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Archiver > BOARD > 2006-11 > 1163349143

From: "Mike Peterson" <>
Subject: [BOARD] Challenged NVGenWeb Election - Respondent NC Response,Section 2
Date: Sun, 12 Nov 2006 08:32:23 -0800


As previously noted, there are no bylaws or procedures designated in
NVGenWeb for the conduction of elections for State Coordinator. Nor is
there any requirement in the USGenWeb bylaws or within the election
procedures for secret balloting in any election. Sturgis (p. 141) states,
"When not prescribed within the bylaws, the method of voting on a motion or
candidate is usually determined by the chair." There are five `usual
methods' of casting a vote listed on pages 141 and 142, and only one of
those methods - vote by ballot - provides for secret balloting.

Invariably, it will be cited that Sturgis (p. 144) states "secrecy is
implicit in a ballot vote, and an election requiring a ballot vote may be
invalidated by the courts if it is shown that by any means it would be
possible to determine how an individual voted."

The defining phrase in this statement is "an election REQUIRING a ballot
vote". This is not applicable to this situation as there is no requirement
for a ballot vote in bylaw, rule, or procedure. In accordance with her
obligation to the state project the State Coordinator (as `chair' of
NVGenWeb) approved the method for casting votes in the NVGenWeb election.

Regardless of the requirement, however, a secret ballot was held in the
NVGenWeb election, as secret ballots are defined. Mr. Smoot attacks the
method of voting citing a violation of `secret ballot' stating that there is
no insurance or guarantees to protect voter privacy. He is in error.

This respondent notes that the phrase `secret ballot' is not specifically
defined in either Bylaw or Sturgis, and thus, the definition of `secret
ballot' goes to the common dictionary usage of the phrase:

secret ballot n.
1. A type of voting in which each person's vote is kept secret, but the
amassed votes of various groups are revealed publicly. (The American
Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright 2000)

There are four recognized levels of ballot secrecy used by within the United
States. (Stanford University Study, "Consequences of Secret Ballot and
Electronic Voting", March 2004)

Untraceable voting - a vote is untraceable, meaning that a voter's recorded
vote cannot be known by anyone including the voter. This violates a
condition of ballot verification necessary for satisfying the principle of
accuracy - that all votes cast are correctly recorded in the tally.

Anonymous voting - a voter's recorded vote can be known by the voter but not
by others, making it possible for the voter to claim (unverifiably) that
their vote was misrecorded.

Private voting - a voter can keep their recorded vote a secret but can both
know and reveal it to others verifiably. Voting is private but not
anonymous, for example, if an official ballot ID receipt is given to each
voter, which can be checked against a public listing of votes by ID. This
makes it possible for voters to sell and trade votes.

Confidential voting - a voter can keep their recorded vote a secret from the
general public, but the mapping between voters' identities and their
recorded votes is knowable either by one or an ensemble of officials. This
makes it possible to audit an election and to satisfy the principle of
legitimacy (that all recorded votes are legitimately cast).

The difference between these methods is the obvious trade-off between
individual privacy versus accuracy and verifiability.

It has been noted that the more anonymous the voting is, the greater the
need for accuracy and verifiability. The obvious implication is that if
those verifying the identity of the voters can see them or verify their
identity face to face or by validating their identity in person with a voter
list, the greater the need that the individual vote be cast without a means
to identify that vote to the voter. On the converse, the greater distance
between the verifier and the voter prevents personal identification and
requires a higher degree of verifiability of each vote cast and a decreasing
level privacy in each vote cast.

The most common and visible application of this process is the difference
between traditional voting and absentee voting in elections across the
country. In traditional voting, identity is ascertained by the presentation
of identification to an election judge by each individual voter to confirm
eligibility to vote. The voter is provided a ballot that is cast privately
and anonymously without any method of determining which voter and which
ballot is cast. In absentee voting, once eligibility is verified on the
voter list, an absentee ballot is sent to the voter, which is numbered and
verified to be a legitimate absentee ballot. Upon receipt of the absentee
ballot, the number verifies that specific ballot; even though it provides a
tie to the specific voter it was issued to.

In the election being contested, the vote was conducted under the
Confidential voting process described above, a process recognized to have
the high level of voter verifiability required for an election where the
specific voter cannot be personally identified by those verifying the
election and tabulating the ballots.

Contrary to Mr. Smoot's assertion, the test of whether a ballot is secret is
whether the election committee reveals the identity or vote of any
individual voter during the election process or the announcement of the
results. This did not occur, as the results of the vote were shown only as
totals for each individual candidate.

Further, even if by some interpretation of the requirements for this
election determines that a violation of the privacy of an individual voter
occurred, a substantive claim must be proven that this violation affected
the outcome of the election, or the willingness or ability of any voter to

There has been no evidence presented that this alleged violation affected
the outcome other than the claim that it "might have" or "could have" in the
complaint. The complaint, in its allegation that "an Advisory Board member
controlling the election machinery and the "vote counters" (tellers) would
be in a good position to tip the balance one way or the other" fails

The requirements as stated in the complaint are not at all consistent with
the facts of what occurred.

The fact is that no Advisory Board member was in control of the `election
machinery'. A mailmerge form is nothing more than an html page running on a
cgi script. It takes data submitted by the voter, and sends it to the vote
counters. It does not determine the vote, nor change the option of the
voter. The voter receives a copy of exactly what goes to the vote counters,
thus they know their vote was correctly cast. The only control of the
substance of the vote is in the hands of the voter.

Additionally, the facts are that there has been no Advisory Board member in
control of the vote counters. The State Coordinator solicited the
volunteers. There were more volunteers than vote counters. The State
Coordinator, not the Advisory Board or any member of the Advisory Board,
chose the specific persons designated. The complaint does not object to
three of the four vote counters who received the votes cast, and focuses
upon one member who happens to be a member of the Advisory Board. The mere
presence of one member of the Advisory Board as a vote counter does not
indicate control by the Advisory Board.

There has been no proof that the mere presence of an Advisory Board member
as a vote counter substantially altered the outcome of the election. Before
the announcement of the results all four vote counters tabulated the votes
cast, and all four vote counters obtained the same result. With four
independent vote counters selected by the State Coordinator, it would be
impossible for one person to control, alter, or change the outcome of the

The outcome of the election was not affected and the facts show that ability
or willingness to cast a ballot was not effected either. What the facts
show is that the voter turnout in this election of greater than 75 percent
of eligible voters. This is a higher percentage than occurs in national
project elections or national elections of our government. This high level
of participation demonstratively proves that there was little concern among
the voters in the manner in which the voting occurred.

Finally, this respondent objects to any claim that Mr. Smoot may make
regarding the secrecy, confidentiality, or privacy of his vote. The
election process protected the content of Mr. Smoot's vote. The
confidentiality of his vote was maintained throughout the election by the
vote counters. No mention was made of any individuals vote, nor was any
indication of any specific votes included in the announcement of the results
by the State Coordinator. All involved maintained his privacy, and the
privacy of all the voters, throughout the election process.

As Mr. Smoot does not object to three of the four vote counters, his only
complaint, therefore, is that one person, SWSC Rep. Bettie Wood, knew the
content of his vote. Mr. Smoot has relinquished all claims to the
confidentiality or privacy of his vote - whether it is to four people or to
one person - by his own actions. His claim became moot when he announced
the content of his vote publicly in a forum knowing that it would become
part of the public record.

The only person who has violated Mr. Smoot's confidentiality and privacy as
to the content of his vote is Mr. Smoot himself, who included the content of
his own vote in his complaint. A person cannot claim a violation of his
privacy when it is he himself who exposed that information to the world.

Scott Burow
National Coordinator
USGenWeb Project

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