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Caution voting machine system without paper (audit) trail danger

Track this issue

Federal legislation called Help America Vote Act, which was implemented in Oct. 2002, requires states to comply with the Act by key dates.  Unfortunately, the Act did not at the time address high-tech machines to replace either punch-card machines, or lever-style mechanical devices.  However, on May 22, 2003 U.S. Rep. Rush Holt introduced another bill which amends the Act to require a voter-verified paper trail by 2004 November Federal Election.


Be aware of your rights and demand election safeguards.

Your rights
It is not surprising that our Court has held that this Article gives persons qualified to vote a constitutional right to vote and to have their votes counted. United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383 ; Ex Parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 . Not only can this right to vote not be denied outright, it cannot, consistently with Article I, be destroyed by alteration of ballots, see United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299 , or diluted by stuffing of the ballot box, see United States v. Saylor, 322 U.S. 385 . No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.

Pittsburgh activists develop Voting Machine Selection Process - Replicate it in your county.

Responding to the Help America Vote Act, six Pennsylvania organizations conducted an open, public voting machine assessment with Allegheny County. Replicate in your county today! (Center for Civic Participation, November 2005).

In response to the Help America Vote Act’s mandate that every county choose new voting machines equipped with new technologies including access to individuals with disabilities, Allegheny County hosted a Voting Machine Expo. For this expo, activists in Allegheny County developed and implemented a scientific process for citizens with and without disabilities to evaluate the “candidate” machines. The results of this evaluation are being used by the County as part of its final evaluation process. Although the machine selection deadline has been extended past December 31, 2005, all counties must have their new machines - and poll workers trained to use them – in place for the May 2006 primary. Recognizing (1) the short time remaining and (2) that the selected machines will affect voting for years to come, activists that helped make the Allegheny County Voting Machine Expo successful have made their strategies and tools available on the web for officials and activists in other counties to use. With the HAVA deadline looming, we must take the lead in ensuring that local officials choose voting machines that are Secure, Accurate, Recountable, and Accessible, and that the process for evaluating voting equipment is transparent, public and effective. A group in Allegheny County did it - you can too...

You can find the details about HAVA requirements elsewhere in links on this site.  States reportedly must comply with HAVA by 2006, and so Pennsylvania has imposed this date on counties such as Fayette.
Here is a useful Q & A section
What are the disability access requirements for voting systems under HAVA?

Section 301(a)(3)(A) of HAVA requires that each voting system used in federal elections be accessible for persons with disabilities, including persons who are blind or have low vision.  Specifically, each polling place can satisfy this requirement through the use of at least one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped to allow disabled voters the same opportunity for access and participation as other voters, including the ability to vote independently and privately.  The EAC will eventually issue voluntary guidance as to what constitutes an accessible voting system.   Until the EAC guidance is adopted, the voluntary guidance of the FEC can be used to determine the accessibility of voting machines.  (These can be found at FEC at Section 2.2.7 of the Voting System Standards).

This disability access requirement includes any jurisdiction which conducts federal elections irrespective of its existing type of voting system (i.e., direct recording electronic, lever, punch card, optical scan, manually count paper ballots, etc.)   As used in Section 301 of HAVA, the term "voting system" includes all of the existing systems in use in the country.

Resource key provisions HAVA

Congress passed the (HR 3295) Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in October, 2002 and President George W. Bush signed the legislation.
Key provisions:

By January 1, 2006 --

  • Provide voters with information on the effect of overvoting, how to correct their ballots and how to request a replacement ballot.
  • Have voting systems that produce a permanent paper record with manual audit capacity.
  • Provide at least one Direct Recording Electronic voting system (DRE) per County to provide enhanced access to the voting process by people with disabilities.
  • Comply with the Federal Elections Commission's standards for voting equipment error rates.
  • Define uniform and nondiscriminatory standards for what constitutes a vote.

By January 1, 2004 --
  • Provide a process for allowing voters to cast provisional ballots.
  • Establish a toll-free line allowing voters who have cast provisional ballots to check to see whether their vote was counted or not, and if not counted, why not.
  • Implement a "uniform, official, centralized, interactive, computerized statewide voter registration list" that is defined, maintained, and administered at the state level (can request a "good cause" waiver to January 1, 2006)

By January 1, 2003 --
  • Implement new identification requirements for first time voters who register by mail (requires voters to submit copies of a valid photo ID , current utility bill, bank statement, or government document with their registration form or their ballot.)

Before federal funding can be received --
  • Establish and Election Fund that is separate from the state General Fund.
  • Certify that an administrative procedure is in place for voter complaints under Title III of HAVA.
  • Prepare and submit to the federal government as state HAVA plan that is developed in an open manner and subject to public notice and comment.
However, many websites warn that the federal legislation contains requirements which are voluntary upon the states.
This site reviews the requirements and outlines potential funding when those requirements are met.
January 14, 2003 OLR Research Report
Many states have adopted legislation which implements the (HAVA), search Google for information for your state.
Department of State - PA
Meeting to be held June 10, 2003
Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt has introduced legislation   Bill  H.R. 2239 - Bill introduced by Mr. Holt---May 22, 2003 The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 to require a voter-verified permanent record or hardcopy ...
The most important considerations for local county commissioners and the state department of Pennsylvania are:
Has the FEC certified the kind of machines which have the voter-verified paper trail?
Has our state of PA certified those types of touch-screen machines with the voter-verified paper trail?
What kind of funding is available from the federal government directly to replace lever-style machines?
What aid is available from state, but more importantly, can that aid be used to acquire the machines with the voter-verified paper trail, if those machines are not yet certified by the state of PA?
These are crucial questions.  Heed the advice of David Dill:

At this time, the only tried-and-true technology for providing a voter-verified audit trail is a paper ballot, where the votes recorded can be easily read and checked by the voter. With appropriate election administration policies (for example, ensuring the physical security of ballots), voters can be reasonably confident of the integrity of election results. Two specific alternatives that are available now are:

  • Precinct-based optical scan ballots. The CalTech/MIT Voting Technology Project found them to be the most accurate at recording the voter's intent and not significantly more expensive per vote than touch-screen machines.
  • Touch screen machines that print paper ballots. Such systems would have many of the advantages of DRE machines, including potentially improved accessibility for voters with disabilities. There is at least one such machine that is certified in several states, and we hope that all vendors of existing DRE machines could provide an option to add ballot printers (DRE voting machines in Brazil have been retrofitted with ballot printers, for example). The paper ballots must be submitted by the voters, to be available for counting or recounting and to avoid vote-selling. The votes on the paper ballots must be regarded as the definitive legal votes, taking precedence over electronic records or counts.

Of course, use of appropriate equipment is not sufficient to guarantee election integrity. Elections must be administered to minimize the possibility of error and fraud, and maximize the likelihood of detecting them if they occur. In particular, even with an audit trail, audits must actually be conducted. If electronic counts are used from machines that also print ballots, or if paper ballots are counted electronically, manual recounts must be conducted with enough frequency to make the detection of error or fraud likely.

This article shows crucial distinction between a machine printout as verification and a voter-verified paper trail as promoted by computer scientists.
 Feb. 27, 2003 Joanna Glasner 

Voting Software Firm Gets Sued 

The timing of the lawsuit filing coincides with efforts by advocacy groups, including a consortium led by Dill that is mainly composed of computer scientists, to improve the transparency of computer-tabulated election results.

The chief complaint from many computer scientists is that the touch-screen voting systems now used in many U.S. elections do not provide a verifiable audit trail. They say voters have no way of knowing whether the vote they enter on the screen is accurately recorded in the computer's memory.

To solve this problem, many computer scientists, including Dill, want computerized voting systems to provide a paper printout that voters could see, and that would count as the official ballot in the event of a recount.

Although no municipality is using such a system in the United States yet, the state of California recently created a task force to examine the issue of voter-verified election results.


One county in the state of California has treaded carefully before replacing punch-card machines with touch-screen machines without the paper trail.
Instead of rushing into adopting the touch-screen machine system that didn't have the voter-verified paper trail, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors used a cautious and deliberative approach.  The board adopted the paper ballot with the opti-scan feature.

The paper chase
County leaders postpone a bid for digital democracy amid fears of vote tampering By Cosmo Garvin



Why Are Modems Being Placed Inside Voting Computers?

Although we were not sure what, if anything, he was trying to hide, our curiosity was piqued, so we contacted BRCs only real competitor in Michigan, Doubleday Publishing of Kalamazoo, which sells the Accu-vote optical scanner supplied by Global Election systems. A programming technician matter-of-factly told us that there are modems inside each of the vote-counting computers which are used to transfer results from dozens of precincts to the central counting computers. He explained,

"They talk between the modems there is a modem between each [computer] unit, or at least, most of them."

Thus, the vote-counting computers can "talk" to the central computer and are, thus, technically, vulnerable to outside access. The Doubleday technician explained that special command cards can be inserted into the machine.