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DC Board of Elections and Ethics 
Report of Internal Review Committee on the September 9, 2008 primary election
October 1, 2008




Dorothy Brizill
Bonnie Cain
Jim Dougherty
Gary Imhoff
Phil Mendelson
Mark David Richards
Sandra Seegars


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I. Introduction

The purpose of this report is to document the results of the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics (the Board) Internal Review Committee’s (IRC) investigation into the tabulation and reporting anomaly that occurred on the night of the September 9, 2008 Congressional and Council Primary Election (Election).

The objective of the IRC investigation was to review the events of that evening – and the Board’s tabulation process in general - in order to pinpoint the precise cause of the error and determine what steps need to be taken to insure that it does not reoccur in future elections. A comprehensive investigation was conducted, and various issues raised by the anomaly were explored. For example, the IRC considered the question of whether the anomaly was the result of a deviation from the Board’s established tabulation procedures, or the procedures themselves. The IRC also examined whether any technological irregularities occurred during the tabulation process and contributed to the error.

The Board staff members selected to comprise the IRC were chosen based upon their particular areas of expertise in technology, voting and tabulation systems in general, and/or the Board’s tabulation process specifically. Additionally, as a result of the roles these individuals played on Election night, the Board determined that these persons were in the best position to analyze the circumstances that generated the anomaly, and recommend corrective measures that can be employed to insure that the error does not reoccur.

The IRC was comprised of the following individuals:

Vialetta Graham, Chief Technology Officer. Ms. Graham is responsible for overseeing the development and operation of all technical projects within the Board and the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. In this capacity, she provides technical leadership and guidance to all technical staff. Ms. Graham is also a Certified Elections/Registration Administrator (CERA). She has been employed by the Board for seven years.

Darlene Lesesne-Horton, Data Systems Manager. Mrs. Lesesne-Horton is responsible for the management and operation of the agency’s data processing systems, including voter registration and election processing. Mrs. Lesesne-Horton is also a Certified Elections/Registration Administrator. She has been employed by the Board for 28 years.

Mohammed Maeruf, Information Technology Project Manager. Mr. Maeruf is responsible for the planning, designing, installation, and maintenance of the Board’s computer systems and voting system election software and hardware. He began his service to the Board as a consultant in 2003, and joined the Board’s staff in 2005.

Clifford Tatum, Help America Vote Act (HAVA) Consultant. Mr. Tatum is an elections attorney who is under contract to provide election support to the Board. Formerly, he served as the Assistant Director of Legal Affairs and concluded his tenure with the State of Georgia as the State Elections Director in 2007. He is responsible for the continued implementation and maintenance of the District’s election reform efforts under the Help America Vote Act. Mr. Tatum has been associated with the Board for five months.

II. Executive Summary

The IRC concludes that, on Election night, an unofficial results summary report containing erroneous information was inadvertently released prior to review and confirmation by the Board. This report indicated that an abnormally high number (4,759) of votes were posted during the Election Night Report. Prior to the release of the subsequent unofficial results summary reports, the Board, having recognized the error, conducted a precinct-by-precinct analysis of the anomaly. This analysis indicated that the incorrect totals in Release No. 2 were isolated to precinct 141 in Ward 2. After this determination was made, a thorough audit of all results from the affected precinct was immediately carried out. The results of the audit indicated that, while 4,759 votes were initially recorded in the results for Precinct 141, only 326 votes were actually cast in that precinct. All reports released subsequent to the detection of the error accurately reflected the number of votes cast during the Election.

This report makes several recommendations, found in section VI on page 10.

III. Technical Overview of the Election Preparation and Tabulation Processes

An overview of the Board’s election preparation and tabulation processes will provide the proper perspective on the nature of the error at issue and how this error may have occurred.

The Board deploys a dual-voting system at its 143 polling precincts on Election Day. The two components of the dual voting system are the Optech Eagle (the Eagle), an optical scan voting machine that utilizes paper ballots, and the AVC Edge (the Edge), a touch screen voting machine. The Eagle stores its votes on a Memory Pack (Memory Pack), while the Edge stores its votes on a Results Cartridge (Results Cartridge).

A. Step One: Programming an Election

The entire election process begins with the creation of the election. In order to create an election, several parameters must be defined within the software used by the voting systems. This compilation of information includes such indicators as: whether the election is a primary, general or special election; the applicable offices; names of qualified candidates; the ballot layout and ballot order; and the registration totals by Ward, political party and precinct. Once an election’s parameters have been defined, and the election has been reviewed for accuracy, paper ballots are printed for the Eagle and electronic ballots are created for the Edge.

B. Step Two: Pre-Logic and Accuracy Testing

After election parameters are created, tests are conducted on each Eagle and Edge voting machine to be used on Election Day. These tests are referred to as Pre-Logic and Accuracy (Pre-LAT) Tests. These Pre-LAT tests include both a hardware and software diagnostic assessment, and are designed to establish that each voting machine is operating properly and is ready for use in the election for which it has been programmed. The hardware assessment tests the physical operation of the machine.

1. Hardware Assessment-Eagle

The Eagle machine is assessed by checking the auxiliary bin, the ballot slots, rear and center ballot locks, slide key locks, power supply, printers display panels and Memory Pack ports. Diagnostics on the indicator lights, sensor displays, printers, beepers and motors are also performed to ensure the machine is working properly.

2. Hardware Assessment-Edge

The Edge machine is assessed by checking the leg assembly, the privacy curtain, AC power indicators, poll-worker information display and the alignment of the touch screen display. Diagnostics for this piece of equipment include a memory test; verifying the functionality of the results port, the auxiliary port, the battery charging indicator as well as the quality of the printouts; and confirming that the date and time are correct. During this testing, the functionality of the card activator devices is also verified. The staff then completes a memory test, a test of all ports on the machine (the results port, auxiliary port for audit trail, smart card port reader, audio port and the printer port). Finally, the “power on/off” and “polls open/close” knobs are tested.

3. Software Assessment-Eagle

A Memory Pack with a serial number is assigned to each precinct. After this assignment, this Memory Pack is loaded with all the ballot styles for the assigned precinct. Subsequently, test decks for the election are produced and a “test election” is executed on the machine. After this test, Memory Packs are read, results tabulated and compared with the expected outcomes for the test election. At this point, final Pre-LAT reports are prepared. Machines are then sealed in preparation for deployment to the precincts.

4. Software Assessment-Edge

Each precinct is assigned an Edge device and a card activator. Serial numbers of both machines are logged after assignments are made. As with the Eagle, a test Results Cartridge is prepared. The cartridge contains the corresponding precinct’s serial number, electronic ballot (with applicable ballot styles—in both English and Spanish) and audio ballots for visually impaired voters are also included in the Results Cartridge data. Again, as with the Eagle, a test election is conducted. Results Cartridges are read and simulated election results are compared against expected valid results. Pre-LAT reports are prepared and the machines are then sealed in preparation for deployment to the precincts.

C. Step Three: Public Testing

Once the voting machines have been tested, they are subjected to a public test. The purpose of this test, which must be held within 4 days before the election, is to demonstrate to the public how the votes cast on Election Day will be accurately counted and reported. This test is also, in effect, a dress rehearsal for the actual election; the actual races to be contested are loaded onto the machines and demonstrations of actual ballots are executed. Once all demonstration voting has been rendered, the “polls” are closed and results reports are generated.

D. Step Four: Polling Place Operation

Before Election Day, the Board’s warehouse staff delivers voting equipment and supplies to the precincts. Poll-worker teams meet on the Monday prior to the election to set up machines, though they are not powered up and turned on until the morning of the election. On Election Day, the Precinct Captain turns on the voting machines as instructed during mandatory poll-worker training classes. The machines are used by voters throughout the day and are shut down after the polls close at 8:00 p.m.

E. Step Five: Election Night Tabulation Process

All voting precincts close at 8:00 p.m. However, the voting machines are not shut down and no results are tallied until all voters in line at the precinct at 8:00 p.m. are given the opportunity to vote. Once all voters have voted in a particular precinct, the Precinct Captain declares the polls closed and begins the process for closing the election and preparing reports to be submitted to election headquarters. The Precinct Captain prints a results tape from each voting machine and submits the same to election headquarters.

As the polls close, the Board deploys representatives accompanied by police escorts to collect the election results from each precinct. The Board representative collects the Memory Pack, the Results Cartridge, and the results tapes for each machine from each Precinct Captain. An administrative chain of custody document is created and processed for each representative and each police escort, demonstrating that all election results were collected from each precinct and delivered to the election headquarters.

As the representatives deliver the election night results, i.e., Memory Packs, Results Cartridges, and all results reports, to election headquarters, several staff members complete a checklist to ensure that the Board receives all Memory Packs and Results Cartridges from each precinct so that the results can be tabulated.

The actual vote tabulation process takes place within a secure server room, which houses the Election Database and the Memory Pack reader devices. This server room is secured by an electronic lock and key code system and is equipped with security cameras to ensure the safety of the system and the integrity of the tabulation process. Each Memory Pack is inserted into a Memory Pack Reader (MPR), and each Results Cartridge is inserted into a Results Cartridge Reader (RCR). The MPR reads the votes stored on each Memory Pack and uploads the number of votes stored therein to the Election Database. A similar process occurs with the Results Cartridge and the RCR. Each Memory Pack and Results Cartridge is stored in the server room after being processed by the staff.

As the results from the Memory Packs and Results Cartridges are processed, both reading devices indicate whether or not they were able to load data into the Election Database by indicating “success” on a log report. If the report fails to indicate “success,” the operator knows to take corrective action to ensure that all votes cast have been properly uploaded into the tabulation system.

The Election Database tallies the election results from each Memory Pack and Results Cartridge, and creates an unofficial results summary report. Pursuant to the Board’s standard practice, each such report is reviewed for accuracy and, once confirmed, disseminated to the public and media and uploaded to the Board’s website. Unofficial results summary reports are continuously produced and verified throughout election night until 100% of the precincts’ Memory Packs and Results Cartridges have been tabulated.

F. Step Six: Canvass Process and Post-Election Audit

On the day following Election Night, the Board staff begins a three-pronged post-election audit that includes processing the Memory Packs and Results Cartridges onto a back-up server, conducting a precinct machine tape review, and executing a ballot reconciliation process. This post-election audit is conducted to confirm the accuracy of the unofficial election night results. Once the results are found to be accurate, a pre-certified unofficial results report, which also includes the unofficial results of the absentee and special (provisional) ballot tabulation, is generated and disseminated.

IV. September 9, 2008 Election Tabulation and Audit

A. Release of Unofficial Results Summary Reports Nos. 1 and 2

At 8:15 p.m. the Board received the first delivery of Memory Packs and Results Cartridges from the precincts. The first set of memory storage devices were processed at approximately 8:25 pm At 8:54 p.m., the Board released the first unofficial results summary report (Report No. 1). Release No. 1 reflected that Board staff and Sequoia election support personnel (the tabulation team) processed 27 precincts (27 Memory Packs and 27 Results Cartridges) out of 143 precincts within 29 minutes after receiving the first set of memory devices. An analysis of the amount of time used to process each of these memory storage devices indicates that 54 memory storage devices, all of which contained 7, 083 ballots were processed within 32.3 seconds per memory storage device.. The vote tally reflected in this report was unremarkable and reflected accurate election results.

The second increment of Memory Packs and Results Cartridges began processing after 9:00 p.m. and was processed under the same procedures. At 9:37 p.m., the Board released the second unofficial results summary report (Report No. 2). Report No. 2 reflects that Board staff and Sequoia election support personnel processed 107 precincts (107 Memory Packs and 107 Results Cartridges) out of 143 precincts within 37minutes after receipt of the second set of memory storage devices. An analysis of the amount of time used to process each of the memory storage devices from the precincts reflected on Report No. 2 indicates that 214 memory storage devices, all of which contained 44,784 ballots were processed within 10.3 seconds per memory storage device.

The tabulation team adhered to the same process used to process the first increment of Memory Packs and Results Cartridges with one significant exception; the speed at which the memory cards were processed increased exponentially. The 214 memory storage devices tabulated between the release of Reports Nos. 1 and 2 were processed at 3 times the speed at which the first 54 memory storage devices had been processed. Specifically, the tabulation team processed 107 precincts (214 memory storage devices) within a 37 minute time period, or at a rate of 10.3 seconds per memory storage device. This equates to roughly five memory storage devices per minute. In addition, the team relied on the processed log report that indicated that data had been successfully uploaded into the Election Database.

B. Detection of Tabulation Anomaly and Corrective Measures

After the release and posting of Report No. 2, the tabulation team examined the figures contained therein and detected what appeared to be a tabulation error in one of the precincts: the vote totals in several key contests were higher than they logically should have been. Upon noticing this error, the tabulation team commenced a precinct-by-precinct data review. This analysis revealed that one precinct in particular - Precinct 141 - was the source of the tabulation anomaly. Precinct 141 is a Ward 2 precinct, located at the Frank D. Reeves Center for Municipal Affairs, 2000 14th Street, NW.

Once it was determined that the tabulation error was generated in - and confined to - Precinct 141, the tabulation team reviewed the posted results for this precinct. During this review, the tabulation team discovered that the Memory Pack used at Precinct 141 had inexplicably added randomly generated numbers to the totals that had been reported. After examining the data from Precinct 141, including the machine reports signed by the Precinct Captain, it was determined that 326 votes were actually cast in that precinct, instead of the 4,759 that were reflected in Report No. 2.

The tabulation team then conducted an audit of all results in Precinct 141. This audit included rereading and reprocessing the Precinct 141 Memory Pack and producing a new results tape. This new results tape was compared to the results tape generated at the precinct and signed by the Precinct Captain. This comparison revealed that the results rendered on the new results tape and the precinct-generated tapes were identical.

Next, the tabulation team reprocessed the cartridge and uploaded the correct results for Precinct 141. After the second processing, the correct total of 326 votes was successfully integrated into the tabulated results. At this point, the Board resumed regular uploading of the remaining Memory Packs and Results Cartridges and, at 11:10 p.m. issued the third unofficial results summary report (Report No. 3).

Finally, at 11:40 p.m., the Board issued the fourth and final unofficial results summary report (Report No. 4). This report, which indicated that 142 of 143 precincts had been processed, accurately reflected the Election results with respect to ballots cast on that day.

V. Findings

Upon reviewing the circumstances surrounding the release of Report No. 2, the IRC concludes that:

A. The Board’s staff, in its zeal to meet the expectations of the speedy release of unofficial Election Night results, erred by deviating from its standard practice and failing to properly review the erroneous data contained in Report No. 2 prior to its release.

B. The Board’s staff unwarrantedly relied upon MPR indications that data had been uploaded successfully; the MPR success indications establish only that data has been uploaded, rather than establishing that correct data has been uploaded.

C. Sequoia’s determination, as reflected in its response to the Board’s queries, that multiple possibilities regarding the cause of the tabulation error exist, including: the speed at which the Memory Packs were processed leading to some type of transient malfunction of the MPR unit; the Memory Pack not making full contact inside the MPR socket; or some type of electrical or static discharge taking place while inserting, reading or ejecting the cartridges at a rapid speed, is acceptable.

D. The tabulation anomaly, in which randomly generated numbers were inexplicably added to vote totals, was confined to Precinct 141, and that no other Memory Packs or Results Cartridges contributed to the erroneous data included in Report No. 2.

E. The tabulation anomaly was discovered within minutes and identified and corrected within an hour.

F. Reports Nos. 3 and 4, released at 11:10 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. accurately reflect the unofficial Election night results.

VI. Recommendations

As a result of its review of all of the procedures, facts and circumstances surrounding the Election night reporting error on September 9, 2008, the IRC makes the following recommendations to the Board:

A. Conduct a hand recount of the paper ballots from Precinct 141 prior to certification of the election results.

B. Isolate the Precinct 141 Memory Pack and discontinue its use.

C. Decrease speed at which Memory Packs and Results Cartridges are tabulated so as to reduce and/or eradicate the risk of the incidence of static buildup and/or electronic impulses during the tabulation process.

D. Release results in smaller increments so as to accommodate the review and audit procedure associated with unofficial results summary reports.

E. Review vote totals to look for indicators of unusual results (e.g., large write-in vote numbers, more recorded votes than registered voters).

F. Designate staff to oversee tabulation process and confirm that established procedures for tabulating Memory Packs and Results Cartridges are adhered to during the process.

G. Request documentation from Sequoia as to recommended procedures for uploading, tabulating, and reviewing results on election nights.

H. Develop a checklist for proofing tasks before releasing unofficial results summary reports.

VII. Conclusions

The IRC’s thorough review, culminating in this report, reflects an accurate representation of our work in examining the facts and circumstances surrounding the release of Report No. 2. It is our belief that this issue has shown that the Board’s established procedures in reporting unofficial results on Election Night must be adhered to strictly. Further, it is vital that the Board not succumb to any external pressures to release results faster than can be accomplished by following established procedures to the letter. In short, the Board must remain steadfastly committed to accuracy over speed.

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