E-Voting News and Analysis, from the Experts

Wednesday November 03, 2004

Another write-up of E-Day

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 4:50 pm PST

I’ve written up my experience on my “E-Day at the Legal Command Center in SF”. It has pictures and my characteristic blathering…

Voter privacy and vote-by-fax

Filed under: — Wagner @ 4:34 pm PST

The California Supreme Court deferred ruling on a lawsuit about overseas voting by fax until after the election. California allows overseas citizens to vote by fax, if the voter agrees to waive their right to privacy. (Some faxed ballots may go to a third-party contractor selected by the Department of Defense, and thus California says that the privacy of such ballots cannot be assured.)

See articles by KABC-TV, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Etopia Media News.

Reliability problems with Diebold TS in Alameda County, CA

Filed under: — Jefferson @ 2:53 pm PST

The following report was submitted to me by Don Dossa, a computer scientist colleague here at LLNL and an experienced election judge in Alameda County (a rank above precinct inspector and clerk). Alameda County uses Diebold TS machines.

Early on we had a lot of problems with the voter access cards not being consistently readable in the voting machines. I ended up putting 1 of my 10 VCE cards aside. The problem seemed much worse in the morning, so perhaps the cards or the readers were dirty and eventually cleaned themselves.

We had one very strange problem. On one machine, just once, when the ballot came up on the screen, there were no boxes whatsover for the voter to touch to cast a vote. I did not see this, but my wife, who is the precinct inspector, personally verified that it was not possible to vote for anyone on the first page of the ballot. She cancelled the ballot and the next time everything went fine. This was the only occurrence of this problem.

Blackboxvoting.org FOIAs Election Records

Filed under: — Felten @ 2:15 pm PST

Blackboxvoting.org says that they have filed a barrage of Freedom of Information Act requests seeking paper and electronic records relating to the conduct of yesterday’s elections.

Matt Green’s election judge experience

Filed under: — Rubin @ 1:39 pm PST

My graduate student, Matt Green, signed up to be an election judge. He lives in Baltimore City, and he worked the election there. His experience was quite different from mine. Here is Matt’s story.

More Problems Near Princeton

Filed under: — Felten @ 1:16 pm PST

Today I asked the students in my Information Security class whether they had seen anything odd when voting. Many students voted absentee in their hometowns, so I would guess there were about twenty in-person voters present. One guy, an adult student who lives in a town a few miles from here, reported seeing something odd.

He was voting an a Sequoia AVC Advantage machine, which is computerized but interacts with the voter through a big board covered with a grid of switches and lights. The board is covered by a piece of slightly translucent paper, on which is printed the names of candidates and a box next to each candidate’s name. These boxes are aligned with switches, so that when the voter presses the box, the switch is clicked. The computer notices this and then lights up the light right next to the switch (which is also next to the candidate’s name).

When the voter enters the booth, the lights are all supposed to be off. But this man says that when he entered the booth, several lights were on all over the board. And not just the lights next to the names of candidates that might be turned on in the normal course of voting, but lights elsewhere on the board. This is not supposed to be possible. If he had found lights next to the names of candidates, those might be the choices of a previous voter who forgot to press the “Cast Vote” button. But lights elsewhere on the board are not supposed to happen, ever.

After class, I bumped into my secretary in the hallway, and she told me that something odd had happened when she voted. She then described essentially the same experience – entering the booth and seeing lights lit up at odd positions on the board, outside the places that should normally be lit.

These two people live in different towns. They voted in different polling places (both in Mercer County, New Jersey). They have never met. And I did not tell either one about the other’s report until after they had described their experiences to me.

It seems likely that this problem was more widespread around here, since it was reported independently by two people from among the relatively small population I have asked about election experiences here. Did anybody else see something like this on a Sequoia AVC Advantage machine?

Counting provisional ballots despite a concession

Filed under: — Joseph Lorenzo Hall @ 11:36 am PST

Dan Tokaji has the skinny on provisional voting in OH:

The big questions of the early morning hours are how many provisional ballots are out there in Ohio, and what process will govern the counting of those provisional ballots. Democrats are reportedly estimating that there are as many as 250,000 provisional ballots in Ohio, while the Secretary of State reportedly projects a number in the low 100,000s. My own rough estimate at this moment is at least 200,000, but no one knows for sure.

However, the AP is reporting the Kerry has conceded.

My day at the polls - part 2

Filed under: — Rubin @ 10:11 am PST

Yesterday, I worked as an election judge in Baltimore County. My experience was quite different from my day at the polls in March, where I worked the primary. Here is a write-up of my experience yesterday.

Phonecams and the Secret Ballot

Filed under: — Felten @ 9:20 am PST

Secrecy of the ballot is one of the most important security requirements for elections. Voters must be able to keep their votes secret. But that is only half of the secret ballot requirement. The other half, which is sometimes overlooked, is that a voter should not be able to prove to a third party how he voted, even if the voter wants to do so.

Allowing voters to prove how they voted opens the door to vote-buying and coercion. It’s much harder to buy a vote if the buyer can’t be sure that he is really getting what he paid for; and it’s harder to strongarm someone into voting your way if you they can undetectably vote for their own candidate. For example, if you can prove how you voted, then the boss or the union chief can tell you not to bother showing up for work the next day without proof that you voted for a certain candidate.

Most voting systems are designed to prevent voters from proving how they voted. But new recording technology allows voters to record their votes on video, using cellphone cameras or similar small devices. Alex Halderman decided to demonstrate this by recording his own vote yesterday. Alex writes:

[Yesterday] I voted for John Kerry–and I can prove it, thanks to my Nokia 6230 camera phone:


You see, my phone can record short video clips as well as still photos. Inside the election booth, I shot a clip showing my choice of candidate, my face (so you know it’s me voting), and the final lever pull that locked in the vote (so you know I didn’t change it after turning off the camera).

[I posted this at Alex’s request.]

Tabulation Problem in Collier County, Florida

Filed under: — Felten @ 9:03 am PST

Some kind of problem with the tabulation of results from iVotronic e-voting systems delayed the tabulation of votes in Collier County, Florida, according to a Naples Daily News story by Ray Parker.

[A Collier County election official] explained that all 96 Collier voting precincts had sent in the day’s results, but during the tabulation process, there was a problem because “the file refreshes to zero and it did not refresh.”

At 8 p.m., he had the problem file analyzed by technicians at ES&S, the Omaha, Neb.-based company that the county paid $4.3 million for the equipment.

And a little more than two hours later, Collier officials were able to tabulate the 127,409 votes, or 75 percent of registered voters.

The official’s explanation of the problem is hard to interpret without more information, so it’s not clear what exactly went wrong.

Some Iowa Vote-Counting Machines Break

Filed under: — Felten @ 8:12 am PST

Vote-counting equipment in two Iowa counties failed last night and will have to be repaired today, according to a Des Moines Register story by Thomas Beaumont.

Fortunately the machines are counting paper ballots, so the ballots can still be counted properly despite the malfunction.

AP Story on Voting-Machine Problems

Filed under: — Felten @ 6:49 am PST

AP reports on voters around the country noting e-voting problems and failures.

One focus of the article is the disturbing set of reports from several states about voters selecting one candidate on a touchscreen system and having another candidate show up in the review screen later. There were many reports of this happening.

Most of the reports of this problem came from Kerry voters; probably this is because Democratic voters were more aware of the incident reporting projects and so were more likely to report the problems they had.

Alfie Charles, a spokesman for one e-voting vendor, Sequoia, blames the voters, saying that they just pushed the wrong spot on the screen. This is a bit hard to square with reports that some voters tried over and over to register their vote for their candidate.

Charles did briefly mention that poll workers are supposed to recalibrate touchscreens if they are misbehaving. But he stopped short of actually admitting that any screens were miscalibrated.

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