The issue of elections and audits came to the surface this year when Wichita State University statistician Beth Clarkson asked to review voting machine tapes from 2014, citing oddities in the election results. Kobach, originally named in Clarkson’s legal effort but later dropped, countered that state law prevented him from giving Clarkson access to the records. Before the House elections committee, Kobach said he supports an audit of election results and records.
Wisconsin Election Integrity has a good article explaining how well-meaning election officials can be opposed to post election audits.
Oddly enough, it is not the risk of a miscounted election occurring that causes their fear; it is the risk of a miscount being detected. Most computer-dependent managers–not election officials–realistically expect that if they do not catch a computer error, someone else will. For them, routine audits reduce fear. But miscounting voting machines don’t blow up like space shuttles, and candidates cannot take voting machines out for test drives between elections. Therefore, in the absence of post-election verification, election officials have no realistic fear of anyone discovering a miscount. The idea of an audit has the opposite effect on them: their fear goes from nothing to, well, something.
I’ve had a number of requests to take a look at the data from the recent Kentucky Governors’ election. I’ve had a few days to track down the data and create a few graphs for this election (and several hours cleaning up the data from my own mistakes). I haven’t done a full analysis of the Kentucky Governor’s Race, but I have accomplished a cum % republican votes for the largest counties in 3 of the 4 different voting system used in Kentucky.
Code 1 and Code 4 Equipment: show clear signs of the anomolous trend for % Republican votes increasing with the number of votes cast. (Blue and Yellow lines on graph)
Code 2 Equipment: shows a clear downward trend (benefiting Dem) but has few votes cast. I would not draw any conclusions about this equipment due to insufficient data. (Gray line on graph)
Code 3 Equipment: I haven’t investigated. It is used by only a few counties and has few total votes cast.
Here are the Codes I used for the Voting Equipment used by KY counties:
- Hart InterCivic eScan and Hart InterCivic eSlate
- ES&S Ivotronic and ES&S M-100 Scan
- Electronic 1242, Hart InterCivic eScan and Hart InterCivic eSlate
- Accu-Vote ES & Accu-Vote TSX (Only Jefferson County uses this system)
The following counties were used in this analysis.
COUNTY Eq. Code
REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (RFP) #15-0078 VOTING SYSTEM
A RFP (request for proposal) for a new voting system for Sedgwick, Shawnee, Johnson and Wyandotte counties was issued last month.
Here are the three big requirements for a transparent voting process:
1 – Voter Marked Paper Ballots; DRE machines , such as our current ones, are unacceptable.
2 – Open Source software; Proprietary software is unacceptable.
3 – Post election audits conducted to verify results.
None of these requirements are mentioned in the RFP. Personally, I consider this a major problem.
Voter Marked Paper Ballots
Any voting system that does not require voter marked paper ballots should be considered unacceptable. This is not an unreasonable requirement. It is a requirement of many localities, including the entire state of New Mexico and Douglas County here in Kansas.
The DRE machines seem designed to make verification difficult to completely impossible. The audit I am looking to do in Sedgwick County will be difficult and expensive to accomplish and even with the paper trails, might not be able to detect rigging of individual machines.
Open Source software
All software must be open source. Proprietary software for voting machines is wrong. Not just bad – which it is – but morally wrong. I am personally of the opinions our legislature should outlaw it, but that seems unlikely. Proprietary software, particularly when paired with no auditing requirements, is an invitation to scoundrels that our voting system is ripe for exploitation.
Post Election audits
Post Election audits must be routine after every election. But they must be conducted by an independent auditor who is not receiving any renumeration from the contractor who is providing the voting system. The ability to audit the voting system should be part of the grading of responses to the RFP. With forethought, a system can be designed to facilitate taking random samples for comparison to the machine generated totals at a minimal cost.
There are many other details in the RFP that Ms. Lehman and her staff are correct to have included – i.e. appropriate facilities for disabled voters, logistics of moving machines in and out of various locations, etc. No doubt they have their preferences for those details and it’s not of much concern to me as long as the ballots are securely transported and protected. Although I’m not entirely comfortable with contracting out the transportation of ballots and machines, it’s not an easy task to run an election. Someone must be hired and instructed on how to do it properly. But the three requirements listed above are all necessary for our votes to be transparently counted. If any one is compromised, our election results are susceptible to undetectable tampering. As it is now.
The RFP released in October does not require any of these three. I don’t think precludes them either, but I would be surprised to see any proposals that meet the first two criteria I’ve laid out here. (The third one must be funded independently of this contract.)
Letter Writing Campaign
I’d like to start a letter campaign regarding this proposal to Sedgwick County, acting as the Lead Agent for this contract. Particularly, if you live in Johnson, Shawnee or Wyandotte County.
I am going to write and notify them of my concerns. If you share my concerns; please let the purchasing committee know. Contact information is:
Sandra L. Gritz, Chief Deputy Election Commissioner, Sedgwick County Election Office, 525 N. Main, #101, Wichita, KS 67203
Just let Sandra know you support my requirements and hope to see them included in the final selection of a new voting system. I’ve spoken with her and she’s promised to let Tabitha Lehman, Elections Commissioner, and the rest of the committee know of our concerns.
Thanks to Ernestine Krehbiel for sharing this information with me.
Here’s a lawsuit in Texas trying to get access to the ballots for a public recount.
Election Lawsuit in Austin Texas Asks – WHERE ARE THE BALLOTS?
Dr. Laura Pressley, Austin City Council Candidate, District 4 filed a lawuit Jan 29, 2015 demanding to see the votes in her election. It’s still ongoing as the election office hasn’t been able to provide her with the ballots or even ‘images of the ballots cast’.
When Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir was asked by Austin City Council candidate Dr. Laura Pressley to produce “images of ballots cast” from the Hart InterCivic eSlate voting machines for Pressley’s January 6th recount, her right as a candidate per Texas Election Statutes, the Clerk’s response was that Travis County did not have images of what the voters saw when they made their choice on who to vote for.
Instead what was provided was a “cast vote record” or “CVR”, a computer generated form which is the computer’s conclusion as to what the ballots showed, but NOT the ballots themselves.
Almost 4,000 electronic ballot images are therefore apparently missing, leading Dr. Pressley, Austin City Council District 4 candidate in the Run Off election last December , to file an historic election lawsuit.
Never before has a Texas candidate filed an election contest exposing any electronic voting machines’ apparent inability to provide for “ballot image storage” of each ballot cast – a requirement of all electronic voting machines by the Texas Election Code. Dr. Pressley’s lawsuit challenges the proposition that election officials reporting what a computer program tells them a voter decided can substitute forlooking at the ballot the voters sees when they make their voting decision.
Texas Election Statutes allow for a manual recount of images of ballots cast in electronic voting machines.
The point is, with almost 4,000 ballots missing for a recount, there is no way to confirm the election outcome!” Pressley says. “What I’ve learned about our voting systems and election procedures in TravisCounty is highly disturbing … and as a concerned citizen and a candidate, I feel that it is my obligation to pursue this case to educate the public, and other future candidates, about this critical election information.”
Websites for more information and to offer support: www.StandWithLaura.com