PLUS: Following up with Bowen on the ES&S LA County InkaVote Issue, and the Bizarre Comments from Steve Weir, President of CA Election Officials Association
By Brad Friedman on 7/29/2007, 10:31am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from somewhere in Texas...

We'll certainly have more, from various voices, in the days ahead concerning CA SoS Debra Bowen's landmark independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of electronic voting systems. The reports from the teams at University of California are now available online here.

As well, Bowen will be taking public statements on these reports both via email at and, in person, during a public hearing tomorrow (Monday, July 30) at her office in Sacramento beginning at 10:00am. She'll announce her decisions for decertification or otherwise next Friday, August 3rd. So your input is important, as she mentioned on during a media phone call last Friday.

But even while the results, as Bowen described them on that phone call just prior to their release, found that "the independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested," and as the report on accessibility for disabled voters found that none of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems met federal disability standards, Democrats and People for the America Way (PFAW) in the U.S. House were busy hammering out a deal to institutionalize the continued use of such disastrous voting systems into federal law.

Out of touch much? Which part of a transparent, counted, paper ballot (not a "trail" or a "record") for every vote cast in America do these guys not understand?

Late Friday, as Bowen's UC Report was being released, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) finally came to terms, reportedly, on a deal for a revision of Holt's HR 811 Election Reform bill which allows for the use of DREs as preferred, almost exclusively, by PFAW, elections offficials, and voting machine companies. We've been reporting for months that PFAW was the main insider advocacy group moving the ball with this disappointing bill, and Saturday's New York Times confirms that it was "Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, [who] helped broker the deal" between Holt and House Leadership.

That despite Neas having previously chided me for suggesting that PFAW had the power to make or break this legislation in Congress. As we've also long reported, of course, by their own written admissions, PFAW prefers unaccountable DRE systems to paper ballot voting systems.

And though Christopher Drew's reporting at the New York Times is getting slightly better with each new story, it would be nice if "The Paper of Record" could learn enough about our voting systems so they could accurately report, and help Americans understand what's really at stake here and how the technology actually works.

Drew reported --- misleadingly --- that "The House bill would require every state to use paper records that would let voters verify that their ballots had been correctly cast and that would be available for recounts."

That's just plain wrong. The fact is that adding "cash-register-style printers to...touch-screen machines," as Drew describes it, does not allow a voter to verify that their "ballots had been correctly cast." It allows them only to verify that the paper record of their invisibly-cast electronic ballot accurately matches their intention. Maybe. The fact is: There is no way to verify that a voter's vote is correctly cast on a DRE touch-screen voting machine. Period.

Unless, of course, it's me who is out of touch in presuming that if a "ballot" is "cast" it means it will actually be counted by someone or something. Paper trails added to DRE systems are not counted --- only the internal, invisible, unverifiable ballots are. A "cash-register-style" print-out prior to the ballot being cast and counted internally does not change that.

But more on all of that, and Bowen's UC reports, as we move forward. For the moment, if you'll allow me, I wanted to touch base on a few items I asked Bowen about during the phone call which followed up on several specific issues that we've been reporting on here at The BRAD BLOG over the last several weeks.

Specifically, I asked her whether there had yet been a resolution to the discrepancies in version numbers for LA County's InkaVote system source code as turned in by ES&S, versus the version secretly stored in escrow. And whether or not she could explain the comments reportedly made by Steve Weir, Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County, CA and President of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO), that CA election officials could choose to ignore Bowen's recommendations if they wanted to.

According to Bowen (full transcript and audio below) the ES&S LA County InkaVote issue remains unresolved, and she's unaware of what Weir might have been referring to. A transcript of my questions with Bowen follows, and I hope to have more on Weir soon --- and the adversarial comments he's been making in the media on behalf of CACEO --- but this article has already become much longer than I had intended...

Audio of my short Q&A with Debra Bowen from Friday's Conference Call here (under 3 mins):

Here's the transcript...


BRAD FRIEDMAN: Hi, Brad Friedman from…Three hopefully quick questions here…Did the analysts make recommendations to you for these systems, and do you have any … well actually let me just do one at a time for you here…


BF: They just gave you what they found without recommendations?

DB: That’s correct. I think –

BF: Ok.

DB: --- the only place where that doesn’t hold is the accessibility report, it does in some places, by the nature of it, contain some recommendations about dealing with matters like the amount of space between the legs of a voting machine to accommodate a user in a wheelchair.

BF: Understand… And concerning the ES&S and InkaVote Los Angeles issue, there was a question about the version number difference between the source code that they submitted, and the version that was in escrow that they did not want you to get out. Has that been sorted out, and were both versions, in fact, the same?

DB: Well, the ES&S system that you’re referring to is actually not in the review because the vendor didn’t provide the materials that we needed --- the source code, the funding, and their written approval of the procedures --- so that is a separate issue, and we’ve focused so --- we’ve just been focused on working on this, so that one is going to wait until after we finish with this.

BF: That’s an unresolved question still, in other words.

DB: That’s a short way to put it, Brad.

BF: (laughs) Okay… last question…Steve Harmon ran a report that referred to Steve Weir of the California Election Clerks Association, suggesting that they could ignore your decisions if they felt like it… do you have any idea what the legal basis is they are talking about, that would allow them to ignore any decisions that you make? Because I have not been able to find such a basis so far.

DB: Well, I haven’t heard anything like that, and again, I’m working with the registrars on a variety of issues, ranging from the voting systems that we’re dealing with here, to recruiting poll-workers, and …we’re partners in this, we’re not adversaries. We cannot run successful elections in California on an adversarial basis, and that’s just not how we’re going to proceed.

BF: I appreciate that, I’m glad to hear that and I hope that’s the case…that’s why I was so curious when he was quoted as suggesting that they had some way that they could simply ignore your findings… so you’re not familiar with what they heck he might have been talking about?

DB: I… haven’t heard such a thing.

BF: Okay.

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