Statement before the
Ways and Means Committee of the Suffolk County Legislature
In Support Of Mem. Res. No. 2-2006
Introduced by Legislator Cooper:
Memorializing Resolution in Support of a Secure, Transparent and
Economical Voting System for New York State
(Resolution memorializing Assembly Bill A6503:
AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to implementing
a state-wide voting system using paper ballots, precinct-based optical scanners
and ballot marking devices for voters with special needs;
and to repeal certain provisions of such law relating to voting machines)
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Teresa Hommel.
I am a computer professional and Chairwoman of the Task Force on Election Integrity of Community Church of New York. I am an activist against electronic voting, and creator of the web site "WheresThePaper.org" which features the "The Fraudulent Voting Machine," a teaching demonstration which is used internationally to help people understand some of the risks associated with electronic voting.
I will briefly touch on several points.
Citizens have many concerns about "DRE" Direct Recording Electronic voting systems. Elections are supposed to be for the people, for all of us to select our government. Election equipment that is subject to so many deep concerns should not be used, regardless of whether or not it works.
Around our state and in Suffolk county, citizens have been saying that we prefer paper ballot systems, not DREs. As the people's elected representatives, it is right for you to champion our position.
As we speak, this issue is moving forward rapidly. In many counties, the county commissioners are choosing or have already chosen their equipment. If the Suffolk County Legislature is to have a meaningful voice, you should not delay.
I understand, and you would need to confirm this with your county commissioners, that the State Board has asked the county commissioners to "pick machines without waiting for certification." The idea is to develop a preliminary list of machines that the counties are interested in. I don't know if this is to give vendors an idea of what quantities to plan for, or to give the State Board an idea of what machines to evaluate first.
Election Commissioners and others who want to switch to DRE voting machines have made some reasonable-sounding but false assumptions.
1. DREs work
2. Electronic voting is easy to use
3. Once they're installed, your problems are over
1. DREs work
Industry statistics in the computer field tell us that 72% of computer systems don't work. Never work. So the assumption that computer systems for voting will work is out of line.
FBI statistics tell us that computer systems are insecure. The “2005 FBI Computer Crime Survey” shows that last year 87% of companies had break-ins, 64% lost money, and 44% had intrusions from within their own organization. The report itself mysteriously “was lost” from the FBI web site, and I got a copy on paper from their Houston office. So the assumption that computer systems for voting will be secure is out of line.
New York may be the last of 50 states to comply with federal requirements, but there is an advantage to being last – we can use the experience of other states to guide us. When we look at the experience of states that did move ahead to DRE electronic voting, we see an experience of malfunctions and failures on election day, as well as lawsuits by citizens, candidates, and parties.
The experience of other states, moreover, shows decent hard-working election professionals being put in a position of defending election irregularities, and telling the public that "the outcome of the election was not altered" when in fact they have no evidence of that -- nor any knowledge of what happened. I urge this committee to do everything in your power to keep New York from repeating that experience.
Other speakers today will talk about the Congressional GAO Report and the Carter-Baker Report, both of which confirm that computerized voting has failed over and over. But you don’t need a prestigious report. All you need is the newspaper, or to subscribe to two clipping services that cover voting issues, The Daily Voting News from VotersUnite.org and the weekly Election Integrity News from VoteTrustUSA.org.
There is a difference between systems that fail in business, and those that fail in elections. The difference is that businesses have staffs that work 24x7 to monitor their computer, prove out the daily work (which might be called “auditing”), track down where the problems were, and correct the errors before their customers see them. No one is intending to do that with election systems. The 3% spot-check that our state law requires is a 97% mistake. That is my professional opinion.
2. Electronic voting is easy to use
In other states, electronic voting failures and malfunctions have been typically blamed on voters and poll workers. I urge you to take the position that we know what this equipment is for, and we know who will use it, and if it can't be used safely and properly by its intended users, then it should not be used at all.
Electronic voting systems use secret software. Boards of Elections will never fully understand what their equipment is doing, how it works, or what the vendor’s technicians are doing. Boards of elections have been charged with the responsibility of running our elections, not contracting out the work. If this equipment was “easy to use” our public, bipartisan staff would be doing the work, and our State Board or our counties would be holding Mock Election Public Tests to show the doubtful public that they can do the work, and that the equipment can hold up under appropriate scrutiny.
What we need is not high-tech equipment that brings high-tech problems with it. We need to keep it simple, and use low-tech equipment that does the job in a simple way and is manageable by elections staff, poll workers, voters, and election observers.
You shouldn't need a Ph.D. in computer science to figure out if your vote was cast. You shouldn't need a vendor service contract, programming contract, etc, in order to use your own equipment.
3. Once they're installed, your problems are over
I've already mentioned loss of voter confidence, spoiled elections, privatization, and lawsuits.
Once you purchase this equipment, your problems have just begun.
Maryland: last month the governor said they had 1000% cost overruns with service contracts.
New Mexico: in the face of irregularities and long-running litigation, the state just passed a state law to switch to all paper ballot and optical scanner voting.
California: the same equipment certified and decertified over and over.
Florida: The Miami Dade Coalition obtained the log files from their Sequoia machines that showed over 100,000 errors in one election.
Alaska: Over 100,000 more votes than voters.
Saratoga County, New York: Citizens say the county's reports for November 2004 have a 7000-vote discrepancy.
Is this what our counties are heading for?
In conclusion, I urge you to approve the resolution before you, Number 2-2006.
Footnote 6 suggests some questions you may wish to ask your county Board of Elections.
Voting technology is not a 5-minute topic. In this short testimony I have tried to give you a sense of the vast range of considerations that are important.
I provide briefings to elected officials that take one to three hours, depending on prior knowledge. The briefing steps you through a file of documentation, so if you make the same statements I have just made, you will know you are on solid ground with documentation of facts. I brought a briefing packet with me, and I would be available after this hearing to sit with any legislators or staff who want to step through the points and supporting documentation.
Of course I am happy to answer any questions.
[] My computer credentials are: I started working as a computer programmer in 1967. I began teaching programming in 1969. I have taught in schools, colleges, and universities, including New York University and Baruch College. I have published two computer books with John Wiley & Sons. Since 1983 I have been a short-term consultant and corporate trainer, working with the technical employees of many Fortune 500 companies in every industry, as well as the Department of Defense, and various state and local governments. I also have worked for IBM selling computers.
[] As each county board of elections considers the choice of what technology to acquire, they need to publicly address the reasons for citizen distrust of electronic voting systems:
1. Back Doors, Secret Software. Software from two of the three major vendors (Diebold and Sequoia) has been revealed to the public, and both had design features that facilitate tampering. Vendors claim that their software is a proprietary trade secret and that their proprietary rights are more important than the public’s right to know how votes are cast, stored and counted. Due to this secrecy, activists and computer scientists and professionals cannot verify that the software of other systems does not contain similar features.
2. Hundreds of Failures, Malfunctions and Spoiled Elections show that the systems don’t actually work reliably.
3. Federal certification standards require only that systems have certain functions, and do not require examination of systems to ensure that they work, nor that they have passed usability tests by voters and poll workers, nor examination of systems to ensure that they do not have design features that facilitate tampering.
4. Privatization, Loss of Bipartisan Oversight, Loss of Election Administration By Public Servants. Electronic voting systems are unmanageable for Boards of Elections, who must contract out the work to vendor technicians, who then have full access to the equipment without effective oversight.
5. Vendor Assurances That We Should “Trust” the System, coupled with State Law and Regulations That Will Force Us To Rely on “Trust.” Electronic voting systems have been sold with the assurance that no auditing is needed, or that minimal spot-checks are sufficient to ensure that no errors or fraud have occurred in an election. Electronic voting systems are often compared to ATMs as a way of saying that the two are equally secure, but the comparison is false. First, ATMs offer 100% of individual users end-to-end personal verification of 100% of their transactions via the ATM receipt and their monthly statement. Second, use of tracking numbers means that the bank or other financial company can trace each transaction through its system and find the exact place where a loss or corruption of data occurred. Neither of these features is present in voting systems due to the need for a secret ballot.
6. Loss of Legitimacy of Elections and Our Government. The use of computerized voting systems undermines the legitimacy of our elections, our representative democracy, and our government by preventing citizens and candidates from observing the recording, storing, and counting of votes. Whether or not irregularities occur, the legitimacy of an election is based on the fact that citizens and candidates have been able to observe the correctness of procedures.
7. Loss of Citizen Trust. A large percentage of citizens don’t trust electronic voting, and when Boards of Elections around our country have acquired and used these systems in the face of citizen opposition this has resulted in agitation, litigation, and contempt for elections.
8. High Initial Cost, Continuing Cost Overruns. Compared to other election technology, electronic voting systems cost much more to acquire, have been associated with huge cost overruns, and have a shorter useful life. For example, the February 15, 2006 letter from the Governor of Maryland to his State Board cites 1000% cost overruns.
9. A Less “Private and Independent Vote” for voters with disabilities. Electronic voting systems have been sold as a way to provide voters with disabilities with a private and independent vote, a federal requirement under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). In fact, electronic voting systems do not provide the greatest accessibility to the broadest range of voters with disabilities – that achievement has been accomplished by the AutoMARK, a device for marking a paper ballot. Moreover, when voters with disabilities use electronic voting systems, their votes can easily be identified as having been cast by a voter with a specific disability due to the specific accessible attachment that the voter uses. Last, if the electronic voting system is flawed overall, no voter including those with disabilities may actually be casting a vote that will be recorded and counted as the voter intends.
10. Disenfranchisement by Language Group. Electronic voting systems have been sold as a way to provide the ballot in minority languages, but these voting systems also handle ballots differently when they are cast using each different language. This opens the risk of different innocent or malicious mishandling of votes cast by each minority. For example, in the November, 2004 election in New Mexico, two specific electronic voting machines were correlated to high undervote rates for Native American and Hispanic voters. (Minority voters who used other electronic machines had the same undervote rates as Anglo voters.)
11. No Confirmation that the Systems Delivered are the Same as Those Certified. One criticism of the State Board of Elections’ draft Voting Systems Standards is that they do not require a way to confirm that the systems delivered after purchase, or prepared for use in a specific election, contain the same software that was certified. This means that back doors and other kinds of malicious programming can be added to systems by vendors, technicians, insiders, and clever outsiders, and will not be detected.
[] “Putnam Hearing Focuses On Future Of Voting,” Journal News, Jan. 13, 2006. “Only one speaker ... advocated for touch-screen[s]... [Co-executive Director of the State Board of Elections] Koskinski, a Republican, said [those] remarks were the only ones he and his Democratic counterpart, Stanley Zalen, have heard supporting touch-screen voting technology over the course of the four hearings.”
[] 72% of software projects in a typical year, 2000, were complete or partial failures, including 23% that were completely abandoned after huge expenditures (and waste) of time and money. Regarding partial failures, if a computer system “partially” doesn’t work, that means it doesn’t work. "Why the Current Touch Screen Voting Fiasco Was Pretty Much Inevitable" by Robert X. Cringely, December 4, 2003. . http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20031204.html
Of course, anyone who works with Microsoft Windows knows that computers don’t always work!
[] Computer security is impossible to control. The FBI lost their own report, and financial institutions with the most sophisticated computer security in the world have had massive losses. How will Boards of Elections prevent electronic tampering?
FBI: 87% of Companies Get Hacked, 44% of attacks are by insiders
USA Today. 40 Million credit card holders may be at risk
[] What Kind Of Oversight Might Be Useful? Following are questions appropriate to ask your county Board of Elections before they select the equipment for your county.
1. Input from citizens. Has the Board met with informed citizens to gather information about concerns? Has the Board held hearings, especially at a time when working people can attend? Since the primary stakeholder in elections is the public, is the Board ready to discount public opinion and select equipment that people distrust?
2. Cost for acquisition, transition, continuing use, and replacement. Has the Board produced a generally-accepted assessment of costs associated with the alternative equipment choices it could make?
The lever voting machines were inexpensive to acquire and lasted more than 40 years. Now the federal government has given us a one-time amount of money (some of which it may take back, depending on the outcome of our negotiations with the U.S. Dept. of Justice) that will not cover the cost of electronic voting systems, which is why many jurisdictions call HAVA an unfunded mandate. However, the federal money will cover the cost of paper ballot-optical scan systems. Also, electronic voting systems may not last more than the state-mandated 5-year warrantee.
3. Manageability of equipment versus Privatization. All work necessary for the conduct of elections with systems under consideration should be able to be performed by bi-partisan elections staff and should not require the delegation of tasks to vendor technicians. How will the Board deal with this issue? If it takes several years for the Board’s staff to acquire expertise and independence in the use of our election equipment, what plan do they have for careful oversight of the work of vendor technicians?
With computers, one corrupt insider with brief access to the computers can control the outcome of an entire election in a way that would be impossible to detect without counting 100% of the voter-verified paper audit records. For this reason, it is in the public interest for the Board to have full expertise to perform all tasks with the equipment we use.
Banks provide many examples of security procedures. For example, on Monday mornings when my bank opens the weekend cash deposit box, they do it with two managers, two clerks, and a camera up close and continuously focused on the envelope, the deposit slip, and the cash as it is counted. If one person was alone and unobserved with the cash, how long would it take for “irregularities” to occur? Assume the same thing for elections and election equipment. Does the Board of Elections have plans to mount continuous-recording cameras over the keyboard of computer systems to fully record the actions of vendor technicians as well as bipartisan staff?
4. Voter-verified Paper Audit Records and the 3% Count. State law requires that 3% of the machines used in each jurisdiction should be randomly selected, and the votes on their voter-verified paper audit records to be counted. Has the Board requested samples of the heat-sensitive paper that electronic systems under consideration use, for purposes of testing to determine whether such paper will retain a readable image of the votes under local storage conditions, or whether this paper will require special storage conditions? The state law should have required document-quality paper rather than allowing heat-sensitive paper for this purpose. Will the Board take action to determine whether the paper will fade during the time that such records are required to be kept, and whether the paper will require climate-controlled storage?
5. Usability and accuracy. Is the Board planning to assess and demonstrate to themselves and to the public that electronic voting systems under consideration are in fact usable? Will they conduct a multi-machine Mock Election Public Test to put people’s doubts to rest? Will this happen before they select a system? Or will they simply trust the vendors’ sales presentations, as well as the federal and state certification process -- both of which have been criticized as inadequate? (Most of the hundreds of electronic voting system failures have occurred with certified systems.)
In other states when electronic voting systems fail or malfunction, typically the poll workers or voters are blamed. The primary reason for this is probably that federal standards require systems to not have more than one failure per 250,000 or 500,000 votes.
6. Documentation. Has the Board closely examined vendor documentation and training materials to assess their quality and completeness? Has the Board made a determination after realistic trials that the documentation and training materials are adequate to prepare bipartisan staff to perform all tasks necessary to conduct elections with this equipment?
7. Vaporware Versus a Product That Exists. Does the Board intend to base their evaluation of systems on sales presentations conducted by vendors, or do they plan to conduct their own hands-on examination of systems under consideration? Will the Board staff enter votes by every method offered by the system, and extract of tallies and other information such as activity logs and examine them for accuracy? Will the Board staff enter votes via the touch screen or pushbuttons, examine the voter-verified paper audit record, use every device intended for voters with disabilities and let persons with disabilities try them out, and use every language display? The State Board’s certification procedure may be hasty and superficial. What is the county Board planning to do to prevent poll workers and voters from being the first to discover flaws in these systems which will be prototypes that have never been used before in any jurisdiction?
8. Red Test. If the State Board does not commission a Professional Hacking Test ("Red Test"), such as the RABA Technologies test commissioned by the Department of Legislative Services, Maryland General Assembly, will the county Board do this?
9. Public Hacking Test. If the State Board does not conduct a Public Hacking Test, such as sponsored by Leon County, Florida, Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho and Harri Hursti, the computer security expert from Finland, will the county Board do this?
10. Are the Systems Delivered the Same as the System That Was Certified? How will the Board confirm that the voting equipment purchased and delivered is correctly configured and consists of exactly the same components as the system that was certified by the State Board?
Does our Board intend to verify correct components including all hardware, programming, files, file system structures, documentation, training materials, accessories, and all other components?
11. Are Systems Free of Illegal Components? How will the Board demonstrate to candidates prior to each election that all components in electronic systems are safe, proper, and legal for inclusion in a voting system according to NY State law? For example, our law bans wireless communications capability because it would enable tamperers anywhere in the world to dial into voting systems during the election day and alter ballots, votes, and software. Since wireless communications hardware may now be built-in in the computer, rather than a separate visible component, what procedure will be used to show that there is no such capability in the system?
12. Are the Systems Used in an Election the Same as the System That Was Certified? How is the Board planning to confirm that the voting equipment prepared for use, or after use, in an election is correctly configured and consists of exactly the same components as the system that was certified by the State Board? Does the Board intend to verify correct components including all hardware, programming, files, file system structures, documentation, training materials, accessories, and all other components? How will the representatives of recognized political parties with candidates in an election be trained and enabled to inspect voting systems before elections for illegal communication capability whether hardware, software, firmware, or any other type?
13. Remedy For Wrong Systems Delivered, Or Systems Corrupted After Vendor Access. How is the Board planning to handle the issue of a requirement in the procurement contract that the vendor must post a bond or letter of credit, and a requirement that the vendor must remedy problems that may occur, and reimburse the additional expenses that may be incurred, due to the determination that systems upon delivery, or after vendor access to them, are corrupt or different from the state-certified version of the system, or that systems have failed or malfunctioned during an election?
14. Procedure to enable recognized computer professionals or security experts who believe that they have found a weakness in the county’s voting system, to demonstrate the weakness to the Board. What plans does the Board have to arrange for a test to enable any computer scientist, professional, or expert to demonstrate the presence of a security flaw and suggest ways to remedy it?
[] New York State Info
Briefing packet 4-page cover sheet
Cost Reports, Suffolk County