request a full recount. Yet that unfairly puts the onus on the candidate, who risks charges of sour grapes or of running up expenses to add to the taxpayers' tab. Remember that this year, an "off year," is the election for modest candidacies -- for town board members, tax collectors, highway superintendents. These are not races in which high-powered attorneys backed by deep-pocketed interests stand ready to spring to action, to demand the recounts their clients deserve.

But Columbia County candidates and voters will be far better served. None of our races will require "limited recounts" because none will be counted by an optical scanner. Voters will select candidates using their choice of a lever machine or ballot-marking device.

That's because Commissioner Don Kline and I opted out of the optical-scan pilot project. We, along with the overwhelming majority of our custodians, inspectors, voters and county legislators, hope to continue using this voting system of lever machine with ballot-marking device, which meets all the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act, well into the future.

Virginia Martin is the Democratic commissioner of the Columbia County Board of Elections.

(First published in print in the Albany Times Union June 25th 2009.)

"...Iran's supreme leader ... has called for a limited recount."

Hold that thought. Something else -- that I literally shudder to connect to the above -- has been nagging at me for some weeks. It is this:

How many candidates running for office this fall know that the votes that will decide their fate will be counted by an uncertified computer program?

And how many of those candidates know that only a small fraction of those votes will be hand counted after the fact to see if that uncertified computer program (which also has not yet proved to be accurate, reliable or tamper-proof) worked as it was intended to and was not hacked into?

"A limited recount."

Across New York, 47 counties with 1.4 million registered voters will participate in a "pilot project" in which uncertified optical-scan voting machines, manufactured and programmed by Sequoia Voting Systems or Election Systems & Software, will count the votes. Some of these counties signed on for full participation, so that all the votes in every election district will be cast and counted using uncertified machines. Other counties signed on for participation of a more modest scope, in which just a few districts, perhaps, will be involved.

And the recounts of these votes?

They'll be limited.

Right now, and the regulations are now being considered, it appears that three percent of all machines will be subjected to a hand recount. Additionally recounted, and fortunately at 100 percent, will be any race in which there is a margin of one percent or less between candidates. (Think about that one. If Candidate A receives 51 percent and Candidate B receives 49 percent, there will be no full recount.) Fortunately, it does seem that each race will be subject to at least a partial recount.

It's been suggested that any candidate will have the option of going to court to request a full recount. Yet that unfairly puts the onus on the candidate, who risks charges of sour grapes or of running up expenses to add to the taxpayers' tab. Remember that this year, an "off year," is the election for modest candidacies -- for town board members, tax collectors, highway superintendents. These are not races in which high-powered attorneys backed by deep-pocketed interests stand ready to spring to action, to demand the recounts their clients deserve.

But Columbia County candidates and voters will be far better served. None of our races will require "limited recounts" because none will be counted by an optical scanner. Voters will select candidates using their choice of a lever machine or ballot-marking device.

That's because Commissioner Don Kline and I opted out of the optical-scan pilot project. We, along with the overwhelming majority of our custodians, inspectors, voters and county legislators, hope to continue using this voting system of lever machine with ballot-marking device, which meets all the requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act, well into the future.

Virginia Martin is the Democratic commissioner of the Columbia County Board of Elections.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Like Filling Out Lottery Tickets: New York State Rolls Out Uncertified Voting Systems for Fall Preview

Despite the steady stream of keep our levers resolutions emanating from county legislatures throughout the state, the State Board of Elections is carrying through with a pilot Op-scan project for the fall 2009 elections. ETC e-voting education consultant Howard Stanislevic sounds the alarm in this post from his blog :

ALBANY -- At a May 12th Commissioners' meeting, after collaborating with the US Dept. of Justice, the New York State Board of Elections cavalierly decided to risk the disenfranchisement of nearly a million of the state's voters, by allowing what one commissioner called a "huge pilot" of uncertified software-driven electronic vote-counting systems around the state in 45 of its 62 counties.

Here are the links to the Commissioners' resolution, and other documents containing the details of the plan:

* Authorizing Resolution 05/12/2009
(PDF 50KB)
* Pilot Plan Narrative 05/12/2009 (PDF 65KB)
* Timeline 05/12/2009 (PDF 492KB)
* County Participation Spreadsheet 05/12/2009 (PDF 42KB)

Over 900,000 voters (read: guinea pigs) could be affected by these irresponsible tests, which one county election commissioner, perhaps unwittingly, compared to filling out lottery tickets. Gambling with the votes of a million New Yorkers is hardly a way to instill public confidence.

The plan contains almost no provisions for manual recounts of the paper ballots to check the computer tallies, other than those that might be obtained through the courts. The only exceptions are for contests with a margin of victory of 1% or less. Full recounts of those contests will be conducted, but we bristle at the suggestion that the victory margin reported by the uncertified voting system will be the one used to determine whether or not the hand count to check the system will take place.

Commissioner Douglas Kellner made a motion at the May 12th meeting to allow any candidate to ask for and obtain a full hand recount. His fellow commissioners defeated it by a bipartisan 3 to 1 vote.

Apparently Kellner's colleagues believe that:

* any candidate can convince a judge that a voting machine didn't count her votes -- even without evidence to support such a claim;

* the judge will also believe that the paper ballots have been preserved inviolate and thereby allow them to be hand counted to find out who really won an election (contrary to a number of previous decisions by the highest court in the State -- not to mention the highest court in the land); and

* the court would gladly spend taxpayers' money for such high-minded purposes as convincing losers of elections, and their supporters, that they really lost fair and square -- even given the amount of money already spent on the new voting systems.

But the voters of New York deserve more than just naive speculation about the ease of obtaining hand counts from a potentially partisan and cost-conscious judiciary. They deserve the actual hand counts if and when they are needed.

So what if the margin of victory happens to be slightly more than 1% (say 1% + 1 vote for example), and the courts deny the recount request? In that case the hand count reverts to only a 3% spot check, per Election Law § 9-211 -- part of the Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 that brought us this mess in the first place. If there are no discrepancies found in the spot check, the election could be certified -- which is more than can be said for the voting systems that actually produced the election results.

Unfortunately, the math is unequivocal: in many elections, a 3% audit can reveal absolutely NO discrepancies, and the outcome of the elections can still be absolutely wrong. If that happens, no one will be the wiser.

One other potential safeguard remains for the million voters who will be subjected to this foolish experiment: the long-awaited and yet to be promulgated State Board of Elections auditing regulations known as Part 6210.18. For well over a year now, we have been involved in the drafting of these regulations. They offer the only hope for anything better than the ill-considered 3% spot checks in the Election Law.

A year ago
, many of New York's good government groups wrote to the Board, asking for these regulations to reflect best practices. But so far, progress has been slow to non-existent in this area, even as the mad rush to run real elections using potentially fake voting systems continues.

All that said, while the value of certification has been greatly exaggerated, we think it might be fair to say that if done properly, certification can prove that a voting system can work -- not that it actually will work. This weak assurance is of course not sufficient, but it's better than no assurance at all. The only way to be sure to prevent the disenfranchisement of New York's voters by untrustworthy computers, is to hand count 100%, at least until the systems are certified.

We'll be following this story and reporting on efforts to fix this latest debacle and avoid the Floridization of New York's elections. We don't think this is what New Yorkers signed up for when the State accepted $50-million in federal funds to replace its lever voting machines under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The State has not been able to certify a voting system to replace the levers since then, and as always, it's important to read the law first.

In New York, the law has been decidedly anti-recount. So paper ballots or no paper ballots, the software counts will rule -- just as they did in Florida's 2000 election which brought us Bush v. Gore and ultimately, HAVA itself. Ironic, huh?

The Board did agree to present the matter to the State's Citizens' Election Modernization Advisory Committee. While their opinions are as yet unknown, and probably not binding, at least one member of the group has gone on record as favoring 100% hand counts of ALL votes counted by ANY uncertified voting system. This is in direct conflict with 3 out of the 4 State Board of Elections Commissioners who represent our two major political parties, but unfortunately may no longer be faithfully representing the voters of New York.

Editor's note: Election Transparency Coalition does not endorse op-scan counting with less than a 100% hand-count verification conducted at the polling place on election night.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ramifications of E-Voting: Spiralling Needs & Costs

Lest there be any doubt that op-scans will generate ever-increasing obligations, needs and costs for our election boards, check out this advertisement sent to our county election commissioners from NTS Data Services (emphasis supplied):

Subject: Machine Inventory and Management from NTS

Hi Everyone,

Many interesting bits of information came out of the State Conference sessions last month, particularly in the area related to our new voting machines. What has become more and more recognizable throughout this entire process, (and spelled out by the State Board in the Tuesday afternoon session) is the need to accurately and precisely track vital information about each and every component of your voting equipment and related inventory throughout their lifetime.

Understanding this requirement, NTS is developing our asset tracking and machine management system we call "CUSTODIAN". CUSTODIAN will address a number of the requirements you will have to meet in order to be compliant with State regulations including:

· Tracking of Machine Testing Dates
· Maintenance and Error Logs
· Security Seal Numbers
· Chain of Custody Reports

.......and the list goes on

The information CUSTODIAN will provide will be substantial and believe me it's going to have to be. This type of data is not something that can be hand written down on a piece of paper or easily managed via a spreadsheet or simple database. As you heard from the State Board, this is critical information that you are going to have to maintain and should have access to at a moments' notice.

Our current plans call for a release of a simple and straightforward inventory and asset tracking module prior to the September primary - in time for use in the pilot projects this year. The full management version will be released in the first quarter of 2010, allowing you plenty of time to become familiar with it before implementation of the certified machines in the 2010 elections.

CUSTODIAN will be a work in progress, changing and developing to meet the needs of our New York State counties as they will continue evolve. As we go down this new road together, it is obvious there will be many changes and additional requirements driven by your needs and those of the State. We have never let you down before and are not about to this time around.

In the next few days you will receive by mail additional information on CUSTODIAN. This mailing will summarize some of the many features that will be included in the system - take a look at it, I think you will find it interesting and helpful.

We look forward to both your comments and interest.

Take care

Not the kind of growth industry we can look forward to.

Pro-Lever Citizens Testify Before NY Senate Committee

The New York Senate Standing Committee on Elections is holding a series of hearings across the state to receive public comment on proposed election related legislation. Pro-lever activist from New York City, the Hudson Valley and the Capital area took advantage of a meeting on May 11th in Albany to present their views on retaining our lever voting machines before Senators Joseph Addabbo, Jr., committee chair and Senator Joseph Griffo.

Representatives of New York Citizens for Clean Elections , the Kingston Branch of the American Association of University Women, ARISE, and Election Transparency Coalition joined other citizen activists in speaking out against software based voting systems and in favour of levers. Although the meeting was not specifically convened to address voting system legislation, pro-lever speakers made up half of the speakers presenting public testimony, pointing out the constitutional abuses posed by electronic voting, the unsustainable costs, and urging the Senate to consider rescinding or amending the State Election Reform and Modernizations Act (ERMA) to allow for the continued use of lever voting machines.

Here are links for the testimony of Ruth Wahtera of AAUW Kingston who maintains a blog on lever voting machines and Joanne Lukacher of ETC.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Essex County Rejects State-Mandated Electronic Voting System

Elizabethtown, NY --

Essex County wants to keep using its dependable lever voting machines, according to today's vote by the Board of Supervisors. Citing the "insurmountable" costs of the optical-scan systems mandated by the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), the Board passed a resolution "supporting the continuation of our lever voting machines together with Ballot Marking Devices (BMD) and rejecting the use of a computerized voting system[.]" The resolution requests that the State Legislature and Board of Elections enact the necessary laws to allow counties to keep their current election systems.

Today's action by Essex County follows similar resolutions passed by Dutchess, Columbia, Ulster, Schuyler, and Greene Counties and the Association of Towns. Other counties are considering similar action.

"I'm really gratified that Essex County showed such leadership and am hoping it will encourage other counties to join, and ultimately to join in litigation with citizens to challenge the constitutionality of ERMA," said Andrea Novick, legal counsel for the Election Transparency Coalition. The Coalition has prepared litigation challenging ERMA on constitutional grounds, as the State Constitution prohibits concealed vote counting. Software-based systems tabulate votes in a way that cannot be observed by election staff, official observers, or anyone else.

New York is the only state in the U.S. that counts all its votes in a manner that is verifiable and avoids the risk of incorrect election results resulting from computer malfunction or manipulation. In response to the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) nearly the entire nation adopted software-based voting systems, despite the federal government's failure to provide the funding for this changeover.

New York achieved HAVA compliance by outfitting every polling place in the state with a ballot marking device to assist voters with disabilities. The BMD provides a computer interface that creates a paper ballot; these ballots are counted by hand on election night at the polling place.

It is not HAVA but New York's response to HAVA, the Election Reform and Modernization Act, ERMA, which is the legislative mandate to replace the levers. Unless amended, repealed, or declared unconstitutional, ERMA would require electronic tabulators to be used in all NY counties. Electronic voting systems have proven to be problematic throughout the nation, breaking down, losing votes, and leading the public to question announced election results.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

New Yorkers and Local Governments Acting Now To Save Our Lever Voting System

Essex County will become the 6th county joining the Association of Towns in passing resolutions to retain our lever voting machines. More counties are expected to follow.

● The very close race in NY’s 20th CD proved lever machines succeed where software machines fail: New York’s lever voting machines provide reliable, observable evidence of the count at the election. Software voting machines do not.

● Officials and observers inspect each lever machine to see that machines are programmed to count properly. Software machines are secretly programmed. Lever machines cannot switch, flip or add votes; software machines can. Software machines can produce false election results.

● The Help America Vote Act does not require the replacement of lever machines. New York’s State’s Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) does. ERMA is unconstitutional.

● The Election Transparency Coalition NY has prepared litigation seeking to declare computerized vote counting machines unconstitutional.

● Germany's Constitutional Court banned
computerized vote counting machines last month, declaring them unconstitutional.

● In March, a CIA cybersecurity expert reported that computerized elections are vulnerable to rigging. He believes Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's election was rigged and that the post-election audit confirmed the false results. The CIA investigated Venezuela’s elections because Smartmatic, a Venezuelan-owned voting vendor, owns the Intellectual Property rights to Sequoia. Sequoia will program the software for most counties in New York if ERMA is not stopped.

A Pennsylvania legislator introduced legislation last month to allow counties in PA to return to the use of lever voting machines.

● Lever machines are affordable, reliable and with proper maintenance can last another century. Software machines are expensive, unreliable and will have to be replaced in short order due to technological obsolescence or limited useful lives.
If you have something that works and something that doesn't work, I vote for the thing that works. -- State Board of Elections Commissioner Gregory Peterson, regarding lever voting machines.
A PDF version of this post is available here.

Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition is a non partisan, not for profit organization dedicated to transparent elections in New York through the use of non-computerized electoral systems.

ETC is a project of International Humanities Center, a 501(c)(3) organization.

Clear evidence: Lever voting works

The following Op Ed by ETC Founder Andi Novick was published in the Albany Times Union on April 16, 2009:

Clear evidence: Lever voting works

The chair of the New York State Republican Party commenced litigation before the results were counted in the special election in the 20th Congressional District. Some have attacked his move as a Republican ploy. Others have questioned whether the lever voting machines' dead-even results are even possible.

What is missing in this broad-stroke reporting is that New York is not like the other states in the nation that use computerized voting machines, which conceal vote counting. New York's votes are still counted transparently, employing a centuries-old system that was designed to provide evidence of how votes were counted at the time they were cast. This critical distinction sets New York apart from the rest of the nation.

New York's Republican Party is looking to examine and secure that evidence. That is precisely what New York's electoral system is intended to provide. It is what the public is entitled to, and only in New York is this evidence available. Unfortunately for the democratic process, this may be one of the last times New York candidates, parties and citizens will be able to have proof of its election results. If New York replaces its lever voting system with computerized voting machines, the evidence the Republican Party properly seeks to inspect and preserve will be gone forever.

In a democracy, it is the Legislature's responsibility to create a structure in which voting can occur in the most secure manner, one that produces demonstrably certain election results. Just as in a criminal trial, where the state must prove the defendant's guilt to the satisfaction of a jury, in an election the state must establish its innocence to the satisfaction of the public. In both cases, the state must sustain its burden with unimpeachable evidence.

To wit: In a criminal trial, after a crime has been committed, the state must find the evidence and then preserve that evidence for trial.

In an election, before any crime (any vote tampering) could possibly be committed, the state must create a system that produces evidence of electoral safety and security and then preserve that evidence should the election be questioned or a trial challenging the results become necessary.

New York has the only electoral system left in America that satisfies these fundamental constitutional principles of public elections and due process. Our system mandates that evidence of the original results must be publicly created — both to satisfy the public of the accuracy of the results and to provide the most secure means to detect and deter fraud or irregularity before it could occur.

Unlike states where close races were decided by the invisible processes of a computer or by a manual recount of paper ballots, New York has the evidence the Republican Party seeks to secure. Had this election's votes been counted by optical scanners, as New York's new Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) requires in future elections, neither the Republican state chair nor the Democratic state chair nor the public would be able to obtain this evidence of how the ballots were counted at the time they were cast. That's because the evidence will no longer exist. Software-driven voting machines conceal that which is visible and preserved on the lever machine. Neither election officials, nor observers, nor candidates can observe or know how software counts votes in an election. There is no evidence after an election of how the software did its work, as there is with mechanical immutable lever machines, because software is vulnerable to undetectable manipulation.

Elections belong to the public. And the public must be able to evaluate the performance of those charged with the responsibility of conducting the election. The state is rightfully on trial in any election to prove to the candidates, the public and the political parties that it did its job in ascertaining accurate results. We must all be satisfied of the state's innocence (or not) in conducting this election. The Republican Party has the right to put the state to its proofs.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Greene County Lever Resolution

Greene County Resolution
to Keep Lever Voting Machines

Whereas, Greene County has successfully used highly accurate lever voting machines for many decades with very few problems and wants to continue using them, and

Whereas, Greene County believes that continued use of lever voting machines is in the best interest of the public, that unlike optical scan computers, our time-proved lever machines can be relied upon to accurately count votes as cast and cost far less, and

Whereas, our lever machines now comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) because New York has installed ballot marking devices for voting by disabled persons, and

Whereas, New York State's enactment of the Election Reform and Modernization Act of 2005 (ERMA) predates installation of the ballot marking devices for disabled-person voting and New York now complies with HAVA, and

Whereas, the State's statutorily required elimination of lever machines through ERMA is no longer necessary, is inappropriate, and exorbitantly costly to Greene County tax payers, therefore be it

Resolved, that the Greene County Legislature hereby requests the New York State Legislature and the New York State Board of Elections to enact laws, rules, and regulations that specifically authorize continued use of our lever voting machines, and

Be It Further Resolved, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to Governor David Paterson; New York State Senators James Seward, Malcolm Smith, and Dean Skelos; New York State Assembly Members Peter Lopez and Timothy Gordon; Co-Executive Directors of the New York State Board of Elections Todd Valentine and Stanley Zalen; New York State Board of Elections Commissioners James Walsh, Douglas Kellner, Evelyn Aquila, and Gregory Peterson; and Greene County Elections Commissioners Frank DeBenedictus and Thomas Burke.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Greene County Passes Lever Resolution

Greene County is now the fifth New York County to pass a resolution urging New York State Legislators to save our lever Voting Machines.

Election Transparency Coalition has been working with our coalition partner, New York Citizens for Clean Elections, to forward this resolution in Greene County. Here is their report:

In a surprise move on Wednesday, April 15, Greene County Legislators unanimously passed a resolution urging New York State Legislators to save our lever machines instead of waiting until April 20, the date they had originally scheduled for the vote.

The county legislators are responding to citizens' concerns that a switch to optical-scan computers with a history of hacking and breakdowns common to all computers would not only endanger the safety of our votes, but would also vastly increase Greene County's budget and require huge tax increases.

Op-scan computers cost between $11,000 and $12,000 each, with the total cost varying with each county. According to Mary Jo Jaeger, Deputy Budget Officer for Greene County, the cost for Green County came to $352,500.00 for 30 machines. Of this, she said, the county paid 5%, which came to $17,625.00. The other 95% was paid with federal monies. However, she says, that was only for the initial purchase of the machines. Her office has not yet compiled the figures for future operations of the computers, which will be the county's full responsibility. Over the long term, say citizens who want to save our levers, maintenance, storage, and testing, along with very expensive technical support, training, and paper ballot costs, could easily raise those figures to many millions, while keeping our levers would not significantly add to our tax burden.

Keeping our levers became possible in November 2008, when New York installed ballot-marking devices (BMDs) in every polling place for people with special needs, which made New York's levers fully compliant with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA).

The drawback at this point, says Irene Miller, founder of New York Citizens for Clean Elections, is the Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA), "which New York State legislators passed in 2005, mandating computer voting. But ERMA was passed before we got the BMDs that made our levers compliant with HAVA. Rescinding ERMA would pave the way to save many millions of taxpayer dollars and our most fundamental protection of democracy---a trustworthy, secure vote, which is not possible with computers, but is possible with our levers, which have served us very well for many decades."

Miller says some of the problems inherent in optical-scan computers are:

• There is no way to verify that a computer is internally counting voter-verified ballots as cast because computer software is mutable, meaning that the software can be programmed to invisibly "modify itself during an election and then modify itself back to its pre-election state after the election. This can happen even if computers are certified. A National Institute of Standards and Technology study and dozens of other computer-scientist studies clearly show that computers can be programmed to function one way during certification testing and another during an actual election."

• Optical-scan computers would require hand counts because of their ability to mutably change scanned voter-verified ballots. Currently, the state mandates a 3% hand count of op-scan ballots, which ignores a computer's mutable ability to comply with the hand count. If a discrepancy should be identified at 3%, all paper ballots would, presumably, be recounted by hand, which would take a great deal of time, be enormously costly, and add a serious concern about chain of custody, which means continuous observation of all voted ballots by representatives of all parties would be required until the entire count is completed in order to prevent any possibility of vote tampering. Lever machines are not mutable and chain of custody is far less of a problem with them.

For a clear demonstration of how scanned voter-verified ballots can be easily switched inside optical-scan computers without a trace, Miller recommends the HBO documentary "Hacking Democracy".

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Close Congressional race in NY District 20 Demonstrates Need to Keep Lever Machines

From the beginning it was suspected that the race to replace Representative Kirsten Gillibrand in New York’s 20th Congressional District would be close, but as the margin between the two candidates tightened, with Democrat Scott Murphy taking a slim lead in the polls going into election day, the Chair of the NYS Republican Party filed a petition in the Supreme Court in Dutchess County to ensure that the normal procedures for ensuring accuracy and transparency of the vote counting process were followed and that the evidence of the count be preserved and available for judicial review if necessary.

The implications of the filing are either an abundance of caution or a wariness of the ‘Heinz 57’ variety of canvassing among the different county boards of election. Whatever the reason, the Republican Party is exercising its rights under New York Election Law to maximize the constitutional guarantees of publicly demonstrable vote counting. What is not being discussed is that if the lever machines are replaced by software-based electronic voting machines all these rights will become meaningless.

New York's Law still requires that votes be counted transparently either by lever machines or by hand. New York Election Law employs a system that was designed to provide evidence of how votes were counted at the time they were cast. According to New York Election Transparency Coalition legal counsel, Andrea Novick, it is this critical distinction which sets New York apart from the rest of the nation.

If New York replaces its mechanical lever voting machines with computerized voting machines, the evidence which the Republican Party is seeking to examine and secure will disappear. Had this election’s votes been counted by optical scanners, as New York’s Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) will require in future elections, neither the Republican State Chair nor the Democratic State Chair nor the public would be able to obtain evidence of how the ballots were counted at the time they were cast. Unlike our lever machines where evidence of malfunction, malfeasance or mis-transcription of the vote count can be detected and corrected as has been occurring this week during the re-canvass of the machines in the 20th district, there is no evidence of how software does its work because software is undetectably corruptible and vulnerable to manipulation.

Software-based scanners conceal what must be visible and leave no evidence of the count to be examined by the parties, the public or the court. All that is left are the indistinguishable paper ballots, which are not evidence of how the ballots were originally counted. A post-election manual count of some ballots, required by ERMA because the software-generated tally is known to be exploitable, is no solution.

As Novick explained, “For 232 years our Laws have presumed that counted ballots, once removed from continuous observation, are so likely to be tampered with that their use has been prohibited. Unless the condition of inviolability is established, the ballots have no evidentiary value. Worse they provide a false sense of security cloaking what is already concealed by the software.”

Unlike the recent close race in Minnesota that was decided by a manual recount of post-election night paper ballots, not shown to have been the same ballots cast at the election, today’s commencement of New York’s absentee paper ballots will be publicly observed from the moment they are cast, through the counting. Novick says, “New York’s Constitution has always required an observable, open electoral process that produces evidence of the count at the time the votes are cast, ensuring maximum protection against fraud.”

“The Republican Party will have the proof it seeks, at least this year.” “But,” she warns, “If we permit the State to abandon our lever voting system for software-based scanners, it will be the last time any one will have evidence of who won the election.”

Friday, April 3, 2009

Schuyler County & Association of Towns pass Lever Resolutions

In March, the Schuyler County legislature and the Association of Towns of New York each passed resolutions requesting that New York be allowed to keep its lever voting machines.

In enacting its March 9th resolution


Schuyler joined Dutchess, Columbia and Ulster and became the fourth New York County within 3 months to formally express its desire to continue voting on the lever machines.

In February, at their annual meeting in New York City, The Association of Towns of New York also passed a resolution requesting that the United States Congress, the Governor of New York, the New York State Legislature and the New York State Board of Elections enact laws, rules and regulations and take all other needed actions to specifically authorize the continued use of lever voting machines. The Association and its members represent eight million New York residents, almost half the population of the State.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New York's Voting System Satisfies & Surpasses HAVA

Notwithstanding the plain language of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) which expressly states that lever machines can be legally used, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) interprets HAVA to effectively exclude the lever machines as ever being acceptable. This interpretation contravenes the statutory language which explicitly refers to the lever system, along with the DRE and optical scan systems, as voting systems that may be used in federal elections as long as they comply with the five standards set forth in HAVA. This memo by Andrea T. Novick, Esq. explains why the the EAC’s advisory of HAVA as it pertains to New York’s lever voting system is erroneous and should be revoked.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

ES&S Withdraws Op-Scans from Erie County Test Run

Election officials in Erie County (Buffalo, NY area) agree that lever voting machines are more accurate and reliable than the electronic voting technologies. However, in anticipation of the state-mandated change to electronic voting machines, the county Board of Elections arranged with Election Systems and Software (ES&S) to test their new DS200 optical scan voting machines through their use in eight village elections in March 2009.

These optical scanners are currently undergoing certification testing by the State Board of Elections, but last year optical scan machines made by ES&S failed pre-election tests in one Michigan county and produced conflicting vote totals in other areas. Election officials reported that the same ballots run through the same machines yielded different results each time.

The Erie County Board of Elections worked for two months with ES&S and election officials in the eight villages on arrangements to use the machines in the March elections. They were prepared to conduct 100% hand counts if necessary to correct scanner errors. But, a week before the election, ES&S abruptly withdrew their offer to make the op-scan machines available. Instead the elections were conducted on the traditional lever machines.

In a press release dated March 11th, Erie County Election Commissioner Ralph Mohr concluded that, "Unfortunately, the fact that the manufacturer pulled out of the pilot project at the last minute indicates to me a lack of confidence in its own system...The lever style machines will afford voters and candidates the confidence in the integrity and accuracy of the voting process during this election."

Mohr told the Election Transparency Coalition that his county had also experienced problems with the vendor's configuration of the AutoMark accessible ballot marking devices (BMDs) in last year's primaries. He said the order in which the contests were presented on the screen, and via the audio headsets used by voters with visual disabilities, differed from that required by the Election Law and correctly printed on the paper ballots. The county ended up correcting these problems on their own for the general election.

The same voting systems have been selected by New York City, Rockland, Albany and Schenectady counties. The AutoMark has the advantage of being a non-tabulating BMD, which at least would not put vote tallies at risk. It's less than half the price of the riskier tabulating BMD that also counts the votes. But the vendor's refusal to run a pilot election with their ballot counting scanners casts doubt on the State Legislature's decision to replace the lever voting machines with computers in the first place.

ES&S is one of two vendors who have submitted Optical Scan machines for state certification review. The other vendor is Sequoia Voting Systems whose ImageCast BMD was deployed by many New York counties in the November 2008 elections. However, as Election Transparency Coalition and the E-Voter Education Project revealed last August, the optical scan portion of the ImageCast contains at least one serious and obvious flaw -- a hole which enables stuffing of the locked ballot box. (See this link for video and a legal analysis.)

- Joanne Lukacher