Comparison of Voting Data from 2004 to 2006 Shows Hispanic Undervote Plunged 69% as the 'Civil Rights' Case for DREs Continues to Fall Apart
ALSO: New Concerns Emerge About Racial Profiling vis a vis Touch-Screen Voting Systems...
By Brad Friedman on 2/26/2007, 11:50am PT  

"We were looking for any impact the change to paper ballots may have had on New Mexico’s historically high undervote rate. When we found the dramatic drop in Native American precincts, we were shocked," says New Mexico's Theron Horton. The Election Defense Alliance (EDA) activist added, "something was going on with the DREs in those precincts in 2004."

Something indeed.

Details now out from New Mexico reveal that undervote rates dropped precipitously in both Native American and Hispanic areas after the state moved from DRE (Direct Recording Electronic touch-screen) voting systems in 2004 to paper-based optical-scan systems in 2006. In Native American areas, undervote rates plummeted some 85%. In Hispanic communities, the rate dropped by 69% according to the precinct data reviewed by EDA, and

Ellen Theisen, then-Executive Director of, reviewed the original high undervote rates in the state after the 2004 elections, but hadn't broken it down to compare DRE/touch-screen vs. Op-Scan precincts. "When I heard of Theron’s work," Theisen says in today's press release, "I performed the comparison, and found that it’s the paper ballots that made the difference in the minority precincts.”

New Mexico banned the use of DREs across the state after their disastrous experience with Sequoia touch-screen voting machines during the 2004 Presidential Election. They now require a paper ballot for every vote cast statewide.

As he signed the bill which banned DREs into law in early 2006, New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson wrote a letter to Election Officials in all 50 states, warning that while "some believe that computer touch screen machines are the future of electoral systems...the technology simply fails to pass the test of reliability."

"One person, one vote is in jeopardy if we do not act boldly and immediately," Richardson implored, while decrying the failures of DREs in his state and supporting paper ballots. "When a vote is cast, a vote should be counted," he wrote.

The BRAD BLOG has reported on the urgent need to ban disenfranchising DRE voting systems --- with or without a so-called "paper trail" --- from all American elections.

Here's an easy to understand graph from the short, two-page report [PDF] published on the New Mexico data over the weekend along with the raw data at

Any questions?

We've also been reporting on the unevidenced notion forwarded by some civil rights and several large Democratic-leaning public advocacy groups making the claim that "language minority" voters are somehow better served by DREs than paper-based optical-scan systems. Large advocacy groups like Common Cause, PFAW, MoveOn, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, VoteTrustUSA, and the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition have been lobbying hard for the passage of Rep. Rush Holt's (D-NJ) new Election Reform bill (HR 811 [PDF]). Many of those groups have adopted the "civil rights/language minority" argument in their reasoning when calling for passage of a bill which does not ban DREs.

We've reported that the "civil rights" argument being made seems to be utter nonsense and backed up by little, if any, actual scientific evidence. The new information from New Mexico, made available over the weekend, would seem to back up the case even further.

Holt's bill offers a number of much-needed improvements to security and transparency issues in elections, but fails to take the necessary step of banning all DRE systems. (DISCLOSURE: We participated in the drafting of the Holt legislation, but were unable to convince their office of the need for a full DRE ban.)

The analysts of the data in New Mexico have also brought to our attention yet another new, disturbing dimension to touch-screen voting systems: they allow for simple racial profiling in elections. Whenever a voter must tell the system, at the beginning of the voting process, the language in which they want to vote, they are also opening the door for a malicious programmer to alter the behavior of the voting system based on that particular language choice.

Given the ease with which virtually all electronic voting machines have now been shown to be hackable, the idea that a system could be programmed to behave a certain way only for minority voters is an alarming one. We'd suggest it's even further evidence making the case that it's time to bring America's reckless experimentation with dangerous touch-screen voting to a complete and final end.

The brief, to-the-point press release on the new findings from New Mexico is posted in full below...


Ellen Theisen, 360-437-9922,
Theron Horton, 505-751-4106,

Undervote Rate Plummets in Minority Precincts
After New Mexico Changes to All Paper Ballots

A new report, based on official 2004 and 2006 New Mexico election data, shows a dramatic difference in undervotes in Native American and Hispanic precincts, depending on whether they voted on paper ballots or on Direct Record Electronic (DRE — often known as touch screen) voting machines.

The report explains: "Undervotes represent ballots on which no vote was registered for a specific contest. Undervote rates higher than 0.5% in the major contest on a ballot, especially in presidential elections, suggest that votes may not have been counted, either through a mistake of the voter or a mistake in tabulation."

The report shows that in predominantly Native American and predominantly Hispanic precincts, undervote rates were abnormally high (7.61% and 6.33% respectively) in the 2004 presidential race, when the votes were cast on DREs.

In 2006, after the state changed to all optically scanned paper ballots, the undervote rates for Governor in those same precincts plummeted by 85% in Native American areas and by 69% in predominantly Hispanic precincts.

In Anglo precincts, undervote rates of ballots cast on DREs were about the same level as the rates for paper ballots — 2.22% and 1.75% respectively.

“We were looking for any impact the change to paper ballots may have had on New Mexico’s historically high undervote rate. When we found the dramatic drop in Native American precincts, we were shocked,” said Theron Horton, Project Manager for Election Defense Alliance. "Something was going on with the DREs in those precincts in 2004.”

“When Warren Stewart, Policy Director of VoteTrustUSA, and I did the analysis of New Mexico’s 2004 vote data two years ago, we found high undervote rates in the minority precincts,” said Ellen Theisen, President of Vote-PAD, Inc. and former Executive Director of VotersUnite.Org. "But we didn't do a complete comparison of paper ballot undervotes to the DRE undervotes in that election. When I heard of Theron’s work, I performed the comparison, and found that it’s the paper ballots that made the difference in the minority precincts.”

Read the two-page report here: http://www.votersunite.o...llotTypeandEthnicity.pdf

Download the data here:

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