In the sleepy West Coast Florida town of Inverness, as horses graze and Spanish moss hangs still on a breezeless summer day, an elections experiment was about to get underway. Lightening fast computer scanners, locked up ballots and a team of computer scientists from Boston, embarked on a first ever mission to verify that the votes cast in the August, Citrus County primary, are correct. “Believe me we are not looking for trouble but we want to verify the results independently,” said Susan Gill, supervisor of elections in Citrus County. She is one of 7 county supervisors across Florida, who agreed to allow a number of their elections to be part of the first large scale attempt to independently verify elections cast on paper ballots.Full Article: CBS4 Investigates: Does Your Vote Count? The Recount Test « CBS Miami.
When voting system activists in the U.S. managed to get many paperless electronic voting machines replaced a few years ago with optical-scan machines that use paper ballots, some believed elections would become more transparent and verifiable. But a spate of problems with optical-scan machines used in elections across the country have shown that the systems are just as much at risk of dropping ballots and votes as touchscreen voting machines, either due to intentional manipulation or unintentional human error. A new election system promises to resolve that issue by giving election officials the ability to independently and swiftly audit the performance of their optical-scan machines.Full Article: New Election System Promises to Help Catch Voting-Machine Problems | Threat Level | Wired.com.
An employee of the Brevard County Clerk of Courts office wants to examine ballots from the Aug. 14 Republican primary, as he continues to express concerns about the results of the election, in which his boss was defeated. Sean Campbell, the chief deputy to Clerk of Courts Mitch Needelman, has been trading emails with Brevard County Supervisor of Elections Lori Scott, seeking to examine ballots from three election precincts. Campbell has suspicions about the accuracy of the reported vote counts, and wants to compare the paper ballots with reported totals. In the Republican primary, former Clerk of Courts Scott Ellis received 61 percent of the vote, to defeat Needelman, who got 39 percent.Full Article: One man's election challenge continues | FLORIDA TODAY | floridatoday.com.
You can do basically anything online. From booking a flight to securely transmitting medical records to your doctor, from buying groceries to managing your bank account, the web supports all sorts of complex transactions. But one common task has firmly resisted the lure of online convenience: voting. At least mostly. There is actually some online voting already happening in very limited ways. At least 32 states and the District of Columbia will allow military or overseas voters to return absentee ballots via email, fax or an Internet portal, in effect offering a form of remote electronic voting to some segment of the population. But for the majority of voters, a trip to a polling place will be necessary to cast a vote in this year’s election. Why is that? Surely, if engineers can figure out how to safeguard your medical records or transfer large sums of money over the Internet, beaming a vote from your living room should be a piece of cake. That’s a popular refrain among proponents of Internet voting systems, and on the surface, it makes sense. If security-obsessed industries like banking and medicine have embraced the Internet, why is voting still stuck in the relative dark ages? As with most things, the reality is a bit more complicated. According to VerifiedVoting.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the “accuracy, integrity and verifiability” of elections in a digital age, all voting systems should have a few key components. First, there needs to be a fully auditable, preferably voter-verifiable paper trail that maintains the integrity of the secret ballot. Second, voting systems need to have in place strong mechanisms to prevent any undetected changes to votes. Third, systems should not be easily subject to wide-scale service disruptions. Indeed, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002 as a response to the Florida recount debacle of 2000, requires some of these provisions under the law.Full Article: How Close Are We to Internet Voting?.
The Tennessee Comptroller’s audit division has concluded the Shelby County Election Commission has “demonstrated an inability to conduct elections without significant inaccuracies, including those identified in the 2012 elections.” But the audit review requested by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett also concludes there was “no discernable evidence of intentional misconduct or other actions intended to affect or influence the election process or election outcomes in Shelby County.” The report – which goes to Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Hargett and state legislators, who will recommend election commissioners for counties across the state to the Tennessee Election Commission in April – examined election problems in Shelby County prior to 2012.Full Article: Audit Details Election Commission Faults - Memphis Daily News.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Armando Batastini filed a petition in Rhode Island Supreme Court on Monday asking the court to order the Board of Elections to conduct a manual recount of all precinct, mail and provisional ballots cast in the House District 58 Democratic primary.ACLU: Supreme Court should order manual recount in House 58 | The Valley Breeze.
Mississippi: Democrats request return of paper audit trail printers in Chickasaw County | chickasaw360.com
The Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors heard a request from the Democratic Executive Committee to reinstate the paper trail in the electronic voting machines at their Sept. 4 meeting. Circuit Clerk Sandra Willis said when the Diebold machines were first installed, the county paid for an addition of an attachment that provided a paper readout of the voter’s choices, but the machine additions did not work well and were discontinued. Willis said the $250 additions jammed often and most voters never asked for copies of their voting choices to be printed, instead reading them on the electronic screen and approving them. However, Willis also said the additions could be reinstalled if the board so chose. “It will cost you more money and more headaches,” Willis warned.Full Article: chickasaw360.com - Democrats request paper trail return.
Venezuela: US Carter Center: Venezuelan Electoral System one of the Most Reliable in the World | venezuelanalysis.com
The Venezuelan electoral system is the most reliable in the world, because it can be audited and verified at every stage, said Jennifer McCoy, director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program. She made the comments while visiting the Panorama publishing house, where she was welcomed by its president, Patricia Pineda. McCoy came to Venezuela a few days ago and observed the mock electoral test of last Sunday (5 Aug 2012) in Vargas state. She noted that the Carter Center is currently discussing whether it will participate as an international observer in the October 7 [presidential] election.Full Article: US Carter Center: Venezuelan Electoral System one of the Most Reliable in the World | venezuelanalysis.com.
Tennessee: Election Commission could take 'serious' action in response to Shelby County's voting problems | The Commercial Appeal
The Tennessee Election Commission could take “serious and substantial” action — possibly including ousting members of the Shelby County Election Commission — depending on the outcome of a review of the problems in the Aug. 2 election, a Memphis member of the state board said Monday. A performance audit of those problems by the state comptroller’s office is expected to begin as soon as this week, State Election Commission member Greg Duckett of Memphis said. The audit was requested July 26 by Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett and State Election Coordinator Mark Goins, who both called the problems “unacceptable.” Election analyst Joe Weinberg of Germantown estimates that nearly 3,200 Shelby voters were given incorrect ballots, mostly for the new state legislative districts they were moved into during this year’s redistricting, during the Aug. 2 election, including its early voting period. That number included some voters in areas annexed by Collierville, who were not given ballots that included that city’s referendum on municipal schools. The votes cast in incorrect districts were not counted and voters had no chance under state law to cast correct ballots after they had already voted.Full Article: Tennessee Election Commission could take 'serious' action in response to Shelby County's voting problems » The Commercial Appeal.
Harris County and political leaders Tuesday called for an audit and reforms to improve public confidence in local elections in the wake of problems in last week’s primary runoffs that included contests run on the wrong boundaries, delayed results and inaccurate tallies posted online. Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart said he will ask the Texas Secretary of State’s Office to examine his office’s election processes after a “human error” in his office caused erroneous primary runoff election results to be posted online for hours last Tuesday. The error made the Democratic runoff for Precinct 2 constable appear to be a blowout for one candidate when, in fact, the correct count had his opponent ahead.Full Article: Election night problems spark calls for audit, reforms - Houston Chronicle.
Tennessee: Shelby County Election Commission hopes for smoother vote on Thursday | The Commercial Appeal
With a troubled early-voting period now behind it, the Shelby County Election Commission is working to insure voters receive correct ballots on Thursday’s Election Day. But the commission and its staff continue to ask voters to be sure when they go to the polls that they know which state and federal districts they should be voting in, and to ask poll workers for clarification if there is any question of whether they are voting in the correct districts. “We continue to work to try to make sure we will be as successful as possible on Election Day,” said commission chairman Robert Meyers. “We’re doing all we can to make it through this election, and then post election we’ll be taking some serious looks at what happened and why it happened.” The state said last week it will conduct a performance audit after the election, and Meyers said Monday he hopes that will help identify core problems that have affected previous elections as well.Full Article: Shelby County Election Commission hopes for smoother vote on Thursday » The Commercial Appeal.
In elections this March in Palm Beach County, Fla., an election management software glitch gave votes to the wrong candidate and the wrong contest. But paper ballots were available, and a recount was done. The mistake was corrected. Such failures are hardly unique. And often they are worse. In every national election in the past decade, computer voting systems have failed with memory-card glitches and other errors that resulted in votes lost or miscounted, according to a new national study, “Counting Votes 2012: A State by State Look at Voting Technology Preparedness.” More than 300 voting-machine problems were reported in the 2010 midterm elections and more than 1,800 in the 2008 general election, according to the study by Common Cause, Rutgers School of Law, and the Verified Voting Foundation. “Voting systems frequently fail,” the study concludes. “And when they fail, votes are lost. Voters in jurisdictions without paper ballots or records for every vote cast, including military and overseas votes, do not have the same protections as states that use paper ballot systems. This is not acceptable.”Is your vote secure? Many digital systems lack paper backups, study says. - CSMonitor.com.
County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi closed the Hilo Elections Office on Monday for an audit of the county voter registration list, an action a state elections official called unprecedented and a county councilman called “fishy.” The Kona Elections Office remained open, and people coming to the Hilo office were directed across the hall to Council Services, where clerks took names and telephone numbers and distributed elections materials. Bernice Mau, clerk for the City and County of Honolulu, which administers the statewide voter registration list, said it’s standard operating procedure to send the counties printed copies of their voter lists. “Every election we send them to all the counties,” Mau said. But closing the office just 20 days before the Aug. 11 primary to review the list raised eyebrows in Hilo, where the Elections Office has undergone a rocky six months. Rex Quidilla, a spokesman for the state Elections Office, said his office didn’t hear about the closure and audit until late Monday. “We’ve not had it happen in the past,” he said of the audit.Full Article: Hilo Elections Office audit raises questions | West Hawaii Today, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Editorials: Saving throw: securing democracy with stats, spreadsheets, and 10-sided dice | Ars Technica
Armed with a set of 10-sided dice (we’ll get to those in a moment), an online Web tool, and a stack of hundreds of ballots, University of California-Berkeley statistics professor Philip Stark spent last Friday unleashing both science and technology upon a recent California election. He wanted to answer a very simple question—had the vote counting produced the proper result?—and he had developed a stats-based system to find out. On June 2, 6,573 citizens went to the polls in Napa County and cast primary ballots for supervisor of the 2nd District in one of California’s most famous wine-producing regions, on the northern edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. The three candidates—Juliana Inman, Mark van Gorder, and Mark Luce—would all have liked to come in first, but they really didn’t want to be third. That’s because only the two top vote-getters in the primary would proceed to the runoff election in November; number three was out. Napa County officials announced the official results a few days later: Luce, the incumbent, took in 2,806 votes, van Gorder got 1,911 votes, and Inman received 1,856 votes—a difference between second and third place of just 55 votes. Given the close result, even a small number of counting errors could have swung the election. Vote counting can go wrong in any number of ways, and even the auditing processes designed to ensure the integrity of close races can be a mess (did someone say “hanging, dimpled, or pregnant chads”?). Measuring human intent at the ballot box can be tricky. To take just one example, in California, many ballots are cast by completing an arrow, which is then optically read. While voters are instructed to fully complete the thickness of the arrow, in practice some only draw a line. The vote tabulation system used by counties sometimes do not always count those as votes. So Napa County invited Philip Stark to look more closely at their results. Stark has been on a four-year mission to encourage more elections officials to use statistical tools to ensure that the announced victor is indeed correct. He first described his method back in 2008, in a paper called “Conservative statistical post-election audits,” but he generally uses a catchier name for the process: “risk-limiting auditing.”Full Article: Saving throw: securing democracy with stats, spreadsheets, and 10-sided dice | Ars Technica.
In a move one veteran state election official called unprecedented, the Hawai`i County Elections Division office in Hilo was closed today. A sign on the front door said the office was “closed for auditing.” The notice signed by County Clerk Jamae Kawauchi said the office would reopen on Tuesday. The sign said telephone calls were being routed to the Kona elections office at 323-4400. Walk-ins were directed to the Council Services office across the hall. It was not immediately clear who was conducting the audit or why, or if it is related to the primary election 19 days away. Staff at the Council Services office said they did not know. That office has pamphlets and other elections information on the counter to hand out to anyone seeking basic information, but its staff was taking down names and telephone numbers of anyone with other questions to be answered tomorrow. Staff there also said Kawauchi, who heads the county’s Election Division, was not immediately available for comment, but would return queries after 4:30 p.m.Full Article: Elections Office Closed 'For Auditing'; Reason Unknown | Big Island Now.
The Rock County Clerk’s Office opened its doors to an unusual request Tuesday. A group of six concerned citizens wanted to cross-check Rock County’s election results of last month’s gubernatorial recall election—by hand. The group members, who said they were part of the action group Election Fairness, had filed an open records request July 2 with Rock County and Wisconsin’s 71 other counties. Its members seek to hand-count paper ballots in storage at counties around the state to determine whether results on paper ballots match electronic tabulations that counties used to total votes in the June 5 recall election between Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said James Mueller of Cross Plains, the group’s attorney. Most Wisconsin municipalities rely on electronic voting machines to tally votes from paper ballots. The electronic totals are recorded and added to late-arriving absentee ballots during a post-election canvass. That’s how counties arrive at official election results that they certify with the state. But members of Election Fairness say they believe electronic vote tabulation could be a flawed system. The group argues electronic voting machines can misread ballots and lead to mistakes that can skew election results.Full Article: Citizens group auditing statewide recall election results—by hand -- GazetteXtra.
Calls by Mongolia’s ruling party for a recount of votes at some polling stations Friday delayed results in sharply contested legislative elections that centered on how to spread the wealth from the poor but fast-growing country’s mining boom. The Mongolia People’s Party said it asked for the recount because discrepancies turned up in vote totals tabulated by machines and then counted by hand at some polling stations. The request sent political leaders huddling with the General Election Commission, which had been expected to announce the results from Thursday’s voting on Friday morning.Full Article: Mongolia vote snags as ruling party seeks recount | Fox News.
Campaigning begins in Senegal on Sunday ahead of next month’s legislative polls, with the former ruling party crying foul over corruption probes launched against key members after the election of President Macky Sall. Twenty-four lists of parties and party coalitions are contesting the July 1 elections, in which voters will pick 150 lawmakers for a five-year mandate. The polls mark the first popularity test for Sall, who won the March 25 presidential election run-off against Abdoulaye Wade, ending his 12 years in power. Sall’s presidential coalition is favourite to win the legislative polls. But the former ruling Democratic Party of Senegal (PDS) has accused the new administration of harassing its members in the run-up to the elections.Full Article: AFP: Senegal campaigns begin as opposition cries foul.
South Dakota: Winners remain after lengthy recount in Davison County, but numbers change | The Daily Republic
The winners are the same: Tracy, Gunkel, Vehle, Putnam, Kriese and one-way streets. The vote totals and margins, however, did change after the votes cast in Tuesday’s local elections were counted twice more Thursday at the Davison County Courthouse in Mitchell. The new counts had been deemed necessary Wednesday after Auditor Susan Kiepke acknowledged errors in Tuesday’s results. Thursday, Kiepke blamed the errors on the county’s vote-counting machine or the software used with it. Vote totals seem to have been changed at “random,” she said. “It appears to be a software problem,” she said. A technician from Election Systems & Software, of Omaha, Neb., spent the day in the office trying to figure out what went wrong and assisting with the recount. He said he is not permitted to disclose his name and declined to answer most questions, but he defended the machine. “Nothing. I didn’t find nothing wrong with the machine,” he said.Full Article: Winners remain after lengthy recount, but numbers change | The Daily Republic | Mitchell, South Dakota.
Michigan: Audit finds votes by deceased people, prisoners; clerical errors blamed | The Detroit News
An audit of state voting records released Tuesday uncovered evidence suggesting dead people and prisoners may have voted in Michigan elections during the past three years. Auditor General Thomas McTavish’s office compared the state’s registered voter files with death records and found 1,375 deceased individuals cast 1,381 ballots between 2008 and 2011. Ninety percent of the ballots were cast by absentee voters and 10 percent voted at the polls, according to audit report. In response to the audit, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office said no voter fraud was at play, and instead attributed instances where records show incarcerated or deceased individuals voting as an error by local election clerks. Some of the individuals may have legally cast an absentee ballot and died before the election, election officials said.Full Article: State audit finds votes by deceased people, prisoners; clerical errors blamed | The Detroit News | detroitnews.com.