Thursday, January 24, 2008

Partisanship, Arrogance, Malfeasance & We Won!

My earliest contact with the NY State Board of Elections with respect to our struggle against electronic voting machines was over three years ago. At that time I delivered a written complaint which included an observation that one machine vendor was receiving favorable treatment. Our complaint was delivered to Chairman Neil Kelleher(R) .

I explained the board's actions could be cause for suspicion and I demanded explanations which might assure NY citizens that the board was not corrupted and was indeed living up to their mission statement. The following from their mission statement:

"...In addition to the regulatory and enforcement responsibilities the board is charged with the preservation of citizen confidence in the democratic process and enhancement in voter participation in elections."

I never did get an answer to this question or the many others asked since. The accuracy of the suspicions I expressed back then was borne out this week in Saratoga.

The NYS Board of Elections met Wednesday morning concurrent with the Election Commissioners Association meeting at the Holiday Inn, Saratoga. County Election Commissioners, their staff, news media, and election integrity advocates were all there to hear which machines the state board would authorize as ballot marking devices because much hangs on the type of equipment chosen(see my earlier post concerning the BMD issue). I was there also.

I will spare you all the gory details. In short, the two Republican State Election Commissioners (Kelleher & Donohue) prevented a decision from being made by simply not coming into the room - no Republican Commissioners - no meeting - no vote!

Furthermore, there was no pretense. The Republicans were holding out for the inclusion of the LibertyVote machine - the same machine we believed was getting special treatment at the beginning. For a heartfelt description of the goings on at Saratoga check out Bo Lipari's blog:

As the day wore on into early evening we learned that the two recalcitrant commissioners were serving the interests of Senate Majority leader J. Bruno. And Bruno is serving who? And who is the Republican party serving?

The actions
this day of these partisan operatives make a powerfrul arguement for reform of New York election administration. We desperately need an independent, non-partisan system of election administration.

Some election integrity advocates vowed to return to Saratoga Thursday to watch over the miscreants and perhaps shame them into making the right decision.

WE WON! - Thursday 1/24/08 11:40 AM, This message from Susan Lipari:

"The Board just approved the Automark and the Dominion. No DRE was approved."

Board Reaffirms Support for PBOS

VIP at County Board Meeting

Last week two representatives of the Peacemakers Voting Integrity Project addressed the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors appealing to them to reaffirm their commitment to paper ballot/optical scan voting (PBOS).

Adair DeLamater and Sue Spivack were assertive and eloquent Friday morning.....and apparently effective in as much as the board again unanimously approved a resolution favoring a paper ballot voting system. They had first expressed such sentiment in the fall of 2005 following an intense lobbying effort and petition drive by the Peacemakers.

Supervisor Robert Mann of Blenheim Town was absent and did not vote.

The statements of the two VIP representatives are reproduced below.


January 18, 2008
Remarks of Adair DeLamater to the Schoharie Board of Supervisors

Chairman VanWormer, Town Supervisors

I appreciate the opportunity to express to you my concerns about the type of voting system that will be chosen for Schoharie County. Time is short; the decision must be made by February 8, 2008. Our two Election Commissioners were appointed to their positions by the Board of Supervisors; you are responsible to see that they carry out their duties in the best interest of the voters and taxpayers of Schoharie County.

I would like to review the advantages and disadvantages of electronic voting systems vs. paper ballot/optical scanners. I will refer to electronic systems as DREs, and paper ballot/optical scanners as PBOS.

PUBLIC ACCEPTANCE: Multiple polls have demonstrated that the public prefers PBOS over DREs. In 2006, 69 million voters used OS ballots; 66 million used electronic equipment. Many countries and states that utilized DREs are replacing them with PBOS. New Mexico installed PBOS statewide in 2004. Maryland’s governor is trying to replace DREs with PBOS. All six New England states utilize PBOS or hand counted ballots in many election districts. California’s Sec of State decertified some DREs and will use hand counted ballots until scanners are deployed. Presently, over half the counties in California use PBOS systems. In Ohio and Colorado, Sec of State have decertified DREs and will substitute PBOS systems. A recent poll by the PBS program New York NOW provided the results that 0% of respondents favored DREs.

COSTS; DREs have higher costs than PBOS for initial purchase, transportation, secure climate controlled storage, and maintenance. A PBOS system can process more voters per machine than DREs. Thus, more machines (at $8,000 to $10,000 each) would be needed with a DRE system. Because DREs are very heavy (about 235 lbs each, as opposed to 19 to 39 lbs for OS), they require two people to move them on a wheeled device, and must be transported on a truck with a lift system. One person can carry a scanner, and they can be stacked for storage, thus requiring much less space in secure, climate controlled storage. In districts utilizing PBOS, local election staff transport the equipment. With DREs, software is a trade secret, and company officials program the DREs, test them, and count the ballots, without input from public election staff. There is an annual fee (approximately 12% of the contract) for continued use of the DREs. HAVA funds would cover the cost of OS and ballot marking devices for Schoharie; because a greater number of more expensive machines would be needed for a DRE system, the cost would greatly exceed the funds that will be available.

EASE OF USE With PBOS, the voter marks their ballot themselves, and can see what choices they have made before presenting the ballot for scanning. The scanner alerts any under vote or over vote, and the voter is able to correct the ballot in the case of an under vote, or is given a fresh ballot in the case of an over vote. This is not true of DREs; multiple sites have experienced problems with under votes, and over votes are rejected and not counted. PBOS provides a paper ballot on good quality paper; the original ballot is stored, and available for recount. DREs provide a thermal paper trail printed with ink that fades with time, thus making recounts more difficult. With PBOS, multiple voters can be marking their ballots in privacy booths at the same time. It takes only 3 seconds for the scanner to record their votes. DREs can handle only one voter at a time, which may result in long waits to vote for voters who may have time pressure of family or work. In the event of a power failure, or machine failure, PBOS enable voters to continue to vote, and the ballot can be held for scanning in a locked box. If a DREs backup batteries fail, or the machine malfunctions, the voter is unable to vote.

With PBOS systems, the same ballot can be used for absentee voters, provisional voters, and the military. DRE systems require the use of paper ballots for those voters.

Expected lifetime: DREs have an expected lifetime of 5 years, and none carry warrantees for a longer period. Replacement and repairs after the warrantee has expired will be entirely the responsibility of the taxpayers of Schoharie County. OS have been in use for 20 years. The ones in Oklahoma have been in use for 14 years and are still going strong.

SUMMARY We have the opportunity to learn from the frustrating, expensive choices made by others. The experience of DREs has demonstrated that they are not trusted or liked by the public, and they have a history of malfunctions causing multiple problems for voters and election officials. Many New York newspapers have had editorials supporting PBOS systems, including the NY Times, the Times Union, Newsday, and the Oneonta Star. The NYT editorial of 9/6/07 called electronic voting an abysmal failure. DREs are new, untried systems, whereas PBOS systems have been in use for over 20 years with minimal difficulties.

PBOS systems are cheaper, more reliable, more secure, easier to transport and store, and enjoy greater public confidence than DREs. Please hold true to your resolution of 1/18/05, in which the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to express a preference for PBOS.

I urge the Board of Supervisors to see that our Election Commissioners do not make the costly mistake of choosing an electronic voting system, but that they act in the best interests of the voters and taxpayers and select the previously certified AutoMark ballot marking device, and PBOS.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Adair DeLamater
Sharon Springs

An Appeal to the Conscience of Everyone In this Room in the Name of the Democratic Process and Our Wallets

January 18, 2008, Remarks of Susan Spivack to the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors

Chairman VanWormer, Town Supervisors,

I thank you for the chance to be heard today. As the grandchild of immigrants, I was raised to believe that my very life depended on participating in and protecting this Democracy, and to cherish my right to Vote.

I am here to represent Peacemakers of Schoharie County’s Voting Integrity Project, and the citizens of this county who believe Electronic Voting Machines will endanger the reliability and integrity of our votes, and to advocate for a paper ballot/optical scan (PBOS) voting system for Schoharie County.

On November 18, 2005 this Board unanimously passed Resolution 82 in which you stated, “….the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors wishes to go on record that its preference in type of voting machine is a paper ballot/optical scan voting system” I thank all who voted for that resolution.

In 2007--NYS, the only State not in compliance with HAVA--The Help America Vote Act, began testing electronic voting and optical scan machines, and ballot marking devices (BMD’s) for the disabled. Not one electronic voting machine has yet been certified!

This December, Judge Sharpe ruled that all NYS counties must implement BMD’s (ballot marking devices) in all polling places by the fall ’08 election season.

Five days from now on January 23, the NYS Board of Elections (BOE) will release a list of voting equipment from which our Election Commissioners, Cliff Hay and Lew Wilson are charged to select a BMD for every polling place. February 8 is the decision deadline, but they CAN decide as early as January 23.


It is almost certain the PREVIOUSLY CERTIFIED AutoMark BMD which is compatible with a paper ballot, will be on the State BOE list. But the State BOE recently redefined DRE's as Ballot Marking Devices if the vote counting function is disabled and the device prints a full size ballot. So it is certain that DRE’s will be on the list EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT REALLY BMD’S, ARE UNCERTIFIED AND CANNOT BE USED WITH PAPER BALLOTS.

Schoharie County usually needs only one voting machine per polling place. To choose a BMD created from a disabled, uncertified DRE, which is incompatible with an optical scan machine, is to make the unacceptable back-door decision to purchase uncertified DRE’s instead of a PBOS system. Over half of our county’s HAVA funds will be spent on these expensive Ballot Marking Devices. It is widely expected that the State BOE will hastily certify the already purchased DRE’s after the fact.

Our County Election Commissioners have repeatedly praised the LibertyVote DRE made by NEDAP. NEDAP has posted no profits for five years because their LibertyVote machines were discarded by Ireland, Holland, and Germany. Recently, Russia dropped electronic voting machines for paper ballots.

The following US States have decertified their DRE’s (in many or all districts) after spending millions of dollars purchasing them: Florida, California, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Ohio. States in the process of changing over from DRE’s to PBOS systems include Colorado, Maryland, Kentucky.

We fear our County Commissioners despite all the recent news about the decertification of DRE’s in Europe and the US, will still chose DRE’s, even though the long delay by our State BOE has given us this great opportunity to avoid the mistakes made in other places!

In fact I want to enthusiastically proclaim your Ability and Responsibility as our County Supervisors to make decisions on what kind of voting system we will use:

1. The 2005 NY Election Reform and Modernization Act and the State BOE have declared that final voting machines decisions will be made at the County level by local Election Commissioners. This means you are a part of the process.

2. You as a Board must DECIDE NOW what voting system will best serve this county’s citizens, and which system we can best afford. We urge you to renew your commitment ASAP, today!! to the Paper Ballot Optical Scan voting system, and to demand that Lew Wilson and Cliff Hay choose the PBOS voting system and the AutoMark as our Ballot Marking Device. Madison County’s two Election Commissioners have already declared their intention to purchase PBOS systems for their county. If they can do it, our Commissioners can do it. You can tell them to do it. As your appointees, they answer to you.

3. If our Election Commissioners choose DRE’s, we expect you to refuse to authorize funding these expensive unreliable machines.

For years our Election officials have said they could not decide on a new voting system because the STATE BOE had not certified the machines. Some County Supervisors have told us, "It’s up to the Election Commissioners to make this decision, not me” We call this “passing the buck.”

As elected officials you are public servants, pledged to watch out for the political and fiscal health of your towns and the county as a whole. You have a responsibility (as we all do) for maintaining our democracy. You are also responsible for supervising the Election Commissioners you appoint and evaluating how they do their jobs.

To stand up to them if they insist on DRE voting machines when you want a PBOS system may prove to be:
· labor intensive
· time consuming
· and require you to take political risks, which may take courage.

But you have the opportunity here to secure the integrity of our vote, save your constituents untold hundreds of thousands of tax dollars over the long-term, and earn public honor for having the energy and courage to do the right thing. I suggest you begin by voting today to tell the Election Commissioners to consult with you before deciding on the Ballot Marking Device and delaying their decition to February 8 to give you time to consult with one another and let them know what you want. As our public servants we expect you to embrace this opportunity to preserve the right of every citizen to a verifiable, economical, user-friendly voting system.

Thank you for your time and your listening.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Voting Equipment Selection

Now is the time for lawmakers to act

On 1/23, the NYS BOE will release a list of authorized but untested and uncertified voting equipment from which the Election Commissioners will select a Ballot Marking Device (BMD) to be deployed in every polling place.

County Election Commissioners are required to make their selection no later than 2/8 according to the timeline set by the state BOE. It is important to understand the selection might be made as early as 1/23.

It is almost certain that the very serviceable and previously certified AutoMark BMD will be on that list. The AutoMark is the BMD which is intended to paired with a paper ballot voting system to provide access for the disabled.

It is also very likely that one or more Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines (DRE) will be on the list as well. In a disturbingly perverse move the state BOE recently agreed to allow the voting machine manufacturers to submit their DREs as BMDs if the vote counting function is disabled and the device prints a full size ballot.

I believe the above perverse ruling was made specifically to help DRE voting machine vendors such as Albany based Liberty Election Systems. We can expect a modified LibertyVote DRE to be on the list of authorized BMDs.

And it is also very likely Schoharie County's Election Commissioners Cliff Hay & Lew Wilson will select the LibertyVote DRE, or any machine other than the AutoMark, in order to avoid committing to a paper ballot voting system. I say “committing” because a major portion of the available HAVA funds will be expended on the BMDs mandated for 2008 deployment.

Re: committing to a system. Because the court ordered HAVA compliance plan requires devices to assist the disabled in every polling place, rural counties, like Schoharie with most polling places with only one voting machine, will effectively be committing to DREs if they choose an experimental BMD created from a DRE.

The Perverse Plan (as formulated by the E.C.s & vendors) goes like this:

A Make Believe BMD (MBBMD) created from a DRE is authorized by the state.

The ECs select the MBBMD and pay some fraction of the usual DRE price and deploys them in 2008.

The state BOE subsequently tests and certifies the DRE on which the MBBMD is based (no one believes the state would not certify machines that the counties have already purchased).

The vendor returns to the county reprograms the MBBMD machine to function as a full functioned DRE and collects the balance due, probably some additional premium fees, and sells the county what ever additional DREs the county E.C.s think they can afford.

The county deploys all the DREs in 2009 and everyone is happy:

Federal District Court Judge Gary L. Sharpe will no longer feel ashamed to be a New Yorker and will sleep well again,

The Justice Dept. lawyers can report to the Bush administration criminal cabal that their mission is accomplished,

The NYS BOE Commissioners can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they weathered this crisis without being thrown under the bus or into jail… all they need to remember is to keep their mouths shut and reap the rewards,

Bobby Witko of Liberty Election Services will have made his daddy proud - he was able to peddle a crappy voting machine that has been rejected in Ireland, The Netherlands and Germany… at an incredibly exaggerated price,

Nedap (manufacturer of the LibertyVote) can rejoice at being able to report to their stockholders their voting machine has been introduced into the USA market, and maybe even show some black ink for that division for the first time in five years. That black ink can’t help but be improved with each election cycle in the US….New York State has a bunch of very valuable electoral votes,

Cliff Hay and Lew Wilson will have broken into the big time. Now if anyone wants to buy a particular election outcome in Schoharie County they will have the means to deliver with much greater efficiency then ever before. Also, if someone is working a state or federal scam they will be able to demand their cut. AND hey, there’s no paper ballots - Happy times are here again!

The only people who might not get what they want is the little people who believe their vote counts - but then it’s only some of those little folk that might not get what they want since the bosses need only switch a few percent of the ballots. Those people who’s vote might get switched won’t know - and what they don’t know won’t hurt them - right?

The only recourse for the little people then is Civil Disobedience (CD) - I say the only recourse because I’m not a violent person. I can not speak for the rest of our citizens who might feel they are not represented because their votes are not being counted...we fought a war over this very problem once before didn't we.

What CD? How about something as simple as "Just Say No! These are our elections and it is our vote we're talking about. We should just say no to electronic voting!

Every citizen needs to take ownership of their individual ballot and demand we use the only system which makes it possible for the voter to mark their own ballot and see their ballot being recorded and counted, the paper ballot system.

I've been telling everyone I encounter that I will refuse to vote using an electronic voting machine. It is not hard to imagine that election administrators and poll workers will have little choice but to provide paper ballots if enough of us demand it. I've printed my own calling card with just that message on it - it works, I recommend it.