Jan 22, 2006

To: New York State Board of Elections

Re:  Public comment on draft guidelines for voting machines


Dear Commissioners:


I write as a former Trustee of the Village of Dobbs Ferry.  I have had long experience in working on election campaigns, get-out-the-vote efforts, recounts and election day poll watching. I favor paper ballots counted on precinct based optical scanners.


The biggest challenge facing New York as we move away from our familiar and generally reliable lever machines is to keep control of our elections in the hands of our public officials, such as yourselves, whose goal is accuracy in our elections. 


No part of our elections should be in the hands of for-profit electronic voting system companies, whose goal is to make a profit by selling their products. In order to sell their products they must maintain the notion that their software is secure and accurate.  What then is their motivation to announce breaches of security or errors in accuracy when this could hurt their market value?  Who wins should voter interests and market interests collide?


The guidelines should insure that all aspects of the voting system remain in public control. I hope you will follow the good example of Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections of Leon County, FL since 1989, who has stood up to Diebold when it became apparent they could not be trusted and their software could be hacked. Do not allow vendors to dictate how to run our local elections.


Attached is a current article from The Washington Post, “As Elections Near, Officals Challenge Balloting Security in Controlled Test, Results are Manipulated in Florida Election,”  by Zachary Goldfarb, Jan 22, 2006.  This article summarizes a lot of the security problems election officials are finding with electronic voting around the country. New York must learn from these bad experiences that election officials have had with vendors in other states.


The article can also be found at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/01/21/AR2006012101051_2.html


Please insure that paper ballot/optical scan systems are certified at the same time or before any DREs, so that counties can choose them.  The level of security and training required for touchscreen electronic DRE computerized systems is unacceptably high. 


The guidelines must require:


1. Optical scanners will be precinct-based optical scanners which allow the voter to correct overvotes and undervotes before casting his or her ballot.


2. County staff will do all work required to conduct elections with the equipment. Vendor technicians will serve in an advisory capacity only.


3. All Source Code will be submitted by vendors and available to the public.


4.  Any “voter verified paper trail” created by a touchscreen system will be cut into individual strips at the time the ballot is cast by the voter.  In no case will the “voter verified paper trail” be retained on a continuous roll by the machine, as this would compromise the secret ballot.


5. Vendors will submit training materials and documentation for use by county staff. These materials and documentation will be tested to determine whether they are sufficient to enable county staff to achieve independent competence to conduct the elections.  If such testing shows that training materials and documentation intended for use by county staff are not sufficient for them to achieve independent competence, such materials shall be revised.  The voting system of that vendor will not be used until training materials and documentation intended for use by county staff are sufficient for them to achieve independent competence


6. Vendors will submit the final version of their voting system so that all testing takes place on the same systems that will be sold and delivered to counties for use.


7. Any modification or group of modifications will cause the State Board to conduct the entire certification procedure on the modified system. The State Board will not waive any aspect of any certification test when modifications are made to voting systems after certification. No system shall be accepted for certification testing that differs in any way from the system to be sold and delivered to counties in New York for use in elections.


8. All certification testing will be open and transparent. Public notice of any certification testing will be given 10 days or more before certification testing. All reports submitted by testing laboratories will be available for public inspection.


9. In all tests using votes and ballots, such votes and ballots must be entered in the same manner as voters will use on Election Day.


I support paper ballots counted on precinct based optical scanners.  The NYS Board of Elections should not certify any DRE touchscreen machines at all without the highest level of transparency and oversight.  Elections must be run on a voting system that local election officials understand and control.


Thank you for your efforts to insure that every vote in New York is counted as the voter intended. 





Allegra Dengler