by Teresa Hommel, 12/14/05
Full evaluation of Election Reform and Modernization Act:
Full evaluation of Draft Regulations for Voting Systems Standards:
Suggestions for Comments to the State Board:
1. Simultaneous submission of systems: Each vendor must submit all of their systems at the same time.
Reason: Vendors could comply with a requirement to submit all systems by submitting one type now and the other in several years.
2. Public Test: Before a voting system can be certified, the State Board must run a large public test with a large number of such systems (for example, 20 or 50 or 100). Every machine in the test must work with no errors or failures. Vendors must supply the machines without charge and may assist in running the test, but members of the public must act as test voters, test poll workers, and test observers. Test observers must closely observe the entering of test votes, the printing of each voter-verified paper record by DRE equipment, and the extraction of end-of-election tallies and other information by test poll workers. The voter-verified paper record, tallies, and logs must be 100% accurate.
Reason 1: If systems are going to fail, or are unusable by the kind of people who will be voters and poll workers, it is better to discover this when vendors are highly motivated to fix the systems or simplify their use (before certification, purchase, and payment), rather than during the first rollout of the equipment in an election, which would cause chaos and lawsuits.
California conducted such a test earlier this year.
Reason 2: Public distrust of computerized voting systems runs deep, and if the equipment works it is better for the public to see that before cynicism about the equipment lowers voter turnout. Merely demonstrating how to use the equipment will not reassure people.
3. Red Test: Before a voting system can be certified, the State Board must commission a professional hacker test, and systems (including all communications capabilities) must be able to withstand such a test.
Reason: If the systems are easily hacked, it is better to discover this when vendors are highly motivated to fix them (before certification, purchase, and payment), rather than after the first use of the equipment when the election outcomes differ significantly from pre-election polls, or when electronic tallies differ significantly from tallies of the voter verifiable audit record.
The Maryland General Assembly commissioned such a test by RABA Technologies, LLC.
4. Hand-to-eye audit: The State Board should clarify that for DREs the "manual audit of voter verifiable audit records" means a hand-to-eye count, not a computerized count.
Reason: Computerized counting of votes on DRE voter verifiable audit records defeats the two purposes of the audit, which are to avoid fully electronic handling of votes and to give observers a chance to confirm that electronic tallies are accurate.
ERMA is unclear, and includes both "shall manually audit the voter verifiable audit records" and "The audit shall be conducted in the same manner, to the extent applicable, as a canvass of paper ballots." A canvass of paper ballots may be done by optical scanners, and at this time, vendors are developing computerized counters to count the votes on voter verifiable audit records.
For longer discussion, see Comment 40,
5. No automated tests: Logic and Accuracy tests of DREs must be conducted by test voters entering test votes using all hardware interfaces (touchscreen or pushbuttons), languages, accessibility devices, printer, and any other parts of the system to be interacted with on election day. Test poll workers must extract the end-of-election day results in the same manner as will be used on election day.
Reason: If tests of DREs don't discover and allow correction of flaws in system parts that voters and poll workers will interact with (touchscreen/pushbuttons, printer, results cartridges, etc.) these flaws will appear on election day and cause chaos and lawsuits.
6. Public participation: Members of the public who are not candidates or representatives of recognized political parties must be able to observe and participate in procedures in the same manner as candidates and representatives of recognized political parties.
Reason: Ordinary citizens -- the public -- are the primary stakeholders in elections, and must have the opportunity to observe and participate.
7. No privatization: Vendor technicians must serve in an advisory capacity only, and must not perform tasks on behalf of bipartisan BOE staff. Alternatively, all tasks performed by vendor technicians involving direct or indirect contact with voting or vote tabulating systems must be observed, fully understood, and logged by bipartisan BOE staff. Vendors must fully train sufficient staff appropriate to manage the number of systems acquired.
Reason: It is prudent to assess the need for extra computer-knowledgeable staff during Election Time, but the use of vendor technicians opens vast opportunities for technical-insider tampering. This risk has long been an argument in favor of PBOS because simpler technology keeps elections more manageable by bipartisan BOE staff, voters, and poll workers. One vendor technician may be able to taint an entire election, especially if communication capability is present in electronic voting or vote tabulating equipment.
Example: Sherole Eaton-Triad controversy, Hocking County, Ohio.
Suggestion: Public employees of state and city agencies, good government groups, and political parties may be able to provide a sufficient number of bipartisan temporary computer-knowledgeable staff.
8. Reasons and procedures for rescission of certification. State Board draft, Section 6209.8 must specify non-subjective reasons for rescission of certification, and realistic procedures, timeframes, and handling of costs. Rescission has occurred in other states due to failures during elections, and NY must be prepare realistically.
The comments below are abstracted from
ERMA, Page 4, Lines 15-30:
15 3. If at any time after any machine OR SYSTEM has been approved pursu-
16 ant to the provisions of subdivision one or two of this section, the
17 state board of elections has any reason to believe that such machine OR
18 SYSTEM does not meet all the requirements for voting machines OR SYSTEMS
19 set forth in this article, it shall forthwith cause such machine OR
20 SYSTEM to be examined again in the manner prescribed by subdivision one
21 of this section. If the opinions in the report of such examinations do
22 not state that such machine OR SYSTEM can safely and properly be used by
23 voters at elections under the conditions prescribed by this article, the
24 state board of elections shall forthwith rescind its approval of such
25 machine OR SYSTEM. After the date on which the approval of any machine
26 OR SYSTEM is rescinded, no machines OR SYSTEMS of such type may be
27 purchased for use in this state. The state board of elections shall
28 examine all machines OR SYSTEMS of such type which were previously
29 purchased, to determine if they may continue to be used in elections in
30 this state.
--criteria for rescission
--how many days is "forthwith"
--procedures for voters, poll workers, candidates, parties, and county boards of election to notify
State Board of malfunctions
--who will pay for re-examination of the system in question
--who will pay for examination of all machines or systems of such type
--time frames for the State Board to examine all machines or systems of such type
The regs must clarify ERMA's "any reason to believe" standard (line 17). After an election in which some 40% of systems failed, one election official proclaimed that nothing could make him lose faith in his county's computerized voting systems. A voter or poll worker might have reason to believe upon the first system failure, upon seeing a vote switched by the computer to a different candidate on the screen, upon finding that not all races are displayed, etc. A worker counting the votes on the voter verifiable audit record might have reason to believe when the electronic count does not match the paper count.
The regs must ban further use of systems after approval is rescinded.
The regs must specify procedures and time frames for examining all machines of a type for which approval has been rescinded. Otherwise it is unlikely that State Board will rescind any machine approval regardless of the severity of malfunction because they will have no procedure or capability of examining, for example, a thousand machines.
A. If at any time subsequent to the State Board's approval of a voting system, the State
Board determines that the voting system fails to fulfill the criteria prescribed by statute and
these rules, the Board shall notify any users and vendors of that particular voting system
that the State Board's approval or certification of that system for future sale of that system
in New York State is to be withdrawn.
Comment: The regs must specify who "users" are, including voters who have voted on such system in previous elections and poll workers who have worked at elections using them. These users would have the most direct experience and can report first-hand details of problems if any occurred. In addition, all candidates and parties who were on ballots that were voted using the equipment should be listed as "users."
D. Upon receipt of such request to reconsider, the State Board shall hold a hearing for the
purpose of reconsidering the decision to rescind the approval or certification. Any
interested party shall be given the opportunity to submit testimony or documentation in
support of or in opposition to the Board's decision to rescind approval or certification.
Comment: The regs must require publication of notice of such hearing at least two weeks in advance; reasons for rescission; date, time and place of hearing; and notification by mail to all parties who have requested notification of such State Board activities.