Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spend an Hour - Make a Difference on Election Night

Hot dog! This is your chance to spend an hour on election-night to help secure Florida's elections. Observe poll-closing procedures in any precinct near you, and help gather important compliance data we can use to improve future elections. We provide simple instructions and a simple form. It’s quick! It’s simple! It’s oh so satisfying!

You'll be finished in time to join your favorite campaign party or snuggle up with a beverage and watch results come in.

The instructions and form can be downloaded here.

Questions and comments to Dan McCrea, 305-984-2900,

Spend an Hour - Make a Difference!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eyes on the Process - Spend an Hour Making a Difference

It's a good time for the public to exercise its ownership of elections by observing poll-closing procedures next Tuesday, election-day. It's clear this will be useful in Miami-Dade but also important in the other 66 counties.

To observe, you just go to a precinct at 7:00 PM for an hour or two. We will have simple instructions and a simple form you can use to collect a few important observations. Afterward, we can collect and publish the results. For more information, contact me at or 305-984-2900.

I've Been Dismissed as a Clerk - "Cost Cuts" Cited

Within 24 hours of posting Another Victory – This Time in Miami-Dade; or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Precinct, I got a call from Miami-Dade Elections and was dismissed as a Clerk. "Cost cutting" was given as the reason. It's disappointing.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Victory – This Time in Miami-Dade; or A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Precinct

I’ll be serving as the Clerk in charge of a precinct in the Florida primary election next week on the 24th of August. There’s a question about the legal sufficiency of Miami-Dade’s planned procedures.

I went to pollworker training the other day and the funny thing happened. The trainers announced that we would no longer have to perform “ballot accounting.” That’s great except it’s completely illegal – and a collapse of a fundamental step in election integrity.

Ballot accounting is performed immediately after the polls close. It’s an inventory of how many voters voted in a precinct compared to how many ballots were cast. The signatures in the precinct registers are counted and compared to the number of ballots. The two numbers should match, i.e. there should be one ballot for each voter allowed to vote.

It’s done prior to mixing together the totals from other precincts so problems can be isolated and reconciled right away.

It must be done by the sworn pollworkers in that precinct, called “the election board,” so there is accountability. The public is allowed to observe the procedures after the polls are closed, so there is transparency.

If there are discrepancies, signatures and ballots must be recounted, and reasons for the discrepancies must be investigated and reported on a form. All that is clearly laid out in Florida law.

Ballot accounting is also a big pain. It’s a fussy job that comes at the end of a 15+ hour day.

So it’s understandable that Miami-Dade, with more than a million registered voters, 500+ polling places, 4,000+ elections workers on election night, tried to streamline the process. They just went too far.

I wrote to my friend, Supervisor of Elections, Lester Sola, who is an excellent administrator, to inquire about the change. I copied Interim Secretary of State Dawn Roberts, given her newfound responsibilities that come with the 2010 Legislature’s conveying preemptive authority over virtually the entire election code to the state, which means it’s her bailiwick.

They both know I’ve been part of major studies of ballot accounting in Florida in the past and understand it pretty well. They both wrote back assuring me that Miami-Dade’s procedures meet or exceed state law. Supervisor Sola, however, added a conflicting paragraph. He wrote:

“As you are aware, the practice in the state has been to allow poll workers to physically count signatures and compare them to the number of voted ballots, a volume that is often times in the thousands. [Note: It’s more than “practice;” it’s also law.] Additionally, multiple-page ballots can make the task at hand even more daunting. In the past, you brought to my attention the fact that some of the Clerks and precinct staff were incorrectly counting the number of voters or ballots. We took this concern seriously and relieved Clerks and other precinct staff from conducting this task in subsequent elections." [emphasis added]
That admission didn’t jive with the “meets or exceeds” declarations so one is left to wonder whether they’re going to follow the law and sound practice or not. Also, one doesn’t want to go screaming from the rooftops that elections are illegal and insecure because, while technically correct perhaps, it can also serve to disproportionately damage voter confidence and drive away voters.

Then I got my Clerk’s packet from the Elections Department on Friday. It contained a “Clerk’s Manual Addendum.” It began with the following:

Tuesday Night
• Voter Authorization slips must be counted and recorded on Certificate No.2
• Please ensure that all discrepancies between signatures, Voter Authorization Slips and the Public Count are recorded on the Incident Report Log”
That means we’re to do ballot accounting at the precinct after all. The changes don’t make it perfect but they do appear to return to substantial compliance with Florida law and good practice.

There’s that quote, routinely attributed to Thomas Jefferson but really from John Philpot Curran:

“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance”
Please don’t forget to support Florida Voters’ work. It’s difficult and time consuming but important to us all.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Victory in Florida For Tighter Cyber Security?

It’s hard to be sure but it seems that Florida has stood down its plans to expand the use of online voting in November.

In an email yesterday to Florida Voters, Department of State Communications Director, Jennifer Krell Davis wrote:

“The Department does not intend to expand the use of electronic transmission of voted ballots.”

That would seem clear enough were it not for the unclear and unresponsive replies provided to related Florida Voters’ questions, and public records requests, in an ongoing correspondence seeking clarification.

For instance, Florida Voters asked the Department, for the fourth time, to document its finding that “secure electronic means can be established for receiving ballots from overseas voters.” Florida statutes require that before taking the next step - publishing an administrative rule to facilitate online voting.

The Department published such a rule in September 2007 and went on to certify the Okaloosa Distance Balloting Pilot – an online voting pilot conducted in Okaloosa County in the 2008 general election. The pilot was also known as Operation Bravo and Florida Voters raised a number of concerns about the program before it was certified.

In response, the Department pointed to a document published in September 2008, a year after it published the rule. The document, Software Review and Security Analysis of Scytl Remote Voting Software is a security review done for Operation Bravo pilot – a pilot dependent on the rule and the “secure means” finding to have preceded it. This circular logic is invalid and we’ve asked for additional clarification.

The correspondence is here and we’ll keep you posted on the Department’s reply.