Response to Doug Lewis' testimony of July 25, 2007,
to the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee
By Teresa Hommel
August 23, 2007
Doug Lewis’s testimony of July 25, 2007, to the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee is disingenuous. Below are seventeen of his positions, followed by alternative points of view.
1. Insider election fraud, common throughout American history, is unthinkable, and that all election administrators are saints.
In truth, such fraud has been practiced by both major parties, so neither party can cleanly accuse the other. "We cheated fair and square" is acceptable but unmentionable.
2. HAVA was a well-considered piece of legislation, and no one regrets voting for it.
In truth, elected officials don't like to publicly admit that they made a mistake or were uninformed.
3. Election administration is a profession, and election administrators are professionals.
In truth, election administrators are public servants but many of them have become accustomed to working without public oversight.
Election administratos know how to conduct elections but when it comes to professional use of computers, many are ignorant and some are corrupt. Election administrators who profess to believe that once a computer is "certified" it can be "trusted" to work as advertised without auditing, have done more than simply fail to inform themselves. Given the widespread availability of information that this belief is wrong, and the many activists who are trying to inform election administrators, a person who holds this belief in 2007 has actively avoided being informed.
4. Congress's role and objective "is to assure Americans that the process serves voters and democracy well."
In truth, if election procedures with votes and ballots were conducted in public before observers, no one would have to “assure” anyone.
5. "We seem to be in an environment of unfounded and still unproven allegations of mismanagement of the election process"
In truth, corrupt election administrators have been successful in preventing investigation and the collection of evidence of their mismanagement of elections.
6. "there seems to be little or not respect for those of us in this profession who actually have to do the mechanics of elections."
In truth, inviting the public, press, candidates, and all parties to observe procedures would solve this problem where it exists. There is only one reason for secret procedures in the conduct of elections, and that is to conceal impropriety and fraud.
7. "The notion that election administrators have somehow banded together to subvert the public's will is not only misguided and troubling but I find it destructive." This would require collusion of both major parties. The notion insults election professionals and erodes public confidence.
In truth, protesting innocence while maintaining secrecy of procedures invites insults and erodes public confidence.
8. "It goes beyond an insult because it suggests that election officials are dishonest or so incompetent that they can't possibly be trusted to do the job without "guidance."
In truth, the work of public servants is supposed to be overseen and guided by the public. Public servants are supposed to facilitate observation, oversight and guidance. Doug Lewis's underlying assertion that "oversight of public servants is an insult" is an attempt to redefine the roles of the public and election administrators, and demand that secrecy of procedures be accepted as a norm.
9. "HAVA resulted from a need to respond to conditions."
In truth, HAVA was the wrong response.
10. "There is no such generally accepted rationale for continued massive reforms.
In truth, there are two reasons for reform. One is that many jurisdictions have adopted the use of electronic voting equipment that both facilitates and conceals insider tampering, outside hacking, and innocent errors. The other is that many jurisdictions have developed a habit of conducting procedures in secret that need to be conducted before observers representing the public, press, candidates, and political parties. The needed reforms are:
a. Ban further use of DREs so that votes are no longer cast into invisible electronic ballots that are unobservable to the voters themselves;
b. Require precinct tally reports from optical scanners to be printed, signed by poll workers, and posted immediately upon close of voting on election day and all early-voting days, and require signed copies of the tally reports to be given to one representative from each political party that has sent observers;
c. Require continuous observation, by the members of the public and representatives of all political parties, of ballots and election records from the close of voting until the election is certified. This includes observation of ballots, end-of-day precinct tally reports, and other materials as they are packed up and returned to the central tabulating location, transported and stored in warehouses, and transported and recounted or audited. The "chain of custody" needs to be observed, not just "documented."
11. Doug Lewis's list of "facts" consists of improvable assertions.
11. a. "More voters votes have been accurately cast and counted on electronic voting devices than at any other point in the history of elections;"
In truth, the accuracy of electronic voting devices is unknown, and is only half of our problem.
i. The accuracy of DREs without a paper trail cannot be assessed.
ii. The accuracy of DREs with a paper trail cannot be assessed unless the public accurately verifies the paper trail, which may not be possible. Many studies have shown that people perform poorly at verification including the recent studies by Sarah Everett of Rice University. Also, after an election, the paper trail and electronic votes must be compared and all discrepancies investigated and resolved. This has never been done. Evaluations of small samples of machines have been done, and have revealed many irresolvable discrepancies.
11. b. Voters show "distinct improvement in accurately registering their choices on electronic voting" and show reduction of "voter's mistakes"
i. Since DREs easily create both overvotes and undervotes, the improvement of voter accuracy and reduction of errors are impossible to assess, and are also irrelevant to the primary argument against DREs -- that DREs conceal what needs to be observable and observed for election credibility.
11. c. Early voting, vote centers, and the ability of voters to cast their ballots anywhere in their state are desirable and require use of DREs.
i. Many citizens disagree that these types of voting are beneficial. Their supposed usefulness is outweighed by the need to use DREs and invisible unobservable ballots.
11. d. Voters with disabilities or non-English languages need DREs.
i. Voters with disabilities or non-English languages can cast a secret ballot more easily with paper ballots and accessible ballot-marking devices.
ii. Voters with disabilities or non-English languages are not served by secret procedures or unobservable handling of ballots, even if they are personally unable to act as observers.
12. We can't add a paper trail to currently paperless DREs for several years, so we should continue to use paperless DREs because we already spent our money on them.
In truth, two wrongs don't make a right. DREs destroy election credibility and should not be used. The money spent on them was wasted, and should not be used as a reason to continue to undermine our democracy.
13. Americans cannot prepare, organize, handle, and count paper ballots due to incompetence and inability to count.
In truth, other countries manage to prepare, organize, and handle paper ballots and to count votes without difficulty. If necessary, American election professionals can simply hire Canadians to perform these tasks for us.
14. Voter mistakes in marking ballots cannot be dealt with fairly.
In truth, "obvious intent" laws and the fair and impartial administration of elections would minimize this problem.
15. Voting system software needs to be secret to prevent unspecified harm. Doug Lewis is probably alluding to two kinds of harm: first, revelation to the public of voting system vendors’ trade secrets and intellectual property; second, use by the public of the features of electronic voting systems that enable them to facilitate and conceal fraud.
In truth: Democracy is not served by secret procedures, whether conducted by hand or by computer. Computers with trade secret software should not be used to record, cast, store, handle, and count votes.
In truth, electronic voting systems should not be used if their features enable them to facilitate and conceal fraud. Keeping the software and these features secret from the public will not protect elections from insider tampering.
16. Audits of elections are time-consuming, expensive, and may require extra staff. Only a narrow constituency wants audits. Audits are incompatible with recounts.
In truth, computers need to be audited. American election professionals who want to use computers but want to "trust" rather than audit them are unprofessional. Various charges have been made that such individuals are lazy, corrupt, or otherwise unfit for their jobs. It is not useful to speculate on why such individuals persist in "trusting" -- and demanding that the public "trust" -- electronic voting systems after years of revelations about their untrustworthyness. It is also not useful to speculate on why professional election administrators don’t more widely acknowledge that observation is the basis of election legitimacy and credibility.
The United States Congress, however, created the problem of widespread use of electronic voting systems by passing HAVA and authorizing the expenditure of billions of dollars for their purchase. At this time, the Congress needs to solve the problem of unobservable secret computerized procedures in the recording, casting, storage, handling, and counting of votes.
17. Election observers need to be trained and to "truly understand" federal and state processes and laws.
In truth, casting and counting votes on paper ballots can be observable and simple. These parts of an election are not improved by making them invisible and complex. Most observers can "truly understand" and watch a ballot box and detect tampering.
Use of surveillance cameras with feeds to the internet can enable people to watch what happens in every poll site. Similar cameras that accompany observers and continuously follow ballots and other election materials from the poll site to the central tabulating location, to storage, to the counting procedure, etc. would enable all interested parties to observe appropriately.
Congress and democracy would be served by immediately banning the use of DREs, with or without paper trails.
Congress needs to require:
a. appropriate continuous observation of the handling of paper ballots, and the auditing of any procedures handled by computerized equipment;
b. end-of-day posting of signed precinct tally reports from any electronic poll site equipment, whether DREs or optical scanners, and distribution of signed printouts to a representative of each political party that has observers present.
In conclusion, it bears repeating that when paper ballots and hand-counting are used, audits are not needed, and training of election staff and poll site workers is minimal. Involvement of the community to perform the simple tasks needed to handle paper ballots can revitalize our democracy, raise voter turnout, and restore citizen confidence in our elections more effectively than “Get Out The Vote” campaigns, empty words about “trust,” calling election administrators “professionals,” and claiming that public oversight is insulting to public servants.