The Verified Voting Blog

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

An unverifiability principle for voting machines | Andrew Appel

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on October 22, 2018.

In my last three articles I described the ES&S ExpressVote, the Dominion ImageCast Evolution, and the Dominion ImageCast X (in its DRE+VVPAT configuration).  There’s something they all have in common: they all violate a certain principle of voter verifiability.

  • Any voting machine whose physical hardware can print votes onto the ballot after the last time the voter sees the paper,  is not a voter verified paper ballot system, and is not acceptable.
  • The best way to implement this principle is to physically separate the ballot-marking device from the scanning-and-tabulating device.  The voter marks a paper ballot with a pen or BMD, then after inspecting the paper ballot, the voter inserts the ballot into an optical-scan vote counter that is not physically capable of printing votes onto the ballot.

The ExpressVote, IC-Evolution, and ICX all violate the principle in slightly different ways: The IC-Evolution one machine allows hand-marked paper ballots to be inserted (but then can make more marks), the ExpressVote in one configuration is a ballot-marking device (but after you verify that it marked your ballot, you insert it back into the same slot that can print more votes on the ballot), and IC-X configured as DRE+VVPAT can also print onto the ballot after the voter inspects it.  In fact, almost all DRE+VVPATs can do this:  after the voter inspects the ballot, print VOID on that ballot (hope the voter doesn’t notice), and then print a new one after the voter leaves the booth.

Continuous-roll VVPAT under glass: an idea whose time has passed | Andrew Appel

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on October 19, 2018.

States and counties should not adopt DRE+VVPAT voting machines such as the Dominion ImageCast X and the ES&S ExpressVote. Here’s why.

Touchscreen voting machines (direct-recording electronic, DRE) cannot be trusted to count votes, because (like any voting computer) a hacker may have installed fraudulent software that steals votes from one candidate and gives them to another. The best solution is to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, counted by optical scanners. Those opscan computers can be hacked too, of course, but we can recount or random-sample (“risk-limiting audit”) the paper ballots, by human inspection of the paper that the voter marked, to make sure.

Fifteen years ago in the early 2000s, we computer scientists proposed another solution: equip the touchscreen DREs with a “voter verified paper audit trail” (VVPAT). The voter would select candidates on a touchscreen, the DRE would print those choices on a cash-register tape under glass, the voter would inspect the paper to make sure the machine wasn’t cheating, the printed ballot would drop into a sealed ballot box, and the DRE would count the vote electronically. If the DRE had been hacked to cheat, it could report fraudulent vote totals for the candidates, but a recount of the paper VVPAT ballots in the ballot box would detect (and correct) the fraud.

By the year 2009, this idea was already considered obsolete. The problem is, no one has any confidence that the VVPAT is actually “voter verified,” for many reasons:

  1. The VVPAT is printed in small type on a narrow cash-register tape under glass, difficult for the voter to read.
  2. The voter is not well informed about the purpose of the VVPAT. (For example, in 2016 an instructional video from Buncombe County, NC showed how to use the machine; the VVPAT-under-glass was clearly visible at times, but the narrator didn’t even mention that it was there, let alone explain what it’s for and why it’s important for the voter to look at it.)
  3. It’s not clear to the voter, or to the pollworker, what to do if the VVPAT shows the wrong selections. Yes, the voter can alert the pollworker, the ballot will be voided, and the voter can start afresh. But think about the “threat model.”  Suppose the hacked/cheating DRE changes a vote, and prints the changed vote in the VVPAT. If the voter doesn’t notice, then the DRE has successfully stolen a vote, and this theft will survive the recount.  If the voter does notice, then the DRE is caught red-handed, except that nothing happens other than the voter tries again (and the DRE doesn’t cheat this time). You might think, if the wrong candidate is printed on the VVPAT then this is strong evidence that the machine is hacked, alarm bells should ring– but what if the voter misremembers what he entered in the touch screen?  There’s no way to know whose fault it is.
  4. Voters are not very good at correlating their VVPAT-in-tiny-type-under-glass to the selections they made on the touch screen. They can remember who they selected for president, but do they really remember the name of their selection for county commissioner? And yet, historically in American elections, it’s as often the local and legislative offices where ballot-box-counting (insider) fraud has occurred.
  5. “Continuous-roll” VVPATs, which don’t cut the tape into individual ballots, compromise the secrecy of the ballot.  Since any of the political-party-designated pollwatchers can see (and write down) what order people vote on the machine, and know the names of all the voters who announce themselves when signing in, they can (during a recount) correlate voters to ballots. (During a 2006 trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey, I was testifying about this issue; Judge Linda Feinberg saw this point immediately, she said it was obvious that continuous-roll VVPATs compromise the secret ballot and should not be acceptable under New Jersey law. )

Design flaw in Dominion ImageCast Evolution voting machine | Andrew Appel

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on October 16, 2018.

The Dominion ImageCast Evolution looks like a pretty good voting machine, but it has a serious design flaw: after you mark your ballot, after you review your ballot, the voting machine can print more votes on it!. Fortunately, this design flaw has been patented by a rival company, ES&S, which sued to prevent Dominion from selling this bad design. Unfortunately, that means ES&S can still sell machines (such as their ExpressVote all-in-one) incorporating this design mistake.

When we use computers to count votes, it’s impossible to absolutely prevent a hacker from replacing the computer’s software with a vote-stealing program that deliberately miscounts the vote. Therefore (in almost all the states) we vote on paper ballots. We count the votes with optical scanners (which are very accurate when they haven’t been hacked), and to detect and correct possible fraud-by-hacking, we recount the paper ballots by hand. (This can be a full recount, or a risk-limiting auditan inspection of a randomly selected sample of the ballots.)

Some voters are unable to mark their ballots by hand–they may have a visual impairment (they can’t see the ballot) or a motor disability (they can’t physically handle the paper). Ballot-marking devices (BMDs) are provided for those voters (and for any other voters that wish to use them); the BMDs are equipped with touchscreens, and also with audio and tactile interfaces (headphones and distinctively shaped buttons) for blind voters, and even sip-and-puff input devices for motor-impaired voters. These BMDs print out a paper ballot that can be scanned by the optical scanners and can be recounted by hand.

What Would an Attack on the U.S. Elections Look Like?

Election Experts to Discuss How Hackers Might Target Voter Rolls, Registration in the 2018 Elections, What Signs to Look For and How to Respond. For more information, please contact Aurora Matthews, aurora@newheightscommunications.com, (301)-221-7984.

What
Press call to discuss election day security preparedness and “What Would a 2018 Election Hack Look Like?”

When
Monday, October 15, 2018, 1pm EDT

Where
Dial-in number: 408-638-0968;
Meeting ID: 363 129 912
Webinar link: https://zoom.us/j/363129912

Verified Voting, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School and Public Citizen will hold a telepresser and webinar on Monday, October 15 to discuss what a hacking of the 2018 election system might look like. Hackers have different avenues they could take either by altering voter registration rolls, disrupting websites or changing vote counts. Detecting an attack might be obvious, such as disappearing votes, or subtle, like voting tallies not matching exit polls.

Speakers will give examples of what systems hackers might target, and how election officials will be able to determine if a hack occurred, as well as how to respond to hacks. There are several actions voters and election officials can still take ahead of the election to ensure minimal disruption to voting, even if a hack or computer error occurs. The call will also address what states have done since 2016 to improve election security. Speakers will include:

  • Marian K. Schneider, President at the Verified Voting Foundation and former Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration, Pennsylvania Department of State
  • Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy Program
  • Aquene Freechild, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People Campaign

This briefing comes as states have had wide ranging responses to calls to implement additional election security following the 2016 elections.

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  Read More

David Jefferson: The Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting

Click here to download a pdf version of this blog

In the last couple of years several startup companies have begun to promote Internet voting systems, this time with a new twist – using a blockchain as the container for voted ballots transmitted from voters’ private devices. Blockchains are a relatively new system category somewhat akin to a distributed database. Proponents promote them as a revolutionary innovation providing strong security guarantees that can render online elections safe from cyberattack.

Unfortunately, such claims are false. Although the subject of considerable hype, blockchains do not offer any real security from cyberattacks. Like other online elections architectures, a blockchain election is vulnerable to a long list of threats that would leave it exposed to hacking and manipulation by anyone on the Internet, and the attack might never be detected or corrected.

Wisconsin Proves It’s Not Too Late for States to Take Key Election Security Steps Before November

Wisconsin’s action last week requiring a post-election audit will help secure the November vote and should be followed by states that lack such protections, according to Public Citizen and Verified Voting.

On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Election Commission (WEC) took a key step to secure the vote by requiring an audit of November’s election results before they are made official. The commission voted to randomly select five percent of voting machines in the state to be audited the day after the 2018 general election. For the audit, municipal clerks will hand count ballots from randomly selected machines, comparing what’s on the paper ballot to what the machine recorded. They will do this across four races before the vote count is finalized. (See WEC meeting minutes pages 34 and 49.)

Verified Voting Testimony before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee

Written Testimony of Verified Voting.org President Marian K. Schneider before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee Public Hearing on Senate Bill 1249 and Voting Machine Demonstration, September 25, 2018. Download as PDF.

Thank you Chairman Folmer, Minority Chair Williams, and members of the Committee for allowing Verified Voting to submit written testimony in connection with the Senate State Government Committee hearing. We write to address the security risks presented for Pennsylvania’s counties and the need to expeditiously replace aging and vulnerable electronic voting systems. We urge the Committee to recommend that the Commonwealth appropriate adequate funding to permit counties to replace their aging electronic voting systems as soon as possible.

Verified Voting is a national non-partisan, non-profit research and advocacy organization committed to safeguarding elections in the digital age. Founded by computer scientists, Verified Voting’s mission is to advocate for the responsible use of emerging technologies to ensure that Americans can be confident their votes will be cast as intended and counted as cast. We promote auditable, accessible and resilient voting for all eligible citizens. Our board of directors and board of advisors include some of the top computer scientists, cyber security experts and statisticians working in the election administration arena as well as former and current elections officials. Verified Voting has no financial interest in the type of equipment used. Our goal is for every jurisdiction in the United States to have secure and verifiable elections.

There are two basic kinds of electronic voting systems in use in Pennsylvania: Direct recording electronic (DRE) or optical scan systems. Both types of systems are computers, and both are prepared in similar ways. The primary difference is that an optical scan system incorporates a voter-marked paper ballot, marked either with a pen or pencil or with a ballot marking device and that ballot is retained for recounts or audits. Optical scan systems leverage the speed of the computer to report unofficial results quickly. The presence and availability of that paper ballot provides a trustworthy record of voter intent and allows jurisdictions to monitor their system for problems, detect any problems, (either hacking or error), respond to them and recover by, if necessary, hand counting the paper ballots. Seventeen counties in Pennsylvania already benefit from the security protection of paper ballots.

Four ways to defend democracy and protect every voter’s ballot | Douglas W. Jones

This article was originally posted at phys.org.
As voters prepare to cast their ballots in the November midterm elections, it's clear that U.S. voting is under electronic attack. Russian government hackers probed some states' computer systems in the runup to the 2016 presidential election and are likely to do so again – as might hackers from other countries or nongovernmental groups interested in sowing discord in American politics.

Fortunately, there are ways to defend elections. Some of them will be new in some places, but these defenses are not particularly difficult nor expensive, especially when judged against the value of public confidence in democracy. I served on the Iowa board that examines voting machines from 1995 to 2004 and on the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the United States Election Assistance Commission from 2009 to 2012, and Barbara Simons and I coauthored the 2012 book "Broken Ballots."

Election officials have an important role to play in protecting election integrity. Citizens, too, need to ensure their local voting processes are safe. There are two parts to any voting system: the computerized systems tracking voters' registrations and the actual process of voting – from preparing ballots through results tallying and reporting.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine releases report on “The Future of Voting”

Today the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine released a report on election security, “Securing the Vote: Protecting American Democracy.” The Committee for The Future of Voting, which includes Verified Voting Board member Ron Rivest and Advisory Board member Andrew Appel, released the report at a public event in Washington, DC, where the report’s findings and key recommendations were discussed. Included in the Committee’s recommendations, which echo many of Verified Voting’s policies, were:

  • Human-readable paper ballots, made available for all elections as soon as 2018
  • State-mandated risk-limiting audits
  • Increased funding to state and local governments for cybersecurity and election infrastructure

In addition to Ron Rivest and Andrew Appel, Verified Voting’s own Barbara Simons, David Dill, Philip Stark, Matt Blaze, Doug Kellner, and Alex Halderman reviewed the report ahead of its release.

To read the full report and recommendations, visit nap.edu/FutureOfVoting Read More

The Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting – Summary

Several startup companies have recently begun to promote Internet voting systems, but with a new twist – using a blockchain as the container for voted ballots transmitted over the Internet from the voter’s private device. Blockchains are a relatively new system category a little akin to a distributed database. Proponents of blockchain voting promote it as a revolutionary innovation providing strong security guarantees that enable truly secure online elections. Unfortunately, these claims are false. Blockchains do not offer any real election security at all.

Several startup companies have recently begun to promote Internet voting systems, but with a new twist – using a blockchain as the container for voted ballots transmitted over the Internet from the voter’s private device. Blockchains are a relatively new system category a little akin to a distributed database. Proponents of blockchain voting promote it as a revolutionary innovation providing strong security guarantees that enable truly secure online elections. Unfortunately, these claims are false. Blockchains do not offer any real election security at all.

Internet voting has been studied by computer security researchers for over twenty years. Cyber security experts universally agree that no technology, including blockchains, can adequately secure an online public election. Elections have unique security and privacy requirements fundamentally different from and much more stringent than those in other applications, such as e-commerce. They are uniquely vulnerable because anyone on Earth can attack them, and a successful cyberattack might go completely undetected, resulting in the wrong people elected with no evidence that anything was amiss.

Audit Language of the Secure Elections Act Falls Short of Standard for Effective Election Cyberdefense

Marian K. Schneider: “Verified Voting cannot in good conscience support the Secure Elections Act unless the previous audit language of the bill is restored

The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, formerly Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration in the Pennsylvania Department of State, regarding the Chairman’s mark of the Secure Elections Act. For additional media inquiries, please contact christy@newheightscommunications.com.

“Voter-verified paper ballots and manual post-election audits provide robust assurance that election outcomes are not manipulated in a cyberattack, and the most important thing elected officials can do to effectively secure the voting process is to require this combination of safeguards, together.

Unfortunately, the Chairman’s mark of the Secure Elections Act falls short of this standard. Unlike previous versions of the language, including the House companion bill introduced last month, the Chairman’s mark removes language that would have required audits to be conducted ‘by hand and not by device.’ This omission would permit software-based audits of digital records that do not provide a meaningful verification of the software that counted the votes. Cybersecurity experts agree that a manual inspection of the actual ballots marked by voters is essential to detecting interference or programming errors.

Verified Voting cannot in good conscience support the Secure Elections Act unless the previous audit language of the bill is restored and the SEA ensures that elections are defended by effective audit processes.” Read More

Pamela Smith: Testimony Submitted to the Little Hoover Commission

Election security is not an on-off switch, where a thing either is secure or it is not. Rather it involves incrementing layers of effort, analysis, systems and procedures, all created or conducted by people, all while balancing costs and priorities. Such incremental measures harden a system, making it more secure than before and solving for problems when they occur. Perfect security is not attainable, but diligence in the pursuit of secure elections is.

As hard as we try, there will always be another vulnerability discovered; this should not discourage our effort. We should take those steps, and not make it easy for tampering to occur, even while recognizing that there’s no such thing as a completely tamperproof system. Instead, our focus should be on reducing and mitigating for vulnerabilities, and on recoverability, such that no matter what happens, we can say to the public “We take these steps to ensure all will be able to have confidence in the accuracy of the outcome and that everyone who wanted to participate was able to do so.”

Voters need to know elections are working the way they should, or they won’t have the confidence to participate. Ensuring voters know we are taking all possible steps to secure the vote is a way to remove the obstacle of “lack of confidence” and we do this to protect and support all the other things we do to make it possible for every eligible person to vote.

This work cannot be the responsibility of elections officials alone; lawmakers must also support this effort by finding ways to ensure those hard-working officials have the resources they need to meet both the demands of running elections generally, and the special requirements of addressing today’s intense security threat environment and meeting the inevitable issues that arise with resilience.

Verified Voting’s Guide to RLAs in One Infographic

Verified Voting debuted its latest infographic, “A Flowchart for Conducting Risk-Limiting Audits,” at the National Association of Secretaries of States (NASS) 2018 Summer Conference in Philadelphia. In addition to sharing this with election officials at the conferences this summer, Verified Voting is working closely with jurisdictions to demonstrate how to implement robust post-election audits. Check it out below:

The infographic is part of a series of visuals Verified Voting is creating. This piece breaks down RLAs in a flowchart, and follows the release of “Safeguarding Our Elections: The Solutions to Vulnerabilities in Election Security,” this past June. You can download the infographic here or find it on our Twitter or Facebook. Read More

Security Experts Call on ES&S to Provide States with Steps to Disable Problematic Software Installed on Voting Machines

Marian K. Schneider: “Verified Voting calls on all the voting system vendors to be full partners in the effort to secure our elections.”

The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, following news that ES&S, the country’s top voting-machine maker, admitted installing problematic remote-access software on election-management systems that it sold over a period of six years. For additional media inquires, please contact aurora@newheightscommunications.com

“Computer security experts agree the computers that program precinct voting devices should never contain any type of remote access software because the presence of this software could lead to hacking that can change election results. To safeguard election systems and instill confidence in the voting process, ES&S should be transparent about which states’ computers have this remote access software installed and provide information about the steps needed to disable or remove it.

“Verified Voting calls on all the voting system vendors to be full partners in the effort to secure our elections. We must all stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our democracy against both internal and external threats that seek to undermine our elections.” Read More

Congressional Briefing on Election Cybersecurity

Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, July 10, a bipartisan group of leading authorities on election administration and cybersecurity will be on Capitol Hill to present an overview of current election security challenges facing federal and state policymakers. Introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK), the panel conversation comes one day ahead of a Senate Rules Committee hearing on the issue and months before November’s midterm elections.

When:
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
1:30 PM – 3:30 PM EDT

Where:
Capitol Visitors Center, Room SVC 202/203
First St NE, Washington, DC 20515

Experts will discuss key steps states should be taking to shore up electronic voting systems, which remain not only vulnerable to cyber-attacks but also a prime target of them. According to a recent report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee, foreign agents targeted election systems in 18 states, conducted malicious access attempts on voting-related websites in at least six states, and additionally gained access to voter registration databases in a small number of states.

Several states including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, North Carolina and Pennsylvania have recently announced new programs and spending to secure election websites and voter registration databases. But in large part, surprisingly little has been done since 2016 to secure vote tallies by replacing paperless voting machines and mandating post-election audits. Congress recently set aside $380 million for states to spend on these types of improvements, and experts on the panel will discuss how these and other safeguards can be implemented before November and into the 2020 election.

The event is sponsored by Verified Voting, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, Common Cause, FreedomWorks and the National Election Defense Coalition.

Media planning to attend should RSVP to Aurora Matthews at aurora@newheightscommunications.com
***

Opening Remarks or Closing Remarks (*as scheduling permits):
The Honorable James Lankford*, @senatorlankford
United States Senator

Moderator:
The Honorable Trey Grayson, @KYTrey
Former Secretary of State of Kentucky

Panelists:
J. Alex Halderman, Ph.D., @jhalderm
Professor of Computer Science, University of Michigan, Verified Voting Technology Fellow

Liz Howard, @lizlhoward
Former Deputy Commissioner of Elections, Virginia; Counsel, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

Harri Hursti, @HarriHursti
Computer Scientist and Organizer of the Voting Village at DEFCON, the world’s largest hacker convention

Shantiel Soeder
Election and Compliance Administrator, Cuyahoga County, Ohio; post-election audit expert

Lt. Colonel Tony Shaffer, @T_S_P_O_O_K_Y
Former Intelligence Official, Fox News Commentator

Dan Savickas, @dansav1776
Legislative Outreach Manager, FreedomWorks Read More

Verified Voting Designs New Ways to Think About Election Security

Summer is here and that means Verified Voting's work is heating up! In the past few months Verified Voting has added staff, increased our state work, produced a valuable toolkit for election officials and advocates that received press in POLITICO and The Hill and created a set of infographics and maps which appeared in the Wall Street Journal and NPR (make sure to scroll down to see Verified Voting's latest infographic: "Safeguarding Our Elections: The Solutions to Vulnerabilities in Election Security").

The media continues to be instrumental in helping us raise awareness about safeguarding elections. Here are some recent highlights:

Fast Company - How U.S. Election Officials Are Trying To Head Off The Hackers
Bloomberg - Hack-Resistant Vote Machines Missing as States Gird for '18 Vote
Reuters - Ahead of November election, old voting machines stir concerns among U.S. officials
Washington Post - How Colorado became the safest state to cast a vote
Associated Press - Election Hacking Puts Focus on Paperless Voting Machines
Axios - Exclusive poll: Majority expects foreign meddling in midterms
POLITICO - Election system experts debate merits of wireless tech in voting machines
The media continues to be instrumental in helping us raise awareness about safeguarding elections. Here are some recent highlights:

Fast Company - How U.S. Election Officials Are Trying To Head Off The Hackers
Bloomberg - Hack-Resistant Vote Machines Missing as States Gird for '18 Vote
Reuters - Ahead of November election, old voting machines stir concerns among U.S. officials
Washington Post - How Colorado became the safest state to cast a vote
Associated Press - Election Hacking Puts Focus on Paperless Voting Machines
Axios - Exclusive poll: Majority expects foreign meddling in midterms
POLITICO - Election system experts debate merits of wireless tech in voting machines

Verified Voting’s Guide to Election Security in One Infographic

Verified Voting has gone visual! In addition to recently collaborating with the Wall Street Journal and NPR on maps depicting voting technology across the states, Verified Voting created its own infographic: “Safeguarding Our Elections: The Solutions to Vulnerabilities in Election Security.”

The infographic is the first in a series of visuals Verified Voting is creating. This piece breaks down the state of our elections, which states are most vulnerable, the solution and what people can do. We urge you to take a look and share with your networks. You can download infographic or find it on our Twitter or Facebook. Read More

Toolkit Advises Advocates and Election Officials on How to Secure the Nation’s Voting Machines

Joint project from Verified Voting, the Brennan Center, Common Cause and the National Election Defense Coalition suggests ways states can use Congressional election security funds.

Download the toolkit as a PDF. For additional media inquires, please contact aurora@newheightscommunications.com.

A new toolkit designed for advocates and election officials offers suggestions for best practices for conducting post-election audits as well as tips for local jurisdictions considering purchasing new voting machines. The toolkit, “Securing the Nation’s Voting Machines,” is a joint project between Verified Voting, the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause and the National Election Defense Coalition.

“Cyber security experts agree that our voting systems need to be resilient and allow jurisdictions to monitor, detect, respond and recover from an event that interferes with the software. Resilient systems incorporate a paper ballot that is retained for recounts and post-election audits,” said Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting. “This toolkit provides a roadmap for election officials nationwide who are looking to implement these resilient systems.”

Letter to State Election Officials on Best Practices for Voting Funds

Download letter as PDF

On March 23rd, Congress allocated $380 million to states to upgrade election security. This is a positive development. In the age of unprecedented hacking risks, researchers have found that electronic voting infrastructure — including voting machines and registration databases — have serious vulnerabilities. While there’s no evidence that vote totals were hacked in 2016, there’s strong evidence that hackers have been testing the waters.

While federal funding can help states address these issues, simply upgrading or replacing election infrastructure is not sufficient. It is essential that states work with the Department of Homeland Security or other trusted providers to scan their systems for cyber vulnerabilities, and follow best practices identified by computer scientists, national security leaders, and bipartisan experts in elections administration to mitigate hacking risks. On March 20, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its long-awaited recommendations on election security and concluded that requiring paper ballots, banning wireless components and implementing statistically sound audits of election results are essential safeguards. Last year, a group of 100 leading computer scientists and other election administration experts voiced the same conclusion. Through years of researching voting equipment security in real election administration environments, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has come to similar conclusions about what it will take to defend elections.

As you begin to make use of the new federal funding, we strongly urge you to follow best practices identified by these and other leading experts for election security:

(1) Replace paperless voting machines with systems that count a paper ballot — a physical record of the vote that is out of reach from cyberattacks.

(2) Conduct robust post-election audits in federal elections. Congress explicitly requested that states “implement a post-election audit system that provides a high-level of confidence in the accuracy of the final vote tally” as part of its report language accompanying the Omnibus. Well-designed audits involve election officials checking only a small random sample of the voters’ choices on paper ballots so that they can quickly and affordably provide high assurance that the election outcome was accurate.

(3) Upgrade systems to ensure that states’ election websites, statewide registration systems, and election night reporting systems are defended against threats of intrusion and manipulation.

(4) Prohibit wireless connectivity in voting machines to limit vulnerabilities to hacking risks.

(5) Train and educate election officials at all levels on how they need to incorporate security into their elections practices.

We, the undersigned, believe that these represent sensible and cost-effective solutions to the rising challenges of election security. We urge you to take steps to safeguard elections using these proven best practices.

Sincerely,

Adam Brandon
President, FreedomWorks

Duncan Buell
NCR Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, University of South Carolina

Michael Chertoff
Former Secretary of Homeland Security

Kristen Clarke
President, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law

Edgardo Cortes
Former Commissioner of Elections, Virginia

David L. Read More

American elections are too easy to hack. We must take action now. | Bruce Schneier/The Guardian

This article was published by The Guardian on April 18, 2018Bruce Schneier is a fellow and lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School and is on the advisory board of Verified Voting.

Elections serve two purposes. The first, and obvious, purpose is to accurately choose the winner. But the second is equally important: to convince the loser. To the extent that an election system is not transparently and auditably accurate, it fails in that second purpose. Our election systems are failing, and we need to fix them.

Today, we conduct our elections on computers. Our registration lists are in computer databases. We vote on computerized voting machines. And our tabulation and reporting is done on computers. We do this for a lot of good reasons, but a side effect is that elections now have all the insecurities inherent in computers. The only way to reliably protect elections from both malice and accident is to use something that is not hackable or unreliable at scale; the best way to do that is to back up as much of the system as possible with paper.

Recently, there have been two graphic demonstrations of how bad our computerized voting system is. In 2007, the states of California and Ohio conducted audits of their electronic voting machines. Expert review teams found exploitable vulnerabilities in almost every component they examined. The researchers were able to undetectably alter vote tallies, erase audit logs, and load malware on to the systems. Some of their attacks could be implemented by a single individual with no greater access than a normal poll worker; others could be done remotely.