For people who say, "What does a PBOS poll site look like?", here's a picture that's worth at least a thousand words. Our thanks to the combined efforts of Robert Millman, Rick Schwab, and Teresa Hommel. Please note that while this illustration includes two ballot marking devices (BMDs), only one would be required for most locations.
Poll Site with a Paper Ballot, Optical Scan Voting System [~212kb PDF]
In November 2006, Albany County Election Commissioners Graziano and Clancy released a paper entitled "The County Dilemma". However, the paper contains many misstatements and misinterpretations about HAVA, voting machines, and the choices available to New York State. Wanda Warren Berry has written an open letter to the Albany County commissioners correcting the factual errors in their report.
A coalition of the State’s leading election reform groups called on Governor Spitzer to follow the lead of Florida’s newly elected Governor Charlie Crist by ruling out the use of computerized Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines in New York State. The Florida Governor announced that the state intends to replace all of the computerized DREs in the state at a cost of more than $32 million dollars. The state of Florida will move to an optical scan voting system where voters complete their ballots by hand or with the assistance of a ballot marking device.
"New York State has not yet made a choice of new voting systems - but that decision lies ahead. We have the opportunity to avoid the expensive mistakes made by other states who have invested millions in failed touch screen voting technology," said Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting. "Governor Spitzer should join the Governors from New Mexico, Maryland, and Florida in calling for adoption of paper ballots and optical scanners. It is the only choice that makes sense for New York".
NYVV has submitted a proposal to the New York State Board estimating the number of new voting machines that will be required in New York’s polling places. Based on an NYVV analysis using computer simulations and the mathematics of queuing theory, our calculations indicate that 1 DRE can handle, at a maximum, only 200 registered voters. By comparison, a single precinct based ballot scanner, with sufficient numbers of inexpensive marking booths, can serve up to 4000 registered voters."
Adequately tested voting systems are a prerequisite for well run elections and to ensure public confidence in election results. When it is completed, the current process of testing voting systems will culminate in New York State's four Election Commissioners deciding to approve, or "certify" those systems which meet the State's regulations. Certification testing is ongoing and is proving to be a mixture of good and bad news.
Read the NYVV report [~32kb PDF]
December 14, 2006 - The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, League of Women Voters of New York State, New Yorkers for Verified Voting, New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) NEWS RELEASE: The State Board of Elections must Consider all factors when determining voting machine capacity, but the SBOE commissioned study fails to consider peak voting times, machine failures and other critical factors in timing study. The American Institute for Research (AIR) has submitted a User Rate Assessment Study to the State Board of Elections. This report will be one factor in a decision to be made in January determining the minimum number of new voting machines needed to be purchased for each election district or polling place across the state.
Read the joint press release [~16kb PDF]
As New York decides on new voting systems, a key question is how many voters can reasonably be served by each voting machine? This number is essential to estimate costs and avoid excessively long lines for voters. To provide a better answer to this question, NYVV Board Member William Edelstein, PhD, has applied queuing theory, the mathematical study of waiting lines, to carry out computer simulations of realistic elections.
Read the NYVV report
A ten minute clip from the DVD "Bought and Sold-- Electronic Voting in New York" is now posted on YouTube, but you can view it here too: View the clip here, along with additional information on the new edition of the DVD that includes both the original 45 minute and the 10 minute version.
The report makes policy proposals on the performance of voting systems, to comply with HAVA, and their ability to allow voters to cast valid ballots that reflect their intended choices, in a timely manner, and with confidence that their vote will not be lost. According to the Brennan Center, "this system quality is known as 'usability'. Following several high-profile controversies in the last few elections – including most notoriously, the 2000 controversy over the 'butterfly ballot' in Palm Beach – voting system usability is a subject of utmost concern to voters and election officials" [italics ours].
The residual or lost vote rate is defined as, "the difference between the number of ballots cast and the number of valid votes cast in a particular contest", and Full-face direct recording electronic (DRE) systems, as required for NYS, were found to produce more lost votes than precinct count optical scan (PCOS) systems (page u-5).
The report goes on to say that the performance of full-face DRE systems is even worse for minorities and as the income level of the voters declines (page u-6). The specific voting systems that the report found, "produced the lowest residual vote rate in the country in 2004 – both at 0.6% – were the AccuVote-OS and ES&S M100 precinct count optical scan systems" (Table U4, page u-6). Continuing, "In addition, the nationwide average residual vote rate for PCOS systems was lower in 2004 than the average rate for either type of DRE system.
Brennan Center Voting Technology Initiative
The usability report, Usability of Voting Systems [~1mb PDF draft]
In New York State, the law requires that ballots have tear-off stubs with printed consecutive numbers. This report describes how the tear off stubs defeats chain voting schemes. Read the NYVV report [~13 kb PDF].
Given the chaos and delays in selecting new voting technology for New York State, many voters wonder why we can’t just keep the mechanical lever machines which have been used in New York elections for generations. But, in the view of the State and County Boards of Elections, state legislators, and citizen advocacy organizations, this is legally out of the question. Read the NYVV report [~33 kb PDF].
Paper Ballot Optical Scanners (PBOS's) may have problems, any technology does, but they pale by comparison to the magnitude of problems experienced and threatened by Direct Recording electronic voting machines (DRE's). NYVV has researched and analyzed the evidence and offers a summary report on this subject. Read the NYVV report [~26 kb PDF].
"The Charade of Voting Machine Demonstrations" by Wanda Warren Berry. Voting machine demonstrations are eagerly anticipated both by voters and election workers, but many citizens leave them with real disappointment.
—more— [PDF ~16kb]
September 19, 2006: Albany Times Union reports that New York State tells counties to decide which devices they want before certification process is finished.
An Albany Times Union article, by Rick Karlin, Capital Bureau, reports that Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, said that "the state Board of Elections is now telling counties to choose which machines they want before they are even certified for use." The article also said that State Board of Elections spokesman Lee Daghlian added that "purchase decisions aren't final contracts, and that counties also have to list backup choices, should some of the 11 different machines, offered by six manufacturers, fail the tests."
July 25, 2006: A Key Win for NY Activists
In a key win for New York State verifiable voting advocates, four companies have submitted precinct ballot scanners for certification testing.
For years voting machine vendors have tried to keep ballot scanners unavailable to New York. A comment in 2004 to Assembly woman Sandy Galef from the president of ES&S - "New York is a DRE state" shows the presumption that electronic touch screen voting was to be the only alternative for New Yorkers.
But ongoing advocacy by citizens calling for paper ballot systems forced voting machine vendors to begin demonstrating paper ballot scanners in New York. But until this week, there was no guarantee that any vendor would actually submit a scanner system for certification. If no vendor submitted a system, there would be no paper based system available for counties to choose as an alternative to DREs.
But yesterday, the State Board of Elections announced that four vendors had submitted precinct based ballot scanners for certification testing. The growing citizen demand for adoption of paper ballot systems has won another key victory, and an essential step in the battle for paper ballots.
The State Board reports that the following companies have submitted systems for certification:
Avante - One DRE system; One ballot scanner system
ES&S - One DRE system; One ballot scanner system
Diebold - One DRE system; One ballot scanner system
Sequoia - Two DRE systems; One ballot scanner system
Liberty - One DRE system
Populex - One ballot marking system
We are still a long, long way from adopting paper ballot based voting in New York. But this was an essential step along the path.
Congratulations to verifiable voting advocates around New York State, this win belongs to you!
"New York: First in Election Integrity, or Muddled Like Everybody Else?" A response by NYVV Board Member, William A. Edelstein, to a recent article posted on VoteTrustUSA.org and in Election Integrity ("New York: last in HAVA Compliance or First in Election Integrity?", 6/27/06), which argues that things are going well in New York, because we have "transparent" mechanical lever voting machines that we can continue to use indefinitely.
—more— [PDF ~296kb]
June 27, 2006, Brennen Center Reports on Electronic Voting Systems: A task force of government, academic and non-profit experts convened by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU has today released the first comprehensive threat analysis of three of the most popular types of electronic voting systems.
Here's a quick quote from MIT professor Ron Rivest from the press release: "I see this as an historic report because it's the first time we've systematically examined security concerns presented by all of the electronic voting systems in use. The report will be invaluable for any election official grappling with electronic security and, hopefully, will pave the way for widespread adoption of better safeguards."
Here's the press release, executive summary and full report:
Here is USA Today's and Reuter's coverage:
Analysis finds e-voting machines vulnerable
Study shows US electronic voting machines vulnerable
June 26, 2006, NYVV Joins
in Declaration of "No Confidence" in California
50th Congressional District Vote: New Yorkers
for Verified Voting (NYVV) joins in the declaration
of "No Confidence" in the June 6th election
results for the U.S. House special run-off election
in California's 50th congressional district. We encourage
other election integrity advocates to become familiar
with the facts of this election and join NYVV in
declaring this election a failure of democracy.
Election integrity is at the heart of our mission.
Regardless of geographic location, political outcome
or size of election district, New Yorkers for Verified
Voting stands for the core democratic principal that
every vote must be accurately counted.
Vital security procedures were disregarded in this
election. Poll workers were allowed to take voting
machines home days before the election.
In light of the fact that these voting machines have
documented security vulnerabilities which could be
exploited during the voting machine "sleepover",
we have no confidence that the election results are
We call for a full a manual hand-count of the ballots
of California's 50th congressional district. We have
no preferences or expectations about whether a hand
recount will change the final tally. Our sole concern
is that the outcome be accurate and verified.
Voters must have confidence that their votes have
been counted. Such a flagrant breach of security cannot
May 5, 2006: Bo Lipari, Executive Director
of New Yorkers for Verified Voting, was appointed on
May 2, 2006, as one of 12 members of New York States
Citizen's Election Modernization Advisory Committee.
Committee members will advise the NYS Board of Elections
on voting systems and observe and participate in voting
machine certification as it proceeds throughout the
Recent legislation expanded the Citizens Committee
to 12 members from it's original 10. The League of
Women Voters of New York State was given the right
to nominate one of the two new members. Bo who is a
member of the Tompkins County League of Women Voters,
and who has worked actively with the New York State
League on HAVA issues, was nominated by Marcia Merrins,
president of the New York State League. The State Board
of Elections commissioners approved the appointment
by unanimous vote.
"I'm pleased to be joining the Election Modernization
Advisory Committee." said Mr. Lipari. "I
am the first member of the committee with a technical
background, and am pleased to represent the League
of Women Voters and the many New York citizens who
have urged diligence and caution as we overhaul our
May 1, 2006: On Friday, 4/28/06, The Department
of Justice (DOJ) accepted New York State’s plan
which postpones HAVA compliance until 2007. Last week
the State of New York submitted a plan to the Court
in the lawsuit filed against it by the DOJ.
April 24, 2006: A submittal by the Department
of Justice in response to New York State's proposed
plan for HAVA compliance was due to be submitted on
April 20. Instead, the DOJ submitted a request for
an extension until Friday, April 28 to submit their
response. The Court is expected to grant this extension.
April 22, 2006: On April 17, 2006 the National
Association of Protection and Advocacy Systems [now NDRN,
the National Disability Rights Network] permitted
this clarification of their position with respect to
dexterity accessibility and voting machines to be reposted.
—More— [~25kb PDF]
April 14, 2006: One of the most important aims
of election reform under the Help America Vote Act
is to correct injustices perpetuated by inaccessible
polling places and voting equipment. New Yorkers for
Verified Voting fully supports providing the highest
level of accessibility to voters with disabilities.
PDF - one page summary]
April 12, 2006: The April 10, 2006 submission
by New York State to the Court hearing the Department
of Justice lawsuit describes the anticipated "Plan
B" solution. Here are some brief comments on the
Voting Machines section only.
April 10, 2006: Do the Math, a Windows Media
video production by Robert Millman on practical experience
with precinct based optical scan voting systems. This
is a very large file and requires the freely available Windows
March 23, 2006: The Motion to Intervene in
the Department of Justice/NYS HAVA lawsuit filed by
New Yorkers for Verified Voting, the League of Women
Voters of New York State, and other New York State
citizens was denied today in U.S. District
March 13, 2006, Update on the Department of Justice
vs. New York State lawsuit: On Tuesday, March
14, 2006, the Department of Justice (DOJ), New York
State, New Yorkers for Verified Voting (NYVV), the
League of Women Voters of New York State and the
individual citizens who are requesting Intervenor
status will have a first opportunity to appear together
March 7, 2006: The Department of Justice (DOJ)
has moved for a preliminary injunction in their suit
against New York State. This requests the judge to
rule immediately that New York must present a plan
for HAVA machine and voter registration database compliance
by September 2006.
March 3, 2006: A coalition of New York voters
and civic groups, including New Yorkers for Verified
Voting and the League of Women Voters of New York,
announced today that they are intervening to oppose
a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice (DOJ)
against New York State.
March 1, 2006: The U.S. Justice Department
announced that it has filed suit against the State
of New York alleging violations of the Help America
Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). The lawsuit was filed in the
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New
York, in Albany.
February 22, 2006: The proposed Final Voting
Systems Standards do very little to improve the many
serious weaknesses present in the New York State Draft
Standards. It is troubling that the detailed technical
commentary the State Board received from our organization
and other experts was simply ignored in this latest
February 14, 2006: The State and the Department
of Justice are discussing a new option that would allow
New York to keep the lever machines in place for this
year’s election. This potential solution, referred
to as "Plan B", is very promising and has
many benefits for New York.
February 14, 2006: The State Board of Elections
met in public and executive session. At the meeting,
the Second Draft of the Voting Machine Regulations
was formally introduced. This revision is the State
Board’s response to the public commentary on
the Draft Voting System Standards.
February 4, 2006: Let the New York State Board
of Elections and your Legislators know that these are
our elections, and we demand the highest standards
of testing and a certification process that is thorough,
robust, and fully open to the public. Click here to read
what VoteTrustUSA has to say about the proper way
to test voting systems.
January 25, 2006: Our Response to the New York
State Board of Elections Proposed Draft Regulations
for Voting System Standards. We are sharing with you
the document that we presented to the Board of Elections
as public comment, since you may find ways to indicate
to the state Board any of your own concerns that you
may not yet have expressed.
January 23, 2006: "Hacking" and the
Paper Ballot-Optical Scan Voting System; Some alarm
has been expressed at learning that the recent test
in Florida that disproved the Diebold claim that its
machines could not be "hacked" was carried
out on an optical scanner.
January 12, 2006: On January 10, 2006, the
U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer and the New York State Board
of Elections informing them that a lawsuit on behalf
of the United States was being filed against the State
of New York as well as the New York State Board of
Elections for non-compliance with the voting machine
provisions of HAVA (the Help America Vote Act).
January 11, 2006: As a nonpartisan, nonprofit
citizens’ group dedicated to fair elections,
it seemed to us that NYVV should an have equal right
to be represented at the ECA conferences alongside
the vendors. It was disappointing that the ECA President
seems to regard NYVV as having ulterior motives.
December 5, 2005: A coalition of civic groups
today condemned the State Board of Election's decision
to begin preliminary certification testing of the
Liberty DRE computerized voting machine this week,
even though the prototype still has no voter verified
paper ballot or full accessibility features as required
by law. The groups found out about the move through
a letter received on Friday by members of the HAVA
Citizens Advisory Committee.
November 5, 2005: NYS Board of Elections publishes DRAFT
voting machine regulations.
November 3, 2005: Today, without any prior
notice to the public, the State Board of Elections
approved Voting System Standards which define the rules
for certification, testing, and use of New York’s
new voting systems. "The Standards approved by
the State BOE do far too little to protect our vote", said
Bo Lipari, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Verified
Voting. "These regulations do absolutely nothing
to address vital issues of voting system security,
usability, and accessibility. Adoption of these vague
and unspecific rules would be a disaster for New York." (Joint
Press release: ~14kb PDF)
September 21, 2005, The
NYS Public Employee Federation (PEF) resolution "Opposing
Privatizing Public Elections"[PDF document] and
calling for the adoption of precinct based optically
scanned paper ballots was passed overwhelmingly
by over 800 delegates at the annual convention
in Rochester. PEF represents 54,000 professional,
scientific and technical state employees.
On 8/31/05, New
York State Election commissioners were advised by Onondaga
Election Commissioner Ed Szczesniak that according
to an EAC advisory released last month, DREs are the
only current system that meets HAVA compliance mandates
regarding persons with disabilities. This is a completely
unsupported conclusion. It must be challenged when
this incorrect argument is used to 'prove' that paper
ballot based systems are not allowed under HAVA. A
link to the EAC Advisory document and an analysis is
It's hard to see how the EAC Advisory could possibly
be used to reach such a conclusion, for the document
specifically states otherwise. In the advisory, the
analysis of Section 301 (a) (3) states:
(5) Accessibility of the voting system to the voter
includes accessibility to all equipment needed to
cast and count ballots. Many jurisdictions use a
paper ballot voting system that requires the voter
to submit his or her own ballot after casting for
purposes of ballot counting. Where such voting systems
are in use, such jurisdictions must to the extent
reasonably and technologically possible afford a
disabled voter the same ability to submit his or
her own ballot, in a private and independent manner,
as is afforded a non-disabled voter. In this example,
visually disabled voters must be allowed to submit
the ballot independently, as the disability is one
that is capable of being accommodated, and technology
and practice provide a means that can be used to
allow the visually disabled voter to submit a ballot
with the same degree of privacy and independence
afforded to a sighted voter (e.g., a privacy sleeve).
This analysis is clearly for optical-scan voting systems
and describes how a system such as the AutoMARK can
be made to be accessible, (e.g. privacy sleeve). This
does not say that paper ballot voting systems cannot
(7) Section 301(a)(3)(B) contemplates that an accessible
voting system can include a direct recording electronic
(DRE) voting system or other voting system equipped
for individuals with disabilities. This advisory should
not be read to preclude the innovation and use of accessible
voting systems other than DREs for purposes of meeting
Based on the clear statements from the EAC advisory,
NYVV disputes Commissioner Szczesniak's conclusion.
Paper based systems are allowed, and non-DRE solutions
are not excluded. The statements from the EAC advisory
above clearly demonstrate this.
Here's a link to the EAC Advisory document, EAC
Advisory 2005-004: How to determine if a voting system
is compliant with Section 301(a)
And here is an excellent analysis
of the EAC advisory done by John Gideon of Votersunite.org
August 18, 2005 - New
York State has decided to leave the choice of voting
equipment up to local boards of election, but the choice
will be made among hardware certified by Federal and
The New York State Board of Elections says that,
in a matter of weeks, it intends to issue a request
for proposals, an RFP, seeking the assistance of a
consultant to conduct evaluations and make recommendations.
Once the consultant is selected, it will be up to equipment
manufacturers to submit equipment for consideration
and pay for the privilege. The consultant will then
make recommendations to the State Board. However, at
this writing, no consultant has been named and no recommendations
have been made to the State Board.
A spokesperson for the State Board says that the first
certification will be weeks if not months away, and
manufacturers are not obliged to submit anything they
do not want to sell. They may withhold less profitable,
perhaps more cost effective products, such as optical
ballot scanners. The only criteria announced so far
is that a submitted system will be tested for reliability
with an operational run of as many as 20,000 ballots
as were the current lever machines.
NYVV will stay in close touch with developments at
the state level, even as interest shifts to decisions
of local Boards of Elections. At the same time, we
are launching a petition
drive and statewide
campaign county by county. More than ever, it is
urgent that New Yorker's who care about reliable and
verifiable voting take action!
June 24, 2005 - Law
concerning voting machine replacements for New York
State's lever machines calls for the
decision to be made by individual counties. These
bills require that any voting machine adopted have
a voter verified paper trail, and do not specifically
exclude the possibility of optical scanners. But the
decision to allows each individual county make it's
decisions about voting equipment complicates
matters for citizens advocating for adoption of paper
ballots and optical scanners.
March 9, 2005 -
Key endorsements for adoption of paper ballots and
optical scanners from the
New York Times and the League
of Women Voters of New York State. Other media
outlets, like the NY
Daily News, have also published endorsements of
PBOS systems. If your organization would like to join
the list of endorsers for NYVV's "Statement on
a New Voting System for New York State", please review
the statement here.
a document with all the New York newspaper endorsements
for optical scan.
2005 - Albany Lobby
Day and PB/OS Demonstration
On Tuesday, 2/15 in Albany NY, New Yorkers for Verified
Voting and a non-partisan coalition of citizens groups
held a Paper Ballots for NY Lobbying Day. Representatives
from a coalition of organizations supporting full review
of all our voting system choices visited with key state
legislators to encourage them to support paper ballot
In connection with the lobbying day, we arranged a
demonstration of a complete paper ballot/optical scan/ballot
marker system right in front of the entrance to the
Legislative Office Building and the Capitol.
Many, many legislators, aides, and citizens got to
see and try out a complete optical scan system for
the first time, and the response was tremendously positive.
Once you get to try out a paper
ballot system and see it's ease of use, accessibility,
and simplicity, people really like it.