Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Statement on the Acquisition of Premier Election Solutions

The recently announced acquisition of Premier Election Solutions (formerly Diebold) by its largest competitor, Election Services & Software (ES&S), requires close scrutiny, as it raises greater concerns about the security, transparency and cost of elections and creates a profound anti-competitive effect in the shrinking marketplace for voting systems. We welcome the call by Senator Charles E. Schumer, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, for a Department of Justice probe of the Premier sale,1 and we hope the Department acts promptly on the recommendation. In addition, a judge for the US District Court in New Jersey has set a date for a hearing on an injunction to block the merger.2 Verified Voting estimates that some 64 percent of the nation’s registered voters live in jurisdictions where ES&S or Premier vote tabulating equipment is used. The request was brought by a vendor who argues that the resulting stranglehold on the market raises a “threat of irreparable harm” to voters.3

What can we expect to see? In the near future, many election jurisdictions, especially those using direct-recording electronic voting systems, may need to replace their current voting systems as equipment purchased to comply with the Help America Vote Act of 2002 nears the end of its expected life. With ES&S’ acquisition of Premier’s contracts, it dominates the marketplace.4

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National: In Industry First, Voting Machine Company to Publish Source Code | WIRED

Sequoia Voting Systems plans to publicly release the source code for its new optical scan voting system, the company announced Tuesday — a remarkable reversal for a voting machine maker long criticized for resisting public examination of its proprietary systems. The company’s new public source optical-scan voting system, called Frontier Election System, will be submitted for federal certification and testing in the first quarter of next year. The code will be released for public review in November, the company said, on its web site. Sequoia’s proprietary, closed systems are currently used in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The announcement comes five days after a non-profit foundation announced the release of its open-source election software for public review. Sequoia spokeswoman Michelle Shafer says the timing of its release is unrelated to the foundation’s announcement. … Sequoia in fact has been a champion of security through obscurity since it’s been selling voting systems. The company has long had a reputation for vigorously fighting any efforts by academics, voting activists and others to examine the source code in its proprietary systems, and even threatened to sue Princeton University computer scientists if they disclosed anything learned from a court-ordered review of its software.

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Verified Voting Blog: NY-23 and the Voting Machine Pilot Program

For the first time, NY-23 will vote on paper ballots

The special election for the seat in the NY-23 Congressional district has begun to draw national attention, being seen by some as a bellwether of the strength of conservative Republicans. Unnoted by the mainstream media is the fact that the election will be conducted on new voting systems that are being used for the first time as part of the state’s pilot program. The pilot, which permits use of the as yet uncertified machines on a provisional basis, was designed to allow local Boards of Elections try out the new systems in an off year election when turnout is typically low and few races for state or national offices are held. However, the vacancy in the NY-23 seat created by the resignation of Representative John McHugh and the political makeup of the district, always strongly Republican, creates a high tension atmosphere where the eyes of the nation will focus on northern New York on November 3rd. The performance of the new voting machines as well as the procedures used to manage and secure the paper ballots will be under intense scrutiny. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: EAC Response to Burstein and Hall

The Election Assistance Commission has sent this response to Aaron Burstein and Joseph Lorenzo Hall’s comments on the EAC’s Voting System Test Lab and the California Top to Bottom Review of Voting Systems.

Thank you for your letter dated October 13, 2009, concerning the federally accredited Voting System Test Lab’s (VSTL) consideration of the California Secretary of State’s Top-To-Bottom Review (TTBR) in developing the test plan for the Premier Assure 1.2 voting system. The VSTL that tested the Premier Assure 1.2, iBeta Laboratories, closely reviewed the findings of the TTBR during the development of its test plan in accordance with the requirements of EAC’s Testing and Certification program and the “Evolution of Testing” requirement contained in Section 1.5 of the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS). In addition, the VSTL reviewed the results of the Kentucky, Ohio, and Connecticut Reports which resulted in an update of the Security Test Case to verify that Connecticut’s recommended tamper-resistant seals were incorporated into the Premier Technical Data Package (TDP). The review of the 3 March 2009 California Secretary of State report. was also reviewed as well as the Premier Product Advisory Notices. Finally, please note that the software and firmware versions of each component of the system reviewed by California were an earlier version than that tested by the EAC VSTL. A comparison is listed below for your information.

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Verified Voting Blog: California Top-to-Bottom Reviewers Letter to the Election Assistance Commission

This letter was sent to the EAC on October 13 2009 by Verified Voting Foundation Board of Advisors member Joseph Lorenzo Hall and Aaron Burstein.

We write to you on behalf of those individuals listed below from the California Secretary of State’s Top-To-Bottom Review (TTBR) in 2007. The TTBR was an unprecedented, in-depth evaluation of California’s voting systems, which allowed investigators to gain a better understanding of their vulnerabilities. As you know, the EAC recently certified Premier’s Assure 1.2 voting system as conforming to the 2002 Voting System Standards (VSS). This system was tested by iBeta Laboratories (iBeta), one of the accredited Voting System Test Labs (VSTLs). According to the posted test plan—the roadmap for a VSTL’s evaluation of a voting system during certification testing—for Premier Assure 1.2, iBeta interpreted the TTBR studies of the Premier system’s predecessor to have “concluded that the vulnerabilities within the system depend almost entirely on the effectiveness of the election procedures.” On the basis of this interpretation, iBeta developed a test plan that called for “no additional testing” of the Premier system’s security properties. The EAC approved this plan. Taken together, iBeta’s misunderstanding of the significance of the TTBR findings and the EAC’s approval of a test plan that was designed around this misunderstanding, represent a missed opportunity to use the testing and certification process to improve voting system integrity and reliability.

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