Michigan Election Reform Alliance


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Key Resources

MERA Legislative Plan

MERA Proposed Legislation:
        Post-Election Audits

MERA Testimony:
        2013
        2012
        2009
        2008

What You Can Do

Background


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post-Election Audits in Michigan

January, 2014.     MERA has developed a detailed legislative proposal for post-election audits.

The Michigan proposal was guided by the work of the National Audit Summit's State Audit Working Group, which refined principles and best practices for post-election audits from expert opinion and experience across the country.

Central to the MERA proposal are statistical or "risk-based" based audits, which are the most efficient and effective way to confirm election night results. The statistical audit would begin right after the election and if its findings showed a different winner of a contest, then the audit results would bind election officials to certify a corrected result.

In the proposed audits, precincts are selected randomly and the paper ballots are counted manually (hand to eye) and then compared to machine tallies. To insure independence, audit teams are selected for each county by a central audit board, under the authority of the Michigan State Treasurer.

A novel feature of the MERA proposal is an election night audit in each precinct. One contest is selected at random and hand counted to detect significant errors in the performance of the precinct's tabulator.

Following a Minnesota law (see report Appendix 1, Subd. 4 and 8), the proposal creates a strong market incentive for vendors of electronic voting equipment to make sure their equipment functions correctly and to eliminate security vulnerabilities. The vendor of any brand of electronic equipment that fails an audit would be penalized significantly.

Strong transparency provisions ensure public oversight of the entire audit process, from setting standards and designing the statistical methods to final reporting. Other provisions permit challenger groups to conduct hand count audits under the supervision of election officials, and encourage candidates, parties, issue committees and others to initiate selective and targeted audits.

There is a striking final provision in the proposal. A new election would be mandated for any audited contest if the State Vote Audit Board cannot determine an outcome of the contest with, in its judgment, a reasonably high level of probability.

Taken as a full package, the proposal would provide Michigan with the highest level of assurance of election accuracy of any state in the country.

MERA's proposed bill is here: Post-Election Audits in Michigan.

Legislative Campaign

MERA is working with members of the Michigan Legislature now to reform our election laws in accordance with the Legislative Plan. The tables below track MERA's testimony and the related bills. Check here for frequent updates.

MERA Testimony 2013

Issues
Bills
MERA Testimony
Status
Super Precincts, SOS Voter Cancellations HB 4878 White  


MERA Testimony 2012

Issues
Bills
MERA Testimony
Status
Voter ID HB 5061 S 751 S 754 BenDor, Gold Standard Voter ID  
Photo ID for Absentee Ballot HB 5061 BenDor Substitute passed House
Post-Election Audits HB 5062 Shepard Substitute passed House
Qualified Voter File Management S 751 BenDor Passed Senate; in House Cte.
QVF File Management: Challenged ballot conflicts with right to secret ballot; no "voter fraud" S 751 Bedell Passed Senate; in House Cte.
Photo ID to Register S 754 BenDor Passed Senate; in House Cte.
Third Party Voter Registration: restriction is unconstitutional S 754 BenDor, Shepard Passed Senate; in House Cte.
Third Party Voter Registration: Clerk's conflict, imposition on voters, work-around, partisan purpose S 754 Shepard, BenDor Passed Senate; in House Cte.


MERA Testimony 2009

Issues
Bills
MERA Testimony
Status
No Reason Absentee Voting HB 4097 and HB 4367 BenDor, Shepard Passed by House
Register With Any Clerk HB 4383 and HB 4993 BenDor, Shepard Reported with recommendation
Allow voter adddress to differ from driver address HB 4373 and HB 4374 Bedell, Shepard In Committee
Registration On Line HB 4539 and HB 4540 BenDor, Shepard, White Reported with recommendation



Jan BenDor (MERA) and Rep. George Cushingberry address
a press conference on two anti-caging bills (6/20/08).
Senate Conference Room 352, State Capitol

MERA Testimony 2008

Issues
Bills/Cte.
MERA Testimony
Status
Allow voter address different from driver address. HB 4447, 4448 Bedell, Shepard Passed House
Allow no-reason absentee voting. HB 4048   Reported to House Floor
Allow mailing of absent voter ballot applications without request. HB 4553   Passed House
Allow any Michigan clerk to register or confirm voter identity in person for any MI jurisdiction. HB 4774, 5739 Bendor,Shepard Passed House
Early Voting HB 4090 Bendor,Shepard In Committee
E-voting security, Enforcement, Voter Access Senate - Campaign and Election Oversight Bedell, Foster, Shepard  
Tabulators, Enforcement & Recalls Senate - Campaign and Election Oversight Fealk, Lirones  

 

 

Current Legislature

Senate Committee on Local Government and Elections

Committee Members:

David B. Robertson (R) Committee Chair, 26th District

Arlan B Meekhof (R) Majority Vice Chair, 34th District

Jack Brandenburg (R) 11th District

Coleman Young II (D) Minority Vice Chair, 1st District

House Committee on Redistricting and Elections

Committee members:
Peter J. Lund (R), Committee Chair, 36th District

Ed McBroom (R), Majority Vice-Chair, 108th District

Martin Knollenberg (R), 41st District

Sharon Tyler (R), 78th District

Rick Outman (R), 70th District

Al Pscholka (R), 79th District

Barb Byrum (D), Minority Vice-Chair, 67th District

David E. Nathan (D), 11th District

Woodrow Stanley (D), 34th District


 

What You Can Do

There are many avenues for citizens to make their voices heard on election reform and increase the pressure on the legislature to act. You can contact your representative and senator in support of bills, educate and urge your local officials to support MERA reforms, and organize in communities and statewide to deepen support. MERA will assist by facilitating opportunities to testify at hearings and by providing background, guidelines, examples, etc. for all of these efforts.

Contact Your Representative and Senator

If you share our concerns with the integrity of vote counting in electronically mediated elections and with improving access to voting, then it is urgent that you let your state representative and senator know about your concern. Concerns with election integrity are sometimes politicized and in any case tend to fade from attention between major elections. Yet these issues are of vital importance in a democracy and warrant the attention of voters of every political persuasion. MERA welcomes your support, whatever your political affiliation.

Please communicate your comments and concerns, either on the general issues or specific bills, to your representative and senator. You can send email or surface mail, or call. Please forward a copy of your written comments to the MERA Legislative Coordinator

For a number of key districts (see yellow panel at left), special attention from constituents who support the MERA Legislative Plan could be very helpful. If you live in one of these districts and would like to help, please contact the MERA Legislative Coordinator, he will be happy to assist you to have the strongest influence possible.

Mobilize Local Officials

Local groups allied with MERA are encouraged to inform and educate key local election officials on the MERA legislative plan; set up meetings to discuss the plan, answer their questions, and hear their concerns; and encourage them to weigh in with the legislature in support of key bills.

Please contact the MERA Legislative Committee Chair for assistance.

Testify

MERA welcomes testimony from all who share our concerns. To present your testimony as part of the MERA effort, please contact the MERA Legislative Coordinator before the hearing and provide written copy for review.

Other Things You Can Do

  • Tell other concerned voters about this campaign and send them this link: http://MichiganElectionReformAlliance.Org/legis.html
  • Subscribe to MERA - Announcements, and MERA-News - current breaking news and discussion on election reform.
  • Find out who is coordinating the effort in your county and get in touch to help organize the effort there, or volunteer to coordinate the effort in your county by contacting one of the statewide MERA coordinators: Contacts
  • To join MERA's statewide organizing effort contact any Council member.
Whatever you can do, we thank you in advance for your efforts. It is only through the due vigilance of citizens like you that we can hope to preserve and protect democracy in Michigan and America.

Background

The actual voting arrangements managed by Michigan election officials consist of many elements -- such as policies, roles, voting machines, staff training, safeguards and procedures, budgets and supplies, and so on. Traditionally such elements were integrated into a functional system that had developed gradually over many years. The traditional system produced reasonably reliable, efficient, and accurate vote counts that were open to public scrutiny and trustworthy. Now under the Help America Vote Act new voting systems based on electronic vote tabulation have been put in place.

In Michigan use of voter verified paper ballots is required by law. During voting, the paper ballots are fed into and read by optical scan electronic tabulators. When the polls have closed, the results are passed on in the form of memory cards or tapes to a central location in each county where the votes are aggregated and results declared. For each voting precinct, tabulators are programmed in advance of the election to count the votes, and the tabulators are then pretested before election day to verify the accuracy of the programming. However, this system was established in a relatively short time and, particularly with respect to security from electronic tampering, has not been adequately understood, tested, or refined. Traditional practices to safeguard an honest, accurate vote count are no longer effective with new electronic voting machines.

In 2006 the outspoken republican Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson (who has now replaced Land as Secretary of State) sent then Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land an important letter which documented a shocking list of problems with the operation of the new electronic voting machines in Oakland County.

Operational reliability, however, is only part of the problem. The trustworthiness of electronic vote tabulations is no better that the security for the tabulating machines themselves, including their programming and the memory cards & tapes. Security was never a criterion for certification! So now election officials are faced with the disturbing possibility that what appears to be correct in pre-testing can be altered through either direct or remote access: machine programs can have hidden instructions activated by the machine's internal clock, memory cards can be switched (perhaps in the guise of vendor "upgrades"), internal machine records of illicit manipulations can be erased or never recorded in the first place, and so forth. For a full account please see the Brennan Center report: Analysis of security vulnerabilities in the three most commonly purchased electronic voting systems.

Now we are in a period of danger. Comprehensive, integrated, functional security policies and procedures appropriate to the new technology, and to the officials and voters who use it, have not been created. The current transitional arrangements are inadequate and vulnerable to breakdown and tampering. The goal of fair, efficient, and accurate vote counts that are transparent to a concerned public is still far away.

How can voters know their votes will count and be counted accurately? If nothing is done to address this concern, then we can't and won't be able to know. We continue to face the possibility of extensive breakdowns and malfunctions on election day. Many completely legitimate voters could be prevented from voting except on "provisional ballots," which may or may not be counted. With the design and operating system of machines held as proprietary secrets by Vendors, even an independent, expert computer programmer can not assure the public that the machines will be secure and reliable on election day. In short, without concerted action, the outcome of any given election could be spoiled or hijacked and we would have no way to know and little or no recourse.

MERA has formulated an extensive Legislative Plan that would provide the basis for overcoming the security problems of Michigan's electronic voting systems, while increasing access to voting. If we are to have a system that is secure and transparent to the concerned public, then it is urgent that we make the plan into law as soon as possible.


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