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Rep. Lofgren Issues Statement on Voting Memorandum
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Rep. Zoe Lofgren   
July 16, 2008
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) today issued the following statement on a recent Heritage Foundation memorandum on non-citizen voting.

I have recently been made aware of a Heritage Foundation “Legal Memorandum” authored by failed FEC nominee Hans von Spakovsky entitled “The Threat of Non-Citizen Voting.” After reviewing this “legal” memorandum, I’ve come to the realization that it is nothing more than political fear mongering masquerading as scholarly research. I’d go so far as to characterize it as intellectual fraud. The report sites a few anecdotal sources as evidence that undocumented immigrants are actively working to undermine our election systems. Little verifiable evidence exists to support such claims. By far, the largest problem facing our voting systems is not non-citizen voting, it is the continued disenfranchisement of minority and working poor Americans.  

Republican operatives have continually used “voter fraud” as a way to justify their own efforts to disfranchise minority voters. This memo is yet another piece of this disinformation campaign, which is designed to stoke the fears of Americans. After participating in numerous hearings and listening to countless hours of testimony on our elections process, the true fear is that Americans from all across the country are being actively denied a voice in our political process. In light of recent votes by my Republican colleagues in the House it’s also becoming quite clear that they prefer disenfranchisement.
Rep. Holt Statement on House Voting Legislation
New from National Issues - Federal Legislation
By Representative Rush Holt   
July 15, 2008
Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) issued the following statement in support of legislation, similar to his own emergency bill introduced earlier this year, which would reimburse states and localities to make available paper ballots for the November 2008 elections. The bill failed to secure the two-thirds needed for passage:

I rise in support of H.R. 5803, a bill that would reimburse states and localities to make paper backup ballots available for this November's 2008 election.

I want to complement Rep. Lofgren for introducing this important measure that would allow more Americans to vote than might otherwise be able if their only option is failed electronic voting. The bill would allow more Americans to vote when facing long lines, something that has been documented widely.
The Latest Spin From Voting Machine Makers: What Problems?
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Dan Wallach, Rice University   
July 08, 2008

This article was posted at AlterNet and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Last week, I testified before the Texas House Committee on Elections (you can read my testimony). I've done this many times before, but I figured this time would be different. This time, I was armed with the research from the California "Top to Bottom" reports and the Ohio EVEREST reports. I was part of the Hart InterCivic source code team for California's analysis. I knew the problems. I was prepared to discuss them at length. Wow, was I disappointed. Here's a quote from Peter Lichtenheld, speaking on behalf of Hart InterCivic:

Security reviews of the Hart system as tested in California, Colorado, and Ohio were conducted by people who were given unfettered access to code, equipment, tools and time and they had no threat model. While this may provide some information about system architecture in a way that casts light on questions of security, it should not be mistaken for a realistic approximation of what happens in an election environment. In a realistic election environment, the technology is enhanced by elections professionals and procedures, and those professionals safeguard equipment and passwords, and physical barriers are there to inhibit tampering. Additionally, jurisdiction ballot count, audit, and reconciliation processes safeguard against voter fraud.
You can find the whole hearing online (via RealAudio streaming), where you will hear the Diebold/Premier representative, as well as David Beirne, the director of their trade organization, saying essentially the same thing. Since this seems to be the voting system vendors' party line, let's spend some time analyzing it.

Did our work cast light on questions of security? Our work found a wide variety of flaws, most notably the possibility of "viral" attacks, where a single corrupted voting machine could spread that corruption, as part of regular processes and procedures, to every other voting system. In effect, one attacker, corrupting one machine, could arrange for every voting system in the county to be corrupt in the subsequent election. That's a big deal. At this point, the scientific evidence is in, it's overwhelming, and it's indisputable. The current generation of DRE voting systems have a wide variety of dangerous security flaws. There's simply no justification for the vendors to be making excuses or otherwise downplaying the clear scientific consensus on the quality of their products.

Statement of EAC Chair Rosemary E. Rodriguez On Florida’s Voter Registration Law
New from States - Florida
By EAC Chair Rosemary Rodriguez   
July 08, 2008
On June 24, a federal trial court upheld the state of Florida’s voter registration verification law, which outlines the requirements that must be met to verify a voter’s identity through the state’s voter registration database.

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) requires the chief election official in each state to implement a “single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list.” That list is to be “defined, maintained, and administered at the state level” and must contain the “name and registration information of every legally registered voter in the state.”

In 2005, the United States Election Assistance Commission (EAC) issued voluntary guidance to assist the states in implementing the provisions of HAVA relating to statewide voter registration list requirements.

The EAC also contracted with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to further study the implementation of statewide registration lists, including some of the issues that have sparked vigorous debate, such as matching protocols, security and interoperability. An interim report issued earlier this year outlines initiatives that can be implemented now and will make a difference in the November election.

Not Ready for Prime Time
New from States - New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verifie Voting   
July 07, 2008
Nassau County Refuses to Accept More Failing Systems

You would have thought that since there have been so many documented problems in other states over the years that voting machine vendors would have gone out of their way to make sure new systems being deployed in the Empire State were thoroughly tested, met all state requirements, and worked flawlessly.

At a minimum, you would expect that any business fulfilling a enormous, multi-million dollar contract to a new client would make sure the systems were, well, at least operational. But, incredibly, you would be wrong. The machines which ES&S and Sequoia are providing to New York State are failing initial testing at a rate which would astound anyone – unless you’ve been following the voting machine industry for the last 10 years.<

I discussed these problems on my July 2, 2008 Voice of the Voters radio program with my guest, Bill Biamonte, Election Commissioner of Nassau County, the second largest Board of Elections in the state which serves over 870,000 voters. In a letter to Judge Gary Sharpe on June 26, who ordered New York State to complete its Help America Vote Act implementation by 2009, Nassau County reports the unbelievably high failure rates they’re finding in the systems they’ve received:

“…of the 156 BMDs [Ballot Marking Devices] received by Nassau through June 26, 2008-after the SBOE acceptance tested them in Albany-have substantial operational flaws that render them unusable or that require major repairs. 29 were rejected immediately when they were unloaded from the truck because of obvious physical defects or damages, such as a broken side of the printer. 62 failed diagnostic testing because of problems with the USB cord and the printer. And 42 failed Nassau’s acceptance testing for a variety of reasons, such as nonresponsive key pads and battery failure. Out of a total of 156 BMDs, only 23 can be used by voters in the condition they were received in.”
"Paper Ballots" not "Paper Trails"
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Avi Rubin, Johns Hopkins University   
July 04, 2008
This article was posted on Avi Rubin's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

I've noted some confusion in discussions with reporters recently, and I have to assume that this confusion is somewhat widespread. The issue is whether or not a "paper trail" resolves the problems with electronic voting. The term "paper trail", in my opinion, is an unfortunate one. When I first got seriously involved in this issue in 2003, many of us advocated paper trails as a solution to paperless DREs. The thinking was that if every vote is recorded on a piece of paper and that paper was audited by the voter, then a correct tally could be produced by counting the papers. This could be used to audit the machines, or as the definitive ballots. In theory, this seems reasonable, but it doesn't work in practice, and the theory is a bit flawed as well.

As I describe this, keep in mind that the underlying premise is that the software-only DREs should not be trusted. Software often fails in unexpected and unexplainable ways, and in the case of national public elections, there is a threat that the software could have been rigged or modified, or just be plain old buggy. The bottom line is that elections are more trustworthy if we don't have to trust the software. So, given that premise, paper trails only provide some benefit if the papers are actually counted. Otherwise, the machines are just as vulnerable as ones that don't have paper trails. Unless there is a policy for checking the ballots, and unless voters actually inspect the paper trails, we might as well just use DREs because the paper trails are useless under those circumstances. In practice, things are actually worse. Vendors have developed paper trails that are unwieldy, difficult to count, printed with fading ink, and prone to failure and paper jams.
Comparing Florida Elections to USDA Beef
New from States - Florida
By Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coalition   
July 04, 2008
It's important that Americans have confidence in their food supply.  But is false confidence the same thing?  What if all beef inspectors in the U.S. decided to stop inspecting beef because they might find problems?  After all, if they found problems, that might hurt consumer confidence.  Sounds absurd, doesn't it?  And yet, this is the exact approach that the Florida Department of State and Florida Division of Elections continue to advocate regarding the state's elections.

Election audits are supposed to ensure that electronic voting machines have accurately counted paper ballots.  These audits -- in this case referring to a hand count of paper ballots following the election to confirm machine counts -- are a vital check on the accuracy of Florida's optical scan voting systems.  But a new emergency rule filed July 1 by the Florida Division of Elections has been carefully molded to say it is checking the accuracy of election results, but is actually accomplishing the opposite.  It is a non-check that won't hurt voter confidence by discovering any problems before the election is certified. 

The audit law passed in 2007 by the Florida Legislature was incredibly weak -- requiring the hand count of just one race per election and only 2% of the precincts in that one race.  But the emergency rule weakens this law even further.  The new rule prohibits any audit from occurring until after the election is certified -- in other words, until it is too late to make any corrections to election results.  It allows days to pass between the random selection of the race and precincts to be audited and the actual start of the audit -- meaning there is plenty of time for an elections office to check those ballots in advance and make sure the audit will match election night results.  As Elaine Ginnold, Registrar of Voters in Marin County, California has stated, "the audit must start immediately, as soon as the precincts are selected, to prevent anyone from messing with the ballots." 
New York: Ulster County Considers Using Untested Scanners
New from States - New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verifie Voting   
July 02, 2008
This article was posted at Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Will Ulster County Use Untested Machines in 2008?

In my last post, I noted the four crucial areas that we’ll need to focus on in the coming months. One of them, oversight of New York State’s voting systems, is a constant task. Here’s today’s example.

At its June 19 meeting the State Board of Elections announced that Ulster County is considering using uncertified scanners in this year’s Presidential election as a “demonstration project”. Let me be perfectly clear - voting systems which have not completed and passed New York State’s strict certification requirements must not be used in any election.

A decision to use any voting system which has not completed testing and is not certified by New York State­ would be an egregious error that will disenfranchise Ulster County voters. NYVV and the League of Women Voters sent a letter urging Ulster County election commissioners to seriously consider the reasons that using an untested system would be an extremely bad idea.
Connecticut: Secretary of State Outraged by Policy Disenfranchising Veterans
New from States - Connecticut
By Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz   
June 30, 2008
Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz today June 30th openly defied the Department of Veterans Affairs' nationwide policy prohibiting voter registration drives among veterans living at federally funded nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and shelters for homeless veterans. Sec. Bysiewicz was joined by Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, veterans and veterans advocates at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in West Haven to blast the policy, register veterans to vote, and distribute information on the stateтАЩs new voting machines at the facility.

"The practice and policy of banning voter registration drives at veterans facilities is an slap in the face to the people that have served, put their lives on the line and scarified the most for our fundamental freedoms. It is simply wrong" said Bysiewicz. "It defies logic that this administration would even consider disenfranchising tens of thousands of veterans who have served our country and now require care. At a minimum we should make it easier for our veterans to register to vote."

Earlier this month in preparation for the November 4, 2008 Presidential Election, which promises to bring voters to the polls in record numbers, Secretary Bysiewicz requested permission to visit both inpatient and outpatient facilities to educate veterans, especially veterans with disabilities, about Connecticut's new voting machines. Last week, however, West Haven Veterans Hospital denied Secretary Bysiewicz's request.
The Most Basic Ingredient of Democracy
New from States - New Jersey
By Thurman Hart   
June 24, 2008

This column appeared in the June 23 edition of the Newark Star-Ledger.

Daniel Webster once stated, "Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may." I can't help that he may have been thinking of something like Hudson County when he said it. Even in New Jersey's freewheeling political atmosphere, Hudson County is a special case. Many would like us to think that place is in history, not in contemporary actions. I would disagree.

There has been nothing so fundamental to political perfidy in Hudson County than electoral malfeasance. Unsurprisingly, our latest attempt at an election is being contested. And, it appears, rightfully so. The problem is that the recount is unlikely to shed any light on what is wrong in Hudson County.

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