Teresa Hommel



Testimony before the

Assembly Standing Committee on Election Law

New York City, Tuesday, December 13, 2005



Thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today. My name is Teresa Hommel. I am Chairwoman of the Task Force on Election Integrity of Community Church of New York.


I would like to make four points, and attached to my testimony is documentation for them.


1. Cost of new voting systems


The Help America Vote Act became law more than three years ago, and New York’s Election Reform and Modernization Act became law more than five months ago.


Nevertheless, no governmental body has yet produced an unbiased assessment of the cost of replacement of our lever voting machines. The public is not informed about the cost implications of the choices we have before us, electronic voting (“DREs”) versus paper ballots and optical scanners with accessible ballot-marking devices for voters with special needs (“PBOS”).


Please turn to Attachments 1 and 2 in the first paper clip. This sorry pair of documents is what we have seen in New York state: a 20-page assessment of costs by the Election Commissioners’ Association of the State of New York[1], dated June 2005, followed by 8 pages of corrections of bias errors from New Yorkers for Verified Voting[2].


Please turn to Attachment 3. This is the North Carolina Legislative Fiscal Note for Bill 233 that was passed into law in August[3]. On the first page they report their calculation of costs. Alternative 1, All O/S (Optical Scanners): $45.96 million. Alternative 2, All DRE: $135.13 million. The note describes their assumptions and methodology.


Next, please turn to Attachments 4, 5, and 6 in the second paper clip[4].


Attachment 4 is a summary of the cost of purchase of new equipment for the five boroughs of New York City. The boldface numbers for each paragraph show the purchase cost. At the bottom, you see how many units of programmable equipment are needed, which bears on many costs of transition and many continuing costs.


Attachment 5 is a sample of the data I obtained from the New York City Board of Elections, from which I abstracted the list of poll sites and how many levers were used in each poll site. With this information it was a matter of simple arithmetic to calculate the cost of replacement.


Attachment 6 is all 25 reports that I have prepared so far. The numbers summarized on Attachment 4 were copied from these reports.


To summarize the cost information:


--Purchase cost for DREs is 2 to 3 times more than for PBOS equipment.


--Many transition and continuing costs of DREs would be 1.5 to 1.8 times more, because many

   more units of DRE equipment would be needed.


Finally, DREs have a shorter useful lifetime than PBOS equipment, so that if we spend our one-time federal dollars for DREs, we'll be spending money again soon. But next time, it will be the taxpayers' money.


Electronic elections won't be paperless, so we can't save much money there -- paper ballots will be needed for absentee and provisional voters. Like lever voting machines, DREs need paper emergency ballots as backup in case the machine breaks down. In jurisdictions where paper ballot backup was not available, when DREs malfunctioned voters have ended up scribbling the names of their candidates on slips of paper torn off their grocery bags.


The lack of an official and unbiased assessment of costs suggests that something is wrong in our state. I urge the Assembly Election Committee to act aggressively to set it right.


2. Unfinished business


Please go back to Attachment 3, the North Carolina Legislative Fiscal Note, and look at pages 2 and 3.


--This law requires vendors to post a bond or letter of credit to cover damages from defects in

   voting systems, including the cost of a new election


--It requires source code to be submitted for review by the county, the State Board of Elections,

   the NC Office of Information Technology, AND the Chair of any legally recognized political



--It creates two new felonies for voting system vendors.


North Carolina has used electronic voting systems for several years, and this law is the result of their experience.


New York is one of the last states to venture away from our tried-and-true older technology, but we have not looked carefully at the experience of other states as a guide to where the pitfalls are.


I urge you to finish the work of election reform and modernization. If the law of New York allows the use of computerized voting systems, the law must be updated (1) to reflect professional standards for computer security and (2) to safeguard transparency of elections.


I urge the Assembly Election Committee to work with citizen activists such as New Yorkers for Verified Voting, and others who are knowledgeable about computerized voting systems and their problems, to write laws appropriate for computerized voting, rather than, as our law does now, apply concepts appropriate for paper ballots and mechanical lever machines to computers.


The term “transparency” is not well-defined in regard to elections, so I want to make clear what I mean.


A citizen without technical knowledge of computers or mathematics should be able to appropriately and effectively observe election procedures and vote counting.


--Voters should not have to trust a “computer expert” to tell them that their vote was cast.


--Voters should not have to trust a “statistical expert” who tells them that a spot-check of

   3% of the computerized voting systems in a county means that 100% of the computers

   worked because 3% is “significant.”


We need a law to correct our State Board of Election’s notion that an electronic voting system can be adequately tested by running an automated “test” that does not make use of all of the hardware or programming that voters and poll workers will use on election day[5]. Attachment 7 provides more information on this subject.


Automated tests mean that voters and poll workers will discover errors on election day that should have been detected and corrected in advance. Automated testing may be the reason that voters in other jurisdictions have pressed one candidate’s name and another candidate’s name lights up, or when the voter scrolls back to check their votes they discover their choices have been switched, or poll workers cannot extract the tallies at the end of the day, etc.


We need a law to ban all communication capability in electronic voting and vote tabulating equipment, and a requirement that all candidates and parties may examine the equipment before and after each election to confirm that no communication-related hardware or programming is present in the system, with criminal penalties and fines for violations.


We need a law to require each system certified by this state to pass a large public test such as performed on equipment in California[6], and a “Red Team” hacker test such as commissioned by the Maryland General Assembly and performed by RABA Technologies, LLC [7].


3. Learning from the experience of other states


If we know experience of other states, we may be able to avoid making the same mistakes.


I urge that every member of the Assembly Elections Committee subscribe to two voting news services via email. Thirty seconds a day to scan the headlines is not unduly burdensome, and the firsthand knowledge to be gained by that small investment cannot be obtained any other way. This is what you will read about:


--Irregularities in other states’ certification of electronic voting equipment


--Irregularities in other states’ conduct of elections with electronic equipment


--Privatization of electronic elections in other states, and the repercussions


--Citizens shut out of observing procedures which need to be observed for the legitimacy of

   elections and our representative government


Daily Voting News from VotersUnite.org. Send an email to DVN@votersunite.org

Election Integrity News from VoteTrustUSA.org. Weekly. Send an email to contact@votetrustusa.org


In addition, it will be useful to check, on a daily or weekly basis, the web site of New Yorkers for Verified Voting for news and alerts. I understand that the legislative spam blocker prevents them from sending their news to you directly. The web site is www.nyvv.org


4. The draft regulations for voting system certification are poor.


The draft regulations published by our State Board of Elections are unreadably poor. The requirements for certification of electronic voting systems are so superficial as to be meaningless. Attachments 8 and 9 are analyses of the draft regulations[8], and demonstrate the need for greater legal control of elections, and less delegation to a body that is immune to public input.


Thank  you.




1. http://www.nyvv.org/reports/ECASystemsReviewV1.pdf

2. http://www.nyvv.org/reports/ECAvsrCrit.pdf

3. http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/Sessions/2005/FiscalNotes/Senate/PDF/SFN0223v5n1.pdf

4. http://www.wheresthepaper.org/NYCcost.html

5. http://www.wheresthepaper.org/NoAutomatedTests.htm

6. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/073005F.shtml


7. http://www.raba.com/press/TA_Report_AccuVote.pdf

8. http://www.nyvv.org/doc/NotesOnDraftStds.pdf