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.