Comments to the Technical Guidelines Development Committee
From the National Committee for Voting Integrity
March 9, 2005
The National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI) is writing to strongly encourage the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) to make greater use of the expertise and resources of the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) in developing any new voting technology standards. Because of the level of interest shown by computer technologists, media, election reform and voting rights advocates throughout the United States there is a great deal of interest in the subject of computerized voting systems. Your work is greatly anticipated, which means the decisions you make will be closely reviewed and reported on in the media, research, academic, civil rights and voting rights communities.
There may be detractors and supporters of your efforts, but the voices that will carry the greatest weight will be those of technologists, who through their efforts made security threats regarding electronic voting systems an important area of national concern. Their level of interest in this area has lead to the creation of several groups, which include, but are not limited to, the NCVI, Verified Voting, and Voting System Performance Rating.
It is our collective advice to the TGDC that elections must require an end-to-end concern for a wide variety of integrity requirements, beginning with the registration process, ballot construction, and continuing through vote tabulation and reporting. Many of these aspects of public elections have been discussed in hearings held by the TGDC. Therefore, we would like to focus our comments to the TGDC on the importance of election administration to successfully meet the challenge of creating in practice a secure federal election. A key to the success of this effort will be how well the review of issues such as static charge threats, insider and outsider threats, and natural events are correctly evaluated and addressed by the standards developed for voting systems in practice.
When the TGDC makes its recommendations to the full U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) on voting technology standards you should allow NIST’s expertise in the area of standards development and computer security to evaluate the end-to-end process of elections that use electronic voting technology. These recommendations may become the new benchmark for government approved voting technology to be used in public elections. However, the TGDC should remember that today there are fifteen bills in the United States House and Senate that refer to the "Help America Vote Act" (HAVA), and more are expected to be introduced as attempts are made to address the issues raised by the failure of paperless voting systems during the 2004 election season. It is important to note that manufacturers of these systems continue to gloss over the problem. In Carteret County, North Carolina, more than 4,500 ballots were not counted due to the poor design of the "Patriot" voting machine. Unbelievably, the manufacturer Unilet currently states on its web site that the Patriot voting machine has, "never had a significant hardware or software election problem, and never lost even a single vote."
Direct recording electronic (DRE) machines used in the 2004 primary and general election were too unreliable and unauditable for deployment without a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT). This fact was proven time and again with the type of failures experienced.
A few examples include, but are not limited to:
Sharp County Recount (Nebraska)
3,000 phantom votes detected
Date: November 5, 2004
Source: Channel Six Omaha NE WOWT http://www.wowt.com/news/headlines/1164496.html
Three Council Of State Races Remain Undecided (North Carolina)
Date: November 4, 2004
Source: WRAL.com http://www.wral.com/news/3891488/detail.html
Another vote tabulation error recorded in Yadkin County, which double counted about 1,000 votes following Tuesday's election.
County's software woes cause undervote (Texas)
Date: November 4, 2004
Source: Fort Worth Star Telegraph http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/nation/10097146.htm
Error in Wichita County's punch-card tabulation machines caused undervoting by as much as 20 percent in the presidential race.
Lost E-votes Could Flip Napa Race
Date Published: March 12, 2004
Source: Wired News http://wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,62655,00.html
Electronic voting machines used in the California Primary failed to record votes on some of its paper ballots, which will require rescanning of optical paper ballots.
Over the last two years, security experts and election watchdogs have uncovered a wide array of significant design defects in DRE voting machines. If the TGDC will fully use the professional resources available at NIST, you will learn that these machines, like other computers, are vulnerable to programmer error, equipment malfunction, and malicious attacks. If electronic voting technology is to become the foundation of our democratic process, it must earn the trust of voters. There must be no uncertainty about the quality and trustworthiness of these machines. All voting technology put before the public must perform reliably from the start of the election to the finish of the final vote tally, including any possible audits or recounts.
The unfortunate events in the Florida Presidential Election of 2000 have increased citizen awareness and scrutiny of our voting process. Notably, citizens learned how poor interfaces, such as the butterfly ballot, and poor vote-recording methods, such as punchcards, could exclude their vote from the tally or, possibly worse, count their vote incorrectly. Events of the last year have shown that inadequately designed, poorly tested, secret voting technology deployed by states and municipalities have disenfranchised Americans throughout the country. Voters from California to North Carolina have been turned away from polling booths or learned later that their votes may not have been counted.
An account of DREs from this past election raises several important questions. How many DRE ballots were not included in North Carolina’s statewide tallys? How many other voters noticed the absence of the Senate race, but did not succeed in obtaining a provisional ballot? Of those voters who filled out a provisional ballot, how many were included in the final count? The lack of a paper trail reduces any audit to pure guesswork as to the scope and severity of this problem.
America should be the gold standard by which other nations measure the strength and reliability of their electoral process. The history of the United States of America is the story of people fighting for and defending the right to vote, the right to representation. Americans deserve the most reliable, secure, and accurate voting system in every precinct and every community. Voters deserve a tangible, privately verified record of their vote, cast on machines that are accessible, easy-to-use, and free from subtle tampering and foul play. We deserve openness in our voting process, including the right to hire independent security and audit teams, free from non-disclosure agreements and other secretive, restrictive licenses. Every citizen should have the right to understand every step in our elections, from the time the voting machines are built to when the final results are announced. And vendors who try to work around election laws or hide known flaws undermine our democracy, and deserve to face civil or criminal suits from the communities whose trust they betrayed.
The right to vote is the foundation of this country, carefully and clearly enumerated in our Constitution. We owe it to our fellow citizens to work openly and steadily to protect the rights of all voters. We encourage this commission to address the defects present in current voting systems, and work to increase the accountability and integrity of the American voting process.
Peter G. Neumann, Chair * David Burnham * David Chaum * Cindy Cohn * Lillie Coney * David L. Dill * David Jefferson * Jackie Kane * Douglas W. Jones * Stanley A. Klein * Vincent J. Lipsio * Justin Moore * Jamin Raskin * Marc Rotenberg * Avi Rubin * Bruce Schneier * Paul M. Schwartz * Barbara Simons * Sam Smith
The National Committee on Voter Integrity (NCVI) was established to promote voter-verified balloting and to preserve privacy protections for elections in the United States. The Committee brings together experts on voting issues from across the country.