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Minimum Accountability Procedures
for Direct Record Electronic Voting Systems (DRE)

We recommend these minimum procedures for every county using paperless electronic voting machines, to provide some accountability in its voting process.

  See also CountTheVote.org's step-by-step guide to establishing a poll watching group.

Emergency Measures to Protect the 2004 Vote Count

These measures are a crucial protection for this election. They will help to ensure that votes are counted correctly and will protect counties from potential legal challenges to the election.

a. All votes for federal offices should be counted by hand, in public view, at the polling place before they are transmitted or transported to a central facility.

b. All totals, whether manually or electronically tallied, will be posted at the polling place.

c. Ballots may be counted and accumulated electronically, in addition to the hand-count. However, in any case where a discrepancy exists, the hand-count will be considered the official result.

Election Transparency

Election observers: All election processes -- including testing, tabulating, and auditing -- should be open to public viewing by both party members and members of the public. All observers must wear a name tag which is visible at all times and identifies them and their employer.

Special Security Measures

a. Ballot programming: All ballot data should be prepared by county officials, not by the vendor. Here's why.

b. Central tabulator security: The central tabulation computer should never be used alone by anyone. It should be password-protected such that two people are required to gain access to it. Vendor employees should not touch the tabulator during a live election, nor should any vendor-supplied programming card or update be used on the machine during the course of the election and the count.

Pre-Election Logic and Accuracy (L&A) Testing

Before each election, every voting machine should be subject to public logic and accuracy testing. The laws or administrative rules governing this testing vary considerably from state to state. Nevertheless, since there are no paper ballots by which to audit the machines, pre-election testing must be as robust as the law allows.

IMPORTANT: L&A testing is a check of the software. We highly recommend enlisting the services of an independent computer quality assurance consultant to help develop the test plan.

The purpose of L&A testing is to test the operation of the machine as it accepts manual votes, to verify that votes entered on the machine are reported correctly on a summary report printed by the machine, and to make sure accumulated totals are correct.

Pre-election testing should be a public process! This means that the details and rationale of the tests must be disclosed, the testers should make themselves available for questioning prior to and after each testing session, representatives of the parties and campaigns must be invited, and an effort must be made to make space for additional members of the public who may wish to observe. This requires that testing be conducted in facilities that offer both adequate viewing areas and some degree of security.

Follow these general guidelines:

a. Check ballot configuration:

Check that each machine is setup correctly for the specific election, with the correct ballot information loaded, including the names of all races, candidates, and party affiliations.

b. Check touch screen calibration:

Verify that the machine can sense and track touches over the entire surface of the touch screen. Typical touch screen machines have a calibration mode in which they either display targets and ask the tester to touch them with a stylus, or they display a target that follows the point of the stylus as it is slid around the screen.

c. Prepare a test script (before the day of the test):

1) Each jurisdiction should design a pre-election test that, among all tested machines, not only casts at least one vote per candidate on each machine, but also produces an overall vote total arranged so that each candidate and each yes-no choice in the entire election receives a different total. Designing the test this way verifies that votes for each candidate are correctly reported as being for that candidate and not switched to other candidates. This will require voting additional test ballots on some of the machines under test!

2) Include a sufficient quantity of manual test ballots for each ballot style to test multiple different combinations of votes, overvotes, undervotes, and blank ballots. Every candidate and every issue choice must receive at least one vote on each ballot style.

3) In addition to the script for manually-entered ballots, prepare a self-test script with hundreds of ballots of every ballot style. Make sure these electronically cast ballots include many votes for each candidate or issue, many different combinations of votes, and many undervotes.

d. Enter the scripted ballots:

1) Once all the machines are prepared for the election, machines should be chosen randomly for the test.

2) Make sure the totals in each machine are zeroed out by running a zero totals report.

3) As testers enter votes manually, check the vote-correction features by making changes in several different races before casting the scripted ballots. This should include changing at least one vote from each individual screen and several from the summary screen.

4) If the machine has an audio interface for the visually impaired, use this interface to cast some of the test ballots of each style, with the tester blindfolded. Make sure to adjust the volume control over its full range to verify that it works.

5) If multiple display magnifications are supported, cast at least one test ballot for each ballot style using each level of magnification.

6) If multiple languages are supported, cast a large portion of the votes in each language.

7) The manual testing process should include as many potential voter errors as the testers can think of.

8) Encourage observers to manually add test ballots to the script, as long as they don't result in candidate ties. Encourage them to make voter errors as they cast ballots.

9) Run the self-tests. This simulation provides additional ballots to include in the accumulation.

e. Check the results:

1) Print the results report from each machine.

2) Make sure the results from each machine match the scripted results (plus observer ballots).

3) Remove the memory cards from the machines and accumulate the totals in the central tabulator.

4) Make sure the accumulated results match the totals from the printed results.

f. Clear and secure the equipment:

The final step of the pre-election test is to clear the voting machinery, setting all vote totals to zero and emptying the memory cards (electronic ballot boxes), and then sealing the systems prior to their official use for the election.

Testing as the Polls are Opened

Observers, both partisan observers and members of the public, must be able to observe all polling place procedures, including the procedures for opening the polls.

a. Security check: Make sure there is NOT a wireless modem installed. For example, in a Diebold touch screen, only one expansion slot should be filled -- the slot that holds the memory card.

b. Pre test: As the machine starts up, make sure it completes its self-test successfully.

c. Configuration confirmation: Check every voting machine to ensure that it is still configured for the correct election, including the correct precinct, ballot style, and other applicable details. The machine's configuration is usually displayed or printed when the system is powered up.

d. Zero verification: Print a zero totals report to verify that the voting machine's memory shows zero votes.

e. Touch screen calibration: Being moved can jar machines out of calibration. Verify that the machine can sense and track touches over the entire surface of the touch screen. Typical touch screen machines have a calibration mode in which they either display targets and ask the tester to touch them with a stylus, or they display a target that follows the point of the stylus as it is slid around the screen.

If a Machine Fails During the Election

a. The faulty machine: The machine should be shut down and secured with the memory card in place. At the end of the day when the polling place closes, it should be treated like every other machine. Print and post the vote totals report, remove the memory card, and accumulate its data onto the accumulator unit.

b. Replacement machine: Do not use a replacement machine unless absolutely necessary. If too many machines have malfunctioned at a polling place, and a replacement must be used, subject it to all the same testing used for other machines at the start of the polling day (see above). Make sure a blank memory card is used.

Election Results Comparisons

a. Printing results: The vote totals report should be printed from EACH voting machine before the results are accumulated. A copy should be kept with the memory card when it is returned to the central office.

b. Posting results: The accumulated results from each polling place should be printed and posted before they are transferred to the county for central tabulation -- and before modem connections are even established. Copies should be made available to the press and posted at the polling place where they are available for public viewing.

c. Double-checking results: Printed election results from each polling place should be compared to the corresponding results from the central vote count and audited to make sure these numbers match.

Turnout Comparisons

a. Comparing voters and ballots: The number of voters who sign into the poll book at each polling place should be compared with the number of votes cast at each polling place and posted along with the results.

b. Physical comparison: This audit should be made and recorded in a physical, tangible, and human-verified poll book rather than an electronic or self-verifying poll book.

Early Voting on DREs

Totals for paper absentee ballots should be tracked separately from the totals for electronic early voting. Combining totals from electronic and paper ballots eliminates all possible value of recounting the paper ballots.

Absentee Ballot Auditing

See also accountability procedures for optical scan machines.

a. Tracking ballots: The number of absentee ballots received from the U.S. Post Office should be tracked and made available for public viewing.

b. Comparing ballots-received with ballots-counted: This number should be compared with the number of absentee ballots counted. Any discrepancy should be investigated.

The ultimate authority ...
resides in the people alone.
                ~ James Madison


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