Voting Technology

Voting Technology

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Voters Deserve Better, June 2019
Voters aren't getting Voting System they Deserve

Because computers lack transparency, are vulnerable to hacking, and cannot guarantee accuracy, their use in elections should be minimized.  Where computers are used, such as in scanning ballots, the accuracy of the count should be confirmed prior to certification. 

We support the use of hand-marked paper ballots wherever possible.  Computers (Ballot Marking Devices) should be used only when hand-marked paper ballots cannot be adapted for use by the voter. 

The use of computers (scanners) to count the ballots, although required for rapid reporting of election results, necessitates additional safeguards, such as the use of risk-limiting audits. 

Analysis of Nov. 2018 SC Election Data
See Press Release with contact information for November 2018 SC Election Data Analysis 

Analysis of November 2018 SC Election Data Click Here




LWVSC supports (from Election Management in Program and Action Agenda, 2019-2021):
12. Protecting the integrity of the electoral process in the way elections are conducted by:
         a. Purchasing only voting systems that include a paper ballot. Acceptable machines must ensure protection of privacy, allow the voter to verify his/her vote, and provide a reliable basis for a recount if required.

          b. Mandatory random testing of voting systems during every election.

          c. Requiring that source code of voting systems be open for inspection.

13. Independently verifying the results of all federal elections and elections of statewide officials before results are certified. 



LWVSC postiion on paper ballots vs ballot marking devices, 2019
The League of Women Voters supports only voting systems that are secure, accurate, re-countable, accessible and transparent. We support replacing our current voting computers with a new technology of hand-marked paper ballots, which will be: 

  • The ballot is marked by the voter (may be assisted by a marking device).
  • The voter casts the ballot by feeding the ballot into an optical scanner at the precinct.
  • The scanner counts the vote and drops the ballots into a box, where they are retained for a recount or audit.
  • The paper ballots are the official record of the election. 

The new-generation paper ballots have the following advantages: 

  • Correction by the voter if the scanner rejects for bad marking. This is a precinct count fail-safe mechanism that does not exist with a central count.
  • Long lines and broken machines should not be a problem with paper ballots. Additional voting stations can be added using additional tables and inexpensive cardboard privacy screens.
  • Ranked Voting and Instant Runoff Voting become possible with paper ballots.
  • Paper ballots can be recounted and/or audited.
  • Vote reporting will be simpler and faster because the paper ballots are not complicated. By contrast, reporting the statewide vote for the iVotronic requires processing of approximately 12,500 memory chips and 2,200 PEBs.
  • The best election is one that the people trust/. The new generation of paper ballots inspires trust because people can verify and hold their ballots, deposit them in the ballot box (scanner) themselves, and know that the actual ballots can be recounted if necessary. 

South Carolina's iVotronic computers have a troubled history: 

  • In 2007, an examination of the iVotronic computers by three security groups recommended against using them. Problems existed with both the design and coding.
  • When we first looked at computer records of the vote in several SC counties, we found thousands of missing/miscounted/uncounted votes.
  • The State Elections Commission adopted new procedures and wrote computer code (similar to our code) in order to improve the accuracy of the certified totals.
  • Errors are still occurring in reporting the vote totals. Although the manufacturer has provided updates to the software, incorrect totals and anomalies are still occurring. 

Paper ballots and tabulating computers are the only obvious choices to replace the iVotronic computers.  Tabulating computers pose a number of problems: 

  • Tabulating computers, such as the ES&S ExpressVote, may be understood as an iVotronic computer with an attached printer. The iVotronic computers accumulate the total vote in electronic data files in their memories. Tabulating computers also accumulate the total vote in electronic data files in their memories.
  • When using tabulating computers, the vote can be counted from the paper ballots or from the electronic data files. Since these two methods can result in different totals, the South Carolina Code of Laws must specify which method produces the official totals.
  • Currently, the electronic data in the memories of the iVotronic computers are used to count and recount the vote, setting a precedent that will allow the tabulating computers to count and recount the vote. If so, the paper ballots will never be used for anything except taking up storage space.
  • These electronic data are vulnerable to undetected coding errors, machine failure, and other types of computer problems.
  • The electronic data is vulnerable to fraud, hacking and cyber-attack. The danger from cyber-attack, not the larger cost of the tabulating computers, may be the most important factor favoring the adoption of paper ballots.
  • The ES&S ExpressVote tabulating computer uses barcodes on its ballots to count the vote. The text that the voter verifies, is not used to count the vote. Because the voter cannot verify his ballot, the ES&S ExpressVote is unacceptable.
  • Tabulating computers are unacceptable if they can alter the ballot after the voter has verified it.
  • The use of wireless communication, mobile telephone connection, optical scanners or the internet to transmit vote totals is unacceptable because they open pathways for cyber criminals to modify the vote totals. 

Estimated cost of equipment (Statehouse Report, Nov. 26, 2018): 

  • Tabulators/Computers: Estimated $62.5+ million (12,500 tabulators x $5,000 each). In addition, expect at least $1 million annual fee, as in now paid by the counties.
  • Paper ballots and one tabulating computer per precinct: Estimated $22 million. ($5,000/tabulator X 2,200 precincts plus $5,000/scanner x 2,200 precincts). In addition, expect an annual fee of $100 per tabulating computer.
  • The requirement of one tabulator computer per precinct is to accommodate visually challenged voters.
  • Expected lifetime of the new equipment must be considered. 

Tabulators/computers are undesirable because they are expensive, not transparent, have been shown to result in incorrect counts, and constantly raise serious issues of computer security.

Paper ballots, on the other hand, produce a permanent official record that is inexpensive, easily understood by the voter, re-countable, difficult to hack, and trusted by voters. 

Voting Experts Letter to Speaker of House and President of Senate, Jan. 2019
Letter to Speaker of House and President of the Senate

Verified Voting's Statement on Hand-Marked Paper Ballots as Primary Voting Method, Jan. 2019 

SC Legislature's Join Voting System Research Committee
91.27. (LEG: Voting System Research Committee) There is created by the SC Legislature a joint legislative committee, entitled the "Joint Voting System Research Committee." The committee shall identify and evaluate current voting system technologies that meet the standards established by Title 7 of the 1976 Code.

The committee shall issue a report which shall include, but is not limited to, the following: (1) an evaluation of each form of voting system technology considered by the committee, including costs, usability, reliability, accessibility, ability to conduct random audits of election results, and security matters related to each, as well as any possible solutions to address any concerns raised; (2) consideration of best practices established by the United States Election Assistance Commission; and (3) an analysis as to which technology should be implemented in South Carolina. This analysis shall include costs to acquire and fully implement the recommended technology for a statewide uniform voting system. The analysis must include proposed milestones and success measures for implementation.

The report shall be submitted to the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee no later than January 30, 2016, after which the committee shall be dissolved.

League Member Duncan Buell, a USC professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department, presented the following testimony at this meeting. (Nov. 2015) 

An Example of an RFP for Acquisition of New Equipment
Stephanie Singer, city commissioner for Philadelphia, has drafted a Request For Proposals (Jan. 2015) for new voting equipment for that city. 

Presentation to the Legislative Audit Council
LWVSC presentation to the Legislative Audit Council on voting systems/voting machines (June 2012) 

Election Audits
An Audit of the November 2012 Election Results in South Carolina

Dr. Duncan Buell performed an audit on results from the Nov. 6, 2012, General Election in Richland County. He consulted with the Richland County Board of Elections and Voter Registration in their investigation of problems that arose on Election Day. He co-chairs the LWVSC Election Technology Taskforce.

The election in Richland County on November 6, 2012, saw very long lines and a large number of voters who voted after closing time. The county election commission contracted with an attorney for a report on the election. In part to provide an analysis and numerical data as to what happened on Election Day, Duncan Buell ran his programs against the Richland County election data. These three reports are the initial results of that analysis. Although there is some significant overlap, they are not merely versions of the same report because different issues arose as the data were being studied. Further study is being conducted, and comparisons against the rest of South Carolina will be forthcoming.

The main caveat to be observed in reading these reports is that the numbers do not tell the whole story. Although there were too few voting terminals in use on Election Day, and this almost certainly contributed to the long lines, there are instances that show that this is not the only factor to be looked at. Springville Precinct in Richland County is a large precinct, with a large number of votes cast on Election Day, but only one vote after closing time. And the initial look at data statewide shows that Greenville County had more votes per voting terminal than did Richland, but only a tiny number of votes after closing. 

A statewide study is being conducted and will be posted when a report has been prepared by Dr. Buell.

"An Audit of the South Carolina 2012 Republican Presidential Preference Primary of January 21, 2012 (Interim Report 2/24/2012)," a report and analysis.

Auditing a DRE-based Election in South Carolina (2010) - An Audit of the November 2010 Election Results in South Carolina

A citizens group including Dr. Eleanor Hare, past board member, Dr. Duncan Buell, a member and consultant on voting technology issues, Mr. Chip Moore, a computer scientist from Boston and originally from Myrtle Beach, and Mr. Frank Heindel, a commodities trader from Charleston, have obtained by FOIA the election data from a number of counties in South Carolina. Moore and Buell have written programs to analyze the data and reconcile it with the official election results. Their reconciliation is proceeding on a county-by-county basis. 

Op-Eds in South Carolina Newspapers
Member Duncan Buell's 19 October 2018 article in the Statehouse Report.
Member Duncan Buell had an op ed published in the State newspaper.
Another op-ed in The State (16 July 2010): Voting Machines 'buggy, unstable, exploitable' 

LWVSC Positions and Briefs on Voting Technology
LWVSC Brief on Voting Technology: Election Audits.
LWVSC Brief on Transparency in Government.
The LWVSC has adopted a position paper on election technology and voting machines

Background and Action on Voting Technology Issues
The white paper, Unsafe for Any Ballot Count: A Computer Scientist's Look at the ES&S iVotronic in Light of Reports from Ohio, California, and Florida, was prepared for LWVSC following the publication in December 2007 of the report by the Secretary of State of Ohio.
LWVSC has published a Letter to the Editor, Vote in the Presidential Primaries, in major newspapers in South Carolina.