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North Carolina Citizens Demand Voter Verified Paper Ballots

Press Release   NC Coalition for Verified Voting   10 February 2005

North Carolina General Assembly Committee on Electronic Voting Fails to Specify Most Secure and Economical Election Technology

(PRWEB) February 10, 2005 North Carolina General Assembly Committee on Electronic Voting Fails to Specify Most Secure and Economical Election Technology.

NC Citizens want Elections, not Selections.

Citizens believe that elections should be decided by the voters, not by expediency.

When Britt Cobb conceded the race for Agriculture Commissioner, he solved an embarrassing problem for our elections division, but not for voters. Thanks to the permanent loss of 4,438 votes on a paperless voting machine in Carteret County, we will never know if Mr. Cobb or Mr. Troxler won the contest.

North Carolina Newspapers reported serious voting problems starting with the first day of early voting in the 2004 General Election and continuing through Election Day and beyond.

Voters' ions changed in front of their eyes on the touch screens of paperless voting machines.

Tabulation equipment began subtracting votes after accumulated totals reached 32,000.

Voting machines lost votes, miscounted votes, and mysteriously added votes.

Machines broke down, froze up, paged through ballots backwards, and skipped past important races.

Currently, 40 NC Counties use paperless direct recording electronic voting systems (DREs) for early voting and election day but employ optical scanners to tabulate their mail in absentee votes. The rest of the state uses one system only, thus treating all voters equally.

The least expensive yet most efficient way to prevent the many problems that occur with paperless voting machines or DREs (Direct Record Electronic) would be to replace all the DREs now in use with paper ballots counted either by hand or by optical scan systems.

To allow blind or disabled voters to vote privately, one touchscreen ballot marking system with audio feedback might be purchased for each precinct.

With DREs, only as many voters can vote at a time as there are DREs. Hence, while only one optical scanner would be required in each precinct, ten to twenty DREs per precinct would be required to allow the same pace of voting and prevent excessively long waits.

The NC Coalition for Verified Voting estimates the costs of converting one precinct to DRE voting and compared to the cost of converting one precinct to paper ballots with one optical scanner and one ballot marking device roughly as follows:

To deploy a minimal five DREs at $4,500 apiece, $22,500, or for ten DREs $45,000

For one optical scanner, one automark device, ten voting booths, and 1000 paper ballots: $12,000

Training, maintenance, and storage would be far more for DREs, their being far more complex and there being far more of them, than paper, optical scanners, and automark combined.

DREs do not last more than ten years before needing to be replaced, so the costs are repeated frequently.

Even with open source code and ability to print paper ballots (requirements for DREs that are being considered by the committee), use of DREs is likely to continue to be fraught with glitches, breakdowns, insecurity, and uncertainty over the accuracy of election results.

Numerous instances of incompetence, deceit, and bribery by all the vendors whose DREs are currently used in North Carolina have been reported. See website NCVOTER.net

Salesmen for the same vendors are ubiquitous at occasions where boards of elections and election officials meet. The Election Center, a nonprofit supposedly providing education to election officials is supported by those vendors and takes an extreme position in favor of paperless DREs. The vendors also intensely lobby the legislature. North Carolina has no effective code of ethics for elections officials. With all of the cronyism with lobbyists and salesmen, hosted dinners and multiple cases of known bribery by vendors, there is an appearance that North Carolina voting systems are chosen as much because of the personal influence vendors have with officials as for any objective standards.

DREs generally are operated with modems and tabulators. Chuck Herrin's demonstration to the committee on January 7, posted on the committee's web site, showed that the Diebold GEMs tabulator seems to be designed to be amenable to manipulation of vote totals. Totals at precinct level as well as with central tabulators can be manipulated through modems. Tabulators and modems should not be allowed in any combination. Tabulating totals from a few dozen precincts is not rocket science, it is not even higher math. It is arithmetic. It can be done on any spreadsheet.

The Association of Computing Machinery, the world's oldest professional computer association has come down in favor of paper:

"Many electronic voting systems have been evaluated by independent, generally-recognized experts and have been found to be poorly designed; developed using inferior software engineering processes; designed without (or with very limited) external audit capabilities; intended for operation without obvious protective measures; and deployed without rigorous, scientifically-designed testing."

"ACM has recommended that e-voting systems enable voters to inspect a physical (e.g., paper) record to verify the accuracy of their vote, and to serve as an independent check on the record produced and stored by the system. In addition, those records should be made permanent, not based solely in computer memory, to allow for an accurate recount."

A poll of 4,600 ACM members showed 95.6% supported this view, something quite unprecedented amongst computer professionals.www.acm.org/usacm/weblog/index.php?p=73

Regardless whether votes are counted by DRE tabulators or optical scanners, which are manufactured by the two largest vendors of DREs, a machine count is not transparent. The public cannot observe if, and it is vulnerable to manipulation. Unless results of each election are audited by observable hand counts of a large proportion of the paper ballots there will be no assurance that the electronic vote totals are accurate or honest.

Even if hand counts take an extra day or two, costing up to another thousand dollars per precinct, it is a small price to pay for assurance of honest elections. The pressure against hand counting and for the fastest possible calls of elections comes not from the public, but from the media, whose motive is profit, not good government, and also from election officials who are concerned about the ease of administering elections. Those pressures are in conflict with the requirements of honest and secure elections, and they need to be firmly resisted.

North Carolina should avoid the experience of Ireland where, according to a story in the Irish Times, the government must write off 50 million euros already invested in DREs after its Independent Commission on Electronic Voting reported serious deficiencies of security and accuracy with the systems.


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