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National Issues

Is HAVA Being Abused? Part II PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By Ellen Theisen   
June 02, 2005
Good for the Goose; Why Not for the Gander? 
In spite of the federal government's repeated failures to meet statutory deadlines imposed by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), the U.S. Department of Justice has declared that the States must meet their HAVA deadlines, even without the HAVA-mandated research and guidance intended to help the States comply with HAVA wisely.

HAVA requires the Federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to develop guidance on voting systems standards by January 1, 2004. The standards were intended to guide the States as they upgraded their election equipment to meet the HAVA Section 301 requirements by the January 1, 2006 deadline.
Is HAVA Being Abused? PDF  | Print |  Email
Help America Vote Act (HAVA)
By John Gideon and Ellen Theisen,   
June 02, 2005
The 1990 Voting System Standards are Certainly Outdated. Are They Illegal, Too?

Section 222(e) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) provides that the 2002 Voting System Standards adopted by the Federal Election Commission are deemed to be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as the first set of voluntary voting system guidelines adopted under HAVA. [See the EAC website.]

HAVA was enacted on October 29, 2002. So why has the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) continued to use the 1990 standards as the basis for qualifying some voting systems AFTER federal law declared the 2002 standards to be the official guidelines?
Is HAVA Being Abused? PDF  | Print |  Email
General Topics
By John Gideon and Ellen Theisen   
June 02, 2005
The 1990 Voting System Standards are Certainly Outdated. Are They Illegal, Too?

Section 222(e) of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) provides that the 2002 Voting System Standards adopted by the Federal Election Commission are deemed to be adopted by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) as the first set of voluntary voting system guidelines adopted under HAVA. [See the EAC website.]

HAVA was enacted on October 29, 2002. So why has the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) continued to use the 1990 standards as the basis for qualifying some voting systems AFTER federal law declared the 2002 standards to be the official guidelines?
Is the NIST Technical Guidelines Development Committee Working For You, the Voter? PDF  | Print |  Email
Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By John Gideon,   
June 02, 2005
Voting Machine Rulemakers Poised to Violate Their Public Interest Mandate

Should the makers of voting machines set the standards that their voting machines must live up to in order to satisfy the public interest? Though the answer is obviously No, a recent meeting of a technical subcommittee of the Election Assistance Commission shows that this is happening, yet the EAC will likely reveal these new standards, on or about July 1, coupled with a claim that they adequately protect the heart of democracy.
By way of background, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) was chartered by the Elections Assistance Commission to provide updated standards against which all voting machines will be tested in order to be qualified for use. Presently voting technology is qualified to standards that were written in 1990 or 2002. The charter instructs NIST to form a committee to be called the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC). This committee is to operate with guidance from the EAC charter and with funding coming from the EAC.
Carter Gets It – But Will His Electoral Commission? PDF  | Print |  Email
Carter Baker Commission
By Linda Schade and Kevin Zeese   
May 01, 2005
The best news coming out of the first hearing of the Carter-Baker Commission was that the co-chairs recognized that Americans are losing faith in their democracy, that even in the 2004 presidential election - among the most passionate elections in recent history - 40% didn't vote and, more and more, people are not confident that their votes are counted as they are cast. The bad news is that a corporate conflict of interest of a member of the Commission raises doubts that they will recommend the common sense solution – voter verified paper ballots.

With regard to the counting of votes, people are concerned about paperless electronic voting because it provides no independent record for audits or recounts. The machines have been shown to be a high security risk by insiders who can put undetectable malicious code in the software, by election officials who have access to the machines and by outside hackers – all of these people can change the outcome of an election. And, of course, all Americans know computers make mistakes. For example, computers freezing and crashing are experiences we have all had – it is also an experience that election administrators have seen with the use of computers in elections.
Sample VVPB and Audit Legislation PDF  | Print |  Email
Proposed Legislation
By Warren Stewart and Ellen Theisen   
April 21, 2005
This sample legislation for vvpb and machine-auditing was prepared for Vote Trust USA by Warren Stewart and Ellen Theisen of VotersUnite.Org. Please feel free to use any of the language that you find helpful.

Summary: Requires a voter-verifiable paper record of every vote, to be preserved in accordance with laws governing the preservation of ballots; defines the paper record as the true and correct record and the official record for recounts and audits.
The Carter-Baker Election Commission: Corporate Conflicts of Interest and Bi-Partisan Myopia? PDF  | Print |  Email
Carter Baker Commission
By Linda Schade and Kevin Zeese   
April 21, 2005
The last two presidential elections revealed that American democracy is in distress.  A full public airing is much needed and the stature of the Carter-Baker Commission promises to garner the national attention and respect required to truly grapple with the scope of the problem. That is, until people begin to look at the make-up of the Commission and its agenda.

Perhaps the hottest issue in election reform is making sure that votes are counted accurately. It is now widely understood that paperless computer voting systems are vulnerable to human error, computer failure and malicious tampering and therefore verification of the vote is essential. Paperless electronic voting vs. voting with a voter verified paper ballot (VVPB) is now an issue under consideration in state legislatures across the country. So far, 14 states have passed laws requiring a VVPB, many others are considering bills and still others traditionally vote on voter verified paper ballots.

Sadly, the Carter-Baker Commission has compromised itself at the outset by including a figure with an embarrassing corporate conflict of interest on the key question of vote counts. Ralph Munro is the Chairman of VoteHere, a company with millions invested in the ‘vote verification’ market. VoteHere is literally banking on the successful marketing of their cryptographic product as the verification method in spite of the fact that voter-verified paper ballots are the solution most recommended by independent computer security experts. Munro should recuse himself to save the Commission from further awkwardness.
Accessibility Analysis of Four Proposed Voting Machines PDF  | Print |  Email
Accessibilty Issues
By Kelly Pierce, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office   
March 23, 2005
This document reviews the four voting machines displayed on March 15, 2005 by the Office of the Cook County Clerk and the Chicago Board of election Commissioners. The machines were chosen as finalists following a joint request for proposal by the two entities. This reviewer spent significant time with each vendor and attempted to cast a ballot using each of the machines. This review also includes published articles, reviews, and research on the machines in question.

Overall Impressions

Unfortunately, if any one of the four machines were to be deployed in Chicago or suburban Cook County as exhibited on March 15, many voters with disabilities, particularly blind voters, would not be able to cast a ballot independently and privately. This analysis was confirmed in a usability study conducted in the July 2004 issue of Access World, a publication of the American Foundation for the Blind. In the survey, 13 blind and low vision users attempted to cast ballots using the iVotronic from Election Systems and Software, the AVC Edge from Sequoia Voting Systems, the eSlate from Hart InterCivic, the Vote-Trakker from Avante International Technology, and the AccuVote TS from Global Diebold. All of the machines demonstrated on March 15 were part of the survey in Access World. The survey found that when the participants tested the audio voting features,

"... almost all 13 users needed at least some assistance with each of the voting machines; in fact, most users needed assistance many times. The most assistance was required in tasks associated with scrolling through the ballot hierarchies of the voting machines. The task that was the most difficult on all the machines was changing voting selections for one of the contests. The number of the 13 users who required assistance on this task on each machine was as follows: iVotronic: 7 users, Vote-Trakker: 11 users, eSlate: 8 users, AVC Edge: 10 users, AccuVote TS: 8 users. In addition, on each machine, certain tasks were more difficult than others."

Most of the survey participants were well educated and all but one had experience using a personal computer. A copy of the article is included as an appendix to this report.
Lofgren Reintroduces Amendment to Abolish Electoral College PDF  | Print |  Email
Electoral College
By Representative Lofgren Press Release   
January 06, 2005

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) announced today that she plans to reintroduce a resolution to abolish the Electoral College and to provide for the direct election for President and Vice President of the United States. Rep Lofgren first introduced the resolution at the close of the 108th Congress. 

“During the 2004 election, voters in nine or ten 'swing states' garnered all the attention of the Presidential candidates. The only reason for that is the Electoral College. This system may have made sense two hundred years ago, but today it is outdated and flawed. National campaigns should not be conducted solely in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania,” said Rep. Lofgren. "As the Electoral College meets today to cast their votes for President and Vice President, I urge the 109th Congress to begin an open debate about replacing the current system with a direct election."

Under the Electoral College system, each state is apportioned electors equal to the number of Senators and Representatives from that state. As a result, every state, no matter how small, is guaranteed at least 3 electoral votes. This system favors sparsely populated states at the expense of voters in large states like California.

For example, Wyoming, with its 500,000 residents, has one elector for every 165,000 people; in contrast, California, with over 35 million residents, has one elector for every 635,000 people. A vote cast in Wyoming, therefore, has about four times the weight in the Electoral College as a vote cast in California.

"The elimination of the Electoral College should not be a large versus small state issue, rather this is about ensuring that voters in all states have their voices heard and their votes counted equally. In the most recent presidential election, states such as Connecticut and Montana were ignored just as much as California and Texas. It is important for all states to participate in the process, not just those considered "swing states" to ensure that the President truly represents the entire country," Rep. Lofgren continued.

If passed by a 2/3 margin in the House and Senate, the Lofgren amendment to the Constitution needs to be ratified by 3/4 of state legislatures within seven years to become law.

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) plans to introduce a similar resolution in the Senate this week.

Senator Feinstein Proposes Abolishing the Electoral College PDF  | Print |  Email
Electoral College
By Senator Feinstein Press Release   
December 22, 2004
Calls for direct election of President, Vice President

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced that she will introduce legislation to abolish the Electoral College and provide for direct popular election of the President and Vice President when the Senate convenes for the 109 th Congress in January.

"The Electoral College is an anachronism and the time has come to bring our democracy into the 21st Century," Senator Feinstein said. "During the founding years of the Republic, the Electoral College may have been a suitable system, but today it is flawed and amounts to national elections being decided in several battleground states.  

"We need to have a serious, comprehensive debate on reforming the Electoral College. I will press for hearings in the Judiciary Committee on which I sit and ultimately a vote on the Senate floor, as occurred 25 years ago on this subject. My goal is simply to allow the popular will of the American people to be expressed every four years when we elect our President. Right now, that is not happening."

Under the current system for electing the President of the United States:

    * Candidates focus only on a handful of contested states and ignore the concerns of tens of millions of Americans living in other states;

    * A candidate can lose in 39 states, but still win the Presidency;

    * A candidate can lose the popular vote by more than 10 million votes, but still win the Presidency;

    * A candidate can win 20 million votes in the general election, but win zero electoral votes, as happened to Ross Perot in 1992;

    * In most states, the candidate who wins a state’s election, wins all of that state’s electoral votes, no matter the winning margin, which can disenfranchise those who supported the losing candidate;

    * A candidate can win a state’s vote, but an elector can refuse to represent the will of a majority of the voters in that state by voting arbitrarily for the losing candidate (this has reportedly happened 9 times since 1820);

    * Smaller states have a disproportionate advantage over larger states because of the two “constant” or “senatorial” electors assigned to each state;

    * A tie in the Electoral College is decided by a single vote from each state’s delegation in the House of Representatives, which would unfairly grant California’s 36 million residents equal status with Wyoming’s 500,000 residents; and

    * In case of such a tie, House members are not bound to support the candidate who won their state’s election, which has the potential to further distort the will of the majority.

"Sooner or later we will have a situation where there is a great disparity between the electoral vote winner and the popular vote winner. If the President and Vice President are elected by a direct popular vote of the American people, then every American’s vote will count the same regardless of whether they live in California, Maine, Ohio or Florida," Senator Feinstein said.  

In the history of the country, there have been four instances of disputed elections where the President who was elected won the electoral vote, but lost the popular vote – John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George W. Bush in 2000. According to some estimates there have been at least 22 instances where a similar scenario could have occurred in close elections.

"Our system is not undemocratic, but it is imperfect, and we have the power to do something about it," Senator Feinstein said. "It is no small feat to amend the Constitution as it has only been done only 27 times in the history of our great nation."
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