Q: I heard Secretary of State Sam Reed on The Conversation, on KUOW, recently. He said that this software was certified. How do you know its not?
A: We have documents from Election Systems and Software that clearly state that the software used in Pierce and Kitsap Counties has never been tested or inspected by an official Independent Test Authority. We also have statements from Paul Miller of the State Elections Office who has told us the software is NOT federally certified. We also have letters from Dean Logan, the King County Elections Director, and from Nick Handy, the State Elections Director; who both state that the software is not federally certified.
Q: I read in the Seattle Post Intelligencer that Secretary Reed says the new software will be federally certified by November. Isn't that the reassurance we need?
A: Secretary Reed's statement is contradicted by a letter from his office to VotersUnite! It is also contradicted by the Statement of Work from ES&S to Pierce County and by verbal statements made by Paul Miller and Bill Huennekens to John Gideon and Ellen Theisen.
In addition, since the federal certification process normally takes a minimum of six months, and since the vendors have not yet submitted it, it would be impossible for it to be certified by an ITA before November.
Q: I called my county council member and they told me this software has been through rigorous testing. Why do you say their testing is insufficient?
A: Even diligent controlled testing does not guarantee that the product will perform reliably during an election. As page 23 of a report from a recent Harvard University symposium on voting systems points out:
The report unequivocally states, "testing before the vote cannot verify accuracy of final tally," and declares, "Equipment testing does not displace the need for outcome auditing."
Testing is necessary but not sufficient for a well-run election. Testing is never perfect, as it can overlook certain factors or interactions that may be easier to detect in hindsight. Systems interact with each other in unpredictable ways, often impossible to detect in a reasonable battery of tests.
In fact, during the primary election this week, Clark County, Nevada experienced the very problem that concerns us. A new feature was added to the previous version of the Sequoia software, and the Registrar of Voters is still working to resolve problems caused by an error they believe was introduced during the change. Incidentally, the revised software was even qualified by an ITA.
Q: I was told the software was necessary to accommodate the new primary system.
A: In his explanation of the reasons for the new software installation, the only reason provided by State Director of Elections Nick Handy was that it was necessary to handle new functions required by the consolidated ballot. King County Director of Elections Dean Logan has said that it would have been required in King County even if the county used the four-ballot option. All the other auditors have told VotersUnite! that it was required only to accommodate the consolidated ballot.
The counties choosing the four-ballot option did not revise their software. The auditor of San Juan County, which used Diebold equipment (as does King County) chose the four-ballot option in order not to revise the software so close to an election.
Q: I thought electronic voting issues were only about touch screen voting machines.
A: Not at all. Certainly the loudest outcry has been in protest of touch screen machines, since they provide no evidence that votes were recorded correctly and there is no way to do a meaningful recount of the votes. However, optical scan machines are also electronic vote-counting devices, and they votes collected by them are processed through the central accumulator, which is also computerized.
All software contains errors. That's an undisputed fact. Optical scan software and accumulation software have been the cause of many election miscounts and malfunctions. The benefit of using optical scan equipment is that there is a paper record of each person's vote. But if that paper record is not used to manually check the accuracy of the electronic tally, the benefit is lost.
Optical Scan machines count the majority of all ballots cast in the state of Washington. All mail-in and absentee ballots are read by optical scan machines. In King and Pierce Counties, some ballots are read at the poll site using optical scan machines. Presently, in the state of Washington, only Snohomish and Yakima Counties use touch screen voting machines and even those counties count a majority of their ballots on optical scan machines.
Since manual recounts are rarely done in Washington, we have no way of knowing if the machines have been counting the votes correctly. If significant recounts are not done to check this new, last-minute software, we will have no way of knowing whether or not the votes were counted correctly.
Q: What is ITA (Independent Test Authority) Certification?
A: Technically, the procedure is called "qualification" since it qualifies the equipment for certification by the states. ITA qualification has been a requirement for all voting systems in the state of Washington. Qualification is garnered by the vendors when they write new software or build new voting machine hardware. For a software qualification, the vendor gives the ITA a copy of the software and instructions on how to do the test and inspection. The ITA then inspects and tests the product and submit the results to the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED) who officially qualify the component.
According to past Washington State Election Law and Administrative Code, this qualification was required prior to using any voting system or system component. The state was also required to follow that qualification up with local testing and state certification and by a requirement that any system or system component was used in another state previously. These requirements were all changed in order to use the software on the machines in six counties.
Background Info Letters and Details
Correspondence between VotersUnite! and the Secretary of State's office.
August 24: Initial letter mailed from VotersUnite! to 200 Washington State leaders explaining the concerns shared by several citizen groups about the new software installed in six counties for the primary election.
August 24: Detailed explanation mailed with the initial letter.
August 31: Response from Director of Elections Nick Handy, presumably mailed to the recipients of the initial letter.
September 13: Response from VotersUnite! to Director Handy.
Letters from experts.
Dr. Barbara Simons
Dr. David Dill
Dr. Douglas Jones
Correspondence between Ellen Theisen (VotersUnite!) and King County Director of Elections Dean Logan.
August 11: From Ellen Theisen: Questions to Dean Logan regarding the new software installed in King County.
August 11: From Dean Logan: Acknowledgement of Ellen Theisen's letter of August 11.
August 28: From Ellen Theisen: Open Records Request to King County.
September 7: From Dean Logan: Response to Ellen Theisen's questions of August 11.
September 9: From Ellen Theisen: Response to Dean Logan's letter of September 7.
September 14: Letter from Linda Franz of Whatcom County to Director Nick Handy.