Election Integrity is the most incredibly powerful issue because it brings together people from all walks of life that would normally never agree, let alone even consider eating lunch together. Texas is a bastion for the rule of law and a strong-hold for legal accountability. Fortunately for Texans, our election statutes originate in our state Constitution Article 6, Section 4:
“In all elections by the people, the vote shall be by ballot, and the Legislature shall
provide for the numbering of tickets and make such other regulations as may be
necessary to detect and punish fraud and preserve the purity of the ballot box…”
Mr. Keith Ingram, the Elections Director in the Texas Secretary of State’s office has put forth last minute election administrative rule changes, that eliminate critical paper backup election records at the cost of honest, verifiable and true elections in Texas. These changes could go into effect as early as September 2016.
To those that demand unyielding transparency in elections, these attempts seem absolutely unreal. What comes to mind is the famous final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the powerful Ark of the Covenant is crated and wheeled away into oblivion never to be seen again by those that love it most.
With these proposed changes, paper backup records for Texas elections will suffer a similar fate–the removal of publicly viewable paper backup records to verify electronic election results in Texas. This is the time we urgently need the assistance of Texas Governor Abbott, House Speaker Straus and Lt. Governor Patrick to step in and neutralize these efforts and ensure honest and fair elections happen in Texas. Below are the three paper records that are at risk.
Retain Ballot Image System Requirements for Storage and Printing
Per Texas Election Code statutes, ballot images are to be stored and printed for recounts to verify electronic voting results. Currently, The Texas Administrative Code, for the Texas Secretary of State’s office, details the important certification requirements for electronic voting systems and includes Graphic Figure 3, Form 101, which requires detailed documentation from vendors on adherence to ballot images:
“16. (Electronic Ballot Image Systems (EX: DRE) only) List procedure for a recount
(printing of electronic ballot images and audit logs)…”
The administrative rule change proposal, under the section, §81.60.Voting System Certification Procedures, strikes out and deletes Figure 3, Form 101 for ballot image storage and printing. The office seems to not properly notice or describe why the ballot image storage and ballot image printing requirements for recounts are deleted. These are clearly required by Texas statutes.
2. Continue to Print Real-Time Paper Audit Logs
The real-time audit log printout, which documents significant election events at the Central Counting tabulator computer as it compiles all the vote results on election night, is another important paper election record. The printing of this real-time audit log is an election activity that poll watchers are entitled to monitor and was implemented in 1999:
“(a)… the central accumulator shall include a continuous feed printer dedicated to a
real-time audit log. All significant election events and their date and time stamps
shall be printed to the audit log…[such as]…error and/or warning messages
and operator response to those messages…”
Listed in the Voting System Certification section, Mr. Ingram proposes the following changes:
“…eliminate the requirement for a continuous feed printer dedicated to a
real-time audit log to be included with a central accumulator…[because] Federal
voting system guidelines have been revised…”
In contrast to the claim above, the most recent federal guidelines, the United States Election Assistance Commission’s 2005 Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (Section 184.108.40.206 Operational Requirement), clearly states that real-time audit logs that are visible to computer operators are important:
“…systems shall provide the capability to create and maintain a real-time
audit record…This information allows effective operator identification of an
error condition requiring intervention, and contributes to the reconstruction
of election-related events necessary for recounts or litigation.”
The flawed claim from the Director is that real-time paper audit logs are outdated and electronic audit logs are sufficient. Actually, electronic files can be easily hacked and manipulated. Real-time paper records are more secure, are viewable by poll watchers and are more easily audited.
3. Continue to Print Paper Results Tapes at the Polling Location when Polls Close for Early Voting
Results Tapes are paper election records that document the number of votes each candidate and/or proposition received at that polling location. Many counties in Texas print Results Tapes at the polling location after the polls close for Early Voting. Texas Election Code statutes (66.023) support the printing of Early Voting tapes that report the precinct returns for that location:
“Sec. 66.023. CONTENTS OF ENVELOPE NO. 2. Envelope no. 2 must contain:
(1) a copy of the precinct returns…and (5) the precinct early voting list…”
The proposal by Mr. Ingram, outlined under the section of §81.52.Precinct Ballot Counters, attempts to eliminate the printing of Results tapes,
“…(9) At no time should the early voting clerk or deputy early voting clerk
print a results tape. A results tape or results report will be printed by the
presiding judge of the early voting ballot board or the presiding judge
of the central counting station, as applicable…”
This proposal appears to be in direct contradiction to Texas statutes and the directives of Republican delegates outlined in the 2016 Texas GOP Platform, the election integrity plank #59 which was approved by over 7600 delegates (90%). It clearly states:
“…We support the Secretary of State strictly enforcing printing of Results Tapes
for electronic voting for early voting and Election Day at polling locations after
the polls close for all counties…”
Paper Results tapes provide a backup record of the voting results in case the electronic equipment becomes corrupted, or hacked, en route to the main county office. In actuality, corrupted voting equipment has been recently reported in Texas such as Llano, Travis and Harris counties. Therefore, a paper backup record is crucial for election integrity.
Conclusion and Call to Action
The commonalities of the three proposals to eliminate paper backup records for Texas elections are obvious—records, that would be used in a recount or legal action, are being systematically eliminated from the official election record in Texas.
Our Texas leadership, Governor Abbott, Speaker of the House Straus, and Lt. Gov. Patrick can step in and set the expectations that paper election backup records will be guaranteed so that honest and fair Texas elections happen in 2016.
Please contact our Texas elected leaders below to request a public hearing and ensure these paper election records are retained:
- a) Legal ballot images for recounts
- b) Real-time audit logs, and
- c) Results tapes for Early Voting printed when polls close at the polling location, and
Governor, Greg Abbott — Email, (512) 463-1782
Speaker of the House, Joe Straus — Joe.Straus@speaker.state.tx.us, (512) 463-1000
Lt. Governor, Dan Patrick — LTGConstituent.Affairs@ltgov.state.tx.us (512) 463-0001
Secretary of State’s Office, Carlos Cascos — Secretary@sos.texas.gov (512) 463-5770
Representative Jodie Laubenberg, Chair of Elections Committee – Email, (512) 463-0186
In 2014, Dr. Laura Pressley ran for the Austin City Council and filed an historic election contest challenging electronic voting records that were not legally retained. Her case is currently in appeal and she educates voters and candidates how to take back their power with regard to electronic voting. Dr. Pressley is a native Texan and earned her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UT Austin and was an engineer and business manager in the semiconductor industry for 17 years. She holds 4 US patents related to semiconductor device technology, is an entrepreneur, and has worked with the Texas Eagle Forum and Texas Legislature on science and technology issues. She can be contacted at 512-762-3825, LauraPressley@StartMail.com, www.PressleyForAustin.com
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