Fwd: Greetings from the Secretary of State

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Fri May 28 2004 - 03:18:35 CDT

--- begin forwarded text

From: "California Secretary of State, Kevin Shelley"
         <casosshelley@ss.ca.gov>
To:
Subject: Greetings from the Secretary of State
Date: Thu, 27 May 2004 17:34:58 -0700

Dear Friend,

Attached for your information is a recent article from the New York
Times concerning the demand for electronic voting systems to have
voter-verifiable paper trails. Shortly, I will be releasing state
standards for an Accessible Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail
(AVVPAT). This will make California the first state in the nation to
have these standards.

As always your comments on this or any other matter of interest are
appreciated.

Best wishes,

Kevin

**********

May 23, 2004

Demand Grows to Require Paper Trails for Electronic Votes

By KATHARINE Q. SEELYE

WASHINGTON, May 22 - A coalition of computer scientists, voter groups
and state officials, led by California's secretary of state, Kevin
Shelley, is trying to force the makers of electronic voting machines
to equip those machines with voter-verifiable paper trails.

Following the problems of the 2000 election in Florida, a number of
states and hundreds of counties rushed to dump their punch card
ballot systems and to buy the electronic touch screens. Election Data
Services, a consulting firm that specializes in election
administration, estimates that this November 50 million Americans -
about 29 percent of the electorate - may be voting on touch screens,
up from 12 percent in 2000.

But in the last year election analysts have documented so many
malfunctions, including the disappearance of names from the ballot,
and computer experts have shown that the machines are so vulnerable
to hackers, that critics have organized to counter the rush toward
touch screens with a move to require paper trails.

Paper trails - ballot receipts - would let voters verify that they
had cast their votes as they intended and let election officials
conduct recounts in close races.

Not everyone agrees that paper trails are necessary, or even
advisable. Numerous local election officials - the ones who actually
conduct elections - argue that paper trails could create worse
problems than the perceived ones that they are intended to cure. They
warn of paper jams, voter confusion and delays in the voting booth
while voters read their receipts.

There are no national standards to help resolve the disputes. The
federal commission that Congress created after 2000 to guide states
is behind schedule, and the research body that was supposed to set
standards for November 2004 has not even been appointed. So states,
prompted by voter organizations, are taking matters into their own
hands.

Nevada, which is using touch screens in all its voting precincts this
November, has become the first state to require the manufacturer to
attach printers in time for Election Day.

California is requiring voter-verified paper trails for any
electronic machines that counties in the state buy after November;
for this November, it has banned touch-screen machines unless
counties meet certain security standards. Three counties are suing
the state to overturn the ban and a fourth has said it plans to use
the touch screens anyway.

Mr. Shelley said he was requiring counties to allow voters to vote on
paper if they wanted to, even if there were no apparent problems with
the touch screens. "It's a voter-confidence issue," he said in an
interview. "It should be a no-brainer."

More than a dozen other states are considering legislation to require
paper backups, and Congress, which had left the matter on the back
burner, is considering several similar proposals.

"People are demanding this," said Representative Rush D. Holt, a New
Jersey Democrat who has introduced a bill to require that by
November, all voters be able to cast ballots that they can verify.
This would entail either retrofitting touch screens with printers or
requiring a county to go back to a paper-based system like
optical-scan equipment or even punch cards.

Election groups, spurred to organize after a report last July from
computer security experts at Johns Hopkins University warned of
touch-screen pitfalls, have encouraged a voter revolt. During the
primaries this spring, groups like the Campaign for Verifiable Voting
urged thousands of voters in various states to cast paper ballots
rather than use touch screens without paper trails.

Unfortunately for voters in Maryland who followed that suggestion,
though, local officials ruled that those paper ballots were invalid
and did not count them.

"The Maryland primary was a very instructive learning experience for
all activists," said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the
California Voter Foundation, a grass-roots watchdog group in
Sacramento that is helping to organize voter groups across the
country.

"There are movements in a lot of states, and we're sharing
information," she said. She said she took it as a mark of success
that 75 percent of the voting jurisdictions in the country will be
using the same equipment in November as they used in 2000.

"I'd rather have voters vote on punch cards than on an electronic
system that can't be verified," she said.

Ohio is the latest state to hit the paper trail. Earlier this month,
Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican, signed legislation requiring all
counties to have paper trails with their touch-screen machines by
November 2006. But the law also allows counties to use the machines
this November without paper trails.

Some officials, like state Senator Teresa Fedor, Democrat of Toledo,
said this made no sense. If a paper trail is so important, she asked,
why should voters go through even one election without them -
especially in a state where the presidential vote could be close. She
successfully argued to the Legislature that Ohio counties should be
able to postpone buying the machines. "There are too many concerns
for us to keep a blind eye," she said.

As a result, elections boards in 31 counties are debating whether to
postpone their purchases. Since Governor Taft signed the bill, 18
have voted to wait.

"Ohio is the big struggle state right now," said Will Doherty,
executive director of VerifiedVoting.org, a group advocating for
paper trails.

Doug Chapin of Electionline.org, a clearinghouse for election
information set up by the Pew Charitable Trust, said that Ohio was
"rolling the dice" to see whether paper trails were necessary.

"You can either build a fence around a cliff or put an ambulance in
the valley," he said. "The paper trail is the ambulance in the
valley. Certifying the machines and testing them in the first place
to make sure they are secure is the fence around the cliff."

But even as some states clamor for paper trails, machines equipped to
provide them are scarce.

David L. Dill, a professor of computer science at Stanford University
and founder of VerifiedVoting.org, said that models with paper trails
had been tested in only a few counties. And a handful of small
manufacturers provide them.

Officials from several large manufacturers have said that they could
produce paper trails if they were required to, but they have so far
resisted, arguing that they are unnecessary.

If more jurisdictions require them, though, vendors want to be first
in line for the potentially lucrative contracts. Should a big state
like New York, for example, which is considering making paper trails
mandatory, joins California, the industry could probably gear up
quickly.

Howard Cramer, vice president for sales at Sequoia Voting Systems,
which is providing Nevada with its touch screens and printers, said
that the company had no worries about the security and accuracy of
its touch screens. He said he saw putting printers in Nevada as a
useful experiment because other jurisdictions will require them,
although he said he expected voters to become so comfortable with
touch screens that they would soon drop the fad for paper trails.

--- end forwarded text

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Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
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Received on Mon May 31 23:18:10 2004

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