Monday, November 26, 2007

SoS "solutions" to unuseable VVPAT paper trails - Insufficient & Invalid?

The Cuyahoga County BOE will be holding a meeting tomorrow morning at 9.
A first item is consideration/acknowledgment of the memo dated 11/21/07 apparently authored by David Farrell, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Director of Elections regarding how to proceed when almost certainly counties will come across un-whole, scrunched, torn, unreadable VVPAT tapes from DRE's - the voters' official ballots for recounts (the first time any of the sealed paper canisters are opened after the election in question.)

The memo is available for download here.

After the CCBOE was kind enough to to send me this memo, since I cannot access such items from the SoS website, I found it to be yet another step in memorializing that elections have little to do with voters, our rights, our voice, and our communal will; but instead wrongly memorializing that elections now are about candidates, (who wins and loses, and avoiding non-affordable to most but the few, law suits, that may follow in the political competitions;) about election officials; the private proprietary vendors; the media; etc.

Below is the letter I just sent to David Farrell, asking for quick and proper amendment to his proposed processes - putting voters at the top of the priorities, as we belong.

November 26, 2007

Sent via electronic mail

Office of the Secretary of State
• David M. Farrell, Deputy Assistant SoS and Director of Elections
• cc Kellye Pinkelton, Director, Voting Rights Institute
• cc. SoS Attorneys
• cc. Ed Monroe, SoS Regional Liaison

Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
• cc. Members of the Board
• cc. Director, Jane Platten

From: Adele Eisner, Cuyahoga County voter and resident

RE: Insufficiency of solution to unuseable VVPAT tapes in a recount/ SoS Memo in response to Cuyahoga County's very salient inquiry

(Note 1: Lacking all necessary email addresses, I actually send this to only those listed in the send-to portion of this email. I request that those with easier access to those email addresses will distribute to others also listed in the header of this letter.)

Dear David, and others so concerned:

The matter of current DRE election machinery ruining the official ballots of voters for a recount (where presently such paper trails are first opened after the election) is a very serious one, about which I've voiced grave concern since May 2006, when the current machinery was introduced in Cuyahoga; and specifically in conversations with Kellye and others in your office, since March, 2007.

Before I continue with some background and the main point of my objection to your 11/21/07 Memo/ (possibly interim) "solutions" to the problem, which are misdirected in ignoring the rights of voters and taxpayers of Ohio, I want to express my deep appreciation to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections and staff for their excellent diligence in listening to voters and detailed attempts to protect voters' rights and the sanctity of our elections, thus bringing this matter before you, for some necessary answers.

I begin by pointing out that both the ESI report from Cuyahoga's May '06 election, ( and the Cuyahoga "Collaborative Audit," done after the November '06 election, show, in these separate studies - that a full 9-plus% of all of Cuyahoga's VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails) tapes, unreliably produced by the machines, arrive at the CCBOE unwhole: overprinted, scrunched, torn, taped, smeared etc. - problems you noted in your above-stated memo.

As a recount observer since, I've noted the same vendor/machine problems continue -
• robbing a significant percentage of voters of their official ballots, which further, because of the secret, proprietary software and machinery claimed by these for-great-profit, private vendors, even when ballots are whole, originally prevent voters from the assurance that what is being tabulated are the voters' own choices;
• as well as causing even more obstructive headaches and extensive amounts of time and effort - taxpayer-paid/board staff extended - in those BOE's who are trying to "do the right things" for voters, while being greatly limited by the poor operation and lack of election security of the machines they're forced to use.

I remind you, these machine printers, which are now nationally recognized as unacceptably performing, were an add-on, later required in many states, because of the public outcry about the opacity of/"black-box-ness" and insider, undetectable manipulatability of citizens' election results, after DRE machines were forced around the nation with 2002 HAVA - the unthought-through, financial-boon-to-machine vendors, and power-boon-to-election-insiders. This required add-on happened in Ohio with HB 262.

Yet even our state codes and highly questionable HAVA required these forced-into-use machines and components/these billions of dollar "investment" to taxpayers, to be at least "reliable" in their operation.

From AG opinion, I believe, 2006-05:
"A vendor who desires to have equipment certified submits that equipment and pays a fee. R.C. 3506.05(C). The Board of Voting Machine Examiners examines the equipment and submits a report to the Secretary of State. R.C. 3506.05(D). “If the board finds that the equipment meets the criteria set forth in sections 3506.06, 3506.07 and 3506.104 of the Revised Code,
can be used safely and can be depended upon to record and count accurately and continuously the votes of electors, and has the capacity to be warranted, maintained, and serviced, it shall approve the equipment and...recommend that the secretary of state certify the equipment."


from, I believe: 42 U.S.C.A. § 15481(a)(2):
"Thus, to satisfy HAVA, a voting system must produce a permanent
paper record with a manual audit capacity, and the paper record must be available as an
record for purposes of any recount. For a DRE voting system, VVPAT constitutes the
permanent paper record that is available for recount.
See R.C. 3506.18(A) (“[f]or any recount of
an election in which ballots are cast using a direct recording electronic voting machine with a verified paper audit trail, the VOTER VERIFIED paper audit trail shall serve as the official ballot to be recounted”)
. For a system that uses paper ballots, including a PCOS, the ballots themselves
serve this purpose."

(All above emphases my own.)

Since those times, however, further studies, such as those from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the recommending agency to the federal EAC for states' machine "Voluntary Guidelines" and the University of Connecticut most recently, have proved that such "paper trails" offer voters only what scientific studies call only "fools' gold,"/completely false assurances. They too are driven by secret software that can manipulate what is printed, even when it is different from what is tabulated (even when the voters check them, and can see and read them.)

It is thus, hard to comprehend all the reasons why the Secretary of State's office has not de-certified these machines already, upon such already proven causes, instead of:
- spending another $1.8 million of taxpayer money for more "testing,"
- over this year, forcing immediate vendor-paid, compliance for at least of "reliability" (as opposed to currently happening, hundreds of thousands of dollars for county-paid vendor "maintenance" and "tech help")
and instead of taking us all farther from the necessary accountability and transparency to voters and taxpayers that elections must provide, as suggested in your memo.

Which brings me to the point of this letter: that in your memo, you have completely missed the point of who the damaged parties are when the printers so often mal-perform; and the entire point of the essence of elections, and even these laws, requiring a
Voter VeriFIED , paper trail.

It is THE VOTERS. It is not only potentially interested recount candidates and their observers, who need to be notified, to be able to see our own votes being recreated from some memory card or machine archive.

Elections are about the citizens' right to voice their opinions/select or throw out those "leaders" we want and not.

The main stakeholders of U.S. elections, in this supposed democracy, are thus, not the candidates (i.e. who wins and loses the political "competition," though voters are increasingly being made to think so, and to go away;) nor are they about the media getting fast results on election night.

Thus, at this juncture, and though your memo of 7/21/07 was thought out in detail, while it missed the main point, I respectfully request that you immediately amend it, to require that should a board of elections find one of these un-whole paper trails in a recount (the first opening of any sealed paper canisters after the election to be recounted,) that before they do any recreation of paper ballots, they must provide a minimum of a 24 hour, effectively-wide notice to
all voters whose ballots may be being re-created, so that all voters interested in the re-creation of THEIR original ballots and their verifications, can observe that process.

I certainly understand the further burdens and time constraints this places on the local boards.

But since the tragic forcing of these hackable, poorly performing machines was introduced, citizens' elections - for which citizens have paid dearly at every step, and still pay (including your own salary;) and which determine our own futures - the very essence and concept of elections have been gradually chipped away at - completely non-sensically - to accommodate unreliable vendors and their unreliable machines!
It seems we've all been led to a place, sometimes by intent and sometimes by non-aware habit, of totally forgetting democracy's elections' original purpose, bosses, and stakeholders - the voters.

It's beyond time to remember.

If we can spend $1.8 million for more testing, when so may proven answers were already in front of us all, including the California study now yielding law suits against one vendor at least; if for instance, Cuyahoga can spend time and thus, more taxpayer money working with Diebold-Premier, to do their R&D which should have been done before they sold anything to anyone, (like to find the sources of their tabulators crashing; their insufficient computer memory; their misprepresented Election Media Processors; to engage in weekly conversations to get them to fix other problems, such as in their voter registration systems and reporting mechanisms, etc.) for Premier to hold in secret because of their proprietary claims, but to then probably write more reports about that, to most likely again shift responsibility to anyone but themselves - we must certainly give time (/money) back to voters who've paid for all this mess, so we can at least observe our very own ballots being recreated.

I also want to remind you, that the above-stated ESI report was also one of the first to report that in their audit, they found that Diebold's paper trails, memory cards, and hard-drive archives did not always match as they are purported to.

This fact additionally makes your processes for solution further invalid.

Unfortunately, until your office has these machines recalled, insists on financial liability from vendors for replacement election systems, and transparently includes citizens in the determination of how our votes are to be gathered and counted, I can offer no feasible suggestions for arighting that invalidity.

For now, let's just get first things first for the voters of this state.

I will appreciate your immediate attention to this matter. To build voter confidence in the election process, the cornerstone of a democracy, we must first remember whom the process is mandated to serve. It is the voters - not your office, not the BOE's, not the candidates, and not the media.

Thank you,
Adele Eisner

(Note 2: So that you are aware, I am also posting this message to interested election reform advocacy listserves, so that others can also monitor your response.)

1 comment:

Adele Eisner said...

Jason Parry wrote me, and gave permission to post his comment:

In case you don't read Brunner's letter to Cuyahoga BOE it lays out a procedure
for a county to replicate a "VVPAT" from the hard drive or memory cards from
the voting machine with missing/damaged VVPAT. I suppose this addresses
one of the many disasters waiting to happen but given the number of unusable
VVPATs from ESI study and just about any examination of real world VVPATs,
this is a huge tragedy.

What this memo guarantees is that anyone who wants to rig an election in
Ohio only needs to "accidentally" spill coffee on a box of VVPATs. Then your
VVPATs for a recount would be printed from the memory cards and you are
certain that your tabulation (DUH!) matches the newly printed contents of the
memory cards (no matter what those memory cards happen to say).

What? You can't imagine a county BOE storing election papers right next to
coffee pot? What about on the ground of a storage room that floods regularly?
What about all those tapes that "accidentally" get ripped when removing the
rolls from voting machines or just plain old "lost".

Brunner opens a huge loophole in Ohio recounts. Especially when counties
do not have to post results at the polling locations on election night.