TESTIMONY PRESENTED AT PUBLIC
HEARING ON VOTING SYSTEM CHANGE
HELD BY KANSAS CITY BOARD OF
ELECTIONS OCTOBER 20, 2005
Christi Clemons Hoffman
would like to thank the Kansas City Election Board for arranging this public
hearing. Given that elections are the bricks and mortar of a democracy, it is
necessary that voters have a voice regarding the systems that count our votes.
discussions with fellow community members regarding our testimonies this
evening, I chose to speak about the electronic voting machine citizens could
accept if absolutely necessary. Little did I know how difficult this assignment
would prove to be.
of all, we can rule out Diebold systems apart from recorded machine failures.
Aside from overt partisanship—Diebold CEO “Wally” O’Dell famously promised to
deliver Ohio’s votes to Bush in November—computer security experts at Johns
Hopkins University in Baltimore and Rice University in Houston say Diebold’s
touch-screen voting machines are vulnerable to vote rigging. In fact,
security concerns and operating failures led to a ban on their use in parts of
California and Ohio. Furthermore, a “Cyber Security Bulletin” was posted in
late August of 2004 by the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team warning of an
“undocumented backdoor” in Diebold’s GEM Central Tabulator software used with
its electronic voting machine systems. This security vulnerability could allow
a local or remote user to modify vote tallies stored in the system according to
the warning and corroborated by several different sources. Incredibly,
although this vulnerability was reported months before the November election,
Diebold was not required not to repair it. This type of vulnerability and
countless recorded problems with Diebold DREs and optical scan systems
have led to widespread loss of voter confidence, the aforementioned bans on its
machines in elections, and at least one lawsuit. Speaking of the law, the
former head programmer-turned-consultant at Diebold cannot himself vote—having
been convicted of twenty-three counts of felony Theft in the First Degree via
sophisticated alteration of records of computerized systems.
company ES&S is also questionable. The company was co-founded by brothers
Todd and Bob Urosevich. Todd is now Vice President of Customer Support at
ES&S, and Bob is now President of Diebold Election Systems. Both brothers
are major donors to one political party and share a partisan bias. While
ES&S does not have the legal problems of its “brother” company, faulty
machines have caused multiple costly, widespread recounts and voter
dissatisfaction. One county in Florida in the November 2004 race recorded
14,253 voter complaints about ES&S machines. Since 1998, ES&S systems
have lost or not counted more than 219,874 votes, mis-reported outcomes in at
least 18 races, caused at least 120 recounts, caused one postponed national
election (Venezuela), registered at least 12, 673 phantom votes, and switched
countless votes on-screen.
we can be suspicious of any electronic voting machine. The November 1996 issue
of Relevance Magazine reveals that
two-way hidden modems are being built into the ever-growing number of
computerized optical scanner/direct recording voting machines in use all across
the country. The bombshell from this article is that these hidden modems are
accessible by remote cell phone technology. In other words, these voting
machines can be accessed and manipulated from a central super computer without
a phone line connected to the wall, and without the local precinct workers
knowing that anything is happening at all.
Indeed, the video Votergate shows,
step-by-step how easy it is to get into central tabulation software and change
candidates’ names—and vote totals—without hindrance.
In another video, reported on Fox News, a chimpanzee named Baxter was trained
to do it.
and fraud are not the only problems with certain electronic machines, however.
Paper jams, electricity failures, and hardware errors have all been recorded
across the country in recent elections. To combat these problems, voters need a
ballot they can mark themselves. Printers can jam, run out of ink, or run out
of paper. They can also fail to work. Another reason for voter-marked ballots
is that so-called “toilet-paper roll” and other printed ballots use barcodes. I
can’t read a barcode. Can you? How is the voter 100% certain that a printed
barcode is the intended vote? Even with voter-marked ballots, optical scanners
are not fail-safe. Program cards used in the scanners must be under the control
and operation of local election directors and independent examiners, and not
under the control of vendors. In addition, all votes must be counted publicly
and locally in the presence of citizen representatives and credentialed members
of the media. Finally, truly random hand-counted audits should be used during
the voting process to double-check the machines.
is currently a bill in the House, H.R. 550, that addresses some of these
issues. H.R. 550 is the best compromise we have with electronic machines. It
requires using paper records in mandatory random manual audits and increased
security standards, prohibits use of undisclosed software, protects the Help
America Vote Act’s accessibility mandates, and much more. In order for
electronic voting of any form to be secure and instill voter confidence,
certain safeguards must be in place. The choice of voting system is not the end
of the debate. The real questions of accountability and transparency of local
elections are just beginning.