Monday, June 30, 2008

Will all of Ohio (“need to”) migrate to ES&S?

We're wondering at how the electronic election system vendor fates are lining up in Ohio:
Which also leaves a lingering question:
What about Hamilton County’s continued seemingly enjoyed use of Hart. Might they need to change too?

Former Hamilton Director, John M. Williams after Cincinnati’s exhaustive search, chose and seems to like that company. See video of him explaining voting, and showing the now possibly SoS-questioned Hart “card reader" here. Other news articles, including the one near the bottom of this post echo his Hart approval.

The Hamilton Cnty. BOE Shuffle
However, on June5, ’08 the Hamilton County BOE board underwent it’s own shuffle, like some others during Brunner’s reign, (see PD editorial about claimed Brunner partisanship “meddling”, anti-Rep. actions, Hands On to a Fault, here or here.)
That Hamilton action, which took place just weeks ago, on June 5, 2008, made R- John Williams the Deputy Director (assistant,) now answering to his former Elections Administrator, now Hamilton County Director, D- Sally Krisel.
It also made Alex Triantafilou, the Hamilton County GOP chair, also the Hamilton BOE chairman, having him slip into the post held by Tim Burke, the county Dem chair, who became No. 2. (Under OH law, the BOE must be comprised of 2 D’s and 2 R’s; the BOE Chair and Director need to be of opposite parties; as do the Director and the Deputy Director.)

Because of the shuffle's odd timing- after the March 4 Primary - and its quietness to the public, this also might lead to additional questions about "meddling" (as the PD editorial called it) and/or mandates.

Though I may yet need to learn of additional laws, or SoS Directives that might apply here, we do have Brunner’s Directive 2008-31 about BOE “reorganizations” dated February 28, 2008. It reminds all Ohio boards that they are required to "reorganize" between March 2, 2008 and March 6, 2008, in the manner provided in R.C. 3501.09, and includes some further instructions. It says in part:
DIRECTIVE 2008-31 February 28, 2008 To: All County Boards of Elections
Re: Reorganization meeting

Reorganization
Boards of Elections are required to "reorganize" between March 2, 2008 and March 6, 2008, in the manner provided in R.C. 3501.09. You should carefully follow the procedures stated in this section to assurc that your county board's reorganization is properly conducted. Prior to conducting the meeting at which board reorganization takes place board members should review Directive 2007-01 regarding the minimum qualit1eations of directors and deputy directors. These qualifications should be considered desired attributes of those persons being nominated for those positions, but individuals who are being renominated for their current positions or where the board is nominating a current director for the deputy direct position and/or vice versa, no newspaper advertising is necessary to prepare the board to fill the position.
-snip-

Natural questions must follow:
  • Was this the second or first 2008 “reorganization” for the Hamilton County BOE ?
  • Under what laws, or directions/why was the late-May announced/June-effected reorganization done?

Also, the excellent Plain Dealer journalist who covers the Cuyahoga board, Joe Guillen, quoted now former Hamilton Director Williams on June 16, 2008 - in the midst of the CCBOE’s seeming “Is it ES&S or Hart” procurement decision.

His 6/16 article about Cuyahoga (http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2008/06/elections_chief_wants_board_to.html) titled Elections chief wants new equipment bought this week, stated:
…(Cuyahoga Director) “Platten favors Election Systems & Software, which supplied the scanners for the successful March primary, but that company carries the higher price tag. The firm's proposal includes a rental price for November because its more modern, digital scanners won't be available until 2009.

Hart InterCivic, the other company considered, has digital scanners available for fall -- and the lower cost.

Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, has used Hart scanners since 2006. Elections Director John Williams said the county hasn't had problems. Williams pointed out that Hart was the first company to have its digital scanners certified in Ohio.

"Hart's doing what everyone else is trying to do," he said.”
In Guillen's June 27 PD article, “Voting machine company (I add - Hart) questions pick of Cuyahoga board (I add -ES&S)” Guillen quotes Platten as having talked to the Hamilton deputy director many times, but she apparently did not mention former Director, John Williams’ name.

So when considering Hamilton County's BOE and their use of Hart InterCivic, and the larger question of this post, - will all of Ohio migrate to ES&S? - maybe the next questions need to be whether or not the recent Hamilton BOE shuffle is at all related? - Asked of the Hamilton County board members, and of Sally Kisler , new Director of the Hamilton BOE.

Though the blogs tell us she’s an "Obama girl," it seems that before any more Ohio counties possibly pour more Ohio taxpayer millions into electronic election system vendors pockets, seemingly mostly heading ES&S’s way, maybe we should be asking now:
  • How far at “serving at the pleasure of the Secretary of State," does Kisler see her new role?
  • And what does she currently think of Hamilton’s Hart InterCivic experience? What does she think of ES&S?

In truly fair citizen's elections, is any official's "meddling," "too much meddling"?

Can citizen's elections be truly free and fair where there is any meddling - partisan or not - from election officials?
Last Sunday, the Plain Dealer published the below editorial about SoS Brunner, written obviously from a Republican bias. If the facts stripped of bias are true, however, might this still be considered "too much" meddling from a state's chief election official, especially in a state where all election officials are legally to serve at the Secretary of State's pleasure?
Regarding OSU law Professor Foley's quote at the end : "Election management is an area where appearance is reality." - might it also be possible that a major difference in the public's perception of the fairness of one SoS administration to the next, lies not only in the party alignment of the perceivers, but also greatly in the administration's ability to create a convincing apparent-reality?
http://www.cleveland.com/plaindealer/stories/index.ssf?/base/opinion/1214037102320080.xml&coll=2
Hands-on, to a fault

Secretary of State Brunner is much too willing to meddle in partisan affairs in places far from her Columbus office
Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ohio's highest court had to remind Jennifer Brunner this week that voters chose her to be their secretary of state - not the chairman of the Summit County Republican Party.
And with that reprimand, Brunner, every bit the Democrat, moved a bit closer to cementing her reputation as an overly partisan overseer of Ohio's elections.
After Brunner essentially fired longtime Akron-area GOP boss Alex Arshinkoff from the Summit County Board of Elections earlier this year, the party's executive committee named former Hudson City Council President Brian Daley as Arshinkoff's replacement. But Brunner wasn't satisfied. She rejected Daley's appointment and instead named Akron attorney Don Varian to fill the Republican seat on the four-member panel.
Not only was Varian's appointment applauded - and perhaps suggested - by prominent Akron-area Democrats, but Varian was also involved in what turned out to be a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to remove Arshinkoff as Summit County's powerful and polarizing Republican boss.
In a 4-3 ruling that itself may have had political overtones, the Ohio Supreme Court ordered Brunner to remove Varian from the vote board and to comply with the wishes of the Summit County GOP and appoint Daley to the job.
Brunner is a talented officeholder who resigned a safe judicial seat in Columbus to seek the job of secretary of state.
And from her Republican predecessor, Ken Blackwell, she inherited an often inefficient, poorly run election system.
So if the Summit County mess was the first time Brunner had played politics with the operation of a county election board, she'd probably earn a pass on any suggestion that she had overstepped her authority in this case. But Brunner's penchant for meddling with local election officials has become habitual.
Blackwell was a big-picture intruder who tried to use issues like gay marriage to influence the outcomes of elections. Brunner has become a micro-meddler with a disturbing tendency to mess with Republicans involved in local election matters. Republicans in Summit, Cuyahoga, Allen, Franklin, Lawrence and Hardin counties have experienced it. And voters throughout Ohio should be worried about it.
In February, Brunner fired Allen County's respected elections director, Keith Cunningham, from the state's Board of Voting Machine Examiners. The reason: Cunningham had the audacity to disagree with her on her proposal to decertify touch-screen voting systems. A few weeks later, Brunner thumbed her nose at the public's right to know by trying to avoid testifying in the Summit County case. Failing that, she tried to keep her testimony private.
Earlier this year, when concerns were first being noted about Brunner's partisanship, Ohio State University law school Professor Edward Foley warned, "Election management is an area where appearance is reality.
It's not good enough just to be fair. You've got to be perceived as fair."
Brunner is on her way toward failing the perception test.

© 2008 The Plain Dealer
© 2008 cleveland.com All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Should SoS Brunner's July Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners Meeting Follow the OH Legislature's Recently-Passed Sub.HB350?

In addition to questions about the possibility of Secretary Brunner calling a meeting of her Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners to possibly release some deficiencies of Hart InterCivic's equipment - almost two weeks AFTER the CCBOE's bidding process which included Hart and ES&S - and which ended with ES&S's higher bid, and partly non-certified equipment getting adopted, another question comes to mind.

Should this
Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners meeting now be following the new composition rules, as set out in this month's OH Legislature, pre-summer-recess passage of Sub. HB350 ? (And what exactly are the qualifications for this Ohio certifying board that would seem to necessitate proper scientific expertise, similar to the tradition of EVEREST, for proper OH certification?)


In addition to
making many key changes to Ohio elections, this now enrolled, huge bill proposed to amend ORC 3506.05, re: the composition of the Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners -
  • to include 4 members, not 3;
  • only 2 of whom are selected by the Secretary of State, not all;
  • and with the 2 others (also presumably found qualified,) to be selected by leading members of the OH House and Senate, who are of the opposite political party from the SoS.
The SoS press release in the previous post, however, lists the names of only the 3 only-Brunner selectees, Davis-Chappell, Fellows, and Moots; and includes the one replacement for the Allen County BOE Director, R-Keith Cunningham, whose position on this Board some say she terminated because of his disagreement with her position on touchscreen voting, some say on more partisan or personal grounds, some say a combination.

More specifically, I copy below only a small part of Sub. HB350 in this regard:
(B) No voting machine, marking device, automatic tabulating equipment, or software for the purpose of casting or tabulating votes or for communications among systems involved in the tabulation, storage, or casting of votes shall be purchased, leased, put in use, or continued to be used, except for experimental use as provided in division (B) of section 3506.04 of the Revised Code, unless it, a manual of procedures governing its use, and training materials, service, and other support arrangements have been certified by the secretary of state and unless the board of elections of each county where the equipment will be used has assured that a demonstration of the use of the equipment has been made available to all interested electors. The secretary of state shall appoint a board of voting machine examiners to examine and approve equipment and its related manuals and support arrangements. The board shall consist of one competent and experienced election officer and two persons who are knowledgeable about the operation of such equipment, who four members, who shall be appointed as follows:

(1) Two members appointed by the secretary of state.


2) One member appointed by either the speaker of the house of representatives or the minority leader of the house of representatives, whichever is a member of the opposite political party from the one to which the secretary of state belongs.


(3) One member appointed by either the president of the senate or the minority leader of the senate, whichever is a member of the opposite political party from the one to which the secretary of state belongs.


In all cases of a tie vote or a disagreement in the board, if no decision can be arrived at, the board shall submit the matter in controversy to the secretary of state, who shall summarily decide the question, and the secretary of state's decision shall be final. Each member of the board shall be a competent and experienced election officer or a person who is knowledgeable about the operation of voting equipment and shall serve during the secretary of state's term. Any vacancy on the board shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment. The secretary of state shall provide staffing assistance to the board, at the board's request.

For the member's service, each member of the board shall receive three hundred dollars per day for each combination of marking device, tabulating equipment, and voting machine examined and reported, but in no event shall a member receive more than six hundred dollars to examine and report on any one marking device, item of tabulating equipment, or voting machine. Each member of the board shall be reimbursed for expenses the member incurs during an examination or during the performance of any related duties that may be required by the secretary of state. Reimbursement of these expenses shall be made in accordance with, and shall not exceed, the rates provided for under section 126.31 of the Revised Code.

Neither the secretary of state nor the board, nor any public officer who participates in the authorization, examination, testing, or purchase of equipment, shall have any pecuniary interest in the equipment or any affiliation with the vendor.

-snip-
Too large a topic to thoroughly delve into here - and which some title an "election reform" bill - Sub.HB350 also also includes other changes very pertinent to this current discussion about which voting system vendors (and which election officials?) can get "approved" under the Brunner's administration. For instance, the bill makes changes to the certification requirements for all Ohio voting equipment purchased after December, 2008, (except that which is additional to what is already in hand) needing to meet the most current federal certification requirements.

Since Sub.HB350 is shown as "enrolled" by this 127th Ohio Congress; and though still without Strickland's signature, shows that governor's-signature 10-day waiting time ended on 6/17/08 maybe someone here can comment on when and how this bill actually goes into effect; and whether this SoS July meeting of her Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners about Hart qualifications should be following the bill's provisions and/or the spirit of them.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Is SoS Brunner Assembling the Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners to Release Evidence About Some Hart Deficiency?-AFTER the CCBOE Procurement Decision?

Is SoS Brunner Assembling the Bd. of Voting Machine Examiners on 7/3 to possibly release evidence about some Hart deficiency - AFTER the CCBOE bidding process and the 6/20/08 procurement decision?
http://www.sos.state.oh.us/SOS/PressReleases/2008%20Press%20Releases/VotingMachineExaminersMeet.aspx

Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners to Meet 6/27/2008 For Immediate Release:

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners will meet on Thursday, July 3 at 9 a.m. in the 15th floor conference room of the Continental Plaza, 180 E. Broad St. in Columbus.

The board will be considering the following issue: Whether the Hart Card Reader Model No. HVS CR 3100 may be used with the Hart InterCivic voting system in replacement of commercial off-the-shelf PCMCIA memory card reader/writers initially deployed with the certified Hart voting equipment.

This meeting is open to the public.

The board is comprised of the following members: Inajo Davis Chappell, a member of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections; Dale Fellows, a member of the Lake County Board of Elections, and David R. Moots, a member of the Union County Board of Elections.

-30-

Media Contacts: Jeff Ortega, Assistant Director of Communications, Media, 614-466-0473 Kevin Kidder, Media Relations Coordinator, 614-995-2168
********************

Will Hart Legally Pursue Their Questions About the 6/20 CCBOE Purchase Decision?

Will Hart Legally Pursue Their Questions About the 6/20 CCBOE Purchase Decision?

The PD, 6/27/08:

http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2008/06/voting_machine_company_questio.html

Voting machine company questions pick of Cuyahoga board
Posted by Joe Guillen June 27, 2008 19:22PM
The CEO of a Texas-based voting machine company says he still wants to know why the Cuyahoga County Board Elections bypassed his equipment in favor of a system that will cost taxpayers an extra $5 million.

Hart InterCivic President and CEO Gregg Burt on Friday criticized the board's selection process, a week after the board voted to spend $13.4 million for scanners from another company. County commissioners still must approve the deal.

"I have yet to hear a logical reason why we weren't selected," Burt said. "The taxpayers deserve an answer for this."


The board voted 3-1 to deal with Election Systems & Software. Members cited a recommendation from Elections Director Jane Platten, who preferred ES&S because its equipment worked well during the March primary.

Burt said he believed Platten's decision was made before Hart's proposal was even evaluated. "She didn't look at us at all," he said.

Burt said he has written letters expressing his dismay to the county commissioners and has hired a lawyer to examine the selection process.

None of the four board members, during public sessions, doubted Hart's equipment could do the job in November.

According to board projections, the county would save $5.3 million over five years by picking Hart. ES&S would lease equipment for the fall and sell more modern ballot scanners to the county in 2009.

Burt said he is amazed Cuyahoga picked a significantly more expensive voting system.

Board of Elections Chairman Jeff Hastings seemed equally befuddled the night of the board's vote. "Clearly, as a public official, I'm looking for the lowest bid," he said then.

The board was to pick the company with the "lowest and best" proposal, according to evaluation criteria set by members.

Platten defended her recommendation on Friday. "We chose the best and most proven company to execute our voting system," she said. "Hart is unproven in Cuyahoga County."

Hamilton County has used Hart machines without complaint since 2006.

County commissioners, who control the board's budget, are in negotiations with ES&S to finalize the deal. Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones said ES&S' higher price was a concern.

But Commissioner Tim Hagan echoed Platten's recommendation: "You can't afford a shot in the dark in a presidential election," he said. "We know what we've got" with ES&S.

Besides a cost savings, Burt said there are other reasons to select Hart. The company offered certified digital ballot scanners while ES&S' equipment for November is less modern. Some Cuyahoga staff members recommended Hart to the board.

If the commissioners complete the deal with ES&S, the county will receive digital scanners next year, once they are certified for use in Ohio. But if ES&S' newer equipment isn't certified by then, the county would buy the company's less modern equipment and get a $1.4-million refund.

Burt said the uncertainty surrounding the ES&S equipment should have worked in his company's favor.

"It seems the Board of Elections is open to betting taxpayer dollars on the hope that a new uncertified product will soon become certified," he said.

Burt said Platten never visited any of Hart's customers, notably Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati.

Platten said she talked with Hamilton's deputy elections director many times. Hart employees also spent two days with Cuyahoga's elections staff before the board's decision.

"We went through an exhaustive process," she said.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Was the ES&S Contract Selection Predetermined? (or is "class," openness & saving taxpayer millions just not a good fit in Cuyahoga politics?)


In the following clip, you can hear a portion of the positives the two Democratic board members said last night in their "apology speeches" to Hart, for once again appearing to execute their seeming baseline job - making sure, (by 2/2 tie-vote blocking, or by promoting,) that SoS Brunner gets what Brunner wants in Cuyahoga. In this case, it seems that preference may have been ES&S people and technology winning the (more expensive) multi-million dollar, years long contract, and in control for November's presidential election.
video
Below we'll begin to explore some general questions:

I. Did the Ohio SoS and Cuyahoga Commissioners maintain a preference for ES&S and its voting equipment prior to the formal procurement process in Cuyahoga?
  • R-Rob Frost, after 11pm, cast the first tie-breaking vote in over 6 months on such similar vendor matters - voting yes on Dem-McNair's second motion for ES&S-adoption, but a motion that leaves the Commissioners to come to money/performance/warranty terms with the ES&S.
    Apparently the board could not accomplish arriving at agreeable contractual terms with ES&S yesterday, in their hours of executive session attempts - though they adopted the company - and though their completed negotiations with the other company, Hart, took only minutes (as at the 6/12 meeting.)
    Frost, apparently OK with both systems- though having opened the late-night, public, decision-making portion of the 5pm meeting with a motion, to choose Hart InterCivic - he, in the end, voted yes on the second McNair motion, seemingly in part, to move on; and to demonstrate that the board could make such a decision without another Secretary of State's direct intervention (- breaking another tie as she did in January, which caused all central count and got ES&S firmly planted in Cuyahoga's pocketbooks and vote tabulation.) Chair, Jeff Hastings cast the one dissenting vote.
  • After the meeting, Frost answered the PD's Joe Guillen's question about the the public's sense of inevitability of another 2/2 tie, and Brunner breaking it, getting her ES&S "win." Frost affirmed that ES&S has been Brunner's "preference" for Cuyahoga for November:
    video
  • It should be noted that this seeming SoS preference did not come after Cuyahoga's supposedly easy transition into ES&S for March's supposedly "successful" election - which was one "reason" put forth last night for again choosing ES&S for November. Another was how much the staff had already learned from them and about their equipment.
    What is characterized as ES&S's excellent service for our transition, could also be perceived as a their tax-paid windfall, where the company made sure the wind kept blowing their way:
    Pictured directly below:
    The $1500/day, each, 18-20 ES&S people who were in Cuyahoga, running our scanners, one running the tabulator, from 3/2 through 3/5 for absentee and polling ballot scanning.
    (Below, from an Observer's "view" through chain link fence, ES&S huddles after the first day of absentee scanning, 3/2. What is now being termed ES&S "good service" could seem more like an ES&S goldmine.


    Below (from the roped Observer's "view" in the tabulator area) we have the ES&S ($1500/day) Project Manager still - on 5/1/08, at the end of the post-election's "audit" from March - the only one running and understanding the results-tabulator, while CCBOE personnel must only watch the non-thoroughly understood workings.



    And below, an interim shot, on 3/29 near the end of the first day of the official count of absentee ballots. Though CCBOE personnel was running the scanners that time, (film to be posted) while an avalanche of ballot "remakes" was rather inexplicably being necessitated, with the "overvote button turned on" unlike when the ES&S people ran the scanners, (to be explained in another post) - here you will see the two ($1500/day each) ES&S workers (at right) - running the all important tabulator, (also there fixing mal-working scanners;) while Brian Cleary, the highly competent CCBOE Ballot Dept. Assist. Manager, stands to the left, required to ask ES&S for what he needs.


    ********************
  • It seems that Brunner possibly "preferred" ES&S even in Dec./Jan. when she (let's face it) "forced" a board vote, then "broke the 2/2 tie" for "all central count with high speed central scanners" uniquely here, (and in 2 very small counties who may have gotten state money for new machines) - which for March, got ES&S's "foot firmly in Cuyahoga's door" - with the no-alternative "choice" of ES&S "high-speed," (and very "legacy" optical technology) machines. (Hart's are called "high volume.")
    Pictures: directly below you can see some of the equipment in question:
    ES&S M650 optical scanner, top, a front view.
    Directly below, M650 from back (with inside opened & with dot matrix printers below,) while a third $1500/day ES&S service person is again
    fixing "pick belts," "read heads" and more, inside one of the 15 scanners. CCBOE Ballot Adminstratro is center,watching. CCBOE staff did not fix any of frequent scanner failures.


    This is the Hart/Kodak digital central scanner:


    **********************************
  • Lets review just a few dates, keeping in mind that we've been told that it was the scientific findings of the 3-month, (Sept. '07 - December '07) $1.9M, tax-paid EVEREST study that caused Sec. Brunner to (lets face it) "force" Cuyahoga (uniquely among the OH 88 counties) into "a transition to paper ballots" last March, and into all central-count, with a no other alternative choice than ES&S M650 scanners, Unity tabulator, thus also their people.
    1. December 7, 2007 EVEREST Report release (and prior?)
      Brunner seemed to "prefer" ES&S before the Everest report was done last December (actually, possibly even before it started,) exemplified in the report's 86 page " Executive Summary," the last 10 pages of which are the SoS "Recommendations" - for which one is hard pressed to find relationship to, let alone support from, the actual Everest findings themselves.
      (Though I may have missed it, I could no longer locate the link for that particular "Executive Summary" on the SoS's new website. You can download the "legacy" copy here.)
      In those "Recommendations" then, she had already recommended the ES&S AutoMark, for every OH county for ADA access (though not supported by Everest findings)- which would also necessitate most other ES&S equipment - and oddly, she even showed the AutoMark price in those "Recommendations."
    2. January 14, 2008 - In her Directive 08-17, a statewide survey of voting equipment and costs, "oddly" she was particularly surveying what ES&S M650's and AutoMarks, were already in hand throughout the state - not also specifically listing other vendors' equipment. (see page 5.)
    3. January 17, 2008 - the Secretary breaks the Cuyahoga board's 2/2 tie vote for central count with ES&S in March, against the board's other suggested choice - to take more time to think through the huge change and the only one-ES&S "option", and need to implement in less than 2 months: to investigate vendors and equipment within 75 days after the March election, then make a decision.
    4. March 4, 2008 - May 2, 2008
      When ES&S principals were in Cuyahoga for March, they stated that they were going back to Columbus to meet with the SoS again before going home to Omaha. And Jerry, the Project Manager seen above, said with some certainty on his last day (5/2) from the Primary election in Cuyahoga, "I'll be back."
    But let's go even earlier:
    It appears that Secretary Brunner and the Cuyahoga County Commissioners probably had prior visits by ES&S representatives as exemplified by:
    1. 9/25/07 - An ES&S proposal, dated 9/25/07 was presented to the Commissioners, before Everest even started, apparently in reply to a request for a "transition plan" to paper ballots - though at least no one with whom I've spoken knows of any publicly made RFP or other announcement at that time; it seems that no other bidders were had; and the public at CCBOE did not seem to know of any vendor bidding then. (In fact 5 days before, on 9/20, the board was holding "a public technology" forum, where we were speaking about the prospect of the Everest study beginning and about the then-current vendor, Diebold/Premier.)
      That there had been discussion with the Dem. Commissioners before 9/25/07 about ES&S moving into Cuyahoga seems apparent from the last page of the 8-page proposal, starting with "Confirm transition plan...."

      The date is on the first page of the proposal and interestingly, you'll also see handwritten there the approximate same $13+M amount they are charging Cuyahoga now; but you'll also find the same equipment proposal for then as now, the M100's, traded for DS200's, except the latter were being promised ready for the May '08 election, and now they're being promised to be ready for the May '09 election. (There is talk that ES&S ran out of optical precinct scanning equipment to deliver to Cuyahoga for the March '08 election. Is that true? an excuse for something else? Is that why Cuyahoga had to move to very election-risky, all central count ?? ....with the 15 "gulag-looking/sounding" "legacy" scanners that the board wants to buy now?)
    2. 9/10/07 - Just to confirm that EVEREST could not have prompted that 9/25/07 proposal for the "transition to paper ballots" - that date was only 15 days after the date of the Everest testers contracts, 9/10/07. Here, you can download 2 of those contract attachments to the SoS application to the OH Controlling Board for the $1.9 M funding of the not-yet started study, both dated 9/10/07 - the December results of which is said to have led the way to her push the "transition."

      (Note: Paper ballots still are electronic elections run by proprietary, secret, manipulatable software. Though one may not actually cast a vote electronically, the software (and the people programming, running and controlling it) is doing the all important vote recording and counting, that determine the electronic reports that tell us our "winners.")

    II. Is there a connection from the SoS to the Commissioners to ES&S? In Dem circles (I've been a lifelong, "pleb" registered Dem...) the SoS/Commissioner connection seems a given.

    • Aside from any other possible dealings, also enter Tom Hayes, (pictured in the ES&S mono-shirted "huddle" near the top of this post, the tallest near the rear.) He's a former CCBOE Director; November '06 CCBOE "project manager" selected and pulled in by former chair of the board, R-Bob Bennett & D-Commissioners, for about $60K for 4 months work, so Michael Vu could stay on, salaried/could "resign"/not let any cats out of any bags/ and so an election could happen.
      Until recently Hayes' LNE Group was a lobbyist for the Cuy. Commissioners; and in an overlapping position, he is still a lobbyist for ES&S.
    (These politics are not really about D's or R's, they are about power, money and control - apparently even of "elections" - one of the biggest "tipping points." It would be interesting, but probably impossible, to actually see how the Commissioners (and maybe the SoS) negotiate the "you give me this and I'll give you that" "coming to Cuyahoga contract terms" with ES&S now.)

    III. And what about the Director's recommendations for ES&S? - to acquire the more expensive system "because the county had a successful March 4 primary using the company's equipment, which the county had rented;" and to "build upon what we have now"?
    • First, it is to be noted that under Ohio law, just as election boards are mandated to be comprised of 2 D's and 2 R's, (allowing 2/2 tie votes and the Secretary breaking them for own wishes to manifest;) also regarding all Ohio election officials, the law states they are there to "serve at the pleasure of" the (non-overseen,) chief election official, the Secretary of State. That means their literal jobs, and support for, or negation of whatever they do comes from that one office. A peek into that culture shows that status-quo seems ongoingly engendered.
    • Also, having been at the 40th street Warehouse space a majority of days as an election Observer, where the counting, recounting, and auditing were happening following the March election, and where the equipment is used and stored, I can state that both the Director and the Deputy Director were there only very rarely - (unlike former elections, with all tasks at Euclid & 30th) and almost as if they didn't want to know how their supposed "success" was being created. They didn't really see the equipment and the ES&S techs in real action, and the lack of learning for the staff/the amount of ES&S control that was fostered.
    • Also, it is to be noted, as in a previous post, that in informal talks with many attending the 6/20 procurement meeting and those before, during the board's closed-door sessions - including some from the CCBOE Ballot staff who actually must use the equipment to make our ballots and get our election results - the vast majority preferred the Hart system and people, mostly because they seemed so much more honest; less expensive; having priorities and capabilities that match fair election priorities, and Cuyahaoga's ability to become independent from them; and because they made it easier to learn and use.
    • And what's the Director's connection to the SoS, the Commissioners, and Hayes? She came to the CCBOE from an administrative position in the Commissioners' office, and is a friend with Hayes.

    And the beat goes on... and on...and on...

    And so last night's 6/20/08 meeting went. Almost the first 5 hours were spent in board executive session, and the lawyers coming to agreeable terms with each vendor - with Hart, briefly; with ES&S, still unfinished.

    Here's what Joe Guillen of the PD wrote after the meeting. (He toughed the wait out, along with CCBOE managers, a few others, and the vendors - with the SoS reps leaving a couple of hours in - to await a report....)
    http://blog.cleveland.com/pdextra/2008/06/cuyahoga_elections_board_picks.html
    Cuyahoga Elections Board picks Election Systems & Software's $13.4 million scanning system

    Posted by Joe Guillen June 21, 2008 08:32AM
    Categories: Elections

    The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections picked a new voting system Friday, but it will be up to the county commissioners to approve the deal.

    After meeting for six hours, most of that time behind closed doors, the four-member board selected Election Systems & Software's $13.4 million ballot-scanning system. That system was chosen over another scanning system offered by Hart InterCivic for $9.7 million.

    The board voted 3-1, with Republican Chairman Jeff Hastings casting the dissenting vote because of the cost. He said he had confidence in the other system.

    At one point, the board deadlocked 2-2. Then the board reconvened behind closed doors and Republican Rob Frost changed his vote and sided with Democrats Sandy McNair and Inajo Davis Chappell.

    Elections Director Jane Platten recommended the more expensive system because the county had a successful March 4 primary using the company's equipment, which the county had rented.

    "Building upon what we have now, in my opinion, has less risk than starting from scratch less than four months before the presidential election," Platten said afterward. "It's time this agency has stability."

    The commissioners, who meet next week, have the final say on the deal because they control the county's budget.

    The new system will allow the county to scan ballots at the polls, which is a state law requirement that went into effect this year.

    If you want to assess for yourself what just happened, both people and dynamic, that will be running Cuyahoga's November election and election results...and seemingly for years to come, see http://citizensboe.blogspot.com/2008/06/61208-drillin-it-down-es-or-hart.html
    including the film from the 6/12 meeting when it seemed there really was a choice; see the earlier, "6/10 The Vendor Choice Continues" which contains links to the interim bid packages; see other film here about the Cuyahoga's March election, (some yet to be posted;) as public information, request copies of the final contracts and bids, and discern for yourself; and see the film below.

    (Note: For clarity, I am not saying that adopting Hart InterCivic
    would have been a certain Cuyahoga election panacea. But I can say that the vast majority of the people at the meeting (- except those cementing the $4-5M greater ES&S decision -) including staff who must use and run the equipment, preferred the Hart equipment and people - because of their ease of learning, handling; and even for the attending public, because of the Hart honesty and election priorities they felt had been presented.) In fact, that is not really the larger point of this post. Nor am I in any way connected to Hart, or certainly, to any other electronic election system vendor.

    Here's the film of the short public parts of last night's, 6/20 meeting:


    Clip 1

    video

    Clip 2

    video

    Just a
    few of the natural questions that must follow are:
    • Why would a Secretary of State, or any other partisan official possibly hold a strong purchase "preference" for a particular electronic voting and tabulating system - all with unseen "counting," and potential for both "inside" and "outside" non-discoverable election results manipulation; all which would enrich a chosen vendor by varying millions with county tax-payer funds (ES&S the most) - for Ohio, and particularly for the largest voting district in the state, and particularly for the Presidential election ?
    • What was the role, if any, of Tom Hayes in this procurement process and was there a conflict of interest?
    • Exactly how were the contract terms with ES&S finally finalized with the Commissioners?
    • What specific attributes of the ES&S proposal led the CCBOE to award the contract to ES&S, having exceeded the closest bid by $5M?

Cuyahoga "Successful" "Audit" of the "Successful" March "Election" - Part 3

Audit posts, Part 1 , and Part 2 , can be found directly below.

Here you'll see some film of the audit after precinct selection and when the counting begins.
To be posted here at a later date will be a few conclusions about the necessity for thorough audit planning with unchanging protocols; how training & monitoring of the process of hand counting can be done to assure better and more uniform success; some suggestions about reconciling the hand count to the scanner printers' counts, and how those can be noted to assure transparency; about integration of witnesses and observers into the process, the only independent people there, with no vestment in proving their own processes and work; and more.

Also later, here or in another post, some reports from the audit, both pre-plans, and post- audit ones, and both independent ones, and those from the CCBOE will be posted.

The Audit Counting Begins

video

And continues, on 4/29/08

video

Then skipping some film of the next days (they were almost complete early in the second day) moving on, to near the audit end on 5/1/08:

video

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Election Audits-Part 2: Precinct Sampling

You can find Part 1, about the Cuy. audit directly below.

In the past year, I've had the pleasure of working with a group that began as fellow members of a "tech" sub-group of the Ohio SoS's Voting Rights Institute, and which was able to finally move forward and expand under their own steam and excellent shared leadership, with the facilitation of Cleveland's Ron Olson, to focus on preparing protocols for and relating the importance of election audits.
Now known as The Ohio Joint Audit Working Group, the team now also includes experts from across the nation. (A list of member names are listed on the two papers below.) Combining both historic-imperative and statistical perspectives, some have honed to a fine science, methods of election audit precinct selection that can vastly increase an audit's statistical confidence in election results, while also increasing efficiency, lessening workload, and cost.
The Joint Audit Working Group's February ,'08, White Paper can be downloaded by clicking here. The more detailed extension, June, '08 "Recommended Audit Procedures" can be downloaded here.

So for those particularly interested in the important topic of audit sample selection, or how long this 4/29 non-random, and non-statistically sound process took, partially driven by state directive, I post here the next 3 films of Cuyahoga's audit precinct selection.

video


video

video

More about the Cuyahoga's actual counting, reconciling and ending the audit in, Part 3, the next post.

The March "Audit"- Part 1

Starting from an end point, between 4/29 and 5/1, Cuyahoga was one of 11 Ohio counties that conducted a "pilot" election "audit," per Secretary of State Directive 2008-39 - to boost "voter confidence" in the trustworthiness of electronic election equipment, and the success and accuracy of the March election. That audit too has been deemed "a success."

Though possibly a baby-step toward thinking about checking their work, and an actual audit – which even the Everest study showed should be mandatory - the CCBOE’s was hardly the “audit” that most people would normally assume.

It was more “a type of” recount, but one that had been actually strategized (though that part of the plan was not shared with witnesses,) to best make sure that the hand counts of each of the 99 precincts selected, would most certainly match the scanner totals – thus avoiding the prospect of having to do a full countywide hand count – and to best assure “success”!

The Directive said if on the second go-round the difference between the handcounts and scan counts was greater than 2 (which after counties got started was announced to have meant 2 per precinct…) a full hand count would have to ensue. (The CCBOE announced after they got started they had changed that to 5 because of their size. I actually thought that change was reasonable among all 7% of Cuyahoga’s 1436 precincts. What was not reasonable was the changing of “audit” “protocols” as workers felt needed, to assure success! - sometimes on the fly, and often not telling anyone.)

So they had the ES&S tech scan one precinct at a time, hardly as in an election environment: and suddenly began calling the M650 scanners, “THE tabulator” when “the tabulator” that was used throughout the election and which prepared the official final results was different software – it was the ES&S Unity software, held on a computer, where after M650 totals had been transferred to ZIP disk, were uploaded and Unity then processed the totals for a report to be printed out.

Though when I could not find the audit supervisor, I appealed to the Deputy Director that regular election software should be checked and used in the audit, and he agreed and told the supervisor to use Unity as the tabulator - after the Deputy Dir. left the warehouse in the morning (it’s not a great place to hang around) and before he returned later in the afternoon, they had begun again using the M650 scanners as the tabulators, printing out the precinct results one at a time from the dot-matrix printers below each scanner. The Deputy Director said nothing about the change. (?)

At the end of this film you’ll hear that interchange, (did not want to stick the camera in people's faces.) At the beginning you’ll see that though audit witnesses were invited to join and take part at 8:30a, the volunteer witnesses sat around wasting time that Tuesday workday morning, as the tech cleaned the scanners (and then they ran the zero reports and a 30-ballot test deck) until well after 10:30a.
You'll also hear both the " we're taking it slow" statement, and "we've got time constraints" statement when it came to uploading results to Unity.
I still wonder why the Unity software was avoided.
(
Though it appeared that on the last day they did upload the totals to Unity, you'll be able to see on the final audit film in the next post, and though I've requested that Unity report, as of this date, June 19, I have not received it.)


Another part of the unannounced strategy to assure “audit” “success” was that someone decided that each of the selected precincts must be run on the same scanner that it was run on in the official count. The quote from the audit survey the CCBOE/the audit supervisor (?) sent to the SoS, (received there on May 11) was this suggestion for future audits.
“When using a highspeed OS scanner, the ballots should be scanned on the same unit used during the official canvass. (Example:ES&S M650) This will help with any calibration issues that might occur on units using a legacy type of calibration mechanism.”

(15 of these “legacy” type of calibration mechanisms is what the CCBOE is considering buying right now!)

He said it more clearly, when questioned, at the 5/8/08 board meeting, and which report sound somewhat glowing.

video

But before moving on to the next post about the audit, (found above,) lets look at the SoS Directive 08-39 re: precinct selection, and the corresponding film.
From the SoS Directive, as confusing and non-random this supposed "random" selection is:
3. The total number of votes cast, in the candidate races and question or issue elections being audited must be compared to the number of voters listed in the poll book, poll list, or signature poll book records by a team of at least two election officials, with each team having an equal numbers of members of the major political parties, including among the election officials conducting the comparison. These records must be available for visual inspection by observers. The observers shall not be permitted to handle the records. (I add, still to this date the poll books have not been reconciled, thus this step did not happen.)
4. Ballots must be checked for proper candidate position and to verify that each candidate's race or a question or issue has been properly identified. Observers may observe the inspection of the ballots.
5. Regular absentee ballot envelopes returned after the statutory deadline may be viewed by the observers. An observer may not see the actual ballot, only the envelopes, which must be sealed. ( I add that the audit supervisor misplaced and included only the last sentence in his incomplete audit plan, regarding Observers being able to see any ballots - again indicating as throughout the counting that he didn't want Observers looking at his ballots.)
6. Ballots must be handled only by the members of the board of elections, its director, deputy director or other designated employees of the board.
7. The Board must randomly select whole precincts whose total equals at least 7% of the total vote.
8. The ballots for these precincts will then be manually hand counted.
9. For the purposes of this directive, "randomly select" means the following:
a. Whole precincts shall be selected for the audit. NOTE: Each precinct's ballots shall include for the audit all relevant regular ballots (VVPAT and/or optical scan paper ballots), provisional ballots, and absentee ballots tallied and recorded as part of the official count. Sealed VVPAT canisters may be opened for the purposes of conducting the post election audit, even if there is not a recount in the precinct.
b. Enough precincts shall be selected for the audit whose total votes cast, when taken together, equal at least 7% of the total votes cast in the election at issue.
c. To select the first precinct for the recount, these steps should be followed:
  • Step 1: make an alphabetical list of all the named political subdivisions within the election district or race to be recounted (for example, if a county office race will be recounted, list of all the political subdivisions within the county in
  • alphabetical order);
  • Step 2: draw, by lot, one of the named political subdivisions from the alphabetical list created in Step 1 ("by lot" means to select one of the political subdivisions randomly, such as by placing all the names from the list in a hat and selecting one);
  • Step 3: create a numerical or alphabetical list of all precincts in the political subdivision selected under Step 2 that are within the election district to be recounted;
  • Step 4: draw, by lot, one of the precincts from the list created in Step 3. The precinct selected in Step 4 is the first precinct included in the hand recount.
  • d. If the precinct selected in Step 4 equals at least 7% of the total votes cast, you are not required to select another precinct for the first manual recount.
  • e. If additional precincts are required to reach the 7% threshold, these steps should be followed to select subsequent precincts:
Step 5: proceed to the next political subdivision after the political subdivision selected in Step 2 on the alphabetical list;
Step 6: determine the next higher precinct number, letter, or combination thereof, if any, after the precinct number selected in Step 4. If there is no next higher precinct number, letter, or combination thereof, choose the first precinct numerically, alphabetically or in combination. This precinct number for the
political subdivision selected in Step 5 will be the next precinct hand counted for the recount.
Step 7: If the two precincts selected from Steps 1 through 6 do not equal at least 7% of the total votes cast in the election at issue, repeat Steps 5 and 6 - using the most recently selected political subdivision and precinct number as the basis for moving sequentially to additional political subdivisions and precincts within those subdivisions - until enough precincts are selected. For example, the third precinct would be from the next political subdivision after the name of the second selected political subdivision on the alphabetical list. The precinct number would be the next higher number, letter, or combination thereof from the precinct number selected for the second political subdivision. Steps 2 through 7 should be repeated sequentially until at least 7% of the total votes cast in the election at issue has been selected. If the board reaches the end of the alphabetical list of political subdivisions or the end of the numerical, alphabetical or combination thereof list of precincts, it shall proceed to the beginning of the list and proceed forward in like manner continuing to use the procedures in Steps 2 through 6.
f. Important Points to Remember: If one precinct has been chosen from each political subdivision in the election district, and the sum of total votes cast remains less than 7% of the total votes cast in the election district, the board shall proceed by continuing to follow the alphabetical list in selecting a political -snip-


You will see that though this is what they said they did, it did not follow the directive, as stated - which because the directive was so skewed, made little difference to the audit by that time. What does make a difference is that the supervisor sat aside and didn't know then, and apparently still by 5/8, that they were not following the directive.
Here's film of the beginning of audit precinct selection:

video

More about"random" audit precinct selection and important counting and ending facts about the Cuyahoga audit in next 2 posts. (Part 2, precinct sampling)

What IS "An Election"?

Some may wonder why in June, I'm still posting issues about March when most people are already on to the presidential election in November.

It's because the CCBOE March election has not really been properly completed yet, or thoroughly assessed for security and real improvement; and because the "officials", the security/process/and personnel management are the same as will be handling November's election.

It's important for more citizens to know, (and to protect against/attempt to get improved before November.)

I was a "certified" Observer for the March election, per ORC 3505.21; and helped recruit and train other volunteer Observers. (You can become one too.)

It's from an Observer's perspective - albeit often an unwelcome person just attempting to see anything, during the months of counting, verifying, reconciling and "auditing," (despite SoS Directive 2008-29 saying that Observers must be able to "closely watch and inspect") - that I will begin to offer just a few of the March-May topics and film - so you can see for yourself.

Warning: this perspective may not match what you may have read about in the papers, or heard about in speeches - about the "successful" March election.

And though my gut, reasonable "guesstimates," and general trust in just a few people (who though, still must follow orders from those way above them) tell me that that election wasn't "stolen"; the problem here is that no trust in our election results should need to depend on gut, guesstimates, and possible trust of one or two people. Every election deserves equal access of all valid voters attempting to participate, and transparent, provably accurate results. (For example, Cuyahoga's, and all counties' actual number's get totaled into state numbers, here, to make Ohio's "win." Just a bit of skew in a few BOE's, could make a huge difference nationwide.)

Though I, and the other stalwart Observer, were even there, for hours, sitting in the roped off "observer area" in the tabulation zone the night before the March certified results were made final (film of 4/3/08 yet to be posted,) I still can not attest to the certified numbers being an accurate tabulation of all and only valid voters' choices.
(In fact, since it had been determined that asking questions, like "What is the problem?" or "How did you resolve it? or "What are you doing?" was "impeding an election" - the oft-ascribed, always-hovering Observer "offense" that could get one thrown out - that night for those 3 hours, I wasn't even sure what the workers were doing at the scanners and our tabulator!

To me, that one fact makes almost all others, virtually moot.

And it makes me want to ask again - Just what do our boards think "an election" is?

What do you think "an election" is?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

6/12/08 Drillin' It Down - ES&S or Hart?

The CCBOE 6/12 reconvening of procurement meeting saw the CEO's of both ESS&S and Hart InterCivic there to answer more questions and continue negotiations.
Mr. Aldo Tesi, CEO of ES&S was there with his team; Mr. Gregg Burt, CEO of Hart, was there with his. The meeting proceeded mostly in the manner of the CCBOE asking a question, and then the two CEOs or a team member each took a turn answering.

This in many ways was an historic meeting for Cuyahoga.

The past board made their first "and firm" decision to buy Diebold touchscreens in Feb. '04, and continued "negotiations" in many executive sessions (where they kept the public in the hall for hours) and/or in some "public meetings" (which, in actuality, the public had no way of understanding the decisions were happening.)
The past board, rather than ask Diebold tough questions, or press Diebold into any compliance - even when they didn't fix their registration database that was deleting people and causing many errors; or didn't show up for a May train-the-trainer class; even when their $168/hour project manager did not come to board meetings, or when she came she had no answers (just more suggestions of more things to buy to remedy their past failures;) and even when their equipment was failing and falling in May '06 - the board refused to note failure rates; refused for two years to seriously listen to documentation about Diebold failures from across the U.S.; and even refused to let the public know when they were going to sign the unseen contract with Diebold, or how many pieces of equipment they were "firmly" planning to buy. (It was signed, unannounced, in private, on 11/11/05)
Instead, between May and November '06, in the face of (ignored and unadmitted) massive, poor direct experience, and massive numbers of very damning reports coming from scientists across the U.S. about Diebold, the board continued to listen to Diebold's "answers"; and at almost every board meeting, the board awarded Diebold another minimum $.5 million for senseless items, such as roll carts (with ignored very late delivery,) so the "fragile" machines would not break, privacy screens (like cardboard sunshields for car windows;) training (though Diebold failed at that in May, and Cuy. had already paid the Community College 3/4 of a million for training;) for 900 more machines - to (ahem....) back up the high number that were failing and breaking at the polls in May; etc.

The last evoting acquisition - for this past March - was a rather forced, and very (too) rapid one, with only one choice available, under the SoS's "firm" "preference," and old but current certification laws - the leasing of ES&S 's old, M650 central-count, non-digital scanners (the purchase of which, are part of the current ES&S proposal....)

This board did not have the time, space or alternatives to actually hold a vendor to more reasonable pricing, reasonable service ( the kind expected for a million dollars, not the kind we get because we pay them another almost another million for it, as happened in March '08,) reasonable warranties, etc.

This meeting is the first one that I've witnessed, certainly in Cuyahoga, where an elections board is actually doing due diligence for voters and taxpayers with elections equipment vendors - holding them to task, expecting "reasonable" (hard word to use in this context) pricing and service and warranties, putting forth penalties for non-performance, etc.
And if you watch the film below, you may agree with me that they are doing one heck of a good job! It was a pleasure to see that finally, someone is putting the small field of currently "certified" elections equipment vendors in their proper consumer company places - letting them know that a time of no choices, too little customer knowledge for "defense" etc. is fast closing, and they are not going to control a whole board, nor a whole county's elections and get paid exorbitant amounts for doing it.

Items on the table on 6/12 included such things as willingness to offer:
  • a "Most Favored Nation" clause (the best price offered anywhere,) the duration of that clause, and what items and/or services it would cover (equipment, licenses tech services, etc.);
  • locking in those prices and guarantees that they will be around to service the equipment for periods from 5 to 10 years; (Hart promised 10 years.)
  • the ability and cost to other equipment if the CCBOE decided to use different ADA devices than those proposed (both ADA solutions comprise a large part of each bid, neither provides a really good and workable, secure solution for the CCBOE;
    (Hart proposes their 33 lb. touchscreen, eSlate, large for Cuy. polls, at $2+M, possibly offering similar difficulties to poll workers as Diebold's Tsx's in set-up & coding the proper ballot, and found one of the most insecure parts of the Hart equipment in both the EVEREST Report and the CA Review.
    ES&S proposes the 80lb. AutoMark for each poll, at $3+M, a paper ballot marking device, which to me is far too slow, (especially for a multi-page ballot, one page at a time, especially when a person cannot see who's looking at one already filled-in page while another is processing,) and still necessitates the disabled person getting to another scanner to cast the vote, etc.)
  • Comparisons of the digital technologies and the capacity abilities of the proposed digital scanners.
    (Hart proposes their precinct digital eScans and central count BallotNow digital scanners for absentee votes.
    ES&S proposes Cuy. start with non-digital technology, but optical scanners/tabulators, (M-100's at the precincts and the same 15 M650's already leased and at the board, for this past March) since their digital tech has not been certified yet. They also propose trading out the precinct optical scanners for digital, DS200's after they are certified - they say/we'll see... by November ('08.) Though they've spoken about their central (for absentee) digital scanners, (the DS2000s,) these, from what I can see, are not part of the bid. The big, 1950's tech, and what the ballot Administrator has termed "legacy equipment", the M650 optical scanners would stay.)
  • Delivery dates for November's election -
    (Hart says by Aug. 31; ES&S says, if I remember correctly, by Sept 31.)
  • They hammered out who pays for the vendor's Performance Bond, and added and tried to firm the duration and amounts of Performance Guarantees.
    (ES&S had Cuyahoga paying for their performance bond!)
  • Nailed down warranty language and asked questions about corporate viability
  • They asked and compared Training services
  • Ascertained such things as what it means if a vendor charges the client for installation and the client's Acceptance Testing of the vendor's equipment.
    (Hart said that was a "cost of doing business" for them; ES&S hedged, and said those charges were a way of "recovering their costs." (I add, also a (paid-for) way to make sure their equipment gets "accepted" - a pretty good "gig" if one can get away with it.)
  • They covered some functionality issues, both with their own questions and those submitted from the public during the midway-thru, executive session/break;
  • and much more.
The best way to glean the many points covered, your judgement of the answers (for this multi-million dollar taxpayer-paid purchase, years-to-come almost "dependency-marriage", and the people who make, sell and service equipment that would create and tell us our election results, including for president) - to get a sense of the character of each company, is to watch the films below for yourself. Each clip is approximately 20+ minutes.

The meeting ended with the plan that Cuyahoga would draft a contract for each company according to the oral representations made at the meeting (or answers yet to come,) submit each company's contract to them by June 18 for any further discussion to make it acceptable to both parties, and would make their decision at a public meeting at 5pm on Friday, June 20.

1. The meeting starts, introductions and opening statements are made, the framework is set:


2. Negotiating locking in the best prices, across the board, for years:


3. Discussion of delivery dates;ES&S promises to have their currently uncertified, digital precinct DS200's certified and in hand, as trade-in for the M100 optical scanners, for the May '09 election; guarantees for "glitch-free," "successful" performance/elections; and discussed corporate viability:


4. Discussion of printing costs; a break and "regrouping"; discussion of who pays for installation and does our acceptance testing, etc.:



5. More about warranties, guarantees, especially 3rd party warranties with Hart equipment, willingness to offer free back-up units for election day, who pays for the vendor's recertification if their products (so obviously) demand another look, etc. (Reposted clip with important audio throughout:)
video

6. Listen to this one about Training. Mr. Tesi explains that ES&S has separately owned training division. (And in the world of unfortunate names, election integrity activists have noted that the name of Premier's spokesman is Chris Riggall. The owner of the ES&S's training division is Colleen Haack.)
Eddie, the Hart training manager - a vendor! actually talks about "the sanctity of the vote!"
(Hopefully that would translate to everyday usage.)


7. In this last clip they ask more functionality questions from public, and begin to summarize what was accomplished, and set out next steps.
(The reason the exportability of election results to a regular spreadsheet program is so important is for example, with ES&S 's 700+ page, 6pt. type, pdf report from Cuy.'s March '08 election, it prevented the staff and the public from easily "making sense of", and/or duly scrutinizing and analyzing what we're told were our results. It defies one of the main reasons people use computers, to do fast sorting and calculations.
Instead the unwieldy report mainly demands just passive acceptance of who their machines tell us are our winners/losers. O
nly those with a great deal of time on their hands could easily find what they were looking for, let alone sort by Congressional districts, add votes by portions of cities, etc.
Even, during the audit of 99 precincts, the staff had to spend hours finding and inserting the numbers one at a time, from the reported official results, into the audit analysis spreadsheet. (I needed to do that too as an audit witness. )
On 5/1, I again expressly asked our $1500/day ES&S project manager if there was any way to export the ES&S Unity tabulator report to MS Excel. He expressly said no, then changed it to, he thinks there may be a way, but he does not know how.
He also indicated with a smile, that many of their customers have asked for that for a very long time. I asked him if future versions of Unity would include that feature. He said he did not know, and indicated that there are other things on the ES&S R&D plate that could take precedence. I asked if he could call someone to find out how to do it. He indicated that he felt it wasn't worth it by then - the end of the post-election audit. Think about it. Why would a company NOT support thorough board and public scrutiny of their tabulator's results?)




(Note: Some stated benefits to digital over optical scanners for elections:
Digital takes pictures of all the ballots, (which, because they have no personally identifying marks, could be put on disk as public information;) have markings to prevent any ballot (or an illegal copy) from being scanned twice; allow for cheaper printing costs ( don't need such exacting grid marks /can use lighter paper;) and Hart's can accommodate larger paper, possibly avoiding a multi-page ballot. )

Opinion:
During the break, of course many of the public informally talked, expressing opinions about who should win the bid for Cuyahoga's next equipment vendor.
The first impression that the vast majority shared was that they liked Hart much better, because they seemed so much more honest.
It was also shared that many of the staff who actually must operate the centrally based equipment to set the ballots and tabulate results, and after doing research, like Hart better too.
When the board staff called around to find other BOE's impressions of both vendors they'd been using, the lowest rating out of 10-high, for Hart, was one "9" - much different than ES&S. Also the Ballot Department enjoyed their time working with Hart, feeling like they were learning, not watching; and seeing if our current databases could be imported into their system. (They did, easily.)

There are also definitely functionality, not only cost differences between the two systems. (Hart's proposal, including the eSlate - and warranties,training, back-up units, installation, etc. is about $4M less)
Though overall, the Hart system has been found generally a bit less secure than the also insecure ES&S system, (see the EVEREST Report and the CA Top To Bottom Review,) this seems possibly mostly based in the eSlate touch screen they propose for ADA accessbility, which does not have to be included in the purchase. (The AutoMark ES&S solution has its own set of problems, such as 80 lb. weight, slowness, need to still navigate to another place for a scanner to cast a ballot, etc.) Also, on the other hand, the digital precinct scanners ES&S proposes to trade out by the end of '08 for their M100 precinct optical vote tabulators, proposed for November - the DS200's - have never been thoroughly tested by any independent scientists, as have the other machines. We don't really know exactly what good and bad we'd be getting when that happens.
Even when they get their federal certification, supposedly in November, it will be no proof. Vendors pay the federal labs for their own certification; and it's been shown that the federal labs, according to federal Election Assistance Guidelines, do not even test the systems for breach-ability.

The decision may end up hinging on the compared practicalities and possibilities for ADA accessibility. In March, Cuyahoga had only about 267 ADA voters out of more than 400,000. In March, we used 600 of the 6300 Diebold/Premier touchscreens that we still own and are now in storage, for ADA accessibility/mostly for blind voters to be able to vote independently. These could be used again. The Tsx's security, operability, and capacity issues could certainly be better controlled in these numbers, than using them throughout the county. But still that would take great attention to proper training, (as it would for all the ADA choices) since in March, about 1/2 of the poll workers could still not get their one Tsx up and running.
This is an area that needs real thought and problem solving, (and possibly some partnership with other agencies (like the Sight Center) for real comfort and security of the voters, as well as the practicalities of being able to train enough poll workers in all the details of properly working with all the vulnerabilities of any of the curent ADA solutions.

I would not want to be the one making the decisions here.

What I do know, is that now and even once the decision is made, Cuyahoga must begin to attend to the more basic security, training, and paper and process management issues - upon which any machine security depends, and upon which the entire security and true success of any election depends.
Needed are such basics as a vastly expanded working phone system and trained help desk personnel for election day so poll workers can actually get through and get help; to building a culture of security through transparency - one of welcoming, engendering and taking seriously
real civic engagement.

No matter what the board chooses to do about (still vulnerable) election electronics, for November, at least the presidential race must be hand counted (hopefully by volunteer citizens) at the polls, with results posted there for everyone to see (and compare with board totals.)