Verified Voting Blog: On the Proposed ES&S Merger

Bad for the country, bad for New York

On the face of it, it would seem that the proposed merger of Premier Voting Systems (aka Diebold) and Election Systems & Software (ES&S) shouldn’t matter much to New York State. After all, Premier pulled out of the state over a year ago, and ES&S splits the state’s voting system sales with a competitor, Dominion Voting Systems. But there’s plenty of reason for New Yorkers to be wary of further consolidation of the rapidly shrinking voting machine industry. Recall the not so distant past when ES&S, along with Sequoia Voting Systems, jointly decided that paperless voting was New York’s future and offered only touch screen DREs to the state. When New Yorkers for Verified Voting organized the first ever demonstration of a paper ballot system with an accessible Ballot Marking Device and an optical scanner at the Albany State Capitol, the makers of the AutoMark ballot marking device, with whom we had arranged the demo, were ordered by ES&S to remove the scanner because it didn’t fit their product plans. The New York Daily News reported this story in 2005:

At the Capitol recently, a lobbyist managed to shut down a demonstration of optical scanning by getting his client to pull its machine from the display. Assemblywoman Sandra Galef of Westchester called the company to object and was told that New York is “a touch-screen state.” ” I said, ‘We are?’” Galef recalled. “I’m a legislator. I don’t think I’ve voted on anything.”

Verified Voting Blog: Paper Ballots, Photocopiers, and Security

When I heard that New York City had found that a photocopy of a ballot could be successfully scanned by both of the two systems being used in New York State, my first thought was that this is Sun-Rises-in-the-East news. It didn’t surprise me, and the first line of defense against attacks involving any type of fake ballot, photocopied or printed, is well designed and implemented ballot management security procedures. But this is a complex issue which bears some discussion.

Before discussing the security threat, let’s look at a technical question – should a scanner be able to detect a photocopied ballot? One of the challenges posed by modern high resolution copiers and printers is that they are capable of producing all manner of difficult to detect counterfeits. This became an extremely serious problem in the 1990’s as convincing counterfeit currency became easy to produce using the off the shelf copiers. In response, the United States has been replacing currency with new bills containing anti-counterfeiting features. So it’s no surprise that a modern copier can create a ballot that can be successfully scanned.

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.

Verified Voting Blog: Burstein and Hall’s Response to the EAC

Verified Voting Foundation Board of Advisors member Joseph Lorenzo Hall and Aaron Burstein submitted the following response to the EAC’s letter from October 21 2009.

Thank you for your reply of October 21, 2009, to our letter of October 13, 2009. We appreciate your pointing out that relevant documents are available on the EAC’s website. Of course, it was the EAC’s commendable policy of making these documents publicly available that allowed us to initiate this dialogue. As you know, neither test plans nor test reports were available under the NASED qualification testing program; this change is important for establishing a more trustworthy voting system testing and certification program under the EAC. After carefully reviewing your letter, however, we continue to question whether iBeta’s test plan for the Premier system fully incorporates some of the lessons of the California Top-to-Bottom Review (TTBR) into EAC testing and certification. Even for the examples the EAC points to in its reply, the test plan does not state in sufficient detail what iBeta proposed to do to test the system. For example, an element of the security test—“port access is controlled” (test plan p. 73)—states a desired result or conclusion but does not describe how iBeta would arrive at that conclusion nor under what conditions would this element fail.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

Download PDF Version

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.


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.