This statement has been submitted for inclusion in the official record of the July 25, 2007, Hearing by the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee on S. 1487, the Ballot Integrity Act of 2007. www.wheresthepaper.org/TeresaHommel070725HearS1487.htm
Chair, Task Force on Election Integrity
of Community Church of New York Unitarian Universalist
Statement to the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee
July 25, 2007
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement for the official record of this hearing. I will provide a brief overview, and two detailed commentaries on S. 1487.
From a grassroots activist's point of view, S.1487 touches on the right topics and does the wrong thing.
There are real election administration problems in the areas S1487 touches on, but S.1487's solutions are either trivial, overbroad so that they would create more, and more severe, problems than are solved, or would be implemented too late.
The Election Integrity ("EI") community has a unified voice on what we want, but a divided voice on tactics.
We want to get rid of DREs because they prevent the citizen oversight needed to support credible elections ("election legitimacy"). Instead of DREs, with or without VVPAT, we want voter-marked paper ballots so that citizens can meaningfully observe their own votes that will be counted for initial tallies and all recounts and audits. Equally important, we want voter-marked paper ballots so that citizens can meaningfully observe election procedures with the votes, and perform oversight in our own localities. We want this for 2008.
If we can't get rid of DREs we want every DRE to produce a voter-verified paper audit trail ("VVPAT"), and for the VVPAT to be counted to produce election tallies. If we can't get the VVPAT to be counted for election tallies, we want audits sufficient for 99% statistical confidence.
To define "citizen oversight" -- it means "ordinary non-technical citizens can understand and observe how votes are recorded, cast, stored, handled and counted, sufficient to attest that the procedures were proper and honest." Obviously citizen oversight is the foundation of election legitimacy, and obviously DREs conceal precisely what citizens need to oversee.
I do not know of any EI group that supports S1487 as is. I wish to acknowledge that various groups may support or oppose specific legislation, such as House bill HR811, as a matter of tactics. But no one in the EI community, even supporters of any bill, are satisfied with any bill introduced so far because no bill does what needs to be done to restore the foundation of American democracy, which is to empower ordinary non-technical citizens to oversee our elections.
I am not part of the "insider process" of determining what our federal election reform legislation of 2007 should do. The comments in my analyses below may show misunderstandings of what the legislation will do or what its intent is. I caution you against simply dismissing the analyses, however, because they reflect the perspective of four years full-time activism in election integrity, and a study of the history of election fraud in its details concerning where fraud occurs in the election process and how it is accomplished.
S. 1487 enlarges opportunities for fraud, for example, by requiring early voting and no-excuse absentee voting, both areas that have notorious lack of controls. Absentee voting has been a hot-spot for fraud since its inception. Meanwhile S. 1487 does not make the simple, almost cost-free, easy-to-comply-with requirement that pollworker-signed tally printouts be posted in each pollsite at the end of each early-voting day and election day. S.1487's requirement for observers is so trivial and inadequate, it is just hard to understand what the purpose of that section is.
I urge you to include unfunded grassroots activists in your deliberations to revise any election reform legislation. Their knowledge of the details of America's election problems may help in drafting legislation that addresses existing problems and avoids creating opportunities for new problems. I recommend Ellen Theisen and John Gideon of VotersUnite.org, and Mary Ann Gould of the Coalition for Voting Integrity and host of the Voice of the Voters radio/internet program.
I urge you to be cautious of the advice of long-standing funded good government groups such as the League of Women Voters US, LCCR, PFAW, Common Cause, the Brennan Center for Justice, and AAPD. Whether in the past or today, these groups have all claimed to "trust the computers." Consistently these groups have put accessibility to the disabled ahead of citizen oversight of election procedures. Accessibility is meaningless if our votes can be compromised by undetectable fraud, which DREs enable.
Most computer scientists are also compromised by conflict of interest, as evidenced by their failure to recognize that citizen oversight is a pre-requisite for election legitimacy in a democracy. Even though they say that no computer system can be guaranteed to be secure, and they should know by now that election administrators and pollworkers are incapable of managing or even assessing the security of computer systems, our most prominent computer scientists accept their grant money and persist in creating increasingly complex computer systems that prevent ordinary citizens from observing what needs to be observed.
One example is Dr. Michael Shamos, who has been called as a witness for this hearing. He has published points of view that should disqualify him from any participation in anything to do with elections. http://euro.ecom.cmu.edu/people/faculty/mshamos/paper.htm
-- Shamos said, "the United States has been using direct-recording electronic voting equipment for well over 20 years without a single verified incident of successful tampering." Shamos fails to mention that there has not been a single verified election using this equipment, and that no one has ever been allowed to fully investigate and find the evidence that could verify fraud. Shamos is a law school graduate and surely understands the role of investigation and collection of evidence in the verification of fraud, and also surely understands what it means in a legal system when investigation and collection of evidence are prevented by vendor claims of trade secret and intellectual property. Explicitly, it means that the legal system is protecting fraud.
-- Shamos also said, "I am unable to discern any engineering difference that allows us to entrust our lives to aircraft but would impel us to avoid voting machines. Not to endorse questionable voting systems or trivialize the possibility of chicanery, but I believe I and the republic will survive if a president is elected who was not entitled to the office, but I will not survive if a software error causes my plane to go down." Shamos is the first technologist to my knowledge to claim that he cannot discern the difference between an airplane and a voting machine, such as, airplanes have pilots and are not transaction-processing systems. His trivialization of election fraud should disqualify him from any serious role related to elections. Shamos' paper elicited a rebuttal from Ron Crane and others of the Open Voting Consortium. http://electionarchive.net/docs_other/dopp/Shamos-rebuttal.pdf
In regard to disability access: I caution the members of this Committee against requiring more than is necessary to cast a secret vote. If a person with disabilities requires personal assistance in comparable areas of his or her life, it is unreasonable for the law to require the person to be able to deposit a ballot into a ballot box without personal assistance. There are a variety of ballot sleeves that fully protect the secrecy of votes on voter-marked paper ballots that have been marked by the use of ballot-marking devices, and ballot-marking devices can enable persons with disabilities to mark a paper ballot in secrecy. Yet the accessibility issue has been used politically to support the use of DREs instead of voter-marked paper ballots and optical scanner systems. Many unfunded advocates for accessibility recognize this. http://www.wheresthepaper.org/HR811.html#Disability
Thank you for the opportunity to provide this overview of S.1487. I am available if you have any questions or would like additional information.
Detailed analyses of S.1487 are available on the internet at