Monday, June 12, 2006

Diebold Action Alert

Dr. Ann Frisch, whose letter appeared in the June 11 edition of the Appleton Post-Crescent, has released the following Diebold Action Alert:

A special Winnebago County Board meeting has been called and will discuss and vote on a motion to accept the Diebold voting machines. Please consider asking your county board representative to vote "no" on the motion and wait to study how we can best serve the needs of people with disabilities without jeopardizing their votes with a Diebold machine that lacks accuracy, reliability and security.

Here is the information on the hearing, how to reach your county board member. At the bottom are "Myths and Facts" about the Diebold voting machines.

Please forward to democracy-friendly people and ask them to do the same.
Wednesday June 14, 4:30 p.m.
Winnebago County Court House, 415 Jackson, corner of Algoma and Jackson, Oshkosh.
"Public hearing" (actually a special board meeting on Diebold touch screen machines for Winnebago County).
Please come to voice your opposition to the Diebold machines and support democracy-friendly alternatives. We will have some signs for you. Please stay for the "show and tell" by Diebold at 5 p.m. and the public hearing /county board meeting at 6 p.m.

For information on touch screens, go to Myth Breakers at

If you live in Winnebago County, please call your county board member now to encourage a "no" on Diebold vote. You can find your rep at or
Voting Information by Address. Enter your address and find your supervisor:
For a copy of the agenda:
For information, contact Ann Frisch 920-237-1748, 920-279-7884 or email her at

Myths and Facts about the issue:
MYTH: The Help America Vote Act requires that each polling place have a Diebold touch screen voting machine available to assist disabled voters.
FACT: Section 301(3)(A) of HAVA says that each polling place must have "one direct recording electronic voting system or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities."
MYTH: The electronic Diebold TSX system that county officials propose to purchase is a reliable and secure piece of equipment.
FACT: Prominent computer scientists have discovered major security flaws in the Diebold technology, resulting in lawsuits in several states to prevent its use, emergency security alerts before recent elections in California and Pennsylvania, and a vote in the Maryland assembly of 137 - 0 to stop using touch screen machines.
MYTH: It's okay if a voting machine is insecure as long as it is accessible for disabled voters.
FACT: Disabled voters have the right to have their votes counted accurately as much as any other voter.
MYTH: Even though there are problems with the Diebold TSx, there are no other options available to Winnebago County.
FACT: The voting machines of five vendors have met the Wisconsin State Elections Board's (SEB) accessibility requirements. When the SEB approved the Diebold TSX, they also approved five security recommendations to go along with it. Diebold is the only machine that comes with security recommendations in addition to those provided by the vendor.
MYTH: The federal government will level stiff fines against any states and counties that do not have touch screen voting technology in place by the September primaries.
FACT: A growing number of states and counties are refusing to undermine their elections with shoddy voting equipment, making it unclear how the federal government will respond. "We're currently evaluating each state and each county, and the results of that evaluation will determine what actions we take," said Eric Holland, spokesman for the United States Department of Justice.
MYTH: We should just accept that there will be some glitches in the electronic, touch screen machines and move on.
FACT When other systems fail the poll workers have a voter marked ballot to examine to determine voter intent. With the Diebold machine, there is no ballot to examine.
MYTH: Adopting the Diebold touch screen machines will save us money.
FACT: No cost estimates have been done to include court suits, replacement machines, replacement batteries, increased number of poll workers, etc.
See also:

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Diebold Action Alert
Authored by: admin on Monday, June 12 2006 @ 08:41 PM MDT
[We received the following copy of an email Winnebago County Board Supervisor Mike Norton sent to County Clerk Sue Ertmer, and we thank him for sharing it with us.]
Dear Sue:
Below is an article what a county in Arizona did in rejecting Diebold. My question to you is did or has Diebold let other vendors lets test andtry see if their systems could work the system we already have in place ?Why or why not ?VOTING-MACHINE PURCHASE ISSUE PUTS COUNTY IN BIND(Arizona Daily Star, The (Tucson) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Jun. 5 --Pima County could be in violation of federal law -- and on the hook for $2 million -- if the Board of Supervisors doesn't agree to buy touch-screen voting machines from Diebold Elections Systems.[1]But the county could end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit filed by election activists if it does buy the machines.The supervisors will be facing this damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't dilemma for a third time Tuesday on what could be their last chance to make a decision in time for the fall elections.The board twice has postponed a decision on the voting machines in response to critics who say the devices can be tampered with and don't provide an adequate paper trail in case a recount is needed. In a prepared statement, Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer blasted the delay, calling it "unconscionable."The federal Help America Vote Act requires that in time for the fall elections, every polling place must have at least one machine that allows the disabled tovote without assistance. The law makes federal funds available to buy the equipment.The Secretary of State's Office said Pima County had to buy the Diebold AccuVote TS-X touch-screen machines because the county already uses Diebold optical scanners to count its paper ballots."We want a system that will work end to end," Deputy Secretary of State Kevin Tyne said.Thus, Pima County became one of 13 Arizona counties named in a lawsuit originated by Voter Action, an activist group that challenges the use of some electronic voting machines, particularly those made by Diebold and Sequoia Voting Systems. The Secretary of State's Office, also named in the lawsuit, has until June 21 to respond to a request for a preliminary injunction banning the use of the machines.The lawsuit says the machines aren't secure and don't meet the needs of all disabled voters. The two counties not named in the suit, Cochise and Graham,plan to use the AutoMark machine made by Diebold competitor Elections System and Software.The AutoMark gets high grades from some disability advocates, and Voter Action does not object to them because they produce a paper ballot.But Diebold will not allow its equipment to be tested with competitors' equipment. That means Pima County could not buy AutoMark voting machines to use with Diebold optical scanners, Tyne said."We're in a very unfortunate situation," Supervisor Sharon Bronson said. "The disabled community are the ones who will suffer if we delay. But if we dopurchase the machines, we may have to replace them if the lawsuit is successful."But Tyne said the county will have to return $2 million in federal funding if it doesn't have voting machines in place for fall and will have to use its ownmoney to buy the equipment.Tyne said Pima County is the only one delaying."We were on track to have all 15 counties with accessible voting machines," he said. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice's civil-rights division said the department hasn't decided how it will handle noncompliance.Lawsuits have been filed in other states, including California, Colorado and Pennsylvania, challenging the use of electronic voting equipment. New Mexico recently returned to paper ballots."We're currently evaluating each state and each county, and the results of that evaluation will determine what actions we take," said Eric Holland, the Justice spokesman.Supervisor Ray Carroll said he is willing to wait."I just believe the Diebold touch-screen machines do not meet all the needs of the disabled voter," he said./

Diebold Action Alert - Authored by: DRR on Thursday, June 15 2006 @ 08:56 AM MDT

Diebold Action Alert
Authored by: admin on Thursday, June 15 2006 @ 01:13 PM MDT
[Following is an email we received from Ann Frisch, Professor Emerita, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, containing a copy of the statement she presented to the Winnebabo County Board on Wednesday, June 14. In her statement she urged county board members to not vote for the Diebold touch-screen voting machines. We thank Dr. Frisch for sharing it with us and are pleased to present it her for you.]

We’re discussing here the proposal that the County Board would accept the HAVA grant to purchase touch screen machines, Diebold TSx in fact, for Winnebago County. One TSx per precinct would be installed for the purpose of providing independent voting for people with disabilities.

There are both fundamental issues of democracy and practical issues of cost to the taxpayer from my perspective.

Democracy, the will of the people, is missing both in the process of making this decision and in the Diebold TSx touch screen machine. The County Board was proceeding to make a big decision with no involvement of the public. The clerks, we were told, requested that the board accept the grant for the Diebold TSx. The clerks and poll workers were trained on that machine, but no people with disabilities. There was no opportunity for the general public to participate either in the discussion, the “training” or the recommendation. Without the news report in the Oshkosh Northwestern, the proposal might have passed without a single word of input from the major stakeholders. Although Chairman Albrecht discounts the significance of the vote (he calls it a “pass through”), this is a major concern to many people. It would have taken very little effort to get an independent citizens’ commission to study the issue.

When the Board voted to send the proposal back to the Judiciary Committee, Chairman Albrecht called a public hearing. That public hearing quickly became a special county board meeting, thus limiting the nature and amount of participation. In addition, the Chair would only allow one touch screen provider to demonstrate their machines, and even when a provider indicated they were coming at their own expense, the Chair refused to allow a demonstration and limited discussion of alternatives to the proposal. The Chair refused to invite any independent experts.

Because of the lack of involvement of the major stake holders: people with disabilities and taxpayers (some of whom are people with disabilities), we are unprepared for a full deliberation of the issue. It should be the public consensus, arrived at after full deliberation, which should be taking the issue to the governmental units. I believe that the municipalities and towns should have an independent choice after their deliberations as well. In fact, they should be held responsible as well as to have a choice. The inconvenience of counting the ballots should be secondary to every person gets their vote counted and the people’s choice wins the election.

The other aspect of this that is begging for democracy is the TSx touch screen voting machine itself. It is no state secret that there are many problems with this machine. Some claim there are problems with the present system (the opti-scan system) and they are correct. But the problems with the Diebold TSx (as well as other touch screen machines) are many times greater. Tony Palmeri summarized them on his web page: “[touch screen machines have]…forced states to hold new elections, added votes not cast by voters, subtracted votes cast by voters, changed voters’ choices on the screen, given voters the wrong ballot, passed pre-election testing and failed on election day, handed votes to the wrong candidate, reversed election outcomes, broken down causing long lines during elections, and recorded votes incorrectly…”).

One only has to read a few pages of Myth Breakers: Facts About Electronic Elections to know the horrors of having your vote stolen. Some claim a fantasy conspiracy to rig the elections is behind the opposition to the touch screen voting machines. Certainly there is plenty of opportunity for malice with insecure chain of custody (and Wisconsin does not yet have a secure chain of custody for the memory card that carries the record of your vote.) These machines can be hacked. Recently Wisconsin voted to require a paper trail, so that votes could be counted in case of loss of battery, improper coding, etc), but SB 612 eliminated with right of municipal clerks to choose a machine or paper trail by requiring a machine only recount. Think of the elections we have had in Winnebago where the people’s choice was known only through a paper ballot count. So whether there is a conspiracy to make the elections turn out in a certain way or to reduce the number of voters is immaterial. I think we should consider the issue on its merits.

In short: we have a grant to buy machines, the convenience of use, the pressure of complying with the federal government’s wishes with our current machines versus the probability that our vote might not be counted and the will of the people will not prevail. Which is it for you?

I would ask the County Board to authorize an Independent Citizens’ Commission that would bring together people from all Winnebago municipalities and towns. Town hall meetings with experts in the field should be held. It should include primarily people with disabilities to consider the various ways of voting independently. New citizens should be included because although they have all taken a citizenship test in English may need help with voting. The commission would make recommendations about how best to serve the needs of people with disabilities, including (as Leah Kitz suggested) help getting to the polls and inclusion by others in the process of considering and meeting the candidates and discussing the issues.

A second area of concern is the cost to Winnebago taxpayers. Municipalities, we hear, are having trouble paying for garbage pick up among other things. For the supporters of the Diebold TSx, free money from the federal government is a solution. However, there have not been any cost calculations on what will be the monetary cost over time to implement these highly technical, flawed machines.

Douglas Jones, Professor at the University of Iowa Computer Science Department and specializing in election computers and also served on the Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting Machines and Electronic Voting Systems, has said:

“In the area of voting system price, it is quite clear that the amortized price per vote over the lifetime of a voting system is far more important than the purchase price. Given this, one would hope that state and county governments would spend a significant effort attempting to document these costs for existing systems and predict these costs for new systems. Sadly, this is not the case. …most counties are making basic purchase decisions on up front costs, with only the vaguest attention to the other costs involved.”

Although paper less balloting is touted as cost saving, The municipality will still have to print paper ballots not only for absentee voting, but for provisional ballots when the machines break down. There will still be the labor cost of designing and laying out of the ballot and one time printer set up charges. In addition there will be the cost of printing. The savings from bulk orders will not be available.

The cost of the touch screen machines is two to three times the cost of opti scan machines. CalTech/Mit study estimated that the touch screen voting machines would cost, over 15 years, $18-25 per voter for acquisition, considerably more than the $6-8 for opti-scan machines.
Maintenance costs for touch screen is .50 cents to $1 for operating touch screen machine, opti-scan just slightly higher $1-2 for operating.
  • Increased cost for secure and environmentally-controlled storage for the machines when they are not in use.
  • Increased energy costs for keeping the back up batteries charged between elections.
  • Increased labor costs for security when these machines are stored overnight at the polling place before an election.
  • Increased costs for hardware maintenance and software upgrades for each of the thousands of such machines for a typical large county.
  • Increased costs for expendable parts, including the back up batteries and smart cards used by the machines.
  • Increased labor costs for verifying that each machine has the correct version of the software and firmware installed immediately before the start of every election and again immediately after each election is concluded.
  • Increased labor costs for individually performing logic and accuracy tests on every one of the thousands of machines prior to the start of every election and again immediately flowing each election.
  • Increased labor costs for hiring additional poll workers (San Diego doubled the number of poll workers when it switched to touch screen)
  • Increased costs for poll worker training, both for longer training sessions and larger number of poll workers to train on using a much more complicated system.
  • Massive costs for replacing these machines when they age and the technology they employ is no longer maintainable or supported by the vendor.
  • Vendor agreements may prohibit the public from changing or adding on machines, thus driving up the costs and possibly compelling municipalities to buy machines that they consider insecure, inaccurate or unreliable.
  • The court costs that may be brought by citizen group for failure to maintain a functioning voting system, or to decertify a system that is faulty.

There is a great temptation to grab the money whatever the consequences. But regardless of what the federal government says, there is no free lunch. It is our money, those federal dollars, and we should make good decisions about how it is spent.

Consider this: We have approximately 20,000 people with disabilities in Winnebago County. One per cent of them now vote. If we increased that number to 10,000, we would have an average of 204 ballots per precinct. We could do this with Vote Pad and a lock box, given a lack of restraints from the State Elections Board.

I urge you to vote no on the proposal.
We can make lemonade but we can’t count votes with a lemon.

Diebold Action Alert
Authored by: admin on Thursday, June 15 2006 @ 08:17 PM MDT
[Following is a letter Mike Norton of the Winnebago County Board has sent to members of the Oshkosh Common Council. If next week the County Board votes against accepting a grant for the currently recommended Diebold touch screen voting machines, it will be incumbent upon local municipalities to find a way to comply with the Help America Vote Act by this fall. In sending this letter, Mr. Norton is hoping to convey his concerns about the machines in anticipation of the Common Council having to make a decision about what type of machines some voters in Oshkosh will have.]

Dear City Council person : As you all know I am a member of the Winnebago County Board, and we are considering an application for a grant to cover the costs of voting machines to comply with HAVA.I am not against a grant that covers the whole county; I support that idea. I do oppose the machines the clerks chose--Diebolt machines. I voted against the grant in May and expect to do the same next week as well.I find these machines very unsecured when securing an individual's vote, plus the handicapped at the meeting had problems with the voting device. I also question whether the clerks in Winnebago County did consider the handicapped themselves, for they did not bring them in to evaluate the machines when deciding what to purchase.I like ESS (which the city of Appleton uses) which I saw demonstrated online which is less cumbersome and I believe it gives a paper ballot to the voter who then handles and puts it into the counter. I also like Vote Pad which cannot be used with optical scan machines at the present time. I wonder if a municipality appealed to the SEB to allow them to use it with optical scan machines they would change their mind?I believe that no matter what the County Board does next Tuesday the decision on what to purchase will be decided by you. I hope that you question the security of this machine as well as what is best for the handicapped voters in the city of Oshkosh. I do ask that you vote in favor of another machine or voting system - check out the other systems yourself or invite them to your meeting before the vote. In Outagamie County two of the other voting systems are used.Any questions feel free to contact me.