Hearing by The New York State Board of Elections
December 20, 2005
Good morning. Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today.
I will discuss the auditability of voter-verifiable paper audit records ("VVPAR"). Our new Election Reform and Modernization law ("ERMA") requires an audit to be done for 3% of voting machines.
The regulations for voting system standards must clearly require that the VVPAR paper strips produced by DREs are in fact auditable by people by hand.
This must be done by setting standards for ease of human reading and handling, and requiring a test to determine whether or not such standards have been met. DRE systems must pass the test before certification.
What I mean is, after a mock election in which 200 ballots are cast on a DRE, a team of test counters must be able to count the votes on the VVPAR with reasonable ease. These test counters must be representative of the people who would be performing such a count after a real election. The count must be do-able in terms of size of print, quality of paper, and design of what is printed.
Here is the relevant paragraph from the law:
39 S 9-211. AUDIT OF VOTER VERIFIABLE AUDIT RECORDS. 1. WITHIN FIFTEEN
40 DAYS AFTER EACH GENERAL OR SPECIAL ELECTION, AND WITHIN SEVEN DAYS AFTER
41 EVERY PRIMARY OR VILLAGE ELECTION CONDUCTED BY THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS,
42 THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OR A BIPARTISAN COMMITTEE APPOINTED BY SUCH BOARD
43 SHALL MANUALLY AUDIT THE VOTER VERIFIABLE AUDIT RECORDS FROM THREE
44 PERCENT OF VOTING MACHINES OR SYSTEMS WITHIN THE JURISDICTION OF SUCH
45 BOARD. VOTING MACHINES OR SYSTEMS SHALL BE SELECTED FOR AUDIT THROUGH A
46 RANDOM, MANUAL PROCESS. AT LEAST FIVE DAYS PRIOR TO THE TIME FIXED FOR
47 SUCH SELECTION PROCESS, THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS SHALL SEND NOTICE BY
48 FIRST CLASS MAIL TO EACH CANDIDATE, POLITICAL PARTY AND INDEPENDENT BODY
49 ENTITLED TO HAVE HAD WATCHERS PRESENT AT THE POLLS IN ANY ELECTION
50 DISTRICT IN SUCH BOARD`S JURISDICTION. SUCH NOTICE SHALL STATE THE TIME
51 AND PLACE FIXED FOR SUCH RANDOM SELECTION PROCESS. THE AUDIT SHALL BE
52 CONDUCTED IN THE SAME MANNER, TO THE EXTENT APPLICABLE, AS A CANVASS OF
53 PAPER BALLOTS. EACH CANDIDATE, POLITICAL PARTY OR INDEPENDENT BODY ENTI-
54 TLED TO APPOINT WATCHERS TO ATTEND AT A POLLING PLACE SHALL BE ENTITLED
55 TO APPOINT SUCH NUMBER OF WATCHERS TO OBSERVE THE AUDIT.
Two phrases seem to be in conflict:
line 43 "shall manually audit the voter verifiable audit records"
line 51 "The audit shall be conducted in the same manner, to the extent applicable, as a canvass of paper ballots."
These two lines appear to be in conflict because "manual" means "by people by hand" but "a canvass of paper ballots" in many counties is done by optical scanners.
At this time the use of a computerized optical scanner with the VVPAR would not be possible, because the paper strips do not have the same format as a regular paper ballot that our current optical scanners recognize. However, vendors are now developing computerized optical counters to count the votes on the paper strips. Once such machines exist, lawsuits may be needed to determine whether using them meets legal requirements of "manual audit," "the same manner" and "applicable."
For this reason, I urge the State Board to clarify that for DREs the manual audit means a human hand-to-eye count, not a computerized count.
The purposes of an audit are election integrity and public confidence.
In counties that use DREs, if voting, vote-tabulating, and auditing are all conducted inside computers, then people cannot observe any part of the process in a meaningful way, thus defeating the two purposes of the audit:
--to avoid fully electronic handling of votes, and
--to enable observers to witness the handling of the VVPAR and the counting of votes, and to confirm that electronic tallies are accurate.
In conclusion, I would like to say that the State Board could do much to increase citizen confidence and voter participation. My suggestions are for that purpose.
For additional discussion of the gaps in ERMA which future State Board regulations must address, please see http://www.wheresthepaper.org/ERMA_45Comments.htm