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Against Electronic Vote Fraud:
Return to Paper Ballot, Missouri Told

May 6, 2004 (EIRNS)—The following testimony was submitted yesterday to the Elections Committee of the Missouri House of Representatives in support of House Bill No. 1744 by Edward W. Spannaus. The witness, Spannaus, has been involved with the mechanics of elections and investigations of voting equipment for more than 25 years, and has prepared evidence for and testified in a mumber of legal proceedings. He is the Law Editor of EIR, founded by Lyndon LaRouche in 1971.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Elections Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you this morning, in support of House Bill No. 1744.

With this bill, Missouri has the opportunity of taking leadership throughout the nation in restoring integrity and total transparency to our election system, starting with the Presidential elections this coming November. And, given that the administration of elections is primarily a matter left by the United States Constitution to the discretion of the states, it is entirely appropriate that a state legislature—such as the General Assembly of the State of Missouri—should take such an initiative of national significance, as is represented by House Bill 1744.

As you are aware, House Bill 1744 would require 100% use of paper ballots, and would prohibit all electronic counting or tabulation of votes. Additionally, every voter would be provided with a receipt—a copy of his or her vote—to be used in the event of a challenge or contest.

I would point out at the outset, that a comprehensive study of lost votes for the past four Presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000) found that paper ballots had the lowest rate of error of any voting system.

This study, known as the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Report, studied five general types of voting technologies: hand-counted paper ballots, lever machines, punch cards, optically scanned paper ballots, and touch-screen (DRE) machines. The study reported:

"The central finding of this investigation is that manually-counted paper ballots have the lowest average incidence of spoiled, uncounted, and unmarked ballots, followed closely by lever machines and optically scanned ballots. Punchcard methods and systems using direct recording electronic (DRE) devices had significantly higher average rates of spoiled, uncounted, and unmarked ballots than of the other systems."[1]

The Impact of HAVA

The trauma of the 2000 Presidential elections and the debacle in Florida prompted efforts to reform and "modernize" our election machinery. Unfortunately, the "cure" has turned out to be far worse than the disease, so that the afflictions of the 2000 election could turn out to be minor compared to what is threatened to take place this year.

Ill-advised legislation, known as the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) (Public Law 107-252), was passed by the Congress of the United States in 2002; this has resulted in a significant increase in the use of completely computerized, paperless voting equipment, in which the counting of ballots is invisible to the public—and even to elected officials and election workers. This equipment is called DRE, and is commonly known as "touch-screen" voting.

As a consequence, the electorate is losing any ability to observe the counting of ballots—indeed, there are no ballots—and public confidence in the integrity of elections is rapidly being eroded.

Contrary to widespread belief, HAVA did not mandate the use of DRE voting equipment. However, three provisions of the HAVA legislation have encouraged states to purchase DRE machines. First, is the Federal subsidy for replacing punch-card and lever machines; second, is the requirement that voting systems notify voters of overvotes and permit voters to correct their votes (although there is an exception for paper ballots); and third, is the requirement that each polling place used in a Federal election have a least one voting machine that is fully accessible for persons with disabilities.

Not surprisingly, electronic voting machine manufacturers were heavily involved in lobbying for HAVA, along with defense contractors. Advocacy groups for the disabled were also promoting the bill, but it turns out that Diebold, for example, has provided significant financial support to such organizations.[2]

The supposed advantage of DRE machines is that an audio attachment can be used to assist blind persons, but there are other methods that can be used that are consistent with paper ballots, such as the "tactile voting template," which, I have been told, are favored by many of those needing special equipment.[3]

It is my understanding that DRE voting systems are not presently certified for use in Missouri, but that Missouri's Preliminary State Plan, drafted pursuant to HAVA requirements, contemplates the approval and use of electronic voting systems such as DREs in the future, provided that certain specified conditions are met, including that any such system "must provide a paper audit trail."

DRE Voting System Should Be Rejected

I would strongly urge you to reject any effort to introduce DRE voting systems—paper trail or not—into Missouri. The vulnerabilities of DRE systems to tampering, fraud, and malfunctions are well established. The addition of a so-called voter-verified paper trail only partly alleviates these problems, and it creates new problems and technical complications.

Any official contemplating the introduction of DRE machines ought to carefully study the reports on the March 2, 2004, primary elections in California, prepared by the Secretary of State's office, which are readily available on his website, www.ss.ca.gov.

Diebold's marketing of a system that was untested and uncertified "jeopardized the conduct of the March primary," according to a April 20 Staff Report.

"On Election Day, the units failed on a massive scale, resulting in the potential disenfranchisement of voters," says the Staff Report. And, according to other reports that I have received, there were so many problems with the operation of Diebold's touch-screen machines that thousands of voters were turned away from the polls. Things came to the point where election officials, unfamiliar with the complex technology involved, resorted to asking teenagers to "reboot" machines that had malfunctioned.

As you are probably aware, last Friday [April 30], California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley decertified the Diebold AccuVote-TSx system. He also prohibited the use of all other DRE systems unless a number of specified conditions are met, which include: giving all voters the option of using a paper ballot, providing a voter-verified paper trail on all electronic machines, and establishing strict certification and security conditions.

Furthermore, citing "fraudulent actions" and "deceitful conduct" by Diebold, Secretary of State Shelley requested the state's Attorney General to investigate bringing civil and criminal actions against Diebold.

Shelley's reports were primarily addressed to the conduct of Diebold, and to the malfunctioning of its machines during the primary election. But the reports prepared by his office also expressed great concern over security issues, and the potential for tampering with the systems and with voting results.

There have been a number of studies of the security vulnerabilities of DRE systems, perhaps the best known of which is that known as the "Hopkins study," entitled "Analysis of an Electronic Voting System" (available at www.avirubin.com/vote).

The Hopkins study was summarized by a Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report on DRE systems as follows: "Their analysis concluded that the code had serious security flaws that could permit tampering by persons at various levels, including voters, election workers, Internet 'hackers,' and even software developers."[4]

The Hopkins study's authors state: "We conclude that this voting system is unsuitable for use in a general election. Any paperless electronic voting system might suffer similar flaws, despite any 'certification' it could have otherwise received."

Two follow-up studies conducted for the State of Maryland confirmed the existence of serious security flaws in the Diebold DRE system; these were the SAIC study, and the RABA Technologies Report (the "Trusted Agent" or "Red Team" report).[5]

Since the security vulnerabilities of DRE systems have been so thoroughly documented, I will not belabor the point here. These are summarized in many locations, including the CRS Report. However, it should be emphasized, that the CRS Report notes that any computerized ballot-counting system, including optical scanning, is also vulnerable to tampering. The CRS Report states:

"The potential threats and vulnerabilities associated with DREs are substantially greater than those associated with punchcard and optical scan readers, both because DREs are more complex and because they have no independent records of the votes cast. However, document-ballot readers are potentially subject to malware [malicious computer code] that could affect the count, to vulnerabilities associated with connections to other computers, and some other kinds of tampering."[6]

Why Use Only Paper Ballots?

A system of paper ballots only, as envisioned by House Bill 1744, best meets the Constitutional requirements for fair elections, and provides the soundest basis for voter confidence in the electoral process.

Constitutional grounds: The right to vote grows out of Articles I and II of the United States Constitution, as pertains to the selection of members of Congress and the election of the President and Vice President. The post-Civil War amendments enshrined the right of all to equal protection of the law (14th Amendment) and the right to vote (15th Amendment).

The U.S. Supreme Court has declared that the right to vote includes the right of qualified voters within a state not simply to cast a vote, but to have their votes counted properly.[7]

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 implements these provisions, particularly the 15th Amendment. The Voting Rights Act, inter alia, provides for the appointment of Federal voting examiners, who are entitled to be present at any polling place, or any place where votes are being tabulated, "for the purpose of observing whether votes ... are being properly tabulated." (42 U.S.C. 1973f)

The use of electronic vote-counting devices clearly renders it impossible to observe the tabulation of votes. In many instances, elected officials don't even know how the computers count the votes, but they are dependent on private contractors. The internal instructions for the computer are contained in source code, which is regarded as the vendors' private property. While the use of DRE touch-screen machines creates the most egregious situation, the same problems apply to any other systems, such as optical-scanning and punch-cards, which use computers to count ballots.

Impediments to vote fraud: Any use of computers opens the door to fraud. The speed and complexity of computers creates an inherently dangerous and fraud-prone situation, because, as we have noted, only a handful of people know how votes are being counted. Citizens can never have full confidence in any such system of vote counting.

By going back to a universal paper ballot, which is hand counted, we are creating additional impediments to fraud and tampering with results. If this requires more people to count the votes than is needed when using computers, all the better. The more people involved, the more obstacles we have created to carrying out vote fraud.

Transparency and voter confidence. The objection has been raised, that a total paper-ballot system would be a slow, inefficient system for counting votes. In our view, this is a great advantage. A slow, ponderous vote-counting system, where citizens can watch their votes being counted with complete transparency, is the best way not only to prevent vote fraud and election-rigging, but to establish public confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.

There is no requirement, Constitutional or otherwise, that vote totals must be made available instantaneously for the benefit of the news media or anyone else. There is, however, a Constitutional mandate that votes be counted fairly, and that all votes be treated equally.

A 100% paper-ballot system is the best means to ensure such an outcome. I therefore urge you to enact House Bill No. 1744, and to take the lead in restoring the integrity of our elections.

[1] Executive Summary, "Residual Votes Attributable to Technology: An Assessment of the Reliability of Existing Voting Equipment," The Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Version 2: March 30, 2001. http://www.vote.caltech.edu/Reports/.

[2] Douglas W. Jones, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of Iowa, "The Case of the Diebold FTP Site." See, www.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/voting/dieboldftp.html.

[3] See E-access Bulletin, April 2001, www.e-accessibility.com/issues/apr2001.html. The International Foundation for Election Systems (www.ifes.org) operates a Disabilies Project, which has sponsored the introduction of tactile ballots in a number of countries.

[4] Congressional Research Service, "Election Reform and Electronic Voting Systems (DREs): Analysis of Security Issues," Nov. 4, 2003; www.epic.org/privacy/voting/crsreport.pdf.

[5] http://mlis.state.md.us/Other/voting_system/trusted_agent_report.pdf.

[6] CRS Report at 36.

[7] Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964), and cases cited therein.