Friday, July 29, 2005

Computer experts testify 21 June 2005 before the Senate on the perils of paperless voting

My recent testimony before the Mesa County Commissioners regarding vote centers was in part derived from recognized experts in the field of electronic voting. I’ve read articles, papers and testimony by Professor Ted Selker of the MIT Media Lab’s Caltech/MIT Voter Technology Project. Yes, that’s MIT as in Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I’ve read extensively from the works of Professor David L. Dill of Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science.

These men are not ignorant bumpkins with an aversion to technology, and they are not enthused by the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (which after all is a trail, an after-the-fact receipt). A receipt shows what has been done with your vote by the invisible, anonymous scribe in the “black box”—not what is about to be done to your vote.

“The basic problem of e-voting can be understood without an in-depth knowledge of computer technology. Here is a helpful analogy: Suppose voters dictated their votes, privately and anonymously, to human scribes, and that the voters were prevented from inspecting the work of the scribes. Few would accept such a system, on simple common-sense grounds. Obviously, the scribes could accidentally or intentionally mis-record the votes with no consequences. Without accountability, a system is simply not trustworthy, whether or not computers are involved. You don't need a Ph.D. in computer science to understand the basic problem with computerized voting. Computer systems are so complex that no one really knows what goes on inside them. We don't know how to find all the errors in a computer system; we don't know how to make sure that a system is secure or that it hasn't been corrupted (possibly even by its designers); and we don't know how to ensure that the systems in use are running the software they are supposed to be running. Technologists have not been able to solve these problems even with measures that are far more sophisticated (and costly) than those used in the design and certification of voting equipment.

There is strong agreement among computer technologists that what I just said is true. For example, the Association for Computing Machinery, the largest professional organization of computer technologists, adopted a position against paperless electronic voting after an internal poll showed that 95 percent of their membership agreed with the position. What can we do about this problem? Returning to the analogy with the scribe, that system can be made trustworthy by having the voter fill out his own ballot or by allowing each voter to check the ballot filled out by the scribe. We can have a trustworthy voting system if, instead of a futile effort to ensure that the voting equipment is error-free by design, we empower each voter to verify that his vote has been accurately recorded. In other words, we need voter-verified paper ballots. The call for paper ballots is not based on nostalgia. Paper has specific properties, as a technology, that we don’t know how to replicate in electronic media. For example, most voters can verify the contents of a paper ballot without computer mediation; paper can be written indelibly; and the procedures for handling critical paper documents are easily understood by ordinary poll workers and voters. In addition, electronic ballot marking devices now exist to enable voters with disabilities to mark and verify optical scan ballots. Paper is not a magical solution to our election problems, but, at least, understandable procedures exist for ensuring the accuracy of an election conducted with paper ballots. In particular, the ballots must be protected, and the processes for storing, transporting, handling, and counting them must transparent. Ideally, members of the public and non-governmental organizations as well as political party representatives should be able to observe all of the steps of an election, including machine testing, polling place operations, counting of votes, auditing and recounting.”—Professor David Dill’s testimony.

Professor Selker calls electronic voting a danger to democracy. He even conducted a study in which a known set of errors were inserted into a mock election. The results demonstrated that most voters will not even recognize an error on the paper printout. Some test subjects even denied that an error had been printed, even though the error was of course part of the known set of errors used for the study.

One wonders at the objectives, motives and yes competence of elected officials who forge ahead with technology that will destroy the transparency of elections by reducing the right to vote to a process that takes place inside a black box, where it cannot be observed by the citizen casting the ballot.

Cindy L. Espinoza
264 East Lynwood Street
Grand Junction CO 81503
TEL/FAX 970-245-1196 or 866-865-5780

Thomas Paine in 1777 - The Crisis, no. 4

"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Boulder County Clerk’s office spreads false information about the November 2004 election

Some really bad stuff is happening in Boulder County elections.

The commissioners, if they intend to represent the people rather than protect the administration, have an opportunity to exercise their authority and protect future elections from fraud, error and incompetence.

Check out the following reports, and try to attend the hearing at 3 p.m., Tuesday, August 2nd , at the Boulder County Courthouse.

Boulder county press release

Colorado Daily news report

Daily Camera news report,1713,BDC_2423_3959590,00.html

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Strike up another one for local politics.

Strike up another one for local politics. The commission voted 3 yea's to 0 nay's for: "Adopting a Resolution implementing Vote Centers on Election Day in Mesa County, beginning with the August 2006 Primary Election and thereafter."

The discussion ran over 3 hours, with 1 hour for the Clerk and 2 hours against. It was obvious that they had their minds made up before we had even begun. We drove home that the proposed voting centers will cost at least one million dollars more than traditional precinct polling. We drove home that the only safe ballot is a paper ballot. We submitted documentation showing that that this is an unproven technology. We said over and over that citizens were not allowed any input and the "task force" was hand-picked for voting center approval. The fix was in and the Citizens were denied any recourse. I believe this will be a sad day in the history of Mesa County.

In the face of all logic and stewardship they voted to proceed. All three commissioners had the mantra: "Vote centers will eliminate provisional ballots", "Paperless voting is the future and Mesa County needs to be in front", "Vote centers are a part of evolution of a new voting culture." How much rehearsal they must have had!

There was no logic as to their decision. Could the SOS have pushed hard to make this happen and the Mesa Clerk responded? They kept pushing ADA DRE's (electronic ballot w/paper) for every vote except absentee. I think this was mandated higher than Mesa County. There is absolutely no reason to have every machine be the ADA DRE -- Larimer County uses OCR for their Vote Centers, and all of these DRE’s will double the cost.

Short of flooding the hearing with several hundred people, there was no way to change its outcome. I made a conscious effort to not involve The Daily Sentinel before the hearing, hoping that two of the commission would use logic and common sense. Maybe that's where I lost. I know that I would have been crucified, demonized and made to look like an ancient relic wanting the "old fashioned" voting systems. I don't think I could have found one hundred people to show up at the hearing yesterday.

Only time will tell.

Carl Boydstun, Mesa County Taxpayer

Sunday, July 03, 2005

The truth about voter turnout

Saying that “mail ballot elections INCREASE voter turnout” is a marketing statement, not a statement of fact. Like many marketing statements, it is not true.

When voter turnout for a mail ballot election is NOT greater than turnout for a traditional election, election officials just make up excuses and falsely represent them to the public as fact. This deceitful habit should be stopped.

Check out the logic below. Remember, when working with the turnout numbers, it is easier to cast fraudulent ballots by mail than it is to cast fraudulent ballots in a precinct. The number of “votes cast” by mail ballot, therefore, is likely to be overstated.


U. S. Presidential elections typically enjoy the highest turnout. With the exception of Oregon (I think), these elections are never mail ballot elections. Officials explain that the ISSUE drives the high turnout in presidential years.

Look at the U.S. turnout statistics for the 2000 Presidential election - -- same election, different states.

Notice that the VAP turnout ranges from 68.8% (Minnesota) to 40.5% (Hawaii). This is a 28.3% difference between the highest and lowest turnout. What explains this difference?

Note that Oregon’s mail ballot turnout was 60.6% which is 8.2% lower than the top, non-mail ballot election. In fact, 8 traditional voting states had turnout which exceeded Oregon’s mail ballot turnout. What explains these differences?


The City of Boulder conducted a mail ballot election in March 2005. Turnout was 23.4%. In the November 2003 Boulder City Council MAIL BALLOT ELECTION, turnout reported was 58.2% -- What explains this difference?


Colorado’s county to county variation in the 2001 election cannot be explained by mail ballot voting. See -- same odd year election, different Colorado counties. Also, review attachments to this report, "Press release – Voter Turnout Report" and working document "Voter Turnout Report".


Oregon’s 2004 mail ballot election for President had turnout by county ranging from 80.9% to 91.4% - a difference of 10.5% -- see Yet Boulder County Colorado’s traditional election for the same Presidential election had a turnout of 90.8% -- see

Boulder County’s 90.8% turnout in its 2004 traditional Presidential election was only 0.6% less than the best county turnout in Oregon’s 2004 mail ballot Presidential election, and was 9.9% better than Oregon’s worst mail ballot voting county.


The numbers do not support the thesis that mail ballot elections increase voter turnout. Election officials who say they do are not telling the truth.

Wall Street Journal editorial writer and author of the book Stealing Elections, John Fund says, "It's about time that someone step forward and admit that the root cause of low turnout isn't restrictive voting laws, but voter apathy. People are fed up with mediocre candidates, gerrymandered districts and uncompetitive elections."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

El Paso County, Colorado, will continue to vote in precincts

El Paso County, Colorado, will continue to vote in precincts

As the story from the July 1st edition of the Colorado Springs Gazette below points out, on Thursday, June 30th, the El Paso County Commission (Colorado) rejected a petition by the county clerk to reconsider the commission's ruling on May 9th that the November election be held in traditional polling places. The county clerk claimed hardship and cost savings as justification for requesting a mail in election instead.

Note that Mr. Swanson publishes only the politically correct view and ignores the real story of the struggle for honest elections. As the Gazette has become ever more simply a propaganda arm of government, its credibility and popularity has continued to decline. Coincidentally, after the hearing on Thursday I had to go to Wal-Mart where they were trying to give away copies of the Gazette with no takers that I saw.

The real story lies in what Mr. Swanson omitted:

  • One of the reasons the El Paso County Clerk is in trouble is that the HAVA-mandated statewide voter registration database, contracted out to Accenture, is severely behind schedule (at least six months although two years to never is probably more accurate). HAVA requires this database to be operational by January 1, 2006. Mr. Balink stated it won't make it. In a state where the $200+ million welfare database went "operational" last September, and still isn't functioning, and the DMV CSTARS program is also off the tracks, we have a general train wreck with regard to databases in this state. The impact on the county clerk is horrendous. But far be it from the press to say anything about incompetence and mismanagement in state government (note that I am not referring to Mr. Balink or his staff here. He is on the wrong end of the state government problems). And of course the voters wouldn't be interested in knowing that our Secretary of State, Donetta Davidson, doesn't have a safe, secure, or accurate voter registration database. I did find out that the HAVA-compliance director, Drew Durham, has left and that the Sec. of State has now contracted ($$$$) with a company to review the problems with Accenture and why the voter registration database isn't getting done. And of course, Donetta Davidson's and Accenture's record on purges from voter registration databases is a dark one, but the public wouldn't be interested in that, now would they Mr. Swanson?

  • The implementation of legislation pushed by our Sec. of State's Blue Ribbon Commission of the Unqualified, SB05-206, is causing numerous problems for the county clerk's office. Among those are the fact that Rep. Madden's and Sen. Gordon's bill SB05-198 requiring, of all things, a tangible paper record of all votes cast and an audit to ensure election accuracy were rolled into SB05-206. Incidentally, all reports are that what voting machine vendors consider a paper record is a far cry from what you and I might consider a human-readable record of our ballot. Reportedly, the paper roll produced by Sequoia is only readable by Sequoia. And lets not even talk about Diebold's version. The good news is that ES&S AutoMark system for paper ballots has now been federally certified.

  • What standards there are for voting computers suggest that the machines should last for ten years (how many 10 year old computers have you seen lately?). El Paso County's Diebold servers are now six years old and the deputy county clerk testified that they are incompatible with the new software and hardware (one would never suspect that Diebold might have done that deliberately) and must be replaced for a trivial amount of ~$100,000. My suggestion that before we do any further upgrades, or purchase additional e-vote equipment, we should do a cost/benefit analysis for electronic voting went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

The hearing on these issues began on Monday, June 27th, and after Mr. Balink and his staff finished testifying about the problems they face, and there is no question his problems are real, it was my turn to rise in opposition.

Now I would like to make it clear that I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Balink and his staff. I have stated repeatedly that the El Paso County Clerk's office runs the best and smoothest elections of any county I'm aware of in Colorado. So my comments and concerns are honest differences, and in many cases Mr. Balink and I are in agreement, particularly with regard to the need for honesty and integrity in elections.

I began my testimony by pointing out:

  • That cost savings, if any, in a mail in election were realized by not mailing ballots to "inactive" voters. Thus, effectively, one third of the registered voters in El Paso County would be disenfranchised if the commission approved a mail in election.

  • There is no evidence to support the claim that a mail in election increases voter turnout.

  • That it is well established that a mail in election, combined with mail in voter registration forms, is the method of choice for those wishing to commit election fraud. Why make it easy to commit election fraud by holding a mail in election?

  • That the integrity and honesty of elections has historically depended on their being run in the main by citizens. Numerous precedents exist as to why government employees and their contractors, e.g., Diebold, should not operate polling places or have primary responsibility for counting ballots, as they would in a mail in election.

At that point the lights went out due to a contractor cutting utilities to the county building (No, it wasn't Diebold that time). Of necessity, the commission went into recess until Thursday morning.

On June 30th, after initial items were taken care of, the county commission resumed its consideration of Mr. Balink's motion for reconsideration and I resumed my testimony.

  • I brought up the question of whether there are ongoing problems with integrity and honesty of elections in El Paso County. I had previously reminded the commissioners that one of Commissioner Clark's elections was now used as a type example of how to hack the vote on Diebold voting equipment.

  • If one looks at page 154 of the Statement of Votes Cast (PDF 3 MB) for the November 2004 election it is plain that 324 total votes were counted but only 249 ballots were cast. On page 162 of that same document, 462 votes were counted even though there were only 362 registered voters in the precinct. My question was then: How can this happen and why doesn't the Diebold software flag it? The answer, as Commissioner Williams pointed out, is that, in these director's races, voters were instructed to vote for two candidates in the first instance and for three candidates in the second instance. However, neither in the Election Summary Report or the Statement of Votes Cast was that noted although that should have been done. Without such notation in the record it is virtually impossible to audit an election. I might also note that on page 8 of the Statement of Votes Cast (PDF 3 MB) that for precinct 378 there were 71 registered voters but 175 cards (ballots) cast and the Diebold software faithfully records a turnout of 246.48%. Is there no error checking at all in Diebold software?

  • During his testimony on Monday, Mr. Balink had presented a map of how Colorado counties were planning to vote this November, e.g. voting centers, mail in elections, with precinct voting being in a distinct minority (~20% if I remember correctly). During the recess the Denver Post had published an article pointing out that Denver County was switching back to precinct voting and had such little faith in their election commission that they are attempting to eliminate it. I also pointed out that a major reason that Boulder County was doing a mail in election was that the Hart Intercivic voting equipment they had purchased was incapable of processing ballots fast enough to handle a precinct election, as had been demonstrated in November 2004.

  • I also stated that the citizens of El Paso County would be much safer if Mr. Balink would stop experimenting with elections, e.g., voting centers, and purchasing unreliable (the Dieblod Accu-Vote tabulator in my precinct, 306, didn't work in the November 2004 election) and unauditable voting equipment and concentrate instead on such fundamentals as insuring the number of votes counted does not exceed the number of ballots cast.

  • During the recess Al Kolwicz had forwarded me a letter from Mr. Balink dated March 10, 2003, strongly supporting the abolition of mail in elections and I put that before the commissioners as well. In follow up Mr. Balink stated he still agreed with his statements in that letter.

  • I also repeated what I've said many times before: You can have an honest election, or you can have a mail in election, but you can't have both at the same time. And with that I asked the commissioners to deny Mr. Balink's request to hold a mail in election this year, or any subsequent year.

On Monday there had been only one other citizen to testify. He testified Thursday after I finished in favor of a mail in election on general principles and based on his experience dealing with his friends and neighbors during many years as an election judge.

However, Mr. Balink and his staff had evidently been busy during the recess and lined up three more witnesses. One was the USPS state director for government mailings from Denver who described security and handling procedures the post office follows when ballots are mailed. Commissioner Bruce had had several problems with the post office handling of election materials, including ballots, so that witness was probably not a plus for the county clerk's side. School district 11 had two witnesses who testified in favor of mail in elections because they felt they got better results at less cost than in precinct elections. My impression is that they didn't help or hurt the county clerk's position.

Then the deputy clerk and the election director stood and attempted to refute my statements. I remember the deputy clerk going on about how reliable Diebold is, and how the equipment is tested by an Independent Testing Authority (the ITA is hired by Diebold and only tests what Diebold asks them to test, which did not include security features, and upgrades and bug fixes are usually not tested by the ITA before being released) and certified by NASED (the last certificate we have for the Diebold voting equipment is from 1996 when it was installed on a UNIX box. It is now on Windows NT.).

Mr. Balink graciously acknowledged my sincere efforts and that, even though we often differed, citizen reviews were essential. I did not attempt any rebuttal as I thought it unnecessary based on the commissioners comments.

And, as Paul Harvey says, that's the rest of the story.

Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.

Charles E. Corry, Ph.D., F.G.S.A.President,

Equal Justice Foundation
455 Bear Creek Road
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80906-5820
Telephone: (719) 520-1089
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The good men may do separately is small compared with what they may do collectively.
Benjamin Franklin