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Diebold Quietly Patches Security Flaw in Vote Counting Software
New from Vendors - Diebold
By Kim Zetter   
August 12, 2009
This article appeared in's Threat Level Blog and is rposted here with permission of the author.

Premier Election Solutions, formerly Diebold, has patched a serious security weakness in its election tabulation software used in the majority of states, according to a lab that tested the new version and a federal commission that certified it.

The flaw in the tabulation software was discovered by earlier this year, and involved the program’s auditing logs. The logs failed to record significant events occurring on a computer running the software, including the act of someone deleting votes during or after an election. The logs also failed to record who performed an action on the system, and listed some events with the wrong date and timestamps.

A new version of the software does record such events, and includes other security safeguards that would prevent the system from operating if the event log were somehow shut down, according to iBeta Quality Assurance, the Colorado testing lab that examined the software for the federal government.

It’s not known if Premier will offer the more secure version to election officials who purchased previous software. The company did not respond to a call for comment Tuesday.
EAC Certifies ES&S Unity Voting System
New from Vendors - Election Systems and Software (ES&S)
By EAC Media Release   
July 21, 2009
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) today certified the Unity optical scan voting system by Election Systems & Software to the 2002 Voting System Standards. It is the second voting system to achieve federal certification under the EAC Voting System Testing and Certification Program.

An EAC certification means that a voting system has met the requirements of the federal guidelines by passing a series of comprehensive tests conducted by a federally accredited test laboratory. Manufacturers of certified systems must also meet technical and ethical standards that ensure the integrity of the process and the system as it goes from the test lab to production and into the marketplace.

Laboratory test plans, test reports and related information about the Unity are posted at, along with an outline describing each step of the certification process.
Impressive unanimity: The historical significance of Coleman v. Franken
New from States - Minnesota
By Analysis by Edward B. Foley   
July 01, 2009
This analysis was published at

Now that Norm Coleman has conceded in the aftermath of today's unanimous Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, the eight-month-long battle to determine who won last November's election for the state's U.S. Senate seat is finally over.  Even as the concession eclipses the opinion in political importance—and appropriately so—the opinion will begin its life as one of the most legally significant resolutions of a disputed election in U.S. history. 
Its historical significance lies in the fact that it is the first appellate court resolution of a major statewide election after Bush v. Gore.  The seven-month dispute over Washington's gubernatorial election of 2004 resulted in a trial court ruling, but it was never appealed.  Puerto Rico's disputed gubernatorial election of the same year did result in a 4-3 decision of the Puerto Rico Supreme Court (as well as a federal appeals court decision declining to intervene), but that precedent lacks the direct relevance to future U.S. elections that today's decision has.

Today's opinion discusses Bush v. Gore and its treatment of that U.S. Supreme Court decision in the 2000 presidential election is the most important judicial analysis of that precedent to date.  The reason for its importance is that it analyzes Bush v. Gore in a setting most comparable to Bush v. Gore itself: a post-election fight over which candidate won more votes.   Citations to Bush v. Gore in other contexts, like pre-election disputes over how to count provisional ballots, are merely invocations of that precedent for whatever analogical force it might have.  Coleman v. Franken is a consideration of Bush v. Gore in a situation where it most closely applies. 
The Minnesota Supreme Court opinion, like the unanimous trial court ruling it affirms, holds that the Equal Protection principle of Bush v. Gore is not violated when a state statute provides a clear and specific rule for local officials to follow in the counting of ballots, even if some local officials fail to follow that clear rule.  As long as the local officials' failure to follow the clear and specific state rule, even if deliberate, was not designed to favor one candidate over another (or otherwise discriminate improperly among classes of citizens), that failure—while regrettable—is not unconstitutional.

Read the Entire Analysis at
EAC Releases Report on Voter Registration
New from National Issues - Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By EAC Media Release   
July 01, 2009
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has released a report on voter registration statistics in accordance with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). It presents information provided by the states on the number of registered voters, the registration process and voter registration list maintenance. The full report can be dowloaded here, and the data are available here.

The report covers registration information from after the 2006 general election through the 2008 general election. The following highlights are among the findings. 
New York Times Editorial: How to Trust Electronic Voting
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
By The New York Times   
June 22, 2009
The House leadership should make passing Mr. Holt’s bill a priority. Few issues matter as much as ensuring that election results can be trusted.

This editorial was published in the New York Times on June 22, 2009.

Electronic voting machines that do not produce a paper record of every vote cast cannot be trusted. In 2008, more than one-third of the states, including New Jersey and Texas, still did not require all votes to be recorded on paper. Representative Rush Holt has introduced a good bill that would ban paperless electronic voting in all federal elections. Congress should pass it while there is still time to get ready for 2010.

In paperless electronic voting, voters mark their choices, and when the votes have all been cast, the machine spits out the results. There is no way to be sure that a glitch or intentional vote theft — by malicious software or computer hacking — did not change the outcome. If there is a close election, there is also no way of conducting a meaningful recount.

Mr. Holt’s bill would require paper ballots to be used for every vote cast in November 2010. It would help prod election officials toward the best of the currently available technologies: optical-scan voting. With optical scans, voters fill out a paper ballot that is then read by computer — much like a standardized test. The votes are counted quickly and efficiently by computer, but the paper ballot remains the official vote, which can then be recounted by hand.
Read more... Praises Bill to Establish Verifiable Elections Nationwide
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
June 17, 2009 praised U.S. Representative Rush Holt's introduction today of HR 2894, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2009.  Cosponsored by 75 House members, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act would require voter-marked paper ballots in all federal elections. The bill would authorize funding for states to purchase new voting equipment, require hand-counted audits of electronic vote tallies, and reform the process of testing voting equipment.

"This bill is so long overdue.  It provides a basic element of democracy: a verifiable ballot for every voter," said Warren Stewart, Legislative Policy Director for “And it does its job in the most reliable way, with paper ballots marked by the voters. That is a cost-effective technology that a majority of Americans already use; HR 2894 simply makes it our nationwide system,” Stewart said.

In 2008, almost 60 percent of the nation's voters cast their votes on paper ballots that were read by electronic scanning devices. In the last several years, voter-marked paper ballots have become the most popular means of providing a paper record of each vote. “Paper trail” printers attached to voting machines are an alternative method of providing a paper record, but have reliability problems, such as printer jams. They are cumbersome to recount, raise privacy concerns because they store all votes on a continuous roll, and go unchecked by significant numbers of voters.
House Panel Passes Rep. Susan Davis’s Election Reform Bills
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
By Rep. Susan Davis Press Release   
June 10, 2009
No Excuse Absentee, Absentee Tracking and Election Integrity Bills Approved    

A package of election reform bills sponsored by Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) cleared an initial hurdle today.  The House Administration Committee approved legislation to allow for national no-excuse absentee voting, help voters track absentee ballots, and prevent a state’s chief elections official from serving on federal campaign committees.

“Democracy flourishes when all Americans have a fair chance to participate in elections and have confidence that the process is fair,” said Davis, a member of the committee.  “I’d like to thank Chairman Brady and my colleagues on the committee for passing this package of bills.”

The bills passed by the committee were:
· Universal Right to Vote by Mail Act (H.R. 1604) - Allows all eligible voters nationwide to vote by mail for any reason in federal elections. Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia restrict an eligible voter’s ability to vote by mail, also known as absentee.  The bill also removes the doctor’s note, notary and privacy information requirements imposed by some states.

· The Absentee Ballot Track, Receive and Confirm (TRAC) Act (H.R. 2510) - Helps states, through a grant program, to establish absentee ballot tracking systems.  An absentee ballot tracking system allows voters to easily find out, online or through an automated phone system, whether an elections office has sent out a ballot, whether a completed ballot has arrived back at the registrar’s office and whether the ballot was actually counted.  Davis worked with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), also a member of the committee, in sponsoring H.R. 2510.

· The Federal Election Integrity Act (H.R. 512) - Prohibits the chief elections official of a state from serving on federal campaign committees or engaging in other political activity, such as fundraising, on behalf of federal candidates in any election over which the official has supervisory authority.
The action by the House Administration Committee clears the bills to be considered by the full House of Representatives.
South Dakota: Voting System Adds Nearly 5,000 Ballots to Tally
New from States - South Dakota
By Kim Zetter   
June 05, 2009
This article was posted at's Threat Level blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

A software glitch in an optical-scan voting system added nearly 5,000 ballots to the tally of a South Dakota election this week. The error was discovered only after the election results were called, according to the Rapid City Journal.

The problem occurred when officials combined tallies from optical-scan machines in three precincts in Rapid City in Pennington County. The tabulation software used to combine the totals added 4,875 phantom ballots to the count. The system indicated 10,488 ballots were cast when, in reality, only 5,613 ballots existed, indicating that the glitch wasn’t simply a matter of doubling the votes.

Oddly, no one caught the problem during the initial count. City election officials hadn’t bothered to keep a manual tally of the number of ballots cast as voters handed them in and they were scanned into the machines — a procedure designed to catch exactly such a discrepancy. It was only after someone began to question the high voter turnout for the small election, that officials went back to count the ballots.
Internet Voting: How Far Can We Go Safely?
New from National Issues - Internet Voting
By Ed Felten, Princeton University   
June 05, 2009
This article was posted at the Freedom to Tinker blog and is rreposted here with permission.

Yesterday I chaired an interesting panel on Internet Voting at CFP. Participants included Amy Bjelland and Craig Stender (State of Arizona), Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat (Overseas Vote Foundation) Avi Rubin (Johns Hopkins), and Alec Yasinsac (Univ. of South Alabama). Thanks to David Bruggeman and Cameron Wilson at USACM for setting up the panel.

Nobody advocated a full-on web voting system that would allow voting from any web browser. Instead, the emphasis was on more modest steps, aimed specifically at overseas voters. Overseas voters are a good target population, because there aren't too many of them -- making experimentation less risky -- and because vote-by-mail serves them poorly.

Discussion focused on two types of systems: voting kiosks, and Internet transmission of absentee ballots.
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