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View Diary: How to Repair the Voting System: Sec. Debra Bowen's Answer (302 comments)

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  •  You have to keep one thing in mind (4+ / 0-)

    Optical scanners work in pretty much the same way that the DRE machines do.

    A ballot layout is setup using the vendor's software and rectangles are defined as to the areas where the scanner can expect to find a mark. It also has to know in what races you can mark more than one choice - one of our was "pick not more than 7". The definition is loaded to the scanner just as the definitions of the ballot are loaded to a DRE.

    Therefore, the problems reported with DREs where people press one candidate but the one above or below is selected instead - due to a calibration issue - can also occur with the scanner due to an improper layout of the rectangles for the scanner to look at.

    Also, if someone wanted to do that intentionally by modifying the software on the scanner, the process isn't any different than someone messing with the DRE software.

    In that regard there is no difference, in principle, between using paper and optical scan and using a DRE with a Voter Verified Paper Ballot printer.

    However, the big difference between optical scan and using the DRE as a voter is that you can see if there is a calibration issue on the touch screen while you have no way to see a calibration issue with the scanner.

    So just keep in mind that changing from a DRE to an optical scanner isn't necessarily a panacea. It doesn't avoid certain vendors because most, if not all of the vendors, make both DRE and Optical Scan systems.

    I prefer a system where everything is hand counted even if that takes days or weeks to do. But that comes with a different set of problems particularly having enough counters to speed it up or having counters that don't have work obligations that would preclude them having days to do a count as well as observers for chain of custody for all ballots, watching for ballot stuffing, and all that good stuff.

    •  I see the argument for hand counting (5+ / 0-)

      Thought Debra Bowen addresses this in her talk.

      There are a few differences between DREs and optical scan.  The first and most important is that the paper ballot records the voter's intent.  So even if the scanner is misaligned, the ballot still holds the actual information.  With a touchscreen there's no way of recording the voter's intent if there's a calibration error.

      As to trusting the software: my preference would be for every polling place to use open source software stacks written by security experts, and verified in a pre-defined way, and then to run all ballots through two optical scanners that are made by two different vendors.  Since the scanners aren't the bottleneck typically in this system, it shouldn't be an issue.  But in any case, that's a level of redundancy most probably wouldn't need to trust this system.

      Also, Bowen's case is that the optical scan results are unofficial until there's still a mandatory random sample hand recount to check their results.

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 04:55:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I apologize for the length of this comment (0+ / 0-)

        But I want to touch on as many points in as much detail as possible. Particularly concerning the state of Ohio (where I reside) where there is a complete misconception that voting in Ohio is like that of 1800s frontier towns.

        The touchscreen systems in Ohio and most states that use them have a Voter Verified Printed Ballot that is printed for the voter on paper tape  to review before casting their ballot - this is in addition to the review they might have on screen.  This is state law in most, if not all of those states, including Ohio.

        In Ohio the law is:

        3506.10 Requirements for approval or certification of voting machines.

        No voting machine shall be approved by the board of voting machine examiners or certified by the secretary of state, or be purchased, rented, or otherwise acquired, or used, except when specifically allowed for experimental use, as provided in section 3506.04 of the Revised Code, unless it fulfills the following requirements:

        (A) It shall permit and require voting in absolute secrecy, and shall be so constructed that no person can see or know for whom any other elector has voted or is voting, except an elector who is assisting a voter as prescribed by section 3505.24 of the Revised Code.

        (B) It shall permit each elector to vote at any election for all persons and offices for whom and for which the elector is lawfully entitled to vote, whether or not the name of any such person appears on a ballot label as a candidate; to vote for as many persons for an office as the elector is entitled to vote for; and to vote for or against any question upon which the elector is entitled to vote.
        (C) It shall preclude each elector from voting for any candidate or upon any question for whom or upon which the elector is not entitled to vote, from voting for more persons for any office than the elector is entitled to vote for, and from voting for any candidates for the same office or upon any question more than once.

        (D) It shall permit each voter to deposit, write in, or affix, upon devices provided for that purpose, ballots containing the names of persons for whom the voter desires to vote, whose names do not appear upon the voting machine. Those devices shall be susceptible of identification as to party affiliations when used at a primary election.

        (E) It shall permit each elector to change the elector’s vote for any candidate or upon any question appearing upon the ballot labels, up to the time the elector starts to register the elector’s vote.

        (F) It shall permit each elector, at all presidential elections, by one device to vote for candidates of one party for president, vice-president, and presidential electors.

        (G) It shall be capable of adjustment by election officers so as to permit each elector, at a primary election, to vote only for the candidates of the party with which the elector has declared the elector’s affiliation and shall preclude the elector from voting for any candidate seeking nomination by any other political party; and to vote for the candidates for nonpartisan nomination or election.

        (H) It shall have separate voting devices for candidates and questions, which shall be arranged in separate rows or columns. It shall be so arranged that one or more adjacent rows or columns may be assigned to the candidates of each political party at primary elections.

        (I) It shall have a counter, or other device, the register of which is visible from the outside of the machine, and which will show at any time during the voting the total number of electors who have voted; and also a protective counter, or other device, the register of which cannot be reset, which will record the cumulative total number of movements of the internal counters.

        (J) It shall be provided with locks and seals by the use of which, immediately after the polls are closed or the operation of the machine for an election is completed, no further changes to the internal counters can be allowed.

        (K) It shall have the capacity to contain the names of candidates constituting the tickets of at least five political parties, and independent groups and such number of questions not exceeding fifteen as the secretary of state shall specify.

        (L) It shall be durably constructed of material of good quality in a neat and workerlike manner, and in form that shall make it safely transportable.

        (M) It shall be so constructed that a voter may readily learn the method of operating it, may expeditiously cast a vote for all candidates of the voter’s choice, and when operated properly shall register and record correctly and accurately every vote cast.

        (N) It shall be provided with a screen, hood, or curtain, which will conceal the voter while voting. During the voting, it shall preclude every person from seeing or knowing the number of votes registered for any candidate or question and from tampering with any of the internal counters.

        (O) It shall not provide to a voter any type of receipt or voter confirmation that the voter legally may retain after leaving the polling place.

        (P) On and after the first federal election that occurs after January 1, 2006, unless required sooner by the Help America Vote Act of 2002, if the voting machine is a direct recording electronic voting machine, it shall include a voter verified paper audit trail.

        The Voter Verified Paper is used in the event of a recount.
        3506.18 Electronic voting machine - verified paper audit trail as official ballot in recount.

        (A) For any recount of an election in which ballots are cast using a direct recording electronic voting machine with a voter verified paper audit trail, the voter verified paper audit trail shall serve as the official ballot to be recounted.

        (B) Voter verified paper audit trails shall be preserved in the same manner and for the same time period as paper ballots are preserved under section 3505.31 of the Revised Code.
        (C) A voter verified paper audit trail shall be treated as are other ballots for purposes of section 149.43 of the Revised Code and shall be retained in accordance with the county records retention schedule established under section 149.38 of the Revised Code after the relevant time period prescribed for its preservation in section 3505.31 of the Revised Code, or as ordered by the secretary of state or a court of competent jurisdiction.

        (D) If a voter verified paper audit trail is made available to the public, any information on that voter verified paper audit trail that identifies the particular direct recording electronic voting machine that produced it shall be redacted.

        Effective Date: 05-07-2004; 05-02-2006

        If you review the information at Verified Voting you can see which states have such VVPB setups. On the map they have those are the states and/or counties within states that have bright green as opposed to darker green coloring.

        Ohio law, for example, requires federal certification of all of the voting systems used in the state - with one exception.

        From Ohio Revised Code 3506.05 Certification of voting and tabulating equipment:

        (4)(a) Except as otherwise provided in division (H)(4)(c) of this section, any voting machine, marking device, or automatic tabulating equipment initially certified or acquired on or after December 1, 2008, shall have the most recent federal certification number issued by the election assistance commission.

        (b) Any voting machine, marking device, or automatic tabulating equipment certified for use in this state on September 12, 2008, shall meet, as a condition of continued certification and use, the voting system standards adopted by the federal election commission in 2002.
        (c) A county that acquires additional voting machines, marking devices, or automatic tabulating equipment on or after December 1, 2008, shall not be considered to have acquired those machines, devices, or equipment on or after December 1, 2008, for the purpose of division (H)(4)(a) of this section if all of the following apply:

        (i) The voting machines, marking devices, or automatic tabulating equipment acquired are the same as the machines, devices, or equipment currently used in that county.

        (ii) The acquisition of the voting machines, marking devices, or automatic tabulating equipment does not replace or change the primary voting system used in that county.

        (iii) The acquisition of the voting machines, marking devices, or automatic tabulating equipment is for the purpose of replacing inoperable machines, devices, or equipment or for the purpose providing additional machines, devices, or equipment required to meet the allocation requirements established pursuant to division (I) of section 3501.11 of the Revised Code.

        The US Election Assistance Commission is mandated under HAVA to certify election equipment used in states where state laws require federal certification.

        If you go to that site you can find all of the various systems that have been certified or decertified as the case may be for use including the testing performed by the certification labs which generally are 120 or more page long. Such certifications contain a review of the source code and that the code matches the function of the machine. Anomalies in this part of the certification even include comments in the source code that don't meet the relevant standard.

        So at the EAC site you can find the final test certifications for (pdf):

        Premier Assure 1.2 which is used in some counties in Ohio.

        ES&S Unity 3.2.1.0 that is used in some counties in Ohio.

        ES&S Unity 3.4.0.0 which is used in some counties in Ohio.

        At the US EAC site you can find the standards and guidelines in use and links to the relevant NIST standards and the links showing the accredited Voting System Test Laboratories and those recommended by the NIST.

    •  op-scan is usu better for voter verification (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama, barath, MindRayge

      I'm not one of those VVPAT fatalists. But we know from research that large fractions of voters don't spontaneously check VVPATs, and don't necessarily notice deliberately induced errors. (It should be hard to steal an election that way as long as some voters check.) So, I don't think your point about seeing calibration errors is the one big difference -- or even necessarily the most important difference -- as a voter.

      Election protection: there's an app for that! -- and a toll-free hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
      Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

      by HudsonValleyMark on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 07:55:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  My point was (0+ / 0-)

        If there is a calibration issue with the touchscreen system a voter has a chance to actually see it.

        With the Optical Scanner there is absolutely no way for a voter to see a calibration issue.

        I happen to think that is an important distinction.

        But I am coming from an equipment point of view and the issues that keep coming up every time people get worried about Ohio every election. My main contention is that people get all worked up about the DRE machines without realizing that the way Optical Scan systems are set up to process the ballots is not all that different in any meaningful way from how the DRE ballots are set up for processing.  The issue of the "rogue programmer" or deliberate software changes to steal elections - the basis of many a diary around here especially concerning Ohio - doesn't go away with Optical Scan systems.

        In either form the VVPAT or paper ballot that was scanned is available for audit or recount purposes. Since those are the only situations where ballots may be counted by hand you end up with the case where VVPAT or paper ballot for optical scan is at best a case of user pacification and a voter perception issue rather than a bona fide argument of which may be better to use.

        •  I'm not sure we are communicating (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MindRayge

          I said:

          So, I don't think your point about seeing calibration errors is the one big difference -- or even necessarily the most important difference -- as a voter.
          I didn't say it wasn't important.
          My main contention is that people get all worked up about the DRE machines without realizing that the way Optical Scan systems are set up to process the ballots is not all that different in any meaningful way from how the DRE ballots are set up for processing.
          I'm sure some people don't understand that. I've been more struck by how many people don't realize that DREs can have VVPATs that are actually usable, or -- even weirder to me -- how many people argue that paper ballots are basically useless if you're using optical scanners. I do think most people who weigh in here understand that DREs and optical scanners are both computers, and both can go wrong, even if they don't know the details.
          Since those are the only situations where ballots may be counted by hand you end up with the case where VVPAT or paper ballot for optical scan is at best a case of user pacification and a voter perception issue rather than a bona fide argument of which may be better to use.
          Well, no. I think it's absolutely a bona fide argument that people who hand-mark their ballots generally have looked at the ballots -- whereas people who vote on DREs with VVPATs may or may not have looked at the VVPATs. That and other technical criticisms of VVPATs are not matters of "user pacification."

          However, I think any voter-verifiable paper record >> no paper record. The difference between VVPATs -- if they meet some minimal quality standard -- and full-size paper ballots is comparatively smaller.

          Election protection: there's an app for that! -- and a toll-free hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
          Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

          by HudsonValleyMark on Thu Nov 08, 2012 at 01:30:40 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yes, we are not communicating (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            HudsonValleyMark

            My main comment was to the diary and was addressing the "simple answer".

            So my comment was geared to the notion that somehow Optical Scan was better due to the reasoning postulated by the diarist, particularly items 1 and 2. I didn't address 3.

            From there you and I are down the path where you are discussing whether or not one system offers the prospect of the voter actually looked at the ballot with more likelihood than the other. I agree with what you say. This is the part where we were talking past each other.

            However, no matter how many times you looked at your paper ballot, if it goes into an optical scanner that isn't calibrated correctly all of that is for naught. All you got out of the experience was the pacification that you had a ballot in your hand and marked the way you wanted - unaware that those carefully marked and looked at ballot selections won't be counted as you intended.

            This is in no way different than someone that would feel comfortable using a DRE, was confident of their choices, reviewed them, confirmed the VVPAT and cast their ballot. They too would have been pacified by the experience of the VVPAT.

            So it is in the context of a miscalibrated or compromised machine, whether the scanner or DRE, that renders the VVPAT or ballot as merely a user pacifier because it either case one or more of your selections will not be counted as you intended. By the same token this is also true in a system, scanner or DRE, where the voter knows with certainty that the selections will be counted as intended.

            While it (ballot or paper tape) becomes a record of the vote in most states it is never examined except if an audit or recount is mandated by law or by a court with jurisdiction. If neither of those occurs the paper ballot or the portion of the paper tape containing your ballot viewed via VVPAT served no other purpose than as a user pacifier.

            In the context of whether paper ballot or a VVPAT is better in terms of a voter actually looking at and verifying their selections I agree with you. There is a difference, absolutely.  

            One thing I do want to make clear is that I am not defending VVPAT nor expressing any argument that it is better than use of optical scan paper ballots. If given a choice between the two I would always choose optical scan with paper ballots.

            •  OK -- we may disagree on part of this (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              MindRayge
              While it (ballot or paper tape) becomes a record of the vote in most states it is never examined except if an audit or recount is mandated by law or by a court with jurisdiction. If neither of those occurs the paper ballot or the portion of the paper tape containing your ballot viewed via VVPAT served no other purpose than as a user pacifier.
              I don't agree with that statement in principle. A well-designed audit provision protects everyone, not just the people whose ballots happen to be examined. Good recount provisions benefit everyone, even when they aren't used.

              So I try to draw a bright line about when paper is or isn't a placebo.

              Election protection: there's an app for that! -- and a toll-free hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE
              Better Know Your Voting System with the Verifier!

              by HudsonValleyMark on Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 05:02:45 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

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