A welcome to corrente, the newest "friend" of Black Box Notes. corrente is a group of four bloggers who between themselves keep a fine eye on what is happening. Drop by for sure and check out what they are doing. "Friends" are those blogs that link in their sidebars to Black Box Notes.
"Friends" are those blogs that link in their sidebars to Black Box Notes.
Just a personal observation: As Dr. Valelly mentions in the below article, "In our elections, we don't count everything well. We have a lot of error." I think that this is a key factor in our sometimes inability to communicate our concerns to elections officials (and others). The fact of the matter is that these people are in an environment where they have gotten used to significant error rates, and so when the new DRE machines suddenly produce similar or even lower error rates, that is OK because these officials are used to seeing these.
Yet this is not what computers do. Computers don't care if they add two numbers together or if they add two million numbers together. They don't get bored, they don't get tired, and, properly programmed, the don't make mistakes.
Some argue that it's "impossible" to write a "perfect program", but even if this is true (and I reject it), it is easy to get pretty close, especially if the application is not that complex. Are these people then arguing that voting is a complex process? Compared to what? Your bank's accounting system? Your stockbroker's? A missile guidance system? Voting is trivial in comparison to these, and yet all of these systems, if not quite perfect, work with remarkable accuracy. Why? Because we demand that they do.
This is what we need to convey to our election officials. That the introduction of full computer automation in the voting process is an opportunity to almost eliminate completely these error rates to which they have become accustomed. That indeed computers are capable of doing this, that voting computers will do this if we demand it of them, and that to fail to implement them with this as a goal would indeed be a great mistake.
Something like 100 million Americans will attempt to participate in a presidential election again Nov. 2, roughly a quarter of them voting electronically on touch-screen systems that have the potential to make the great electoral fiasco of 2000 look like a scrupulously efficient night of church bingo.
This isn't necessarily anyone's fault, according to Dr. Richard Valelly of Swarthmore College, a Harvard-trained political scientist who is expert in American party politics and elections.
"In our elections, we don't count everything well," he told me on the phone last week. "We have a lot of error. We've tried to fix it with the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which created a deadline and put a lot of pressure on state Secretaries of State and state election commissions.
"They liked touch-screen voting because people were already using it on automatic teller machines. Since you don't have to handle a lot of different forms, they looked at the machines and said, 'Oh, great stuff.' "
And, of course, they were wrong. ...
TUSTIN, CA -- March 26, 2004-- AccuPoll (OTCBB:ACUP), a developer of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems, today announced the federal qualification of its voting system by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), the organization that oversees standards established by the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
As a result of federal qualification, AccuPoll can now deliver its intuitive touch screen-based electronic voting system to counties across the Unites States for use in this year's and subsequent elections. Additionally, AccuPoll becomes the first company to offer a federally-qualified electronic voting system featuring a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) capable of being both optically scanned and easily read by voters. ...
So what can we expect in November? If it's a blowout Presidential race, maybe a one-column story on page thirteen of your local paper talking about voting problems at a few polling places in your county. But if it's a toss-up like 2000, all hell may break out in the recount.
With even more damage to the public's faith in voting.
When Katherine Harris had to decide which candidate won Florida in 2000, many people were disturbed to learn she was both the state's top elections official and co-chairwoman of the Florida Bush-Cheney campaign. This year, that kind of unhealthy injection of partisanship into the administration of a presidential election could happen again.Is this partisan? You decide.
Ms. Harris's successor is staying out of partisan politics this year, but other secretaries of state are diving right in. In Missouri, as important a swing state as Florida, the secretary of state has a top position in the Missouri Bush-Cheney campaign. In Michigan, another battleground state, the secretary of state has signed on as co-chairwoman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, and has been supporting an openly Republican voter registration drive.
Those who have ripped control of the Republican Party from its traditional roots are now seeking to turn us into a one-party state.
You decide. But I've got the New York Times on my side.
After a week off of the Black Box Voting circuit, I've just spent ten hours trying to catch up. Over three dozen new articles posted including new editorials from both the New York Times and Washington Post. Quite an effort, and I'm still not quite done. What follows however is something worth commenting upon.
Having so many articles to post, I've organized them into groups by states or regions (that I've called "Round-Ups"). By the time I was finishing up with this, a sense of awe came over me. My groupings spanned the nation, and the individual articles addressed so many of the concerns of black box advocates. All in a single week, and I didn't even post all I could have.
No, not all of the articles are favorable to our concerns, and I really can't expect you to link to all and actually read them. But scan them through; no, bathe yourself in just my descriptions of them.
Across the nation and across most of our concerns, election supervisisors are in fact listening.
Now let's be realistic. We've pissed a lot of these people off. What many of them perhaps initially saw optimisticly as merely a great infusion of federal cash to their operations, they now see as a royal headache. Because we are watching. Because you are watching. And not a one of them wants to be the next "hanging chad" election supervisor.
Now I am hardly going to suggest that I've been on this issue in any fashion even close to what Bev has done, and certainly the same is true for most who are reading this. But that does not matter. Even if you only spoke to a few friends, you moved the issue forward, and we would not be where we are (and it is far) without your efforts. All of you deserve congratualtions for your individual contributions.
We have to do another thing however. We have to convince a lot of our elections people that we are their friends. That while we are motivated by our own self-interest, we share a common interest with them. We already have their attention; we simply need to help them look out for themselves.
How times change.
is said to be unlikely here
The 2000 election debacles in Florida and Georgia shook some voters' confidence in the elections system, but North Carolina State Board of Elections Director Gary Bartlett said voters have been protected from similar events here since 1994.
The term "pregnant chad," which became common knowledge after Florida's 2000 presidential election, he said, was actually coined in North Carolina following a sixth district race for the U.S. House in the mid-1980s.
That possible error in counting the race between Republican Howard Coble and then Democratic incumbent Rep. Robin Britt prompted implementation of checks and balances that should reassure the state's voters, he said Thursday, following a State Board of Elections meeting at New Bern's Riverfront Convention Center in which further checks were approved.
The State Board of Elections took action in New Bern Thursday to further ensure that electronic voting technology cannot be used to alter elections in North Carolina.Far too optimistic an assessment, but certainly a worthwhile precaution. Other states would do well to follow North Calolina's lead on this. With what these machines cost, there simply should not be any need for last minute program changes.
The five-member board voted unanimously to limit which voting machines can be purchased by the state's 100 counties until federal standards are in place and banned any general maintenance or software modification to voting equipment for 25 days preceding any vote without specific State Board of Elections approval.
Since absentee voting precedes election days by 50 days, voting machines can't be touched without state board approval for 75 days prior to an election day.
Orange County poll workers say breakdowns in training on new electronic voting machines contributed to thousands of voters receiving the wrong ballots March 2.
Literature issued to polling place volunteers gave conflicting instructions about retrieving access codes that voters entered into the machines to obtain correct ballots.
Also, polling place log books listed only one precinct number on their covers when, in many instances, two or more precincts had been consolidated into one polling station.
That led some poll workers to assume they were dealing with a single precinct — and distributing that ballot to voters who lived in other precincts but were casting ballots at that same polling place.
with voting machine contractor
OAKLAND - Alameda County officials met this morning with representatives from Diebold Elections Systems, indicating they were ready to get tough with the company should problems with its new $12 million electronic voting system recur.
"The problems we experienced during the March primary election were very serious," said County Counsel Richard Winnie. "We are making it very clear to Diebold that we don't want to experience those problems again."
As many as 200 precincts in Alameda County experienced problems with the county's electronic voting equipment during the March 2 primary.
Precinct workers were able to correct the problems in many cases, elections officials said, but voters were turned away at perhaps 25 polling places.
voting lawsuit against state
LOS ANGELES - Riverside County joined a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles and aimed at ensuring that disabled residents can vote anonymously, lawyers said today.
The action was filed March 8 on behalf of the American Association of People with Disabilities, the California Council of the Blind Inc., the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers and 11 individuals.
At issue is a directive from Secretary of State Kevin Shelley stating that by 2006, all California counties must have voting machines that print out paper records.
Riverside County, which already has new touchscreen machines that are accessible to the handicapped, does not want to be forced to buy new machines that it contends will not provide the same level of privacy for blind voters.
vote secure got makers' aid
The Election Center, which trains election workers and advises Congress and government agencies on election process issues, has taken donations from manufacturers of electronic voting machines even as it has issued strong statements supporting the security of the machines.
The Houston-based nonprofit organization bills itself as a nonpartisan group representing election officials from throughout the country.
Its executive director, R. Doug Lewis, confirmed this week that the center had taken donations from makers of electronic voting machines - Sequoia Voting Systems Inc. of Oakland, Calif., and Electronic Systems & Software Inc. of Omaha, Neb. In addition, donations came from "probably Diebold" Inc. of North Canton, Ohio, Lewis said.
Monterey County election officials almost went there, but they didn't. And now they're glad they didn't implement electronic voting machines countywide.Interesting. Monterey County actually tried the high-tech out and decided to wait. Smart move. Why jump into the water before you know how deep it is?
"There's too many issues with electronic voting, needless to say," said Monterey County Registrar of Voters Tony Anchundo.
The local elections department dabbled with touch-screen voting devices several years ago, putting a couple of the high-tech machines at shopping centers for voters who wanted to try them. Touch-screen voting was also used for a couple of small-scale elections, including a Carmel municipal election and a Washington Union School District board election.
The machines have not been used since 2002.
Anchundo said voters and his office had no problems with the machines during its experimental program, but some counties that converted completely to touch-screen voting machines during have reported nothing but trouble in the past month.
CARMI, Ill. - Voters in White County used an optical scan voting system for the first time in Tuesday's primary election, leaving behind the old punch card system.Economy style, for sure. Seems like not everyone is transfixed on eVote tech. Good for them!* * *"It went wonderfully," said White County Clerk Paula Dozier. "Things went off like clockwork. With the new system, it took only three seconds to download and count an entire precinct." Dozier reports wrapping up the vote count in less than three hours after the polls closed at 7 p.m.
It cost $98,000 to make the conversion to an optical scan system in White County. The Illinois State Board of Elections picked up the tab on nearly $96,000 of the expense through the state's punch card buyout program.
The fight these days about whether and how to replace punch cards is not so much between Democrats and Republicans as between those who have been focused on this issue since 2000 and those who have only focused in the last few months. The veterans of the issue — including Secretary Blackwell and the sponsors of the federal law — are largely convinced that the high-tech machines are more reliable vote-counters than the punch-card systems. They point to successful elections that have been held with these systems.
The newcomers are more worried. They point to studies that have been done that show that the new machines could be compromised. And they simply note that computers often don't work.
No great harm can come from slowing down the process to confront the concerns of the skeptics. If Congress made any major mistake in passing the post-2000 conversion from punch cards, it was in trying to get the whole thing done by 2006. Ideally, voters who have qualms should have some time to watch experiments in various jurisdictions.
Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has told the Summit County Board of Elections to buy its electronic voting machines from Diebold Inc.
The Green-based company already had been chosen by more than 40 Ohio counties, as the state converts from punch cards and lever pulls to electronic voting.
Blackwell had asked counties to choose a vendor for the machines by Jan. 15, but Summit County failed to meet that deadline.
SOUTH BEND -- The possibility that St. Joseph County's new voting machines could be headed for the scrap heap loomed large Tuesday, thanks largely to the reality of new federal election laws.Am I missing something here? Do the machines used by sighted voters has to match those used by blind voters? Doesn't there merely have to be equivalent access?* * *The county spent about $1.6 million on the optical-scan voting machines that were introduced to local voters a year ago in the May 2003 primary election.* * *Those machines, however, do not meet the voting act requirement that each polling place have a voting machine in place that will "permit a voter who is blind or visually impaired to vote privately and independently."
To do that, the county will have to buy Direct Recording Electronic voting machines, also known as touch-screen machines, and have them in place by Jan. 1, 2006.
New voting machines likely will cost Hamilton County residents an extra $3 million - and will change not only how they vote but where they cast ballots, county elections officials said Wednesday.
Hamilton County expects to get $8 million to $10 million in federal money to buy 2,612 electronic voting machines. That's the number of machines the Secretary of State's Office estimates are needed in Hamilton County.
But the county needs 3,962 machines - a third more than it's getting money for - to tally the ballots of its 500,885 registered voters, according to Board of Elections Director John Williams.
COLUMBUS - Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has told five counties that have yet to select new voting machines that he will make the choice for them next week.
The letter angered members of a legislative panel examining the security of electronic voting, escalating an already tense feud over who should make decisions about how Ohioans will vote in the post-Florida, 2000, era.* * *Mr. Blackwell sent a letter to the boards of election in Hamilton, Montgomery, Clinton, Highland, and Preble counties, all of which use punch-card ballots like those called into question in the 2000 presidential election.
The Kenner mayoral race is over and the day to challenge the results has passed, but some residents remain abuzz over allegations of election-day improprieties at the polling stations.
In a letter Wednesday to the Louisiana attorney general and secretary of state, Police Chief Nick Congemi, who lost the March 9 contest to City Councilman Phil Capitano by 871 votes, stopped short of challenging the outcome but nonetheless outlined some "apparent irregularities."* * *Congemi's letter said that on election day, his campaign's poll watchers noticed signs on tables, inside voting booths and attached to the booths announcing that Jeannie Black and Betty Bonura had withdrawn from the race. He also quoted his campaign manager, Alan Howland, saying Black's and Bonura's names had been taped over at a number of polling stations.
When the voting machine seals were broken March 12, Congemi said, his campaign manager saw evidence that 17 of the machines appeared to have been altered: Printed or hand-written notes were attached to seven machines, Black's and Bonura's names were marked out with a black marker in another, tape residue was found on eight machines and one machine, although broken, had recorded two votes.
If Henry Cuellar calls for a Bexar County recount of his razor-slim Democratic primary loss to U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez, it will be the first such test locally of electronic voting technology at the center of some troubled elections around the country.
The county's $8.1 million Elections Systems & Software touch-screen system, which was fully launched in September, has been touted by local officials as safe and efficient.* * *Electronic voting systems have come under fire in some quarters for being vulnerable to hacking and other forms of corruption, although there is no evidence that manipulation has occurred.
In particular, critics say the lack of a voter-verified paper ballot removes the possibility of a true recount.
The problems with electronic voting machines don't seem ready to subside, even though a district judge has upheld an election that was challenged based on their use.
That challenge, pursued by a losing candidate in Independence, was in one of the only two parishes with electronic machines -- Tangipahoa and Ascension. There were problems in two municipalities -- Independence and Ponchatoula -- in the March 9 elections.
"We have more problems in those two parishes than all of the other parishes put together," Secretary of State Fox McKeithen said after ballots cast in the Ponchatoula elections March 9 failed to get properly posted with the secretary of state's office.
Brazoria County officials are looking at two types of machines, one with touch-screen voting, similar to what Bexar County has, and one with a dial, like Harris County’s, which voters use to highlight their choice on the screen.
At Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. on the third floor of the courthouse, Mary Ruth Rhodenbaugh will present a Democratic Party resolution asking commissions to proceed with caution when choosing electronic voting machines.
"We just don’t feel like it would be wise to invest millions of dollars of money into machines that don’t have any verifiable paper trail," said Rhodenbaugh who lost a close vote for Precinct 4 commissioner on 2002 that included a recount. "It might just lead to challenges in the future. To me, this is a totally non-partisan issue. It's an issue that affects every voter in Brazoria County, and every potential voter and every future voter as far as the sanctity of the ballot."
County Clerk Joyce Hudman said the county will make sure there is recount capability on whatever machines the county buys.
An important test of the Bexar County system will come with the recount in the 28th Congressional District Democratic primary.
The official canvass shows incumbent U.S. Rep. Ciro Rodriguez defeating Henry Cuellar by 145 votes. That's from 48,581 across the 11-county district, including 13,566 in Bexar.
Elections officials here are confident that the electronic recount will run smoothly. If so, it will serve as an essential verification of the integrity of the e-voting system ahead of November.
MARYLAND LEGISLATORS are moving to address a serious defect in the touch-screen voting machines that the state has been introducing over the last several elections. The problem, pointed out by experts studying the system, is that glitches in the machines' programming could be difficult to detect. Because votes are recorded electronically, some could be lost or perhaps credited to the wrong candidates. Were that to happen, election officials would have no separate record of how votes were cast -- no real way to conduct a solid recount or audit.
In December, Maryland Del. Karen S. Montgomery (D-Montgomery) drafted legislation to require voter-verified paper records. Voters would be allowed to correct errors they find on printouts of the votes they are about to cast. If the printout matches the voter's touch-screen decisions, the voter then would cast the electronic ballot, and the paper version would be stored for use in any recounts. Ms. Montgomery's measure also would require random checks of the paper records in 2 percent of election precincts against the computer records, to search for evidence of possible tampering. The technology exists and ought to be included in the voting system. A number of states, including California, have voted for requirements that would create paper trails.
The Maryland House bill and a state Senate version with a number of co-sponsors have been approved by their respective committees, with further action possible this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow in the Senate. Before Maryland proceeds to install its complete new system, legislators should insist on the fundamental safeguards called for in this legislation.
ANNAPOLIS -- The Senate is poised to pass a bipartisan bill this week requiring paper receipts to be added to the state's controversial $74 million Diebold voting system.
Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, chairwoman of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, told The Gazette that she supports the paper mandate and wants the machines upgraded in time for November's general election.
Hollinger (D-Dist. 11) of Pikesville said the committee amended the bill to ask Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to find money for the upgrade, which legislative analysts warned could cost tens of millions.
"The whole committee is for the bill," she said. "We just don't have a funding source. Our constituents want it, we want it. ... There is no question that the people want to feel that their vote is secure."
Budget Secretary James C. "Chip" DiPaula Jr. said the idea is a "worthy concept for consideration," but expressed concern about the potential cost.
to Election Day problems
During this month's Democratic presidential primary in Florida, an elections staffer in Polk County mistakenly gave five voters extra ballots - giving them the chance to vote twice.
In Bay County in the Panhandle, a technical error gave Richard Gephardt more votes than presumptive nominee John Kerry - even though Gephardt had dropped out six weeks earlier.
In Miami-Dade, a Miami Herald reporter registered as having no party affiliation was urged by a precinct staffer to vote in the Democratic primary after the poll worker mistakenly activated the wrong ballot on the touch-screen voting machine.
The incidents were minor, but nothing is trivial in the state that decided the presidency by just 537 votes in 2000. After a four-year remake of the voting system designed to shed the state's bumbling image, the March 9 voting revealed lingering evidence that Florida could once again find itself the center of unwanted attention.
On Voting Machine Paper Trail
A congressman's federal lawsuit against the state's elections supervisors demanding a paper record from electronic voting machines will get an expedited hearing.
Rep. Robert Wexler filed the lawsuit on Feb. 27. Wexler and his co-plaintiffs, Palm Beach County Commissioners Burt Aaronson and Addie Greene, and Florida Alliance for Retired Americans President Tony Fransetta, claim that it is unconstitutional for 15 of Florida's 67 counties to have no means of conducting a manual recount in the event of an election dispute. The 15 counties use electronic, touch-screen voting machines that do not produce a paper record.
The lawsuit cites the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, which stopped Florida's recount, essentially awarding the presidency to George W. Bush. The decision cited the "equal protection" clause of the constitution in saying that the different recount standards in different counties could produce an unfair result.
"Federal Judge Cohn has given Floridians hope that we will have a constitutional voting system that works in November," Wexler said in a statement. "I am trying to avoid another election night catastrophe. By trying this case as soon as possible, the federal court has recognized the urgency involved."
Lawyers for Secretary of State Glenda Hood and Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore had sought to delay the case until after the November election.
"This cart before the horse situation is despicable. . .Standards can be inappropriately employed to favor some vendor's products over others, make competition costly and encourage mediocrity over innovation, all of which can have negative effects on security."
. . .
Mercuri said any programmer can write a code that displays one thing on a screen, records a different thing and prints something entirely different from both, and the machines don't provide independent audit trails in the event of the need for a recount.
"Communities that rely on promises of security and accuracy when purchasing such systems run the severe risk that they will administer an election whose results may someday be contested — but they will not be able to provide an independent audit which can ascertain the content of the true ballots cast," Mercuri said in a statement paper on the technology. "In short, Florida all over again."
Local and state elections officials say Mercuri's warnings are far more dire than the situation warrants, and a less-than-friendly issue paper from the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections denounces such concerns.
If Florida finds itself this November in a 2000-style election brawl, the public could be denied one of its most precious civic possessions: the right to inspect the ballots.By the way, the Florida law mentioned here is the same one cited in the lawsuit (above and below) by Florida Representative Robert Wexler.
Blame it on the newfangled electronic voting machines. Blame it on the state. Blame it on 2000.
Whatever the cause, one of the only ways to assure confidence in the system is in danger of being stamped out. Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore, who emerged from 2000 as perhaps America's best-known elections official, said she doesn't have to provide ballots for public review. ... In fact, Florida law gives Ms. LePore no way out. It says, "The official ballots... shall be open for public inspection... at any reasonable time." It doesn't exclude electronic ballots.
LaPore has run a pretty tight ship since the 2000 election, and her opposition to this appears to be quite honest and non-partisan. Essentially, her analysis suggests that there is far greater risk in reverting to pape ballots as opposed to staying with the new DRIs. As far as this analysis of risk goes, it is no doubt true.
The problem is that this risk analysis stops one step short of completion: It fails to analyze the recovery aspect, i.e., when a failure does occur, what are the problems with recovery. [LaPore's analysis is hardly unique in this, in fact. Risk analyses often contain this failure.] In fact, this is the exact problem with paperless voting; it simply lacks a recovery plan for a catastophic failure. In a properly completed risk analysis (of any type), options for which there is no recovery path should of necessity be excluded from consideration.
U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler's federal lawsuit challenging paperless electronic voting will go to trial before the November elections, a judge ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge James Cohn agreed with Wexler's request for fast-track consideration of his suit and scheduled a trial to begin sometime between Aug. 16 and Aug. 27. Attorneys representing Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood and county elections supervisors had wanted the trial delayed until after the November elections.
If Wexler prevails, he wants ballot printers or paper-based voting systems in place by November. Wexler said elections officials should begin making multimillion-dollar "contingency plans" to buy new voting equipment in case he wins.
Wexler, D-Delray Beach, claims the paperless voting machines used by 15 Florida counties violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution because those votes can't be manually recounted while the votes in 52 other Florida counties can be reviewed by hand.
make its mark in Hays County
Hays County voters may get their hands on some of the new electronic voting machines this fall - if only for a test.
Audience members got a taste of the new voting method during the Hays County Commissioner's Court meeting Tuesday.
A presentation of the eSlate voting machine was given by Phillip W. Braithwaite, director of sales and business development for Hart Intercivic.
It's possible that a few of these machines could be purchased in time for use in November's general election, simply for a "practice run" for voters to become acquainted with the machines, according to Commissioner Bill Burnett. The systems cost around $2,500 each.
or be removed as elections chief
A candidate seeking to oust Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore demanded Thursday she either resign or be removed from office by Gov. Jeb Bush if she does not prepare a plan to fix problems he said were rampant in the March 9 election.Hey, with friends like that, who needs enemies.
Democrat Arthur Anderson read a long list of problems he said affected at least 200 voters in the presidential primary and 11 municipal elections March 9. If true, that would account for 0.2 percent of the 98,577 votes cast, but Anderson said he was convinced problems were widespread.
"We are again headed towards an extremely problematic and, yes, catastrophic election process this fall, as was the case in 2000, if intervention does not occur immediately," said Anderson, who called LePore a longtime friend.
I'm actually a bit surprised by this. Very few problems were reported in this county election, and all were quite limited in scope. To my view (and being a local here), Anderson is probably just grandstanding for a issue.
Imagine if your grocery store told you it wasn't giving out receipts any more because everything is scanned and the computer is never wrong.Some mentions of both eVoting problems and successes, a nod to Bev's advocacy, and a discussion of the Open Voting Consortium efforts.
Or what if your bank decided to quit giving you statements with the reassurance that "the computer's keeping track of everything, so don't worry."
It sounds preposterous, given the current state of technological reliability. Yet there's one significant part of our lives where we're being told no receipt is necessary, just trust the computer.
Like a grandfather clock or a grand piano, a device can be low-tech, yet elegant and functional.This lack of specific standards is also a major complaint of the eVote vendors who rightly claim (link below) that it is impossible to develop technology to adress eVote problems without firm specifications on what solutions are expected.
So it is with the old, lever-activated voting machines that York County currently relies on. They’re bulky, yet reassuring in their very solidity. Cast your ballot and hear a metallic "thunk," like the mechanisms of democracy kicking into gear. And the technology dates back about 100 years, according to York County Elections Director John Scott. Their most high-tech component is a light bulb.
But the federal government says those machines have to go ... [because] the machines don’t meet the criteria specified under the Help America Vote Act of 2002.
"They’ve done a fine job for 50 years," Scott said, but there are new expectations now of what the machines must do.
The problem is, the federal government hasn’t been very forthcoming about what those expectations are. And while federal officials are still working out specific standards for complying with the 2002 law, local and state elections officials are waiting in limbo.
"We wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole," said Shane Falk, a Madison lawyer and chairman of the state board.
"As long as I'm chairman, or even on the board, we will not see Internet voting in Wisconsin. There are just too many problems with it."
... Wade O. Martin said Friday not to expect Louisiana to follow ULL's lead [during Student Government Association elections] any time soon.
Martin, state commissioner of elections, said ULL and other schools should not be doing it, either.
"I will adamantly oppose Internet voting until I retire and thereafter," said Martin, who has nearly 30 years' experience in state elections.
[Via Paper Vote Canada.]
Safeguarding the Electoral Process
[Via Paper Vote Canada.]
The president of Diebold Election Systems pledged Wednesday to fix multiple problems plaguing its oldest touchscreen-voting customer on the West Coast.Well, wasn't that nice of Bob, vowing to fix his machines and then brushing off press questions. I've got to say that Urosevich (if nothing else) is a walking PR disaster. I can't imagine why Diebold hasn't fired him yet.
Officials in Alameda County, purchaser of a $12.7 million Diebold electronic-voting system in May 2002, reserved judgment on whether the McKinney, Texas, firm is capable of delivering on its promises.
"I got the feeling very much that they were committed to making everything right. Of course, our goal is that the presidential election will run smoothly," said county voting Registrar Brad Clark. "We'll see how they follow through on our discussions."
Diebold Election Systems President Bob Urosevich brushed aside press questions after a two-hour meeting in which Alameda County officials laid out a litany of problems with Diebold equipment and printing services.
Some other interesting items:
- Diebold's voting system inexplicably gave thousands of Democratic votes in the Oct. 7 recall election to a Southern California socialist.
- Diebold claims that they didn't know that their encoders (the source of many failures during the CA primary) needed to be certified. State election officials claim that this is clearly specified in their contract.
[Via Paper Vote Canada.]
Who certifies electronic voting machines in the US?Unfortunately, that characterization of Wyle is a bit off. If you are interested in Wyle Labs, head on over and check out my rather extensive comments there. Wyle is a most interesting company.
Wyle Laboratories and Ciber Inc.
And what are their qualifications?
As far as I know, they have none. They're just a couple guys who one day decided "hey, I think I will certify electronic voting machines".
The Open Voting Consortiun is an open source development project on SourceForge.net. Once completed, the software will be free for use by any interested parties, and will be provided with a complete listing of source code.
[Via Paper Vote Canada.]
Scrutinized After 2000 Election
- Florida felony disenfranchisement began in 1868 when the state gave blacks the right to vote as a condition of the state's being readmitted to the Union after the Civil War. Removing Florida's felony disenfranchisement would require an amendment to the Florida constitution.
- While it is impossible to determine an exact count, it is estimated that more than 600,000 people in Florida are disenfranchised under this law, and this does not include those still in prison, on parole or on probation. More than one in four black men in Florida may not vote.
- Florida felony disenfranchisement extends beyond simply the ability to vote. Also barred is the right to hold elected office and the right to obtain certain professional licenses including nursing and contracting licenses.
- As of March 15, 35,585 Florida felons have outstanding applications for re-enfranchisement. Annual restoration rates vary widely. 1,550 applications were granted from 1999 to 2001, while 14,828 were granted in 2003. It can take years before an application is reviewed, and applications can be refused on arbitrary moral grounds.
March 19, 2004—The subject line on Tuesday’s email read: “Another mysterious accident solves a Bush problem. Athan Gibbs dead, Diebold lives.” The attached news story briefly described the untimely Friday, March 12, death of perhaps America’s most influential advocate of a verified voting paper trail in the era of touch screen computer voting.
Gibbs, an accountant for more than 30 years and the inventor of the TruVote system, died when his vehicle collided with an 18-wheeled truck which rolled his Chevy Blazer several times and forced it over the highway retaining wall where it came to rest on its roof.
I signed in, cast my vote and gave them the card back. Before taking off to work, I asked the woman how safe this new voting system was. She said "Oh it's REALLY safe! Your vote goes into a microchip and is stored with all the other votes and then at the end of the day, we bring all the microchips to the sheriffs department and they gather them and bring them to the Registrar in San Diego". "But what about a paper trail? Is there a hard copy somewhere?" Said I. "Oh Yes!" She said, "There's a printer inside each machine that records the vote of each and every person on a strip of paper!" I guess I looked a bit skeptical because she said "Here! Let me show you!"This is INCREDIBLE! As minimal an audit as these printers provide, it is the only hardcopy audit that these eVote machines provide. As such, these machines should be programmed to not even work without a functional printer with paper! [Yes, it is not only possible to program these machines to do this, it is a trivial couple of lines of code.]
We walked over to one of the machines and she opened a little door in the front and there was the printer.... with NO PAPER." "GASP!" she says and then quickly moves to the next machine... no paper in the printer.
O.K., but what does all this mean? Well, I downloaded the election procedures manual for San Diego County [133 pages, 12 MB, .PDF], and the "zero-sum" check (making sure that the PCM card that stores the votes is set to zero) required prior to the openning of polls can be done on the eVote screen itself. This differs from the Maryland procedure reported by Avi Rubin, where the zero-sum check is actually checked on the print-out from each terminal. Per the SanDiego elections manual, this screen check is sufficient, and clearly, this is why these San Diego poll workers were not aware that their machines did not in fact have any paper loaded in them.
But (and this is critical), according to San Diego's shut-down procedures (page 82 of the .PDF):
In other words, for at least two eVote terminals from this precinct in San Diego, there was no zero-sum report produced, and what little audit that report provides was simply not available.
It is critical that three items are available for you to hand directly to the Collection Center staff:
- The sealed Official Ballot Pouch which contains the Zero & Summary Reports, the Ballot Memory Cards, Certification of Votes, & the Supervisor Cards.
It is of course important to note that this voter only saw two eVote terminals, both without paper. But one must wonder: How many of the eVote terminals in San Diego did not have paper in their printers? It's almost rediculous to suggest that that this voter who witnessed only two saw the only two that did not have it.
What this all means of course is that even the most minimal audit checks in the San Diego primary vote were not performed. That this was not reported reaks of cover-up.
Look, I understand that no voting supervisor wants a spotlight on them like Teresa LaPore had back in 2000. But to gloss over eVote failures such as this merely to avoid that is a violation of the public trust.
This was a mistake, and nothing more than that. But it is important that all election officials around the country are aware of this problem. This is nothing that procedures cannot handle, and nothing that a sinple coding change cannot prevent. But our election officials need to be honest about the problems they have individually had so that all of them can mutually benefit from each of their own individual experiences. This cover-up is a disgrace to that.
[ Via PaperVoteCanada.]
Printer That's Already Built into Each Diebold Voting Machine?
In fact, Cringley notes that the re-count ability was already specified in HAVA, and that it was Diebold who convinced election officials purchasing their machines that it did not matter.
[ Via PaperVoteCanada.]
BALTIMORE - Supporters of a paper trail for electronic voting machines ran full-page advertisements Thursday calling for a tangible record of each ballot cast in the November election.
Ads in The Baltimore Sun and The Palm Beach Post of Florida show a touch-screen computer from Diebold Election Systems, the Ohio-based company that makes Maryland's machines, sprouting monster fangs, its screen displaying a time bomb and reading, "System Error! Vote Data Lost."
"There's such an easy, reasonable, inexpensive solution to this problem," said Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and president of TrueMajority.org, the advocacy group funding the ads. "Just have the machine print out a receipt, just like an ATM does."
After recounting more than 13,000 absentee paper ballots, Northern California's Napa County reported Thursday that an electronic voting machine used in the March 2 primary election missed more than 6,000 votes.
The recount did not change the outcome of any races, but a spokesman for a state legislator said the glitch highlighted the need for using only e-voting machines that produce a paper trail.
Last week Napa County officials discovered that its optical scan machine manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems failed to record some votes marked on paper absentee ballots. A Sequoia employee who had set up the machine before the election failed to calibrate it to read different types of ink, specifically dye-based inks that are typically used in gel pens. As a result, the machine did not record some votes.* * *The county discovered the original problem while conducting a manual recount of 1 percent of its precincts, which all counties are required to do under state election law.
A hand count of 60 paper ballots from one precinct produced more votes than the number of votes the machine recorded for that precinct. After re-scanning some of the ballots, officials discovered that the machine wasn't recording some votes.
In the year 2000 America was treated like a pesky third world nation in need of regime change. Those who had been out of power for eight long years chose not to endure that humiliation any longer. They decided to win and they weren’t going to let something as insignificant as democracy stand in the way.
As usual the media gave us the wrong story. We were told that the disputed election was caused by hanging chads and butterfly ballots that led Jews to vote for Pat Buchanan. Of course the coup plot was hatched in May of 2000 when 57,000 Floridians eligible to vote were purged from the rolls.
Not only was the real story unreported, but the media feeding frenzy over the wrong issue led to the establishment of new and more insidious forms of voting fraud in the United States. When the story of punch cards and touch screens was reported over and over the solution seemed simple. America needed new voting mechanisms to prevent a Florida repeat in future elections. The media said that Congress had to act. The American people joined in the demand for action. However, the result has made vote manipulation easier than ever before. In 2004 voter purges will be only one weapon in the vote thieves’ arsenal. The technology that was supposed to assure the integrity of the electoral process has already undermined it.
But the clerk doesn't trust them. Neither do the members of the Indiana election commission.
"I just think I was absolutely lied to by your CEO and I'm more than on the slow burn about it. I think you guys sat in this room and you all lied to me," said Brian Burdick, Indiana election commissioner, to ES&S at a meeting on Wednesday.
Commissioner S. Anthony Long angrily told ES&S Vice President Ken Carbullido that he would fine ES&S if he could have done so.
"I think quite frankly that ES&S took a whipping the other night and I think that they earned that," said Jackson regarding the heated meeting on Wednesday.
"God forbid we have a problem in Senator Borst and Brent Waltz's district in Johnson County or something like that where we're all lined up to get sued, all because you derelicts couldn't get your act together," said Burdick.
have become national leaders in election reform
When the confusing "butterfly ballot" in Florida's Palm Beach County threw the 2000 presidential election into chaos, a little light went off in a lot of people's heads: Elections don't just happen. They're designed. Which means they can be mis-designed.
While Florida was the prime example of bad ballot layout four years ago, Chicago and Cook County had their own ballot design fiasco: a cluttered facing-page layout that confronted voters deciding whether to retain sitting Cook County Circuit Court judges. It was so perplexing that scores of people complained that they voted for Judge A when they meant to vote against Judge B.
But when city and county voters go to the polls for Tuesday's primary election, they will encounter a redesigned batch of election materials, from posters to ballot pages to voting instructions, that have made Chicago and Cook County national leaders in reforming election design.
But the states don't just want money. They also want guidance on the thorniest problem in elections today, voting security. Touch-screen and other electronic voting seemed poised to sweep the nation after the 2000 Florida debacle prompted nationwide voting reform. But over the past year, concerns that began on the fringes have moved to the forefront about whether votes that are only recorded electronically can be trusted. Critics have called for a paper receipt verified by the voter that would be available for recounts, as well as audits to make sure voting computers weren't defective or tampered with.
By all appearances, Tuesday's election was a success in Florida. Most polling places opened on time, most voters cast ballots without incident, and no candidates complained that all votes weren't counted. But minor problems inched into view, raising questions about electronic touch-screen systems that go beyond the issue of paper trails. And after 2000, any minor problem in Florida is potentially a major problem.
One problem election supervisors can do something about before the Aug. 31 primary and November presidential election is poll-worker training. No voters should have lost an opportunity to cast ballots in the Democratic presidential primary because poll workers programmed their cards incorrectly, but it happened. No voter should have been denied a write-in ballot, but it happened. No blind voter should have been compelled to sue because poll workers fumbled with an audio ballot, but it happened.
You have to admire President Bush's willingness to amend the Constitution over an issue of basic principles. But before we forever deny millions of Americans the chance to marry the persons they love, shouldn't we first pass an amendment guaranteeing all of us the right to vote and the right to have those votes counted?
You may think such a right already exists, but it doesn't. In fact, among 119 electoral democracies in the world, the United States is one of only 11 whose constitutions do not include the right to vote and to be represented.
A good write-up from Newsday, framing the issue well and easily readable.
The nightmares of the last presidential election were on paper. This year, with wide use of electronic voting, the bad dreams could appear in the form of wayward bytes in a computer's addled brain, calamitous errors by poorly trained poll workers, or manipulation by hackers - for fun or profit.
The best solution is this: Bring back paper - not punch cards with their infamous Florida chads, but paper printouts that will allow real audits of votes cast on computer voting devices.
No matter what candidates you support, your vote means zilch if it's not properly counted. Without a voter-verifiable paper trail to let people know their votes have been recorded as cast, there's no true recount. So votes can vanish into cyberspace, jump from one candidate to another, or appear from nowhere - all without recount.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - There weren't many choices to make in Broward County elections last week, but 169 ballots without votes in the Democratic presidential primary are causing some worries.
Nearly half of the ballots without primary votes were in precincts with large elderly populations. Democratic Party leaders are concerned it's a sign of trouble for November.
At the rate seen in Tuesday's primary, about 4,000 ballots would go without votes in the general election in a Democratic stronghold beset by election problems since the 2000 presidential election.
"That's a frightening statistic," Mitch Ceasar, chairman of the county's Democratic Party. "We have a large number of folks who are elderly and not comfortable with these machines."
Senior-only communities accounted for four of the top five polling locations with the heaviest undervoting, according to a representative sampling by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. While the countywide average undervote was about 1 percent, the rate in retirement community precincts ranged from 2.9 percent to 5.7 percent.
The state Controlling Board wants to make sure security issues are cleared up before releasing $127 million for new voting machines.
It's better to wait a month or so to make sure the issues are resolved than to spend now and regret it.
We think waiting another month to make sure security issues are addressed with the state's new voting machines is the prudent choice.
The state Controlling Board decided to hold up the release of $127 million in federal funds for new electronic touch-pad voting systems to allow another month or so to be sure all security issues have been resolved.
Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell maintains the security issues have been addressed and delaying puts Ohio in danger of running afoul of federal guidelines. ...
Blackwell had asked for the money even though lawmakers formed a committee to look into security questions. The committee met for the first time last week.
removed after problem discovered
Wayne County's new voting machines aren't illegal; they're just not certified -- yet.Good grief!
But uncertified or not, they've been approved for use in the May primary elections.
"I wish people would use the term 'certified' instead of legal," Wayne County Clerk Sue Anne Lower said. "That way it doesn't sound so bad."
Wayne County, and the other counties, bought the voting machines with version 7.4.5 software installed. ES&S has applied to have version 7.4.5 certified, but the state certification process hasn't been completed yet.
"It takes a long time to get it through the process," Lower said.
ES&S's version 6.1.2 software has been certified. Wayne County had it installed in the new machines after the certification problem was discovered.
. . .
The state election commissioners were unhappy, not with the clerks, but with the situation and with ES&S. If the company isn't able to provide an acceptable, certified software by Oct. 1 for the fall elections, then ES&S must provide alternative certified machines from a competitor. And ES&S has to pay the bill for the use of those machines.
State election officials knew in the days leading up to the March 2 election that a key component of San Diego County's electronic voting system had not undergone the full testing set forth by federal standards, according to internal government correspondence.
That component, a laptop-like device used to activate voter cards to call up ballots on touch screens, failed on Election Day because of a battery problem.
The glitch caused 36 percent of the precincts, or 573 of 1,611, to open late. An undetermined number of voters were affected.
County officials were informed that the device only had conditional certification for one-time use on March 2, election day, because of outstanding testing issues, according to a Feb. 20 letter the county provided yesterday.
Should a state committee charged with deciding how Utahns will vote in the future close their meetings to the public?Kudos to the Tribume for getting this story out to their readers. Lunceford's attitude borders on moronic. Does she really think that everything will be OK if only the people don't know about the problems?
Some officials think so.
While keeping their meetings open for now, the Voting Equipment Selection Committee on Thursday discussed shutting the doors to the public so as not to raise fears that technology may mess up elections.
"The [news] media may exacerbate those other problems," Weber County Clerk/Auditor Linda Lunceford, a committee member, said during the group's first meeting. She clarified later that she was concerned that news reports would alarm the public about allegations that new electronic voting equipment was not secure.
"I'm trying to mitigate a lot of hysteria created by computer people," she said.
Note: And read down to the end. Utah is planning to model their selection/aquisition process after the one used in Georgia!
Napa County in Northern California said on Friday that electronic voting machines used in the March presidential primary failed to record votes on some of its paper ballots, which will force the county to re-scan over 11,000 ballots and possibly change the outcome of some close local races.
The glitch is the latest in a string of problems with the new generation of electronic voting machines being rolled out across the United States. Critics of the machines say they are inaccurate or susceptible to tampering, and can't be trusted in this year's presidential elections.
The problem occurred with optical scan machines manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, which failed to record voters' marks off of paper ballots. The county used the company's Optech system for processing paper absentee ballots.
As Floridians went to the polls last Tuesday, Glenda Hood, Katherine Harris's successor as secretary of state, assured the nation that Florida's voting system would not break down this year the way it did in 2000. Florida now has "the very best" technology available, she declared on CNN. "And I do feel that it's a great disservice to create the feeling that there's a problem when there is not." Hours later, results in Bay County showed that with more than 60 percent of precincts reporting, Richard Gephardt, who long before had pulled out of the presidential race, was beating John Kerry by two to one. "I'm devastated," the county's top election official said, promising a recount of his county's 19,000 votes.
Four years after Florida made a mockery of American elections, there is every reason to believe it could happen again. This time, the problems will most likely be with the electronic voting that has replaced chad-producing punch cards. Some counties, including Bay County, use paper ballots that are fed into an optical scanner, so a recount is possible if there are questions. But 15 Florida counties, including Palm Beach, home of the infamous "butterfly ballot," have adopted touch-screen machines that do not produce a paper record. If anything goes wrong in these counties in November, we will be in bad shape.
After the 2000 mess, Americans were assured they would not have to live through such a flawed election again. But Florida has put in place a system, electronic voting without a paper trail, that threatens once more to produce an outcome that cannot be trusted. There is still time before the November vote to put printers in place in the 15 Florida counties that use touch screens. As we learned four years ago, once the election has been held on bad equipment, it is too late to make it right.
What began as an I-Team 8 investigation into voting technology got hot late Wednesday night. On the grill: Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the maker of touch-screen voting machines used in Indiana and across the nation.This is good stuff and will be heard widely among election politicos. What's happening here is that a Presidential election is coming up, and none of these state and local election officials want to be "the next Palm Beach". As these fears continue to rise, these officials are going to be increasingly venting these fears on the voting machine manufacturers. Good!
Heated debate about voting machines ignited fireworks Wednesday.
"Am I so damn stupid…that for me to use the word 'work,' do you understand that to run an election for something to work, it's gotta count the votes?" asked an exasperated election commissioner S. Anthony Long to ES&S executive Ken Carbullido.
Indiana election commissioners were disgusted late Wednesday night with answers to questions about new touch-screen voting systems. "If we could fine you, I'd make the motion now," said Long. Carbullido replied, "Sir, I stand behind the answer I gave you." Long said, "It would work. But then you tell your clerks it won't work because it won't tabulate the votes. I don't believe this."
If only they had known that this is what they should have been doing from the outset.
All 17 Nevada county clerks will meet in Carson City to try and get a handle on how to conduct this year's elections with a number of unknowns still hanging in the balance.
"I don't know if there is a perfect answer," Douglas County Clerk Barbara Reed said. "We are so far into the election cycle this year.
"My greatest concern, which has always been, is assuring the accuracy, the privacy, the security of whatever type of system we end up using. I want to be certain I have a high comfort level."
The Nevada Board of Examiners approved Tuesday the contract to buy more than 4,500 Sequoia-brand electronic voting machines with a $9.3 million price tag. Reed said all but the money needed for Clark County systems will be paid by the federal government under the Help America Vote Act.
Prof. David Dill, professor of computer science at Stanford University and founder of VerifiedVoting.org. He has led the charge to oppose the use of electronic voting equipment that do not allow voters to inspect individual permanent records of their ballots, fail to provide a means by which a meaningful recount may be conducted, or use software that is not open to public scrutiny.
Jennifer Hamilton, 27-year-old poll worker in San Diego. Last night she testified at a town hall meeting in San Diego about problems she witnessed with electronic voting machines.
Dave Robinson, national coordinator of Pax Christi USA. The organization has announced it will send international monitors to observe the presidential election in Florida.
SACRAMENTO -- California legislators said on Thursday they want to stop the use of all paperless electronic voting machines in the state, fearing the same type of fiasco that plagued Florida in the 2000 election.
State Sens. Don Perata (D-Oakland) and Ross Johnson (R-Irvine), the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate election committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Kevin Shelley urging him to decertify all paperless touch-screen voting machines before the general election.
The March 2 primary "was a test-flight of widespread use of these machines. I think it's fair to say the test flight crashed and burned," said Perata. "None of us want California to be the sequel to Florida."
The senators cited malfunctions in e-voting machines during last week's primary that resulted in voters being turned away from the polls. They said the presidential election was too important to leave to the new machines.
The decertification, if implemented, would force counties that use paperless touch-screen machines to use optical scan machines instead. Optical scan machines use a paper ballot that voters mark with a pencil or pen before they're scanned into an electronic machine.
All counties using paperless systems are required to have backup print options, such as optical scan machines. Most counties, however, possess only one or two optical scan units, which they generally use to process absentee ballots. Large counties would probably have to purchase or rent additional optical scan units for the November election.
"The machine should be designed so the poll worker doesn't have the option of giving people the wrong ballot. The machine should have been programmed to only give out valid ballots for that precinct."
Indeed, they should not. Tom Stanionis, data processing manager for Yolo County's election division, said that last one. I like him already.
"The existing generation of machines are no better than beta test machines."
(E)lections should not be a test-bed for vendors to work out problems with their machines.
This has been my point all along. E-vote manufacturers present their products as "Plug 'n Play", and they should be. They simply are not, yet they must be and indeed can be. It's not easy, but it is easy. All you need is a development staff that knows what they are doing. Diebold most certainly does not. ES&S most likely does not. The others are not as widely implemented, and so I am withholding judgement.
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