The Verified Voting Blog

This blog contains posts authored by the Verified Voting Team and by members of the Verified Voting Board of Advisors.

Verified Voting Is Seeking a New President

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Verified Voting Foundation (a 501(c)(3) organization) and VerifiedVoting.org (a 501(c)(4) organization) are nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations founded over a decade ago by election security experts. We strive to guarantee the accuracy, transparency, and verifiability of elections, so that citizens rightly can trust election outcomes. We are the only national organization with the exclusive mission of protecting the security of elections in the digital age.

This is an exciting time to be Verified Voting President. Citizens and policy makers are finally becoming aware of major security vulnerabilities of our election systems. The President of Verified Voting, who is the Chief Executive Officer of both organizations, will have a platform that can have significant national impact.

Verified Voting is a leading election security organization in the U.S., earning widespread respect among activists, academics, election officials, and other officials at all levels of government. We specialize in election technology and procedures, and we are the most trusted source of impartial information and expertise on these topics. Our Board and Advisory Board are comprised of a who’s who of election security and cybersecurity experts, as well as election officials and attorneys.

Verified Voting Letter to the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Verified Voting vigorously applauds the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for its leadership and commitment to securing our elections. With clear evidence that foreign attackers sought to attack our 2016 elections through various means, our intelligence agencies warn that hostile attackers will be back to attack future elections. Congress and the most vulnerable states should act with urgency to fund and implement protective reforms that will make our election systems resilient against cyber attack: funding the adoption of paper ballots and accessible ballot marking systems, and implementing robust, manual post-election audits of the votes.

The June 21 hearing is an important first step toward those reforms, providing valuable information through witness testimony and questions of the Senators. We wish to expand on several key points that were raised in the hearing to ensure a clear understanding of the challenges we face in securing our elections.

It is crucial to understand that further reforms are urgently needed to bolster the mitigations currently in place so that it is possible to detect and correct a cyber attack on the vote count.

Some testimony asserted that pre-election testing and post-election audits currently in place would catch errors in vote tallies caused by a malicious attacker or software failure. Unfortunately, pre-election testing, though helpful for ensuring the completeness of ballot programming, can be defeated by malicious software designed to detect when the system is in test mode. This is what happened with Volkswagen diesels cars: the software caused the cars’ emissions systems to behave correctly during testing, but then allowed them to pollute under non-testing conditions.

Alex Halderman: Expert Testimony before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Chairman Burr, Vice Chairman Warner, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to speak today about the security of U.S. elections. I’m here to tell you not just what I think, but about concerns shared by hundreds of experts from across cybersecurity research and industry. Such expertise is relevant because elections—the bedrock of our democracy—are now on the front lines of cybersecurity, and they face increasingly serious threats. Our interest in this matter is decidedly non-partisan; our focus is on the integrity of the democratic process, and the ability of the voting system to record, tabulate, and report the results of elections accurately.

My research in computer science and cybersecurity tackles a broad range of security challenges. I study attacks and defenses for the Internet protocols we all rely 1 on every day to keep our personal and financial information safe. I also study the capabilities and limitations of the world’s most powerful attackers, including sophisticated criminal gangs and hostile nation states. A large part of my work over the last ten years has been studying the computer technology that our election system relies on.2 In this work, I often lead the “red team,” playing the role of a potential attacker to find where systems and practices are vulnerable and learn how to make them stronger.

I know firsthand how easy it can be to manipulate computerized voting machines. As part of security testing, I've performed attacks on widely used voting machines, and I've had students successfully attack machines under my supervision.

Technology Experts’ Second Letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp

This letter was sent to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on May 24, 2017. Download PDF

On March 14th we sent a letter to you expressing grave concerns regarding the security of Georgia’s voting systems and requesting transparency from your office concerning key questions about the reported breach at Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems (KSU).

The FBI has reportedly closed its investigation into the breach at KSU and will not be pressing federal charges1 but regrettably little more is known. We remain profoundly concerned about the security of Georgia’s votes and the continued reliance on Diebold paperless touchscreen voting machines for upcoming elections.2

The FBI’s decision not to press charges should not be mistaken for a confirmation that the voting systems are secure. The FBI’s responsibility is to investigate and determine if evidence exists indicating that federal laws were broken. Just because the FBI concluded this hacker did not cross that line does not mean that any number of other, more sophisticated attackers could not or did not exploit the same vulnerability to plant malicious software that could be activated on command. Moreover, the FBI’s statement should not be misinterpreted to conclude that KSU or the Georgia voting system do not have other security vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious actors to manipulate votes.

Any breach at KSU’s Election Center must be treated as a national security issue with all seriousness and intensity. We urge you to engage the Department of Homeland Security and the US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) to conduct a full forensic investigation. We cannot ignore the very real possibility that foreign actors may be targeting our election infrastructure.

Amid Cybersecurity Concerns, France Abandons Plans for Internet Voting in Upcoming Elections

Earlier this month, the French government announced that it was cancelling plans to allow citizens abroad to vote over the Internet in legislative elections this June. Calling allegations of Russian hacking in western countries worrisome, the National Cybersecurity Agency of France (ANSSI) described the current risk of cyberattack as “extremely high,” and advised “that it would be better to take no risk that might jeopardize the legislative vote for French citizens residing abroad.”

In February Emmanuel Macron's En Marche (Onwards!) party alleged that their campaign was the target of 'fake news' put out by Russian news agencies and they had been victims of cyberattacks. Following these allegations, outgoing president Bernard Hollande called a meeting of the French Defense Council and asked for a report on “specific monitoring and protection measures, including in the cyber domain, to be taken during the election campaign.”

In February Emmanuel Macron's En Marche (Onwards!) party alleged that their campaign was the target of 'fake news' put out by Russian news agencies and they had been victims of cyberattacks. Following these allegations, outgoing president Bernard Hollande called a meeting of the French Defense Council and asked for a report on “specific monitoring and protection measures, including in the cyber domain, to be taken during the election campaign.”

Technology Experts’ Letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp

On March 3rd it was reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigations is conducting a criminal investigation into an alleged cyber attack of the Kennesaw State University Center for Election Systems. According to the KSU Center for Election Systems’ website, “the Secretary of State authorized KSU to create a Center for Election Systems, dedicated to assisting with the deployment of the Direct Record Electronic (DRE) voting technology and providing ongoing support.”[1] The Center is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the voting systems and developing and implementing security procedures for the election management software installed in all county election offices and voting systems.

The Center has access to most if not all voting systems and software used in Georgia. It also is responsible for programming these systems and accessing and validating the software on these systems. It is our understanding that the Center also programs and populates with voter records the electronic poll books used in polling places statewide. A security breach at the Center could have dire security consequences for the integrity of the technology and all elections carried out in Georgia.

In order for citizens to have faith and confidence in their elections, transparency is crucial, including about events such as the KSU breach, and its extent and severity. While we understand that this investigation is ongoing and that it will take time for the full picture to emerge, we request that you be as forthcoming and transparent as possible regarding critical information about the breach and the investigation, as such leadership not only will be respected in Georgia but also emulated in other states where such a breach could occur.

Our Voting System Is Hackable by Foreign Powers | David Dill

The FBI, NSA and CIA all agree that the Russian government tried to influence the 2016 presidential election by hacking candidates and political parties and leaking the documents they gathered. That’s disturbing. But they could have done even worse. It is entirely possible for an adversary to hack American computerized voting systems directly and select the next commander in chief.

A dedicated group of technically sophisticated individuals could steal an election by hacking voting machines in key counties in just a few states. Indeed, University of Michigan computer science professor J. Alex Halderman says that he and his students could have changed the result of the November election. Halderman et al. have hacked a lot of voting machines, and there are videos to prove it. I believe him.

Halderman isn’t going to steal an election, but a foreign nation might be tempted to do so. It needn’t be a superpower like Russia or China. Even a medium-size country would have the resources to accomplish this, with techniques that could include hacking directly into voting systems over the Internet; bribing employees of election offices and voting-machine vendors; or just buying the companies that make the voting machines outright. It is likely that such an attack would not be detected, given our current election security practices.

New Report: Internet Voting Threatens Ballot Secrecy

Casting a secret ballot in the upcoming election might not be so secret or secure depending on where – and how – you vote, according to a new report The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy. The report was coauthored by three leading organizations focused on voting technology, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), Verified Voting and Common Cause.

Caitriona Fitzgerald, State Policy Coordinator for EPIC and a co-author of the report, said, "The secret ballot is a core value in all 50 states. Yet states are asking some voters to waive this right. That threatens voting freedom and election integrity. This report will help safeguard voter privacy."

This year 32 states will allow voting by email, fax and internet portals – mostly for overseas and military voters. In most states, voters using Internet voting must waive their right to a secret ballot.

Giving up the right to a secret ballot threatens the freedom to vote as one chooses, argue the report authors. The report cites several examples of employers making political participation a condition of employment -- such as an Ohio coal mining company requiring its workers to attend a Presidential candidate’s rally - and not paying them for their time.

“On Election Day, we all are equal. The Secret Ballot ensures voters that employers’ political opinions stop at the ballot box,” said Susannah Goodman, director of Common Cause's national Voting Integrity Campaign. “The Secret Ballot was established for a reason. The Secret Ballot ensures that we can all vote our conscience without undue intimidation and coercion.”

Marc Rotenberg, EPIC President, agreed, “The secret ballot is the cornerstone of modern democracy. The states must do more to protect the privacy of voters.”

Give Us The Ballot | Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The following passage is excerpted from a speech that Dr. King delivered before the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington, on May 17, 1957, three years after Brown v. Board of Education and eight years before the enactment of the Voting Rights Act.

Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of good will, this May 17 decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of segregation. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of distinguished people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. It came as a legal and sociological deathblow to the old Plessy doctrine of "separate-but-equal." It came as a reaffirmation of the good old American doctrine of freedom and equality for all people.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as "interposition" and "nullification." Methods of defiance range from crippling economic reprisals to the tragic reign of violence and terror. All of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

But, even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.
Three years ago the Supreme Court of this nation rendered in simple, eloquent and unequivocal language a decision which will long be stenciled on the mental sheets of succeeding generations. For all men of good will, this May 17 decision came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of segregation. It came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of distinguished people throughout the world who had dared only to dream of freedom. It came as a legal and sociological deathblow to the old Plessy doctrine of "separate-but-equal." It came as a reaffirmation of the good old American doctrine of freedom and equality for all people.

Unfortunately, this noble and sublime decision has not gone without opposition. This opposition has often risen to ominous proportions. Many states have risen up in open defiance. The legislative halls of the South ring loud with such words as "interposition" and "nullification." Methods of defiance range from crippling economic reprisals to the tragic reign of violence and terror. All of these forces have conjoined to make for massive resistance.

But, even more, all types of conniving methods are still being used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters. The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions and its is democracy turned upside down.

So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.

A Democracy Worth the Paper — Ballot — it’s Written on | Mark Halvorson and Barbara Simons

As the CIA digs deep to investigate foreign influence on our election, we should recognize that we don’t need cybersecurity experts to tell us if our votes have been accurately counted. Citizen observers can do the job, if we fix the way we vote and the way we verify those votes.

Our democracy is in crisis because we have introduced computers into our voting systems without proper safeguards. First and foremost, every vote must be cast on a paper ballot marked by the voter. In addition, we must require that at least a random sample of those paper ballots be counted by hand to determine if the electronically reported election results are correct.

About 25 percent of the 2016 votes, including almost all of Pennsylvania, were cast on paperless, computerized voting machines. Since software can contain bugs, programming errors, and even malware, we never should have allowed paperless voting machines to record and count our votes, because there is no way to verify that votes are properly recorded and counted inside the machines. Voting on a paperless electronic voting machine is like speaking your vote to a stranger behind a screen and ­­­­­trusting him to cast it for you, without ever seeing the person or how he marked your ballot.

Furthermore, even states with paper ballots tabulate almost all of them using computerized optical scanners. Paper ballots provide no protection unless they are manually checked after the election to verify or correct the computer-declared results. There are only two ways to independently verify electronic tallies (that is, to confirm whether or not the person behind the screen was honest and accurate): post-election audits and recounts done by hand by examining the original paper ballots.