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Previous Administration's Accessibility Testing Did Not Exist For Computerized DRE Voting Systems and Was Unfair for Vote-PAD, a Non-Computerized Accessibility Solution...
By John Gideon on 7/31/2007 9:50am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org with input from Ellen Theisen, also of VotersUnite.Org

Now that the California Secretary of State's "Top-To-Bottom Review" testing is complete and the reports have been submitted, nearly everyone is falling over themselves to read and talk about the many startling vulnerabilities easily found by the "Red Teams" who performed hack testing on the systems.

However, there is another report that has been overlooked, for the most part, by the media and the public. That is the "Accessibility Review" which examined whether the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting systems meet federal requirements to allow voters with disabilities to cast their votes privately and independently as required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Maybe it's because, as some have pointed out, accessibility issues are not as "sexy" as hacking into voting machines. Or maybe it's because this report is 155 pages long as compared to less than 20 pages for the "Red Team" reports. Either way, the failures found in the accessibility report may pack more dynamite and leave more questions unanswered than the security reports.

The "Executive Summary" of that report says it all:

Three voting systems, the Diebold AccuVote TSx, Hart eSlate and Sequoia Edge I and II, were evaluated for usability and accessibility for voters with disabilities and voters with alternate language needs, using both heuristic and user testing techniques. Although each of the tested voting systems included some accessibility accommodations, none met the accessibility requirements of current law and none performed satisfactorily in test voting by persons with a range of disabilities and alternate language needs. In some cases the accessibility or usability deficits could be partially or wholly mitigated. Some of these mitigations would not require new federal and state certification testing.

Notice that the researchers say, "none met the accessibility requirements of current law." That's federal and state law. The machines have been sold for years --- and, in fact, the use of DRE machines as a whole has been jammed down America's polling places --- on the basis that they meet federal HAVA mandates for an accessible means of voting in every polling place. And yet, the California analysts found, they are not accessible at all...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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'New Machines, Long Lines, Confusion'...
UPDATE: Times Replaces Word 'Chaos' With 'Woes' in Headline!
By Brad Friedman on 10/18/2006 5:33pm PT  

Nice of New York Times to start paying attention...now that it's too late to do much of a damn thing about it.

FLASHING now at DRUDGE REPORT...

NYT: BE PREPARED FOR CHAOS ON ELECTION DAY; NEW MACHINES, LINES, CONFUSION
Wed Oct 18 2006 19:12:07 ET

With an unusually large number of tight races and dozens of states shifting to new electronic voting systems, election officials across the country are bracing for long lines and heightened confusion at the polls on Election Day, Nov. 7, the NEW YORK TIMES will front on Thursday.

"North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Mississippi and Missouri are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the new technology and other election changes.

Developing...

UPDATE 7:35pm PT: Complete NYTimes story now up. "New Laws and Machines May Spell Voting Chaos". It's well worth a read!

FURTHER UPDATE BY JOHN GIDEON 9:00pm PT: The story reveals that many of the voting machines now being used in Yolo Co, California for voters with disabilities only work in Vietnamese. These machines are only being used in the county because SoS McPherson and his staff unfairly denied certification to Vote-PAD which was supposed to be used in that county.

FURTHER UPDATE BY BRAD 9:20pm PT: Looks like the NY Times, who hasn't done much of any reporting on this topic up until now has had second thoughts already. The original headline discussed "...Voting Chaos" but has now been softened to "...Voting Woes". I've got my money on "chaos", not "woes" this November. It's a shame they've backed off. They were so close to telling the truth. Sigh...

FURTHER UPDATE BY JOHN 8:10am PT: While my 'UPDATE' from last night says many machines only worked in Vietnamese the article actually says 'some machines' and I have now found that, in fact, 3 machines were affected. My apologies for the incorrect wording.

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Disabled-Accessible Paper Ballot Device Torpedoed as State Changes Testing Procedures, Refuses to Certify System
Company Files Suit with California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board
By John Gideon on 10/18/2006 9:32am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon

In August Vote-PAD learned that the California Secretary of State had decided to deny them certification that would allow Vote-PAD's voting assistive devices to be used in the state of California. They did this even though some counties had already contracted for Vote-PAD or were in the purchase process and even though Vote-PAD showed clear and convincing evidence that the testing process was biased. This denial by Bruce McPherson and his underlings led to the now famous "Off With Their Heads" blog here at The BRAD BLOG.

On Monday Vote-PAD issued a press release to inform the public that they had filed a formal complaint with the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board. According to the press release, Vote-PAD "asserts that the Secretary of State violated a number of State and Federal protections during the Vote-PAD certification process: 'a violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitutions of both the United States and the State of California, a breach of contract, a violation of the California Administrative Procedures Act, a violation of the Election Code provisions governing voting system certification and an abuse of discretion in the Secretary's authority to certify voting systems.'"

The full press release follows...

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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California SoS Denies Certification To Vote-PAD
By John Gideon on 8/28/2006 4:55pm PT  

"Off with Their Heads!" cried the Queen of Hearts

"How am I to get in?" asked Alice again, in a louder tone.
"Are you to get in at all?" said the Footman. "That's the first question, you know."

It was a Queen of Hearts sort of a day in California on August 9, 2006. The Secretary of State's advisory panel was hearing public comments regarding the pending certification of the Vote-PAD, a non-electronic assistive device designed to help voters with disabilities mark and verify a paper ballot independently.

Voting integrity advocates held signs supporting the certification of Vote-PAD. They told of countless failures of computerized voting systems. They spoke about recent discoveries of easily hackable "back doors" into the vote totals on those systems, which have been certified. By contrast, "Vote-PAD is no more hackable than a #2 pencil," said one.

Notwithstanding this and the letters praising the Vote-PAD from dozens of people with visual and motor disabilities, the Secretary of State's staff was recommending against certifying the Vote-PAD for use in California.

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Bruce McDannold Misinforms and Distorts When Talking About Vote-PAD to County Elections Officials
Confidentiality Agreement is Violated In This Campaign
By John Gideon on 8/10/2006 9:01am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org

A very revealing article was published this week in the Arcata Eye, a weekly newspaper, in Arcata, Humboldt County, California.

The article, headlined "County’s new voting machines may be flawed", was published on August 8, one day prior to the hearing in Sacramento about the Vote-PAD that was reported yesterday by The BRAD BLOG.

Reports from the hearing indicate that even hearing officials were questioning Bruce McDannold, the Secretary of State's Interim Director of the Office of Voting Systems Technology Assessment, about how he came to some negative conclusions about Vote-PAD; questions he could not answer; questions that, according to eye-witnesses, made him look rather foolish.

Yet, according to the Arcata Eye article, McDannold seems to have been carrying on a vendetta against Vote-PAD for a while. It seems that late last month McDannold spoke about Vote-PAD at the annual conference of state’s clerks and elections officials in San Diego:

Bruce McDannold, the interim director of the state’s Office of Voting Systems Technology Assessment, had already indicated that Vote-PAD would not be an acceptable option. “(McDannold) didn’t have much good to say about Vote-PAD,” McWilliams related. “He said that it’s one of the most error-prone systems he had ever tested.”

County Clerk-Recorder Carolyn Crnich gave a similar account, having heard McDannold speak at the annual conference of state’s clerks and elections officials in San Diego late last month. “I would interpret his words and actions (on Vote-PAD) to be very negative,” she said, adding that the best that can be hoped for now is a conditional state certification of Vote-PAD that would allow it be modified.

It needs to be mentioned that Carolyn Crnich spoke in favor of Vote-PAD and pointed out problems with the testing procedures to the hearing panel in Sacramento. This testimony, on top of the testimony of Vote-PAD President Ellen Theisen, should be enough to prove that McDannold has lost grip on reality.

It is also important to note that an understanding of confidentiality was entered into by all who participated in the testing and evaluation of the Vote-PAD, including Bruce McDannold. When McDannold spoke to the counties in San Diego, he violated the same agreement that he demanded that Vote-PAD maintain.

Why is it that McDannold is overseeing a process that welcomes unreliable, error-prone, insecure electronic voting machines with open arms while it unfairly tests a voting device that is truly accessible to the community it was designed for? What does McDannold gain by his misinforming county election officials based on data gained from unscientific and shoddy testing? I, for one, hope that Vote-PAD seeks redress for the grievances heaped upon the company by McDannold. It's beyond time that the disinformation from the Secretary of State stop.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out in a comment to "'Daily Voting News' For August 10, 2006" that McDannold did not adress the counties as a whole. Any mention of Vote-PAD was done in casual conversation. Of course this does not absolve him of keeping a confidentiality agreement and certainly not of bad-mouthing any voting system that has not yet had any hearing within the state.

Disclosure Statement:
In the interest of full disclosure: Ellen Theisen was the founder of VotersUnite and its Executive Director before I took over the helm from her. She resigned from her position upon founding Vote-PAD, Inc. I have no stake in Vote-PAD in any way except as Ellen's friend.

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Vote-PAD's President Explains The Flaws in The State's Test Plan and Certification Process
By John Gideon on 8/9/2006 12:50pm PT  

Blogged by John Gideon

As reported previously the state of California unfairly treated voters with disabilities in the testing of the Vote-PAD, a voting assistive device designed specifically for use by voters with disabilities and successfully tested and used by those voters across the country. The fact that the staff of the Secretary of State of California used shoddy test procedures and then recommended denial of certification, based on those test procedures, of the Vote-PAD is certainly questionable. Why haven't other voting systems, that purport to be accessible, been tested by the disabilities community at all?

As reported earlier, today is the public hearing for the Vote-PAD. Ellen Theisen, President and Founder of Vote-PAD has testified about the problems with the test procedure. In her testimony she referred to accompanying testimony from Valerie Rice, PhD., CPE, OTR/L, whose PhD is in "Human Factors Engineering (Industrial Engineering and Operations Research) with a specialization in Human Factors Engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and masters degrees in both Occupational Therapy (University of Puget Sound) and Health Care Administration (Baylor University). She is a Board Certified Professional Ergonomist and a liscensed and registered Occupational Therapist". In other words, Dr. Rice is the person who should have written the states test procedure which would have given everyone a fair and even field for making a judgment on Vote-PAD.

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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Voters To Hold Press Conference Before Public Hearing In Sacramento On Wednesday
By John Gideon on 8/7/2006 7:56am PT  

Guest Blogged By John Gideon

Vote-PAD is a low-tech, voting assistive device that was developed with input from the disabilities community. Because it is inexpensive to purchase and maintain, Vote-PAD is a threat to electronic voting systems. Vote-PAD also makes voting a possibility for a wider range of voters with disabilities than do almost all of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) or touch-screen voting systems.

Even though some northern California counties had already purchased Vote-PAD for use in their elections as their HAVA compliant voting system for voters with disabilities; the Secretary of State decided that they would have to certify Vote-PAD for use with the optical-scan systems that are in use in each of the user counties.

The state then wrote a test plan that was totally unfair to the voters with disabilities who were expected to test the Vote-PAD. The state did not use a Human Factors Usability Testing Expert, an expert in writing test procedures for disabilities access. Instead they wrote a procedure that would have been better suited to testing a computerized voting system and they appear to have done this without really understanding how voters with disabilities actually use the device.

It is important to note that the state of California has certified for use many voting systems produced by Sequoia, Elections Systems and Software, Diebold, and Hart Intercivic. These devices have been certified by the state as being HAVA compliant and usable by voters with disabilities. Yet, not one of the electronic voting systems has been tested specifically by the disabilities community or even advocates for that community. Instead, a cursory inspection was made by unqualified staff and/or unqualified consultants and they were all accepted for use.

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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By John Gideon on 12/23/2005 8:53pm PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.org

I want to take this opportunity to wish all of the readers of "Daily Voting News" a wonderful holiday season. As long as there is voting news over this weekend DVN will continue to publish it. It is with a mixture of sadness and immense pride in my associate of over two years that I post this announcement regarding VotersUnite: "December 23, 2005. After two years of providing the public with accurate information about voting systems and related issues, Ellen Theisen is now working toward election transparency in a different way - by offering the Vote-PAD as an accessible alternative to computerized voting devices. To avoid any potential conflict of interest, Ellen is terminating her association with VotersUnite.Org, effective immediately." In today's news the AP has announced that the SoS of CA has warned ES&S about problems with their voting machines and has threatened that proceedings to decertify will begin if the problems are not solved....

--- Click here for REST OF STORY!... ---

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