SCROLL DOWN FOR:
– About The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity Award for Innovative Work in the Field of Election Integrity
– Story Angles
– Ideas for Interview Questions
– Contact: To schedule an interview with Lori Grace, call (415) 924-7824 or email
ABOUT The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity
Lori Grace is the Founder and Director of The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity (which is a division of the Sunrise Center, a popular nonprofit organization that is over 20 years old). Lori Grace has been studying and teaching approaches to communication and conflict resolution for over ten years. She began applying this work to election in 2004.
Lori Grace has been sponsoring innovations in election integrity for six years.
– The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity is based in Corte Madera (Marin County, San Francisco Bay Area), California.
– Mission: The mission of The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity is to improve public transparency in election processes by developing innovative ways for public citizens to oversee their own elections, by facilitating communications between citizens and election officials, engaging elections officials in dialogue, and celebrating election officials who achieve improvements in public transparency in their process.
Each of the four crucial steps in a public election must be something the public can see and authenticate, without need for special expertise. These four steps are: (1) Who can vote – the voter list; (2) Who did vote – the participating voter list); (3) Chain of custody for the votes; and (4) Counting of the votes.
1. 2010 Awards for Innovation in Election Transparency – (more)
2. Extraordinary citizens and how they can make a difference – (more)
3. The Trachtenberg Election Verification System – (more)
4. Absentee and mail-in voting: Is it transparent? (more)
~ Story Angle 1 ~ AWARDS FOR INNOVATION IN ELECTION TRANSPARENCY
The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity is issuing awards every other year to election supervisors and secretaries of state for Innovative Work in the Field of Election Integrity. The awards are to be determined by judges drawn from three organizations: The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity, The League of Women Voters and Threshold Foundation. The first state is California.
– Carolyn Crnich, Humboldt County Clerk/Registrar of Elections
– Freddie Oakley, Yolo County Registrar of Elections
– Tom Stanionis, Chief of Yolo County Elections Department
– Mitch Trachtenberg, developer of free open source software allowing the public to independently examine ballots
– Kevin Collins, the citizen in Humboldt County who initiated the original groundbreaking transparency project
ELECTION TRANSPARENCY INNOVATION AWARDS 2010:
WHEN: Thursday, December 16, 2010 • 5:30 to 9:00 PM
WHERE: San Rafael City Hall Council Chambers, 1400 Fifth Avenue, San Rafael 94941
5:30 to 7:00 pm: Demonstration of the Trachtenberg Election Verification System; a discussion of other methods for increasing election transparency; Q&A
7:00 to 7:30 pm: Refreshments
7:30 to 9:00 pm: Awards Ceremony
In this groundbreaking program, public awards are being presented to two brave and innovative registrars of voters and their associates, who introduced the TEVS method to create safer, more transparent elections in their counties and engaged citizens in the process. These election officials have discovered that their commitment to meaningful, cost-effective, improvements in open elections administration have created enormous goodwill and confidence from the public, making their job much more enjoyable!
The Threshold Foundation and The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity acknowledge the outstanding efforts of these election officials to create transparent elections and trustworthy election results.
All honorees will be happy to answer questions.
BACKGROUNDER for the 2010 ELECTION TRANSPARENCY INNOVATION AWARDS:
About the Humboldt County collaboration: At the urging of local fisherman Kevin Collins, a unique and groundbreaking election transparency system was implemented in Humboldt County. Carolyn Crnich, Clerk/Recorder/Registrar of Elections for Humboldt County, has become a pioneer in elections freedom of information. Her courageous work to open up new, fully public election checks and balances has gained the attention of election integrity proponents nationwide.
In June 2008, Crnich launched an inexpensive system which allows the public to examine all the ballots cast, while protecting voter privacy. By scanning all the ballots and posting them on the Web, all citizens can check for themselves the accuracy of the Humboldt County vote.
Another local citizen, an open source computer programmer named Mitch Trachtenberg, created free public software to assist any citizen in examining the ballots. Anyone can examine each ballot without software, of course, but Trachtenberg’s free open source software also allows everyone to examine large numbers of ballots in batches, so people can quickly count even hundreds of thousands of ballots to compare results from a completely independent set of scanned ballots with results already published.
– Carolyn Crnich (Clerk/Recorder/Registrar of Elections, Humboldt County Calif);
– Mitch Trachtenberg (Open source computer programmer, public citizen);
– Kevin Collins (Election transparency advocate, public citizen).
Yolo County: In 2010,Under the guidance of Registrar Freddie Oakley and Chief of Staff Tom Stanionis, Yolo County become the second jurisdiction in California to allow public examination of all the ballots by scanning and making them available to the public for inspection, free of charge.
~ Story Angle 2 ~ EXTRAORDINARY CITIZENS AND HOW THEY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE
The key to making public elections work is public involvement. Opportunities for citizens wishing to help create more certainty in the integrity of their vote can include participating in exit polls, advocating for more paper ballots, obtaining and examining public records, and participating in recounts, among other activities.
This kind of citizen involvement is essential if we wish to live in a true democracy. Here are some examples of citizens who are making a real difference in the integrity of your elections:
– EXIT POLLERS 2008: In 2008, citizens organized their own exit polls to examine and compare voter’s reported votes with reported outcomes. Funded by Lori Grace, the analysis of the exit poll results were disturbing, especially for Proposition 1A and for Proposition 8.
– THE RIVERSIDE RECORDS PROJECT: Tom Corbett is a local citizen in Riverside who organized SAVE-R-VOTE, a group of watchdogs. A former county financial director, he has immersed himself in examining public election records in Riverside County. During this process, he found that many public records required to be provided to citizens were being withheld; he then participated in litigation to secure the records, which are being analyzed now. The Grace Institute for Democracy and Election Integrity assisted in supporting these important efforts.
– 15004 EXAMS: California citizen Jim March researched California election statutes and found a law which allows inspection of the computerized voting system by a person designated by any authorized political party. This is called a 15004 exam, for the statute on which it is based.
Jim March conducted the first 15004 examination in San Joaquin County in November 2005. In 2008, Jim March performed a 15004 exam in Santa Cruz County, with full cooperation from local Registrar Gail Pellerin, but was obstructed by Monterey County elections staff when trying to examine exactly the same kind of system.
In Nov. 2010, Jim March was brought in by local citizens and invited by a political party to perform a 15004 exam in Marin County, but this was obstructed by Registrar Elaine Ginnold, who stated that she would have permitted the exam if it was done by someone she wanted, but not by someone she did not want. Of course, the premise of public sovereignty over government and freedom of information law is that public oversight is a RIGHT, not a privilege selectively granted by the government to chosen persons.
Allowing public examinations of voting system central tabulators and computers is an important innovation in election transparency and one supported by The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity; those election officials who comply with the law deserve recognition, and the public should be made aware of those who do not.
~ Story Angle 3 ~ THE TRACHTENBERG ELECTION VERIFICATION SYSTEM
Assisted by The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity, the Trachtenberg Election Verification System is the free, open source system which allows citizens to examine copies of absentee ballots.
The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity is highlighting a new system to bring about the most dramatic step towards election transparency and integrity in 30 years: The free, open source, and inexpensively implemented Trachtenberg Election Verification System. Below is a video showing one of the public demonstrations sponsored by The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity:
How does it work?
Using this system, ballots are counted by an open source tabulator side by side with the corporate tabulator used by that particular county. The open source tabulator puts on the web or on a DVD all of the ballots which are made public for all to see. The ballots are anonymous of course — no ballot can be connected with the person who cast it. Anyone can count them one by one if desired, but the free, open source software developed by Mitch Trachtenberg provides a tool to count and analyze all the ballots, even in large locations with hundreds of thousands of votes. It is a software that anyone can use on their own computer to examine batches of ballots.
The TEV system first attracted attention in Humboldt County in November, 2008 when an open source tabulator was used to count ballots side-by-side with the County’s Diebold tabulator. It showed that the Diebold tabulator dropped almost 200 votes – a surprisingly high number in a small county like Humboldt. Although it did not change the results in that particular election, such discrepancies could determine election outcomes in other contests.
The transparency inherent in this system is in great contrast to the secrecy and lack of transparency that so often is typified in systems run by companies, like Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and Hart InterCivic who insist on privacy and claim their systems as proprietary.
This system is inexpensive to implement, requiring only the purchase of a document scanner and a few hours to scan the ballots and transfer them to CDs or to the Web. It was first implemented in Humboldt County, California, and is now also being used in Yolo County.
About Mitch Trachtenberg: Mitch Trachtenberg has taught computer graphics programming and graphical user interface design on behalf of Silicon Graphics, Bell Northern Research, Northern Telecom, the Open Software Foundation, and other groups.
~ Story Angle 4 ~ ABSENTEE AND MAIL-IN VOTING: IS IT TRANSPARENT?
Legislation has popped up in many states attempting to convert jurisdictions with polling places tomail-in voting. Twenty-five states have broadened vote-by-mail, and two states are now 100 percent vote-by-mail. In California, over half of all votes are now cast by absentee voters.
People like absentee voting. It’s convenient. But oddities often appear in the absentee results, indicating the need for more transparency in the process. For example, in San Diego County, the 2006 Bilbray-Busby race showed significant differences between absentee and polling place vote results. In 2010, Marin County 2010 ballot Measure F showed opposite results in its polling place as compared with its absentee results. Close races, like the 2010 Kamala Harris/Steve Cooley race for California Attorney General, are ultimately decided by the large number of absentee votes.
Lori Grace and The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity sponsored a groundbreaking examination of incoming Marin County vote-by-mail patterns. First, working collaboratively with a group of local citizens, the vote databases were obtained and analyzed. This analysis, performed by Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org, revealed that there were two reversals in the direction of absentee results. The first took place three hours before results were announced. (Absentee votes in California are run through scanners beginning several days before Election Day, but results are not announced until the polls close on Election Day).
In Marin County for Measure F, the “No” votes were winning from May 28 through 3 p.m. June 8, Election Day. Then, three hours before the first results were announced, the trend shifted in the absentee votes to “Yes.” After this, the polling place votes delivered a solid “No”, but again on June 14, the absentee votes trending “No” shifted to “Yes,” producing a narrow win of just 178 votes. Coinciding with this were a series of aborted absentee batch scans, which Marin County Registrar of Voters Elaine Ginnold attributed to the scanner reporting wrong numbers of ballots.
This kind of detailed, database-driven absentee analysis is providing a powerful new tool to increase transparency for elections that are heavily dependent on absentee votes.
IDEAS FOR INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
1.) The Institute for American Democracy and Election Integrity: Can you tell us a little bit about your organization? Why did you decide to get involved in election transparency efforts?
2.) Why do you feel it’s important to provide recognition for election officials and others who produce innovations in election transparency?
3.) California, where these projects originated, has paper ballots. Why is additional transparency needed even in places with paper ballots?
4.) What are the prospects for the 2012 presidential election? Do you think there will be problems?
5.) You are providing awards not just to election officials, but also to the local citizens and to the computer personnel for some of these locations. Why did you decide to include all of them instead of focusing on one person?
6.) Can you tell us more about Humboldt County’s transparency project?
7.) Now, if my ballot is scanned and put on the Web, won’t people know how I voted?
8.) When Humboldt County made its ballots public, did the ballots match the machine counts? What kind of problems were found with their corporate vote-counting system?
9.) How much would it cost for a county to implement this system?
10.) How are you helping to encourage other locations to try this transparency system? Have any more locations decided to do this too?
11.) Do you think absentee voting is transparent? What kinds of things might help make it more transparent?
12.) What are some other things you are doing to increase election transparency?
13.) Is your work getting more acceptance now than these ideas did when you first started?
14.) Where can people learn more about election transparency?
15.) Will you be sponsoring any more demonstrations of the election transparency system?
16.) How can people get involved?