October 22, 2004
Early voting watch: Consistency

The Chron covers the heavy early voting so far, and gives us some long-awaited but still estimated numbers on Harris County and statewide registrations.

Early voting began Monday, and more than 63,000 Harris County voters cast early ballots through Wednesday, County Clerk Beverly Kaufman said.

Requests for mail-in ballots are up this year as well, she said: 47,000 people have asked for Harris County ballots, compared with 34,000 in 2000.

Nearly half a million people have cast early votes statewide, Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor said during a visit to Houston.

Voter registration also increased, he said. While tallies are not complete, roughly 13 million people are registered to vote in Texas, compared with 12.4 million who were registered in 2000, he said.

"We've had a surge in registration. I hope that translates into a surge in voting," Connor said. "Registering voters has always been easier than getting people to the polls."

In Harris County, a record 1.9 million are registered to vote, reported Tax Assessor-Collector Paul Bettencourt, the county's voter registrar.

One point nine million in Harris County is a record, though not by that much if I remember the slides shown at Deputy Voter Registrar training. I can't seem to find any historical voter reg totals for Harris County, so I'm murky on how this compares to 2002 and 2000. We've heard the 13 million number before, but it's still an estimate.

Ah, we now seem to have voter reg totals for the top-15 counties. 1,937,072 is Harris County's number. One hundred forty-two thousand people in the Top 15 voted yesterday, which is actually a slight decline from the first three days, when the average was a tad over 148,000. Still, it's pretty consistent so far.

Harris County actually has the lowest early voting total as a percentage of total voters by far. It's still crowded at the early voting locations, accoding to KHOU. Maybe we need more of them, though there really are quite a few.

Elsewhere, Colorado Luis reports on the early voting rush in his state, while this Kos diarist experienced a strange problem a neighbor experienced with a Hart Intercivic voting machine. I've not heard of anything like that on the eSlate machines here, and we've had them for some time now. Still, check everything before you press that last button. You never know.

UPDATE: Via Sarah, a reassuring note from Austin for Change regarding what happened there. They say the same thing I do - check your ballot before you hit the last button. Printouts or not, that's a necessary step.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 22, 2004 to Election 2004 | TrackBack

Quoting from the Houston Chronicle on last year’s election, Nov. 4, 2003, 12:37PM

Voters Encounter eSlate Glitches
This morning Bill White cast his ballot at the Katy Freeway hotel that was having eSlate problems. Arriving in a Lexus and sporting casual khakis, White downplayed today's glitches.
"It would be nice if everything worked the first time," he said. "Technology sometimes fails. I'm glad they had paper ballots."

Quoting Siva Vaidhyanathan
from Feb. 23, 2004
About eSlate voting machines

E-Voting in Austin
Its code is not open. It does not produce a verifiable paper trail. But it's not as bad as all the other E-voting systems.

Lee Nichols describes the costs and benefits of Travis County adopting Hart Intercivic e-voting machines. http://www.austinchronicle.com/issues/dispatch/2004-02-20/pols_feature.html

As this article makes clear, you can make a machine more secure from outside corruption without making it any safer from an inside job.

Posted by: Bev on October 23, 2004 1:00 AM

I stood in a 15 minute line at about 6:00 pm Saturday night for early voting, after a rainstorm. The polling place was fully and effectively staffed; there were no equipment malfunctions. There were just lots of folks voting. Neat!

Posted by: Beldar on October 24, 2004 5:11 AM

Re: the Kos diarist's problem with the Travis County eSlate

I voted yesterday AM in Harris County on an eSlate and decided to vote a straight ticket and then change one race, as an experiment.

A big warning screen appeared, telling me that I was changing my straight-party ticket.

I can't speak for Travis County's setup, of course, but that's Harris.

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on October 24, 2004 9:21 AM


Friday, September 03, 2004

Wallach: Texas must confront voting systems' flaws

Excerpt from a commentary by Dan Wallach of Rice University: "When voters can cast multiple votes and election insiders can tamper with election results with stunning ease, it's clear that our voting systems are inadequate.

"Despite these well-known design flaws in DRE voting systems, vendors and election officials continue to assure us that their systems are "certified." Unfortunately, the current standards for voting systems, which DRE systems are certified to meet, say nothing about how these machines should be engineered to resist tampering and little about the general quality of the software. As a result, vendors are allowed to sell voting systems that would not come close to the software engineering standards for aircraft controls, banking or even gambling machines.

"Many people also would be surprised to know that the certification of our voting systems happens in secret. The 'independent testing authorities' who examine them are bound by non-disclosure agreements with the vendors; we never learn what their testers uncover. Likewise, Texas' own examinations happen behind closed doors, a practice that may violate state laws.

"Requests made through Texas' Open Records Act to disclose these findings have yielded superficial reports that indicate a lack of time and resources spent on the examination. So we have little evidence to support election officials' claims that DRE systems are meaningfully secure."

Posted by: Bev on October 24, 2004 11:57 AM

The Reality Based Community Must Stick With Reality To Prove Our Democracy.

To prove our Democracy, we have to save evidence—paper ballots. We cannot rely on trust because Democracy is too important.

And, lots of people know evidence: computer scientists, scientists, accountants, lawyers, and the press know evidence. And we know what it means when evidence is removed.

Posted by: Bev on October 24, 2004 9:50 PM

Does it bother anyone else that Harris County Clerk Beverly Kauffman has a video testimonial for eSlate on manufacturer Hart InterCivic's web site? It's been there for years; I see it as a conflict of interest.

Posted by: Steve Bates on October 25, 2004 12:56 PM

Has anyone ever asked whether Harris County Clerk Beverly Kauffman is related to J. Britt Kauffman President and CEO of HartInterCivic? Wouldn't that be a conflict of interest?

from HartInterCivic Website:

J. Britt Kauffman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Mr. Kauffman brings a broad and diverse experience in finance, management, and systems consulting to his responsibilities as President of Hart InterCivic. Upon earning both his BS and MPA degrees at the University of Texas in Austin, Mr. Kauffman began his business career as a management consultant with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in Seattle, Washington. He later served as Treasurer for the City of Austin and Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration for Mr. Gatti's Inc., a subsidiary of the publicly held L.D. Brinkman Company.

Mr. Kauffman was recruited to Hart Graphics, Inc. as Chief Financial Officer with responsibility for financial management and reporting, management information systems, corporate purchasing and information management. Mr. Kauffman joined Hart Graphics as CFO in 1988, and in 1997 Mr. Kauffman was named President of Hart InterCivic, at the time a wholly owned subsidiary of Hart Graphics, Inc. Under his leadership Hart InterCivic has grown from $13 million to $40 million in revenues and has taken the company from a Texas-focused organization to one with national reach and recognition.

Today, Mr. Kauffman is responsible for leading Hart InterCivic into new technology driven business opportunities for government in electronic document management systems and information workflows, as well as election systems and services.

Posted by: Bev on October 25, 2004 2:21 PM


Have you asked her office if she was compensated?

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on October 26, 2004 6:26 AM