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Verified Voting Blog: Disappointing Reversal on Transparency and Security for Washington Elections

A bill aimed at reducing restriction to voting for military and other overseas voters passed the Washington State Senate by a 47-1 vote on Friday.  Senate Bill 5171 contains many provisions that will certainly make voting easier for Washington citizens living overseas including moving the primary election date two weeks earlier and meeting requirements of the Federal MOVE Act for mailing of absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election. We strongly support those provisions.

However, the bill also will allow for the acceptance of absentee ballots returned by email and fax. In addition to requiring, by affidavit, that voters returning their ballots electronically forego the secrecy of their ballot, it also makes the state’s elections vulnerable to tampering and error.

It is deeply disappointing that Secretary of State Sam Reed has actively supported this legislation. No one experienced the 2004 Gregoire/Rossi gubernatorial recount process more directly than Secretary Reed. That race, ultimately decided by 133 votes, stretched the issue of voter confidence to its absolute limits, and Secretary Reed, to his credit, did what he could to be available through and transparent about every step of the recount process. But the involved parties could not review voters’ intent for over 113,000 ballots, because at that time, Washington State used paperless electronic voting machines in two of the larger counties. The only votes that could be truly recounted were the paper ballots.

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Verified Voting Blog: Military and Overseas Voting Update

For members of the military, their families, and other United States citizens living overseas, voting has always presented unique challenges. Some of these problems include reliable delivery of blank ballots to the voters, secure and timely return of voted ballots, and authenticating that ballots were completed and returned by the same person they were sent to. According to an EAC study, Voting from Abroad: A Survey Of UOCAVA Voters:

There are no reliable data available on the number of [military and overseas] voters dispersed around the globe; some estimates hover around 4 million. Active-duty military are estimated at 1.5 million and family of military another 1.5 million.

In 1986 and again in 2009, Congress passed laws looking to improve access to voting for military and overseas voters. And today, as communication technologies like fax and email have become available, states are moving forward with plans for electronic transmission and receipt of ballots, all too often without sufficient regard for the privacy and security issues involved.

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Verified Voting Blog: Hurry Up and Wait: Tennessee Senate Delays, Weakens Voter Confidence Act in the Opening Hours of the 2010 Session

On the basis of several highly questionable assumptions, the Tennessee General Assembly has voted to delay implementation of paper ballot voting until 2012, and to eliminate the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act’s provision for routine hand-counted audits of computer vote tallies. On Tuesday, the Tennessee Senate passed House Bill 614 on a vote of 22-10. The Senate’s passage of House Bill 614 was strongly influenced by a perception that there are no machines available that meet the law’s requirements. The Voter Confidence Act requires optical scan systems to be certified by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to “the applicable voluntary voting system guidelines.” In November, Chancellor Russell Perkins of the Davidson County Chancery Court determined that the Voter Confidence Act allows the State to purchase voting systems certified by the EAC to either 2002 or 2005 standards. The 2002 standards are deemed by Section 222(e) of the Help America Vote Act to be first set of voluntary voting system guidelines.

Voting technology expert Dr. Douglas Jones, who was recently named to the EAC’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee, testified to the court that some voting systems certified to the 2002 standard could be updated to the 2005 standard with a simple software patch. The State of New York certified an updated version of one of the 2002-certified systems, made by Election Systems and Software, to the 2005 guidelines on December 15, 2009. One day after the Senate vote, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission certified a complete paper ballot voting system to all of the 2005 federal guidelines.It is unfortunate that the vote occurred when it appears that not all Senators had access to the facts.

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Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Letter to Tennessee State Senators

We respectfully urge you to vote No on House Bill 614, which seeks to delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act and fatally weaken its provision for manual post-election audits of electronic vote tallies. HB 614 is on the Senate’s calendar for Tuesday January 12, 2010. Rejection of the bill is warranted based on the determination of the Chancery Court regarding the TVCA and its requirements for federal certification of voting systems, and on the State’s still un-met need for verifiable ballots and hand-counted audits of electronic vote tallies.

In November 2009, the Chancery Court of Davidson County, after receiving information from voting technology experts, corrected the assumption that the TVCA required new voting systems to be certified by the United States Election Assistance Commission (the EAC) to the 2005 version of the Federal voluntary voting system guidelines. The Court issued a Conclusion of Law noting the TVCA allows voting systems to be certified by the EAC to either the 2002 voting system standards or the 2005 guidelines, and ordered the State Elections Division to proceed with implementation without delay. Read More