Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Certification questions and concerns

Colorado Voter Group

May 25, 2007

RE: Voting System Public Demonstration

Dear Mr. Tee:

We just completed another unsatisfactory Voting System Public Demonstration - the fifth day of pointless demonstrations.

We suspect that the Colorado Department of State intends to claim that the public was involved in the certification process. First, the demonstrations are so superficial that they cannot be considered a substantive part of any legitimate certification process. Second, the time that we have invested has been made superficial and inconsequential by this unprofessional process.

The demonstrations were superficial and addressed almost no real election system issues. So what is the point? Even the temporary workers who are watching the demonstrations and occupying valuable seats will not be sufficiently informed by the demo to be ready to operate the equipment.

Questions asked by the public might have inspired the test board to include tests for real election problems. But we have been told that the questions posed by the public will not result in any change of the planned functional testing. Why allow staff to deceive management into believing that they are actually doing something of value?

1. We were aghast when the ES&S representative announced the six (6) Mesa County and Jefferson County employees as being present “to support the vendors”. Who paid for these people? Why were they representing the interests of the vendors instead of the public? More than once, the vendor asked these county employees to participate in the demo. It was clear that they were not under the same restrictions as the rest of the public attendees.

2. Unchanged from Kolwicz’s May 3 note to Secretary Coffman, the public was still unable to clearly see or hear the May 25th demonstration. Thankfully, the Legislative Liaison for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition, Sheila Hicks, attended the ES&S session and successfully got the meeting stopped and the seating rearranged. We would like to understand why Ms. Hicks received an immediate response, and our report was ignored. Is it because she was in a wheelchair?.

3. We overheard at the ES&S demo that Mr. Gardner controlled the seating arrangements and purposefully assigned the "best" seats to insiders and squished the public into a noisy back corner of the room. We would like to know if this is true. We definitely observed that the table containing the “test board” has served as a barrier between the vendor and the public in every test.

4. At the ES&S demo, there was a new person sitting at the "Test Board Table". When Mr. Branscomb asked Mr. Gardner, informally during a break, if there were now five members of the Test Board, Gardner stated that the meeting was on break and questions could only be asked at the end of the demo. When Mr. Branscomb repeated the question during the public question period Gardner refused to respond on the basis that the question was not one for the vendor pertaining to the demo. (At the May 2nd demo Gardner announced that questions could be posed to the vendor or to the SOS staff.) After the demonstration was over Branscomb approached Gardner one more time, at which time Gardner said: “You are just pushing too much” and he told Branscomb that he had “filed too many open records requests” and should “go downstairs for an answer”. In fact, Mr. Branscomb has not filed an open records request at all. However, Mr. Kolwicz has and may have to do so again to obtain even simple answers to simple questions. This is only an example of how badly the public is being treated.We hope that an adult and civil response to Branscomb’s question is immediately forthcoming from CDOS.

5. We have heard that there will be another demonstration focused on disabled voter capabilities. If this is true, when and where will this demonstration be conducted, who has been invited to attend, and may we attend?

6. In our March 28 letter to Secretary Coffman, our April 26 email to you, and our May 3 conversation with and email to Dan Kopelman, we discussed the lack of transparency of the entire certification process, including functional testing. How can we observe the functional testing process? How will the critical decision for approval/rejection of equipment be made and who will make this decision? How will the public participate in this decision?

7. In the ES&S demonstration, as in the past, the public did not have enough time to ask all of their questions, and was prohibited by Mr. Gardner from even asking relevant questions. As well, Mr. Gardner chose the order of questioners according to his own preference and apparently arbitrarily decided the ending time, forcing (as had been done previously) the public to cease asking questions at the time he decided (in spite of the maximum 3 day plan for this demonstration set in the rules). Does Secretary Coffman approve of this heavy-handed, unfair treatment of the public? Does he support these methods which obviously censor the public’s speech? If not, what will Mr. Coffman do about it? If so, how may we appeal this policy?

8. What is the procedure for gaining access to the un-redacted video tapes of the demonstrations?

To reiterate what we said in our May 3 note to Secretary Coffman, the demonstrations continue to be unsatisfactory.

Based on what we saw and what we know from the public record, two things are clear enough to make recommendations.

· We recommend that the following DRE voting equipment not be advanced to functional testing: (a) Hart Intercivic eSlate, (b) Diebold AccuVote TSX, (c) Sequoia AVC Edge, and (d) ES&S iVotronic. All of these products fail to meet Colorado requirements. All bring unnecessary risk and uncertainty to Colorado’s election process. All would subvert Secretary Coffman's plan to restore public trust in elections.

· We recommend that the AutoMark be advanced to functional testing. This product uses simple and straightforward full-ballot-text paper ballots. These ballots are verifiable, they simplify election processes, and they avoid the security issues of electronic ballots. The AutoMark permits blind and physically restricted voters, and in fact almost all voters (more of the voters than with any of the DREs), to independently and privately select and verify their votes. As an extra practical advantage, this vote is recorded on a reliable and easily verifiable and re-countable full size paper ballot. Without sacrificing voter privacy, AutoMark provides a way for any voter, with or without disability, to make use of an assistant if needed. It clearly satisfies the HAVA requirements in a manner which is compatible with the interests of the voting public at large.

We hope that you will be able to quickly get answers to our questions and concerns. We are available to meet with you or talk by phone to discuss these points.

We thank you very much for facilitating and expediting this communication and for anything that you do to improve the transparency and credibility of this re-certification process.

Al Kolwicz

Harvie Branscomb

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