The Verified Voting Blog

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

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 the rest

The Myth of “Secure” Blockchain Voting

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 the rest

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 the rest

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 the rest

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 the rest

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 the rest

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.”