HB 3 Testimony
Phil Fry
Champaign County
  6 Dec 05

Thank you for the opportunity to testify here today on this important legislation. I am Phil Fry, an intelligence analyst retired from the National Air Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. I am a resident of Champaign county and also a member of CASE, the Citizens' Alliance for Secure Elections.

This is very important work and I want to thank everyone for the months of commitment to address problems with our election system. There is a lot of good work in this bill, but I have to add quickly that I am perplexed at many parts because they generally make it harder for some groups of people to vote. If we accept the adage that we can know a tree by the fruit it bears, then I would have to say that this tree should be heavily trimmed.

To keep things in perspective when looking at new election issues, I find it necessary to work from a simple basis of values. I think that most people agree that elections should be fair and open and those two goals are about all I need. I will explain what I mean. If every citizen of voting age, who wants to vote, does so successfully, then that would be the first essential step in having a fair election. Then by an open election process, I am really talking about accuracy and security in vote handling. Transparency is the essential second step in a successful election. No part of the process should be closed to public observation and inspection. This recalls the motto we used earlier in this election work: Trust, but Verify. Without openness, we are left with a secret processes that can't be  understood and monitored. Without transparency, the election can not be verified, and the process is in trouble.

I evaluated parts of  HB3 against the standards of fairness and openness. Using these standards helps me to examine this election tree to see what quality of fruit it is bearing.

The following parts of HB 3 fail according to this criteria, because they do not make elections more fair.

1.  The ID requirement fails this standard because it is not a fair and balanced plan. The ID requirement makes it more difficult for some groups of people to vote while it has no effect whatever on other groups. It is not only not fair, it is also not necessary; there is no established problem that will be solved by using a voter ID since there is almost no demonstrated voter fraud. This is rotten fruit on our election tree that will affect hundreds of thousands of voters, disenfranchising many.  It should be removed.

2. The reduction in the number of announcements of issues and candidates also fails the fairness standard. This change will give those who have a computer and get a newspaper pretty good access to election information. But the large group of people who don't get a newspaper and don't have a computer will not have easy access to all the information they need. This is a significant kind of disenfranchisement that says in effect, let them vote but make it difficult for them to learn anything about the issues and candidates.

Every voter should receive a booklet of candidates and issues that will be on the ballot. It should include a brief description of issues and the background and commitments of each of the candidates.  I know this is done in California and believe it is done in several other states. I can't help but wonder what kind of thinking would lead our legislators to provide less information about candidates and issues to the group that probably has the most need of good information.  This is another branch of our election tree that is bearing bad fruit and should be removed.

3. Incredibly unfair changes are being made to the process of helping to register and re-register voters. People who help voters register merely hand them a form and then deliver the completed form to the appropriate office, and now are asked to do that  within 10 days. The problematic legislation that has emerged is riddled with unfair requirements.

For instance, only paid workers are required to sign the form and include their address and name of employer even though this information will not affect the validity of the form. Volunteers and selected state employees are not affected.

Only paid workers are required sign the same affirmation every time they deliver a group of voter registration forms. Volunteers and selected state employees do not have to turn in this kind of document.

The people who help others to register or register voters are performing an important service for the state without compensation from the state. Those who are paid are supported through the generosity of citizen contributions but they are doing work left undone by the state. They find citizens who are not voting, encourage them to get involved with the democratic process, provide registration forms for them to complete and then return the forms to the correct office.

Voter registration opportunities should be enhanced by new legislation, not diminished. Our goal should be to register every citizen over 18 and to educate and encourage all to vote. Instead, Ohio is legislating ways that will hinder the registration and reregistration of our youngest, our most mobile, and our most elderly. 

I suggest instead that we replace the training requirement with an instruction sheet that can be downloaded, copied, and passed out to volunteers and workers. I also suggest that the affirmation document be a one time form that is provided by the agency supporting the registration drive, filled out once by the worker, and all of these sent to the secretary of state's office by the agencies involved. The worker would merely initial each registration form.

Further, the completed forms should be deliverable to any Board of Elections as well as to the secretary of state's office. And why not also make them deliverable to any of the organizations or agencies that are already set up to handle voter registration forms like any library or any Bureau of Motor Vehicles office.

The changes in rules for those helping voters to register are incredibly unfair and represent more limbs of rotten fruit on our election tree.

4. The solution in HB 3 for people voting outside their precinct is also not fair. It is not clear what problem is being addressed by the artifice of defining a jurisdiction to be a precinct, but his creates new problems without solving the underlying causes. We can safely assume that essentially everyone who wants to vote, will try to find the right place. The only reason for most people to show up at the wrong precinct is they made a mistake. It would be much better to improve ways to inform people about their proper precinct before they leave home to vote and again when they get to the polling place. If people can wait for hours at a polling place to learn they are in the wrong precinct, the state has a very bad process for informing the voter. This jurisdiction artifice is not only unfair it is not needed.  There should also be provisions made to accommodate the occasional person who shows up at the wrong place so that they can at least vote for national and state wide issues.

This is a fourth example, another limb on our election tree producing bad fruit.

The following issues fail to meet the goal of an open election.

1. The process of addressing recounts is not open. This may be the worst fruit on this sick tree. Elections are a process, and errors can show up in the process in many ways and many places. The current approach is completely turned around from the correct way to handle a process where errors can creep in. It is essential that we think like Toyota and not like GM. We need to build a process for counting votes that continually improves and is predictably accurate. 100 % accuracy should be expected when we fix this process. We must let go of the idea that we have always done a pretty good job and there is no need to make big improvements. That is a failed notion.

Whether we count by hand or count by machine, there are going to be errors. The difference will be in the kind of errors. Legislation that will help either case requires statistically verifiable vote auditing techniques as part of the certification process. In other words, we must make a manual count of a small percent, 5 %,  of the precincts a part of the verification process. Other states are doing this and it is the only way to find unpredictable errors. It will also help circumvent election counting fraud. Certified vote counts should be demonstrably 100% accurate, and the best way to reach that level is to make recounts free. Once you know you will have to perform public recounts, you will discover ways to count votes publicly with unquestioned accuracy. On the other hand, by making recounting less and less likely, your process will develop more and more errors. Give the county BOEs the tools they need to count votes without error, require that the public be given as much role as they ask, and you will not be asked for recounts even if there is no charge.

This legislation on vote counting leaves the BOEs with a vote counting system that is susceptible to significant errors, is inside a black box within a closed room, and is essentially shut off to rechecking by the prohibitively high costs established. It can't succeed.

This approach to counting votes will waste a lot of money and cause a lot of misery. It is another limb that must be pruned off our election tree.

2. The requirement that the SOS post decisions made during phone calls is a step towards openness but does not go near far enough. The SOS should be required to also post all Directives, Advisories, and Memoranda for the whole time they are effective. The SOS should also post all election results by precinct as reported on election night. Admit it when corrections are occasionally needed, but posting and preserving the election night results will go a long way toward building public confidence.

Further, most postings are done in a pdf format and this is not usable for reviewing and studying data. Data should also be available in almost any other format: csv, .txt, .html, .doc and .xls all work well.

This small branch of our tree is valuable and hopefully it will grow stronger.

3. Another step toward openness is the addition made to expressly prohibit voting machines from connecting to the Internet. I hope everyone understands and appreciates the potential for electronic fraud. If you have any doubt, please check into the case of Clint Curtis, who recently wrote fraudulent counting software for DRE machines that could not be detected. Regarding this prohibition of connecting to the internet, I only had the summary of this legislation to work with, so maybe what I am going to ask for is already included. But the restriction should be that the voting machines are not capable of connecting to the internet, not just that the connection can not be used at certain times. The hardware used for internet connection must not be installed, which may be difficult to ascertain. It is  not always obvious what to look for, so this requirement needs to be in the system specifications and machines should be examined by a competent technician. I have had connections to the internet through telephone lines, through wireless connections at several different frequencies, through cable, and by a signal that ran through my AC plug. There are more and more wireless connection devices being built as standard parts of other pieces of the computer so this requirement must be in the specs before the machines are purchased and current machines need to be examined specifically for these kinds of connections.

This is another limb that is in good health but needs to grow.

Concluding comments and questions.

1. Are you keeping track of the very high cost of the digital solution to the election process? Have you compared the cost of this approach to a much simpler scheme? Using an all paper ballot system that is entirely counted by hand may seem primitive, and certainly has its challenges, but it is much less expensive and is used successfully around the world and even in some 700 jurisdictions in the US.

counties / precincts / municipalities
State # with paper total
Idaho 16 44
Iowa 1 99
Kansas 21 105
Maine 394 503
Massachusetts 90 2,158
Michigan 98 5,045
Missouri 9 116
Montana 5 56
New Hampshire 147 309
North Dakota 8 53
Pennsylvania 5 72
South Dakota some unknown number
Texas 90 261
Utah 4 29
Vermont 184 246
Virginia 28 2,277
West Virginia 10 55
Wisconsin 10% have hand counted paper ballots

2. The optical scan system has been overlooked because it is paper based and presumed OK. But it is still just another black box, a computer does the reading and counting of the ballots and there is no audit of these machines. A 5% random hand count audit of OS machines, as part of the certification process,  is just as essential as it is for the DRE machines with Voter Verified Paper Ballots.

3. We are required by law to keep the voter verified paper audit trail.
§ 3506.18. Voter verified paper audit trail used for recount.

A)  For any recount of an election in which ballots are cast using a direct recording electronic voting machine with a voter verified paper audit trail, the voter verified paper audit trail shall serve as the official ballot to be recounted.
The problem is that we won't have a voter verified paper audit trail if the voter does not verify that what was written to the paper roll is indeed his or her choice. Since the window is in an awkward place and is difficult to read, many voters will not even realize they have a requirement unless they are instructed at the polling place that they are expected to review and verify the printout since that is the only ballot of record for these devices.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.