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Latest Featured Reports | Tuesday, September 23, 2014
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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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Detailed Coverage from Historic Hearing in Sacramento, California...
By Emily Levy on 7/30/2007 11:19pm PT  

Guest Blogged from Sacramento by Emily Levy of VelvetRevolution.us (with assistance from Michelle Gabriel, photos by Bill Lackemacher of Sacramento for Democracy) from the public hearing on 7/30/07, called by California Secretary of State to receive comments on her landmark "Top-to-Bottom review" of the state’s electronic voting systems. No internet access was available in the hearing room, so I wasn’t able to live blog as I’d hoped. I did, however, take copious notes, which are posted in full below this brief summary.

ED NOTE: The video of the hearing, which was not easily available as it streamed live today, is now posted here and here. But I recommend Emily's detailed description below for a great deal of value-added content and perspective! And it's faster! - BF

Note: Story very slightly updated with some corrections in the spelling of names, plus one substantive correction regarding Jim Soper's testimony (the very last one in the entire article).

SACRAMENTO - California Secretary of State Debra Bowen made opening remarks, followed by an overview of the Top-To-Bottom Review by the chief investigator, Matthew Bishop, University of California Davis (UCD) Professor of Computer Science.

Following that, each of the three vendors whose machines went through the Top-To-Bottom Review were given 30 minutes to respond to the report. Diebold went first and only took about five of the 30 minutes, followed by Hart Intercivic and Sequoia.

I’m absolutely thrilled to report that Sequoia knows just how to solve the problems found in the Top-To-Bottom Review: California should just by newer systems from them!

After lunch was the public comment period, the longest part of the hearing. I’ve paraphrased and sometimes quoted the comments of just about every person who testified (including my own testimony). There were maybe 25 or 30 county election officials present, many of whom spoke. Freddie Oakley of Yolo County, an election integrity hero, spoke in favor of the Top-To-Bottom Review and said we bought these systems to accommodate voters with special needs and disabilities and “we have let them down in the most appalling way” by certifying systems with such obvious defects and continuing to use them despite those defects.

I believe every other elections official spoke critically of the Top-To-Bottom Review, most criticizing Bowen for not including county elections officials in the review, not reviewing policies and procedures as part of the Top-To-Bottom Review, and conducting the review in a laboratory setting rather than a real election setting. (I, in contrast, think our elections in recent years have been nothing but one giant beta test!)

It will take some scrolling to find my notes on the remarks of the many election integrity advocates who spoke. Most spoke late in the day, probably because they signed up later, after the pre-hearing press conference they held outside the Secretary of State’s office building. But it’s worth the scrolling, because many important things were said. Many of the EI advocates encouraged Secretary Bowen to decertify not just the three election systems tested, but all electronic voting systems. Many advocated for hand-counted paper ballots. Testimony was frequently backed up with credentials, experience, statistics and technical information. The depth and breadth of expertise in the election integrity movement continues to amaze me. (Note: I’ve posted my own comments in full because I had them available. If others who spoke would like their testimony posted in full, I invite them to paste them into the “comments” section of this blog item.)

Several people with disabilities and advocates for people with disabilities spoke. Some, notably Jennifer Kidder, spoke about the importance of election integrity. Kidder said, “The purpose of any equal opportunity legislation is to get marginalized voices heard,” and went on to note that this purpose is defeated if, after voting privately and independently, the vote of a disabled voter is changed by an electronic voting system.

Most of the people with disabilities and their advocates, however, cautioned against going “back” to paper ballots, saying that would be a move in the wrong direction in terms of the accessibility of voting systems. In general, they were supportive of the types of mitigations recommended by the accessibility team of the Top-To-Bottom Review, despite the findings that none of the systems tested actually met the federal accessibility standards as required by law.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen’s office is accepting public comments by email until Wednesday, August 1 at VotingSystems@sos.ca.gov On Friday, August 3, Bowen will announce what actions she will take in light of the Top-To-Bottom Review. We can only hope that she remembers why she was elected, and will take bold action to protect California's elections.

Detailed notes on the hearing appear below. Where I have paraphrased a speaker, I have done so in the first person, sometimes making my own [occasionally snarky] comments inside square brackets. I hope this isn’t confusing...

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

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PLUS: Following up with Bowen on the ES&S LA County InkaVote Issue, and the Bizarre Comments from Steve Weir, President of CA Election Officials Association
By Brad Friedman on 7/29/2007 10:31am PT  

Blogged by Brad Friedman from somewhere in Texas...

We'll certainly have more, from various voices, in the days ahead concerning CA SoS Debra Bowen's landmark independent "Top-to-Bottom Review" of electronic voting systems. The reports from the teams at University of California are now available online here.

As well, Bowen will be taking public statements on these reports both via email at votingsystems@sos.ca.gov and, in person, during a public hearing tomorrow (Monday, July 30) at her office in Sacramento beginning at 10:00am. She'll announce her decisions for decertification or otherwise next Friday, August 3rd. So your input is important, as she mentioned on during a media phone call last Friday.

But even while the results, as Bowen described them on that phone call just prior to their release, found that "the independent teams of analysts were able to bypass both physical and software security measures in every system tested," and as the report on accessibility for disabled voters found that none of the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE, usually touch-screen) voting systems met federal disability standards, Democrats and People for the America Way (PFAW) in the U.S. House were busy hammering out a deal to institutionalize the continued use of such disastrous voting systems into federal law.

Out of touch much? Which part of a transparent, counted, paper ballot (not a "trail" or a "record") for every vote cast in America do these guys not understand?

Late Friday, as Bowen's UC Report was being released, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) finally came to terms, reportedly, on a deal for a revision of Holt's HR 811 Election Reform bill which allows for the use of DREs as preferred, almost exclusively, by PFAW, elections offficials, and voting machine companies. We've been reporting for months that PFAW was the main insider advocacy group moving the ball with this disappointing bill, and Saturday's New York Times confirms that it was "Ralph G. Neas, president of People for the American Way, [who] helped broker the deal" between Holt and House Leadership.

That despite Neas having previously chided me for suggesting that PFAW had the power to make or break this legislation in Congress. As we've also long reported, of course, by their own written admissions, PFAW prefers unaccountable DRE systems to paper ballot voting systems.

And though Christopher Drew's reporting at the New York Times is getting slightly better with each new story, it would be nice if "The Paper of Record" could learn enough about our voting systems so they could accurately report, and help Americans understand what's really at stake here and how the technology actually works.

Drew reported --- misleadingly --- that "The House bill would require every state to use paper records that would let voters verify that their ballots had been correctly cast and that would be available for recounts."

That's just plain wrong. The fact is that adding "cash-register-style printers to...touch-screen machines," as Drew describes it, does not allow a voter to verify that their "ballots had been correctly cast." It allows them only to verify that the paper record of their invisibly-cast electronic ballot accurately matches their intention. Maybe. The fact is: There is no way to verify that a voter's vote is correctly cast on a DRE touch-screen voting machine. Period.

Unless, of course, it's me who is out of touch in presuming that if a "ballot" is "cast" it means it will actually be counted by someone or something. Paper trails added to DRE systems are not counted --- only the internal, invisible, unverifiable ballots are. A "cash-register-style" print-out prior to the ballot being cast and counted internally does not change that.

But more on all of that, and Bowen's UC reports, as we move forward. For the moment, if you'll allow me, I wanted to touch base on a few items I asked Bowen about during the phone call which followed up on several specific issues that we've been reporting on here at The BRAD BLOG over the last several weeks.

Specifically, I asked her whether there had yet been a resolution to the discrepancies in version numbers for LA County's InkaVote system source code as turned in by ES&S, versus the version secretly stored in escrow. And whether or not she could explain the comments reportedly made by Steve Weir, Registrar-Clerk of Contra Costa County, CA and President of the California Association of Clerks and Elections Officials (CACEO), that CA election officials could choose to ignore Bowen's recommendations if they wanted to.

According to Bowen (full transcript and audio below) the ES&S LA County InkaVote issue remains unresolved, and she's unaware of what Weir might have been referring to. A transcript of my questions with Bowen follows, and I hope to have more on Weir soon --- and the adversarial comments he's been making in the media on behalf of CACEO --- but this article has already become much longer than I had intended...

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

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Letter Obtained by BRAD BLOG to Voting Machine Company Confirms Potential Violations Of California Election Law as Revealed During CA SoS Bowen's 'Top-to-Bottom Review' of E-Voting Systems
Matter May Have Far Reaching, National Consequences Concerning the Effectiveness of Escrowing Secret Vote-Counting Software...
By John Gideon on 7/10/2007 9:03am PT  

Blogged by John Gideon and Brad Friedman

The results of California Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" of electronic voting systems previously approved for use by her predecessor is still underway. But before any of the findings from her teams of security specialists, software analysts and voting systems experts have been made public, the unprecedented analysis has already revealed a disturbing anomaly which may have far-reaching implications for both state and federal voting systems laws across the country.

As The BRAD BLOG reported exclusively almost three weeks ago --- precisely zero media outlets bothered to file their own reports on this matter until last weekend --- all voting machine vendors certified in California had submitted their source code to Bowen for the review, except for ES&S, America's largest voting machine company.

After their refusal to submit the code as required for the test, Bowen demanded the source code used for the InkaVote Plus voting systems marketed by ES&S, and used exclusively in Los Angeles, be released to the state by the escrow firm which had been holding it as per state law.

Following Bowen's demand to the escrow company, Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management, ES&S reluctantly agreed to give their own version of the source code to the state.

Oddly enough at the time, the voting machine company, in an arrogant letter to Bowen (posted here in full by The BRAD BLOG), demanded that she withdraw her request to receive the version of the source code already stored in escrow at Iron Mountain. The letter succeeded in keeping our already-raised eyebrows at full perk, as the demand that Bowen not review the code in escrow, but rather look only at the one ES&S was sending, raised several troubling questions. Among them, we wondered at the time if perhaps the version stored in escrow was not the version actually used on the county's voting systems during last year's election. If so, there could be enormous ramifications for the company, and for the idea of escrowed source code for voting systems in general.

Over the weekend, an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, the first organization to jump into this matter following our series of reports, filed a story on the matter which began to validate our suspicions. The paper reported that due to the late submission, the InkaVote Plus system would not be included in Bowen's "top-to-bottom review", presenting questions about which voting system would be allowed for use in 2008, in the country's most populous county. LA County is larger than many states in America.

It's as yet unclear whether Bowen will completely decertify the InkaVote Plus system for use, or whether she will take other steps.

Perhaps more disturbingly, however, the Daily News report includes comments from CA's Deputy SoS for Voting Systems, Lowell Finley, indicating that our concerns about differences in the submitted and escrowed source code may have been precisely on target.

We contacted Bowen's office for more details, and they shared with us the letter sent from Finley back to ES&S in response to the company's curious demands. The letter is posted in full at the end of this article. And if the issue Finley raises is indeed true, there may be a whole lotta trouble ahead...

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

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Arrogant Letter Agrees to Comply With Law by Submitting Source Code for Review, But Mysteriously Insists That SoS Bowen Revoke Demand to Release Version of Source Code Held by Escrow Firm...
By John Gideon on 6/28/2007 8:05am PT  

Guest Blogged by John Gideon of VotersUnite.Org

As The BRAD BLOG reported yesterday, voting machine company ES&S has finally relented and agreed to join all of the other companies operating in the state by cooperating with the Secretary of State Debra Bowen's "Top-to-Bottom Review" of all electronic voting systems previously certified by her predecessor Bruce McPherson. After previously refusing to supply the state with source code for the company's InkaVote Plus system used exclusively in Los Angeles County, Bowen had demanded the release of the source code from escrow where it was stored by state law, as we also reported previously.

But has ES&S really relented? Or is something else up?

We asked yesterday why ES&S decided to send their source code, instead of allowing Bowen to pull it from the escrow facility at Iron Mountain, as she had previously demanded. And now, based on a letter from the company which The BRAD BLOG was able to obtain from one of our sources, as sent to Bowen's office when they agreed to supply the source code Monday, the smell of something fishy continues to permeate. The complete ES&S letter is posted in full at the bottom of this article.

On Monday, June 25, ES&S sent the letter to Lowell Finley, California's Deputy Sec. of State in charge of Voting Systems Technology and Policy, agreeing to supply the source code for InkaVote Plus is an amazing example of the company's arrogance even as it continues to beg a myriad of unanswered questions.

ES&S opens the letter repeating their desire for changes to the previously agreed upon Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) they have with the state. AS well, they believe the cost of Bowen's "top-to-bottom review" is too high, and they have concerns with some of the researchers who are doing the review. Nonetheless, they agree to cooperate.

Yet, after informing Finley that they intend to finally send the required source code, they instruct him that they expect him to send a letter to Iron Mountain Intellectual Property Management Inc. to release the firm from the state's request for the escrowed source code. Now why would they need to do that?

"As ES&S is providing the InkaVote Plus voting system source code directly to your office, ES&S requests that you send a letter to Iron Mountain retracting your request for the InkaVote Plus voting system source code," writes ES&S' Steven M. Pearson in the letter.

"This will provide the required notification to Iron Mountain that you are no longer in need of the requested source code and allow Iron Mountain to close your request. In addition, this will avoid ES&S from having to issue contrary instructions to Iron Mountain to prohibit the release of the InkaVote Plus voting system source code."

So what the heck is that all about?...

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

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They Stand By Their Man (Which Turns Out To Be Their Stated Purpose)
By Emily Levy on 8/7/2006 1:56pm PT  

Guest Blogged by Emily Levy

Claims that electronic voting equipment sleepovers are just peachy sound mighty defensive in an issue paper titled "Voting Equipment 'Sleepover' Practice" issued July 27, 2006 by the California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO).

"The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) recognizes that distributing secured voting equipment to poll workers prior to Election Day is an efficient, accountable, and transparent practice that contributes to the orderly and secure conduct of elections."

It may come as no shock that the president of the CACEO is none other than Conny McCormack, Registrar of Voters from Los Angeles County, pictured here on a Diebold brochure. San Diego RoV Mikel Haas is on the Board of Directors. Despite the CACEO not being a government entity, it has an important job to do. Why, its motto is even "Officium populi, office of the people." But wait! In their bylaws we find, under "Objects and Purposes":

"To Promote Welfare of Members: To promote the welfare of members of the Association and the counties they represent."

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LA County's System, for example, Was Apparently Approved for Use at the Fed Level by a Former Waitress/Bartender!
By John Gideon on 6/26/2006 7:38am PT  

By John Gideon, Executive Director VotersUnite.Org

There is, for good reason, much concern and a lack of confidence in the process for federal qualification/certification of voting systems. Independent Test Authorities (ITA), who test the systems against federal standards, are not really 'independent' because they are paid to do testing by the vendors who also provide the test parameters. They look where they are told to look and go no further than that.

The next step in the process is review of the ITA test and the voting system by a panel of 'experts' called the Voting Systems Board Technical Committee. This committee is under the auspices of the National Association of State Elections Directors (NASED). One might think that this part of the process would be free and clear of any reason for concern. One would be wrong...

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

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California Primary Election Eve Complaint, Filed Within the Hour in LA Superior Court Claims E-Voting Tabulators Placed in Room with Internet Access, in Close Proximity to Uncertified Tabulator Software
Complaint Filed by Plaintiffs Cindy Asner and Peace & Freedom Party Chair, Declaration Filed by Green Party Election Inspector, Several Troubling Details Alleged...ALSO: Voter Given Wrong Ballot in Winograd Race on Diebold Touch-Screen Early Voting Machine...
By Brad Friedman on 6/5/2006 4:04pm PT  


UPDATE 6:56pm PT: Judge Denies Injunction! Suit Dismissed! Details follow in an update following our original coverage...

A last-minute Election Eve compaint has been filed in a Los Angeles courtroom within the hour calling on LA County's registrar of voters, Conny B. McCormack to immediately remove Diebold elecronic voting machine tabulators, said to have illegal access to the Internet as well as uncertified tabulation software, from counting rooms at the county's main facility in Norwalk, The BRAD BLOG has learned.

The plaintiffs in the case are Cindy Asner and Cynthia Henderson, LA County Chair of the Peace and Freedom Party.

The emergency filing, being heard at this hour, is based on an affidavit filed today by Green Party election system inspector, John Wenger, a PhD and retired software engineer from Northrup Grumman who has been tracking LA County's use of electronic voting machines over the past month along with several other inspectors from both the Green and Democratic parties. The BRAD BLOG spoken at length with Wenger over the weekend, and has reviewed a draft version of his declaration being filed with the suit. (The final version of Wenger's declaration is now posted at the end of this article.)

Los Angeles county is the largest voting area in California. The state is holding its Primary Election tomorrow. Touch-screen Diebold voting machines --- now shown to be hackable and highly vulnerable to malicious tampering at both the point of the voting machine itself and its central tabulator software --- are used for early voting only in LA County. Though early voting in LA began several weeks ago and ended last Friday, tabulation of votes cast during that period will not begin until the polls close on Tuesday evening at 8pm PT.

The race is an important one to Election Integrity advocates since state senator Debra Bowen is running in a primary race in hopes of winning the Democratic nomination to take on Republican CA Sec. of State Bruce McPherson who has been a supporter of vulnerable electronic voting machines, including Diebold's, in the state. As well, the LA County Registrar of voters, Conny B. McCormack has been a long-time supporter of Diebold and their election equipment and has even been featured, via photograph and endorsement, on promotional brochures distributed by the controversial Ohio company. (See graphic below.)

This year's primary is also being closely watched due to a Democratic primary challenge by anti-war candidate Marcy Winograd against powerful pro-war Democratic U.S. House Representative Jane Harman in the state's 36th U.S. Congressional district.

Further, another troubling detail about Diebold's touch-screen systems in the county was revealed on Friday of last week when The BRAD BLOG received an email indicating that one voter at least --- Michael Shure, a political commentator on Sirius Sattelite's The Young Turks radio program --- who voted on the Diebold touch-screen machines was given the incorrect ballot.

Shure, who lives in CA's 36th congressional district noted that his touch-screen ballot gave him the option to vote for Rep. Henry Waxman, who is running unopposed in his U.S. Congressional primary, instead of the Winograd/Harman race which should have been on his ballot.

"Unbelievable," Shure wrote in his email. "Had I not known, as I am sure many voters don't, who my Rep. was, and what district I live in, I would have been voting for someone else."

Indeed, Shure's experience underscores further dangers of combined precincts using elecronic touch-screen voting machines as Los Angeles offers during the early voting period when voters may go to any early voting location and cast their ballot on machines which --- supposedly --- offer them the appropriate ballot for their particular district.

The experience has left the Winograd campaign wondering how many other voters may have missed out on the opportunity to vote in that contentious race and whether or not they may need to file a challenge to the election in order to find out.

UPDATE 6:56pm PT: Judge Denies Injunction! Suit Dismissed! Details follow below...

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

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Governator First Instructed to Use a Provisional Ballot, Given Normal Ballot Anyway!
LA County Registrar, Diebold Supporter Admits 'Protocol Breached in Advance of Election'
By Brad Friedman on 11/8/2005 2:01pm PT  

Due to a problem with Electronic Voting Machines in Los Angeles County, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was told he had already voted when he showed up at the polls today to cast his ballot in the Special Election that he himself declared for California today!

He was told he'd have to use a provisional ballot, but unlike most American voters, he was eventually allowed to use a regular ballot anyway.

Los Angeles County Registrar, Conny McCormack (a huge fan of Diebold machines, and a very good friend of their sales rep here in Southern California) is trying to mitigate the damage...big time...Though she admits that someone "breached protocol in advance of the election"

It should be further noted, that the Governator was attempting to vote in Brentwood (in Los Angeles County), but the "breach" --- which would have kept a normal non-Gubernatorial citizen from voting on anything but a provisional ballot --- occurred in Pasadena, about a 30 to 45 minute drive from Brentwood. Early voting, on paperless Diebold Touch-Screen Voting Machines, has been occurring in Los Angles County for the last several weeks.

From Los Angeles Times... [emphasis added]

Schwarzenegger Hits Snag at Polling Place

SACRAMENTO --- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up to his Brentwood neighborhood polling station today to cast his ballot in the special election --- and was told he had already voted.

Elections officials said a Los Angeles County poll worker had entered Schwarzenegger's name into an electronic voting touch screen station in Pasadena on Oct. 25. The worker, who was not identified, was testing the voting machine in preparation for early voting that began the next day.
...
Schwarzenegger's aides were informed of the problem when they arrived this morning to survey the governor's polling station. The poll worker told the governor's staff he would have to use a "provisional" ballot that allows elections workers to verify if two votes were made by the same person. McCormack said the poll worker did the correct thing.

The governor, however, was allowed to use a regular ballot.
...
"This is someone who breached our protocol and was playing around in advance of the election," she said.

Tom Hiltachk, the governor's attorney, said: "I have no reason to believe anything nefarious occurred.

But Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the problem highlights the need for better verification of electronic voting.

"If the governor is going to have a mix-up on his ballot," she said, "it will make other voters wonder what is going to happen with their ballots."

(Thanks to John Gideon of www.votersunite.org for alerting us about this one!)

CORRECTION: The original version of this article had said that Schwarzenegger had voted in Sacramento. Schwarzenegger had, in fact, voted at his Brentwood precinct, which is in Los Angeles County. The BRAD BLOG regrets the error.

ReddIt this story!



By Brad Friedman on 5/18/2005 12:27pm PT  

According to the LA Times...

City Clerk Frank Martinez used a different voting system, which meant few problems Tuesday with collecting ballots and counting votes.
...
In place of the InkaVote system, voters Tuesday were handed a simple paper ballot that listed each race or issue and required them to use a marker to fill in an oval next to their choices.

Imagine that.

ReddIt this story!



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