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NY Times Editorial: A Bad Experiment in Voting
New from National Issues - Internet Voting
By New York Times   
September 05, 2008
This editorial was published in the New York Times on September 5, 2008.

The words “Florida” and “Internet voting,” taken together, should send a chill down everyone’s spine. Nevertheless, Florida’s Okaloosa County is seeking permission from the state to allow members of the military to vote over the Internet in November.

Internet voting is fraught with problems, including the possibility that a hacker could break in and alter the results. The Okaloosa plan, in particular, has not been sufficiently vetted.

It is laudable that the county, home to a large number of active-duty military, wants to take aggressive steps to help military voters cast ballots. The plan would set up Internet voting kiosks near American military bases in Germany, Japan and Britain. The votes would be sent to the United States over secure lines similar to ones used for bank transactions.

The problem is that too little is known about precisely how the system would work. For Internet voting to be trustworthy, it must be clear that there is no way for a hacker to break in and voters must have complete confidence in the software being used. Okaloosa has not persuasively made that case.
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How Will You and Your State Cast Ballots in November?
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Kim Zetter   
September 05, 2008
This article was posted at Wired.com's Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

This year, as a result of a lot of changes in voting machines around the country, numerous voting districts across many states will be using new voting equipment that has either never been used in an election or has never been used in a national election involving millions of voters.

When new systems are used, problems often arise either with the equipment itself or with election officials and voters who are unfamiliar with it.

To see what equipment you and your state will be using in November and to familiarize yourself with it before the election, VerifiedVoting.org, an election integrity group that led the movement to get voter-verified paper audit trails added to touch-screen voting machines, has produced a comprehensive interactive map identifying the voting systems being used in election districts across the country. As far as I know, this is the most up-to-date list of voting equipment that exists.
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Verified Voting Announces its 2008 Verifier Map of Voting Technology
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Verified Voting Foundation   
September 04, 2008
Verified Voting announced the publication today of its 2008 Verifier map of voting technology used in the United States.

“People want to know how votes will be cast and counted this fall. Voters can benefit from knowing in advance how they will vote in their polling places,” said Verified Voting president Pamela Smith. “The Verifier map provides a comprehensive picture of America's voting technology that is useful to interested voters, journalists, researchers, and advocates.”

At http://verifiedvoting.org/verifier users can access an interactive national map of voting systems to be used in the fall. Users can click on a state to view state or territory-level maps of voting systems, and then to local election jurisdictions to obtain detailed information on voting equipment vendors,  machine models, as well as the name and contact information of local election officials  (see images below and on the following page).  In addition to a comprehensive map, the Verifier provides a map of equipment used throughout the nation to serve voters with disabilities. The Verifier is provided as a public service at no cost to users.

Thousands of Americans Faced with New Polling Locations in November
New from National Issues - General Topics
By M. Mindy Moretti, electionline.org   
September 04, 2008
Officials move sites for a variety of reasons, from accessibility to availability

The following article appeared in electionline.org's weekly newsletter and is reposted here with permission of the author.

When the H.D. Cooke Elementary school in Northwest Washington, D.C. was closed for renovations, the Board of Ethics and Elections moved Precinct 38 out of the basement of the building to a building a block and a half away. Unlike the school, the new precinct is accessible for people with disabilities. But it is also smaller and likely to be more congested than the school.

For registered voter Charles Boone, the move, while not logistically difficult, proved difficult mentally.

“I’d been voting at Cooke for years and don’t get me wrong it had its problems [inaccessible to handicapped voters], but the move to the Festival Center has been one of those things that’s taken me a while to get used to,” Boone said.

Although Boone has had several elections to get used to the new polling site, thousands of Americans will be facing new polling locations for the first time on November 4.

The reasons why polling places need to be relocated vary as do the facilities used, from people’s homes to fire stations to churches. But one constant is change.
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3,400 Ballots Missing in Florida Election: Recount Flips Race
New from States - Florida
By Kim Zetter   
September 04, 2008
This article appeared in Wired.com's Threat Level Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

Palm Beach County, Florida, is in the news again for another election mishap. This time the culprit isn't the county's infamous butterfly ballot that made headlines in the 2000 presidential race. Instead, the problem is ballots used with the county's new $5.5 million optical-scan machines made by Sequoia Voting Systems.
More than 3,000 optical-scan ballots have mysteriously disappeared since the county held an election last Tuesday.

According to tallies a week ago, a total of 102,523 ballots were cast in the election. But according to a recount of one of the races, which was completed this last Sunday, the total number of cast ballots was only 99,045 -- a difference of 3,478. Election officials say they can't explain the discrepancy, though critics are concerned that this is a precursor to problems that could arise in the November presidential election.

The problem was discovered only because the county was conducting a recount of a close judicial race between an incumbent, 15th Circuit Judge Richard Wennet, and his challenger William Abramson. Prior to the recount, Abramson had won the election by 17 votes; but the recount flipped the race and resulted in him losing the election to Wennet by 60 votes. The total number of votes cast in that specific race dropped by 2,900 between the time ballots were counted last Tuesday and the recount.
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How Do You Compare Security Across Voting Systems?
New from National Issues - General Topics
By Dan Wallach, Rice University   
August 20, 2008
This article was posted at Ed Felten's Freedom to Tinker Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

It’s a curious problem: how do you compare two completely unrelated voting systems and say that one is more or less secure than the other?  How can you meaningfully compare the security of paper ballots tabulated by optical scan systems with DRE systems (with or without VVPAT attachments)?

There’s a clear disconnect on this issue.  It shows up, among other places, in a recent blog post by political scientist Thad Hall:

The point here is that, when we think about paper ballots and absentee voting, we do not typically think about or evaluate them “naked” but within an implementation context yet we think nothing of evaluating e-voting “naked” and some almost think it “cheating” to think about e-voting security within the context of implementation.  However, if we held both systems to the same standard, the people in California probably would not be voting using any voting system; given its long history, it is inconceivable that paper ballots would fail to meet the standards to which e-voting is held, absent evaluating its implementation context.

Hall then goes on to point to his recent book with Mike Alvarez, Electronic Elections, that beats on this particular issue at some length.  What that book never offers, however, is a decent comparison between electronic voting and anything else.

I’ve been thinking about this issue for a while: there must be a decent, quantitative way to compare these things.  Turns out, we can leverage a foundational technique from computer science theory: complexity analysis.  CS theory is all about analyzing the “big-O” complexity of various algorithms.  Can we analyze this same complexity for voting systems’ security flaws?

I took a crack at the problem for a forthcoming journal paper.  I classified a wide variety of voting systems according to how much effort you need to do to influence all the votes: effort proportional to the total number of voters, effort proportional to the number of precincts, or constant effort; less effort implies less security.  I also broke this down by different kinds of attacks: integrity attacks that try to change votes in a stealthy fashion, confidentiality attacks that try to learn how specific voters cast their votes, and denial of service attacks that don’t care about stealth but want to smash parts of the election.  This was a fun paper to write, and it nicely responds to Hall and Alvarez’s criticisms.  Have a look.

Special Report: The Myth of Widespread Non-Citizen Voting
New from National Issues - Voting Rights
By Truth in Immigration   
August 20, 2008
In a recent segment, CNN anchor Lou Dobbs told viewers that substantial evidence suggests that large numbers of non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants, are voting in federal elections and could be the deciding factor in November’s elections. The story primarily cites a recent report published by the Heritage Foundation. The report is written by former recess-appointed FEC Commissioner Hans von Spakovsky, whose troubling record on voting rights caused him to withdraw his name from consideration for a permanent FEC seat. Von Spakovsky’s report contains gross distortions and represents an attempt to support a policy agenda that would disenfranchise many U.S. citizens. 

Truth in Immigration has written a report scrutinizing the claims of the Heritage Foundation study. To read the report, click on this link.
Good News for New York
New from States - New York
By Bo Lipari, New Yorkers for Verified Voting   
August 19, 2008
This article was posted at Bo Lipari's Blog and is reposted here with permission of the author.

New York State’s new voting systems are failing certification testing. The two systems undergoing testing for use in 2009 are showing large numbers of defects against New York requirements, have as yet unresolved design and manufacturing issues, and during the initial stages of my source code review I found a software back door that would allow a rogue program to load from an inserted memory card. What’s not to like?

Now, you may be thinking that these all sound like bad things. And of course, on one level they absolutely are. As I’ve written about in earlier posts, what gall vendors have providing New York’s voters with such flawed equipment, sold at astronomical prices, and which have apparently not undergone basic quality assurance testing before being shipped. So what’s the good news? The good news is that we’re identifying problems priorto use in an election - the machines are failing New York’s tests.

Unlike the situation in so many other states, where inadequately tested machines are approved by private companies working for system vendors with no independent review, New York State has changed the rules of the game. Here, we require rigorous testing to the highest standards. Here, we have independent review of not only the machine vendors, but of the vendor performing the testing. Here, we have a Citizens Advisory Committee which has access to the systems and provides advice and analysis to the State Board. Because of this, New York State will not use these machines until such time as they meet the standards required by law and regulation. In other words, the process is working.
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Statement by Commissioner Gracia M. Hillman In Response to NY Times Article on Voting System Flaws
New from National Issues - Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
By EAC Commissioner Gracia M. Hillman   
August 19, 2008
The U.S. Election Assistance Commission has posted the following response to "Officials Say Flaws at Polls Will Remain in November",  an article which appeared in the August 16 edition of the New York Times.

On August 16, The New York Times (NYT) ran an incomplete and outdated article that reports on “a government backlog in testing (voting) machines’ hardware and software.” The article suggests that the backlog has been created by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s (EAC) voting system certification process and leaves the impression that EAC is doing nothing while States are left to fend for themselves to fix problems before the November elections. 

The essence of the NYT article reports on “flaws” in voting machines and needed software fixes or upgrades that presumably won’t be fixed before the November election in states that require federal (EAC) certification. The systems at issue were certified by the National Association of State Election Directors (NASED), which terminated its program toward the end of 2006, just as EAC was finalizing the details of its own voting system testing and certification programs, as mandated by the Help America Vote Act. Information about EAC’s programs is available at www.eac.gov under Program Areas (http://www.eac.gov/program-areas). 

EAC’s testing and certification programs, which took effect in January 2007, contain all of the right components to provide rigorous testing. The programs require that all systems, whether currently in use or newly manufactured, undergo and pass end-to-end testing before they can receive EAC certification. A period of transition is underway from when NASED ended its certification and when the first systems will receive EAC certification. Caught in the abyss are the NASED systems that have “flaws” and need software fixes and/or upgrades. 
Read more...
VotersUnite.org: Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections
New from National Issues - General Topics
By VotersUnite.org   
August 19, 2008
 “As we approach the 2008 general election, the structure of elections in the United States — once reliant on local representatives accountable to the public — has become almost wholly dependent on large corporations, which are not accountable to the public,” states a report released today by VotersUnite.Org, entitled “Vendors Are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections.”

The report — based on interviews with state and local election officials, news reports, reports from governmental agencies, vendor contracts, and other public documents — focuses on the pervasive control a handful of voting system vendors exercise over election administration in almost every state and how officials and ordinary citizens can strengthen public control before this year’s election.

While local election officials across the country are legally accountable for election administration, decisions at the federal and state level have rendered most of these hardworking public servants unable to administer elections without the equipment, services, and trade-secret software of a small number of corporations, whose contracts disclaim all accountability.

Case studies of local jurisdictions show a sampling of the difficulties this double bind causes for state and local officials and illustrate some of the ways in which vendors exploit the situation.
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