REPORT PREPARED BY
Del Information Services
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The hardware used to count votes throughout the United States has suffered long-term neglect. Inadequate funds have been allocated for elections. Antiquated voting systems are the result. Election offices are understaffed. Personnel are undertrained and underpaid. Some jurisdictions cannot even keep election directors. Tamira Bradley held this position in Longview, Washington. She was paid $1,800 a month. "I really felt that nobody took me seriously," she says. So she quit to become a waitress at a Sizzler. "I made more money," she said.
This long-term neglect has created so many errors into the process of voting, including the counting of ballots, that it is impossible to know after an election exactly what the totals are and how many people may have been robbed of their vote. Rebecca Mercuri, a computer scientist at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, and Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, estimate that at least 2 million ballots did not get counted in the November 2000 election across the country.
Nevada, in trying to make it easier to participate in the voting process, imposes very few restrictions on the use of absentee ballots. Other states such as Indiana have encouraged voter sign-ups by mail and at driver's license bureaus without adequate safeguards being in place. We must never revert back to the days when legal obstacles discouraged or even prevented citizens from voting. Of equal importance to widespread participation, though, must be the integrity of the election process.
The absence of a physical record of each vote is a flaw in direct-recording election (DRE) systems. The presence of an easily tamperable physical record in paper-ballot and card-based systems creates vulnerabilities. Most experts agree that security today is inadequate for "remote" Internet voting systems. These same experts believe that "closed" network systems used at county polling places, are secure. Most experts believe that advancements in technology, in possibly three to five years, will correct present security deficiencies in "remote" Internet voting.
Examples of fraud or a high probability of fraud in the election process includes:
Techniques and procedures used to test and certify vote-counting equipment must be improved and be uniform per model. During certification, hardware should be subjected to rough handling and to fluctuation in temperature and humidity. Software programs should be upgraded and tested more frequently and thoroughly. A mandatory 1% machine recount comparison of vote-counting equipment should be required to insure accurate results. Although most vote-counting card readers are checked for accuracy before and after elections, the tests rarely duplicate the real-life counting process. A technique, "logic and accuracy" testing, increases reliability. "Logic" testing determines if a machine is reading the ballot correctly. "Accuracy" testing should reveal whether the card reading machine, through which ballots pass at blinding speeds, is functioning properly. After a successful test, a logic and accuracy board would sign a logic and accuracy certification.
Experts worldwide agree that there is a need for a standardized, secure process for the verification, collection, and counting of votes. Voting systems, before they're used by the publicly, undergo testing by independent laboratories and must win the approval of the Federal Election Commission and by states where they'll be used. The Federal Election Commission will soon issue voluntary standards for computerized elections. One standard calls for vote tabulation systems to be tested by one of a half a dozen or so independent testing authorities.
Touch-screen and Internet voting systems are similar in hardware design but differ in other ways. There are the two basic systems, although hybrid systems or transition systems could utilize both types, or include remote "kiosks" strategically placed in public hubs such as airports. A "Polling Place" system can transmit votes on a transactional basis, one-by-one as each vote is cast, or it can save up and transmit batches of votes periodically similar to "DRE" or "direct recording electronic" systems. "Remote" voting systems, in contrast, can only be transactional.
VIP Reports provided the following review of system types and cost comparisons. VIP has the most negative opinion of "remote" voting of any authority referenced in this report.
Internet Voting Systems can be distinguished by the following points of comparison:
Closed Systems (polling place location)
Polling place "closed" voting systems and Internet "remote" voting systems offer potential cost savings depending on how they are employed. Potential savings include:
Internet voting may result in greater costs at least initially because:
A common source of error in punch card tabulation systems is "chad." These are small pieces of ballot paper that can cling to the underside of the punched ballot. As these ballots move through the card readers, a piece of chad is sometimes pressed back into the ballot or into the next ballot in the deck. When this occurs, the machine does not register a vote. A second problem is when pieces of chad pop out while ballots are wrapped, sorted, inspected, or placed for machine counting. This can create two holes and invalidate the vote. Chad within the machines can also cause the readers to report inaccurate results. Ralph C. Heikkila, assistant registrar-recorder for Los Angeles County, stated that 1% to 2% of votes cast at the polls have chad problems and that about half of absentee ballots do.
According to a Spokane County, Washington official elections report, nearly one in five mail-in ballots processed in November 1999 had both the "yes" and "no" options punched for Initiative 695. In 14 Spokane County precincts so small that voters cast ballots by mail rather than at polling places, about 5,390 ballots were not counted because they were punched twice.
The punch card ballot system has been banned in Massachusetts and New Hampshire because of voting irregularities. Michael Shamos, one of three computer experts who certify electronic vote tabulation systems for the state of Pennsylvania stated, "There is no circumstance under which I would conduct an election with punch cards." The 38 counties in Florida using optical scanner ballots, a system in which a machine reads stiff paper ballots marked with black ink, had far fewer changes in the total number of votes cast compared to those using punch cards in the November 2000 election.
Touch-screen voting allows voters to push on-screen symbols of "buttons" to record their choice. Voters are prevented from accidentally voting for multiple candidates and choosing both "yes" and "no." Voters can verify their selections before the ballot is submitted. The machines, usually located in polling places, constantly and automatically count and recount vote totals. Facsimiles of paper ballots can be printed out for a hand recount if desired. Experts believe they can programmed to lie without adequate protections in place.
The nation's biggest touch-screen vote was held November 2000 in California's Riverside County using equipment from Sequoia Pacific Voting Equipment. Mischelle Townsend, Riverside County Registrar of Voters, said their $13 million system, which she described as more accurate, secure, and easier to use than the card-based ballot system it replaced, drew high praise from many voters and will save hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing and personnel costs in each major election. Such technology "greatly decreases the potential for human error in voting, and removes the potential for varied counts when the tabulation is done," said Alfie Charles, a spokesman for California Secretary of State Bill Jones.
Unisys, Microsoft, and Dell Computer are jointly creating an end-to-end electronic system. It will provide visual instructions as well as multilingual audio instructions. IBM is talking to business partners about new systems. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the California Institute of Technology have announced a joint effort to produce a new voting system. Compaq and Cisco recently put venture capital funds into VoteHere.net. It sells a network voting system that uses software to encrypt ballots. In tests, the company used Compaq's iPAQ Web "appliance" devices, which are little more than touch-screen devices and keyboards connected to a network. The cost is approximately $500 each. Self-contained units now cost about $5,000. VoteHere.net will submit its system to California, Florida, and a 37-state consortium run by the National Association of State Election Directors in March 2001. VoteHere.net expects certification by summer.
Web sites with electronic voting information are listed at the "Electronic Voting Hot List." This includes over two dozen voting equipment and services vendors, along with the Federal Election Commission's Web site that lists "Known Vendors of Computerized Vote Tabulation Systems." Companies offering portable touch-screen devices include Election.com; Canada's Global Election Systems; Election Systems and Software of Omaha, Neb.; Shoup Voting Solutions of Quakertown, Pa.; and Diversified Dynamics of Richmond, Va.
The California Internet Voting Task Force was convened by Secretary of State Bill Jones to study the feasibility of using the Internet to conduct elections. Over two dozen experts in the field of data security, elections, and voter participation volunteered their time and expertise in the development of the report. It was released in January 2000 and is available on the Internet. The task force concluded that additional technical innovations were necessary before "remote" Internet voting could be widely implemented. The report stated, "If the voter is voting from a home PC, the most insecure, uncontrolled part of the end-to-end path is inside the computer used by the voter. Any i-voting protocol will transmit the ballot in encrypted form, which guarantees that it cannot be read by any third party, and that it cannot be modified by a third party without detection. Therefore, the riskiest part of the trip that the ballot takes is inside the vote client, before it is encrypted." The task force found current technology adequate to allow voters to cast a ballot over the Internet from a computer at county-controlled polling places.
Arizona's Democratic Party Presidential Preference Primary was held in March 2000 using technology by election.com. Their Web site provides an interactive demonstration. State election officials mailed a personal identification number (PIN) to voters at their registered address. Voters were required to provide their date of birth and partial Social Security number during the voting process. Total turnout was 86,907 for which 35,768 Arizonans cast their vote through the Internet from their home, work, school, or a library. An additional 4,174 voted at designated polling sites using the Internet. Over 700,000 Americans used election.com online voter services to register to vote or to request an absentee ballot for the November 2000 election.
David M. Elliott, Assistant Director of Elections for the State of Washington said, "Web voting could be accomplished as an imitation of the current absentee process, using ballots requested and distributed via secure e-mail. The ballot would be marked by the voter and either printed out and returned via hardcopy with hard signatures through the USPS, or returned to the election office via secure e-mail." The Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles cast their votes with election.com Web-based technology. Over 1 million students participated in the first national registration and online voting in American history through Youth-e-Vote 2000.
Several groups are studying Internet voting. Many are researching and testing the models, software, and/or ideas for standards. Groups include: The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) at the Pentagon; The NASED ITA Subcommittee; The National Science Foundation, by request of the President; The Internet Voting Technology Alliance; and The Brookings Institution and Cisco Systems, Inc.
Sacramento Bee News: Riverside pioneers touch-screen voting: New system drew high praise, says county registrar http://www.capitolalert.com/news/old/capalert04_20001115.html
California Secretary of State Web site: California Internet Voting Task Force http://www.ss.ca.gov/executive/ivote/
David Elliott, Assistant Director of Elections State of Washington: Examining Internet Voting in Washington http://www.electioncenter.org/voting/InetVotingWhitePaper.html
Voting Integrity Project (VIP): Is Internet Voting Safe? By Deborah M Phillips and David Jefferson http://www.voting-integrity.org/text/2000/internetsafe.shtml
Sequoia Pacific Voting Equipment http://www.spve.com/
USA Today, January 12, 2001
The Oregonian, TechNW, January 8, 2001
Electronic Voting Hot List http://www.research.att.com/~lorrie/voting/hotlist.html
Examining Internet Voting http://www.electioncenter.org/voting/inetvoting.html
The Federal Voting Assistance Program http://www.fvap.ncr.gov/
Internet Policy Institute http://www.netvoting.org/
The Future of Internet Voting http://www.brook.edu/comm/events/20000120.htm
Thomas Web site: The McConnell-Torricelli Election Reform Act of 2000: http://thomas.loc.gov/ (Type "S.1" in "Search by Bill Number")