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If the 46 county election offices are not stopped, within days they will erase the most critical data from the memories of all the voting machines, warns SC Progressive Network Director Brett Bursey. With controversy over the reliability of the touch-screen computers heating up, the Network is working to ensure that valuable information is not lost as counties prepare the machines for the upcoming run-off elections.

Bursey explained that the state Election Commission only keeps a summary of the information from the counties, and that only by preserving or copying the flash cards (memory chips) inside the computer will there be enough information to perform an audit.

"There is no way the machines you have in South Carolina can be audited without all the information on the computer flash card in each machine," Dr. Douglas Jones said. Jones has taught at the University of Iowa Department of Computer Science since 1980, served on the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems from 1994 to 2004, and chaired the board for three terms.

Jones, who serves on the Federal Election Assistance Commission’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee, has performed numerous audits on voting machines like those used in South Carolina. He provided the Network with an affidavit outlining the necessary steps to preserve data for an audit.

"We have been in communication with the US Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section," Bursey said. "We are arguing that erasing the data violates the federal statute (USC 42-1974) that requires all records in a federal election to be preserved for 22 months."

Bursey said that if the Justice Department doesn’t intervene, they will try to get a federal judge to order a halt to erasing the records. "We are not questioning candidates, motives or conspiracy theories," Bursey said. "we simply want a trustworthy audit to assure that all votes are counted accurately."

"It’s not difficult or expensive to copy the flash card," Dr. Jones said. "You can hook up a flash card reader that you use to download pictures on your computer from a digital camera and save the data to a CD." Replacing the flash card would cost a few dollars for each machine.

The flash card records all actions taken on the machine, the time of the vote or any errors in an "events log." The "ballot image log" records the actual ballot cast. The detailed information on the flash cards is not saved by the state or counties and is routinely erased to prepare the machines for the next election.

Even as the calls increase for investigations into several races, counties will erase the data and install the ballot program for the June 22 runoff. "In a matter of days, there won’t be any way to determine whether the machines played a role in the unusual vote counts," Bursey said. "We simply want a trustworthy audit to assure that all votes are counted accurately."

Sen. Phil Leventis (D-Sumter) has sponsored legislation to require voting machines to produce a voter-verifiable paper record that can be used to recount or audit an election.

"With these machines not only is there no paper trail to examine, if the records are erased it’s like cremating the body before the autopsy is performed," he said.

The Network presented expert testimony at a SC Election Commission Board meeting in  2004, urging the agency not to buy the iVotronic computers that do not have a voter verified paper record. SC is one of four states that has neither a paper record nor a regular audit of its machines.

Originally posted to Jamie Sanderson on Tue Jun 15, 2010 at 11:59 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Your machines are unauditable anyway (0+ / 0-)

      Even the flashcard data won't help much.

      Get paper ballots.

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 01:15:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  they're trying, they're trying! (0+ / 0-)

        To quote the website, "The Network has opposed electronic voting machines that do not produce a voter-verifiable paper record since before the state purchased them in 2002."

        (That paragraph seems to say that they think the best option is for everyone to vote on Ballot-Marking Devices, which is questionable -- but at least BMDs provide full-size ballots. They mean optical scan combined with BMDs for people who want them. Or they may have in mind that, at least in principle, BMDs can make it easier to vote correctly, e.g. by assuring that every bubble is fully filled in.)

    •  It's Nader's fault. Or is it Kerry's? (0+ / 0-)

      I forget who it is we're supposed to blame when people steal elections and we're supposed to just shut up about it.

  •  In California the machines record votes on paper (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    is that not the same everywhere?

    "Don't knock's just like chess but without the dice" - john07801

    by voracious on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 12:01:28 AM PDT

    •  Not in S.C. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We don't get receipts of our votes here.

      •  We don't get receipts here, but when i cast (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rmx2630, neroden, elwior

        my ballot electronically, it prints the choices on a roll that is stored in the machine. I can see what prints on the paper through a window, but the roll is stored inside. Kind of a "hard copy" of the ballot.

        "Don't knock's just like chess but without the dice" - john07801

        by voracious on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 12:10:49 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I am familiar... (0+ / 0-)

          with what you speak of. However, it can be manipulated. A true form of certainty is me, the voter, having my receipt of my vote in the end. Therefore, if there are any challenges I have my record of voting.

          •  Where I am, we have scanners (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            neroden, elwior, asym

            that "eat" the paper ballots, but we also tear off the bottom of the ballot (our ballot # is there & also on the larger part of the ballot "eaten" by the machine): there is a paper trail.

            We have the option of an electronic machine, also.  I don't remember ever seeing anyone use that one, though: most people opt for the scanner.

            I feel sorry for the people who don't have a paper trail on their voting.  How do you do a reliable recount?  This also comes to mind:

            Over the last 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital. -- Bill Maher

            by Youffraita on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 01:04:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  whoa, hang on (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            What kind of receipt do you want, and how would it assure you that your vote was counted as cast?

            If it lists who you voted for, you may be able to use it to sell your vote (or someone else may be able to use it as a means of coercion) -- but you still won't know if your vote was counted, would you?

            There are cryptography-based "end-to-end" systems that are intended to let voters confirm that your vote was counted as cast, without compromising the privacy of the vote. It's pretty hard to thread that needle, even assuming that voters trust the crypto. But it might be worth a try. However, I doubt you had that in mind.

            Personally, I don't care if I have a paper receipt. I want paper ballots that are preserved for an audit and possible recount, like in Minnesota. It isn't a perfect system, but with some attention to securing the ballots, it is very good.

        •  yeah, "DRE with VVPAT" (0+ / 0-)

          According to Verified Voting, it looks like about 13 states use DREs with voter-verifiable paper audit trails for at least some voters. (Some of these states use optical scanners for most voters; the DREs are available to satisfy the HAVA accessibility requirements and for anyone who wants to use them.) About 18 states have at least some DREs without VVPAT.

          DREs with VVPAT haven't been a great solution, although they vary in quality. The printers often jam, the paper rips easily, the print is hard to read -- and most voters don't check the printout (or, often, seem to realize that it is there). Often the printers are off to the side and easy to overlook. Are yours pretty good?

          A related approach is to use the DREs as Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), so they print out a full-size ballot.

  •  Preserving the data in the flash cards is only (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    celdd, sunbro, neroden, elwior, voracious of the things needed to determine if there was anything amiss.

    The is also a need to provide access to the source code for the software in the machines in order to do a full audit of the operation of these machines.

    "Certainly the game is rigged. Don't let that stop you; if you don't bet, you can't win." Lazarus Long

    by rfall on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 12:03:02 AM PDT

  •  preserving the flash card data (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, voracious

    compromises the secret ballot.  Why was the machine recording that personally identifiable stuff anyway?  (The time stamp is generally good enough to identify the voter).

    I'd say (joking) to stop worrying and just use the same machines again in November for the general election.  It will be worth it to beat DeMint with 59% of the vote without having to run a campaign.  ;-)

    •  that depends... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I haven't boned up on which information would be on these particular cards, but it wouldn't necessarily compromise voter privacy.

      Audit logs tend to record events such as "someone started to vote," "someone finished voting," "a supervisor entered a Cancel code," etc. Nothing very compromising there.

      Cast Vote Records can be saved in such a way that (at least in principle) there is no way to retrieve the original sequence. Even if one can retrieve the original sequence, in many polling places one could only probabilistically match voters to records, because people can vote on any of several machines. And whoever is analyzing the CVRs probably doesn't have immediate access to the sign-in sheets or equivalent (not that I would want to assume that as a matter of course!).

      Publishing CVRs with time stamps would be a lousy idea, but I'm not convinced that privacy offers a compelling reason not to examine the flash cards in SC. (Again, the appropriate precautions would depend on details that I don't remember, if I ever knew them.)

    •  What personally identifiable data (0+ / 0-)

      gets recorded?

      Don't believe everything you think.

      by Miniaussiefan on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 04:23:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  if the flash chip doesn't include (0+ / 0-)

        how the person actually voted, then there's not such a secret ballot issue.  The stuff on the card is personally identifiable because of the time stamps, that can be correlated with the records of when the person showed up at the polls.

  •  So Sad that Iraq's Purple Finger Voting Tech is (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Superior and more Trustworthy than The USA's Voting Systems.

  •  to the tune of "Whatever Lola wants..." (0+ / 0-)

    "Whoever Diebold wants--Diebold gets.  Give in, you fool, you can't win..."

    We simply must insist on a verifiable paper trail for all elections.  

    Here in Atlanta the fairly recent mayor's race was so close that a "recount" was held.  But it wasn't really a recount--because those touch screen machines can't be recounted.  The mail-in votes (a small percentage of the total votes) were recounted.  Big woo.

    Resist corporate serfdom.

    by Mayfly on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 05:36:05 AM PDT

  •  Seems to me... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ...since democracy is supposed to be our main claim to fame in the US, it should be considered just about the most heinous crime imaginable, to mess with the vote.

    Even with paper ballots, the "trail" has, historically, too often led to ballot boxes found floating in the river, or stashed in some warehouse.

    All the electronic method does is make it logistically simpler to cheat.

    Every single vote cast should be guarded closely, from start to finish...and it's not going to do a lot of good to have cops who belong to the Klan, or "Oathkeepers", guarding them, or monopoly corporate fascists like Diebold tweaking the electronics.

    This is a very deep and sticky issue, that  must be recognized, and dealt with.

    Penalties for messing with the vote should be extremely severe, including death, where it materially effects the outcome of an election.

    This is not a matter of silly school-boy's a matter of high treason.

    "...a printing press is worth 10,000 rifles..." Ho Chi Minh

    by Radical def on Wed Jun 16, 2010 at 07:51:17 AM PDT

  •  All I have to say is we now have a built in (0+ / 0-)


    Unless a human readable, enduring record of the vote exists, and is used for the tally, the process is simply not trustworthy, period.

    And it appears to me that a majority of people, who are capable of making these decisions, are not willing to give that any consideration.

    The message is clear:  No close wins for Progressives.  Given how they fucked Halter, maybe only select wins.

    We need to grow our base of support, so that there is absolutely NO QUESTION about who won, or we probably won't.


    by potatohead on Thu Jun 17, 2010 at 09:43:37 PM PDT

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