Verified Voting Blog: November 2009 Snapshot: Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia

Elections are underway in four states today. The two highest-profile elections lack basic verification measures. The gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia today will not be auditable or recountable. Both states have enacted legislation to end unverifiable electronic voting, and need funding to complete the transition to new voting systems.

Two other closely watched elections today are verifiable, though only one will be audited. In Maine, where a statewide referendum on same-sex marriage has attracted national attention, a majority of ballots are tallied by optical scanners, and there is no automatic manual tally audit. The special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District will see most voters cast balllots using new paper ballot scanners, which will be subject to a manual tally audit of 3% of machines.
Maine

All votes in Maine are cast on paper ballots marked by the voter, but there is no post-election manual tally audit. Of the state’s approximately 950,000 registered voters, over 520,000 live in jurisdictions where optical scan equipment tallies the votes. The remainder live in jurisdictions where ballots are hand-counted on election night.

New Jersey

More than four years after the New Jersey Legislature enacted a law to require verifiable ballots for every vote cast, the vast majority of votes in today’s gubernatorial election will be purely electronic.

In 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties, with approximately 95% of the state’s registered voters,  the Sequoia AVC Advantage push-button electronic voting machine is used for all but absentee voting. The AVC Advantage has – rightly – been subject of controversy. In February 2008, Advantage machines reported discrepant numbers in the Presidential primary. A court-ordered review has found numerous, unacceptable vulnerabilities. In August 2009, researchers and found that a revolutionary new attack on the Advantage is possible without injecting code into the system.

Salem County, with over 45,000 voters, uses the Sequoia Edge touch screen voting machine. Sussex County, with over 95,000 voters, uses the ES&S iVotronic for polling-place voting, and Warren County uses the Avante Vote Trakker.

No state has experienced a more tortured journey to verifiable elections than New Jersey.  Since the Legislature passed a law to require voter-verifiable paper records in 2005, the deadline for implementation has been delayed three times, first to July 2008, then to January 2009, then to such time as state and federal funds are available. One of the major reasons for delay has been the one-of-a-kind printers that the state ordered for its Sequoia AVC Advantage voting machines. The printers have experienced reliability problems in testing, and are regarded widely as a “Rube Goldberg” solution.

New York (NY-23)

Eight of the 11 counties in the 23rd Congressional District, will participate countywide in the State Board of Election’s optical scan pilot program. These 8 counties comprise over 300,000 of the 23rd District’s nearly 400,000 voters. Oswego County is participating partially in the voting system pilot. Clinton and Essex counties are not participating.

Optically scanned paper ballots will be audited according to New York’s existing manual tally audit law, in which 3% of scanners will be selected, and the ballots initially tallied by the scanners will be counted by hand.

Virginia

As in New Jersey, most votes in Virginia’s gubernatorial election will be cast on unverifiable DREs. Virginia’s election jurisdictions consist of the Commonwealth’s 95 counties plus 39 cities. About 60% of the Commonwealth’s voters live in jurisdictions where only DREs are used for polling-place voting, and over 33% live where a combination of DREs and voter-marked paper ballots are used. No DREs in Virginia are equipped with a voter-verifiable paper audit trail printer.

Virginia’s Legislature has banned the future purchase of direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs). DREs now in use may be used for the remainder of their “useful life.”

Fairfax County, the Commonwealth’s largest, began using both optically scanned paper ballots and DREs in the 2008 general election. In all, 27 jurisdictions use both paper ballots and DRE. 5 Virginia jurisdictions use only paper ballots at the polls.

A breakdown of the jurisdictions using DREs for all but absentee voting:

  • 28 cities and counties, with nearly 700,000 voters, use the AVS WinVote.
  • 9 jurisdictions, with approximately 215,000 voters, use the ES&S iVotronic touch screen.
  • 3 cities, with over 135,000 voters, use the Hart Intercivic eSlate.
  • 4 cities, including Virginia Beach City, with a combined total of approximately 570,000 voters, use the Premier TSx touch screen.
  • 9 jurisdictions, with over 200,000 voters, use the Sequoia AVC Advantage.
  • 26 jurisdictions, with approximately 575,000 registered voters, use the Sequoia Edge touch screen DRE.
  • 23 jurisdictions, with over 370,000 voters, use the Unilect Patriot DRE.

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