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Black Box Voting 2008 New
Tool Kit Now Online

From Black Box Voting
Permission to reprint, excerpt, and distribute granted.
Complete, Concise Tool Kit booklet:
Top 5 things you can do
1. Get involvedpg 5-8
2. Hook up with experienced groupspg 9
Freedom of Information Tipspg 10-11
3. Protect & defend ­ deceptive practicespg 12-24
4. Protect & defend ­ voter listspg 25-37
Protect & defend ­ vote countspg 38-71
(much more here: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/toolkit.pdf )
(comment section here: http://www.bbvforums.org/forums/messages/1954/76548.html )
In the end, this isn't about getting your favorite presidential candidate elected. This is about more permanent solutions: getting durable, ongoing citizen-based controls to oversee all elections. Elections ultimately control your daily life: your property rights, roads, the public safety, the justice system, and ultimately, the economy, your freedom, and your health...
All states have open records laws. You have the right to see any document (with a limited number of exceptions). Part of every public official's job is providing public records. They know it, they're used to it, there's nothing confrontational about asking to see a record, people do it all the time. Here is a wonderful compendium of summarized public records laws for each state:
Here is a useful site to generate professional-looking records requests:
It helps to see examples. You can find hundreds of actual public records requests, including the documents provided in response to them and the occasional back-and-forth between requestor and public officials, by going to <http://www.blackboxvoting.org>http://www.blackboxvoting.org. Use the search box at the top of the home page. Enter "records request" and it will find pages with examples for you.
WATCH FOR: Last minute changes, polling place consolidation, confusing ballot design, shorting voting machines, malfunctioning machines, electronic poll book problems, supplies missing, not enough election workers, provisional ballot roadblocks, deceptive phone calls / fliers, deceptive ballot configurations, race left off some ballots, deceptive translations, snoop-friendly ballots, improper absentee ballot / envelope design, incorrect mail ballot insertions / delivery problems, cheat peeks
Part of election protection is knowing what to watch for. These things happen. The first time you see it, you can't quite believe it. That disbelief prevents citizens from taking crucial, immediate action. Elections are time sensitive. Keep your eyes wide open, vow to respond quickly and effectively.
A Santa Clara County, California man was told by his online polling place finder that his address was in Gibbon, Iowa. If he had checked just as he was running out the door to vote, he would have experienced a delay.
During the 2008 primary, Black Box Voting tested the Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania Web site "polling place-finder" using the addresses on our own donor list. Dozens of valid addresses showed a polling place not found message.
Local newspapers often print polling place locations, and you can call your local elections division. Don't wait till the last minute, and before heading out the door, double-check the location of your polling place and help others find theirs.
Areas with substantial non-English speaking populations are required to provide voter information in appropriate languages. In one California location, the Spanish language voter information provided the wrong date for an election. In a New Mexico election, the Spanish description of a ballot item was so misleading that new ballots had to be mailed, leading to confusion over which ballot to use. In a Connecticut election, instructions which in English said "Vote for any two" said, in Spanish: "Vote for any OF the two", a translation which will literally cut votes in half for Spanish language voters.
It's important for language minority advocacy groups to review the non-English ballots, voter pamphlets and other election materials as far in advance of the election as possible. If you find a deceptive translation, find out who is responsible for checking translations to make sure they are accurate and what firm did the translation. Demand correction and report to all stakeholders and advocacy groups, including the appropriate ethnic advocacy groups.
Early and absentee voting provide opportunities for "Cheat peeks" ­ illegal peeks at results before Election Day.
In Pima County, Arizona audit logs show that early results were run in a controversial election. Candidates spend heavily on pre-election polling. Political polls sample a few hundred registered voters, who hopefully provide truthful answers to questions designed to elicit how they really will vote. Imagine now that one candidate (but not the other) gets access to something much more valuable: not hundreds, but tens of thousands of voters; not answers that are probably truthful, but the actual vote data.
No one ­ insider or outsider ­ should scan a single ballot before the end of Election Day. Some state laws specify that the ballots can be run through the tabulator if no one looks at the results (Hah!) and in Oregon, apparently, "insiders" can look if they don't tell. (Hah!)
· GET AUDIT LOGS: Tabulator audit logs will show the cheat peeks, although insiders can alter the audit logs. You can request copies of the audit logs daily. If the logs themselves have not been tampered with, you will find an evidence trail showing when results reports were run.
HELP WITH: Register people to vote, confirm registration, save evidence, get photo ID;
WATCH FOR: Slowdowns or crashes in statewide voter registration databases, racial profiling, failure to enter new or updated registrations into the database timely, names left off list (no explanation), category switching, incorrect online feedback, problems with hyphenated names & typos, impossible numbers;
ADVANCED TOOLS: Statistics, voter list tracking
Register people to vote. Help people confirm that they are registered as an "active voter" (see distinctions between active, inactive, pending and cancelled). Get voters on "inactive" status reactivated. Save communications from the elections office as evidence. Help people get photo ID. Urge everyone to bring it to the polling place, whether or not the state requires it.
BUT IT'S NOT GOING TO BE ENOUGH TO REGISTER VOTERS AND HELP THEM VOTE. We already know that systematic voter disenfranchisement has been part of the game plan in the past. This year let's get off the defense and play some offense, and don't expect the old playbook to be repeated tit for tat.
You may have heard about voter list purging. Figures vary, but estimates of the number of voters wrongfully purged from 2000 Florida voter rolls range from 50,000 to over 90,000. Wrongfully purged voters were disproportionately Black. These eligible voters were not allowed to vote at all.
In 2008 for the first time, all 50 states will be using new statewide computerized voter registration databases. Most of what we're going to see in 2008 will not be called "purging." This year, we're going to find voter disenfranchisement in the statewide voter lists, especially in the "PENDING" area (new voter registrations not entered into the system, and registrations stuck in "pending" status); "CHANGE CATEGORIES," as voters are switched from one voter registration status to another, registrations are updated, and in TYPOS AND DATABASE QUIRKS that make database searches fail...
This year instead of 50-90,000 voters purged, we are looking at the potential to see FIVE TO 10 MILLION voter registrations stalled, changed, hit with typos or miscategorized.
These are exceptionally unwieldy problems and it is difficult to come up with meaningful citizen oversight actions, but with over 100 million voters on these new computerized lists, we need to try.
Black Box Voting received eye witness reports from three large counties in 2004 indicating that thousands of registrations were not entered before the election (even though election officials claimed they were). Insiders told us this was due to staffing shortages and/or the refusal of county officials to pay for overtime or temporary help. Here are excerpts from an e-mail received by Black Box Voting from one of the temporary employees hired to do this:
"This year I answered the call to help the elections division enter all of the new registrations. It is my understanding that there was an entire warehouse of them somewhere and they were planning to hire a hundred people to enter them. Here is what happened:
The training began. The person in charge of that was on pain medication and my training turned out to be, well, totally wrong. I was taught to enter a specific code for certain kinds of registrations but sure enough, within a day we were having an "emergency" meeting about that particular code. She apologized for teaching the code incorrectly and we all moved on. We received no training materials, after the apology for teaching the code wrong we were given a very shoddy word document explaining a few things. There is no written manual.
The registration updates were about 3 months behind. We basically lied about when they were entered. If the form was submitted on say, the 1st of November, we were supposed to put that date in - even though I was doing it on the 4th of February ...
This above report illustrates something very important: NOT ALL VOTER REGISTRATION CARDS WERE ENTERED INTO THE SYSTEM AT ALL, UNTIL MONTHS LATER! Voters who were not entered in the database may be stripped of even their provisional ballot. We have seen boxes and boxes of "to be entered" cards after deadlines for getting them entered into the database. It is inconceivable that all these were sorted through to determine whether their provisional ballot should count.
- Will updates and input to the voter registration database be done by in-house staff, overtime, or temporary employees?
- What formula was used to project voter registration update & input needs?
- Has the budget been approved for this?
- What tracking and reporting system is available for internal controls and public oversight?
You can make an appointment and ask for a tour. Ask them to walk you through (literally) the process for entering and updating voter registrations.Ask about internal controls. Ask what tracking reports will be. Don't believe everything you hear.
The best way to get the real story is to develop a relationship with a clerk or temporary employee tasked with entering the information. Ask how it's really going.
PROCEDURAL IMPROVEMENTS: Transparency Project, Input to Output;
IDENTIFY PROBLEM LOCATIONS: History of indictments, missing internal control forms, public records obstruction, weak management, observation obstruction; past election problems; ELECTION PHASES: Pre-election; Early voting & absentee periods; Election Day; Election Night; Canvassing period; Post-election:
ADVANCED TOOLS: Voting machine examinations, Web snapshot tools, poll tape/central tabulation comparison, citizen ballot inspection audit, voting machine audit items
All computerized voting machines, as currently implemented, count votes in secret, and all election computers are under the control of administrators and programmers. All computers do what they are told to do by their administrators and programmers.
This is the core problem with voting machines.
Using these new systems, the citizenry has inadvertently ceded ultimate control over to government insiders and the vendors they select.
(a) Give the public full access to Freedom of Information on every aspect of the election.
(b) Count all votes in public (while maintaining individual political privacy)
(c) Allow the public to see for themselves that the votes being counted are the original votes, not counterfeit or substitute votes. "Chain of custody" must always be public.
- Your right to sovereignty over your government will not be honored.
- 99 percent of the votes will be counted in secret on computers controlled by government insiders and vendors.
- Your right to Freedom of Information will not be honored.
- You will be unable to ascertain that chain of custody is intact.
- It's too late to resolve these problems for 2008.
- It's not too late for partial solutions.
- It's not too late to collect important circumstantial evidence to assess the accuracy of the election.
Not a good situation. Despite passionate and always underfunded efforts by citizens for several years to get these issues addressed, we're up against it again in 2008. It's too late for new legislation or major changes. Let's work with what we have:
More on Procedural improvements, see pg 41-42 in Tool Kit 2008:
- Precinct-based public hand counts
- Transparency Projects
- Input to Output
- History of indictments
- Missing internal control forms
- Public records obstruction
- Weak management or poor quality controls
- Observation obstruction
- Past election problems
In the weeks leading up to the election, help gather information to predict problem locations. Let's treat these problem locations to extra scrutiny.
You can get an idea for past vote-counting problems by doing a news search, looking for incident reports filed by citizens, and by reading the text of any election contest lawsuits in the location you want to monitor. You can find incident reports by vendor and also by state and county (and/or municipality) at blackboxvoting.org and VotersUnite.org. If you Google "election incident reports" you can locate databases of reported incidents from 2004 and 2006.
Indictments, guilty pleas, convictions: Because computerized vote-counting is controlled by insiders, any locations with a history of corruption in key local government positions are particularly at risk for computerized vote-counting fraud. Key positions include county supervisors and commissioners (who often appoint elections officials); sheriffs, judges, county auditors and county clerks.
"Facts. Facts. Facts. Brick by brick we will build American democracy better than the Founders ever imagined possible."
­ Nancy Tobi, Election Defense Alliance
PUBLIC RECORDS: You can request to inspect or get copies of election-related records, including: voter complaints, poll worker incident reports, telephone Election Day support logs, and "rover" or technician logs. You can find many examples of these requests and responses in the state and county/municipality section of blackboxvoting.org.
BOOKKEEPING & RECONCILIATIONS: Vote counting is a form of bookkeeping. Properly run elections are accompanied by report forms showing how many voters signed in, how many ballots were provided, how many were cast, spoiled, and uncast. You will be surprised how often the numbers don't add up! Sometimes poll workers explain the discrepancies, but sometimes the numbers are off by hundreds with no explanation.
INTERNAL CONTROL FORMS: Some locations will report that they have had no problems, when in fact they don't provide any forms to poll workers to log the problems. If you ask to look at a blank copy of each form for poll workers, and also forms for tracking voting machines, seals, peripheral equipment, telephone reports, and technician visits you'll get a good idea as to whether adequate control systems are even being used. Filled-out copies will show how well they manage quality. This will help predict which locations are most likely to experience problems or fraud in November.
- Voting machines could not "close" properly
- Cartridge would not read
- Tabulators failed to read some memory cards so technicians had to "extract the data"
- Some cartridges or memory cards were temporarily misplaced
- "We're not sure why votes were incorrect"
- "The vendor is looking into it for us"
- Voting machines had to be replaced during the election due to malfunctions
- Broken or mismatched seals
- Calibration problem
- Counter didn't increment
- Machine would not produce a "zero report" before votes cast
- Electronic poll book said voter had already voted absentee, voter says no
OBSTRUCTIVE VS. COOPERATIVE: You can get a good idea how responsive each location is to public oversight by submitting a very simple one-item public records request and observing response. Are they prompt, complete, reasonably priced? Or do they inflate response timelines, price gouge, and obstruct?
Find out if the public (not just "politically appointed observers") is allowed to view the vote counting after the polls close. Find out if videotaping is allowed.
In most cases you'll find that local and state officials are more than willing to work on implementing solutions. If you spot significant problems or run into obstructive public officials, you may want to enlist the help of the voting rights committees for your political party, report to election protection groups, and build public awareness through the media. Focus on prevention. Try to spot problems ahead of time so improvements can be achieved before November elections.
Contact citizen empowerment and volunteer helpers at Black Box Voting, Election Defense Alliance, or a local election protection group. You can ask questions by e-mail: <mailto:crew@blackboxvoting.org>crew@blackboxvoting.org - You may also get support and direction from your preferred political party, and you can help connect your favorite candidates and party with election integrity organizations.
Get involved. Your election protection actions this year will be part of returning control over election processes to the people who own the government.
"You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it." ­ Rabbi Tarfon
More: http://www.blackboxvoting.org/toolkit.pdf
If you would like to receive a printed copy of TOOL KIT 2008 send a request by e-mail with your name and mailing address. Printed pocket Tool Kit 2008 booklets will be mailed in August.
* * * * *
Black Box Voting is a national nonpartisan, nonprofit elections watchdog group working to improve public controls in our elections.
More: http://www.BlackBoxVoting.org
TO DONATE:http://www.blackboxvoting.org/donate.html
To mail:
Black Box Voting
330 SW 43rd St Suite K
PMB 547
Renton WA 98057
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