Fwd: verified voting newsletter

From: Arthur Keller <arthur_at_kellers_dot_org>
Date: Mon Sep 22 2003 - 13:40:12 CDT

--- begin forwarded text

From: "VerifiedVoting.org" <newsletter_at_verifiedvoting_dot_org>
Reply-To: newsletter@verifiedvoting.org
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2003 01:17:36 -0800

Voter Verification Newsletter -- Vol 1, Number 11

David L. Dill (elections@chicory.stanford.edu) September 21, 2003

For previous newsletters, see http://www.verifiedvoting.org/news.asp

It's been over three weeks since my last newsletter! Lots of things
have been happening, but I haven't had time to write about them. Here
are a few of them.

A seemingly obscure standards subcommittee of IEEE may determine
whether we have trustworthy voting systems or not. And things are not
going well.

IEEE is the "Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers." It
is a highly respected organization with a huge number of electrical
engineers, many of whom have substantial expertise in
computer-related topics. It is reasonable to expect that IEEE
involvement in voting technology would be a good thing.

There is an IEEE standards committee (called P1583) that is writing
standards for voting systems, including security standards for DREs.
(http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/scc38/1583/) Although this committee
may seem obscure, this standard may very well be the basis for future
Federal regulation of voting equipment.

Recently, several voter-verifiable-audit-trail advocates with strong
technology credentials have joined the P1583 committee in an effort
to ensure the standard requires an adequate level of security. I am
one of them.

Unfortunately, many of the current members on the committee are
working very hard to prevent us from contributing to the standard. As
we have gotten more involved, the tactics have become more extreme.
The standard is now being rushed to a vote by the Standards
Association, in an apparent attempt to freeze it before our most
important suggestions can be incorporated. Many of the suggestions we
HAVE made are dismissed for the flimsiest of reasons, and rules seem
to be made up on the fly to exclude us from the standards-writing
process. So far as I can see, the committee is controlled by voting
companies -- the chair of the committee works for ES&S, and even the
IEEE Standards people on the committee, including the president of
the Standards Association, voted with them as a block in a
teleconference earlier this week.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken an interest in
e-voting and in the behavior of the P1583 committee as well. They
issued a press release on Friday (see
http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/20030919_eff_pr.php), along with
an action alert for IEEE members
(http://www.eff.org/Activism/E-voting/IEEE/). You can send a letter
expressing your views, too (it will be especially effective if you
are an IEEE member).

There will be more updates on this topic, no doubt.

Several months ago, I said that verifiedvoting.org would host a web
page with a description of VoteHere's cryptographic voter
verification technology for public review and comment.

They've gotten the information together and it is now on the page. We
have started a thread on the discussion boards for technical
discussion of these documents. Link:

I've gotten some static for even considering the possibility that
there could be an effective voter-verifiable audit trail that is not
a voter-verifiable printer, optical scan ballot, or simple paper

Here are my current thoughts on the matter: There are technical
questions and non-technical questions. It is a technical question to
analyze the strengths or weaknesses of a given system, algorithm,
protocol, or program against certain kinds of attacks. Non-technical
questions include the political viability of such ideas, and
(particularly) whether paper is better because voters can understand
it easily.

These are different questions and may have different answers. In
particular, it could be that a system seems technically to have nice
properties, but is not accepted by voters for other reasons.

This review of VoteHere's technology is concerned with the technical
questions. The non-technical questions need to be discussed, too (a

We are not currently endorsing VoteHere's technology on its technical
or non-technical merits, whatever they may be. After a technical
review, we might endorse or reject it as a technical solution. We
won't presume to be able to settle the other questions -- we don't
know any more than any other voters about them.

We don't have any ties, financial or other, to VoteHere or anyone
else in the voting industry that would influence us, and that
includes the fact that we don't have any research funding from any
such sources.

Other vendors who would like to us to link to a description of
election equipment with voter verifiable audit trail should send
email to "contact@verifiedvoting.org".

Maryland commissioned a report from SAIC, a defense contractor with
computer security expertise, on the security of Diebold touch screen
machines. The state signed a contract to buy them a week before the
appearance of the Johns Hopkins/Rice study that reported serious
security flaws.

According to an article by Kim Zetter in Wired News, the State
announced that a redacted version of the report would appear Friday
(it seems not to have, possibly because of the hurricane). The full
article is at

I'm skeptical about this report, but we'll have to wait until it's
published. Maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised.

The California recall election, originally schedule for three weeks
from now, has been delayed by a panel of three judges from the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals (Harry Pregerson, Richard Paez, and Sidney
Thomas) because some California counties will not have upgraded from
punch cards by then. California has been under a Federal court order
for some time to get rid of certain punch card systems by March 2004,
because they appear statistically to discriminate against minority
voters and they have high rates of residual votes (the somewhat
controversial by which voter error rates are measured). The decision
is being appealed to the full 9th Circuit Court, and may go to the
U.S. Supreme Court.

This decision has further complicated the incredible situation with
the California recall election. The recall had already stimulated
some press interest in the electronic voting question, but this
decision puts voting technology front and center (instead of Arnold

Some of the news articles I've seen lead readers to the false
conclusion that California counties are required to upgrade to touch
screen machines. Untrue! Central and precinct-based optical scan
systems, and even a punch card system called the DataVote, have
residual vote rates much lower than punch cards.

According to the testimony of the ACLU's expert witness in the case,
Prof. Henry Brady of the University of California at Berkeley, DREs
are actually have slightly higher residual vote rates than the
DataVote and precinct-based optical scan systems. (see

Regardless of the scheduling of the recall election, California
counties have to get rid of punch cards by March 2004. If this
decision stands, it will not increase the pressure to upgrade, and it
will not mandate the use of DREs. But it is a great opportunity to
discuss voting machines!

The good news is that Miami-Dade county had a meeting to decide
whether to buy voter verifiable printers for their ES&S iVotronic
machines. The bad news is that they decided against doing so.


Other good news is that Broward county is now considered buying voter
verifiable printers for the iVotronic machines. The bad news is that
they decided to defer discussion.

Both counties have ES&S equipment, and the ES&S printers won't be
certified in Florida before the November, 2003 election.

I hope the ES&S printers will be certified soon and that both
counties will reconsider at that time.

A correspondent tells me that Connecticut will be conducting a trial
of electronic voting machines on November 4, 2003 in 8 towns.

One of the machines to be evaluated will be Avante's, which offers a
voter verifiable audit trail. It would help to make sure the citizens
of Connecticut understand the concerns about the integrity of
electronic voting before that time.

Here is an article about one town

Walden O'Dell, CEO of major voting machine vendor Diebold Inc., told
Republicans in an Aug. 14 fund-raising letter that he is "committed
to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next

This stimulated some protests from some national Democrats, such as
U.S. Senator Jon S. Corzine (NJ). Ohio State House Minority Leader
Chris Redfern (Catawba Island) and Senate Minority Leader Greg
DiDonato (New Philadelphia), petitioned Secretary of State Ken
Blackwell to drop O'Dell's company from the list of potential

Mr. O'Dell realized the error of his ways, and apologized for his
lack of PR acumen.

When it comes to elections, almost everyone has a conflict of
interest. It is simply wrong for our system to force the voters to
trust voting machine companies and their employees.

Electronic voting seems to be a political issue in Arkansas now.

A quote from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

"The National Organization for Women in Arkansas is trying to
persuade Secretary of State Charlie Daniels to hold off purchasing
touch-screen electronic voting machines until the new machines are
proved trustworthy. 'I love computers,' said Lisa Burks of Hot
Springs, vice president of legislation for Arkansas NOW and
president of NOW's Hot Springs chapter. 'I'm not a technophobe.' "

This story has quotes from political groups, election officials, and
R. Doug Lewis of the Election Center, who says (as usual) that
everything is fine. They fail to mention that computer technologists
have said anything on the subject.

The full story is at

Please forward this newsletter to your friends!

To SUBSCRIBE to this newsletter, go to
http://www.verifiedvoting.org/contact.asp. Be sure to include your
email address and mark the checkbox at the bottom that says "Please
add me to the low-volume verifiedvoting.org email list".

To UNSUBSCRIBE to this newsletter, reply to this email with
"UNSUBSCRIBE" in the subject line. Please include the exact email
address that you would like to have removed if you are not replying
from that specific address.

*We're upgrading our newsletter distribution tool so if you've
received this email in error please use the UNSUBSCRIBE option to
update your preferences.


--- end forwarded text

Arthur M. Keller, Ph.D., 3881 Corina Way, Palo Alto, CA  94303-4507
tel +1(650)424-0202, fax +1(650)424-0424
= The content of this message, with the exception of any external 
= quotations under fair use, are released to the Public Domain    
Received on Tue Sep 30 23:17:08 2003

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Tue Sep 30 2003 - 23:17:09 CDT