Common Cause/New York

New York Public Interest Research Group, Inc. (NYPIRG)

League of Women Voters of New York State

New Yorkers for Verified Voting (NYVV)

Citizens Union

Task Force on Election Integrity of Community Church of NY

 

 

General Principles Regarding the State Board of Elections' Implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)

 

 

  1. The first priority of the State Board of Elections should be to properly implement HAVA's database and voting system requirements. New York is in a poor position to implement HAVA in a timely manner as a result of both legislative inaction/delay and a poorly overseen effort by the State Board of Elections to draft a meaningful HAVA implementation plan. However, the voters of the state should not suffer as a result of legislative and administrative failures. The implementation process from this point on must be thoroughly vetted, transparent and open to public input, lest the Board further undermine confidence in our voting systems and administration of elections.

 

  1. Any significant rewrite of the draft regulations that have already been released must allow for a minimum of 21 days public comment period. At least three hearings by the State Board of Elections in the upstate, downstate and the Capital Region should be held no earlier than 7 days after the public release of redrafted regulations and 7 days before the end of the public comment period.

 

  1. A HAVA Oversight Implementation Committee, that includes broad representation from the disability, voting security, language access, protected classes under the Voting Rights Act, civic groups and public should be created by the State Board of Elections. The committee shall have full access to all County and State Board of Elections data and staff and shall hold public hearings on all aspects of HAVA implementation following each General and Primary Election for the next five years.

 

  1. Fairness in any purchase of voting systems this year. Any purchase or implementation of voting systems made this year with the intent to temporarily comply with HAVA's mandates shall fairly distribute funds across the state. In particular, if the Automark or other ballot marker technology or telephone access lines are placed in poll sites this year, there shall be at least one ballot marker or phone line purchased or installed per every three Election Districts at a polling site. Disabled voters in New York City, with its large number of large sites with multiple Election Districts should not be punished with longer lines and/or accessibility to fewer voting systems based on their place of residence.

 

 

  1. The State Board of Elections should swiftly move to share more information with the public. This includes but is not limited to:

 

         All working documents, RFPs and drafts concerning HAVA implementation should be shared with the public and posted online immediately.

         A draft outline of the Board's plans for the timeline and finalization of the voting system regulations and statewide database parameters should be distributed to the public and posted online by the end of February.

         Draft outlines detailing the timeline and specifics for the certification, contracting and acceptance testing phases of HAVA implementation should be distributed to the public and posted online by the end of February.

         A line item budget detailing how the State Board of Elections plans to spend any and all HAVA moneys for voting system procurement, public education, poll worker training and other components of HAVA. This shall include a set of detailed criteria outlining allowed expenses for money distributed to counties for the purpose of HAVA implementation.

         All documents, contracts and working drafts from consultants such as Cyber concerning implementation of HAVA shall be distributed to the public and posted online.

 

The Board should invite and consider comment on each of these documents and any other pertaining to HAVA implementation.

 

6.      In discussions with DOJ, the State Board must protect the rights guaranteed to New Yorkers under current state law. For instance, specific safeguards were enacted which ensure that voter registration applicants whose names and identifying numbers do not trigger a match in the state's verification system are not left off the voter rolls for that reason. This and all other guaranteed rights must be preserved and protected.

 

Recommendations: Draft Voting System Regulations

 

It is difficult to comment on the regulations without having had sufficient time to review the current working draft. We make the following recommendations, anticipating more once we have had time to review current language.

 

  1. The State Board of Elections must not favor particular vendors or technologies in the certification process. The State Board of Elections shall grant certification to all voting systems submitted to the state in a timely manner at the same time. Certification testing for submitted systems shall occur concurrently. The State Board of Elections shall notify prospective vendors of new voting systems that any system submitted for certification within the first month of the finalization of voting system standards will be included in a simultaneous announcement of which systems have passed such certification. Any deviation from this process for extraordinary circumstances must be publicly and openly explained and ratified by the State Board of Elections in an open meeting.

 

  1. Requiring a More Open Selection Process at the County Level. SBOE regulations must require a minimum of 21 days be given to the public to comment on proposed voting systems after initial public notice is made by a County Board of Elections. During that time and at least 7 days after the comment period has begun and 7 days before it ends, each County Board of Elections hold at least one public hearing allowing comment on those voting systems being considered.

 

  1. Alternative Language Formats Should be required. "All new voting systems purchased or leased shall be ready to offer the ballot into all those languages currently required under the Voting Rights Act in jurisdictions that the vendor has submitted a voting system for certification. If systems do not meet the above requirements, then they shall be adapted to do so within a year with no extra expense to the State or County Boards of Elections."

 

  1. Alternative Ballot Formats. Any new voting system should be ready to handle alternative election formats that may be used in future elections. We recommend the following language be incorporated into the regulations: "All new voting systems purchased or leased shall be ready to implement ranked choice voting and any other ballot types in use within the United States in the first election in which the equipment is used. Particularly, systems shall allow voters to mark and have their ballots registered according to the specific needs of ranked choice voting and be able to tabulate votes according to the specific logic of ranked choice voting. If systems do not meet the above requirements, then they shall be adapted to do so within two years with no extra expense to the State or County Boards of Elections." It should be noted that many vendors have already developed and marketed such software. At least one vendor vying for a contract in New York State has stated there would be no charge for including such programming since it was already developed on its systems in other jurisdictions.

  2. Local Boards Of Elections must produce a realistic, unbiased acquisition cost analysis and a five-year recurring cost projection before machine selection.

  3. Any ballots cast by voters on accessible voting machines must be afforded full confidentiality and secrecy.

 

Meaningful Security Standards

 

Whatever new voting systems are chosen across the state, the State Board of Elections must ensure stringent security safeguards as well as develop measures to guarantee public testing procedures that are open and transparent. To that end, we make the following specific recommendations:

 

13.  The State BOE must be required to commission a Professional Hacking Test ("Red Test.") One example is the RABA Technologies test commissioned by the Department of Legislative Services, Maryland General Assembly, the results of which were published in a "Trusted Agent Report" on January 20, 2004. Vendors shall be required to pay the costs of such tests.

14.  The State BOE must be required to conduct a Public Hacking Test. An appropriate model is the test sponsored by Leon County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho and Harri Hursti, the computer security expert from Finland.

 

15.  The State Board of Elections shall establish a challenge system under which a security expert who believes they have found a shortcoming in the voting system, can petition the Board to perform a test to see if said shortcoming is real. Said challenge system shall be open to the public and the Board must give a detailed answer in writing regarding the granting or denial of the request.

16.  The State BOE must be required to obtain or make an easily-verifiable inventory list of all system components, including hardware, programming, files, file system structures, documentation, training materials, accessories, and all other components. While we believe the Board recognizes the value of such an inventory, provisions for routine auditing to determine that the system, as deployed, conforms to what the inventory identifies must be established.

 

17.  The usability and accuracy of the system must be demonstrated to the public. Each system must be required to pass a multi-machine Public Mock Election Test. We urge a test similar to that conducted in California before any voting system is used in an election. Criteria to be tested shall include:

 

        Vendor documentation, training materials, and ability to train county staff vendor must train county staff, and county staff must independently perform all tasks to prepare the test machines for the mock election test including ballot programming, and train the election inspectors for the mock election test, and all post-election tasks.

        Ability of election inspectors to perform appropriate tasks with the machines and voters.

        Ability of voters to enter votes via every interface, meaning the touch screen, ballot marker, by hand or pushbuttons, use of the VVPAT and ability to see/read the printing on it, every device for use by voters with disabilities, and every language display.

        Ability of election inspectors to extract end-of-day tallies and other information.

        Accuracy of the votes displayed on the DRE screen and voter verified printout, tallies, DRE activity logs and optical scan printout tallies.

        Accuracy of associated tabulating equipment results.

 

18.  The regulations should require DRE systems to use document-quality paper for their voter verified paper audit ballots, not heat-sensitive paper that could fade before audits are conducted.

  1. The Voting Systems Standards must impose a penalty for the vendor and de-certify any system if upon delivery, or after vendor access to systems, one or more systems are found to be corrupt or different from the state-certified version of that system.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For More Information Contact:

Neal Rosenstein, NYPIRG (212) 349-6460

Bo Lipari, NYVV (607) 351-2314

Aimee Allaud, LWVNYS (518) 482-2617

Rachel Leon, CC/NY (212) 691-6421

Amy Ngai, Citizens Union, (646) 339-4938