The Atlantic Magazine considered the impact of unverifiable electronic voting machines should a razor-thin election like Florida 2000 recur next month. Ars Technica wrote about the nationwide move away from direct recording electronic voting systems and Computerworld stressed the necessity of post election audits of software-generated election results. The Christian Science Monitor identified four battleground States, where electronic voting could put election results at risk. The New Yorker published a profile of Hans von Spakovsky. The Supreme Court will consider an Arizona voter ID requirement that could have implications nationwide. “I Voted” stickers include along with absentee ballots in envelopes mailed to over 230,000 voters in Arapahoe County Colorado could cause optical scanners to incorrectly read valid votes as overvotes and a ballot printing error in Palm Beach County has created a recount-like situation before Election Day. Financial ties connecting Mitt Romney with Hart Intercivic have caused concern. Millions of votes will be cast in Virginia on the WINvote, a touchscreen voting machine manufactured by AVS, a company that went out of business five years ago and Ukrainians head to the polls today in a controversial election.
The movie Unstoppable is playing this week on HBO, and it’s hard not to watch even just the trailers for the action-adventure film without seeing parallels to the coming election. Folks, we are just a little more than two weeks away from Election Day, and we may well be the runaway train, barreling straight toward an election-night, voting-rights crash-and-burn which easily could be worse and more damaging to the nation than Bush v. Gore. Not only is there no Denzel Washington to save us, not only is there no guarantee of a happy Hollywood ending, but none of the so-called adults running the country even seems willing to publicly acknowledge the danger.
Ernest Zirkle was puzzled. The resident of Fairfield Township in Cumberland County, NJ, ran for a seat on his local Democratic Executive Committee on June 7, 2011. The official results showed him earning only nine votes, compared to 34 votes for the winning candidate. But at least 28 people told Zirkle they voted for him. So he and his wife—who also ran for an open seat and lost—challenged the result in court. Eventually, a county election official admitted the result was due to a programming error. A security expert from Princeton was called in to examine the machines and make sure no foul play had occurred. Unfortunately, when he examined the equipment on August 17, 2011, he found someone deleted key files the previous day, making it impossible to investigate the cause of the malfunction. A new election was held on September 27, and the Zirkles won. A decade ago, there was a great deal of momentum toward paperless electronic voting. Spooked by the chaos of the 2000 presidential election in Florida, Congress unleashed a torrent of money to buy new high-tech machines. Today, momentum is in the opposite direction. Computer security researchers have convinced most observers that machines like the ones in Fairfield Township degrade the security and reliability of elections rather than enhancing them. Several states passed laws mandating an end to paperless elections. But bureaucratic inertia and tight budgets have slowed the pace at which these flawed machines can be retired.
Technology and process upgrades implemented since the controversial 2000 presidential election have made electronic voting machines more secure and reliable to use, the Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project said in a report last week. Even so, the only way to ensure the integrity of votes cast with the systems is to have mandatory auditing of the results and of all voting technologies used in an election, the 85-page report cautioned. Rather than setting security standards for election equipment, the better approach for safeguarding ballot integrity is to hand-count a sufficiently large and random sample of the paper records of votes cast electronically, it said. “The 2000 United States presidential election put a spotlight on the fragility and vulnerability of voting technology,” the report said. “It became clear that providing robust, accurate, and secure voting systems remained an important open technical problem” for the United States. The Voting Technology Project is a joint initiative between MIT and Caltech and was launched originally to investigate the causes of the voting problems in Florida in 2000 and to make recommendations based on the findings.
Touch-screen electronic voting machines in at least four states pose a risk to the integrity of the 2012 presidential election, according to a Monitor analysis. In four key battleground states – Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, and Colorado – glitches in e-voting machines could produce incorrect or incomplete tallies that would be difficult to detect and all but impossible to correct because the machines have no paper record for officials to go back and check.
Oct 25, 2012
National: Who Created the Voter-Fraud Myth? | The New Yorker
Teresa Sharp is fifty-three years old and has lived in a modest single-family house on Millsdale Street, in a suburb of Cincinnati, for nearly thirty-three years. A lifelong Democrat, she has voted in every Presidential election since she turned eighteen. So she was agitated when an official summons from the Hamilton County Board of Elections arrived in the mail last month. Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, is one of the most populous regions of the most fiercely contested state in the 2012 election. No Republican candidate has ever won the Presidency without carrying Ohio, and recent polls show Barack Obama and Mitt Romney almost even in the state. Every vote may matter, including those cast by the seven members of the Sharp family—Teresa, her husband, four grown children, and an elderly aunt—living in the Millsdale Street house. The letter, which cited arcane legal statutes and was printed on government letterhead, was dated September 4th. “You are hereby notified that your right to vote has been challenged by a qualified elector,” it said. “The Hamilton County Board of Elections has scheduled a hearing regarding your right to vote on Monday, September 10th, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. . . . You have the right to appear and testify, call witnesses and be represented by counsel.” “My first thought was, Oh, no!” Sharp, who is African-American, said. “They ain’t messing with us poor black folks! Who is challenging my right to vote?”
Oct 25, 2012
Arizona: Arizona Supreme Court voter ID case may shape the future | UPI
The fight over whether states can demand some sort of identification before allowing voters to cast ballots has finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices agreed to hear argument on Arizona’s law requiring voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship before registering. In the heat of the final days of the U.S. presidential election the case is not drawing much attention. Any argument and decision in the case won’t come until long after Election Day. And the arguments advanced by both sides in the case may seem as dry as unbuttered toast to the average American. The battle probably appeals mainly to political activists or Supreme Court wonks. But an eventual Supreme Court decision will help shape the voting landscape of the future.
Oct 25, 2012
Colorado: “I Voted” sticker in Arapahoe County mail may rub some the wrong way | The Denver Post
Republicans and Democrats have long been concerned about how the vote will shake out in Arapahoe County — one of the key swing counties in an undecided state — and now they have one more thing to fear: an “I Voted” sticker. More than 230,000 ballots last week were mailed to Arapahoe County’s voters in envelopes that possibly contained a participation sticker that rubbed up against the ballot and in some cases left a faint, near-linear mark that appeared exactly where voters draw a line to select their candidates.
Oct 24, 2012
Florida: Palm Beach County ballot flaw causes another recount | Tampa Bay Times
It’s a ballot recount in a tight presidential race that invites easy comparisons to the electoral crisis of 2000. About 27,000 absentee ballots can’t be digitally scanned because of a recently discovered design flaw. Elections workers began Monday duplicating the markings from bad ballots to new ones so that the votes could be recorded, an effort that has led some to question the accuracy of results. And it’s all happening in Palm Beach County. “By now, questions can be asked about why these type of problems keep happening in this one county,” said Ed Foley, an Ohio State University law professor and expert on election law.
Hart InterCivic is an Austin-based voting machine company that serves local governments nationwide. Its clients include Hamilton County, Ohio, which administers elections in Cincinnati. Hart InterCivic also has in its DNA just enough traces of Bain & Co. and Mitt Romney campaign donors to trigger serious angst in the liberal blogosphere about the fate of Ohio’s must-have 18 electoral votes.
Oct 24, 2012
Virginia: Fairfax Democrats warn of voting machine problems | The Washington Post
Fairfax Democrats issued a warning Thursday about reports that touch-screen voting machines were malfunctioning during early voting, switching ballot selections to the opposing candidate. Jessica Tripp and Penelope Nunez move a table at Arlington Art Center, a polling center, in preparation for Super Tuesday. (Melina Mara – The Washington Post) Fairfax County elections officials said they were aware of two instances in which voters claimed the machines had changed their votes. But officials expressed confidence that both were cases of user error.
Oct 23, 2012
Ukraine: Ukrainian parliamentary elections: Poll of the tired | Voice of Russia
Ukraine’s parliamentary election campaign has entered its final straight. Winners and losers will be known on Sunday. This election campaign has not become significant for either politicians or admass and moreover, it has become the most predictable and boring election in Ukraine. Such was the conclusion made by respondents of the Voice of Russia, experts and observers. The basic reason for such an apathy, according to them, is the voters’ tiredness, as well as the country’s political drama has nothing to do with the day-to-day life in Ukraine. The problems of medical insurance, corruption and doing business and tax rises worry ordinary people. All these problems have not been solved in the years of frequent elections and an unending “Orange Revolution”. This tiredness has seriously lowered the country’s protesting potential. Sentiment in the society is far from revolutionary, says Ukrainian political scientist Vladimir Fesenko.