Verified Voting Public Commentary

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Verified Voting Blog: Enfranchising Military Voters: Michigan Legislators Protect Verifiable, Secret Ballots

In a move to enfranchise soldiers deployed overseas, the Michigan House of Representatives has passed legislation that would allow blank absentee ballots to voters overseas by fax or e-mail. If House Bill 5279 passes the Senate and becomes law, local election officials will be able to send and receive applications for absentee ballots via fax or e-mail, and also be able to send blank absentee ballots to voters electronically. Voters will then print, mark and send the completed physical ballots to their local Michigan election officials. H5279 passed the House unanimously on November 5. Senate committee action is likely in December, according to Emily Carney, an aide to Senate Campaign and Election Oversight Committee chair Sen. Susan McManus.

House Bill 5279 implements a central recommendation of the Pew Center on the States’s January 2009 report “No Time to Vote“. The Pew report stated that Michigan currently does not allow overseas and military voters sufficient time to vote because ballots have to be sent and received via postal mail. The Pew Center recommended that Michigan allow election officials to e-mail blank absentee ballots to overseas and military voters, and accept completed ballots beyond the current election-day deadline. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Recommendations to NIST on Post Election Audits

Verified Voting today joined with computers scientists and advocacy organizations in signing the following recommendations on post-election audits to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

We, the undersigned, participated in a working meeting on vote tabulation audits hosted by the American Statistical Association (ASA) on October 23 and 24, 2009. We write to emphasize that future iterations of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) should facilitate effective vote tabulation audits. We applaud the VVSG II’s requirement for independent voter-verifiable records (IVVRs). This requirement is necessary to enable verification of election outcomes independently of the tabulation systems; it should be adopted as soon as possible. However, if election outcomes are to be verified efficiently, vote tabulation systems must meet requirements that go well beyond the draft VVSG 1.1. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Improving the 2010 EAC Election Day Survey

The Election Day Survey plays an ongoing, important, and unique role in collecting and publishing data on election administration in the United States. Balancing the right of the public to know how our elections function with the burden of reporting useful data by those who administer our elections is clearly a complex task but one we feel is extremely worthwhile. There are several categories of data we believe are very useful to collect, and our recommendations address those categories specifically.

Voting System Reports

Beginning in 2004, Verified Voting collaborated with various partners to collect voters’, observers’ and others’ reports about incidents or malfunctions including those involving voting systems, the mechanism by which voters cast their votes. These reports came to the “Election Incident Reporting System” (EIRS) primarily via calls to a hotline operated by the Election Protection Coalition, part of an effort to protect the rights of voters to cast a ballot and have confidence that their ballot was counted. We made available a free public dataset of those reports. The project was cited in a GAO report  about electronic voting security and reliability in 2005. Read More

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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Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Public Comment on the Draft Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, Version 1.1

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We appreciate the opportunity to comment on the most recent iteration of the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (1.1). We understand that the goal is to move forward on specific elements from the prior draft which were widely supported. The exclusion of some key principles warrant great concern and if left out of any approved version going forward, will delay progress toward greater reliability of voting systems. We support the comments made by A Center for Correct, Usable, Reliable, Auditable and Transparent Elections (ACCURATE), and add our comments on three main points below.

1. SOFTWARE INDEPENDENCE

Software independence (SI), or the “quality of a voting system or voting device such that a previously undetected change or fault in software cannot cause an undetectable change or error in election outcome,” is the foundation of an auditable voting system. Verified Voting strongly supports software independence. Leaving out this core element from the prior draft in the current VVSG 1.1 will delay essential progress in voting system reliability and security. We strongly recommend the reinstatement of the principle of software independence into the VVSG to be enacted as quickly as possible. For security, nothing is as crucial as auditing an auditable voting system. Without the ability to detect changes or problems in the voting system confidence in the integrity of electoral outcomes is unfounded. Read More