Tuesday, August 08, 2006

PRESS RELEASE: CEPN Press Conference, Sacto, Wed. 9am


For August 8, 2006 Release

California Election Protection Network
Press Contact: Dan Ashby 510-233-2144

CA Elections Staff Advises Against Non-electronic Voting Alternative for Disabled
Election activists support VotePAD as secure, low-cost, more accessible than electronic voting machines

Date: Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Time: Demonstration and press conference, 9:00 a.m.
State voting system certification hearings, 10:00 a.m.

Place: Secretary of State’s Office at 1500 11th Street, Sacramento, CA

Event: Demonstration and press conference by California Election Protection Network prior to state voting systems certification hearing

Subject: Vote-PAD is the first non-computerized voting assistive device to be proposed for use in California elections to enable persons with disabilities to vote independently at the polls using paper ballots. The VotePAD is being evaluated for possible use as a disability access solution in conjunction with optical scan electronic voting systems by vendors Hart (System 6.2) and Diebold (GEMS-Accu-Vote OS).

Staff and consultants to Secretary of State Bruce McPherson have issued negative evaluation reports recommending against state certification of the VotePAD assistive device intended to help disabled voters cast their votes independently. The secretary of state usually follows staff recommendations when issuing voting system certification decisions.

At the same time McPherson's elections division staff released the negative assessment of VotePAD--late on Friday August 4, affording the public little time to respond--they also recommended certification of a suite of electronic voting devices and software applications by the e-voting vendor Hart Intercivc. McPherson's staff gave the Hart system a pass, despite noting performance failures such as this one regarding the system's Tally software component that reads, stores and tabulates ballot images: "As in the previous version, Tally still cannot report vote results directly in the granularity required for the Supplement to the Statement of Vote (SSOV)."

The state reports on the VotePAD and Hart System 6.2 are available at http://ss.ca.gov/elections/elections_vs.htm.

Election integrity activists were dismayed by the negative assessment of VotePAD, and will be attending the certification hearing Wednesday urging at least a conditional certification of Vote-PAD as a secure voting alternative that solves disability access problems that the currently certified electronic voting machines frequently cannot (see http://www.vote-pad.us/testimonials.asp).

VotePAD proponents would like to see a noncomputerized alternative to electronic voting machines that are currently promoted as the only solution for disabled voting access requirements set in federal law.

Ann West, a longtime California grassroots election activist and educator, said, “Citizens shouldn’t let corporations that sell electronic voting machines monopolize this field. There must be a diversity of choices to provide real competition.”

Dr. Forrest Hill, Green Party candidate for Secretary of State, said, "I’ve been pushing for alternatives such as this. It’s not a product endorsement, it’s a matter of principle. There must be an alternative--a non-computerized transparent means of voting. I support what Freddie Oakley, the County Clerk of Yolo says, about the Vote-PAD, that it's 'no more hackable than a number 2 pencil.' So far, in tests with voters, including those with disabilities, everyone likes it."
[For VotePAD descriptions, see http://www.vote-pad.us/ and http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,70036-0.html].

Sherry Healy of the California Election Protection Network points out, “The recent lawsuit against five California counties shows that disability organizations are dismayed that electronic systems only allow sighted voters to verify their paper ballot. The Vote-PAD deserves their support, since it provides a direct method of vote verification to everyone."
[See http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/blogs/tokaji/PVA-Complaint.pdf ].

The VotePAD vendor had offered to arrange the participation of a wide range of disability advocacy organizations in the VotePAD testing trials (see http://www.opednews.com/articles/genera_ellen_th_060710_vote_pad_invites_peo.htm), but this offer was quashed by the Voting Systems Testing and Assessment Board appointed by Secretary of State Bruce McPherson.

The board limited test participation to a small number of undisclosed disability testers that the board selected, and barred the public from observing the trials, held July 19 and 20 at the Secretary of State offices. VotePAD proponents say the board conducted testing without adequate preparation or expert competence in usability testing criteria and methods for persons with disabilities. [See http://www.vote-pad.us/Media/CACertTestResponse.asp].

Election activists also question apparent double-standards in state testing procedures that subject electronic system vendors to less stringent usability testing than that applied in the VotePAD trials.

"Why aren’t other systems being tested this way?" asks A.J. Devies, Disabilities Consultant to the Florida Fair Elections Coalition. "Is the Secretary of State discriminating against this non-electronic system by holding it to a different standard?”

Election integrity activists have testified in protest at numerous California voting system certification hearings over the past two years objecting to the state certification of electronic machines that fail to meet the accessibility standard for non-visible (audio) means of voter verification required by California law SB 1438 and incorporated in the state Elections Code [see http://tinyurl.com/rzxpn].

"Direct record electronic"(DRE) voting machines have been heavily promoted as the solution to voting access for the disabled since the passage of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which made available the financial inducement of $3.8 billion in one-time federal grants for voting equipment upgrades. Election integrity activists have denounced electronic voting machines as "Trojan horses" that open up the electoral process to covert hacking manipulations that can falsify election results without detection.
(See http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVreport.pdf , http://www.blackboxvoting.org/BBVtsxstudy.pdf , http://www.openvotingfoundation.org/tiki-read_article.php?articleId=1 ).

That assessment has been affirmed by overwhelming consensus among computer security professionals
(see http://www.acm.org/announcements/acm_evoting_recommendation.9-27-2004.html) and by real-world demonstrations of exactly such hacking exploits, that election officials including Secretary McPherson and the federal Election Assistance Commission have been obliged to acknowledge with special security advisories
(see (http://www.ss.ca.gov/executive/press_releases/2006/06_021.pdf and http://www.nased.org/ITA%20Information/NASED%20Memory%20Card%20Report.pdf).

Those revelations have in turn been the basis for a growing number of legal actions challenging electronic voting and the trade-secret proprietary claims of e-voting vendors as antithtetical to guarantees of voting rights and open government afforded citizens by their state constitutions (see http://www.atla.org/homepage/trial.aspx).

An additional consideration election activists point out is the high purchase cost and continuing maintenance expense of DRE voting machines, which they say could be avoided by the adoption of sensible, low-cost, appropriate voting technology such as the Vote PAD and a similar voting assistive device called the Equalivote (http://www.equalivote.com/pg2b.html).

Stu Schy of Santa Rosa, a systems usability consultant with over 20 years' experience working with the disability community, says "Sonoma County paid $4.7 million for the equipment used in the June 6 primary, and only $1.4 million was covered by HAVA. The number of votes cast on the machines was 165. That's over $28,000 per vote! We need and want a low-cost alternative."

Casey Hanson of the Oregon Voter Rights Coalition sums it up: “The nation looks to California for its leadership role. We’re all watching and we hope that the public will show up to show their support for having Vote-PAD as an alternative to computerized voting systems.”

Posted by Dave Berman - 5:39 PM | Permalink
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