Focusing public attention on emerging privacy and civil liberties issues

Voting Privacy

http://www.votingintegrity.org/

"The first principle of republicanism is that the lex majoris partis is the fundamental law of every society of individuals of equal rights; to consider the will of the society enounced by the majority of a single vote as sacred as if unanimous is the first of all lessons in importance, yet the last which is thoroughly learnt." Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, 1817

Top News

  • Federal Court Panel Blocks South Carolina Voter ID Requirement: A special panel of federal judges in Washington, DC has barred the state of South Carolina from enforcing new voter identification requirements in the upcoming November elections. The court was "unable to conclude" that South Carolina could implement its voter identification law in a way that would "suffice under the Voting Rights Act" before the upcoming elections. The court did grant preclearance to implement the law after the November elections citing the "extremely broad interpretation of the reasonable impediment provision," which allows South Carolina voters to still vote if they complete an affidavit affirming their identity and state the reason for not having obtained photo identification. EPIC has previously argued that voter ID requirements impermissibly burden the right to vote. For more information, see EPIC: Voter ID and Privacy and EPIC: Crawford v. Marion County. (Oct. 15, 2012)
  • Federal Appellate Court Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law: The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has invalidated a Texas law that would require voters to present a photo identification in order to vote. Calling the law “the most stringent in the country,” the court held that “record evidence suggests that [the law], if implemented, would in fact have a retrogressive effect on Hispanic and African American voters.” Therefore, the court held, the law violates section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 requires “covered jurisdictions” to show that new voting procedures, such as Voter ID requirements, are nondiscriminatory before those changes can be put into effect. The ruling came after the Department of Justice previously blocked the law through the Section 5 preclearance process. EPIC has argued that unreasonable voter ID requirements are an impermissible burden on the right to vote. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy and EPIC: Crawford v. Marion County. (Aug. 30, 2012)
  • Voters Wary of Individually-Tailored Political Ads: A report by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania found that 86 percent of voters did not want political campaigns to tailor advertisements based on their interests. This percentage is higher than the percentage of respondents who reject other tailored advertisements (61%) or tailored news (56%). Significantly, a majority of respondents also reported that they would be less likely to vote for candidates that targeted them with tailored ads. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Privacy and EPIC: Public Opinion and Privacy. (Jul. 24, 2012)
  • Second Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down State Voter ID Law: In a second challenge to Wisconsin's voter ID requirement, Judge David Flanagan has held that the ID law imposes an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote. The law "tells more than 300,000 Wisconsin voters who do not now have an acceptable form of photo identification that they cannot vote unless they first obtain a photo ID card," wrote Judge Flanagan. The opinion follows a similar ruling earlier this year by Wisconsin judge Richard Niees. For more information EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy and EPIC: Crawford v. Marion County. (Jul. 23, 2012)
  • Senate Judiciary Holds Hearing on Voter Suppressions: The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on “Prohibiting the Use of Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Tactics in Federal Elections." The Senate is considering new legislation to address the problem of deceptive practices and voter intimidation. Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy cited "burdensome identification laws" as one of the obstacles to public participation in federal elections. A new report highlights similar problems in the recent Canadian national election. EPIC has published reports on deceptive campaign practices and filed briefs in opposition to unnecessary voter ID requirements. For more information see EPIC Voting Privacy and EPIC - Crawford v. Marion County. (Jun. 27, 2012)
  • Federal Appeals Court Backs Justice Department in Voting Rights Dispute: The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an opinion rejecting Shelby County, Alabama's constitutional challenge to the preclearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Court held that Section 5 of the Act, which requires "covered jurisdictions" to show that new voting procedures, such as Voter ID requirements, are nondiscriminatory before those changes can be put into effect, is constitutional. Shelby County challenged the preclearance requirements after Congress reauthorized Section 5 in 2006. The Department of Justice recently blocked Voter ID laws in South Carolina and Texas through the Section 5 preclearance process. EPIC has argued that unreasonable voter ID requirements are an impermissible burden on the right to vote. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy and EPIC: Crawford v. Marion County. (May. 18, 2012)
  • District Court Panel Admonishes South Carolina in Voter ID Case: A three-judge panel overseeing a critical voter ID case, State of South Carolina v United States of America, set out an unusually detailed requirements in an Scheduling and Procedures Order issued today. According to the concurring statement of Judge Bates, joined by Judge Kollar-Kotelly, the state has engaged in delaying tactics even as it has urged a swift resolution of the matter, concerning new voting ID procedures adopted by the state. The court cited South Carolina's lack of responsiveness to the Department of Justice, "despite repeated requests" for the "final versions of the implementing procedures" for provisions of the law. The court expects to issue a final ruling in early September 2012., prior to the fall Presidential election. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy. (Apr. 26, 2012)
  • Justice Department Strikes Down Texas Voter ID Law: The Department of Justice has determined that a Texas voter ID law that requires photo identification violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Texas law requires voters to present a driver's license or ID card issued by the state. The law also permits a voter to use military photo ID, a US citizenship certificate that contains the person's photograph, a US passport, or a license to carry a concealed handgun. The Department of Justice found that the Texas voter ID law disproportionately affects Hispanic voters because Hispanic voters are between 47% and 120% more likely than non-Hispanic registered voters to lack acceptable photo identification. The Department of Justice found that Texas "has not met its burden of proving that . . . the proposed [voter ID law] will not have a retrogressive effect, or that any specific features of the proposed law will prevent or mitigate that retrogression." In the voting conext, "retogression" refers to the disenfranchisement of eligible voters. For more information, see EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy. (Mar. 12, 2012)
  • Court Blocks Wisconsin Voter ID Law: A Wisconsin state court has granted a temporary order blocking the state from enforcing a new voter ID requirement. Wisconsin is one of eight states that now require voters to present a government-issued photo ID. Voter ID laws typically discourage voter turnout, particularly among poor and minority communities. In NAACP v. Walker, the Wisconsin court said that the "scope of impairment has been shown to be serious, extremely broad and largely needless." For more information, see EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy. (Mar. 6, 2012)
  • Senators Seek Study on Voter ID Laws: A group of U.S. senators have asked the Government Accountability Office to study the “alarming number” of new state laws that will make it “significantly harder” for millions of eligible voters to cast ballots this November. New state identification laws, by one estimate, will have a direct impact on 21 million American citizens who do not have a government-issued photo ID. The majority of those people are young would-be voters, the elderly, African Americans, Hispanics, and those earning $35,000 per year or less. For more information, see EPIC: Voting Privacy and Voter Photo ID and Privacy. (Feb. 29, 2012)
  • Virginia Senate Narrowly Approves Voter ID Law: The Virginia Senate passed a controversial voter photo ID law by one vote. The bill now goes to the Virginia House for consideration. Voter ID laws implicate the privacy rights rights of voters and also discourage voter turnout particularly among poorer voters who may not have necessary credentials, such as a drivers license. In 2007, EPIC challenged the Indiana voter photo ID law. For more information, see EPIC: Voting Privacy and EPIC: Crawford v. Marion County. (Feb. 28, 2012)
  • Justice Department Challenges South Carolina's Voter ID Law: The Justice Department has blocked South Carolina's voter ID law, calling it a violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. The Department said the new photo ID requirements would dispropotionately exclude eligible minority voters from federal elections. The South Carolina law prohibits voting by anyone who does not possess a state driver's license, US Passport, Military ID, or voter registration card. Many eligible voters who participated in the 2008 and 2010 elections may be prevented from voting in 2012. Earlier, EPIC filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court, challenging an Indiana voter ID law. See EPIC: Voter Photo ID and Privacy and NCSL: State Voter ID Laws. (Dec. 28, 2011)
  • New Voter Photo ID Laws Under Consideration: More than 30 states are considering new laws that would require voters to obtain government-issued photo identification. Voter photo identification laws have been routinely challenged in federal court, and many have been set aside or altered. Currently eight states have photo identification requirements. Prior to the Help America Vote Act, most states allowed several forms of identification to establish residence. In 2007, EPIC filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court, joining a challenge to an Indiana voter ID law. The Court upheld the law 6-3. Justice Souter wrote in dissent, "this statute imposes a disproportionate burden upon those without" government-issued photo IDs. For more information, see EPIC Voter Photo ID and Privacy and EPIC - Crawford v. Marion County. (Apr. 27, 2011)
  • EPIC releases 2010 E-Deceptive Campaign Practices Report : The Electronic Privacy Information Center released the 2010 update to its "E-Deceptive Campaign Practices: Technology and Democracy 2.0" report, first published in 2008. The report reviews the potential for abuse of Internet-based technology in the election context, and makes recommendations on steps that should be taken by Election Administrators, voters, and those involved in Election Protection efforts. E-Deceptive campaigns are internet-based attempts to misdirect targeted voters regarding the voting process, and include false statements about poll place hours, election dates, voter identification rules, or voter eligibility requirements. For more information, see EPIC: Voting. (Oct. 27, 2010)
  • EPIC Files Supreme Court Brief for Petitioner Privacy: EPIC has filed a "friend of the court" brief in the United States Supreme Court, urging the Justices to protect the privacy of those who sign petitions. In Doe v. Reed, the Court has been asked to determine whether the state of Washington may force disclosure of the names of citizens who have signed petitions for ballot initiatives. EPIC's brief argues that revealing the names would subject signatories to the risk of retribution, that signing petitions constitutes anonymous speech, and that signing petitions is similar to casting a vote and should be protected accordingly. For more information, see EPIC Doe v. Reed. (Mar. 3, 2010)
  • EPIC's Lillie Coney Appointed to Election Advisory Committee: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed EPIC Associate Director and leading election reform advocate, Lillie Coney to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Board of Advisors. EAC is an independent, bipartisan commission charged with developing guidance to meet Help America Vote Act requirements, adopting voluntary voting system guidelines, and serving as a national clearinghouse of information about election administration. The EAC also accredits testing laboratories and certifies voting systems, as well as audits the use of HAVA funds. Ms. Coney leads EPIC’s voting project and has worked on developing voting technology standards, statewide-centralized voter registration systems with privacy safeguards, and voter identification policy. For more information, see EPIC: Lillie Coney and EPIC’s Voting Privacy Page. (Dec. 17, 2009)
  • Indiana Court Strikes Down State Voter ID Law: Yesterday, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that the Indiana Voter ID law, which requires certain individuals to present government-issued photo identification before they could vote, violates the state Constitution. The law is unconstitutional, the court held, because it “regulates voters in a manner that is not uniform and impartial.” The United States Supreme Court previously ruled that the law did not violate the federal Constitution, but did not address the law’s validity under the Indiana Constitution. EPIC and ten legal scholars and technical experts filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in that case, urging the Court to invalidate the law because of its disparate impact and its reliance on REAL-ID, a "flawed federal identification system.” For more information, see Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and EPIC Voting Privacy. (Sep. 18, 2009)
  • Privacy and Election Integrity: Voting and the November 6, 2012 Election
  • EPIC Participates in an Election Manual Audit of the Takoma Park Maryland Municipal Elections. On November 3, 2009 residents of Takoma Park Maryland became the first voters in the United States to use the Scantagrity voting system to cast ballots in a public election. (Nov. 3)
  • EPIC Comments on New Voting Technology Standards. EPIC recommends greater transparency on the standards development process to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The agency sought public comments on the latest draft of the agency's Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. In the comments, EPIC requests that the EAC follow President Obama’s directive to all federal government agencies that they take affirmative steps to make their activities regarding standards development more transparent to the public, make ballot secrecy a critical component of federal voting technology standards, and maintain software independence in the next iteration of voting technology standards."(Sept. 28)
  • E-Deceptive Campaign Practices Technology Report Released. EPIC's voting project releases the first report on the technology of deceptive campaign practices. Deceptive campaigns are attempts to misdirect voters regarding the voting process for public elections. Deceptive campaign activity can be false statements about polling times, date of the election, or voter identification rules. The EPIC report reviews the potential for abuse of Internet technology in an election context, and makes recommendations on steps that could be taken by Election Protection, Election Administrators, and voters to protect the integrity of the upcoming election. A legal and policy companion of the report was simultaneously released by Common Cause and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. For more information, see EPIC's Voting Project . (Oct 20)
  • EPIC Recommends Privacy Safeguards for Voting System Standards. EPIC submitted comments to the Election Assistance Commission on the proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. EPIC proposed new guidance on privacy protection in the casting of ballots. EPIC alo recommended more transparency for the privacy protections provided by federally certified voting systems. For more information on EPIC's voting project visit the National Committee for Voting Integrity. (May 8)
  • EPIC Testifies Before the Election Commission on New Voting Guidelines: EPIC Associate Director Lillie Coney testified before the Election Assistance Commission on the 2007 Voting System Guidelines. EPIC urged the Commission to "offer clear and effective guidance to states on issues of functional capability, hardware, software, telecommunication, security, quality assurance, and configuration of voting systems." The Commission is nearing the end of the second voting guidelines drafting process.
  • Supreme Court Upholds Voter ID Law. The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down a challenge to a voter ID law in Indiana. In 6-3 opinion (pdf), the majority said the state interests "are both neutral and sufficiently strong to require us to reject petitioners' facial attack on the statute," and the burden imposed on voters was "minimal and justified." Justice Souter wrote in dissent, "this statute imposes a disproportionate burden upon those without" government-issued photo IDs. EPIC had submitted a brief (pdf) detailing problems with the law. "Not only has the state failed to establish the need for the voter identification law or to address the disparate impact of the law, the state's voter ID system is imperfect, and relies on a flawed federal identification system." See EPIC page on Crawford v. Marion County (Apr. 28)
  • Bill to Reimburse Jurisdictions for Cost of Paper Ballots for November Fails: The House failed to pass H.R. 5036 with a sufficient margin to ensure that jurisdictions that decide to acquire paper ballot systems for the November 2008 election from being reimbursed by the federal government. The measure would have also provided funding to states for conducting post election audits. The vote was actually a procedural move to place the bill on the "Suspension Calendar," which would indicate a non-controversial measure. The Democrats and Republicans had worked out an agreement to support the bill being placed on the Suspension Calendar, but the White House issued a statement late on the day prior to the vote in opposition of the effort. This resulted in a nearly perfect party line vote-resulting in the outcome falling short of the 2/3rds majority needed. The vote was 239 for and 178 against placing the bill on House Calendar under suspensions. (April 15, 2008)
  • EPIC, Experts Urge Supreme Court to Strike Down Indiana Voter Photo ID Law: In a "friend-of-the-court" brief (pdf) filed today, EPIC and 10 legal scholars and technical experts urged the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate an Indiana law requiring individuals to show a government-issued photo ID card before allowing them to vote. "Not only has the state failed to establish the need for the voter identification law or to address the disparate impact of the law, the state's voter ID system is imperfect, and relies on a flawed federal identification system," called REAL ID, they said. For more information, see EPIC's page concerning the case and the National Committee for Voting Integrity. (November 13, 2007)
  • EPIC's Voting Project Submits Statement on Election Audits to House Committee: EPIC's voting project the national Committee for Voting Integrity submits a statement to the House Committee on Administration for its hearing on the topic of "Election Reform: Auditing."the statement supported the establishment of public election auditing standards that are just as well accepted, and measurable as financial auditing standards to achieve greater transparency of the public election process. (March 20, 2007)
  • EPIC Opposes Increasing ID Requirements for Voters in a statement to the House Committee on the Judiciary, cautioned against new proof of citizenship requirements for federal elections. Absent evidence of an actual problem, EPIC warned that the requirement could discourage legal voters. EPIC noted that Congress has already provided for provisional ballots for instances when there are doubts about the status of voters seeking to cast ballots in public elections. For more information, see EPIC's Voting and Privacy page and the National Committee for Voting Integrity Web site. (March 7, 2007)
  • Report Says Some Voting Systems Fail Accessibility Requirements: Direct Recording Electronic voting machines, once considered essential to private voting booth access for voters with disabilities, often do not work as promised, according to a new report published by Demos. The Help America Vote Act mandated accessible voting system for the disabled and language minorities. For more information see, EPIC's Voting Page or the page for National Committee for Voting Integrity . (February 5, 2007)
  • NCVI Announces Recommendations for E-voting Systems: The National Committee for Voting Integrity has prepared recommendations to assist voters and election administrators. The guidance was prepared with the assistance of the Brennan Center for Justice and addresses the use of electronic voting systems in the upcoming national elections. NCVI and the Brennan Center warn that the recent implementation of electronic voting systems will make ensuring that all votes are accurately counted a difficult and challenging task. It is estimated that 80% of all voters will use either Optical-Scan or direct recording electronic (DRE) voting systems during this years election. For more information, see EPIC's Page on Voting Privacy. (Oct.ober 30, 2006)
  • Joint House Committees Hold Hearing on E-voting: In a statement to the House Committees on Administration and Science, the National Committee for Voting Integrity recommended greater security for e-voting systems. NCVI said that the current review process for ensuring that e-voting systems count votes as cast is not working. The Election Assistance Commission has delayed implementation of a new federal process intended to replace the current system. For more information, see EPIC's Voting and Privacy page and the National Committee for Voting Integrity Web site. (July 20, 2006)
  • The Brennan Center Releases Voting Technology Report: The Brennan Center's report "The Machinery of Democracy Protecting Elections in an Electronic World," was a collaborative effort joined by EPIC's Project the National Committee for Voting Integrity that identified over 120 security threats; and evaluated countermeasures for repelling attacks. The study examined each of the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems and makes recommendations on their use in public elections. For more information on voting systems, visit EPIC's Voting Privacy Page and National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI). (June 28, 2006)
  • Election Report Recommends Voter ID, Paper Trails: The Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, released a new report on the conduct of domestic elections. The Carter-Baker Commission recommended photo IDs for all voters, verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines, and removing partisan political activity from the administration of elections. Voting reform groups favor the paper trail. But the photo ID requirement conflicts with many civil rights and voting rights laws. EPIC earlier opposed (pdf) Georgia's effort to require all voters to present photo ID to participate in public elections. See EPIC's page on Voting and Privacy. (September 20, 2005)
  • EPIC Testifies Before Election Assistance Commission: The U.S. Election Assistance Commission held its third and final public hearing in Denver, Colorado on its proposed Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. EPIC's statement (pdf) focused on the importance of election administration in creating reliable, secure, accessible, transparent, accurate, and auditable public elections. The Commission is nearing the end of a process begun last year, which is intended to replace how voting systems used in public elections are designed. (August 23, 2005)
  • EPIC Opposes Georgia Voting ID Requirement: In comments (pdf) to the Department of Justice, EPIC has opposed Georgia's proposal that would require government-issued photo ID to vote in a state or federal election. EPIC said that the Georgia voting photo identification law encroaches on privacy, would discourage voter turnout, and is inconsistent with the federal Help America Vote Act. Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Georgia is required to receive Justice Department approval before making any changes to its voting laws. For more information, see EPIC's Voting and Privacy page and the National Committee for Voting Integrity Web site. (July 29, 2005)
  • EPIC Produces a Comparison of the Two Voting Technology Standards Documents: The comparison of the two documents conducted by EPIC is now available. All public comment must be sent to the EAC by 5:00 PM on September 30, 2005. EPIC obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request the Voting Standards draft developed by the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) and presented to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC): Since that time the EAC has released its own draft Voting Technology Standards document for public comment.(July 22, 2005)
  • Public Comment beings on Election Assistance Commission's Voting Standards Document: On June 29, the public comment period begins for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's Draft Voting Standards, and will last for 90 days, ending at 5:00 PM on September 30, 2005. The Draft Standards were developed under the Help America Vote Act and are intended to replace current voting standards. (June 29, 2005)
  • Senate Explores Voting Technology, EPIC Voting Project Recommends Enhanced Standards: The National Committee for Voting Integrity has submitted comments to the Senate Rules Committee, which held a hearing on Voter Verification in the Federal Elections Process. NCVI said that current voting technology does not meet a standard that can assure voters that votes are recorded and counted as cast. NCVI, a project of EPIC, made recommendations to the Senate on ways to improve transparency, privacy and security of ballots. For more information, see EPIC's page on Voting and Privacy. (June 21)
  • EPIC Obtains the Voting Standards Draft From the Election Assistance Commission: EPIC has obtained under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the final draft voting technology standards submitted to the Election Assistance Commission by the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) on May 9, 2005. The EAC decided not to immediately make public the TGDC recommendations that are based on the 2002 Voting System Standards. The 2002 Standards were developed under the direction of the Federal Election Commission. The EAC chartered the TGDC, which relied on the National Institute for Standards and Technology for technical assistance for its work. (June 15, 2005)
  • EPIC Voting Project Urges Privacy Safeguards for Voter Registration Databases. The National Committee for Voting Integrity has submitted comments to the Election Assistance Commission on the proposed creation of centralized statewide voter registration databases. NCVI said that the registration systems must assure voter privacy by adhering to fair information practices, and allow voters to verify information, correct inaccurate information, and be assured that the information provided will not be used for non-voting related purposes. For more information, see EPIC's pages on Voting and Voter Registration Databases. (May 25)
  • EPIC Participates in Hearing on Voter Registration Databases. EPIC Associate Director Lillie Coney testified before the Election Assistance Commission on privacy safeguards for new voter registration databases. Ms. Coney, who also coordinates the National Committee for Voting Integrity, urged the Commission to examine the risks in the new centralized databases. The hearing was also web cast. For more information, see EPIC's page on Voter Registration Databases.(Apr. 28)
  • EPIC Project the National Committee for Voting Integrity offers comments: NCVI offers comments to the Election Assistance Commission's Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) on its work to create electronic voting standards with the assistance of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). NCVI strongly encourages the TGDC to make greater use of the expertise and resources of NIST in developing any new voting technology standards. The TGDC will makes it recommendations to the EAC on voting technology standards soon. (March 9, 2005)
  • EPIC Comments on Voter Registration Problems. EPIC has responded to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission's request for comments on a state survey of voter registration in 2004. The comments point out transparency and privacy problems associated with voter registration administration during last year's election. For more information, see EPIC's new page on Statewide Centralized Voter Registration Databases. (March 1, 2005)
  • EAC 2004 Annual Report Released. The EAC's 2004 Annual report states the agency was established 10 months later than required under the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) and was seriously under funded, had no offices, equipment nor staff. The total operating funds for fiscal year 2004 was only $1.2 million. (January 2005)
  • EPIC Files Comments on Use of Voter SSNs. In comments to the Social Security Administration, EPIC has urged the agency not to create a new routine use of the Social Security Number for state voter registration purposes. EPIC asked the agency not to implement this routine use until state election administrations agree not to require voters to present their Social Security cards in order to vote in federal elections. For more information, see the EPIC Voting and SSN Pages. (September 3, 2004)
  • Public Records Request Information from PA, NM, and TX Secretary of State. The information is provided by Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Texas in reply to public information request made by EPIC on the use of DRE voting technology. Legal research on the State of New Jersey election law.
  • (June-October 2004)
  • Election Day resources available to help voters. The efforts of technologist and Election Protection workers have produced a support network that will assist voters on and before Election Day. The National Committee for Voting Integrity is providing easy to follow instructions on voting on DRE and Optical Scan Voting Systems. Voters can also find help by calling 1-866-OUR-VOTE to seek the advice or assistance of Election Protection efforts supported by the Lawyers Committee on Civil Rights, and People for the American Way. (October 20, 2004)
  • US Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to hold a hearing. The EAC will ask federal agencies to report on their Election Day procedures. The Commission will also review the state preparations for the November 2nd election; the status of State administration of provisional voting; and report on tools in place to monitor Election Day activities.
  • (October 26, 2004)
  • EPIC Testifies on Voting Privacy The Election Assistance Commission Technical Guidelines Development Committee asked EPIC to offer testimony (pdf) on the impact that new voting technology and polling place practices has on the privacy rights of voters. The hearing was an opportunity for the committee charged with making recommendations on voluntary standards for election systems and voting technology. The committee is expected to make its recommendations to the full Election Assistance Commission board sometime next summer for adoption and implementation in 2006. (September 22, 2004)
  • Counties in the State of Florida Conduct Logic and Accuracy Test. Counties throughout the State of Florida have scheduled Logic and Accuracy Test of direct electronic recording (DRE) voting machines in preparation for the primary election scheduled for August 31, 2004. (August 10, 2004)
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Schedules Meeting on November Election. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission will review the Federal Voting Assistance Program Best Practices for Military and Overseas Voting, the EAC November Election Research Project, and the EAC National Poll Worker Initiative. The Commission will also review recommendations on the National Voter Registration Form and the HAVA College Program. The EAC will meet on August 10, 2004, from 10:00 AM until Noon at 1225 New York Avenue, NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005 (Metro Stop: Metro Center). (August 10, 2004)
  • The Election Assistance Commission makes public Election Day Tool Kit The Election Assistance Commission released its recommendations under the heading of Best Practices Tool Kit. The Tool Kit is designed to assist local and state election officials in implementing the best methods for addressing potential problems with voting technology. There recommendation on direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines seems to be less detailed than other forms of voting technology addressed, which include: lever voting machines, optical scan voting systems, and punchcard voting machines. August 9, 2004
  • The House Committee on House Administration Holds Hearing on E-voting Security. The House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Technology, Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations, and the Census held a hearing on "The Science of Electronic Voting Machine Technology: Accuracy, Reliability, and Security" was held in Room 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The National Committee for Voting Integrity member Avi Rubin testified. Other testimony Randolph Hite Director of the GAO, Dr. Hratch Semerjian NIST, Terry Jarrett General Council Secretary of State Missouri, Michael Shamos Professor Carnegie Mellon, Jim Adler Founder and President of VoteHere, Sanford J. Morganstein President Populex Corporation. (July 20, 2004)
  • The National Academy of Sciences Holds Electronic Voting Workshop. Members of the National Committee for Voting Integrity, which include Dr. David Chaum, Dr. Aviel Rubin, Dr. David Dill are panelist for the two day workshop on Electronic Voting. The workshop covers the entire range of issues related to electronic voting from beginning to end, that is, from the point of capturing the voter's intent to assuring an accurate final tabulation of votes.The gathering is open to the public, but participation will be limited to the invited panel participants. The discussion will take place at the National Academies of Science Keck Center, Room 109, 500 5th Street, NW, Washington, DC. (July 13-14, 2004)
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission Chair's Statement On Terrorism and the November Election. EAC Chair DeForrest Soaries issued a statement rejecting any possible postponement or cancellation of the November 2, 2004 election due to a terrorist attack. (July 13, 2004)
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Technical Guidelines Development Committee Meets. The first meeting of the EAC's Technical Guidelines Development Committee took place on July 9, 2004. The members of the committee are Chair Dr. Arden Bement, Hon. Donetta Davidson, Alice Miller, Sharon Turner-Buie, Helen Purcell, James R. Harding, James Elekes, Anne Caldas, H. Stephen Berger, Dr. Brittain Williams, Paul Craft, Dr. Ronald Rivest, Dr. Daniel Schutzer (via phone), Patrick Gannon, and Whitney Quesenbery. (July 9, 2004)
  • The National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI) joins the LCCR at a Press Conference . The NCVI endorses the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Brennan Center's Recommendations to Election Administrators that would address some of the security concerns outlined by voting technology experts. (June 29, 2004)
  • The Election Assistance Commission (EAC) EAC Advisory Board and Standards Board met in Houston, TX. The EAC held a 2 days of public hearings in Houston Texas this week to allow its Board of Advisors and Standards Board to discuss the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) role and their organizational plans for the new agency. (June 28-29, 2004)
  • The House Committee on Science holds a hearing on Voting Technology Standards. The House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Environment, Technology, and Standards held a Hearing on Testing and Certification for Voting Equipment: How Can the Process Be Improved? Witnesses heard by the Committee included Congressman Rush Holt, Carolyn Coggins, Hratch G. Semerjian, Michael I. Shamos, and Thomas Wilkey .(June 24, 2004)
  • The House Committee on Rules and Administration to Hold EAC Oversight Hearing. Oversight. The Hearing will look at the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and Implementation of the Help America Vote Act and what is planned between now and November 2004. The Hearing will take place in room 1310 Longworth House Office Building at 11:00 AM. (June 17, 2004)
  • League of Women Voters Delegates Vote to Change the Group's Position on Paperless DREs. The League of Women voters convention held in Washington DC voted overwhelmingly to rescinded its support of paperless voting machines of endorsing paperless DRE voting machines to a neutral stand on all electronic voting technology. (June 14, 2004)
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) Plans Chicago Hearing. On June 3, 2004, at 9:00 AM the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will meet at the Water Tower Campus of Loyola University in Chicago, IL to "Conduct a Public Hearing to Identify Best Practices, Problems and Transition Issues Associated with Optical Scan, Punch Card, and Lever Machine Voting Systems and the Success and Problems Identified with the Use of Provisional Voting". The panels that will be presented: Punch card Panel, Lever Machine Panel, Optical Scan Panel, and Provisional Vote Panel.
  • CANCELLEDThe House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Technology Hearing. On May 12, 2004, the hearing "The Science of Electronic Voting Machine Technology: Accuracy, Reliability, and Security" was held in Room 2247 of the Rayburn House Office Building.
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission Held Its First Public Hearing. On May 5, 2004, the hearing reviewed the "Use, Security, and Reliability of Electronic Voting Systems." The National Committee for Voting Integrity (NCVI) submitted testimony to the Commission for the hearing.
  • The State of California Announced that it is Decertifying Diebold TSx Voting Machine. California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley made public the decision by the State of California to ban the use in the November Election of any voting system that does not provided a paper ballot. (April 30, 2004)
  • The U.S. Election Assistance Commission Held Its First Public Meeting. On March 23, 2004, DeForest Soaries, Jr., Chairman, Vice Chair Commissioner Gracia M. Hillman, Commissioner Paul S. DeGregorio and Commissioner Raymundo Martinez III, held their first official public meeting.
  • CA Audit Finds Diebold Used Uncertified Software. An audit of Diebold Election Systems voting machines in California has revealed that the company installed uncertified software in all 17 counties that use its electronic voting equipment. Diebold admitted wrongdoing at a meeting of the state's Voting Systems Panel and said it was making changes to its procedures for upgrading its systems. The Voting Systems Panel is continuing to investigate whether or not Diebold will be sanctioned for violating state election code.
  • Ohio Suspends Electronic Voting Machine Use. Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has halted the use of electronic voting machines in the state until security weaknesses revealed in two state-commissioned studies are resolved. A technical analysis of four different electronic voting systems used in the state and a report of findings from on-sight inspection of each vendor's security procedures revealed significant flaws. As a result, Blackwell has suspended use of the Diebold, ES&S, Hart, and Sequoia systems and will seek an extension of federally mandated Help America Vote Act (HAVA) deadlines in order to provide system manufacturers time to correct deficiencies. (December 4, 2003)
  • California to Require Paper Printouts for Electronic Voting. California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley announced (pdf) that the state will require "Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails" for all touch screen voting machines by 2006. The proposal is strongly favored by technology experts, including members of the National Committee for Voting Integrity. (November 21, 2003)
  • New Voting Group Launched. The National Committee for Voting Integrity held a press conference in Washington, DC to urge Presidential candidates to address the integrity of electronic voting systems. The new organization, which consists of a host of voting experts from the fields of technology, academia, politics, and media, has formed to promote voter-verified balloting and to preserve privacy protections for elections in the United States. (November 21, 2003)
  • Library of Congress Releases Report on Electronic Voting Machines. The Congressional Research Service
    of the Library of Congress has presented to Congress a report entitled, " Election Reform and Electronic Voting Sytems (DRE's): Analysis of Security Issues." The report analyzed the controversy surrounding DRE's but did not take a position on how to resolve it. The report did, however, state that "at least some current DRE's cleary exhibit security vulnerabilities."
  • Diebold Faces Lawsuit in Battle with Students. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society have announced they will file a lawsuit requesting a temporary restraining order against Diebold. The lawsuit is a response to Diebold's series of cease-and-desist orders, which the company has sent out to force websites to take down leaked company memos.
  • Students Battle Diebold Over Memos. Members of the Swarthmore Coalition for the Digital Commons, a student organization at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania are taking heat from Diebold Election Systems for hosting web pages linked to thousands of leaked Diebold memos that detail flaws in the company's voting machine software. The company claims posting such information is a violation of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, and has sent out cease-and-desist letters to force websites and ISP's to take down the memos, which Swarthmore has complied with. However, the students have continued to protest, claiming the company is suppressing free speech. (November 2, 2003)
  • Maryland Legislators Call for Audit of Study. Maryland state legislators Sen. Paula C. Hollinger (D-Baltimore County) and Del. Sheila Ellis Hixson (D-Montgomery) have sent a letter to the director of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services questioning the impartiality of Science Application International Corp.'s report on Diebold voting machines and requesting that the agency examine the process used to select the firm to conduct the review of the Diebold system. Meanwhile, a new citizen organization, the Campaign for Verifiable Voting in Maryland, has launched a campaign to combat the implementation of Diebold voting machines in the state. (October 21, 2003)
  • SAIC Releases Study on Voting Machines. Science Application International Corp. has issued a report on Diebold voting machines that was commissioned by the state of Maryland. The report found multiple vulnerabilities in the system, but also stated that the security flaws could be remedied with proper safeguards . As a result, Maryland has gone ahead with its plans to purchase and implement the Diebold voting system statewide. (September 23, 2003)
  • Diebold Memo Admits Knowledge of Vulnerabilities. Journalists have obtained copies of internal mail from Diebold principal engineer R&D Ken Clark - then working for Global Election Systems before Diebold took the company over - who confirms the existence of security flaws in the voting system's software. (September. 12, 2003)
  • Maryland Gov. Commissions Review of Diebold Systems. Maryland Governor Robert L. Erlich Jr., whose state had agreed to purchase $55.6 million of Diebold voting machines, has arranged for an independent review of the voting system by Science Application International Corp. of San Diego. The review comes on the heels of a report by a Johns Hopkins computer scientist that the Diebold system has serious security flaws. (August 7, 2003)
  • Report Criticizes Deibold Voting System. Computer Scientists from Johns Hopkins and Rice Universities released a study of the source code purported to be part of Diebold Election System's Accu-Vote TS voting software. They found "significant and wide reaching security vulnerabilities," including the ability of voters to illegally cast multiple ballots, view partial election results, and prematurely terminate elections, as well as lack of protection of voting info when traveling over network connections. (July, 2003)
  • Congressman Promotes "Voter Confidence" Bill. Representative Rush Holt (D-NJ) has introduced the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003" (HR 2239), which would require states to use election equipment that provides a voter-verified permanent paper record. The bill is currently being debated in the Committee on House Administration. (May 22, 2003)

Overview

The 2000 election brought the systemic problems in our nation's electoral process that had existed for decades to the attention of the mainstream media, a majority of voters, policy makers, and international observers. A confluence of the perfect political storm occurred when the margin of electoral votes between the top two candidates was only five votes. There were only two other states with more electoral votes than Florida, California with 54 and Texas with 32. Because of the narrow margin separating the candidates in the Florida 2000 Presidential Election, the winner of that electoral rich state would be declared the next President of the United States. The post-election battle for the White House began in Florida and eventually was decided by the United States Supreme Court. The impact of this Supreme Court decision changed the resource allocation of candidates in post 2000 elections to include the retaining of attorneys.

In 2000, the focus was on Florida, but the problems in that state were repeated in many others. That presidential year was like any other except for one fact-the deciding margin of victory was only 537 votes. This number is dwarfed by the number of voters disenfranchised according to the CalTech MIT Study "Voting: What Is What Could Be," which records that between 4 and 6 million votes were lost in the 2000 election.6 The study attributed the loss to problems with voter registration or polling place practices and problems with ballots. As a consequence, voters received a rude introduction to the reality of elections in the United States-not every vote cast was counted.

In reply to the crisis of the Presidential Election of 2000, the federal government attempted to clarify and codify voting rights in the United States for the 2004 election through the enactment and implementation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Law. However, this law was in many ways too little too late. HAVA, for the first time in the nation's history, established a role for the federal government in public elections held to fill federal elected offices. The establishment of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in statute did not translate into expedited action on the part of policymakers to appoint the EAC leadership. The four Commissioners, two Democrats Gracia Hillman and Ray Martinez and two Republicans, DeForest B. Soaries and Paul DeGregorio who were selected to serve as the first EAC Commission were not sworn into office until December 12, 2003.

The EAC Commissioners received only $1.2 million in funding for Fiscal year 2004 and did not move into their own offices until April 1, 2004 seven months prior to the election. The new law included a directive to states to create statewide voter registration databases, identification, and new requirements for first time-registered voters. To accomplish these objectives the law provided over $3 billion in federal funds to be allocated to states under the guidance of the EAC. However, the EAC lacked the time and funding recourses necessary to ensure that the goals of election reform outlined in HAVA were accomplished. EAC's late start did not allow them the time that was necessary to develop federal standards that would guide the states in the use of the funds made available. In particular, the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC), a technical advisory body to the EAC charged with the development of voluntary standards for voting technology met for the first time on July 9, 2004

Under HAVA, states retain control of the election process, but they must meet minimum standards set forth in HAVA. HAVA was generally popular among members of Congress, yet received some criticism because it required more stringent voter identification procedures. HAVA passed 92 to 2 in the Senate and 357 to 48 in the House with bi-partisan support. Id. HAVA also required voters to provide either a state driver's license number or the last four digits of their Social Security Number (SSN) if they did not have driver's licenses.9 HAVA also required election officials to verify voters' identification with administrative agencies (i.e., comparing driver's licenses with local Departments of Motor Vehicles and SSNs with the Social Security Administration.) Dissenters feared that the new requirements would "raise hurdles to registration and voting by poor people and members of minority groups, especially Hispanics."

In particular, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton remarked that HAVA "would probably 'repress voter participation' by recently naturalized American citizens, homeless people and millions of New Yorkers who have no driver's license." Id. Supporters of the stricter identification requirements countered that the measures were important because "illegal votes dilute the value of legally cast votes." Id. According to Senator Bond of Missouri, "If your vote is canceled by the vote of a dog or a dead person, it's as if you did not have a right to vote." While attempting to strengthen the integrity of the electoral process by requiring stronger voter identification requirements, HAVA did little to address the potential problems of skewed election outcomes if the electronic voting machines are faulty or rigged.

The transactions associated with voting unlike other exchanges in society, require privacy for individual voters and transparency of the overall voting system.19 The conundrum presented by paperless DRE voting technology further complicates this transaction of voter choice and privacy in a populous self-governing matrix of nearly 200 million potential participants by not producing a physical audit instrument that is verified by each voter at his or her choice. It appears to be a daunting challenge, which will require strong Federal support for research and development as new generations of voting technology emerge.

Poll Workers and Voter Privacy

According to the CalTech MIT Study "Voting: What Is What Could Be," between 4 and 6 million votes were lost in the 2000 election.20 The study attributed the loss to problems with voter registration or polling place practices and problems with ballots.

Elections systems rely on voluntary participation of poll workers and voters. The major challenge of election systems is to create ease of use in a process that is done very infrequently. At most, the greatest voter participation is seen during presidential election years, which occur once every four years.

Problems with the DRE machines

  • Lack of transparency. DRE makers such as Diebold, Sequoia and ES&S refuse to make their software code available to the public to assess, nor are they willing to publicize the kind of testing they do.
  • Inadequate testing of software. Voting machines are currently certified by states through a Qualification Process overseen by the National Organization of State Election Directors and based on 2002 Federal Election Commission guidelines. The method of testing has not been released to the public, but it is known that the process allows for the inclusion of secret code and the use of commercial software products without certification, and has been criticized by computer scientists and engineers, including the California Touch Screen Task Force and Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, as extremely inadequte.
  • Prone to defects and errors. It is nearly impossible to write bug-free software, and studies conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers and Science Application International Corp. have indeed found that the DRE machines currently on the market are vulnerable to software bugs that could affect election results. Hardware defects also occur with alarming frequency. Lax testing standards fail to catch many of these system errors.
  • Vulnerability to fraud. The Johns Hopkins study found that DRE machine security safeguards are "far below even the most minimal security standards applicable in other contexts." As a result, these systems are vulnerable to both insider and outsider attacks. One of the most glaring examples of a security vulnerability is the study's finding that voters can program their own "smartcards" - which are used to certify identity at the voting terminals - and then use them to cast multiple ballots. The study also found that voters can hack into voting records, view partial election results, and cause elections to terminate early. Insiders, including election officials and poll workers, were also found to be capable of manipulating the system. While improved use of cryptography and security measures could improve some of these flaws, even thorough testing cannot reveal some types of malicious code.
  • Lack of audit ability. The threat of bugs and security failures are magnified by the fact that none of the DRE machines currently on the market create a hard copy of voters' results, also known as a "paper trail." The lack of a paper record of one's vote makes it impossible to verify if the computer has, indeed, recorded your vote in the system as it is shown on the screen. Furthermore, lack of a paper record makes meaningful recounts or audits impossible because any recount would simply corroborate the same count the computer made the first time and would not catch any errors. To make DRE voting systems accountable to voters and auditable in the event of a recount, Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) has proposed a bill entitled the Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2003 (HR 2239) that would require all electronic voting machines to produce a voter-verified permanent paper record.

Privacy Implications

The secrecy and the security of the vote are integral to America's voting system, and both are in jeopardy when DRE machines are used in elections. In addition to the discussion above, two related issues arise from DRE voting systems and the Help America Vote Act.

  • Anonymity vs. Audit ablity. Anonymity is a fundamental aspect of voting rights in the U.S. DRE machines make it difficult to have both audit ability and anonymity in the voting process. In the current system, to make voting results anonymous, these machines randomize the voting sequence, which also makes it impossible to track their accuracy.
  • Voter Database. HAVA requires states to have "a single, uniform, official, centralized, interactive computerized statewide voter registration list" which includes the name and registration information (including driver's license number or last 4 digits of social security number) of every voter, will be available to "all election officials in the State." It does not stipulate security standards to protect this information, only stating that "state or local official shall provide adequate technological security measures to prevent the unauthorized access to the computerized list." The law does state that the information "shall be considered strictly confidential and shall be used only for the purposes" of voting and that violating said confidentiality constitutes a felony.

Other Voting Systems

  • Optical scan voting systems. An optical scan system use ballots similar to multiple-choice tests, where voters fill in bubbles (aka "scan targets") for corresponding candidates. It is by definition voter-verifiable. Problems arise, however, when voters do not correctly mark their choices. Ballots also become unwieldy in voting venues with large numbers of offices, candidates and propositions, and with multi-lingual requirements. However, one company, Vogue Election Systems, is working on a touch-screen voting machine that would mark an optical-scan sheet of the voters choices. This system appears to remedy the most pressing problems with both the DRE and optical scan systems, but it has not yet been tested or certified.
  • Internet voting. The U.S. government is currently experimenting with the practice of internet voting, having established a system called SERVE (Secure Electronic Registration and Voting Experiment) to allow military and civilians citizens overseas to vote online. However, security experts say that Internet voting is vulnerable to disruption from viruses and server-based attacks.

Voting Issues in the News

Resources

ACTION ALERT

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