Did a foreign government choose our president? Was VR Systems–a major provider of voter registration services throughout Florida–hacked by the Russians? Did the Russians successfully implant malware in Florida county election systems? How can we protect our elections in the future from cyber-warfare?
Leading up to and throughout Election Day, the media, polls, and statistical models confidently predicted that Clinton would win Florida by 3 point margin. How did the experts get it so wrong? Does the difference between predictions and results cast doubt on the integrity of the vote? Did the predictions themselves influence the outcome?
Trump has claimed that he lost the popular vote to Clinton because millions of fraudulent votes were cast by non-citizens. Election officials, political scientists, and election integrity experts have been nearly unanimous in rejecting this claim. Election watchdogs are concerned that spurious claims of voter fraud were used to toss thousands of legitimate, mostly minority voters off the voting rolls prior to the 2016 election. What is the truth?
In Volusia’s 2012 general election, problems with a newly certified ballot scanner–the Accu-Vote OSX–combined with an extremely long ballot, led to jammed ballots, long lines, inaccurate results, and lost votes. Why didn’t Volusia County know about the problem, given that it was disclosed in a product advisory issued by the vendor a year earlier? Read below our assessment of Volusia’s 2012 general election and the 2011 product advisory from Dominion Voting.
FFEC’s review of audit logs from the Osceola 2010 general election found serious problems with both the conduct of the election and the performance of the voting system that cast doubt on the accuracy of the results of the District 2 county commission race, which was decided by only 50 votes out of nearly 8,500 cast.
In 2007, after witnessing a demonstration of ES&S’s new digital scanner, the DS200, FFEC research director, Mary K. Garber, predicted that its poorly designed overvote feature would result in much higher rates of votes lost due to overvoting. In 2008, Florida’s most populous county–Miami-Dade–which had purchased the new scanner–experienced very high rates of lost votes due to overvoting on the new machines. Our research showed that the vote loss disproportionately affected the county’s large ethnic and language minority populations.
2006 was a momentous year for Florida elections. Optical scan counties throughout the state had been forced the previous year to buy touchscreens to serve disabled accessible voters because the state failed to certify a ballot-marking device that would work with their scanners. So these counties now had new “blended” systems going into the 2006 election cycle. Just as predicted by FFEC, these systems caused all sorts of problems. Our preliminary report on Volusia’s 2006 primary documents many of these problems.
An inspection of public records after the election confirmed our findings and found many other serious issues as discussed in the following award-winning article by Barb Shepherd of the West Volusia Beacon, reprinted here with permission.
But 2006 is best known for the catastrophic failures of the state’s most widely used touchscreens–the ES&S iVotronic. In the CD13 race, which was decided by a mere 369 votes, a massive loss of votes on Sarasota’s iVotronics are believed to have changed the outcome of that election. Despite a Congressional investigation, a GAO report, and investigations by FFEC, countless computer experts, and many others, nothing could be done to retrieve those votes. To make matters worse, it wasn’t an isolated event. An FFEC investigation found that the machines had lost as many as 100,000 votes statewide in the 2006 attorney general’s race. In response to the crisis, newly elected Gov. Charlie Crist made it a top priority to mandate optically scanned ballots for the entire state of Florida.
From its inception in November 2004, FFEC fought for verifiable paper ballots and against paperless touchscreen voting machines. But the Hursti Hack in December 2005 strengthened our resolve. Our founder, Susan Pynchon, saw for herself that a person with access to just one memory card could alter the results of an election without being detected. (Her concerns, voiced in her paper on the Hursti Hack below, seem prescient in light of the events of 2016.)
The battle for paper ballots pitted us not only against the voting machine vendors, but against the Florida Division of Elections and the state legislature, both of which clearly preferred the unverifiable direct recording devices. After another election fiasco in 2006, newly elected Governor Charlie Crist sided with election integrity activists and announced that Florida would move to optically scanned paper ballots in all 67 counties. In 2008, our Executive Director, Susan Pynchon, along with three other election activists, received the Nelson Poynter Civil Liberties Award for their work to ensure paper ballot voting throughout Florida.