visit CASE at: http://www.caseohio.org/

Touch Screen voting in Ohio presents Boards of Elections and voters alike with many challenges. While the officials and employees at the Boards of Elections throughout Ohio know much more about these challenges than the interested citizens who produced this paper, the topic is uppermost in all our minds. We at CASE (Citizen's Alliance for Secure Elections) offer this document as an aid to recognizing and addressing those issues. Most of these suggestions are from the EAC (Election Assistance Commission) web site. It has important additions from several groups who have studied election issues and addressed portions of the process in some detail.

Summary and Critical Initiatives for TS voting.

Ohio is set up for disaster with Touch Screen voting in seven of our counties. This election will probably be  very close and will certainly be observed by the whole world, literally with international representatives in our counties, and we want to show everyone that we are both honest and competent. Past elections with the machines we will be using have shown the capacity for a wide range of errors and problems. CASE recommends the following essential actions to preserve our dignity and democracy.

Critical Initiative

Details in
  1. Acknowledge that the machines we are using have been the cause of problems in the past, both in Ohio as well as elsewhere.
  1. List the problems that have occurred with the machine used in this county (whether it happened in this county or elsewhere) and the steps taken to prevent a re-occurrance.
  1. Find outside experts to make an independent review of your whole process. Implement all suggestions.
#1 and #5
  1. Build a public-private partnership and encourage civic participation.
  1. Review system usability and focus on improvements.
  1. Upgrade poll worker recruitment and training.
  1. Test your equipment and processes
  1. Review the critical questions below and post the results on your web site.

Critical Questions
(ref. Toolset)
  • Have the machine manufacturers documented a clear chain of custody for the machines and software, from programmers to polling place? 

    • What are the guidelines and procedures concerning equipment management practices, including chain of custody for machines, software and memory cards at every step of the way: receipt, storage, transfer, startup, shutdown and re-storage?  (Strict guidelines should be in place and there should be plans to monitor their implementation.)

  • Are there protocols to insure isolation of individual machines to minimize any potential vulnerability in one machine from being used to access and alter the programming of other machines?

  • Will the system use security key cards with computer-generated passwords by precinct?

  • Is there provision for updating the encoding and terminals within each precinct? 

  • Will election officials maintain control over ballot creation and loading onto the voting machines and will the process be subject to official oversight?

  • Are there provision and a plan for full state testing and certification by independent specialists who are not affiliated with the vendor?  What is the plan?

  • Has local testing and training been codified to make sure unauthorized changes will not occur at the local level?

  • Has the vendor made all or nearly all of their code available for inspection or (better yet) are the systems entirely open source?  (This would permit the broader community of computer professionals to serve as an on-going check on the system.)

  • By what means will the vendor provide any patches (changes), will these be approved by the appropriate officials, and will the means of transmitting them be secure?  How will security be guaranteed?

  • Have election judges and other poll workers received, or will they receive, hands-on training in all aspects of working the system and protecting its security and reliability?

  • What are the arrangements to guarantee that transmitting or transporting votes from the precinct to the canvass center will be secure?

  • Are there procedures to prevent the use of unauthorized supervisor cards?

  • Is there a communication plan detailing how election officials will communicate with workers at each polling place and if so, what is the plan?

  • Will back-up energy supply be used for all machines in case of power disruption which could cause loss of votes?

  • Crucial:  Will a sufficient number of paper ballots be provided at each precinct in the event of machine malfunction, power outage or other unforeseen problem which could cause individuals' votes not to be counted without the backup paper ballots? 
    • (States are required by the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to have provisional ballots on hand.) 
    • What will be the procedure for processing these and assuring they are counted and that there are no double votes (machine and paper)?

  • When will military and other absentee ballots be counted, who will do the counting, who will observe?  
    • (Request observer status for non-partisan committee representatives.)

General Discussion and Recommendations

 The Ohio counties using some form of touch screen are, according to secretary of states files and augmented by CASE inquiries:

County Seat
Vendor Used
System Used
AUGLAIZE Wapakoneta
ES&S iVotronics
DANAHER/ES&S Danaher 1242
KNOX Mt. Vernon
LAKE Painesville
MAHONING Youngstown
ES&S iVotronics
PICKAWAY Circleville MICROVOTE MicroVote 464
ROSS Chillicothe MICROVOTE touchpad

Every one of these systems has a history of serious failures somewhere in the country; Danaher is no exception, we know of the Danaher 1242 problems because they were mentioned during the Joint Committee on Ballot Security hearings. Worse than all the documented problems are the undocumented problems that have not been observed because there was no check in place to catch them.

In Indiana, Johnson County has decided to put their ES&S touch screens away and use a paper voting system instead this November. County Clerk Jill Jackson said using a paper system was "the safest and surest thing to do." Johnson County made this decision after they learned that ES&S had installed uncertified software in their voting systems. The county gave ES&S a deadline to get their software certified, and ES&S failed to meet the deadline. (For more on this story see Kim Alexander's Weblog for Aug 23, 2004. http://www.calvoter.org/news/blog/index.html)

Our recommendations are in 5 categories: System Security, Voter/System Interaction, Poll Worker Concerns, System Testing, Management and Security (Pre-Voting Day, Voting Day, and Post-Voting Day). Some are expensive to implement or require a long lead time, but they are all important and can help. We hope election officials will get some good ideas for their own jurisdictions and will be able to make their election process even better by using these ideas and understanding the reasons behind them.
  1. System Security  (ref. mostly from Brennon) 
  • Hire and work closely with a well-qualified, independent security team to examine the potential for operational failures of and malicious attacks against the jurisdiction’s TS voting system. No Board of Elections has the qualified experts on staff to guide the employees through and around the many security concerns; the contractor who provides the equipment and maintains it is exactly the wrong person to provide independent security services. Recent scrutiny of the new DRE systems has revealed numerous problems with electronic voting. They could easily be sharply criticized with close elections this November and a close cortical review is imperative.

    • The expert security team that is retained must be free of any business relationships with any voting system vendors or designers in order to perform the necessary analysis and ensure public confidence in that analysis. The outside team must also have a proven track record in assessing computer security in voting systems or comparable technologies.

    • The independent expert security team must be allowed full access to the hardware/firmware, software code, procedural protocols, design documentation, and other relevant items associated with the TS voting system under analysis.

      • To ensure such access, elections officials from the various states that have purchased the same vendor’s systems should collectively demand full and complete cooperation from the vendors.

      • Elections officials should inform vendors that their level of cooperation will be documented on publicly visible websites for purchasers including secretaries of state to review.

      • Contract terms may be used to require such cooperation (and future state purchase contracts should be drafted to include such requirements). Such alliances of state elections officials could also be used, where appropriate, to take advantage of economies of scale in the assessments themselves.

        • This may be particularly valuable to avoid duplicative assessments of identical voting system technologies used in different jurisdictions. Indeed, once a full assessment of a given voting system has been completed and can be shared among all jurisdictions that use identical technology (i.e., hardware and software), elections officials and the independent experts with whom they contract should be able to focus more exclusively upon those elements that are unique to their jurisdiction.
(See details in accompanying document: "Performing Voting System Assessment")

  1. Voter Interaction with Voting System / Voter education
  • Improve usability.
    • Consider hiring a usability expert  to review your system and make recommendations. In addition to the on-screen instructions and layout, other factors affecting usability include appropriate lighting and placement of machines.

Arlington County, Virginia, dispatches demo units in each polling place. Make sure poll workers learn procedures for activating demo smart cards so they don’t accidentally use “live” smart cards.

    • Review FEC publications on usability.  Develop a web-accessible sample ballot that shows each screen, including the instruction and ending screen.

Arlington County, Virginia, includes a presentation on voting machines and the voting process on its website.

  • Track over-votes and under-votes. Develop Election Day procedures to help determine the nature and cause of under-votes and blank votes to determine whether they are genuine under-votes or the result of voter confusion.
  • Ask minority language organizations to review ballot translations.
  • If you find a higher percentage of voter error in certain communities, work with pertinent community groups to educate voters in those communities.
  • Establish procedures for how to handle a scenario in which a voter exits before casting a vote.
  • Develop procedures that allow you to determine after the election which machine the voter used; ensure these procedures also protect the secrecy of the ballot.

Montgomery County, Maryland, requires the poll workers to conduct a written tally for each unit.
  1. Poll worker Training and Polling Place Procedures

Poll worker recruiting:

  • Recruit local government employees, particularly those with IT background.

The Washington, DC, Board of Elections created a “precinct technician” position to provide technical support in the polling place; the technician receives hands-on training on start up and troubleshooting machine problems.

Poll worker training:

  • Create a poll worker position that is dedicated to machine set up, shut down and troubleshooting. Provide supplemental training on equipment; supplement pay for extra training.

  • Require pollworkers to keep a log of Election Day events and problems, including voter complaints, that will help you to recreate the events of that day.

Polling Place Setup

  • Use USB’s as machine power source; connect each machine to a USB. Daisy-chaining machines may become a single point of failure. Have a back-up plan and train pollworkers on how to troubleshoot and report alleged “power failure” problems.

  • Angle the machines to protect voter privacy.

  • Survey polling places with tech support to check outlets

Pollworker Accountability.

  • Establish checklists to track pollworker performance on key steps of DRE voting processes.

Montgomery County, MD, has a Precinct Performance Report   (http://www.eac.gov/bp/docs/Precinct%20Performance%20Report.doc) which tracks such factors as completion of election logs, provisional ballot accounting forms and compliance with check-in procedures.

  1. Testing/System Integrity
  • Calibration Issues - too much wear and tear can impact sensitivity.

  • Rely as little on the vendor as possible; look for outside IT expertise if it is not available in house. Have either election staff or independent consultants design and run tests.

  • Ensure systematic and consistent testing of each machine.

  • Conduct, at a minimum, both acceptance testing and logic and accuracy testing on each system. Logic and accuracy test should include “incremental testing.”

  • Conduct system diagnostics on every machine for every election before you conduct Logic and Accuracy.

  • Use separate machines for training and outreach.

  1. Management and Security
Pre-Election Day

  • Establish a deadline for patches or modifications to prevent unnecessary confusion.  (SOS should do this, but if not, it becomes the county BOEs' responsibility)

  • Build a public-private partnership to encourage civic participation. Civic groups like the League of Women Voters, the election reform  groups, the chamber of commerce, trade unions, religious groups, and service clubs can all help, as can the political parties, elected officials and the county government. Everyone has an interest in improving the conduct of elections, but isolated and independent campaigns by these groups are unlikely to be as effective as a coordinated effort. It should not take much coordination; certainly, Democrats and Republicans are unlikely to cooperate intensively, but even a little cooperation can have great impact.  (Jones)

    • Educate the public about these measures in advance. If we are to build voter confidence, the voting public must understand what the government is doing to protect their voting rights and to protect the integrity of the election system. Any campaign will be ineffective if voters believe that it is empty propaganda, so it is essential that the measures include a campaign to recruit and educate members of the public to serve as observers of and witnesses to every critical step in the election process. This is why it is so essential that the campaign listed above be conducted as part of this effort.  (Jones)
  • Create a time line for election preparation. If you are introducing a new system, expect to quadruple the amount of time necessary for preparing precinct-specific units. Preparation, testing and staging all require more time.

  • Conduct a risk analysis - where are you most vulnerable to problems? At what points are the system - both the administrative system and the machines - most likely to break-down. For example, is there an indispensable person? If so, develop a plan for dealing with his/her absence. Develop contingency plans, such as off-site storage of all software and data.

  • Cross-train election staff to perform multiple tasks.

  • Ensure all software, including patches, is certified.

New York uses bar codes to track delivery of lever machines in anticipation of transitioning to DREs.

  • Develop sound documentation of all election administration procedures that will allow you to identify the cause of problems after an election. Keep a log of receipt of equipment and software, who performed the programming and testing, and delivery to staging area or polling place. all paperwork that may be relevant in recreating how a failure might have occurred.

  • If the state is the contract holder, develop Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with state election office on authority over the system maintenance and modifications, including appropriate liens of communication.

  • Develop rules for access to any sensitive equipment.

  • Keep a maintenance log for all voting system equipment. This log should track who has had access to the machine(s).

  • Computers used for ballot definition should be stand-alone PCs unconnected to servers or the Internet.
  • Machine delivery:
    • Conduct risk analysis of the delivery system.
    • Develop agreements with each polling place delineating the responsible election office and the facility.
    • Establish chain of custody.
    • Develop checklist for delivery.
    • Use bar-coding to ensure proper delivery of all machines to polling places.

  • Credentialing Election Observers:   
    • Citing relevant provisions in the state election law and regulations, county team request county officials’ support for non-partisan citizen teams to monitor polls on election day. 
      • If possible, secure letters or other forms of permission/support/authorization for precinct-level teams to have with them on election day.
    • If permission is denied, publicize this, appeal to the next level, seek credentials directly from candidates and parties, and continue with plans to train volunteers and place them in precincts on election day.  (Toolset)

Election Day / Election Night
  • If smart cards are used:
    • Control access to the voter smart cards. Educate pollworkers and voters to know that the “smart card” is not the ballot and the voter’s choices are not recorded on the “smart card.” The card merely directs the voting unit to bring forward the voter’s correct voting screens. 

Montgomery County, MD directs the pollworker to insert the Smart Card in to the unit on behalf of the voter to ensure that the voter correctly accesses the system.

Develop a plan to provide Election Day technical support for pollworkers, including a troubleshooting checklist, a call center, and rovers.
  • Establish written procedures for handling Election Day equipment failure.

  • Provide for redundant records of results, including paper printouts.

  • Ensure transparency in all aspects of the tabulation process, especially in the transport or transmission of results to the central election office.

  • Develop chain of custody for memory cards and machines.

  • Reconcile the number of voters with the number of ballots. One of the central accounting measures that can be used to protect the integrity of the ballotbox, whether electronic or paper, is the reconciliation of the number of voters who signed into the polling place with the number of ballots counted. If this number is brought forward through the canvass, we can gain a very useful check against classic forms of fraud such as ballot boxstuffing, pollworker errors such as casting demonstration ballots on real voting machines, voters who have difficulty casting their ballot, and a variety of other problems.  The following numbers should be tracked during the election:  (Jones)

    • Ballots Cast (as recorded by the voting machine)

    • Ballots voided after a voter attempted to vote and failed or fled

      These numbers should add up to the number of signatures in the pollbook, and whenever ballots are voided, a record should be made, explaining why.

      The above reconciliation will only be possible if a written log is maintained for all ballots voided, since there are other reasons to void a ballot, for example, when a voting machine is incorrectly used for demonstration. It would be appropriate for this log to be maintained for all precinct worker actions that involve precinct workers entering voting booths between the time the polls open and the time the polls close.

      In addition, the number of absentee ballots received by the deadline should be counted (including those cast at satellite polling places during early voting) and the number of provisional ballots accepted should be counted. These, added to the number of signatures, give a measure of the turnout against which the number of ballots counted can be compared, not only at the precinct, but at vote collection centers and during the canvass.

      Discrepancies, for example, precincts with unusual numbers of voided ballots, should receive intensive and early attention from auditors. It is useful to carry the turnout figures forward outside of the election management system using manual methods in order to act as a check on the integrity of the electronics. While canvassing an election by hand is horrible clerical work, doing this one sum manually or at least carrying these numbers forward outside the election management system should not be onerous.  (Jones #3)
  • When the polls close, print and post an additional copy of the precinct totals.

    • Posting a copy of the precinct totals at the precinct allows any observer to note the totals for any races that interest them and to check them against the official canvass.

      This allows any interested person to help audit the integrity of the canvassing process and prove to themselves that the county or the election management system has not corrupted the count between the time that the polls close and the time the final canvass is published.This measure only works if the final published canvass does not combine absentee, early voting and provisional ballots, so it is important to break these numbers out.  (Jones #4)

  • Also, the number of provisional ballots collected at the precinct must be disclosed to any observers present at the closing of the polls so that they can verify that the number of provisional ballots eventually counted does not exceed the number distributed.Reconcile the printed record from the precinct with the electronic record.

      • At the close of the polls, printouts from the precinct are saved, along with compact flash cards and the DEB that was used to close the polls, and all of these are delivered, through a secure chain of custody, to the vote collection center and eventually to the county's central vote tabulation center. Because of questions about the integrity of computerized vote tabulation technology, it is appropriate to finish the canvassing process by comparing the printed record from the precincts with the electronic records tabulated by the election management system.

        In effect, once the voters are allowed to perform this reconciliation independently, it is wise for the county to defend itself by performing the same reconciliation in-house in order to catch and correct any errors before they are exposed to the public. This procedure is widely used elsewhere, including, for example, Dallas County, Texas (where Steve Bolton has observed it), as well as Iowa, where we are working to write it into law.   (Jones #5)

  • Guard the chain of custody for all election materials.

    The chain of custody for election materials is strongest when we minimize reliance on locked doors at the precinct! It is one thing for the law to demand that there be a lock, but quite another for county officials to examine the locks to determine if they are genuinely secure or vulnerable to classical attacks with credit cards, hairpins and other commonplace tools.If possible, open the polls on the morning of the election. (Not done this way in Florida)

    Use of security seals is valuable, but only if these seals are not cosmetic. There are reports from many jurisdictions of the use of custom printed numbered security seals where the numbers are never checked when the seals are broken. Such cosmetic procedures are of no use. Only if the seal number is recorded when the seal is applied and verified at the time the seal is broken is that seal of any value. Polling place, vote collection center and canvassing center workers should all be informed of this, and election observers should be aware of the need for these checks.(Jones #6)

  • Institute a program of rigorous testing.

    Direct recording electronic voting systems have been described as black box voting systems because observers can do very little to assure themselves that the software and mechanism inside the voting machine performs correctly. This flaw is compounded by the fact that the voting system firmware and software in use today is proprietary and not open to public inspection. The most difficult part of the voting system to test for correctness is the touch-screen interface and the firmware behind it. In comparison, the canvassing procedure is far more open, particularly if the protective measures outlined above are in place.

    The best available defense against the known risks of direct recording electronic voting machine sis a rigorous program of testing. Unfortunately, the pre-election tests conducted on current voting machines are not sufficiently rigorous. The central problem is that if the machine is informed that it is undergoing a test, it can be programmed to perform differently under test than in a regular election. Therefore, an effective program of testing must include some tests that are significantly more rigorous than is conventional in pre-election testing or even the testing performed by the independent testing authorities that certify the machines to Federal and State standards. There are three categories of tests that are particularly important:

    a) Challenge or red-team testing, where knowledgeable technicians and programmers attempting to find and exploit weaknesses in the voting system. Maryland had RABA Technologies of Columbia Maryland perform such tests on its voting system (the results are reported in the Trusted Agent Report of Jan. 20, 2004). Ohio had weaker tests performed by Compuware Corp. on 4 different voting systems, including the iVotronic (the results are available in Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) Technical Security Assessment Report of Nov. 21, 2003).

    b) Serious investigation of how the system responds to normal errors, including how the consequences of these errors show up in the election results. This is a category of investigation that is important at the local level because local election workers are the most likely to know what kinds of errors are normal, and it is the local election workers who must recognize and correct such errors when they occur. Once you know what the normal errors are, the training materials may need adjustment to reflect this, not only with measures to try to reduce the frequency of these errors, but with specific procedures for dealing with their consequences.

    Normal errors are the types of errors that a system invites. In the everyday world, for example,locking your keys in the car is a normal error -- a dispassionate observer of the driver-automobile-door lock interaction can easily predict that, no matter how carefully you train drivers not to lock their keys in the door, some will accidentally do so. For a voting system, we know that forgetting to close the polls on one of the voting machines in the precinct is a normal error, but there are others that are less well known. The important question for voting system administrators is, what are the normal errors and for each, how can we protect ourselves against it?

    c) Parallel testing. Because we know that voting machine software can be prepared to recognize when it is being tested, the most effective tests of a voting machine will be tests that are as nearly indistinguishable from normal polling place operation as is possible. The best proposal for this involves selecting the machines to be tested at the last moment, and testing these machines from the minute the polls open to the minute the polls close.

    Parallel testing, sometimes called parallel monitoring has been advocated by many people. The California Ad Hoc Touch Screen Task Force recommended parallel testing in their Report of July1, 2003, and Hans Van Wijk of NEDAP, a voting system vendor based in Holland, presented a paper on parallel testing at the USACM Workshop on Voter-Verifiable Election Systems in Denveron July 28, 2003. This model of testing has been offered by a number of organizations as an alternative to the use of a voter-verified paper ballot printer on each voting machine. Parallel testing is strongly endorsed by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the state of California used parallel testing in the March 2, 2004 primary (see the Parallel Monitoring Program Summary Report prepared by R&G Associates, Apr. 19, 2004).

    In summary, parallel testing is conducted by picking precincts at random and then having the testing teams arrive at those precincts at roughly the time the pollworkers arrive. Each testing team then selects a voting machine at random from the machines at the selected precinct as the machine to be tested. This machine is segregated from the other machines at the precinct, for example, roped off with signs indicating that it is under test. While the pollworkers open the polls at the other machines, the testing team opens the polls on the machine being tested, and then,all day, as the election is conducted on the other machines at the precinct, the testing team tests the machine under test. As the polls close, the testing team closes the machine under test, and then prints out the totals for that machine and verifies them against the test votes that were cast.

    It is important that parallel testing be conducted in public because the public needs to know that the county is taking this measure, and at the precinct so that there is no way that the voting machine can be in any way specially prepared for the test. Given both of these conditions, it is reasonable to recruit members of the public to help. After voters have cast their ballots, for example, they could be invited to help cast test ballots. As each test ballot is cast, members of the testing team must note the votes on that ballot, so that they can compute what the totals should be at the end of the day. Any problems voters have with the machine under test should be noted as well, and of course, voters who helped with the test by casting test ballots should be rewarded, for example, with special stickers saying more than the usual "I voted."  (Jones #7)

  • Involve the county Audit and Management Services Department.

    Counting votes is an accounting function, just as much so as counting dollars. As with all accounting, it is subject to both error and the threat of fraud. We deal with both of these threats in the world of financial accounting by conducting regular audits, and we know that, if it were not for the threat of such audits, corporate fraud would be far more common than it is.

    In elections, the canvassing board conducts a number of self-audits with every election, and many of the recommendations given here aim to strengthen these. What we do not have in our election system in most of the United States is a system of external audits, where auditors from outside the election office examine the integrity of the process.

    External audits could, of course, be conducted by the state election office, or by some national election authority, but we can gain much of the protection of such an external audit by bringing in auditors from the county's own audit department. (Jones #8)

  • Involve the county E-Gov Department.

    Computerized voting systems contain computers. This is obvious, but what is not obvious is why local and state governments across the country are not recognizing this. Data processing or electronic government departments have decades of experience in questions of security, fault recovery, backup policy, data communications and related domains, and all of this is applicable to election systems. (Jones #9)

  • Improve incident reporting.

    In general, the process of system certification requires feedback. Thus, for example, the Federal Aviation Administration requires reports for all incidents involving airplanes to be sent to the FAA as well as to whoever might have caused the incident. Without this feedback, the FAA would not have the information needed to improve their regulations, their testing of airplanes, or their operating rules. Similarly, in the voting system domain, the state elections office and the Federal Election Assistance Commission need to learn about any problems encountered by the counties so that they can adjust their certification requirements.

    Unfortunately, nationwide, we have a problem with this. The Election Assistance Commission has no resources to handle incident reporting, and incident reports sent to most states are filed, never to be examined again. This must change, but change will require that the counties act, routinely reporting incidents to the state. If state authorities continue to ignore such reports, we will need to create a non-governmental organization to handle them.  (Jones #10)

  • Track software version usage.

    The canvass for an election should include a record of the firmware and software version numbers of all electronic systems used in arriving at that canvass. These should not be taken from records of the version that was supposed to be installed, but should be taken from the systems themselves.

    In fact, even this is inadequate, since a corrupt piece of software can report any version number it wants. There are unsolved technical problems involved in actually determining, to any degree of certainty, what software is actually running on an arbitrary computer. Therefore, for the time being, we must accept the report of the system and hope that the software certification process and the chain of custody from the certification authority to the voting machine are both rigorous enough to defend us against misreported versions. (Jones #11)

  •   Track the source of data used in canvassing.

    The iVotronic system offers many ways to extract data for inclusion in the canvass. There are three internal flash EEPROM memories in the machine, from which data may be extracted using PEBs, compact flash EEPROM memory cards or a serial data link. Depending on which extraction path is used, it is possible that different data may be extracted!

    Only summary data is extracted to the PEB, but this summary data is committed to paper immediately on the printer at the precinct, so it provides valuable protection against loss or corruption of data in the electronic transmission paths upward through the canvassing process.

    As Steve Bolton of ES&S has explained, data extracted via the serial port, for example to a laptop computer, includes all vote image reports and event logs, but all of this data comes from the first of three flash EEPROM chips inside the iVotronic computer. This fact is important in the event that there is any disagreement between these chips.

    Data extracted via the compact flash card also includes all vote image reports and event logs, but in this case, this data will come from any one of the three flash EEPROM chips, whichever one the internal firmware judges to be the most authoritative.

    Therefore, in the event of disagreement between the internal EEPROM chips, data extracted via the Compact Flash card and data extracted via the serial port may differ, and these two paths are the only ways to extract detailed reports from the machine, as opposed to the summary data extracted via the PEB! Therefore, it is imperative to maintain a record, for each machine, of any alternate path used for data extraction. It is also noteworthy that the integrity of the data extracted may vary depending on the path by which it is extracted.

    Ideally, ES&S (and other electronic voting system vendors) should incorporate data path and data source tracking into their systems, so that this information is automatically tracked by the canvassing system, but until this is done, manual records are essential. In addition, even when this is automated, it should be subject to routine testing, and this requires that manual records be maintained during the closing and canvassing of precincts that are subject to audit.

    In summary, unless the iVotronic machine indicates a serious error condition because of a disagreement between the internal EEPROM memories, extraction by the serial port is an acceptable path, so long as chain of custody issues are carefully attended to. Extraction of data via the compact flash card should be acceptable once the problems with the Unity election management system are solved; these are the subject of a later section. (Jones #12)

  • Allow only the minimum necessary software on election computers.

    The Unity election management system makes little or no use of security technology to protect the integrity of election data, and the data downloaded from the iVotronic are similarly unsecured. These weaknesses are documented in the security assessment of the iVotronic system performed by Compuware for the State of Ohio, available on the web at: http://www.sos.state.oh.us/sos/hava/files/compuware.pdf It is worth noting, for example, that the database used within the Unity election management system is in dBase format, and files in this format can be manipulated by using Microsoft Excel.  (Jones #13)
  • Conduct post-election logic and accuracy testing of machines.

  •  Modem unofficial results over phone line using encryption to protect data during transmission.
  • Conduct a post-election audit to reconcile all records, especially the number of voters and the number of votes cast.

  • Conduct a public post-election “debriefing” to address any concerns related to the voting system.
  • Considerations for making TS voting systems accessible
  • Solicit the help of disability organizations in training poll workers to assist voters using accessible equipment.
  • Place machines in a location where polling place noise won’t overwhelm the audio ballot.
  • Recruit voters with disabilities and minority language voters to serve as pollworkers.

_______.  Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project's "Where We Have Been, Where We Are Going" Project Update,  January 2003
Toolset.  This is a product in process, not currently available on the internet. I can provide a copy in Word if requested. Related information at:

Performing Voting System Assessment

The expert security team that is chosen should include within their scope of work and final recommendations, at a minimum, the analyses listed below.5 Each jurisdiction and each voting system will inevitably present unique concerns that must be assessed by the contracting expert security team. Indeed, officials should establish that one of the most important aspects of an expert security team’s preliminary review will be to identify areas of vulnerability that are unique to the jurisdiction at issue. In addition, as noted already, elections officials can and should take advantage of voting system assessments performed in other jurisdictions on identical hardware and software systems.

a. Hardware Design Assessment

Potential vulnerabilities: Hardware design flaws can allow an attacker to access the voting system to change critical settings, install malicious devices, or otherwise tamper with the voting terminals or tally servers. Examples include machines or ancillary components without sufficient locks, with exposed drives, or with other easily accessible hardware components. Such vulnerabilities could lead to machine malfunctions, miscounted votes, or erasure of data, were an attacker able to exploit them.

Recommendations: In the area of hardware design, a critical assessment tool has been so-called “red team” exercises, in which a team of analysts attempts to attack the system under review to identify points of vulnerability.6 In addition, the hardware must be studied to identify design flaws that could allow either access to attackers or mere operational failures. All devices and casings must be protected against such access. The independent expert security team should provide a comprehensive assessment of hardware design flaws or opportunities for improvement.

Among other remedial recommendations that have resulted from such hardware design assessments are: the use of “tamper tape” on vulnerable hardware components to ensure that attempts to breach those components are detectable, replacement of certain hardware components with less vulnerability, and new security procedures to compensate for an identified hardware design flaw.

b. Hardware/Firmware Configuration Assessment

Potential vulnerabilities: Hardware or firmware configuration refers to the manner in which different hardware or firmware components are connected and their operating settings.7 Certain configurations create more potential access points through which malicious attackers could gain access into the voting system. Examples include the ability to “boot” a voting terminal or tally server from a diskette or CD ROM (rather than from an internal hard drive) and thereby gain access to the software code of that terminal or server without a password. Such vulnerabilities could allow an attacker to cause significant damage, from systematically erasing or misrecording votes as they are cast to complete machine malfunctions.

Recommendations: “Red team” exercises and other tools should be used to assess the vulnerability within hardware/firmware configurations in the DRE voting system. All devices must be checked to ensure that proper locks with unique keys or passwords are used; network access is not available through modems, Ethernet ports, or other points between or in hardware components; and machines can be booted only off a secure drive (as opposed to a CD ROM or floppy disk).

Among other recommendations that are likely to address such concerns are configuration controls, so that it is not possible to boot off a CD ROM or floppy disk; the use of user names, passwords, and file access controls that are unique and inaccessible to potential attackers; and the use of “tamper tape” to protect the server or voting terminal from tampering.

c. Software Design Assessment

Potential vulnerabilities: Software design vulnerabilities could involve either good faith flaws or malicious software code hidden within the voting system. Examples of good faith design flaws include poor practices, such as including passwords or encryption keys in lines of easily accessible software,8 or simply faulty software code that leads to voting machine malfunctions on Election Day. Malicious software code could include instructions to a voting system to count votes erroneously at random or in specified patterns designed to affect the tallies of a voting machine or an entire election. Although computer security experts warn that it is virtually impossible to guarantee that malicious code has not been introduced into a system, certain basic measures can be taken to reduce the risk of bad software design substantially, whether of unintentional or malevolent origins.

Recommendations: To assess the vulnerability of the system’s software, the independent expert security team should review source code with particular attention to authentication, encryption, and the accessibility of critical files, such as those containing voting records. In short, the expert security team must assess the extent to which the source code itself includes unnecessary security risks that could be reduced through patches, encryption, or other security measures, and whether the source code follows good engineering practices to reduce the risk of accidental failures.

In addition to security risks, the expert security team should perform extensive tests of the basic functionality of each aspect of the voting systems, including the recording and reporting of votes. Such testing is essential to assure good software quality. Although it is virtually impossible to guarantee that even an expert will find cleverly written malicious software code, extensive testing will increase the likelihood that the product of such code will be detected before Election Day.

Among other recommendations that are likely to address software design problems are: specific updated patches; crypto-signatures (i.e., digital “fingerprints”) to ensure that any unintended software code can be identified more easily; and, in the case of good faith software design flaws, revisions to software source code to address specific problems of security or functionality. Note that such revisions must themselves undergo security assessments, within the constraints of time, before use on Election Day.

d. Software Configuration Assessment

Potential vulnerabilities: Software configuration refers to the ways in which the various software elements are set up and arranged together to work properly. Flaws in such configuration can allow unintended access into the software code by an attacker, or simply expose the software to common dangers, such as computer viruses. Examples of vulnerable software configurations include the failure to ensure that anti-virus software programs or other software “patches” designed to block unauthorized access are in place and up-to-date throughout the system.9 In addition, the software configuration could also expose weak links in the security of the connections between various software components, through which an attacker could gain access to the system and affect the machines’ operation.10 Uncertainty about poorly controlled configuration details will make security assessment much more difficult, if not impossible.

Recommendations: To assess software configuration problems, the independent expert security team should analyze the entire voting system to examine how data flows from one element to another. For example, experts may find that there is a security vulnerability in the software that moves the ballot information into the vote capture system to record the vote. Each separate device or interface between devices (and the software inside) represents a potential point of attack that must be assessed. In addition, experts must examine the patches and anti-virus software used in the servers and the terminals. Further, the expert security team should study the procedures and mechanism, if any, to upgrade software in the system. To assess whether improper software upgrades have occurred, the expert security team must compare the existing code with the most trusted version of the same. If software upgrades are to be completed from a remote location, the risks inherent in such upgrades must be documented and assessed. In any event, software upgrades and even parameter changes should be carefully controlled and documented at all times, and the procedures for doing so should be reviewed as part of the assessment process.

Among other recommendations that are likely to address software configuration problems are: placing digital signatures on software to detect malicious code, precluding any remote software upgrades as unacceptable risks, new patches in the operating systems to improve security, and reconfiguration of certain software elements to eliminate weak links in the system.

e. Assessment of Procedures

Potential vulnerabilities: The procedures used to handle a voting system can facilitate security breaches or machine malfunctions or, at the least, fail to stop such problems. Examples of problems in this area include the absence of adequate security procedures (e.g., using only one encryption key or password for all machines rather than unique keys or passwords for each machine), poor implementation of adequate procedures by elections workers, or departures from protocol caused by unforeseen circumstances on Election Day.11 In addition, procedures that are not directly related to security can produce unnecessary security risks. For example, procedures that allow last-minute software upgrades to the machines or server can, if not handled properly, allow uncertified software to be used on Election Day that bypasses critical security safeguards.12 Inadequate procedures for routine auditing, detection, and response to security incidents can also undermine the effectiveness of other security measures.

Recommendations: To assess both security procedures and election procedures that may have security implications, the independent experts must study relevant procedures in place in the jurisdiction, determine whether they are fully in use, and understand which individuals are trained and responsible to ensure their proper implementation. In addition, the expert security team must assess all locks or other security devices to determine their vulnerability, including such facts as how many keys have been made that can open a lock and to whom the keys have been given. Such analyses must address the entire voting system and must incorporate any changes that occur in procedures on or before Election Day. The objective is to assess the chain of possession from vendor to precinct so that no unintended software modifications or hardware tampering can occur. The same consideration should be given to assessing procedures used to create the chain of possession of voting results, from balloting through certification.

Measures that are likely to improve security and other procedures include: replacement of locks and security devices; implementation or improvement of standard procedures; better training on procedures for key officials and workers; the use of Tripwire, or a similar software authentication program, to provide a check of software integrity on the machines and server; and protocols for use of “tamper tape” and other protective measures.

f. Physical Security Assessment

Potential vulnerabilities: Voting systems must be securely stored and kept physically out of the reach of potential attackers. Without such physical security precautions, the finest security checks on voting terminals or servers may be rendered moot by subsequent attacks on or before Election Day, software or hardware may be maliciously altered, and machines may be programmed to miscount or erase votes or simply to malfunction in certain areas or polling places.

Recommendations: The assessment of physical security will require different analyses in different jurisdictions, depending upon the size of the jurisdiction, the number of machines, the methods of storing and handling the machines, and other factors. The independent expert security team must study the entire chain of custody of all of the voting terminals, the servers, and any other materials related to the use of the DRE voting systems. The “chain of custody” assessment should also cover the recording and transmission of voting results, including all telecommunications or networking facilities utilized. The chain of custody must not end on Election Day, moreover, in case of the need for a new election or additional analysis of the systems after the election.

Among other recommendations that are likely to address physical security concerns are: changes in storage methods for machines and servers, limits on personnel access to such components, improved security procedures, and better training of election workers to avoid unnecessary exposure of voting system components.

3. Implementing Expert Recommendations

Eliminating unnecessary security risks and restoring public confidence in voting systems within a jurisdiction requires not just obtaining a risk assessment but also implementing measures to limit those risks before Election Day. For this reason, elections officials should commit prior to hiring an independent expert security team to implement all reasonable recommendations within a pre-established timetable and to provide public explanations (working in concert with the independent oversight panel) of any decisions not to implement specific recommendations. Officials should provide public notice of both the risk assessment process and the plan for implementation of such recommendations. The independent oversight panel recommended below would be a valuable asset in this effort.

In addition, the independent expert security team should be required to identify a series of checks that can be performed after the recommendations have been adopted and implemented that will test whether they have, in fact, been so implemented. Such tests are critical not only to ensure that security and operational improvements have been made, but also to instill public confidence that the independent assessment process was indeed independent.

4. Developing Security Training

Any serious expert assessment will result in recommended improvements in the training of elections officials and workers to address security concerns and operational failures on DRE voting systems. This is true because experience with DRE machines is still limited in most jurisdictions, and election worker training often remains limited in any event. Accordingly, elections officials should develop a comprehensive security training program for election workers at every stage in the election process. Although the specifics of each jurisdiction’s training will differ, all jurisdictions must include training on the changes implemented in response to the independent expert security team’s recommendations.    

5. Randomized Parallel Testing

Parallel testing is the only procedure available to detect non-routine code bugs or malicious code on DRE systems. In addition to laboratory testing during the certification process it is essential that DRE systems get tested during real elections, using so-called parallel testing procedures. Parallel testing is needed for two separate purposes: (a) to test the myriad parts of the system that get used during a real election but not in a laboratory testing situation, and (b) to check for the possible presence of malicious code or insider manipulation that is designed specifically to avoid detection in a laboratory or testing situation, but to modify votes surreptitiously during a real election. Where possible, parallel testing should be performed in every jurisdiction, for each distinct kind of DRE system. While experts agree that parallel testing cannot reveal all forms of malicious code, it can be a critical part of the kind of comprehensive security measures recommended in this report.


Elections officials should consult the procedures described in the publication NIST 800-30, “Risk Management Guide for Information Technology Systems” and the baseline information categories defined in the NSA Infosec Assessment Methodology. These documents are used by the U.S. Government to define the scope of work for its security assessments.

6 As described in RABA’s report, “A Red Team exercise is designed to simulate the environment of an actual event, using the same equipment and procedures of the system to be evaluated. Teams are then free to experiment with attack scenarios without penalty.” RABA Technologies LLC, Trusted Agent Report Diebold AccuVote-TS Voting System, at 16 (Jan. 20, 2004), available at http://mlis.state.md.us/Other/voting_system/trusted_agent_report.pdf. RABA’s red team exercises focused on smart card vulnerabilities, the security of each voting machine terminal and of the server, and the methods used to upload results after an election. Id.

7 Firmware commonly refers to the coded instructions that are stored permanently in the read-only memory (“ROM”) inside a computer system’s hardware. It is thus easier to change than hardware but harder than software stored on a disk. Firmware is often responsible for the behavior of a computer system when it is first switched on. A typical example would be a firmware program that loads an operating system from a hard drive or from a network and then passes control to that operating system once the computer is fully booted.

8 See, e.g., RABA Technologies LLC, supra note 6, at 16. RABA’s red team exercises revealed that the smart cards’ passwords were actually contained in the source code for the systems, which allowed the team easily to gain access to a card’s contents and thus to vote multiple times.

9 For example, the RABA investigators who analyzed the Diebold machines to be used in Maryland found that, with the correct phone number of the central server in each local board of elections, they could take control of the entire server from any phone in the world. The vulnerability was the result of failure to update the so-called “GEM Server” with at least 15 security patches available from Microsoft. Id. at 20-21.

10 The Seattle Times reports that an internal Diebold email allegedly noted that King County (WA) was “famous” for using uncertified Microsoft Access software to open the GEMS election database. See Keith Ervin, No election snags, director says: Absentee ballots on time, security measures in place, Seattle Times, Oct. 28, 2003, available at http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2001776406_voting28m.html.

11 The RABA investigators found that all 32,000 of Maryland’s touch-screen terminals had the same locks and keys, making every machine accessible to anyone with one of the keys. The keys could also be easily reproduced at three local hardware stores. RABA Technologies LLC, supra note 6, at 18. The Washington Post reports that malfunctioning machines were removed for repair and returned to service during Election Day in Fairfax County, Virginia. See Eric M. Weiss & David Cho, Glitches Prompt GOP Suit Over Fairfax Tabulations, Washington Post, Nov. 5, 2003, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A1397-2003Nov5.

12 In three central Indiana counties, for example, uncertified firmware was loaded into the voting systems by Election Systems & Software as a result of inadequate procedures. See Rick Dawson and Loni Smith McKown , Voting Machine Company Takes Heat Over Illegal Software, WISH-TV8, March 11, 2004, available at http://www.wishtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=1704709&nav=0Ra7JXq2. In California, the installation of uncertified software occurred on several occasions and led to the Secretary of State’s decertification of DREs. See, e.g., Kim Zetter, E-Voting Undermined By Sloppiness, Wired, Dec. 17, 2003, available at http://www.wired.com/news/evote/0%2C2645%2C61637%2C00.html.