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Technical Issues and (no federally mandated) Standards (some of the information below may be out-of-date)
Federal Election Commission - Has no regulatory authority over elections industry. It did not even have a complete list of vendors of computerized vote tabulation systems as of 2/20/03. See: http://web.archive.org/web/20030402181008/http://www.fec.gov/pages/vendorslist.htm. Also see http://www.ecotalk.org/VotingMachineCompanies.htm "No voting system is ever 'Federally Approved' or 'FEC Approved'," says the Texas-based National Association of State Election Directors (NASED). SEE more on FEC/NASED/HAVA below
Must read! LIST of voting machine reports of irregularity
Balloting and Tabulation data sources:
Help America Vote Act (HAVA) http://www.fec.gov/hava/hava.htm PART 3--TECHNICAL GUIDELINES DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE, SEC. 221. <<NOTE: 42 USC 15361.>> TECHNICAL GUIDELINES DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE. (a) Establishment.--There is hereby established the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (hereafter in this part referred to as the ``Development Committee''). (b) Duties.-- (1) In general.--The Development Committee shall assist the Executive Director of the Commission in the development of the VOLUNTARY voting system guidelines. http://www.fec.gov/hava/law_ext.txt. Note: No committee has been set up for standards or certification as of 7/20/03
RE: DISABLED VOTERS --
HAVA DOES NOT MANDATE DREs for the
[[Page 116 STAT. 1705]]
(3) Accessibility for individuals with disabilities.--The
voting system shall--
(A) be accessible for individuals with disabilities,
including nonvisual accessibility for the blind and
visually impaired, in a manner that provides the same
opportunity for access and participation (including
privacy and independence) as for other voters;
(B) satisfy the requirement of subparagraph (A)
through the use of at least one direct recording
electronic voting system or equipped
for individuals with disabilities at each polling place;
(C) if purchased with funds made available under
title II on or after January 1, 2007, meet the voting
system standards for disability access (as outlined in
HAVA does not require election officials to purchase eletronic voting machines. Voting machines can cheat the disabled just as easily as the able-bodied voter. And, the evidence so far is that these machines are difficult for the disabled to use. Voting machines companies admit that it takes the sight-impaired voters ten times longer to use a touchscreen machine as able-bodied voters. There is a way for the sight-impaired to vote privately and independently using tactile paper ballot templates with audio assistance. Templates are used around the world and in some states such as Rhode Island. (Ballot Templates) Two organizations for the blind, The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), are ardent supporters of paperless touchscreen voting machines. They also have received over $1 million dollars from the voting machine industry.
Texas-based National Association of State Election Directors
(NASED)- General Overview for Getting a Voting System Qualified. "No voting system is ever "Federally Approved" or "FEC Approved."" http://www.nased.org/ITA_process.htm
The descriptions of these two organizations makes it very clear that any standards are really industry guidelines with no meaningful oversight from the FEC or NASED.
FEC - The Commission formulates voting systems standards and maintains those standards to keep them dynamic to changes in technology and testing requirements. The FEC coordinates with NASED to assure that independent testing can be performed under the standards. No voting system is ever "Federally Approved" or "FEC Approved."
NASED - NASED selects and approves testing laboratories which can perform testing related to voting systems to meet the FVSS. The standards are not NASED standards and NASED does not have authority over the FVSS or its individual components of the standards. NASED does select and qualify Independent Test Authorities to perform the work of doing professional testing to assure that voting systems manufacturers comply with the FVSS. NASED has no ability to determine whether a system passes or fails; the ITAs operate independently to determine objectively whether the vendor has met or exceeded the FVSS.
SELECTED REPORTS (for complete list of Voting Security articles - http://www.ecotalk.org/VotingSecurity.htm):
reports states that voting machines do not have effective standards -
The standards are voluntary; states are free to adopt them in whole, in
part, or reject them entirely. To date, 38 states require that voting
equipment used in the state meet FEC standards either in total or in
Nov 00 Manufacturers Admit Voting Machines Unreliable (16-28% of the time) by Christopher Bollyn
The chief problem with computer voting, according to Dr. Rebecca Mercuri, is this, "Any programmer can write code that displays one thing on a screen, records something else, and prints yet another result. There is no known way to ensure that this is not happening inside of a voting system." NotableSoftware.com
Government Oversight: There is no federal agency that has regulatory authority over the elections industry. No agency or organization even has a complete list of voting machine companies. Using a rough estimate, there are about 70 voting machine companies worldwide, with at least 48 based in the U.S.. The FEC lists only 19, the Texas-based National Association of State Election Directors (NASED) lists 16 that are 'industry certified' (which are outmoded and voluntary guidelines), while the IFES Buyers Guide lists 64 companies worldwide. Meanwhile there is one company that is 'flying under the radar' of both the FEC and NASED, that is the Bermuda-based Accenture (formally Andersen Consulting) that has the contract for the online military vote in 2004.
Standards: The voting counting industry is basically self-regulating. There are not now nor have there ever been any federal mandatory standards or certification process for voting systems. The Federal Voting Systems Standards (FVSS) used by the three NASED's approved Independent Test Authorities (ITA) to "certify" companies are outmoded guidelines and voluntary, and not all states have adopted them. The Help America Vote Act (HAVA) sought to establish a committee to formulate strong technical standards. Although no HAVA committee has been created, new voting machines are being authorized for purchase using HAVA funds. http://www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html#Update
Paper Ballots, Paper Trails, Audits: There is no federal requirement for voter-verified paper trails, a paper ballot, or independent auditability of voting systems. Many experts say that a paper ballot that can be verified by the voter and then hand counted is vital to ensure that votes are cast and counted properly, and to allow for legitimate recounts. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced legislation HR 2239 to require all voting machines to produce a voter-verified paper trail.
Articles on 'Open Source' code - it won't prevent vote fraud or technical failure:
NOTES & LINKS:
From Pandora's Black Box by Philip M. O’Halloran (Nov 1996) - (EcoTalk.org editor: This is Rigging-Made-Easy - "in most cases" voting machine companies control ballot position)
Several critics of the computer election fraud concept downplay the dangers by arguing that any programmer inside a large computer vendor who is bent on, let’s say, rigging the election in favor of Bill Clinton, would run the risk of accidentally shooting himself in the foot, unless he knows the ballot position of the candidate (first, second, etc.). Since he has no control over some county clerk in Tupelo, Mississippi who might plug Bill Clinton into the top, middle or bottom of the ballot depending on how she feels that day, he will have an equal chance of shifting the illegal votes to Bob Dole or Ross Perot. However, this argument does not hold up when one considers that in many, if not most cases, the computer vendors either input the candidates’ names to the ballot themselves or know the ballot positions in advance of their sending out the computers.
According to Doretha Blair of the Michigan Board of Elections, the order in which political parties appear on the ballot is determined according to pre-set guidelines:
"There’s no happenstance on the ballot positions".
She informed Relevance that whichever party currently occupies the office of Secretary of State appears first on the ballot. The other parties appear according to their pre-determined ballot status. The names of contenders in primary elections and the many non-partisan candidates, such as those vying for judgeships, are selected by alphabetical order and rotated according to precinct.
Who decides the order of precinct rotation in the judgeships and other non-party races? Doretha Blair told Relevance
"As a rule, the counties will leave that rotation portion to the vendors".
Thus, there is very little left up to chance for the hypothetical vote-fixing "mole" lurking within a vending company supplying the state of Michigan. If he knows the party of the Secretary of State and how to alphabetize, he can ensure that the computer illegally transfers votes to the right position on the ballot to favor his candidate. Although every state is different, it’s not likely that he’d have a much tougher time in Tupelo, Mississippi – or many other states for that matter. Such is the extent of the vote-counting machine vendors’ stealthy takeover of the election process in much of the United States. To paraphrase Clemenceau, from the standpoint of the vendors,
"Elections are much too important to leave up to the election officials".
Also from Pandora's Black Box by Philip M. O’Halloran (Nov 1996) - (EcoTalk.org editor: Can cell phones control voting machines?)
Remote modem access to a central counting computer?
On hearing an unconfirmed report in Michigan of a vendor representative in this month’s election re-booting a computer that had "crashed" by holding a cell phone up to it, your editor popped the question to Jeff Ryan, a BRC spokesman in Chicago:
Could the counting computers be accessed remotely by cell phone or other device?
His previously cordial tone instantly changed to a rude, insulting one. He condescendingly stated that the question betrayed a total lack of understanding of how computers actually work. Although this was not far off the mark; he still hadn’t answered the question.
When it was repeated, he stammered that it was a ridiculous question and seemed to want to get off the phone in a hurry, insisting that "until you go to Lynn Allen, your Oakland County Clerk and sit in his office and have him show you how the computer works, you shouldn’t be asking me that kind of a question!"
When he was told that he and his firm were better qualified to respond to technical questions about their own product than their politician customer, and when your editor wondered aloud why it was such a touch question, Mr. Ryan apparently unable to stay on the phone another second, blurted "Thank you very much, thank you..." and hung up even as the offending question was being asked for the third time.
Why Are Modems Being Placed Inside Voting Computers?
Although we were not sure what, if anything, he was trying to hide, our curiosity was piqued, so we contacted BRC’s only real competitor in Michigan, Doubleday Publishing of Kalamazoo, which sells the Accu-vote optical scanner supplied by Global Election systems. A programming technician matter-of-factly told us that there are modems inside each of the vote-counting computers which are used to transfer results from dozens of precincts to the central counting computers. He explained,
"They talk between the modems – there is a modem between each [computer] unit, or at least, most of them."
Thus, the vote-counting computers can "talk" to the central computer and are, thus, technically, vulnerable to outside access. The Doubleday technician explained that special command cards can be inserted into the machine. To tell the precinct computer to call the central computer with the results, he stated:
"You have to program the phone number into the card. The card accesses the modem in the Accu-vote unit and the card tells it to dial into the central computer... To close the election you slide an "ender card" – like a special ballot – which has certain codes on it and it tells it to lock up the election.
In order to triple check this disturbing finding, we went to the State of Florida’s election vendor Internet website, looked under BRC and found this option available for the Optech computer vote-counter:
"Modem Communications and results transfer capability from the precinct with the OPTECH III-P Eagle and Regional accumulation with the Smart Pack Receiving system. [See also the BRC website at < www.brcp.com <
The Global Election Systems’ website provided further information in this innovative feature:
"Following simple instructions, the poll workers plug a phone jack into the receptacle in the back of the Accu-Vote and press a button on its front to automatically dial and transmit the precinct results to the Host Computer for county-wide accumulation."
We viewed with grave concern the presence of an internal (read hidden) modem which could allow outside access to the computer without anyone’s knowledge