Urgent New York action!

Revised Voting Machine Standards Introduced
On Tuesday, 2/14/06 the State Board of Elections met in public and executive session. At the meeting, the Second Draft of the Voting Machine Regulations was formally introduced. This revision is the State Board’s response to the public commentary on the Draft Voting System Standards.

The proposed final standards are now available for public comment. The final 10 day public comment period will end on Friday, 2/24/06. Details about how the public can submit comments on the proposed final standards can be found below, as well as a link to the document.

NYVV Comments on the Revised Regulations
Unfortunately, the proposed final standards do little to improve the many weaknesses present in the original version of the Draft Standards. It is disappointing, and a cause for concern, to see how much of the detailed technical commentary the State Board received was simply ignored in the latest revision.

One welcome addition is a lengthy section describing requirements for voter verified paper ballots (VVPAT), which was notably absent from the Draft Standards. But overall, nothing substantive has changed. Among many crucial issues not addressed in the Final Standards are:

* The certification and testing process is vendor driven and managed. Far too much discretion is given vendors to define and influence the certification process.
* Allows the State Board to waive any requirements without cause.
* Does not require vendors to submit both DRE and scanner systems.
* Does not require that all written procedures used to conduct testing, the tests themselves, and the results of such testing be fully and readily available and open to the public.
* Poor acceptance test requirements.
* No requirement for comprehensive security testing of voting systems such as “Red Team” tests.
* No requirement for the usability and accuracy of the system to be demonstrated to the public. Each system must be required to pass a multi-machine Public Mock Election Test.
* No requirement for a challenge system under which independent experts can petition the Board to perform a test in order to prove system shortcomings.

NYVV and several noted security experts will be submitting detailed commentary on the Second Draft of the Regulations. As currently written, the revised regulations do little to protect our right to vote. The State Board of Elections must recognize that the voters are the primary stakeholders in elections, and we require adequate security safeguards, comprehensive and extensive testing of voting systems, and a fully visible and transparent process.

Submitting Comment on the Final Standards
The public can submit comments on the proposed final standards by Friday, 2/24/06 by sending them to:

NYS Board of Elections
40 Steuben Street
Albany, NY 12207-2108

Or via email:


Download the Second Draft of the Voting Machine Regulations: http://www.elections.state.ny.us/hava/2ndDraftVotingMachineRegs.pdf


Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2006 12:19:32 -0500
Subject: More on NY voting change. Short, urgent action tomorrow.


Simply said, if we lose control of our vote, we lose everything we value about our Democracy.

We want Paper Ballots and Optical Scanners as our new voting technology, and not electronic voting. A short action, requiring just a return reply, will be asked of you tomorrow.

New York must replace our mechanical lever voting machines by 9/1/07 with only these two options, but decisions as early as next month. (1) PBOS, Paper Ballots with precinct-based Optical Scanners, with accessibility to voters with disabilities and language minorities, or (2) DREs, “Direct Recording Electronic” voting machines with a touch screen or pushbuttons.

Paper Ballots, with precinct-based Optical Scanners, has the advantages of electronic voting, increased accessibility and quick election-day results, with LESS COST and LESS RISK.

PBOS is a good transition from lever machines to counting electronically, but with safeguards and voter verifiability.

PBOS also costs less than half and lasts twice as long as DRE.

While we enjoy our computers, and all the bells and whistles, the direct electronic voting systems are error prone and easy to hack. They lose votes, create votes, shift votes, freeze and count backwards, in great numbers. Quickly, and without detection.

Since the law says only 3% of the vote would be spot-checked, 97% of the vote is unobservable, hiding a multitude of problems and the wrongly elected.

Some of the current decision-makers are operating with the devil they know. Many would like to scuttle the poll worker system, or remember the ballot stuffing stories, but without considering the computer devil they donít know. Nothing can compare with the stealth and magnitude possible with electronic voting fraud.

There is a heavy lobbying and public relations effort to bring the DREs to New York State. Contrary to the sales pitch, these machines are not audited or built like ATMs, where business practices require an updating, 100% cross-audit.

Already compromised by voter disenfranchisement, new ID requirements, low registration and turnout, elections are now threatened by vendor owned technology with bogus results.

Electronic voting has become another voting rights struggle.

Key Differences.

Following are important comparisons and misconceptions: (1) The PBOS voter-verified paper ballot is the legal ballot, whereas the DRE electronic “paper trail” is not the legal ballot. That vote is recorded directly, and known only to the vendor. (2) Therefore, we have the potential for the privatization of our elections:

The paper ballot for the Paper Ballot, precinct based Optical Scanner, PBOS, is the LEGAL ballot, verified by the voter before it is cast, counted, and witnessed by citizen observers. That’s what we want.

The electronic voting machine, DRE, Direct Recording Equipment or “touch screen,” creates a paper trail, which is meaningless, like misplaced trust. The legal vote is cast directly on the machine, in secret, known only to the vendor, which programs and administers, also in secret.

DREs can produce three different versions of the vote. That trail, or “voter-verified paper audit record,” may be different from what is on the screen, and the vote recorded. This is due to error, tampering or fraud. The voter is not verifying the actual vote, and, legally, the paper record does not even have to match the recorded vote.

The simplest, least expensive and most reliable technology is what we need. That’s PBOS.

The system consists of LEGAL paper ballots marked by hand (or by ballot-marking devices for voters with disabilities or minority languages, like Automark), and optical scanner machines in each polling place. The optical scanner lets the voter check each ballot for correctness before it is cast and counted, and prints a tally report at the end of the Election Day. After scanning, the votes are stored, locked and guarded in a ballot box.

Easily filled out like a lottery ticket, the ballot is available for quick, 100% recount, before the media declares a winner.

More than one half of the counties in New York State, and all five boroughs, currently use the 30-year old PBOS system. Paper ballots and optical scanners are used in more jurisdictions in our country than any other voting technology.

Minnesota has moved to PBOS to satisfy HAVA, and just this week, New Mexico is one step closer through its Senate. There was targeted disenfranchisement to the Native-American and Hispanic of New Mexico in the ’04 election, by vendor technicians under oath, resulting in more votes lost than won by Bush. Phant
votes of 100,000 in Alaska, casting some doubt on that popular vote won by Bush.

California is refusing Diebold because of the stunning failure of its tests.

We already have a bipartisan staff trained to handle the PBOS technology and prevent fraud. This simple system can be easily learned, has the fewest problems, lowest rate of invalid ballots, and highest level of confidence, of any system currently used.

By contrast, the legal ballot is whatever is recorded directly inside the computer–which can be different from what is on the computer screen and the printout. New York’s new election law calls the printout a “voter verified paper audit record” and it is not the legal ballot. Unless there is a costly, difficult and unlikely 100% recount.

We would unnecessarily privatize our elections. The DRE machines do the recording and counting of the votes in secret, and voters canít see if their votes are correctly cast inside the computer. Election observers canít witness the storage, handling, and counting of votes. The bipartisan, election structure of New York State would be replaced by costly vendor technicians, who program the secret software and administer the machines. In Miami, that is $1,100 an hour for technicians with sole control.

To this day, we have not been able to get lawsuit discovery or a recount on the proprietary systems used in the í04 Ohio election, or anywhere else.

We should benefit from others statesí mistakes. Miami-Dade just threatened to throw out their $24.5 million touch-screen e-voting system because of lost votes in six elections due to (1) flawed vote counts due to hardware and software failures and (2) operational cost overruns exceeding predicted costs. They estimate that in five years they would make back the purchase price of PBOS from future savings.

The Maryland governor just wrote a letter this week that cost overruns were 1,000% greater than estimated.

Computer security is impossible to achieve-40 million MasterCards were compromised in 2005. The FBI reports that 87% of businesses admit to being hacked, with 44% as an inside job. Communications capability in e-voting systems allows tampering by anyone in the world. There is a reason why computer experts are the biggest critics of electronic voting!


State certification of electronic voting systems may begin soon, now that the comment period will end next week. The Board of Elections in New York City will also make its decision on new equipment.

We want the New York City Council to request that the PBOS system is purchased for all the boroughs, and we need the State Board of Elections to certify the PBOS system as an option.

A resolution to choose PBOS was introduced in the City Council on December 21, too late to pass in the 2005 session. It has been re-introduced and is awaiting a new number. We hope to pass it as soon as possible, before the machines are certified. However, we need a show of organizational and popular support.

The Department of Justice has recently found New York in non-compliance with HAVA, and the push to a solution may be hasty and undesirable. Many states are grappling with legislation that mandates change before the appropriate technology is available.

Some in New York are working for a temporary solution this election year to retain our lever machines, and adding the Automark, to satisfy HAVA and DOJ. However, the law still mandates, definitively, we must not use levers and replace with those two options to be decided by the counties. Whatever happens this year is only a temporary solution until the law is changed, which is why we must push for PBOS.

Other points

* The Boards of Election cannot uphold their responsibility to conduct elections with bipartisan citizen observers, because vendors program the software and administer the machines in secret. If they want to change the poll worker system, why not upgrade, instead of jeopardizing the vote by poll worker elimination?

Who says?

DNCís “Democracy at Risk: The 2004 Election in Ohio” http://www.democrats.org/a/2005/06/democracy_at_ri.php

The non-partisan Report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, September 2005, confirms the security and usage issues with DREs. A few examples below.
*Some voting machines did not encrypt cast ballots or system audit logs, and it was possible to alter both without being detected.

Here are 120 pages of documented failures.


Vendors and bad politics made keeping our lever machines impossible. We need to stop a very bad choice, while favoring a good middle step that satisfies the new law.

Be well, be activist, protect the vote,


“… touch-screen machines are highly vulnerable to being hacked or maliciously programmed to change votes. And they cost far more than voting machines should.”
–New York Times editorial, March 9, 2005

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