For Immediate Release
Monday, March 13, 2006
Dan Ashby, VRTF 510 233 2144 (to 4:00 p.m. Monday)
Jim Soper, VRTF 510 923 1524 (technical specialist; to 4:00 p.m. Monday)
ATTN: DAYBOOK /Assignment Desk for Monday
Alameda County voters will bare their displeasure with electronic voting machines in a demonstration and press conference on the steps of the Alameda County building, 1221 Oak Street, starting at 4:30 today, before giving supervisors an earful about the kind of voting systems they'd like to have, during a hearing from 6:00 to
8:00 p.m. in the supervisors' chambers.
The intensely graphic protest will feature a voter "stripped of her voting rights," clad only in a black box representing the secret vote-counting machines of Diebold and Sequoia, two vendors vying for a potential $17 million dollar county contract. The supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to commence contract negotiations.
"The fundamental principle of honest elections is openness--yet these machines use secret code, undergo secret inspection and secret testing, and are owned by private companies that even claim a proprietary right to keep the raw voting data secret," said Sherry Healy, a coordinator with the California Election Protection Network.
"The federal qualifications and state certification processes have been shown to be flawed; technology that has passed both levels has been shown to be hackable and shot through with security problems," said Judy Bertelsen, co-chair of the Voting Rights Task Force. "Any electronic technology purchased for use by the county should have its source code open for review by computer experts of the county's choosing."
"Only Diebold and Sequoia really know what's inside their machines. Hidden code activated on election day can steal an election and then cover its tracks," says Jim Soper, a software programming consultant and election integrity activist. "To secure our votes against possible rigging, we need open source software, aggressive security testing, tight chain-of-custody procedures, a 100-percent paper ballot trail, and thorough hand-recount auditing
processes. If the public is to believe in its elections, the entire system has be opened up to public verification."
Diebold and Sequoia have both suffered embarrassing revelations about their voting equipment's malfunctions and vulnerability to vote-rigging manipulation. Diebold was temporarily decertified by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson in November after a hacking demonstration under simulated election conditions in a Florida county revealed that the memory cards used to program Diebold optical scan machines and store vote records can be
preloaded with malicious code that can alter vote totals and audit logs without leaving a trace of the deception.
Recently the citizens' election investigation group Blackboxvoting.org released findings of a public records
request filed to obtain audit logs for Sequoia DREs used in the 2004 presidential election in Palm Beach County,Florida. The logs showed 70,000 instances of voter cards getting stuck in the machines and an additional 100,000 errors, including memory failures. Of the 4,300 machines in use, 1,475 of them had to be recalibrated during
Acting Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold is recommending the county purchase a "blended system" comprised of precinct-based optical scanners supplemented by one to two "touchscreen" DRE machines per precinct. DRE, or "direct record electronic" machines record votes internally on software, and must be fitted with a printer to produce a paper trail record of the otherwise invisible electronic ballot. DRE machines have been promoted as the solution to
requirements of the federal Help America Vote Act to improve voting accessibility for non-English speakers and persons with physical disabilities.
Opponents of the DRE machines say there are HAVA-compliant alternatives that better address physical disabilities at far less cost, that haven't received adequate consideration. "Voter assistive devices" are relatively low-tech, cardboard-and-plastic templates that sheath a "tactile ballot" supplemented with an audio playback unit.