Public Hearings in New York City before the

State of New York, State Board of Elections

July 10, 2003



Testimony of Teresa Hommel



Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak before you today.  Because my expertise is in computers, my comments will deal primarily with issues concerning the use of computerized voting machines.


My 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 NYU, Baruch College, and The New School.  I have published two computer books with John Wiley & Sons.  For the last 20 years I have been a consultant and corporate trainer, teaching the technical employees of many Fortune 500 companies in every industry, as well as Federal, State, and local governments.  I also have worked for IBM selling computers.


I will briefly address the following topics.  At the end of my testimony there is a list of resources where addition information on these topics can be found.


1.  The need for a voter-verified paper trail.

2.  The need for publicly available software.

3.  The need for computerized voting machines to go through at least the same security

     procedures and testing that computer systems go through before they are put into

     production in business and industry,

4.  The need for adequate time to get computers to work correctly.

5.  The need for remedies when computerized voting machines do not work properly, and

     election results are corrupted.

6.  The need for accessibility of voting machines.



1.  The need for a voter-verified paper trail.


All computers are inherently subject to programming errors, equipment malfunction, and malicious tampering.  Computer professionals know this, but we aren't the only ones.


Casual users of computers also know that computers don't work right all the time.  Ask yourself, how often does your PC crash?  or lock?  or lose a document?


The same kinds of problems have already occurred with voting machines in various states around our country.  We would be prudent to be forewarned by those experiences, and not duplicate them.


That is why we need a voter-verified paper trail of each vote.  Without a paper trail, there is no way to count the votes when the computer malfunctions.


Banks give paper receipts, cash registers do, ATM machines do, even gas pumps give paper receipts.  There are computer kiosks at train stations to sell you a train ticket on paper, and at the airports to print your boarding pass.


Printing a receipt is not a big deal. But without that piece of paper, when election results are

challenged, a recount is not possible.


Democracy can't survive if we let a bunch of people count our votes in secret behind closed doors.  A computer is the same as a bunch of people behind closed doors.  American citizens should not be forced to accept the results of a computer in running our democracy.


To bring home what I am talking about, I have turned my laptop into a little voting machine.  The voting software works two ways, either to "test the machine," or to run a "real election."


When you test the machine, you will get an accurate count.  But when you run a "real election," if any votes are cast, Mary Smith will always win over John Doe.


In this demonstration, you can see what is going on.  But if the individual votes were being cast in private, in voting booths, how would anyone know that the total counts were corrupt?


They wouldn't.



2.  The need for publicly-available software.


Some computerized voting machines use "proprietary" secret programming.  If the programming is not publicly available at all times, it is harder to maintain security.


However, it is a mistake to think that publicly available software can guarantee security.  Only a voter-verified paper trail can do that.


The problem with software is, you never know what software has been loaded in the machine.  Here are two diskettes, or two CDs.  I tell you they both contain the same program.  How do you know?  You don't.  I could have made a mistake, accidentally or intentionally.



3.  The need for computerized voting machines to go through at least the same security

     procedures and testing that computer systems go through before they are put into

     production in business and industry.



Purchasing new computer equipment is a “buyer-beware” situation.  That is why in business, companies do exhaustive testing of computer systems before they "go live" in production.  The old system and the new one run in parallel for at least one complete accounting cycle, so the results of the old system and the new one can be compared.  Businesses that rely on computers know that if they get the wrong results, they could go out of business.


But around our great country, we see voting and elections treated with shocking disrespect.  When corruption of the results occur, the public is supposed to accept the results anyway.  This is wrong.


If we're going to get computerized voting machines, these machines should be subject to the same security testing as computers that are used in business and industry.  Security means not only that there are no hackers in the system, but also that the results of normal operation are correct.  Like businesses that hope to stay in business, we should not rely on new systems until they are shown to work, and they consistently provide a voter-verified paper trail by which their accurate operation can be continuously spot-checked and verified—even when there is no challenge to election results.  My bank sends me a statement every month, even when I don’t challenge their accounting.



4.  The need for adequate time to get computers to work correctly.


It takes months--or years--to get new computer systems to work correctly.  No company expects to take several hundred or thousand very specialized computers out of their boxes, turn them on, and have them work correctly.


It is unreasonable to expect to hold an election using all new, computerized voting equipment, and get anything other than bedlam.  There needs to be a gradual introduction of these machines over a period of many years.


Voting machines are used only for short periods of time, so you don't have the opportunity to correct the problems on a day by day basis over time.  That is why these machines need to be introduced very slowly, and again, that is why they need a voter-verified paper trail.



5.  The need for adequate remedies when computerized voting machines do not work

     properly, and election results are corrupted.


I hope that we can learn from the experience of other states where computerized voting machines have malfunctioned, and where election results were challenged but there was no paper trail to verify the results.  I hope that we don’t have to duplicate those experiences.


As an American citizen, I am outraged to see our democracy and elections being treated like worthless formalities.


I suggest that New York State require companies that sell equipment to us to post bonds, and if elections are corrupted due to malfunction of equipment, these companies should pay the cost of holding a new election.


Either the machines work and provide the paper trail to prove it, or we shouldn’t use them, and the company that gets our money has to take responsibility.



6.  The need for accessibility of voting machines.


The disabled community has been working for years to get accessible voting machines so that they can vote in private, without the need for assistance, so they can have the secret ballot that every eligible voter is supposed to have.


With the amount of money that the Help Americans Vote Act has allocated, we should be able to afford voting machines that are accessible as well as secure, machines that provide BOTH accessibility and a voter-verified physical record of each vote.


There shouldn't be any financial or technological excuse for saying it can't be done.



Thank you.




----For NJ Rep. Rush Holt's proposed legislation requiring computerized voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail, see


----For Rebecca Mercuri’s web site, with extensive information on the use of computers in voting, see


----For Free Speech Radio News' documentary "Hacking Democracy."

by Geoff Brady, see (and listen to)


----For a tutorial on the subject of electronic voting, and the the Stanford Resolution on Electronic Voting, see


----For the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, see


----For an article by Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation, see 


----For info on "How to Rig an American Election," see


----For info on Bev Harris's new book "Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering In The

21st Century," see


----For the article, "Bald-Faced Lies About Black Box Voting Machines," see


----For the Petition by Martin Luther King III and Greg Palast to demand a paper trail,  see


----For the NY State Board of Elections, see