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National Issues

Mississippi Primary Snapshot PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Verified Voting Foundation   
March 09, 2008

Mississippi holds a Presidential preference primary on Tuesday, March 11. Primary elections will also be held for federal offices and for Commissioners of the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta Levee District.

Mississippi has just under 1.8 million registered voters. Mississippi voters do not register by political party, and voters may choose a Republican Party ballot or a Democratic Party ballot at the polls. Absentee voters must have an excuse for being unable to come to the polls. Most votes in the primary will be cast on DREs with a voter-verifiable paper trail printer. The state does not require post-election hand audits of the electronic vote tallies, so there will be no manual verification of software-tabulated election results.
State Use of Remaining HAVA Funds For New Voting Systems: A Reasonable Option PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By Verified Voting Foundation and VoteTrustUSA   
March 04, 2008
The Election Assistance Commission is considering a Policy Clarification issued last month by Commission Chair Rosemary Rodriguez (pictured at right) that would reverse an earlier staff recommendation regarding the use of remaining Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds by states to replace voting systems purchased with previous HAVA funds. Verified Voting and VoteTrustUSA strongly supports this Policy Clarification: such expenditures are a reasonable use of HAVA funds to improve the administration of Federal elections.


The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) required States to employ voting systems that would meet new requirements. The new requirements were specified in Title III of the bill, which required, among other provisions, that each and every polling place used in federal elections provide at least one voting system allowing voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently.

HAVA established the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and directed the Commission to disburse appropriated funds in the form of payments to States to assist them in meeting  the requirements of Title III. HAVA granted broad discretion to the States regarding the use of such that remained after the State had met the requirements of Title III. Such funds were to be used by States as they found necessary to "improve the administration of Federal elections". 
March 4 Snapshot: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Verified Voting Foundation   
March 01, 2008
Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, and Vermont hold Presidential primaries on March 4. Ohio and Texas will also hold state primaries. In all four states, turnout is expected to increase substantially from 2004. The March 4 states use a mix of voting system types. Ohio has a mix of counties useing direct-recording electronic (DRE) machines with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, and counties using only optically scanned paper ballots. Texas has a very wide diversity of voting systems, including many paperless DREs. Rhode Island and Vermont use paper ballots exclusively. None of these states require manual post election audits of their inital, software-generated, results. In all four states, the primaries are under the jurisdiction of the state election officials, rather than of the political parties.
Paperless Votes: Will They Decide the Texas Primary? PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Sean Flaherty,   
March 01, 2008

The Texas primary on March 4 could be the closest and the most consequential election so far this year in which ballots cast on paperless electronic voting machines are a large portion of the overall vote. The Texas primary may determine the Democratic Party's nominee for President (the Republican nomination campaign is considered essentially over) , but its outcome will not be verifiable due to the extensive use of insecure and unrecountable voting systems. As noted in Verified Voting's snapshot of voting sytems in the four March 4 states, Texas's 254 counties use a large diversity of systems. Around 100 counties use only paper ballots, with most paper ballots being optically scanned and a small number hand-counted. Random manual audits are not done in Texas. Most of the state's larger counties make some use of touch screen direct-recording electronic voting machines, or DREs, and in these counties, touch screen DREs have often been the system used for early voting.

Early voting turnout in Texas has been very high, as the campaign press has reported. In the 15 most populous counties in Texas, as many as 20% of registered voters in both parties combined had already cast their votes by February 29. The early voting turnout in the 15 most largest counties is available at the Secretary of State's website. Of these counties, at least 8 are using only paperless machines for early voting: Dallas, Bexar, Hidalgo, El Paso, Tarrant, Nueces, Galveston, and Montgomery.  By the end of early voting, 10.76% of the registered voters in Dallas County, and 17.85% of the voters in Hidalgo County, voted on the paperless ES&S iVotronic in the Democratic primary alone. 11.65% of the voters in Nueces County, and almost 10.4% in Galveston County voted on paperless Hart eSlate machines in the Democratic primary.
Pesky Details with Getting a Voting System Correct PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Dan Wallach, Rice University   
March 01, 2008
This article was posted at Ed Felten's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Today was the last day of early voting in Texas’s primary election. Historically, I have never voted in a primary election. I’ve never felt I identified enough with a particular political party to want to have a say in selecting their candidates. Once I started working on voting security, I discovered that this also allowed me to make a legitimate claim to being “non-partisan.” (While some election officials, political scientists, and others who you might perhaps prefer to be non-partisan do have explicit partisan views, many more make a point of similarly obscuring their partisan preferences like I do.)

In Texas, you are not required to register with a party in order to vote in their primary. Instead, you just show up and ask for their primary ballot. In the big city of Houston, any registered voter can go to any of 35 early voting locations over the two weeks of early voting. Alternately, they may vote in their home, local precinct (there are almost a thousand of these) on the day of the election. There have been stories of long lines over the past two weeks. My wife wanted to vote, but procrastinating, we went on the final night to a gigantic supermarket near campus. Arriving at 5:50pm or so, she didn’t reach the head of the queue until 8pm. Meanwhile, I took care of our daughter and tried to figure out the causes of the queue.
Electionline: Back to Paper PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Pew Charitable Trusts   
February 23, 2008
Case study examines five states' efforts to limit paperless voting.

A new report by details how five states that implemented electronic voting have chosen or are considering statewide paper-based optical scan systems.

"Back to Paper" explores the process by which California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Ohio -- having adopted electronic voting systems -- subsequently decided to de-certify, re-examine or re-think their use.

Although it focuses on five states, the report describes a growing trend. Six years and millions of dollars into a major overhaul of the U.S. election system, a number of states are contemplating returning to paper-based voting systems after failed or troubled experiments with newer voting technology. Even as bills in Congress have stalled, nearly half of all states have adopted requirements for voter-verified paper with electronic voting and/or the use of paper-based voting systems, including optical-scan machines.

In the five states that are the subject of the case study, problems at the polls, pressure from voter integrity groups and rising concern among lawmakers prompted leaders to scrap -- or in one case, strongly consider scrapping -- recent purchases of direct-recording electronic systems in favor of paper-based optical scanners.
When the Nominating System is a Whole Lot Better than the Argument Against It…. PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Bob Bauer   
February 19, 2008
This article was posted at Bob Bauer's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Everyone’s a critic, and in political argument, this is reason for celebration.  It is better still if the criticism is reasoned, exhibiting a coherent point of view and not simply a reflex action.  Two prominent historians have criticism to offer of the Presidential nominating process, and this, the criticism, comes through, with no trace of the coherent point of view. Sean Wilentz and Julian E. Zelizer, "A Rotten Way to Pick a President,"  Washington Post (Feb. 17, 2008) at B3.  Granted that no system is perfect—granted, too, that this system in place will have weaknesses that alternatives could correct.  Sean Wilentz and Julian Zelizer steer an erratic course through their diagnosis of the problem, with no prospect of arriving at convincing answers.

Wilentz and Zelizer dislike machine politics, prevalent prior to the party reforms of the l970’s, but it turns out they dislike those reforms, too.  They were marred by “excesses.”  The authors mean that while the “old ways were unfair and autocratic,” the new and reformed ways could be “highly undemocratic.”

They are referring here in part to caucuses.  Now caucuses did not as a group come under fire until people began turning out at them and casting votes with a significant effect on the nominating process.  Only the Iowa Caucuses have been consistently rapped over the years with any meaningful objection, but this was less as a caucus (the virtues of which were highly touted for years, as a vindication of retail politics) and more because its first-in-the-nation place on the calendar was believed to give it undue influence.

If either author warned about the role of caucuses prior to this year, I, for one, missed it.  In 2004, John Kerry swept caucuses, when they barely mattered as his momentum carried him to victories across the nation, and not a word of protest was heard.  Now that they have mattered, Wilentz and Zelizer are moved to complain.  An objection lodged against a process only when participation increases and counts for something could strike a reasonable observer as “highly undemocratic.”
February 19 Snapshot: Hawaii and Wisconsin PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Verified Voting Foundation   
February 17, 2008
On February 19, Hawaii's Democratic Party will hold its caucuses, and Wisconsin will hold its Democratic and Republican Presidential primaries.

According to the state Democratic Party, Hawaii caucus-goers will cast their votes on paper ballots, which will be counted by hand. Any registered voter can join the state Democratic Party at the caucus location. Hawaii has roughly 610,000 registered voters, and voters do not register by party in Hawaii. Turnout is expected to increase substantially in the 2008 caucus.

Wisconsin's party primaries are open to any registered voter, and voters may register on election day.  The state has over 3.3 million registered voters, a number which may increase substantially with registrations on election day.  In the 2006 general election, almost 17 per cent of the total turnout consisted of election-day registrations.

Wisconsin has a number of different voting systems. Paper ballots, either optically scanned or hand-counted, are the primary method of voting in all but one county.

Election jurisdictions are organized at the municipal level in Wisconsin, and there are over 1,900 local election jurisdictions.    
Chairman Feinstein, Senator Specter Introduce Measure to Regulate Robocalls PDF  | Print |  Email
Federal Legislation
By Senator Dianne Feinstein Media Release   
February 12, 2008
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today introduced legislation to regulate robocalls.

The measure introduced by Feinstein and Specter would not ban robocalls, but instead places sensible restrictions on how and when the calls can be made – including limiting the hours within which calls can be made, limiting the number of calls that can be made to each household, and requiring callers to identify themselves at the beginning of the call.

“During this primary season, we have heard stories about people being called over and over again, at all hours of the day and night. I believe we need sensible guidelines in place,” Chairman Feinstein said. “Something must be done about the worst of these calls.

The bill that we have introduced today does not ban robocalls.  It merely provides a reasonable framework. It’s a sensible solution that will protect American families from being inundated by calls through the day and night.”

“This legislation creates a much-needed structure for addressing the harassing computer-automated calls that are increasingly used in the days leading up to an election,” Specter said.  “The Supreme Court has stated that the privacy of citizens in their homes is an interest of the ‘highest order,’ and this bill provides a reasonable and measured approach to protecting that interest.”
Chesapeake Tuesday Snapshot PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Verified Voting Foundation   
February 11, 2008
Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia hold Presidential primaries on February 12.  A majority of the votes cast on "Chesapeake Tuesday" will be cast on paperless electronic voting systems which are vulnerable to error and tampering, and which do not not allow meaningful audits or recounts.

Commendably, Maryland and Virginia are taking steps to adopt verifiable voting systems in future elections.

Important statistics about the Chesapeake Tuesday primaries:*
  • 238 Democratic delegates and 119 Republican delegates are at stake.
  • Maryland has 3,134,077 million registered voters, and 1618 election-day polling places. All of Maryland's election-day polling places will use only paperless touch screen voting machines. Maryland plans to abandon its paperless voting system and convert to a system of optically scanned paper ballots by 2010.
  • Virginia has 4,585,828 million registered voters, and over 2,300 election-day polling places. Almost 80% of the state's polling places will use paperless electronic voting systems. Virginia is also taking steps toward reform. In 2007, the Virginia legislature banned the future purchase of direct-recording electronic voting systems.
  • The District of Columbia has 377, 007 registered voters, and 142 election-day polling places. Each polling place will offer voters either a paper ballot option, or a paperless touch screen option. Verified Voting strongly encourages D.C. voters to vote on a paper ballot.

To make Chesapeake Tuesday's among the nation's last unverifiable elections, Verified Voting urges you to support HR 5036, the Emergency Assistance for Secure Elections Act.  HR 5036 will provide badly needing funding to Maryland, Virginia and all states that wish to adopt  paper ballot voting systems by November 2008. Click here to read Verified Voting's statement of support, and click here to send Congress a message to pass HR 5036.

District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics,
Maryland State Board of Elections,
Virginia State Board of Elections,
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