[ncverifiablevoting] Bartlett: cut early voting, longer lines, more $ & staff needed


Penny wise, pound foolish. 
Basically, cut early voting and create a mess on election day. Its nice not having Ohio 2004 style lines at the polls.
But it looks to me that the new majority likes absentee by mail voting.
So much so that they’ve made organized mail ballot fraud easier.
Shorter early voting costlier

N.C. election chief: Shortened early voting means longer Election Day lines needing more staff, equipment.

By Jim Morrill

Thursday, May. 19, 2011

RALEIGH A bill that would shorten North Carolina’s early voting period would create longer lines at the polls and increase the cost of elections, the executive director of the state elections board said Wednesday.

Gary Bartlett’s comments came in a memo shortly after the House narrowly passed the measure that would reduce the current 21/2-week early voting period by a week, even while opening polls for a second Saturday before the election.

The Republican-backed bill passed 60-58, largely along party lines.

Supporters said it would save money for local elections boards by shortening the time early voting sites are open. Legislative researchers estimate it would save counties about $2,000 per site. Bartlett disputes that.

"That perceived savings would be more than offset by cost increases for several reasons," he wrote.

Counties, he said, would have to deal with greater Election Day turnout. That might entail opening new precincts or buying new voting equipment. It would also reduce the flexibility early voting allows to allocate equipment and staff.

"Increasing the number of permanent precincts to handle the number of North Carolina voters is a permanent cost that is not flexible based on need," wrote Bartlett.

The memo marked Bartlett’s first public comments on the merits of the bill, which now goes to the Senate. A similar bill there not only would curtail early voting, but end it on Sundays and bar new voters from registering at the polls.

The bills would take effect for the 2012 elections. The last presidential election in 2008 saw long lines of early voters throughout the state.

It’s unclear whether Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue would sign a bill. Spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said, "It strikes us as one of the lesser important topics to be working on right now."

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bert Jones, said shortening the early voting period would shorten campaigns. "People like for campaigns to be shorter and people like for campaigns to be less costly," he said during Wednesday’s debate.

Jones, an unaffiliated General Assembly member from Rockingham, also said it would save local election boards money. But that could be at least partly mitigated if counties open new sites to accommodate early voters.

Mecklenburg County Elections Director Michael Dickerson said 45,000 county voters voted in the first week of early voting in 2008. With a shorter voting period in 2012, he said, he might ask his board to open 30 voting sites, 10 more than in 2008.

Otherwise, he said, "those additional 45,000 would make longer lines."

Bartlett said the measure would inconvenience voters.

"Reducing the early voting period would result in increased waits, both at early voting sites and at Election Day polling places," he wrote.

Some critics were more pointed.

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out if you cut a week off early voting … it suppresses the vote," said Rep. Mickey Michaux, D-Durham.

Six Republicans joined 52 Democrats in opposing the bill.

One was Rep. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville, who said election workers in his county are happy with the existing law. He questioned the cost savings.

"I just don’t think they are real," he said. "They’re certainly not real in Henderson County."

Several African-American lawmakers, including Democrat Kelly Alexander of Charlotte, spoke against the bill. Some said it would lower black turnout.

In 2008, African-Americans made up 21 percent of registered voters but cast 27 percent of early votes, according to Michael Bitzer, a political scientist at Catawba College in Salisbury. And 52 percent of all registered black voters cast early ballots.

A survey released Wednesday by the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling of Raleigh showed 35 percent of N.C. voters support cutting the early voting period while 44 percent opposed it. The poll’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/05/19/2307261/shorter-early-voting-costlier.html

[ncverifiablevoting] Best OP Ever on Photo ID flim-flammery by Thomas Bates, Rock the Vote

Why Photo ID Laws Are Not the Answer

Posted: 04/29/11

Thomas Bates

Vice President, Civic Engagement at Rock the Vote

We hear it all the time: How can you be against making voters show a photo ID when they vote? You need an ID to do almost anything in today’s society — buying beer, driving a car, getting on an airplane, going to an R-rated movie — so why shouldn’t you have to show a government-issued photo ID to vote?

It sure sounds like common sense, and it is a sentiment, coupled with the specter of voter fraud, that has driven more than 30 state legislatures this year to consider requiring limited forms of government-issued photo ID at the polls, prompting the Washington Post and New York Times to question why the country is fighting what is essentially a war on voting.

The rub: Strict photo ID laws result in disenfranchisement, unnecessary costs, and unequal treatment of voters and simply are not a proportionate response to any legitimate concerns about potential voter fraud. What may seem like common sense is actually a real barrier for those who want to participate, and a significant expense to all of us.

Our voting system badly needs to improve to meet 21st century standards. Yet here we are fighting to stop politicians from turning back the clock and making it harder for people to vote. It is distracting and disappointing to see proposed laws that use tomorrow’s money to solve yesterday’s alleged problems when real problems are staring us in the face.

Let’s put this issue to rest and move on to envisioning a real 21st century system.

The Current System

In states that allow people to register to vote by mail, first-time voters who show up at the polls must provide some form of government-issued photo ID or non-photo documentation with their name and current address. For nearly all other voters, identification requirements vary in the 50 states.

In 23 of them, no formal documentation is required at the polls. Although, in these states voters are often required to recite their addresses or sign a poll book affirming their identities, under penalty of perjury. A perjury conviction could result in five years in prison and a $10,000 fine under federal law, in addition to any state penalties.

Only Indiana and Georgia require voters to show a government-issued photo ID like a driver’s license, passport, or military ID at the polls. Texas and Kansas are soon to join them. South Carolina and Oklahoma require either a government-issued ID or a voter registration card. Florida requires a photo ID, but it doesn’t have to be government-issued, which means a buyer’s club ID, student ID, neighborhood association ID would be fine.

Of the 22 other states that require some form of documentation at the polls, 12 states allow voters to present a wide range of documents to prove their identity and current address, such as utility bills, voter registration cards, student IDs, paychecks, tax bills, car registrations, and other government documents. The remaining 10 states allow a voter who doesn’t have the required ID to sign an affidavit or statement, under the penalty of perjury, that they are who they say they are.

This list will change as states enact new laws. You can see where things are in play here.

The Prevailing Justification: Why Are We Hung Up On Voter Fraud?

Voter fraud is the justification most often cited by those who want to enact strict photo ID laws. Unfortunately, the term "voter fraud" frequently gets conflated into an all-encompassing bogeyman that sweeps in all kinds of potential election misconduct, including allegations of felons voting before their rights have been restored, voters being registered in more than one place, dead people on the rolls, double voting, vote-buying or even poll workers and elections officials miscounting or misinforming voters. None of these potential abuses would be addressed by a photo ID law.

The type of voter fraud that photo ID bills can potentially claim to counter is voter identification fraud, which is basically pretending to be someone else for the purpose of casting that voter’s ballot. Numerous studies and extensive criminal investigations have shown that voter impersonation fraud is extremely rare.

A five-year crackdown by President George W. Bush’s Department of Justice yielded only 86 voter fraud convictions (120 million people voted in 2004) and most of those convictions were not for voter fraud that could have been stopped by a voter ID law. Problems mostly occurred due to confusion about eligibility to vote, especially among felons and immigrants, and clerical errors. Other exhaustive studies just have not found extensive problems with voter impersonation. As it turns out, the Brennan Center for Justice concluded, voter impersonation is more rare than death by lightning.

Consider what someone who wants to impersonate a registered voter at the polls would have to go through for one vote (which I have adapted from a very smart brief submitted in the Supreme Court case about Indiana’s photo ID law):

  • Travel to the proper polling place for a particular voter whose name and address is memorized
  • Accurately forge the voter’s signature
  • Potentially have to provide other information about the voter (utility bill, last four digits of her Social Security number)
  • Make sure that voter has not already voted absentee or requested an absentee ballot
  • Know that the voter has not moved and re-registered at her new location or hasn’t been removed from the rolls for another reason
  • Know that the voter has not already voted that day and does not plan to vote before the polls close
  • Wait in line to cast a ballot in that voter’s name
  • Risk detection from a poll worker who may know the registered voter
  • Face fines and jail time

It seems pretty far-fetched, yet that specter is what is apparently driving the push for photo ID laws.

No one wants to see the system abused. The problem with combating "voter fraud" with photo ID requirements is that these laws can exclude or deter people who are otherwise legally able to vote. For both proponents and opponents of photo ID bills, it should be just as unsettling to think that someone could abuse the system as it is to think that someone could be excluded from it. So even if you think voter impersonation fraud is a huge problem, let’s talk about whether strict photo ID bills are an effective and just response. Hint: They are not.

The Case Against Photo ID Laws

As states try to restrict the forms of acceptable identification at the polls to a very narrow list of government-issued IDs, consider these reasons why these policies will not propel our country’s voting system towards the reform we need:

1. Not everyone has photo ID states would require

It may sound crazy, but not everyone in America has a photo ID. Hard to believe, but 11 percent of the eligible population (about 21 million people) do not have the type of identification that would be required by photo ID laws. When you look at voters under the age of 30, the facts are even worse: 1-in-5 doesn’t have a driver’s license, the most commonly accepted form of photo ID.

Just look at a few states where strict photo ID bills are being pushed.

In North Carolina, more than 500,000 currently registered voters do not have a driver’s license. In Wisconsin, 23 percent of all citizens over the age of 65 and 78 percent of African-American men and 66 percent of African American women ages 18 to 24 don’t have state-issued ID. In Ohio, over 40,000 out-of-state students at public colleges and universities who would not be able to vote in Ohio unless they get a state-issued ID card.

For young people who are more likely to be in school and are generally more mobile, these requirements are a real burden. The simple truth is that as the list of acceptable IDs gets shorter, more people are excluded from the democratic process. The longer the list, the more likely it is that someone will have documents that allow them to vote. If we accept the reality that not everyone has a driver’s license or state-issued ID for whatever reason — but may have a student ID or a tribal ID or a utility bill or a Social Security number or other types unique identifiers — then how can proponents justify the exclusion of otherwise lawful voters on that basis?

2. It costs a lot of money to implement a strict photo ID system

OK, so not everyone has an ID. It is completely logical to ask: why don’t they just get one? Fair enough, but you are going to foot the bill.

Under the Constitution, according to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, a state that requires a voter to show an ID at the polls must provide one at no cost to that voter. Charging a voter for it constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax, which was outlawed by the 24th Amendment. Accordingly, in order to implement a new photo ID program, taxpayers are going to have to pay millions of dollars a year to make sure every voter who wants one has state-issued identification. That’s not cheap.

It is estimated that a new ID requirement in Missouri will cost over $20 million over the next three years; in North Carolina, independent estimates suggest $14 million or more; in Minnesota, the bill would be around $19 million. At a time when states are struggling to make ends meet and are making deep and real cuts, is it really worth millions of taxpayer dollars to provide IDs to everyone and fund the necessary public education and poll worker training (both of which are also required by the courts) that comes with it? It just doesn’t sound like the best use of precious resources.

It is also worth noting that there isn’t anything "free" about a free ID. (Check out this video of one student in North Carolina trying to get a state ID.) In addition to the cost to either voters or taxpayers (an ID cost $28 in Wisconsin, for example), voters have to get the underlying documents (birth certificates or other official documents) that allow them to get a driver’s license or state ID. They have to take off work or school, get to the DMV (because they surely aren’t driving themselves), and have everything you need to get an otherwise unnecessary ID. As a result, we are making voting as easy as a trip to the DMV — hardly an appealing solution for anyone.

3. There are effective ways to make sure people are who they say they are

Photo identification isn’t the only way you can prove your identify. States use a number of different unique identifiers in addition to photo IDs to ensure they are providing ballots to the right registered voter, including signature verification, utility bills, paychecks, student IDs, bank statements, requiring voters to provide the last four digits of their Social Security number, asking for their date of birth, and more.

Last month, when he came out against Ohio’s proposed photo ID law, the Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted said that he believes the current identification requirements are sufficient to combat fraud. According to the Columbus Dispatch:

Husted said he would not change Ohio’s current election-day process in which voters can prove their identities at the polls through a photo ID (such as a driver’s license), a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or government document with a current name and address.

"I believe that if you have a government-issued check, a utility bill in your name with your address on it, that no one made that up," Husted said to reporters following his speech during League of Women Voters of Ohio annual Statehouse Day. "They didn’t call AEP and establish utilities in their name to commit voter fraud."

The county auditors in Iowa — a collection of 60 Republicans, 38 Democrats and two independents who actually run the elections in the state — came out against that state’s photo ID proposal because it was costly and unnecessary to prevent voter fraud. A recent article highlighted Jasper County and 49 other counties that have systems to ensure integrity and guarantee voters are who they say they are without resorting to disenfranchising methods like only accepting state-issued photo ID.

Jasper County began using laptop computers equipped with the Precinct Atlas Program to check voters at the polls. Forty-nine other counties in Iowa also use the program. Precinct Atlas contains all of the vital information about voters registered in Jasper County to verify their true identity. Poll workers are provided with the voter’s birth date, address, telephone number, the last four digits of their Social Security number, a driver’s license number, and whether that person is a convicted felon.

If a voter shows up at the wrong polling place to vote, the program prints out a label with the address of the voter’s correct precinct and polling place.

"With this information, it would be extremely difficult for a person to pass themselves off as someone else to vote," [Jasper County Auditor Dennis] Parrott said.

This strikes me as a more modern, forward-looking approach to addressing the need to identify people at the polls and to assist them if they are in the wrong spot.

(Side note to those who hang their hats on the sanctity and security of photo IDs: Did you ever try to get beer before you were 21 or know anyone who has? Fake IDs are not hard to get. Half of the 9/11 hijackers had real, official state-issued identification cards.)

4. Photo ID laws aren’t applied equally

The most common retort to our complaint that student voters, especially out-of-state students, will not be able to vote at their school if voter ID laws pass is: "Just get an absentee ballot from your home address!"

First, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1979 that students have the right to vote where they go to school. They are constitutionally protected from having to just vote absentee from "home" if they want to vote at school.

Second, telling someone who doesn’t have an ID to just get an absentee ballot is an interesting argument from supporters of strict photo ID laws. While there is a lot of chest thumping about potential voter fraud at the polls, absentee voters who don’t show up at a polling place aren’t required to provide photo identification. Ballots get mailed to absentee voters who return them without stepping foot in a polling place. An out-of-state student voting from her parent’s house "back home" or an in-state student who gets his ballot sent to him at his school address would never go to the polls or show an ID.

Third, in addition to unequal treatment of poll voters and absentee voters, states also treat different types of students differently. In some states, like Indiana and Georgia, public school student IDs with expiration dates are acceptable, but not student IDs from private schools. No student IDs would be accepted under the current versions of the Ohio and Wisconsin laws, by the way.

The Debate We Could Be Having

We all should want a modern, secure, just and fully participatory democratic system that we can trust. Strict photo ID laws alone are a dangerous solution in search of a problem. What is real is the antiquated, paper-based voter registration system that keeps people off of the rolls because of clerical and user errors. Too many states have failed to make voter registration more effective and efficient through automatic or online registration, and they continue to lag at making it easier for people to cast a ballot with same day registration and early voting. Plus, our schools have cut civics education, so we have an electorate less familiar with the system and less aware of their rights.

If we truly care about prioritizing participation, reducing barriers and building faith in the system, then we can’t waste any more time on photo ID laws.

[ncverifiablevoting] update on H351 photo Id hearing

Voter advocates were out in full force today.There will be lawsuits if this bill passes and the Gov doesn’t have courage to veto.
Southern Poverty Law Center, ACLU, NAACP, Democracy for NC, NC Center for Voter Education, NC League of Women Voters, NC AARP, Institute for Southern Studies.(all against photo ID, citing the groups it will disenfranchise and the enormous financial cost)

I have to say, Bob Hall of Democracy for NC hit a home run when he called the bill and its intents "phony as a $3.00 bill".
It will cost millions of $ to implement. GOP did not attach much funding at all, and it might not be legal for lawmakers to use
Help America Vote Act funds for this purpose.  It looks like Counties would be stuck with additional costs that lawmakers
haven’t owned up to at this time.

The legislative hearing room was divided – the "for" photo ID side was smaller than the "against" photo ID side. .

There were people who remembered the literacy tests and some whose parents nearly gave up their lives to vote.
Some remembered the days when their parents were disenfranchised by laws aimed to prevent African Americans from voting.
You don’t have to go back very far to have a family member who was impacted.

Have you read the bill?

The bill won’t stop people determined to commit felony voter impersonation –
fake ID kits are cheap at EBAY -starting bid $12.95 sale price $14.95 with hologram if you want it.



[ncverifiablevoting] SC election commish $40K a month on PR after Fiasco

No surprise here: There’s been a thorough review of the voting machine logs from the SC primary where Alvin Greene was elected.
Whether he really "won" or not, there were so many irregularities and malfunctions in the machines, it is dizzing.
MORE SHOCKS!!! The amount of $ the Election Commission is paying a PR firm to convince the public that all is well with the voting machines!

"Did you know the [State Election Commission] is paying Chernoff Newman, a PR and advertising company, 40,000 dollars a month
to manufacture positive spin to the voters, politicians, and press about how state of the art our system is, when in reality, the exact opposite is true?"

By Brad Friedman on 1/23/2011 11:05am 
Citizen Oversight Reveals 1000s of Errors, Extra Votes, ‘Lost’ Votes in SC’s 2010 Election
The state and voting systems that impossibly gave Democrats Alvin Greene for their U.S. Senate nominee, continue to fail voters...

Yup. This about sums it up…

Almost 100 people packed into North Charleston City Hall on Thursday night to hear whether crucial cogs in their democracy — South Carolina’s voting machines — are working right.

The consensus seemed to be no, they weren’t, but there was less certainty about what to do about it.

The Charleston County Democratic Party arranged the forum on the electronic voting machines, which several leaders have called into question after last year’s shocking primary win by unknown Democratic Senate candidate Alvin Greene against former judge and Charleston County Councilman Vic Rawl, a former circuit judge.

Rawl, one of the panelists, said this issue isn’t about him but instead about the sanctity of the principle of one-man one-vote.

"From every expert I talked to, that (primary result) was an aberration," Rawl said. "If that aberration was contrived or accidental, we seriously need to get rid of that machine."

State Democratic Party Executive Committee member Susan Yarborough Smith began her remarks by paraphrasing Communist leader Josef Stalin, saying, "The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything."

For six years, the state’s voters have used about 12,000 iVotronic touch-screen machines made by Election Systems & Software, a Nebraska-based company.

Frank Heindel, a Charleston businessman who has launched his own investigation of the machines, noted there were thousands of error messages on Charleston County machines in the 2010 elections. Also, he noted that a different error led to 1,389 extra votes in statewide races in Colleton County.

However, [State Sen. Phil] Leventis, [D-Sumter] and Sen. Raymond Cleary, R-Georgetown, said the Legislature won’t do anything unless it is pressured to. Cleary noted lawmakers are satisfied with the outcome of their own elections: They won.

As I say, that about sums it up. "They won," so most of the lawmakers who would be the ones to force voting system reform, don’t much care. That, even after the disastrous Democratic U.S. Senate primary last year, which The BRAD BLOGcovered in great detail as it all shamefully unfolded. (Search "Vic Rawl" or "Alvin Greene" here for some of that coverage).

But for those who would like a few more details on those "1,389 extra votes in Colleton County," as mentioned in the article above, as well as — perhaps even more disturbing — some 13,500 votes apparently missing entirely from Charleston County, please read on…

Frank Heindel, a SC commodities trader, who is mentioned in the article above, has almost single-handedly been taking on the system in his state by demanding transparency, oversight, and accountability via public records requests and meticulous hand-audits of the voting system logs in his state ever since last year’s disastrous primary election. He is an inspiration, frankly, and another one of this nation’s great models for what citizen-led Election Integrity work looks like.

He is all the more inspiring in that he is a Republican! Unfortunately, most of those who’ve done real EI work over the past 10 years or so have tended to be Democrats (if often disaffected ones), as it has historically been their ox most frequently gored (pun intended), along with a fair number of Libertarians or Greens.

Here is Heindel’s concise, full speech from the Democratic forum reported above this week, in which he notes:

Did you know the [State Election Commission] is paying Chernoff Newman, a PR and advertising company, 40,000 dollars a month to manufacture positive spin to the voters, politicians, and press about how state of the art our system is, when in reality, the exact opposite is true?

I wish the state would give me 40,000 dollars a month to hire computer experts to perform election forensics and audit all the state’s election data. Over the last 6 months, I have spent approximately 1,000 dollars out of my own pocket on a citizen’s audit. I am a Republican and view our voting machines strictly as a non-partisan issue.

He went on in his remarks,to offer more details on the extra and/or missing votes in the counties so far examined, but among the tasks he’s taken on as well is helping to assemble computer scientists to examine many of the records he’s been able to obtain via those public records requests.

One of those members of the team, Chip Moore, a programmer from Cambridge, MA, detailed the work the team has been able to do so far. See his full report here, but below are some of the specifics of what they’ve uncovered in regard to the unexplained extra votes in Colleton County to date:

After the November election, Travis Avant of Walterboro, a former Sheriff of Colleton County, contacted Mr. Heindel about some inconsistencies in the returns from his County. On election night, Colleton County reported, and this is still on the website for the state election commission, 13,045 votes in the race for Governor, 12,877 votes for Lt. Governor and 12,733 votes in the U.S. Senate contest. However, as Eric Campbell, the Executive Director of the Colleton County Board of Elections admits, and our audit confirms, only 11,656 votes were cast in Colleton County in the November election.

1588 absentee votes were cast in Colleton County in the general election. Director Campbell says this is the correct number and our review of the audit file agrees. Yet in the certified returns for the County, the number of votes cast on absentee ballots in 14 separate county-wide contests exceeds 1588, some by more than 300 votes. The director has thus far refused to recount the absentee votes. The audit information we have for Colleton County does not include ballot data for the absentee votes, so we cannot provide an accurate accounting. Today, 11 weeks after the election, the tally of votes in Colleton County is incorrect. Neither the County nor State Election Boards seem to be in much of a hurry to get the numbers right.

In reading some of these numbers, I’m reminded of the "impossible numbers" we discovered in the Monroe County, Arkansas, primary election last year — where ES&S systems are also used — and where thousands of votes simply "disappeared," with neither county nor state officials able to explain what happened. Of course, nobody else in the entirety of either the state legislature or the media gave enough of a damn to follow up on our exclusive report to demand an explanation for the failure.

And here are Moore’s key points (also too familiar) on the unaccounted for votes in Charleston County:

In the 2010 general election in Charleston County, the official returns from the election board reported that 104,087 votes were cast. However, in our audit of that election, we only found 82,190 votes recorded on the County’s iVotronic voting terminals and 8078 on paper ballots.

By our reckoning, we can account for 90,586 votes on voting terminals, paper ballots and 318 ballots entered manually by the election staff. That still leaves 13,501 votes missing from the input stream. Those votes were probably cast on the 14 voting terminals missing from the log file containing vote events, but without the data, we cannot be certain.

Seven of the missing machines may not have contained any vote data. The Charleston County Election Board was unable to collect audit data from those terminals. In the log file, the reason listed for why audit collection failed is “Invalid Ballot Database Version in Audit/Vote file”, which does not inspire confidence that anyone was able to cast a vote on these devices.

Similar studies are being done on data from Richland, Sumter and Lexington counties, but these are not so far along because the data was obtained later than from Charleston.

Finally, for good measure, here are a few more granular details from specific systems in Colleton County that simply failed, suggesting much more such failure across the state where the team has yet been able to examine details…

In the Jacksonboro precinct in Colleton County, where 201 votes were cast on three voting terminals, one machine recorded just 14 votes. That same machine registered 13 vote-canceled events, one for having the wrong ballot and 12 because of a terminal failure. In Edisto, a precinct where 146 ballots were recorded on three terminals, terminal #5129854 accepted only 19 votes. This machine logged 6 vote-canceled events because the voter left the voting booth and 7 errors caused by the Personal Electronic Ballot voters use to cast their ballots failing to communicate with the iVotronic machine. Lastly, 52 votes were cast in Berea precinct on three terminals, but one machine was used for only seven votes. That terminal registered another 13 errors caused by the Personal Electronic Ballots.

All-in-all, those are some very disturbing details, and yet, these 100% unverifiable voting systems — and ones identical or nearly-identical to them — continue to be forced upon some 20 to 30% of voters across the nation. That will undoubtedly be the case once again when the nation goes to the polls to elect a President in 2012.

Of course, our federal legislators don’t much care either and continue to do absolutely nothing about the problem. Why? Because as SC’s Post and Courier noted above, "lawmakers are satisfied with the outcome of their own elections: They won."

* * *

Please support The BRAD BLOG’s fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system, as available from no other media outlet in the nation, with a donation to help us keep going (Snail mail, more options here). If you like, we’ll send you some great, award-winning election integrity documentary films in return! Details right here…


Weak defense of IRV – Instant Runoff Voting in NC Court of Appeals oddities

Some say instant runoff voting did what it was supposed to do in the NC Court of Appeals Contest. For sure the IRV algorithm that sorts, allocates and eliminates votes is capricious in nature. IRV election is like a crap shoot. The top 2 candidates had 20% and 15% of first round votes. Thigpen led McCullough by 100,000 votes. After sorting, allocating, eliminating and reshuffling the IRV votes, McCullough and Thigpen had a near tie. (Read more)

See related:

Instant Run Off Voting

N. Carolina’s instant runoff voting chickens come home to roost. Recount sought

The instant runoff voting contest for NC Court of Appeals is headed to a recount. Here we are, 38 days after the election, we get the results to the "instant runoff" and learn that we’re going in for another round, due to lack of confidence in the tallying procedures. No surprise, since Larry Leake, the Chair of the NC State Board of Elections expressed concern about the tallying procedures when approved on Oct 28, 2010 in the middle of the election. (Read more)

See related:

Instant Run Off Voting

Note: IRV what a mess. But they wanted though. C. Dancy II DCN Publisher

Correcting counting error leads to new leader in Court of Appeals race–Source: WRAL

RALEIGH, N.C. — Nearly complete results from the instant runoff race for the North Carolina Court of Appeals show the second-place candidate overtaking the leading candidate from the first round of voting.

State elections director Gary Bartlett said Doug McCullough had a roughly 6,700-vote lead over incumbent Cressie Thigpen with counting complete in 99 of the 100 counties. The only one left – Warren County – doesn’t have enough votes cast to turn the race back to Thigpen, he said. (Read more)

See related:

Instant Run Off Voting

For Polk County Democrat website, Ignorance is bliss – about instant runoff voting–Source: Protect North Carolina Elections – Stop Instant Runoff Voting

Ignorance is bliss if you read what website owner of Polkdemocrats writes. They don’t know or care how the statewide IRV contest will be tallied, in fact they don’t even know that we have top 2 IRV and NOT San Francisco style IRV. Polk Dem’s webmaster says no one cares about this contest so its ok if voters are confused, spoil their ballots, or that results will be hinky. They aren’t worried about the non transparent tallying process, either. Guess it’s be . . .  (Read more)

Note: Once again thank you Joyce McCloy for staying on top of the voter process. Yep, I can believe the ignance because many have no clue about what is happening with IRV and the sad part they don’t seek to find out what is really happening. There should have been more education from the state party about what was about to take place with the IRV. And then again the local branches could have taken it upon themselves to learn and to educate their counties about the process. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher and an Edgecombe County Democratic Party Precinct Chair

See related:

Democratic Party Issues In Edgecombe County

Instant Run Off Voting

Oakland CA voters confused by instant runoff voting on Nov 2 – video

OAKLAND — As Oaklanders cast their ballots today, one of the hottest subjects is not the issues and the candidates, but the method of voting, a new ranked-choice system used in the mayoral race.

Diana Toutjian, 57, a native Oaklander who attended Piedmont Avenue as a kindergartner, was baffled by the system. She didn’t understand how it worked, and voted three times for the same candidate. This means her second and third votes won’t count. "They should have had a red box there to explain what we were supposed to do," Toutjian said… (Read more)

NC Republicans Threaten Lawsuit Over ‘Widespread’ Touch-screen Failures, Votes Flipping to Dems–Source: The Brad Blog

It would have been nice if these guys had spoken up years ago, when the bulk of the Republican Party and their sympathizers were labeling Democrats as "conspiracy theorists" and "sore losers" for their documented complaints of touch-screen voting systems flipping votes on screen to Republican candidates. But better late than never, we suppose. (Read more)

Note: Now the tide has turned and it is an issue. Just like everything else Health Care Reform, they call it Obamacare. Oh well how many of them or their family members benefit from Health Care Reform and other things they b…. about just because the President is a black man. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher

PR:Oct 28 10AM will NCSBE invite lawsuits? IRV tallying methods

For immediate release
Joyce McCloy, North Carolina Coalition for Verified Voting 336-794-1240

On October 28, 2010, at 10:00 AM the North Carolina State Board of Elections will meet – again, to
reconsider tallying methods for the statewide IRV contest for NC Court of Appeals.
Some board members want to allow the use of an illegal, uncertified workaround method of vote tabulation
with touchscreen machines that employs an  “electronic sort” using an excel spreadsheet and macros

On September 29, 2010 the State Board of Elections voted to use hand counting in touchscreen counties
if the IRV votes came into play.  Per the minutes:

"Following discussion among the Board, the Chairman moved that the Board’s actions related to counting
of the ballots in the IRV round, if needed, be in compliance with the law and use the RTAL for a hand to
eye count to determine the election results."

State law is clear, only federally certified voting systems may be used in North Carolina elections.

Our State Board of Elections must follow the law, or they will lose any creditability when ruling in future
cases of election law and also invite lawsuits from affected candidates or voters with standing.

Here is my testimony to the North Carolina State Board of Elections

The NC Coalition for Verified Voting
Joyce McCloy, Director
212 Evergreen Drive
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 27106


North Carolina State Board of Elections
506 North Harrington St,
Raleigh, NC 27603

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Statewide Instant Runoff Voting for NC Court of Appeals

To the Members of the State Board of Elections:
Thank you for this opportunity to comment on the board’s meeting today. 

The State Board of Elections members are meeting to hold another vote either for or against the use an excel software macros to tally the statewide IRV contest for NC Court of Appeals.

Much rides on the results of this election.  There can only be one vote, and that is “to follow the law”,  just as Chairman Larry Leake said in the last SBoE meeting on Sept 29, 2010.

There is no certified software to tally IRV. The voting vendor says:  "IRV is not an approved function at the federal or state level of current ES&S software, firmware or hardware. Subsequently, we will work at the direction of the SBE and counties to assist but cannot be held responsible for issues as a result of IRV..".~  Letter from PrintElect to the North Carolina State Board of Elections, dated August 31, 2010.

North Carolina law requires voting systems to use either 1) federally certified voting systems, or
2) hand counted paper ballots.  For touchscreen voting systems, the only legal tallying method for the IRV contest is a hand to eye count of the voter verified paper trail, also called VVPAT or RTAL
Testing done by consultants or University professors is no substitute for the federal certification.

Consequences if the State Board of Elections votes to use the illegal excel software workaround:

•    Use of illegal tallying methods will invite lawsuits from any of the 13 candidates in the IRV contest for NC Court of Appeals, as well as from any voter in with standing.

•    The taxpayers will foot the bill if an election fiasco results, as the voting vendor cannot be held responsible for the use of illegal software the State Board of Elections has allowed.

•    The use of excel spreadsheets invites error and will have no transparency for the voters. 

•    Without a hand to eye count, only an audit could provide any measure of transparency, but   no one knows yet how to effectively audit a statewide  IRV contest.

•    The State Board of Elections would lose its creditability.

How can the state prove, to those who have standing, to all voters – that the automation is working properly and not committing fraud?

The Greensboro News and Record said 

“An election train wreck may be unavoidable this November, but it shouldn’t be allowed to happen again.” 

The State Board of Elections proposes to use an uncertified method of vote tabulation with DRE machines that allows for an “electronic sort” using uncertified software that requires five pages of over 100 single spaced instructions. There are over 100 steps in the process and one single keystroke error would change the outcome of the election, and audit data is deleted as steps are performed.  Experts warn that this spreadsheet tallying method is error prone, lacks an audit trail, and is not good enough for elections. (See next page for expert opinion)

A widely-cited paper finds that around 90% of spreadsheets used in business organizations contained some error or another , and also reported that many developers and organizations are overconfident about the accuracy of their spreadsheet calculations. [1]

Excel is a complex application and it can do peculiar unexpected things in certain conditions. Some examples: auto-incrementing numbers in a certain column when copying-and-pasting, interpreting data as a date when that was not intended, numbers with spaces in them being interpreted as strings and silently omitted from the calculation, cutting-and-pasting only copying to the displayed precision not to the precision of the underlying number, etc.

Any of these could at least theoretically cause issues despite the testing that NC State has performed, if the data inputs are "imperfect", since likely NC State tested with "perfect" inputs.  As long as the state uses an Excel spreadsheet that isn’t publicly available, there will be questions.

From an election transparency standpoint, the most important issue here is: can observers verify that the calculations were done properly? If the spreadsheet and its inputs are not released to the public, observers cannot, which erodes transparency.

If the State Board of Elections votes to break the law and allow the use of this uncertified software, then the SBOE should require that the spreadsheet macros and all of the data should be released to any individual who requests it, to enable observers to perform the calculations for themselves if they care.  This approval should be time-limited.

[1] "What We Know About Spreadsheet Errors". Published in the Journal of End User Computing’s
Special issue on Scaling Up End User Development Volume 10, No 2. Spring 1998, pp. 15-21
Revised May 2008. Raymond R. Panko, University of Hawai’i, College of Business Administration


Other Expert Opinions on using excel to tally elections

Date: Fri, 26 Dec 2008 11:05:03 -0800
From: Philip B. Stark
Reply-To: stark@stat.berkeley.edu

To: Joyce McCloy <jmc27106@earthlink.net>, Rep. Verla Insko <Verlai@ncleg.net>
References: <49552090.1030004@earthlink.net>

Dear Rep. Insko and Joyce–

My previous email concerned Microsoft Excel in particular, and Mr. Capriglione’s assertion that it is bug-free.

Mr. Capriglione’s suggestion to use Lotus 123 would avoid Microsoft Excel’s particular bugs, but those are only part of the problem.
Certainly, using *both* Excel and Lotus 123 and comparing the results would add some comfort–as would using OpenOffice Calc as a third check. (OpenOffice has the advantage that it is free, open source software.) I do not agree with Mr. Capriglione’s characterization of the use of the software as simply verifying that 1+1=2. if the result of the calculation were known, there would be no need to do the calculation.

As Joyce knows, I have serious reservations regarding using _any_spreadsheet software for complex calculations like tabulating IRV voting. Here are some of them:

1) The procedure proposed is very complicated, with many manual steps.
Human error in such a complex task is almost inevitable. A slight slip can result in mis-copying data, overwriting data, hitting the wrong function, etc.

2) Spreadsheets mix data and programming. It is not possible to tell at a glance whether a cell in a spreadsheet is data or the result of a calculation. As a result, it is quite easy–deliberately or inadvertently–to corrupt a calculation or the data on which it is based. In principle that can be detected, but it requires additional scrutiny–such as clicking each cell and looking at what is displayed. And even that is not foolproof.

3) Because of the likelihood of error, using cut-and-paste, etc., as part of a "production" system is unheard of, in my experience. It is far preferable to use proper scientific software for calculations like this–especially because so much rides on the results. With proper software, the data are separated from the programming commands. Somebody can double check independently that the data were entered correctly (or exported correctly from the election management software), and that the programming is correct. The raw data can be made public so that others can replicate the calculation independently as a cross check. And, once the program is written, tested, and debugged, users of the software need only say "go," not perform step after step of error-prone data entry or manipulation.
— Philip B. Stark | Professor of Statistics | University of California Berkeley, CA
94720-3860 | 510-642-1430 | statistics.berkeley.edu/~stark

Tom Dahlberg of Dahlberg Business Logic Inc.

As a 20 year veteran of software project management in business, here’s the most succinct statement of my scepticism toward the Excel workaround in your state:

The Excel solution presents your state with two equally vicious choices. If the Excel algorithm is not automated the process will be vulnerable to human error at numerous points, and is not even in principle susceptible to review (which might involve more human error). The review is as likely to suffer from error as the original process. If it is automated (in Excel VBA or in any other programming language), it becomes susceptible to review only by experts, who, like the original developers, can manipulate the algorithm and perhaps even erase their tracks. In other words, automation of the algorithm makes it even more vulnerable, in principle, to fraud that not even other experts can corner.

We currently have automated vote counting, but it is very straightforward by comparison and can be checked by a manual recount. It’s just counting. No complex rules are applied.
Election judges on site can see what is happening with physical ballots, even when they are counted automatically by scanners. But election judges cannot see into the calculation rules embedded in software without expertise, and even then, it can become very difficult to understand if the program has in fact consistently imposed the agreed upon rules. The more complicated the algorithm, the more impossible it becomes for people of good will to agree that the outcome is the one truly implied by the rules.

The primary goal of the voting system is to ensure the public’s confidence in the results. The more complicated the voting algorithm, the more impossible it becomes for the voters themselves to understand and review the process — whether it is automated or not. But the automation clearly increases the opportunity of "experts" to commit fraud.

Calculation rules can be placed in “arrays” and changed dynamically. The code that makes these
dynamic changes could also be placed in temporary arrays and then erased at the end of the automated process, destroying any evidence that the rules were being manipulated in the first place. The implication of this is that any voting system that cannot be backed up by a simple, manual recount makes it impossible, in principle, to prevent fraud. If IRV is not susceptible to manual processing (within a reasonable amount of time) it makes the voting algorithm more vulnerable than ever to fraudulent manipulation. If the business rules operating in a software program cannot be applied manually to the process in question, as a quality and accuracy test, to every permutation of the use cases in question, then we can never be sure that the system has produced the right outcome. This is acceptable when we test software systems in business, since nothing as serious as the voter’s franchise is in question. But it is an unacceptable risk when the integrity of our democracy is in question.

How can the state prove, to those who have standing (all voters) consistent with the compelling state interest, that the automation is working properly and not committing fraud? And who has the burden of proof if not the election officials responsible for the integrity of the process?

Tom Dahlberg
Dahlberg Business Logic Inc.

25270 Smithtown Road
Shorewood, MN 55331
Mobile: 952 237 3096

Now in NC: Touch-Screen Votes Repeatedly Flip, R to D, in Two Counties–Source: The Brad Blog

Aaand the touch-screen voting machines continue to flip votes during the early voting period. Right on schedule. Just as always. But, for the second time this week we have the unusual occurrence of votes reportedly flipping away from the GOP. (Read more)

Protect North Carolina Elections – Stop Instant Runoff Voting

The article State : How the Instant Runoff for State Court of Appeals Will Work gives a misleading impression on the ease of continuing or expanding instant runoff voting. In fairness, the story IS based on an interview by Sara Burrows of the Carolina Journal with NC’s top election official. Sara is only going by what she was told. When I read the article, I was stunned to see the claim that IRV could be automated for less than $5 million. That just isn’t true. If you want to know the truth about IRV, you have to know which questions to ask, and you need to know when you aren’t being told the whole story. (Read more)

Note: Thanks Joyce for all that you do. C. Dancy II – DCN Publisher

See related:

Judge Cressie Thigpen

IRV – Instant Runoff Voting – This is how you will have to vote for candidates in the Court of Appeals Election.


E-Vote Vendors to NC: We Don’t WANT to Break the Law! – Source: The Brad Blog

Well there’s a twist! Hopefully you weren’t drinking coffee when you read the headline.

How often do you hear of a voting vendor saying they really really (really!!) do not want to break the law, but state officials are forcing them to? But that’s exactly what’s about to happen in North Carolina where the first statewide use of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) could produce, according to some, a "train wreck" this November. (Read more)

See related:

IRV – Instant Runoff Voting

2 Simple Rules for Voters in Instant Runoff Voting for NC Court of Appeals


1. Voters must not rank the same candidate twice, and 2. Strategy includes endorsements and ranking potential winners only.

Read further to learn how to avoid having your vote be a total shot in the dark. (Read more)

See related:

IRV – Instant Runoff Voting