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National Issues

Voting Activists Urge Presidential Candidates to Reject Unverifiable Primaries PDF  | Print |  Email
By Iowans for Voting Integrity   
January 01, 2008

South Carolina's Voting System Causes Particular Concern

A group of state-based civic organizations has urged Presidential candidates to call for paper ballots in all 2008 primary elections.

In a letter sent to the major Democratic and Republican candidates last week, the groups Georgians for Verified Voting, Iowans for Voting Integrity, the North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting, and the South Carolina Progressive Network offered evidence of the unreliability of paperless electronic voting systems, and expressed special concern about the paperless machines to be used statewide in South Carolina's Presidential primaries on January 19 and January 26 (letter attached).


“Many of the world's best computer scientists have concluded that paperless e-voting systems are vulnerable to error and fraud,” said  Brett Bursey, director of the South Carolina Progressive Network.  Last year, a task force that included Howard Schmidt, former chief security officer of Microsoft, called strongly for voter-verified paper records of each  vote cast.   Counties in 14 states stand ready to use paperless electronic systems in their primaries (see attachment “Paperless Primary States”).


South Carolina is of particular concern because of its early position in the front-loaded primary calendar, and because the entire state uses a discredited paperless touch screen system, the ES&S iVotronic.  A review ordered by Ohio's top election offical and published December 14 found found “critical security vulnerabilities” in the iVotronic.  Among the problems was a finding that the iVotronic can be manipulated by a person with a magnet and a personal digital assistant. After the Ohio report was published,  Edward Felten, head of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, wrote that the iVotronic is  “too risky to use” in elections. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has recommended scrapping all touch screens, including the iVotronic. Colorado Secretary of State Mike Coffman decertified the iVotronic on December 17, and also wants to switch his state to a paper ballot system for the November election.


“South Carolina has the Ford Pinto of voting systems, “said Bursey.


Even before the Ohio report, the iVotronic was no stranger to controversy. In November, the Republican Party of Wharton County, Texas decided not to use the iVotronic in the March 2008 primary after reports of vote-flipping in the November 2007 elections.  The iVotronic was the machine used in the  2006 Congressional election in Sarasota County, Florida, where an implausible number of undervotes remains unexplained. The iVotronic was also the subject of reports of vote-flipping in a number of states in 2006, including South Carolina.


South Carolina does require that polling places have paper ballots on hand in case of equipment problems, so the state would not necessarily have to start from scratch if it does not use the iVotronic in the primaries.


“We respect the burdens election officials face: switching voting methods on short notice is a very big deal, said Sean Flaherty, co-chair of Iowans for Voting Integrity. But it is not acceptable to run Presidential primaries on systems as vulnerable as paperless electronic machines. America's voters deserve a verifiable nominating process.”

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