Thursday, December 20, 2007

Board says "do not certify any voting equipment".

The voting system certification board report says none of the voting equipment passed the tests. The reports for each vendor can be found at:

Certification Overview - Premier
Certification Overview - ES&S
Certification Overview - HART
Certification Overview - Sequoia
A court ordered re-certification of voting equipment in Colorado has concluded that none of the voting equipment supplied by Premier, Hart, ES&S, and Sequoia should be certified for use in elections.

The reasons for decertification vary, they focus on security and accuracy, and they include some of the problems identified by Ohio and California.

Despite Secretary of State Mike Coffman’s hand-picked certification board’s conclusions and recommendations, Mr. Coffman granted conditional certification to Premier’s voting and counting equipment. He also granted conditional certification to HART DREs and Sequoia optical scanners. His override of the board’s determination is an illustration that the process is not independent. Until the certification process is independent, it should not be trusted.

Colorado voting integrity advocates are very displeased with Mr. Coffman’s decisions, although they are relieved to be proven correct in their years long efforts to discredit the equipment. According to them, the certification process itself is fatally flawed. It is not independent, it is not comprehensive, and its factual determinations can be overridden by political expediency. And there is no test to verify that voting equipment components work when they are combined into a system.

There is a massive flurry of activity in Colorado as county clerks and vendors try to come up with a plan to get around the certification decisions. Mr. Coffman has announced his intent to request legislative changes that would enable him to get around the laws designed to protect the election system. He wants to shop around for a state that has certified this equipment, and use their positive certification results instead of Colorado’s negative results. He also wants legislative permission to bypass required testing of changes to the equipment and software.

Voter integrity groups and local systems experts who advocate for verifiable and transparent elections are fighting to break thru the wall of secrecy thrown up by officials. The public is being excluded from even observing meetings of election officials. This raises the question, are officials overtly violating Colorado’s open government laws?

This is a story that needs to be told. Colorado press on Monday and Tuesday was filled with the story.

Key points are:

• What are the implications for other states that are using this equipment?
• What does this decertification mean for the results of past elections that used this unreliable and insecure equipment?
• Is Colorado violating open government laws?
• What will Colorado do for 2008?

For more information see:

Colorado Voter Group


Monday, October 30, 2006

John Fund on Absentee Voting

Today's Online Wall Street Journal includes a piece by John Fund entitled, "Absent Without Leave"

It, along with a number of related articles, documents what is happening with absentee voting.

John Fund is the author of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy"

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Republicans file complaint against Boulder County Officials

Violation of election code - interference with Canvass Board

The Boulder County Republican Party has filed a complaint with the Colorado Secretary of State alleging apparent violation of the election code and interference with the legally appointed Canvass Board.

Click to read the complaint which alleges that Boulder County Officials:

1. Did not conduct the required Logic & Accuracy Test.
2. Did not record in the pollbook whether each voter used a paper or electronic ballot.
3. Denied the Canvass Board access to General Eleciton materials.
4. Denied the Canvass Board access to Primary Election materials.
5. Refuse to conduct public business in public.
The Boulder County Board of Canvassers is responsible for verifying the post election audit (random audit) and the election results, and for conducting any recounts.

The board has three members:

Deb Gardner, Democratic Party Representative
Al Kolwicz, Republican Party Representative
Nancy Jo Wurl, Clerk & Recorder Representative
The board must complete its work on the 2006 General Election on November 24th, unless there is a recount in which case the recount must be completed on December 1st.

To facilitate public oversight the board will conduct its business online, where the public, candidates, and the press can watch what is happening.

1. Whenever you like, you can link to the site to see what is happening. Simply go to

2. In addition, if you wish, you can choose to have the system automatically send a message to your inbox when the site has new material. You can choose between real time updates or a daily message summary. Simply press the "JOIN" button when you are on the site. (Joining the site does not authorize you to submit unmoderated messages to the group.)
By conducting the 2006 general election canvass in public the Canvass Board hopes to increase public awareness of the process and to increase voter confidence in election results.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Manipulating the facts

The articles “More voters using absentee ballots” and “Cost to vote is increasing” are great illustrations of government propaganda.

Boulder County has done everything it can do to get people to vote by absentee ballot. Why?

1. Staff hopes to reduce the Election Day workload on the poorly designed HART ballot scanning equipment, and
2. Staff hopes to reduce long lines at Early and Election Day polling places.
What harm is done by encouraging people to vote by absentee ballot? Absentee ballots are not secure and they result in disenfranchised voters

1. Not every absentee ballot gets counted.
2. Absentee ballots get lost and stolen and can be switched.
3. Eligible voter’s ballots get rejected by staff.
4. Ineligible people get to vote, hence eligible votes get cancelled.
On a practical side, absentee ballots cost more and take much longer to process than in-person paper ballots.

Staff knows that informed voters study the candidates and issues before they come to the polling place. Most come prepared with a checklist of their votes. Instead of educating voters to come to the polls prepared, staff promotes the myth of the unprepared voter. This encourages voters to come to the polls unprepared.

And don’t be comforted by staff claims that the Logic and Accuracy Tests and the Post Election Audit will catch any problems. This is an irresponsible and absolutely untrue claim.

Why has Boulder County hired a person to promote the insecure, inaccurate, and expensive absentee ballot? Because for staff, elections are all about staff convenience and making staff look good.

What is our advice to voters?

(1) Always use a paper ballot (not a paper receipt).
(2) Personally cast your anonymous ballot into the ballot box.
(3) Don’t vote absentee or provisional ballots unless there is absolutely no alternative. (These ballots must be placed into a sealed envelop, and risk being not counted.)
(4) Never use voting equipment that records your votes electronically, even if the equipment also prints your votes on a paper receipt. (The votes on the electronic record decide the election, not the ones on the paper receipt.)

Al Kolwicz

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

CAMBER challenges Colorado SOS candidates to start planning immediately

Following Friday's judicial order that Colorado clean up voting equipment standards and recertify all voting equipment for the 2008 elections, a challenge was issued to Colorado's Secretary of State candidates Mike Coffman [R] and Ken Gordon [D].

Coffman and Gordon were challenged to cooperatively or individually appoint a person or persons to begin work immediately on a plan to comply with Judge Manzanares' orders. The challenge was issued by Colorado's leading voter-advocate group, Citizens for Accurate Mail Ballot Election Results, CAMBER.

Either Coffman or Gordon will be Colorado's next Secretary of State. "If they wait until election results are decided and they take office before they begin development of a compliance plan, it is highly unlikely that the 2008 elections will be improved. There just won't be enough time", said Al Kolwicz, Executive Director of CAMBER.

CAMBER warned the Secretary of State, the Legislature, and the Governor of the impeding problem back in 2004, when Colorado adopted HB04-1227. The bill was enacted, and resulted in most of the problems heard by the court in last weeks trial.

To read CAMBER's challenge to the candidates, and a description of their suggested approach, go to

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

PRESS RELEASE: Will the Court decertify Colorado's electronic voting equipment?

September 19, 2006

Will the Court decertify Colorado's electronic voting equipment? If so, election officials will need to develop an alternative for November’s elections.

It is widely suspected that Colorado’s voting equipment certification process is flawed. Equipment vendors are not being held to the same standard, and none of the electronic voting equipment certified for use in Colorado meets the requirement for anonymous ballots, paper audit trail, and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

Experience with the equipment during the recent Primary Election seems to support the notion that it is not feasible to verify that votes recorded and counted on this equipment are secure, and accurately interpreted and counted.

Judge Manzanares will preside and rule on the matter. The hearing begins at 8:30 AM on Wednesday, Sept. 20 and continues on Sept. 21 in Courtroom 1 which is on the second floor of the Denver City and County Bldg.

Two of the leading voting machine experts are scheduled to testify on Wednesday – Doug Jones from the University of Iowa and Dan Wallach from Rice. In addition, the person responsible for certifying voting equipment, John Gardner, is to testify.

If the Court decides that the equipment must be decertified, the Secretary of State may have the authority to authorize “temporary use” of the decertified equipment for the November election.

The judge could forbid the Secretary of State from using electronic ballots but authorize her to use the equipment to prepare paper ballots for disabled voters. The votes on these paper ballots would be hand counted.

This case has attracted national attention.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Clarification requested on HART equipment certification

From: Al Kolwicz
Sent: Monday, September 18, 2006 11:28 AM
To: Gigi Dennis (
Cc: Canvass Board Group (; Mike Coffman (; Ken Gordon (; Dean Schooler
Subject: Clarification requested on HART equipment certification

Dear Ms. Dennis.

Your office has certified that the HART InterCivic paper ballot system works with or without ballot stubs, and with or without non-removable unique ballot identifiers (serial numbers in the form of bar codes and/or printed digits).

Boulder County says that they cannot use ballots without permanent unique identifiers because the HART system does not support them, and the Secretary of State does not require them. Boulder County maintains that the HART system does not work without permanent unique identifiers. (1) They say that the HART optical scanning system requires that multi-page paper ballots must be read sequentially (all pages of a single voter’s ballot read before the next voter’s ballot). (2) They say that without a non-removable identifier, it is not possible to arrange each ballot’s ballot pages into sets. Further, Boulder County says that a non-removable identifier is required to locate a ballot in a batch (for duplication purposes, for example).

If what Boulder County says is true, the HART system contains defects that should have been detected by your certification testing. Both of the defects identified by Boulder County (above) should have been repaired before the system was certified. Defect #1 should be repaired by eliminating the requirement that ballot pages be organized into sets. This is an undesirable requirement that serves no valid purpose. Would the HART system VOID an entire multi-page ballot if one of the pages is missing? If so, under what authority? Defect #2 should be eliminated by requiring that every anonymous ballot page be endorsed, after it has been cast by the voter and before the scanned image is recorded, with a unique identifier containing the following: Batch-ID, Item-number within the batch, Date-processed, Time-processed, Machine-ID.

On the other hand, if Boulder County is not true, then you have found a way to use the HART system that does not require non-removable unique ballot identifiers.

We would like you to confirm, did you certify that the HART optical scan system does in fact work when the ballot identifiers are recorded on stubs which are removed before the ballot is cast? If so, will you please explain to Boulder County how this is done? If not, will you please retract your certification of this feature?

Thank you.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

FALSE IMPRESSIONS -- Suit: Ban computer voting

Subject: Re: FALSE IMPRESSIONS -- PRESS 09152006 Suit: Ban computer voting

In addition to what Al Kolwicz says, all of which I agree with, it is doubtful that the DRE machines anywhere have actually been successfully tested in an election scale event. The reason this is basically impossible is that there is no way to accurately test vote tens of thousands of votes into a collection of DREs... short of possibly using a bunch of robots to do it, and even that might have accuracy problems. Any county which has honestly attempted to conduct a LAT on the DREs must be aware of this.

The potential for error in the DRE election tabulations is not a trivial consideration. It is not impossible that there are bugs within the software which compile the votes from the various DREs into larger tabulations (such as the JBC in the case of the Hart system) which could by tabulation register rollover or similar accidental faults modify the results in a particular range of count, for example. Unless the election scale tests are performed, we would not necessarily know about such faults which could be unintended or otherwise.

It would be possible to have an election scale test in which the VVPATs are counted and compared to the election tabulation. This should most certainly be done, and I suspect it has never been done on any realistic scale with any DRE system. To avoid human error in the counting of paper ballots, it is unquestionably an advantage to sort before counting. For this purpose it would be necessary to cut the individual VVPATs from their sequential positions on the paper roll. Of course, we all are depending on the possibility of this full scale hand recount being done for the safety of all our elections, but I doubt if anyone has demonstrated how to do it successfully in an election scale with real VVPATs.

On the other hand with paper ballots it is possible to sort and count and recount test paper ballots until a group of human counters are certain about and agree in spite of partisan differences to the expected result. And this group of test ballots can be entered into the counting machines as many times as necessary to gain confidence that they always produce the same result (or fail to do so). Paper ballots provide an entirely different and more testable situation, although again, it is doubtful that proper testing has been done in the actual ITA or state certification tests, including ballots incorporating questionable voter intent.

Ocasionally there may have been a hand recount of a given race in a real election, but the results of this recount are rarely if ever compared against the machine count with the intention of reconciling the differences to improve the machine accuracy. In almost every case, such a comparison is made with the expectation of improving the human count accuracy. Election failures are not collected into a single repository for the purposes of learning how to improve our voting process or even which devices are more prone to failure. Each county learns these things on their own, or fails to do so.

The effect of whatever causes questionable voter intent on a paper ballot has the very different and troubling result of a false impression of certainty on the DRE. This is not a technical advantage of the DRE, this is an irreparable fault of the DRE. The DRE unavoidably hides the condition that the voter either has difficulty voting, or is uncertain about the choice for some reason perhaps intentional. Apparently we are no longer concerned about the mechanization of society, so there seem to be few people arguing the need for humanistic interfaces nowadays, unfortunately. Many nations still vote entirely on paper and use human counting and still do this without difficulty.

It is time for us to be realistic about the need for and the lack of testing of our voting machines. The salient issue is not only securing our machines against fraud. The additional security may have the unfortunate side effect of a preventing public oversight of our election processes and this could actually lead to additional potential for fraud or accidental error.

Also it is critical that our post election audits actually perform an audit at a sufficient level of accuracy, and that they consist of an actual audit, not a recount retest. This will require some careful planning and may require the hand counting of more than the prescribed number of ballots as it is crucial to count to a number which is a real subtotal in the real election results. The accuracies resulting from the 2005 habit of recounting 100 ballots are embarrassingly low. In 2006 in most counties more than 100 ballots were counted in the audit, but this number should consist of at least several percent of the ballots in the election. Then the county should be prepared to hand count all the VVPAT and paper ballots in case a reported race result comes too close for the accuracy of the statutory tests (LAT or post-election audit). We should always have a paper ballot hand count in each close election.

Following these guidelines, in addition to making sure that all voters are aware of the significance of what is printed on the VVPAT, would give us a reason to trust our voting machines' results. Then there is also the process of determining whom is allowed to cast a vote to consider (elsewhere).

Harvie Branscomb
Chair, Eagle County Democrats
Member, Eagle County Canvass Board


A Rocky Mountain News story, Suit: Ban computer voting, reports that Colorado Deputy Attorney General Maurice Knaizer says that Colorado is protected against tampering because state law now requires a printout of each computer ballot. And that, the printout can be reviewed by the voter and is kept at the machine for post-election audits and recounts.

This is a false assurance.

1. Electronic voting machines were justified and forced upon the public primarily on their supposed ability to offer disabled voters the opportunity to vote in private. The technology chosen by the Secretary of State cannot be used by blind voters to verify that their votes are correctly recorded. Other technology, such as the AutoMark can. The Secretary of State has forbidden use of the AutoMark.

2. The post-election audit procedure defined by the Secretary of State does not work. It is statistically meaningless. It cannot detect inaccurate or fraudulent votes within a predetermined level of accuracy. (It cannot be used to predict, for example, “For the Governor of Colorado Contest, it is 99.95 percent certain that there are less than 2 incorrect votes per 10,000 votes recorded.)

3. The printout created at the time a voter casts their ballot does not protect voters. The printout could potentially be used to conduct a full manual recount to catch inaccurate or fraudulent vote counting, but this will almost never happen. Because the printout is on a continuous roll, like a cash register tape, it is extremely difficult and very expensive to accurately hand count the votes. Consequently, the Secretary of State rarely authorizes a recount, clerks try to block recounts, and candidates almost always find it too expensive to pay for them.
The continued assurance by government officials that the paper printout protects Colorado voters from inaccurate and fraudulent vote counting is nothing more than a reckless attempt to deceive voters into believing that their votes are secure when in fact they are not.

Officials making this statement must be held accountable for their reckless claim.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

End of secret ballot?

As predicted, Colorado's Secretary of State, Gigi Dennis, has used her extraordinary power to silence her critics. Is this the end of the secret ballot?

Voting equipment certified by Colorado does not comply with the law. It does not permit blind voters to verify their votes, and it requires voters to use ballots that are marked in a way that makes them not anonymous.

Dennis refuses to enforce the law and does not want to hear any more about it. In her response to critics, Dennis says that she, and she alone is the final arbiter on this matter and refuses to discuss the matter further.

Click to read:

HAVA Complaint and Public Hearing Notice
HAVA Complaint Determination - Amended 7/24/06
Kolwicz Rejects Complaint Determination
8-point Alternative Plan

For a copy of the Secretary of State's July 24th letter send a message to with the subject line SILENCE THE PUBLIC.