Secret Ballot

From: Alan Dechert <alan_at_openvotingconsortium_dot_org>
Date: Thu Aug 26 2004 - 15:48:31 CDT

Kathy Dopp is the person that invited me to speak in Utah Jul 13. Univ of
Utah CS professor Jay Lepreau, Barbara Simons, and I met with Gary Herbert
later in the day.
City Beat - August 26, 2004
Secret Ballot
Critics of Utah's move toward electronic voting are gaining support among
some politicians.
by Ted McDonough
 In the nightmares of those who have seen The Manchurian Candidate too many
times, a big, evil corporation with ties to the administration is awarded
the franchise for new computerized voting machines and installs a secret,
backdoor program.

On election night, the program launches, picking out preselected votes for
the corporation's candidate and forever ending democracy in America.

It's far fetched, but you don't have to be a complete paranoid to believe
it. The companies Utah is considering to supply new computerized vote
machines-like most computer companies-won't share their programming code.
Utah's process for selecting a vote machine vendor has gone behind closed
doors with vague promises everything will be checked by unnamed experts.

Then there's the fact that the chief executive of one of the two companies
that wants to sell Utah voting equipment was a $100,000-plus "Pioneer" level
donor to President G. W. Bush who promised in writing to "deliver ...
electoral votes for the president."

Utah's process to comply with new voting laws Congress passed in the wake of
the chad-addled 2000 election has moved smoothly for nearly two years-until
going public this summer. Now, with a deadline looming, critics are coming
out of the woodwork and the head of Utah's elections division is

Amy Naccarato, director of Utah's Elections Office and head of the committee
that will recommend new voting equipment, laughs at conspiracy theories of
"some janitor hacking into the software." She has her own nightmares,
however, involving Utah's elderly election judges trying to operate
computerized voting machines without time for adequate training.

That's one reason Naccarato is sticking to a timetable that would have new
voting machines in place for city elections in 2005. With increasing
questions from the public and some politicians, however, Naccarato said she
recognizes perception is as important as reality when it comes to how people
vote, and she is willing to bring the process to a screeching halt if
lawmakers and the public aren't convinced.

Many of the questions now being asked about Utah's future in computer voting
are being pushed by Park City resident Kathy Dopp, founder of Utah Count
Votes, who has been driving state officials to distraction since Utah began
taking public comment this summer.

Her message is simply that the new voting technology is untested and Utah
shouldn't be the guinea pig. Some politicians are beginning to listen.

This month, Dopp convinced the Summit County Commission to pen a letter
urging that a new voting system be postponed until 2008, two years later
than currently required by the Help America Vote Act, the federal law
pushing states to get rid of punch card ballots in favor of electronic

Summit County Commissioner Bob Richer said his county's voting equipment
works fine and provides a way to recount votes through a paper ballot. He
isn't sure the same can be said for computerized voting machines. "We want
to make sure any bugs are worked out of any new technology," he said.

Dopp and others complain that, without a guaranteed paper ballot, Utah's
system won't give voters a way to know their votes counted. They also point
to glitches reported in machines manufactured by the two companies Utah is
considering: Diebold and Election Systems & Software. In one infamous case,
a Diebold machine in California reportedly switched 2,747 Democratic
presidential primary votes from John Kerry to Dick Gephardt.

Richer thinks there are hidden costs for counties in the new equipment, even
if, as promised, the federal government picks up the tab for purchasing the
7,500 new voting machines Utah will require. Utah is eligible for $28
million of federal money toward the cost.

Gary Herbert, a Utah County commissioner running for lieutenant governor,
shares Richer's concerns. He noted that counties will be responsible for
replacing computerized voting machines when they wear out. How long the
machines will last, no one knows. Herbert estimated Utah County would need
to set aside $400,000 per year to cover eventual replacement.

If Republican gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman wins November's election,
Herbert's opinion will matter. Federal law gives Utah's lieutenant governor
the responsibility for carrying out the mandates of the Help America Vote

Herbert said state officials haven't sat down with the counties to discuss
costs. A proponent of paper ballots, he also thinks more time is needed to
determine if electronic voting equipment works.

State Sen. Karen Hale, the Democrats' candidate for lieutenant governor,
said Utah should move cautiously and watch how voting machines are working
in other states. Like Naccarato, she said Utah's decision may hinge on how
well the computers function in November.

Naccarato said federal law mandates some action by summer 2006. She also
worries that available federal money could be gobbled up if Utah doesn't
move soon.

Dopp is pushing a system being developed in California by a consortium of
computer scientists. The software wouldn't be secret and the system would
use two devices. One machine would let voters vote, then print a paper
ballot. The ballot would be placed in a second machine for counting.

State Rep. Doug Aagard, a Republican member of the legislative committee
that receives reports on electronic voting, was intrigued enough by Dopp's
idea to ask her for more information. He is one of several Utah lawmakers
sounding notes of caution.

"I hate the idea of the feds pushing us into doing things for political
expediency," Aagard said. "If we are going to put this kind of money into
stuff, we need to make sure everybody is comfortable."

Democratic Rep. Roz McGee said enough public concern has been voiced that
"there could be legislative direction to slow down or halt the process."
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Received on Tue Aug 31 23:17:18 2004

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