Security, Accuracy, and Reliability of Denton County's Voting System
Denton County uses the
Hart InterCivic eSlate, a direct-recording electronic voting system, and the
Hart InterCivic eScan voting unit which digitally captures vote selections from
Hart InterCivic's voting
systems are the most widely-used electronic voting systems in the State of
Texas. Hart's systems are currently used in 102 Texas counties including five
of the ten counties having the greatest number of registered voters (Harris, Tarrant,
Travis, Denton, and Fort Bend Counties).
This document is provided
for Denton County voters who have concerns regarding electronic voting systems
and who want to know whether their vote cast on an electronic voting device is
safe and secure without a "voter-verified paper audit trail." I believe that
the information provided in this document can provide confidence to the vast
majority of Denton County voters that their vote will be accurately counted and
reported by our voting system.
While no voting system is
perfect, studies show that electronic voting systems offer the most accurate
and secure method of voting available:
• It is impossible to
"overvote" (vote for more candidates that can be elected).
• Voters are immediately
able to completely correct a vote for the wrong candidate.
• Voters must view a
summary screen of all races and measures before casting the ballot – this gives
voters an opportunity to review and change their choices before a vote is cast.
• Voters are alerted to
un-voted or under-voted races on the summary screen.
• It is impossible to
incorrectly mark the ballot, eliminating ambiguity regarding voter intent.
• Votes are redundantly
stored in multiple physical memory locations to preserve election results in
the event of equipment failure.
It is also important to
remember that voting equipment is only one component of an overall election
system that includes citizen involvement, transparency, external security
measures, management policies and procedures, and professional election
officials. All of these people, procedures, and technologies work together to
ensure reliable and trustworthy election results.
THE HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT OF 2002
The Help America Vote Act
of 2002 (HAVA) required the county to supply each polling place by January 1,
2006 with a voting system that is accessible for individuals with disabilities,
including non-visual accessibility for the blind and visually impaired so that
these voters can cast ballots in a manner that provides the same opportunity
for privacy and independence as other voters. The handicapped-accessible eSlate
units in each polling place on election-day meet this requirement.
HISTORY OF ELECTRONIC VOTING SYSTEMS
Electronic voting systems have been used in jurisdictions
throughout the United States since the 1970's.
According to the American
Association of People with Disabilities, "In almost four decades, not a single
case of election fraud due to tampering of a system's hardware or software has
occurred. Comparably, in the last 40 years, hundreds of cases of election fraud
involving paper have occurred and been successfully prosecuted."Electronic
voting machines are very reliable and have multiple redundant features to
capture and store votes accurately.
DESIGN OF THE HART INTERCIVIC eSLATE VOTING SYSTEM EQUIPMENT
SAFEGUARDS AGAINST UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS
The eSlate system
includes both physical and electronic intrusion detection controls, such as
numbered wire seals (commonly used in elections), and time-stamped transaction
logs that record every system action related to the voting process. Data cannot
be inserted or altered by unauthorized personnel because the database structure
is proprietary and is protected by encrypted passwords determined by the
EQUIPMENT SAFEGUARDS AGAINST EXTERNAL ACCESS
The eSlate voting system
is activated by the voter using a randomly generated four-digit code; there are
no smart cards or other programmable devices that require an external access
point into the voting hardware. This eliminates the possibility of hackers or
others being able to gain access to the system in order to tamper with or
subvert the election. In addition, the voting devices and tabulation
computers are NEVER connected to an external network (including the
Internet), so there is no opportunity for someone to access the system remotely
and alter computer code or election results.
CLEAR AUDIT TRAIL
Each component of the
eSlate voting system creates an audit record every time it is accessed or
information is changed. All audit records can be extracted and printed in hard
copy. All audit reports, audit trail documents, databases, and election reports
can be archived in hard copy and/or saved electronically to CD-ROM to preserve
information as required by the Election Code.
Ballot images are
captured of each vote cast. These ballot images can be printed after the
election if a candidate in the election requests a manual recount.
The Texas Election Code
requires a real-time printed audit log at the central counting station. This
printed log records every event, tally, correction, and report produced from
the tabulation system.
All audit logs and
reports are public documents that are available for public viewing and/or
copying in accordance with the Texas Open Records Act.
EQUIPMENT DESIGNED FOR FAILSAFE OPERATION
The components of the
eSlate voting system are networked together at the polling place, allowing the
system to store all information (election data and individual vote records) in
three physically separate locations. This provides back-up and redundant data
storage in the event that any one of the components malfunctions. This is a
significant advantage over stand-alone electronic voting devices that have a
single point of failure. (As a clarification, although the devices are
networked together at the polling place, the system is NOT connected to
an outside network, including the Internet.)
Automatic creation of
vote records in multiple memory locations throughout the course of the voting
period eliminates the need to physically collect votes from each voting device
upon poll closing. This eliminates a potential source of error.
The eSlate voting system
has 18-hours of battery backup to protect against power failures and lost data.
All information storage devices are solid-state, and thus are not susceptible
to magnetic fields, abusive handling, or loss of power.
INTEGRATED DIAGNOSTICS AND INTERNAL CONTROLS
The eSlate voting system
uses error-checking techniques to ensure the accuracy of reading and writing
digital data. Repetitive data integrity checks ensure that only authorized
devices are communicating on the local network at the polling place, and that
the data being communicated originates from a source that has complete
integrity with the election database created for the current election. The
eSlate voting system also incorporates continuous checking of each data
transfer to ensure that the data received at the end of the transfer is the
same as the data originated by the source.
The eSlate voting system
incorporates a tough polycarbonate display cover that is nearly indestructible.
This makes the eSlate voting device better able to withstand vandalism attempts
or other potential damage due to accidents than touch screen voting devices.
eSlate voting devices
meet the stringent testing requirements of MIL-STD (U.S. Military Standard) 810
for environmental ruggedness, including humidity, vibration, and drop height.
These devices are tested in temperature extremes through hot-cold chamber
testing, salt fog testing, and water-resistance testing.
VOTING SYSTEMS CERTIFICATION & INDEPENDENT TESTING
FEDERAL CERTIFICATION TESTING
certification standards employed in Texas are among the most stringent in the
nation. Every voting system certified for use in Texas, including the Hart
InterCivic eSlate voting system, must comply with the Federal Voluntary Voting
System Guidelines (VVSG) promulgated by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission
(EAC). Laboratories that test voting equipment are assessed by the National
Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and accredited by the EAC. These
laboratories rigorously test each voting system's hardware, firmware, and
software for compliance with the VVSG. Voting systems certified by these
testing laboratories are issued a certification to show that they meet or
exceed the Federal Voluntary Voting System Guidelines. It is important to note
that even though the Federal government considers its standards or guidelines
to be voluntary, the State of Texas requires its voting systems
to meet or exceed these guidelines before they can be used in Texas elections.
STATE CERTIFICATION TESTING
In addition to Federal
certification, Texas election law requires the Secretary of State to certify
all voting systems used in the state. The Secretary of State's testing involves
a team of six examiners. The Secretary of State appoints four examiners, one of
whom must be a full-time employee of the Office of the Secretary of State. The
Attorney General appoints two examiners, one of whom must be a full-time
employee of the Office of the Attorney General. Two of the Secretary of State's
appointees must have demonstrated ability and experience in mechanics or electronics
appropriate to the system or equipment to be examined, and two of the Secretary
of State's appointees must have demonstrated knowledge of and experience in
election law and procedure. Before the Texas examination of a voting system,
the system must be tested by a U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC)
accredited laboratory and shall meet or exceed the minimum requirements set
forth in Voluntary Voting System Guidelines promulgated by the EAC.
Voting systems vendors
must submit each hardware, firmware, and/or software update to the EAC and the
Secretary of State for testing in order to maintain their voting system's
VOTING SYSTEM TRANSPARENCY - TESTING, TESTING, TESTING…
LOGIC AND ACCURACY TESTING
The accuracy of
electronic voting devices are tested by "Logic and Accuracy" testing before and
after each election as required by the Election Code and the Texas
Administrative Code to make certain that the voting system is working properly.
Votes from hand-marked paper ballots are entered into the electronic voting
devices. Printed totals from the electronic system are then compared to the
hand-counted results. Additional functional tests are performed manually on
each voting device. The schedule of Logic and Accuracy testing is posted in advance
of each election, and these testing sessions are open to the public.
In addition, the eSlate
voting system prints a "zero report" when the machines are opened and
powered-up at the polling place to document that there are no prior votes
stored within the system.
HASH TESTING / VERSION CONTROL TESTING
Before each election,
version control testing will be conducted to make sure that each component of
the electronic voting system is using a certified version of the vendor's
software and firmware.
PARALLEL TESTING OF VOTING EQUIPMENT
Parallel testing of
voting equipment involves the random testing of production voting devices on
election-day. Voting units are selected at random. The selected voting
device(s) are taken offline and then used for additional logic and accuracy
testing. At present, there are no requirements or uniform guidelines in Texas
for conducting parallel testing.
OTHER SECURITY MEASURES AND PROCEDURES
SECURITY AT THE COUNTY ELECTIONS OFFICE
Upgrades of physical
security features have been made at the Denton County Elections Center
including a key-card entry system to control access to our facility including
certain areas of the office where voting equipment is stored and rooms where
ballot origination computers and election tabulation computers are located. The
key-card security system includes a log of each entry into the secured area as
well as unsuccessful attempts to enter the secured area. Each employee is
issued a uniquely coded key-card that gives him or her access to appropriate
areas within the Elections Center building and logs each person's entry into
secure areas. Access into certain secure areas (where ballot origination and
tabulation computers are kept) is limited to key Election staff members. Public
access to the Denton County Elections Center is restricted to the main
entrance. Denton County also has a video camera surveillance system to provide
additional security at the Elections Center.
SECURITY AT THE POLLING PLACE
Voting devices are
delivered to the polling places several days before election-day. The
presiding election judge is required to verify that the correct seals are
intact on each voting device and to certify this information on a
chain-of-custody log before the equipment may be opened and used in the
OTHER MANAGEMENT AND OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES
Internal management and
operational procedures are crucial to the success and reliability of any voting
system. The following procedures will be carried forward or instituted:
• An audit of each precinct's
electronic tally of the number of votes cast is conducted against the number of
signatures in the precinct's poll book roster.
• Polling place officials
are required to certify in writing that the proper locks and seals were found
to be intact on the voting equipment before the polls open.
• Polling place officials
are required to print and keep a "zero tape" from the voting system before the
polls open to ensure that no votes have been pre-loaded into the system.
• A physical inventory of
all voting devices is conducted before and after each election to ensure
custody of all voting devices is maintained.
• All election judges,
early voting workers, county Election staff, and central counting workers
undergo extensive training in both voting equipment operation and election
• Bi-partisan staffing is
encouraged and employed to the extent possible at election-day polling places,
early voting polling places, and the central counting station.
WHY CAN'T A PAPER RECORD BE PROVIDED?
Neither federal election
law nor the Texas Election Code requires electronic voting systems to produce a
paper record commonly referred to as a "contemporaneous paper record" (CPR) or
"voter-verified paper audit trail" (VVPAT). Although Hart InterCivic has a CPR
device that is used in other states, it has not been certified for use in
Texas. Proposed legislation on the state and federal levels that would require
a CPR has been previously submitted but has failed due to a lack of wide
HOW THEN IS A MANUAL RECOUNT CONDUCTED?
Even if CPR-enabled
voting devices were used, current Texas election law does not allow for this
type of paper record to be used for recount purposes. Under current state
law, only the electronic results or the stored ballot images printed to paper
after the election may be used for recounting an election conducted with an
electronic voting system.
Persons requesting a
recount from an election held with an electronic voting system may request
either an electronic recount or a manual recount. In the case of electronic
voting systems, a manual recount is conducted by printing the stored ballot
images to paper after the election. These printed ballot images are then
hand-counted by a recount committee, just as if they were actual paper ballots.
Denton County's voting
equipment is only one component of an overall election system that includes
citizen involvement, transparency, external security measures, management
policies and procedures, and professional election officials. All of these
people, procedures, and technologies work together to ensure reliable and
trustworthy election results.
The Denton County
Elections Administration Department is keenly aware that it has front-line
responsibility for the integrity of the voting process. We have a commitment to
each Denton County voter, taxpayer, candidate, elected official, and citizen
that each vote is correctly tabulated and reported.
We welcome questions,
comments, or concerns regarding the voting process. Please submit questions or
comments in writing to:
Denton County Elections Administrator
401 W. Hickory
Denton, TX 76201
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