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New York

New York: Breakthrough at the Board? PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
January 22, 2008
New York Could Vote on Paper Ballots

This article appeared at Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Pressure from Judge Gary Sharpe's order for the State to put Ballot Marking Devices in place for the 2008 Election may at last force the New York State Board of Elections to authorize a single state wide paper ballot marker  and scanner system. Unquestionably, there are many benefits to using only one voting system throughout the state, and its obvious that touch screen voting machines, or DREs, are the worst possible choice for New York in light of huge costs and the number of states rapidly abandoning failed DRE technology. But so far the State Board has refused to do whats right for New York's voters and have kept DRE vendor hopes alive, even going so far as to recklessly allow vendors to submit DREs to use as Ballot Marking Devices  - a purpose they are not designed for, cant fulfill (see why here, here, and here) and which was protested by NYVV and a coalition of advocacy organizations.

But sources at the State Board of Elections tell me that the small number of submitted systems, and the Boards inability to agree on what actually constitutes a Ballot Marking Device, could result in only one system being authorized at the Boards crucial meeting on Wednesday, 1/23/08 a combination ballot marker and scanner which would virtually guarantee that New Yorkers will vote on paper ballots when lever machines are retired in 2009.

This outcome could potentially please everyone - citizen groups who have long called for a single statewide voting system; county legislatures, editorial boards and citizens across New York State whove advocated for voting on paper ballots; even county election commissioners would be glad to have the machine decision be made where it belongs - with the State Board of Elections. One caveat however, the decision to authorize one system for the entire state is being made not because it has been judged the most accessible, user friendly, or accurate, but because a partisan split at the Board leaves only one option left on the table.
The DOJ and New York State – Part 2 PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
December 02, 2007

DOJ Calls for Chaos at NYS Polls in 2008

This article was posted on Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


As noted in Part One, the US Department of Justice has filed a motion asking the US District Court to appoint a Special Master to oversee replacing all of New York States lever machines by the November 2008 election. In Part One I discussed how if the Court were to decide in favor of the DOJ and rule that New York State must replace all lever voting machines prior to the November 2008 Presidential election, that paper ballots and precinct based ballot scanners would be the only feasible way to do it. In this essay I’ll discuss why the DOJ’s request is not a good idea and could result in New York State being the next Florida.

A little history


Let’s remember how we got here – in response to the electoral chaos in Florida in 2000, Congress passed the Help America to Vote Act, or HAVA. HAVA has some laudable goals, among them full poll site accessibility for voters with disabilities. But for all its good intentions, HAVA has worked out to be a huge tax payer funded piggy bank for the three primary voting machine vendors – Sequoia, ES&S, and the company formerly known as Diebold.
The media’s extreme focus in 2000 on Florida’s punch card voting machines and chads pregnant and hanging resulted in Congress, forever reacting to the wrong problem, effectively banning punch card and lever voting machines. Never mind that the punch card machines themselves were not the problem – it was the layout of the notorious Palm Beach ‘butterfly ballot’, and improper maintenance of the equipment that caused difficulties.


Never mind that improper purges of Florida’s voter registration rolls probably accounted for more lost votes than any voting machine. A careful Congressional analysis would have resulted in a far different law than the HAVA we got. The one we got simply threw billions of dollars to the states who quickly spent the funds on whatever faulty equipment the voting machine vendors were hawking. As we see now, many states who purchased expensive touch screen voting machines (DREs) have lived to regret that choice. Indeed, even Florida has now decided to abandon its multimillion dollar investment in DREs and return to a superior system – paper ballots, ballot markers and scanners.


So now, in order to fulfill HAVA’s goal of preventing chaos at the polls, the DOJ wants New York to take a step that could result in, you guessed it, chaos at the polls.

New York Times: Say No to Computerized Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By New York Times Editorial Board   
November 30, 2007

The 2008 presidential election is fast approaching and some states are still using unreliable paperless computerized voting machines.


That is a big mistake. The danger is too great of votes being recorded wrong — or stolen.

Touchscreen machines — which resemble a bank ATM — are simply too prone to glitches like “vote-flipping,” in which votes for a candidate are recorded for his or her opponent. And it is too easy to plant malicious software that changes votes without anyone noticing.

Many states, but not all, now require their touchscreen machines to produce a “voter-verified paper trail” — a paper record of the vote that a voter can review, which becomes the official ballot. These paper records can be audited, to ensure that the recorded vote totals are correct.


Voter verified paper trails are an improvement, but the best solution is to avoid touchscreen voting machines entirely.


New York State is in the process of choosing a new generation of voting machines. It should reject electronic voting machines and go with optical scans.

New York: Professors Call for Optical Scan Systems to Replace Lever Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)   
November 29, 2007

Beware of computerized voting machines, paper-based optical scan systems are a better alternative


That's the message from more than 100 computer and social science faculty from universities across New York who signed on to a public letter to state policy makers. The letter was released today by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), as the state nears making a decision on how to replace its 20,000 mechanical lever machines.


"Optical Scan systems are inherently more secure, reliable and auditable than their ATM style touch screen counterparts," said Professor Ronald Hayduk of the Borough of Manhattan Community College, a noted author on election issues. "As educators in the social and computer sciences familiar with these new technologies, we thought it vital to speak out now before a decision is made," he added.


Under federal and state law mandates, New York is expected to replace its lever machines by 2009, though a federal court is currently reviewing the pace of the state's efforts. Currently, each County Board of Elections will be making that decision, choosing between optical scan and computerized touch screen systems. The letter urged that optical scan systems, where voters fill out their ballot by hand or with the assistance of an accessibility device, be adopted statewide.

The DOJ and New York State – Part 1 PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
November 13, 2007

This article appeared at Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


The Department of Justice has filed a motion asking the US District Court to appoint a Special Master to oversee replacing New York States lever machines by the November 2008 election. The DOJ maintains the state must forgo the rigorous certification process and source code escrow requirements called for by state law and use whatever voting machines are currently available, potentially even failed electronic touch screen machines, or DREs. I’ve got a lot of problems with the DOJ’s position, particularly because it ignores the fact that so many of the so called ‘HAVA compliant’ voting machines rushed into operation are proving to be expensive, failure prone and not accessible to voters with disabilities, yet they seem willing to force New York voters use them anyway. I’ll write more about that in coming articles, but today I’ll talk about a way that New York State could get an accessible and auditable voting system up and running in relatively short order.

A great many of the disputed issues at the State Board of Elections vanish completely if DREs are eliminated from the mix. But yet, both Democrats and Republicans on the Board keep insisting that they have no choice but to allow the DRE disasters that are wreaking havoc in other states to be used in New York! This is especially egregious because by eliminating DREs and focusing on paper ballots and ballot scanners New York State could have been well along the way to full HAVA compliance, and if necessary, we could do it still.

Why Computerized Voting Machines Cause Long Lines and Disenfranchise Voters PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By William A. Edelstein, Ph.D.   
July 08, 2007

Why Paper Ballot-Optical Scan Eliminates Lines

Technical details with calculations available for download here

New York counties will soon choose computer touchscreen/pushbutton DRE (direct recording electronic) (DRE) voting machines or paper ballot-optical scanner systems (PBOS) to replace lever voting machines. How many new voting machines will be needed? The answer to this question is critical to ensure that voting will go smoothly and that costs will be within reason.
Long lines have occurred during elections using DREs in many states,1-9 causing some voters to give up and go home, effectively disenfranchising them. It is prohibitively expensive to buy a large number of DREs, which makes it likely that a substantial number of voters using DREs will end up in long lines. In contrast, PBOS uses simple marking booths whose numbers can be inexpensively increased to eliminate lines and long waits.

I believe that inevitable long voter waits—and consequent disenfranchisement of those who cannot wait—is a fundamental and disqualifying problem for DREs.


A New York City Board of Elections report10 suggested that one DRE could replace each of our present lever machines and serve 277 voters in a day. They posit that each voter using a DRE with voter verified paper trail takes 3.25 minutes. They then divide a 15 hour election day (900 minutes) by 3.25 minutes and get 277 voters.

Voting Machine Vendors: We Won’t Comply With NY Law PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
June 28, 2007

My response: Comply with the law, or take your business elsewhere


This editorial appeared on Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted with permission of the author. 


On June 20, 2007 Rick Gleim, vice president of Avante International Technology sent an email to all New York State election commissioners and officials concerning New York State’s source code review laws. Mr. Gleim argues for relaxation of New York State's escrow and source code review requirements. There are two points made by Mr. Gleim that are necessary to rebut. I will address the first here, and the other, regarding the low level code used in chipsets and microprocessors, in a subsequent post.


In his message Mr. Gleim writes: “It is not possible to design new equipment with new operating systems, new EMS and new hardware all with vendor developed software and source code in less than a couple of years. And that is, if the vendors wanted to do this.”


Mr. Gleim fails to note that voting system vendors have already had 2 years to produce equipment which complies with New York State election law. Section 7-208 of Election law has been in force since June 2005 and states in part, “…shall place into escrow with the state board of elections a complete copy of all programming, source coding and software employed by the voting machine…” It should not be news to anyone in the software industry that Microsoft would never allow their source code to be escrowed -- they have rigorously defended this for many years. Given that New York State election law is clear and unambiguous, why did vendors not begin in July 2005 to develop systems that would comply with New York States requirements? In the two-year period between passage of the law and Mr. Gleim's message, it would have been fully possible to develop systems using open source code systems like Linux. Mr. Gleim acknowledges as much in his statement above. But they chose not to. Why?
New York: Citizens 1, Microsoft 0 PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
June 22, 2007
New Yorkers win Round One in fight for source code protections


This article was posted on Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author. 


I’m pleased to report that due to a huge outpouring of calls from citizens, and three intense days and nights working the Capitol halls by New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the League of Women Voters/NY, New York States’ voting machine laws were not weakened or tampered with in any way. Neither the Microsoft amendment nor any other proposals being pushed by voting machine vendor lobbyists made it into any of the thousands of bills passed in this last crazy week of the session. The citizens of New York State stood up to these powerful private interests and won.

A rapid response of citizens to this threat to our essential protections resulted in over 3000 calls to legislators in just over two days. This huge outpouring from the public averted the threat of a stealth amendment slipping into law unnoticed, as so often happens in this last hectic week in Albany. Every legislator I talked to over the last three days was impressed by the volume of calls and the passionate reaction, promising they would watch the bills carefully for back door changes, and adding their eyes to ours. They reaffirmed their commitment to keeping New York’s voting machine laws among the strongest in the nation, and in the end, they came through. The public’s response to this threat has kept our representatives vigilant and committed to keeping New York State’s voting machine laws among the strongest in the nation.

New York: Microsoft Muscles the Legislature PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
June 16, 2007
Software giant moves to weaken NY Election law


This article appeared on Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.


The 800 pound gorilla of software development has moved forcefully into New York State, supported by voting machine vendors using Microsoft Windows in their touch screen voting machines and other systems. Over the last two months Microsoft and a cadre of high paid lobbyists have been working a full-court press in Albany in an attempt to bring about a serious weakening of New York State election law. This back door effort by private corporations to weaken public protections is about to bear fruit.


On Thursday, June 14, I received a copy of proposed changes to New York State Election Law drafted by Microsoft attorneys that has been circulating among the Legislature. These changes would gut the source code escrow and review provisions provided in our current law, which were fought for and won by election integrity activists around the state and adopted by the Legislature in June 2005. In an earlier blog I wrote about Microsoft's unwillingness to comply with New York State's escrow and review requirements. Now the software giant has gone a step further, not just saying “we won't comply with your law” but actively trying to change state law to serve their corporate interests. Microsoft's attorneys drafted an amendment which would add a paragraph to Section 1-104 of NYS Election Law defining “election-dedicated voting system technology”. Microsoft’s proposed change to state law would effectively render our current requirements for escrow and the ability for independent review of source code in the event of disputes completely meaningless - and with it the protections the public fought so hard for.


Vendors Try an End Run Around NYS Election Law PDF  | Print |  Email
New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
April 28, 2007
Uncertified DREs to be used in Troy School Election on May 15


This article was posted to Bo Lipari's Web log and is reposted here with permission of the author.


In a brazen attempt to get their uncertified DREs used in New York State, Liberty Election Systems and their Dutch partner Nedap made the City School District of Troy New York an offer they couldn’t refuse – use of 10 of their DREs in the upcoming May 15, 2007 School District Election at no cost to the district. Unfortunately, the LibertyVote/Nedap DRE has not completed New York State testing or met any of the State’s regulatory standards, and is not certified for use in the State by the New York State Board of Elections.

The voting machine vendors have been frustrated by their inability to meet New York’s high certification standards and source code escrow requirements. They’ve found a way to get around the testing halt instituted in January by NYS Board of Elections when the New York Times revealed that Ciber, the agency conducting New York’s tests, had lost federal accreditation six months earlier. Liberty Election Systems is preying upon cash strapped school districts, offering them free use of machines and support personnel to run their elections. Of course, Liberty doesn’t mention that their DREs haven’t passed state certification, have documented security vulnerabilities, and will be supported by Dutch technical staff working for Nedap.

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