On Tuesday of this week I presented testimony in support of House Bill 2254, a bill I introduced two weeks ago in the Kansas House. This legislation, if enacted, would require that all electronic voting machines deployed in Kansas be able to generate a voter verified paper audit trail (or “VVPAT”). Under this scenario, the voter would actually be able to view his / her ballot choices on a paper document. I believe that the ability of these voting devices to provide a VVPAT is crucial to 1) being able to recover vote totals cast by voters in the event of machine failure or vote recording / vote reporting errors, and 2) provide the voting public assurance that every vote made on these machines has been recorded and recorded properly.
The following incidents demonstrate why a voter verified paper audit trail is so crucial to ensuring the integrity of electronic voting machines:
1) Diebold Election Services, Inc.’s TSx system was used for electronic voting for the March 2, 2004 California presidential primary. The president of Diebold Election Services, Inc. subsequently admitted to security flaws and disenfranchising voters. On April 30 the Secretary of State decertified all touch-screen machines and recommended criminal prosecution of Diebold Election Services. The California Attorney General has joined a lawsuit against Diebold for fraudulent claims made to officials.
2) During the November 2004 Presidential elections in Ohio, at least 25 electronic voting machines in Mahoning County transferred an unknown number of Kerry votes to Bush. These devices did not have a paper audit trail;
3) During the November 2004 Presidential elections in North Carolina, 4,438 votes for a state-wide agriculture commissioner’s race failed to be recorded on a single electronic voting machine in Carteret County when poll workers failed to exchange memory cartridges on the machine when it reached its storage capacity. This device also did not have paper audit trail capabilities.
In the case of the North Carolina glitch, the significance of this malfunction proved to be extremely critical as the eventual winner of the agriculture commissioner race led by only 2,287 votes with over 3 million votes cast. The outcome of this race was ultimately determined only after the candidate having the fewer votes finally conceded the race, with the concession occurring 3 months after the actual election. Had the North Carolina machine been fitted with paper audit trail capabilities, this problem could have been resolved in a matter of hours.
Many electronic voting machines have not been designed to support a voter verified paper audit trail. Without one, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to confirm the machine’s tabulated results. In addition, computer scientists have stated that some of these machines are not tamper resistant. Internal e-mails for one manufacturer even indicated that data files used in the machines were not password protected to prevent manual editing. It is also known that at least one voting machine model began counting backwards after it reached 32,000 votes. The manufacturer had supposedly known about this problem for two years but failed to correct the deficiency.
Five states currently have legislative statutes or administrative procedures that require their electronic voting machines produce a voter verified paper audit trail. Those states include California, Alaska, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Nevada. Colorado has passed a resolution indicating its desires to have its electronic voting machines fitted with VVPAT capabilities. In addition, another 21 states (including Texas, Arizona, and Utah) are presently considering enactment of this type of legislation.
The U.S. Congress is also weighing in on this issue. Senator John Ensign, R-Nevada, and a bipartisan group of legislators have introduced “The Voting Integrity and Verification Act”. This legislation would require printed ballots that voters could check after using an electronic voting machine. Senator Ensign noted that his home state of Nevada required a voter verified paper audit trail for the 2004 election. “Not only did our election go off without a hitch, but voters across Nevada left the polls with the knowledge that their vote would be counted and that their vote would be counted accurately. Every American should have that confidence.”
Kansas will be purchasing several electronic voting machines in upcoming months as mandated by the federal “Help America Vote Act” of 2002. If Kansans are to have confidence in the voting process, it is imperative that Kansas public officials implement prudent and reasonable measures to ensure that the will of the voters is properly recognized in each and every election. The outcome of every Kansas race or proposition must be above reproach. If we are to deploy electronic voting machines in Kansas, then we simply must make the process transparent and auditable by implementing voter verified paper audit trail capabilities with these machines.