Last updated on: 10/10/2008 | Author:

Is the Practice of Electronic Voting Machine “Sleepovers” Appropriate?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) included the following definition of “voting equipment sleepover” in their July 27, 2006 “Association Statement on Voting Equipment ‘Sleepover’ Practice”:

“Voting equipment ‘sleepover’ refers to the practice of election officials distributing secured voting equipment to poll workers in advance of the election. In this model, voting equipment and all election supplies (including paper ballots) are stored at the home of lead poll workers (inspectors) and transported to the poll site on Election Day.”

July 27, 2006

Pamela Smith, Nationwide Coordinator for the Verified Voting Foundation, offered the following definition of “electronic voting machine sleepover” in an email to the Brad Blog accessed June 8, 2006:

“The machines had sleepovers… The procedure is that certain pollworkers are assigned equipment to take home with them upon receiving their training. They then bring it to the polling place on election morning early, and set up. Depending [on] when they have training, the machines could be at their homes for more than a week or two.”

June 8, 2006

PRO (yes)


Mikel Haas, the San Diego County (California) Registrar of Voters, explained his position on the practice of voting equipment “sleepovers,” which was paraphrased in a July 17, 2006 newspaper article by Dave Downey, a staff writer for the North County Times titled “Democrats Ask County to Hold Election Hearings”:

“Mikel Haas, the county’s elections chief, defended the county’s decision to send the electronic voting machines home, saying it was a practical way of making sure the devices reached all of the county’s 1,646 polling places on time. He said the alternative would be a massive, time-consuming delivery process early on the mornings of elections. Haas also said safeguards are in place to prevent tampering.

For starters, the machines are placed only with poll inspectors, he said. ‘We just don’t give this stuff out like candy,’ Haas said. Haas also stressed each touch screen is sealed before it is sent home, and the seal would have to be broken to compromise a machine…

Haas said he could not understand the concern because it has been the county’s practice for decades to send paper-ballot machines home with inspectors.”

July 17, 2006


The San Diego Union-Tribune ran an editorial on July 24, 2006 titled “Voting Integrity: Challenge to County Procedures Unfounded,” which stated:

“Supervisory poll workers, following 16 hours of training, do indeed take voting machines home so the equipment can be readily set up at polling places on Election Day. It would be impractical, at best, if not impossible, for the county to distribute voting machines to the precincts in time for the polls to open at 7 a.m. on election morning. There are 10,000 of them.

And safeguards are numerous. The memory card inside every electronic voting machine has a tamper-evident seal. Before the polls open on Election Day, two poll workers check the seal on every machine and certify that the seals were unbroken. Then every machine is tested with what is called a ‘zero tape,’ certifying that no votes have yet been cast. When the polls close at night, a ‘results tape’ is run, with three copies, one of which is posted publicly outside the polling place, before the memory cards are placed in a sealed pouch and transported to Election Central for counting.

It’s been done in similar fashion for decades – without complaint or problem – no matter what kind of voting system was used, as detailed by state law.”

July 24, 2006


The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) explain in their July 27, 2006 “Association Statement on Voting Equipment ‘Sleepover’ Practice”:

“The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials (CACEO) recognizes that distributing secured voting equipment to poll workers prior to Election Day is an efficient, accountable and transparent practice that contributes to the orderly and secure conduct of elections.

The following safeguards associated with this practice ensure that the integrity of the elections process is maintained: All poll workers take an oath to uphold the integrity of the elections process prior to initiating their duties. Poll workers are essential to ensuring public accountability in the elections process. It is appropriate that they are entrusted with the security of voting equipment and supplies prior to and during the day of the election; Poll workers are trained to confirm that voting equipment is sealed and that the tamper-evident seals are not broken prior to the opening of the polls on Election Day…

Sending voting equipment and supplies home with poll workers is equally secure to the alternative approach of delivering equipment to poll sites in advance of the election where the chain of custody and security cannot be as easily documented or traced… As a public and transparent process, elections in the United States historically rely on the checks and balances associated with appointing poll workers to oversee the conduct at the polls. This practice is consistent with that model.”

July 27, 2006

CON (no)


Debra Bowen (D-28th District of California), a California State Senator, on July 8, 2006 stated upon her appointment as Chairwoman of the California Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee:

“In San Diego, electronic voting machines with well-known security holes in them were sent home with poll workers days and weeks before the election. Why? Because the county has been sending paper ballots and other election equipment home with workers for years and it saw no reason to change that practice. Elections are different today than they were in the 1950s or even the 1990s, meaning many of the historical practices that elections officials have relied on may need to change to reflect that new reality.

I certainly don’t condone the idea of sending voting machines that have a documented history of security problems home with poll workers days or weeks before the election.”

July 8, 2006


Paul Lehto, an attorney specializing in election law, explained the reason he filed a lawsuit against San Diego County for breaches in electronic voting machine security procedures in an Aug. 4, 2006 interview with Computerworld magazine:

“During these sleepovers, the voting machines were unsecured, subject to access by innumerable neighbors, strangers and family members, and stored without records or proof of actual chain of custody, eliminating the ability of any person to detect whether or not fraud or improper access to voting machine occurred… The sleepover issue is fairly egregious.”

Aug. 4, 2006


Brad Friedman, an investigative journalist, wrote in a June 14, 2006 entry titled “Security Breaches for ‘Sleepover’ Voting Machines Used in Busby/Bilbray Race Invalidated, Decertified Their Use in the Election!” on his web log, The Brad Blog:

“Massive security breaches in the storage of those [electronic voting] systems were sanctioned by the San Diego County Registrar of Voters… The unsecured overnight storage of Diebold voting machines and their memory cards in poll workers houses, cars, and garages in the days and weeks prior to the closely watched election between Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby violated several federal and state provisions which, if not followed, would revoke the certification of use for the voting systems in any California election…

As a blood sample taken at a crime scene and then stored in someone’s garage for a week before delivery to the crime lab would be considered ‘contaminated’ on its face – even if there had been no actual tampering to the sample – so must the world’s most easily-hackable voting machines be considered as contaminated when such a massive breach of security in the chain of custody has taken place such as sending machines home, unprotected, with poll workers…

[San Diego County Registrar of Voters Mikel] Haas confirmed that the touch-screen systems themselves were sent out without plastic security seal tape over either the power switch or the secondary external PCMCIA slot. That security breach alone would allow a would-be hacker completely overwrite the entire system in less than two minutes with any software of their liking – with no passwords necessary.”

June 14, 2006


Pamela Smith, Nationwide Coordinator the Verified Voting Foundation, stated in her Mar. 15, 2004 North County Times article “Electronic Voting Was A Fiasco”:

“In spite of the vulnerability of Diebold’s electronic voting system, the registrar sent computerized voting machines, cards, keys and card encoders to be stored in poll workers’ homes before the election, secured only by easily removed stickers and flimsy plastic zip-ties. Poll workers were given extra zip-ties to hold the machine and key-card pouches closed. These were not inventoried and apparently were not even inspected, so no one knows if machines were tampered with.”

Mar. 15, 2004