Election Commissioners Conference highlights
Thursday Jan 16, 2007
On Thursday, I sat in on the Election Commissioners Association (ECA) Conference near New Paltz. This is a private association made up of the Election
Commissioners of all the counties.
The ECA approved a position in favor of implementation of new voting machines in 2009. They oppose implementation in 2007 because there is no time left to replace levers this year. They oppose implementation in 2008 because such a very high-turnout year would strain a new system unfamiliar to pollworkers and voters.
Unless they want to invite chaos, we hope the State Board of Elections and the legislature will join us. The LWV and New Yorkers for Verified Voting already hold this position, so we are very glad we are all on the same page opposing implementation of a new voting system in the heavy turnout presidential election year of 2008.
US Department of Justice lawsuit
This week on Jan 24 and 25, the NYS Board of Elections and some election commissioners will be meeting with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to discuss the DOJ lawsuit. HAVA law required NY to put new machines in place in 2006. A settlement was reached last year in which NY agreed that implementation would take place in 2007. New York law also requires new machines by 2007.
However, there have been many delays in certifying machines so it is widely seen as impossible to implement new machines in 2007. As one speaker said, "Impossibility is a good legal defense" for 2007.
The New York City Board of Elections handed out their "2007 Voting Systems Implementation-Contingency Scenarios" which finds that if State Certification
of new machines is done on or after Mar 1, no implementation of new machines is possible in 2007.
Nassau County handed out copies of their Motion to
Intervene in the DOJ lawsuit to protect the interest of the counties. They invited all the other counties to join them in this effort. They are fighting to insure that levers are kept for the 2007 and 2008 elections.
Delays in certification
The most recent delay in certification resulted when New York learned that the federal government had banned Ciber from testing software for voting
machines. New York had hired Ciber to test voting machines for New York, so when this news came out, they suspended testing by Ciber until they can determine whether testing can be done properly. Early on, the NYS Board of Elections had hired NYSTEC to review Ciber's work because of concerns they had, which turned out to be well-founded.
The new proposed timeline, which may be approved by the NYS Board of Elections on Jan 23 this week, projects that counties will place their orders
by May 11, 2007. The timeline has been changed several times, and this timeline was described as a "best guess."
Voting machines under consideration include a new scanner Sequoia demoed its new scanner, the Sequoia Insight 2. Sequoia didn't submit it earlier because they were working on meeting the federal 2005 standards and weren't ready until now. This scanner has two new features that election commissioners like. It scans every ballot as it is cast and keeps an electronic record of that scan. Also, it displays how the scanner interpreted the vote in a window for the voter to verify before their ballot is finalized. The paper ballot is retained in the ballot box as usual, and will be the paper that is audited. The scan of the ballot at the time it is cast inhibits the ability of someone to make extra marks on ballots after they are cast to invalidate them. The scans become part of a database that can be searched, put online for candidates or voters to look at, or projected on a screen for election officials to examine.
The machines closest to certification are the Liberty DRE and the Diebold scanner. They have the least problems meeting the state and federal requirements. The Liberty is in use in very few places in the US. It is used in Europe and this is the machine that a voting rights group there hacked to play chess. The Diebold scanner is the scanner examined in FL that showed how a whole election can be changed if someone gets access and puts malicious software
code on the card in the scanner. (Featured in the HBO film "Hacking Democracy."
The new Sequoia scanner seems to meet NY standards and may also be certified. A Sequoia DRE is scheduled for testing by the end of the month but
other machines do not appear to be able to meet NY standards at this time.
The protection for voters with either system is very strong chain of custody and very strong audit requirements. Of course with a scanner, you also have paper ballots marked by the voters, a very significant protection not available with the DRE touchscreen machines. The NY Board of Elections is currently working on these standards, which will be available for public comment before they are finalized.
Dobbs Ferry, NY 10522
_http://www.nyvv.org_ (http://www.nyvv.org/) /
"... touch-screen machines are highly vulnerable to being hacked or
maliciously programmed to change votes. And they cost far more than voting
should." New York Times editorial, March 9, 2005