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Hommel: League of Women Voters Voting System Standards Never Intended to Apply to Lever Machines [View All]

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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Feb-16-09 12:54 PM
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In the following rebuttal, Teresa Hommel, a long-time election integrity activists and computer consultant, clarifies yet another issue who's waters have been muddied by more misleading and specious arguments which, sadly, have become a trademark of New Yorkers for Verified Voting in their reckless drive to force New York voters to submit to insecure, non-transparent, computerized vote counting.


The League of Women Voters voting system standards adopted in 2006 were for electronic systems, and never were intended to apply to non-electronic systems such as lever machines.

Electronic and mechanical systems have different vulnerabilities & security requirements:

Lever Voting Machines implement Will of the People Tallies With Confirmation of Each Vote via an X under the Lever

Optical Scanner Systems implement My Vote is Manually Recorded by Me, and Electronically Counted

Teresa Alice Hommel, February 12, 2009


New Yorkers for Verified Voting and the League of Women Voters of New York State recently published a paper that intended to apply the national Leagues voting system standards to lever voting machines. (I will call the national League simply the League.)

The paper asserts that lever machines "do not meet current standards for voting systems" and do not have the "higher level of accountability" that optical scanners offer. (The paper mentions accessibility in this phrase in addition to accountability, but in fact lever voting machines and optical scanners offer the exact same accessibility in that they both work in combination with accessible ballot marking devices for voters with disabilities and/or non-English language.)

However, the Leagues standards that the paper quotes are an out-of-context portion of the Leagues position--which I worked to write and get adopted--that was never intended to be applied to non-computerized voting technology.


In the New York controversy between keeping our mechanical lever voting machines versus switching to paper ballots and optical scanners, some people have forgotten the difference between mechanical devices and computers.

Computers are software-dependent. Meaningful audits of computer results must be software independenthence the need for independent paper records of each voters votes.

Mechanical machines can be audited in much simpler ways, since programming errors and tampering can be visually detected by merely looking in the back of the machine and by simple mechanical tests. Confirmation that a vote has been counted is visually apparent to the voter when an X appears under the lever after the voter pushes it down to register a vote. (Each lever connects to a counter, and each counter connects to an X which appears when the counter advances to register the vote.)

Applying computer standards and requirements to mechanical devices is inappropriate. Opposing the continued use of lever machines because they dont meet computer standards and requirements is also inappropriate.


I was part of the small group that passed both the Leagues 2004 and 2006 positions. I was credited with negotiating the 2004 SARA test (Secure, Accurate, Recountable and Accessible). However, in 2004 the Georgia LWV, in defense of their Diebold DREs without paper trails (paperless DREs), insisted that their DREs reprints of tally reports constituted "recounts."

Because the proponents of the 2006 position were reacting against support for paperless DREs, we were not careful enough with the language. None of us at the 2006 convention was thinking about non-electronic voting technology at the time we advocated and passed the 2006 position. Indeed the question of non-computerized voting equipment did not come up because we were focused on the dangers of paperless DREs that the League was aggressively supporting.

In hindsight is clear that the 2006 Resolution needed to have one phrase revised so it more explicitly stated that it was setting standards for electronic voting systems, specifically DREs and optical scanners.


The League published a "Report on Election Auditing" in January 2009 that selectively quoted--and changed the meaning of--their position on voting equipment adopted at their 2006 biannual convention, known as the CARL Resolution.


It is wrong to say that the 2006 convention intended to oppose lever voting machines because they lack a per-voter paper record of votes. It attributes to the CARL Resolution a meaning that was not intended by the 2006 League delegates that adopted it.



As a member of the group that worked to wean the League of Women Voters of the United States away from paperless DREs, I attest that no one foresaw or intended that the 2006 position would be applied to non-electronic voting systems such as mechanical lever machines.


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