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Local & US Politics: More Information

September 6, 2006

According to a recent Zogby poll, 92% of all demographic groups in the country support the public’s right to observe vote counting and to obtain information regarding vote counting. On this issue, the American public is united: transparency is essential to democracy.

Announcing: the Election Transparency Project! During this election season, Verified Voting is launching our Election Transparency Project -- an ongoing non-partisan effort designed to provide citizens with tools to evaluate existing levels of transparency and to engage in observation of, and reporting on, every part of the electoral process, from registration of voters to certification of the results.

With each election season, Verified Voting will add guidelines and observation tools to build usable models for citizen oversight of the entire process.  Verified Voting will also encourage observation by the public nationwide until such observation is recognized as a fundamental ingredient in free and fair elections.

Through the Election Transparency Project, Verified Voting will provide guidelines for observing various portions of the electoral process, questionnaires to assist observers in collecting key information, and a web tool that observers can use to enter the data that they collect.  The data gathered by observers during each election cycle will be pooled so that stakeholders can learn more about how elections are being administered in various parts of the country, and make recommendations  for how election management can be improved in the future.

Verified Voting supports and applauds other efforts for citizen participation in elections, including the ongoing work of the Election Protection Coalition and the newly-launched Pollworkers For Democracy program. Our Election Transparency Project is designed to complement rather than duplicate those efforts.

We Need You!

The success of the Election Transparency Project depends on citizen participation.  We are seeking both individuals and organizations interested in improving our democracy by collecting information on the voting process.  Please consider signing up yourself, and also forwarding this information to other individuals and to groups with whom you are affiliated to request their participation as well. [There will be a sign-up link at our front page soon, or just email to sign up.]

Once you have signed up to participate, all you need to do is download or print the questionnaires from our website as they become available, which will make clear exactly what you need to look for.  After observation, you will be able to easily enter the data that you gather into a web-based survey form, or send in your hard copy questionnaire to us for entry. The data you provide will be made publicly available -- but not your name. Data is redacted to prevent disclosure of personally identifying information (such as name or contact information).

The Time is Now!

For this election season, we will be focusing on several components of the election process that occur either before or after actual Election Day polling place hours.  That means some observation will take place in September and October, so sign up now!

Actual observation will often take only a few hours of your time, with some observation opportunities taking place during the business day and others in the evening; some on Election Day and others before and after.  After observing, you will need to devote a little more time to submitting your data and notes.

We are preparing observation guidelines and questionnaires for five different aspects of the electoral process: you can choose those that best suit your schedule and interests. Some aspects of the election process can be easily observed by individuals. Others are more suited for a group effort. Please see the descriptions below for more information.

If you are a member of an organization that might be interested in this project, please consider talking to your organization about the possibility of signing on as a group. However, both individuals and organizations are invited and encouraged to participate.

Choose What Interests You Most!

For this year, the Election Transparency Project begins with a few important components:

1)  Pre-election transparency assessment: This questionnaire will assist you in collecting information on the extent to which the elections in your jurisdiction are, or are not, observable by the public. The information that you collect on the laws, rules, and written procedures governing transparency in your area will then be compared against how many of those written rules are implemented in practice. This is your chance to "grade" your state, county, parish or township’s level of election transparency.

Completing a pre-election transparency assessment for your area can be done over the course of several days, and can generally be undertaken  when your schedule permits (as long as you or someone in your group can  make some phone calls to offices during business hours). However, in  order to be most effective, the pre-election transparency assessment will  need to be completed as soon as possible, and well in advance of the  election. Participation in the transparency assessment can be undertaken  on either an individual or a group basis.

We encourage everyone who will be observing one of the components listed below to also complete a pre-election transparency assessment.

2)  Pre-election testing of the voting equipment (often known as "Logic & Accuracy" testing): The laws governing such testing differ widely across election jurisdictions. In some jurisdictions, observers are permitted and even encouraged to ask questions and make comments. In others, only  silent observers of the tests are permitted. Our questionnaire is adaptable  to any of these scenarios. Observing pre-election testing may take only a  few hours of time, although the testing (and thus the observation) usually occurs during the business day. This observation can be undertaken on either an individual or a group basis.

3)  Ballot Accounting: reconciling the number of votes cast with the number of voters signing in at the precinct. This reconciliation takes place  at the time of poll closing. The rules for observing this critical function vary from place to place. One advantage of participating in observation of ballot accounting is that such observation takes place after business hours on Election Day, and therefore is a short-term, after-hours commitment. This observation is recommended for groups that can cover several (but not all) precincts in a county, parish, or township. However, observation by an individual at a single precinct is also useful.

In 2004, this type of observation by a leading citizen group in Florida, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition (MDERC), revealed a variety of discrepancies, including that the vote totals of one machine were accidentally uploaded three times into the certified count. MDERC’s report, "Get It Right the First Time," was cited by the United States Government Accountability Office. This is your opportunity to expand this important work into your local area.

4)  Early Voting: Early voting observation is similar in nature to ballot accounting observation, except that it takes place at early voting locations (in jurisdictions where they exist) at the close of each day of early voting.  This observation is recommended for groups that can cover several (if not all) early voting sites in a county, parish, or township, but individual observation is also welcome.

Two leading citizen groups, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition and the Voting Integrity Alliance of Tampa Bay, are working hard to plan and implement early voting observation in parts of Florida. The more people that we have participating throughout the country, the more we will be able to compare and contrast various ways of implementing early voting.

This observation will take place prior to Election Day, during the period of early voting. (Approximately 14 states do not offer early voting -- so this project would not apply to you if you live in: AL, CT, DE, MA, MD, MI, MS, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, WA.)

5)  Auditing: Mandatory manual audits in randomly selected precincts are essential to protecting the vote. These audits verify that the electronic voting systems (either DRE voting machines or optical scan voting systems) are accurately recording and counting the votes.

If you live in an area that already requires both a voter-verified paper record and routine manual auditing, this is your chance to find out how those important tools are being implemented, and to collect information necessary to formulate best practices for future auditing.  This observation can be undertaken on either an individual or a group basis.

To find out whether your state requires mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records, please visit our audits page:

In addition to completed questionnaires, Verified Voting welcomes detailed descriptions of unexpected problems and supporting material such  as videotapes, photos, and the like.

Make an Impact!

On the basis of the data gathered, Verified Voting will produce one or more reports that will feature recommendations for best practices that are geared toward increasing both the verifiability and accuracy of our elections. By collecting information via observation and submitting it into a nationwide data pool, you will be laying the foundation for a stronger democracy.

Our goal is not only to support improvement in the administration of our elections, but also to create models for effective citizen observation. You will be able to download a feedback survey so that you can let us  know what you found useful, confusing, or missing from the Election Transparency Project observation tools, or make other suggestions for improving citizen oversight of America’s voting systems.

Finally, Verified Voting will produce election transparency scorecards for as many jurisdictions as possible. This data will help identify areas in which transparency is lacking. Those areas will then become the focus of our efforts in preparation for future elections.

Remember: much of this observation will begin in a matter of days! Don’t wait-- sign up now by e-mailing or by calling the Verified Voting office at 415-487-2255. Forward this message to other individuals and groups that you think might be interested. Democracy  needs you. The time to act is now!


This newsletter online:

Verified Voting Foundation
1550 Bryant St., Suite 855
San Francisco, CA 94103
415-487-2255 telephone

East Coast office:
1725 19th St. NW, #B
Washington, D.C.  20009

Your contributions make our work possible!  The Verified Voting Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation; your contributions to  the Foundation are tax-deductible to the extent provided by U.S. tax law.

To donate online, visit --or if you prefer to mail a check, please send to Verified Voting at the address shown  above.

Special thanks go to the Threshold Foundation for its support of the Election Transparency Project.

Posted by mik - September 07, 2006