Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Barb Burt, Common Cause asks: Help Us Make Voting Machines Secure

From: Barb Burt, Common Cause
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2006 13:59:00 -0700
Subject: Help Us Make Voting Machines Secure

The 2006 mid-term elections are only six months away, and we know that millions of voters will be faced with malfunctioning electronic voting machines that don't provide a voter-verified paper record and have no way to provide a genuine recount in a close election.

There is a way to prevent this debacle. Common Cause is part of a coalition determined to ensure the integrity of our vote. We have an ambitious campaign plan at both the federal and state levels designed to achieve this goal.

We need your support. This campaign will require significant resources to succeed, so we need your generous support.

Two weeks ago, more than 150 of your fellow activists came to Washington, DC - at their own expense - for a two-day lobbying blitz in support of a federal law that would require a voter-verified paper record for electronic voting machines. Those citizen lobbyists, from 30 different states, attended more than 100 meetings in Congressional offices.

Their efforts had convincing results - at least eleven new sponsors of Rep. Rush Holt's bill, HR 550, the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act. We believe the bill would pass if brought up for a vote, but there is still resistance.

We need to keep the heat on over the summer months. There's not much time to get this done.

Please help us reach our goal of $15,000 by making your contribution today at:

Thank you for everything you do for Common Cause.


Barb Burt, V.P. and Director of Election Reform Programs
The Common Cause Election Reform Team: Arn, Barry, Ben, Ed, Jenny, Kirk, Megan, Rachel, Sam, Sibley, Susannah, and interns Mona and Tom.

CA: Who/ What's Stopping The SoS From Allowing Eligible Californians To Register To Vote?

Update to the following article: In the wake of a legal opinion issued by the Legislative Counsel of California on Tuesday night, California Secretary of State Bruce McPherson filed new emergency regulations with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) today, to amend his previous regulations that prevented thousands of eligible Californians from registering to vote.

"After refusing for three weeks to fix the problem, the Secretary has finally acknowledged that his regulations and his deal with the Bush Administration are what caused the problems that have prevented thousands of eligible Californians from registering to vote," said Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee.

Legal Opinion Concludes the CA-SoS is "The Roadblock!"

By California State Senator Debra Bowen
April 19, 2006

The only thing that’s preventing the California Secretary of State from altering his regulations and data matching standards to ensure eligible voters can register to vote is the Secretary of State.

That was the conclusion reached in a legal opinion issued late Tuesday by the Legislative Counsel of California.

The opinion states there is nothing in federal or state law requiring the Secretary of State to adopt the regulations and data matching standards he’s been relying on that have combined to prevent tens of thousands of eligible California voters from registering to vote. A copy of the opinion is attached as a PDF file to the electronic version of this release and as a paper copy to the fax of this release.

It's clear the Secretary has the legal authority to take the steps necessary to ensure eligible voters have the ability to register before the June primary, but whether he’s actually willing to put the voters ahead of the Bush Administration remains to be seen,” said Senator Debra Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), the chairwoman of the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee.

I’ve been saying for three weeks that this problem needs to get solved and the quickest way to fix it is for the Secretary to abandon his deal with the Bush Administration and change the regulations and the data matching standards he’s adopted that have pulled the rug out from under thousands of eligible voters,” continued Bowen. “If he won’t fix this problem for the voters, then, like everyone else who thinks preventing eligible voters from registering is a problem, I’m prepared to try and correct it legislatively.”

According to the legal opinion:

"… the Secretary of State has the authority under existing federal and state law to adopt regulations that, pursuant to appropriate safeguards to protect the accuracy and integrity of voter registration data, would allow state and local elections officials to correct erroneous information regarding a driver’s license or social security number contained in a voter affidavit of registration, or, if that information is not provided by the affiant, to add that information to the affidavit.

"The Secretary of State has been saying for weeks that his hands are tied by the law and he can’t do anything to fix a problem that his deal with the Bush Administration in fact created,” noted Bowen. "Two weeks ago, the independent Brennan Center for Justice pointed out that wasn’t true and now we have a formal legal opinion confirming that nothing in the law prevents the Secretary of State from pulling down the hurdles he set up with the Bush Administration that have prevented thousands of eligible voters from registering to vote.

Article II, Section 2, of the California Constitution reads:

“A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

"The State Constitution ensures that everyone who is a U.S. citizen, is 18-years-old, is a resident of California, and isn’t in prison, on parole for a felony conviction, or mentally incompetent has a right to register to vote in this state,” noted Bowen. "The Secretary of State should be focused on upholding the Constitutional right that every eligible California voter is entitled to instead of working with the Bush Administration to put up roadblocks to prevent people from registering to vote."

On April 6, the Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee held a three-hour hearing on the problems that have resulted from the Secretary of State’s regulations and data matching standards, though the Secretary declined to take part in the hearing. During her testimony, Wendy Weiser of Brennan Center for Justice noted the Secretary of State has adopted the most restrictive standards in the country that are preventing “thousands and thousands” of eligible voters from being able to register to vote.

On April 7, in the wake of the hearing, the Secretary of State notified the county elections officials he would change his data matching standards in one area. The change allows people who submit a voter registration form with their driver’s license number on it (if the license was issued before December 2005) to be automatically registered by the Secretary of State’s computer system if the number matches a record in the Department of Motor Vehicles database using the first three letters of the person’s last name or their date of birth. Under the previous system, only the first three letters of a person’s name were used for the match, meaning people whose driver’s license was in a different last name (perhaps they’d gotten married), had spaces in their name the computer didn’t recognize (such as “de la Torre”), or had two last names (such as “Lam Chen”) were routinely rejected.

Following is a timeline of events:
  • November 2, 2005 – The Secretary of State announces he has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to create the Statewide Voter Registration Database mandated by HAVA. The Bush Administration refers to it as a “model for other states . . .”
  • December 5, 2005 – The Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC) and the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials (NALEO) write to the Secretary of State to comment on the regulations he proposes to implement the agreement, saying they would “disenfranchise many voters.”
  • December 12, 2005 – The Secretary of State adopts emergency regulations to implement the agreement. Emergency regulations can only last for 120 days, so these were set to expire on April 11, 2006, but were extended on April 5, 2006.
  • February 24, 2006 – The Secretary of State responds to the APALC and NALEO letter by saying in part, he will consider amending the regulations following “the experience of the June primary.” This means tens of thousands of people may be prevented from registering to vote and voting in the June primary.
  • March 24, 2006 – The Brennan Center for Justice in New York ( issues a report on how the 50 states are implementing the HAVA requirement to create a Statewide Voter Registration Database. The report finds that California has implemented one of the most restrictive systems in the country in terms of setting up barriers that may prevent eligible voters from registering to vote.
  • March 28, 2006 – Senator Debra Bowen and the League of Women Voters of California write to the Secretary of State independently, pointing out figures from Los Angeles County showing nearly 43% of all registration forms are being rejected by the Secretary of State’s database, and urging the Secretary to alter his regulations and data matching criteria to resolve the problem.
  • March 29, 2006 – The Secretary of State’s spokesperson is quoted as saying the rejection rate is 26% across the state. According to county elections officials, historically only about 1% of all voters attempting to register to vote are found to be ineligible to do so.
  • March 31, 2006 – The Secretary of State announces that instead of changing his regulations or data matching standards, he’s proposing legislation to change one piece of the law so that if a county elections official submits a voter registration form without a driver’s license number on it, the form will be accepted as long as there is a match to only one record in the Department of Motor Vehicle files. County elections officials estimate this will address between 33% and 50% of the problem.
  • April 5, 2006 – The Secretary of State files a request to extend his emergency regulations, saying “… the need for changes or additions to the regulations may only become apparent once their functionality has been observed in the course of an actual election . . . it is in the best interests of the voters of this state to readopt the emergency regulations . . . and wait until after the June 6, 2006, election to begin the process of revising the regulations and implementing them on a permanent basis. If the regulations are not readopted, the Secretary of State will be out of compliance with HAVA and the November 2, 2005, interim compliance agreement with the Department [U.S. Department of Justice], resulting in the risk of legal action by the Department ...”
  • April 6, 2006 – The Senate Elections, Reapportionment & Constitutional Amendments Committee holds a three-hour hearing on the issue. The Secretary of State declines to appear at the hearing. A witness for the Brennan Center for Justice testifies that as a result of the Secretary of State’s regulations and data matching standards, California’s policy is “an unmitigated disaster that would disenfranchise thousands upon thousands of eligible voters.” She also states the Secretary of State cannot be sued for changing the regulations or data matching standards in a way that doesn’t comply with his agreement with the Bush Administration. He can only be sued for failing to comply with HAVA and 41 other states have adopted regulations and data matching standards that allow eligible voters to easily register to vote without violating the requirements of HAVA.
  • April 7, 2006 – The Secretary of State, in an e-mail sent to county elections officials, announces he is changing his data matching standards in one area. The change would allow people who submit a voter registration form with their driver’s license number on it (if the license was issued before December 2005) to be automatically registered by the Secretary of State’s computer system if the number matches a record in the Department of Motor Vehicles database using the first three letters of the person’s last name or their date of birth. Under the previous system, only the first three letters of a person’s name were used for the match, meaning people whose driver’s license was in a different last name (perhaps they’d gotten married), had spaces in their name the computer didn’t recognize (such as “de la Torre”), or have two last names (such as “Lam Chen”) were routinely rejected.
  • April 18, 2006 – The Legislative Counsel of California issues a legal opinion concluding that nothing in state or federal law precludes the Secretary of State from changing his regulations or data matching standards to reduce the number of hurdles an eligible voter has to clear before being able to register to vote.
  • April 19, 2006 - The Secretary of State files new emergency regulations with the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) to amend his previous regulations that prevented thousands of eligible Californians from registering to vote.

NC: Early Voters Got Wrong Ballot

By Jennifer Ferris: The Herald-Sun (
Apr 18, 2006 : 7:45 pm ET

PITTSBORO -- When Gene Brooks went to vote Tuesday he saw a few things on the ballot that shouldn't have been there: the names of Rep. David Price and his opponents in the race for the Democratic nomination in Congressional District Four.

Brooks lives in District Two, and shouldn't have been allowed to pick a nominee for the District Four race, but elections officials say a screw-up with the voting equipment caused Brooks -- and about 60 others -- to receive the wrong ballot.

The start of one-stop voting Thursday also marked the inaugural run of a new set of voting machines in Chatham County. Voters use a touch screen to pick candidates and ballots are stored on a portable medium called a PEB.

Dawn Stumpf, Chatham County director of elections, said Tuesday the ballot problem stems from an error made by the company that provides the new material, Electronic Systems and Software, Inc.

The choice of those new systems is the target of a lawsuit currently filed against the county Board of Elections, and the machines themselves have been questioned by many in the county.

The voters in two precincts -- Hadley and Pittsboro -- are split between the two congressional districts. ES&S should have provided different ballot styles for each group of voters, but only provided a single ballot style for democratic voters in those precincts, officials said.

This means there are about 60 extra votes in the District Four race that now must be sorted out, Stumpf explained. The District Four race is the only difference between the two ballots, and votes cast in other races will not be affected by the mistake.

When voting began Thursday, Stumpf said she knew something was wrong with the selections, but voters were allowed to continue using the errant ballots until Tuesday afternoon, when the state board told her to start giving voters from these districts paper versions.

Although Stumpf said she isn't sure exactly how she will sort out the extra votes in District Four, she said it was fortunate the error happened during early voting. By law, all one-stop -- or absentee -- ballots must be retrievable -- that is, connected to a voter -- so records will allow the elections office to match completed ballots against voters.

Voters participating in one-stop were assigned a unique number, which was then typed into the voting machine by the precinct worker before the voter could begin. Presumably, the elections office will retrieve votes made by anyone from the effected areas.

Another question is how the votes will be tallied come Election Day. The mis-programmed PEBs were sent to Goldsboro for reprogramming Tuesday. The master PEB contained all 300 votes cast during the first three days of voting.

The engineers at ES&S must find a way to sum up the votes from before and after the change. Stumpf said she wasn't sure how that would work, but she was certain all votes would be counted.

Starting today, Stumpf said, voters in all districts voting one-stop should receive appropriate ballots. During the primary in May the correct ballots also will be available. In fact, Stumpf said, catching the mistake during one-stop was actually fortuitous, because the primary ballots had been programmed incorrectly as well.

"We haven't lost any votes," Stumpf said. "It just appears we got a few extra."
(One has to ask how they "got a few extra...")

PA: Court Hearing To Decide Voting Machines' Fate

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A three-day battle will be waged next week to determine whether Allegheny County voters will use new electronic voting machines in May's primary.

A lawsuit, which also names the state of Pennsylvania and the U.S. government, was filed last week. It claims the county's proposed $11.9 million purchase of 4,700 electronic voting machines from Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software was rushed and could pose problems during the May 16 primary.

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of seven voters and the group People for the American Way, seeks to have the county barred from buying and using the new machines until steps can be taken to safeguard voter rights.

U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster, who will hear the case, met Tuesday with select lawyers for each party involved -- two attorneys each for the plaintiffs, county, state and federal governments.

A plaintiff and nine attorneys, including some from Philadelphia and Baltimore, were excluded from the closed-door meeting in his chambers, although the judge had ordered all attorneys for all parties to attend in person.

The preliminary injunction hearing on the voting machines begins Tuesday and will be open.
Jason Cato can be reached at or 412-320-7840.

NY: Nassau Voters Get Election Re-Run

Court orders new vote on trustee candidates after write-in problems

By BOB GARDINIER, Staff writer;
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NASSAU -- Residents in this small village will go to the polls Thursday for a court-ordered re-election after a March 21 vote was thrown out over problems with write-in candidates.

The only people on the ballot are two incumbent trustees, Paul Haebler and Dale French, who are running for re-election and were at first thought to be running unopposed. However, on March 21, several voters tried to submit write-in ballots for Barbara Motyl-Dobert and Brendan Cellery. The pair did not gather petitions to secure a slot on the regular ballot.

In an initial count, Haebler and French garnered 49 and 48 votes, respectively, for the two seats, while Motyl-Dobert got 56 write-in votes and Cellery 57, making them the apparent winners.

But Village Clerk Margaret VanDeusen, who supervised the election, threw out some of the write-in votes, enough to give incumbents the win.

The challengers contested her actions, and VanDeusen asked the county Board of Elections to re-canvass the votes.

On March 23, the county board agreed with VanDeusen about the irregularities and threw out 11 of Cellery's write-in votes and 47 of Motyl-Dobert's, making the incumbents winners.

Election officials said voters wrote the candidates' names in the wrong slots, voted for too many candidates or wrote only one letter of a candidate's name in each of several slots instead of writing the whole name in one slot.

Because French is VanDeusen's husband, some in the village of 1,161 residents complained of a conflict of interest and said she should have recused herself from overseeing the vote.

Rensselaer County Elections Commissioner Ed McDonough said there was no evidence VanDeusen tampered with ballots.

Tom Marcelle, attorney for election inspector Marcia Valenty and the write-in candidates, took the case to Rensselaer County Court, claiming voters received inadequate instructions for a write-in option and the voting machines were set up wrong.

Judge Patrick McGrath agreed with Marcelle and ordered a new election.

Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Thursday.

Bob Gardinier can be reached at 454-5696 or by e-mail at

Chicago: District 303 vote to be reviewed

By William Presecky
Tribune staff reporter
Published April 19, 2006

Several members of a citizens group that campaigned unsuccessfully to win approval for St. Charles School District 303 to sell $86 million in building bonds have asked to review the March 21 vote in several precincts.

A petition for a so-called "discovery recount" was filed with Kane County Clerk John "Jack" Cunningham on Monday by members of Citizens for Excellence in Education, which supported the bond sale.

A meeting is set for Thursday to establish a schedule for the recount, Cunningham said.

The District 303 referendum proposal failed by roughly 1 percent, or about 130 votes out of more than 13,460 cast in Kane and DuPage Counties. None of the district's three precincts in DuPage County is included in the recount. The group has asked to examine results in nine of the district's 43 precincts in Kane.

Concerns were raised during and immediately after the primary that numerous St. Charles-area voters were unable to cast ballots when they arrived at their polling places. The supply of paper used to record the state-mandated paper trail required of all new electronic voting machines had been exhausted temporarily and time was needed to restock.
Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

Alaska: Suit Filed to Get '04 Election Data . . . (200% Voter Turnout!)

Democrats File Lawsuit To Get 2004 Election Records

Anchorage, April 19, 2006 - The Alaska Democratic Party filed suit in Superior Court today (Case No. 3AN-06-7035 CI) seeking to force the Division of Elections to release public records needed to verify the 2004 election results. Read the complaint (Adobe Acrobat format) here.

"We are asking the court to release these public records so that the people of Alaska can be assured that their votes were counted correctly," said Alaska Democratic Party Chair Jake Metcalfe. "The Division of Elections' numbers do not add up. The Division has refused to release the public records that would allow us to verify the results. All we ask is that the Lt. Governor and the Director of Elections follow the law and meet their obligation to Alaskans so every one knows why these numbers don't add up."

The Alaska Democratic Party has been trying since last year to get the public records of the election in order to find out why there are numerous errors and discrepancies in the state’s reported results of the 2004 general election. The Division of Elections’ latest excuse for refusing to release the election information is that it would create “security risks."

"Nothing we have asked for compromises security," Metcalfe said. ""Why is the Division of Elections is so reluctant to provide these public records? What are they trying to hide?"

According to the Division of Elections' vote reports that were produced by the state's Diebold computer system and are posted on the Division's official web site, a far larger number of votes were cast than the official totals reported in the statewide summary.

In the case of President George Bush’s votes, the district-by-district totals add up to 292,267, but his official total was only 190,889, a difference of 101,378 votes.

In the U.S. Senate race, Lisa Murkowski received 226,992 votes in the district-by-district totals, but her official total was only 149,446, a difference of 77,546 votes.

In 20 of the 40 State House Districts, more ballots were cast than there are registered voters in the district, according to information on the state's web site. In 16 election districts, the voter turnout percentage shown is over 200%.

"Alaskans must have an accurate accounting of the 2004 election results. The accountability of our election system is at stake. Confidence in the integrity of our elections is fundamental to our democracy," Metcalfe said.

The ADP filed a formal public records request on Dec. 19, 2005, seeking the "central tabulator data file" taken from the Diebold-supplied computer used to run the "GEMS" (Global Election Management Software) application. This is the electronic file containing all final vote tallies for the 2004 General Election.

Under the public records regulations, the Division was supposed to release the data file on Jan. 4. On Jan. 4 the Division extended the deadline until Jan. 19.

In a Jan. 19 letter, the Division asserted that the file was proprietary information belonging to its contractor, Diebold Elections Systems.

In a Feb. 3 letter, the Division advised the Democrats that Diebold had agreed to waive its proprietary rights to the GEMS database files, and said that the records would be provided if it determined that the integrity of the election system could be protected. In the Feb. 3 letter the Division asked for an additional 10-day extension until Feb. 13, and the Democrats agreed. On Feb. 13, the Division again extended the deadline to Feb. 27.

In a letter dated Feb. 22, the Division denied the Democrats' public records request, citing "security risks."

Thanks, as always, to for this report (Brad Blog is a "must-read" for people who want fair elections in the "electronic age.")

Here's another article on the suit from Anchorage Daily News

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Cannonfire Blog


promises to provide updates...