Public Comment

NY State Assembly Hearing on election law & voting equipment, conducted by:

Committee on Election Law, Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman, Chair

Committee on Education, Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, Chair

Committee on Libraries & Education Technology, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, Chair

October 22, 2009, New York, New York

Allegra Dengler, Chair, Citizens for Voting Integrity, Dobbs Ferry, New York

Thank you for this opportunity to be heard.


After decades of generally trusted and reasonably tamperproof elections in New York run on mechanical lever voting machines, this transition to a new voting system based on paper ballots and scanners carries much risk.  The threats to our elections posed by this new voting system must be taken seriously. 


New York State must fund all of the increased costs of training, administration, security, audits and equipment.  Local governments in this troubled fiscal climate will not on their own be able to adequately fund replacing the current functional voting system. Local governments are cutting police.  They are cutting recreation.   If adequate funding from New York State is not available, New York should not replace the current functional voting system at this time.


Security costs money


Without adequate funding for training, security and audits, we will have years of unverifiable and at-risk elections. State of the art security must be funded equal to or better than that employed by our financial institutions for our money, including measures such as security cameras to protect paper ballots and scanner cards in storage.


There are two vulnerable areas, the vote-counting scanners and the paper ballots themselves.  Either is susceptible to vote stealing and fraud.


1.  Security for the paper ballots


In the case of paper ballots, the problems are well documented, including practices such as ballot box stuffing, misplacement, substitution, destruction or invalidation of ballots.


2. Security for the vote-counting scanners

The problems of computerized vote-counting are similarly well-documented. Study after study shows what Princeton found in 2006 in their Security Analysis of the Diebold AccuVote Scanner.  The study can be found at   The Princeton University Center for Information Technology Policy and Dept. of Computer Science, found that:


... an attacker who gets physical access to a machine or its removable memory card for as little 

as one minute could install malicious code; malicious code on a machine could steal votes undetectably, modifying all records, logs, and counters to be consistent with the fraudulent vote count it creates. An attacker could also create malicious code that spreads automatically and silently from machine to machine during normal election activities—a voting-machine virus.


Adequate audits are essential to verify that the scanners are counting accurately

Adequate audits are expensive.  A hand count of a statistically significant percentage of the votes cast in the precinct on election night, before the ballots are moved out of sight of observers, is necessary.   It will be expensive and time-consuming and New York State must provide adequate training and funding.


September 2009 Primary Election observations


I observed the voting equipment in four pollsites in Westchester County during the primary.  They were set up for use by people with special needs. None were used.  Here are my observations:


1. The sturdiness and security need to be improved. On two of the machines, the door on the side was dented.  In one case it was dented enough to allow access.  

2. On one of the four machines, there was no security tape on the ballot box access door as required.


New York must not use the new voting system in 2010 if any of these three conditions exist:


1.  If the scanners do not pass certification to New York’s standards.


2.  If New York State does not completely support the counties with funding to cover all of their increased costs, especially statistically adequate audits.


3.  If the voting machine vendor is found at any time to be in violation of New York State Finance Law (SFL) sec 163, and the New York State Comptroller's Procurement and Disbursement Guidelines.


To date, most of the large voting machine vendors have failed to meet the standards in this law. Attached is the first section of the VotersUnite report “Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections”. The full report with case studies is available online at




Given the known vulnerabilities and costs of both paper ballots and electronic vote-counting, I urge the State legislature in these fiscally uncertain times to amend the New York State ERMA law to allow counties to retain lever voting machines.

The federal HAVA law appears not to ban lever voting machines, but to ensure that there is no costly litigation, I urge the State legislature to convince New York’s Congressional delegation to clarify federal law by granting an exemption for New York State to keep lever voting machines. 



Voters Unite report “Vendors are Undermining the Structure of U.S. Elections”. Pages 1-8, August 18, 2008.

GAO September 2005 Report ELECTIONS Federal Efforts to  Improve Security and  Reliability Executive Summary