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’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.”

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 Read the rest

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.

Pennsylvania Takes Critical Steps Toward Eliminating Paperless Voting by Next Presidential Election, but Not Before the 2018 Midterms

Pennsylvania took a critical step earlier this year to replace its aging voting systems. The announcement this week that it will eliminate paperless voting machines by the 2020 election is an important step because we know the only way to address the risk of software problems is to require a physical ballot that can be used to check computer-generated votes. But it still leaves many counties in the largest swing state unable to monitor, detect, respond and recover from any possible attack in the upcoming midterm election.

Since 2006, 83 percent of Pennsylvanians have voted on unverifiable direct recording electronic (DRE) systems. This announcement guarantees that the most severely vulnerable systems will be on the path towards replacement, but it will not be in time for the 2018 midterms. Still, as the Commonwealth moves forward with these steps to increase security, it also serves as an example for other states to do the same.

Verified Voting calls on the Pennsylvania legislature to appropriate additional funding to subsidize the cost of replacement. In addition, we urge the Department of State to insist that all newly certified voting systems include the most secure features and will be ready for robust post-election tabulation audits.

Verified Voting Hacks into Voting Machine in New Video from the New York Times

The New York Times published an interactive piece on election security today that included a video featuring Verified Voting fellow, Alex Halderman. The piece, “I Hacked an Election. So Can the Russians,” was the result of a months-long collaboration between Verified Voting and the New York Times.

“Alex Halderman, along with the New York Times, successfully demonstrated how vulnerable these voting machines can be,” said Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting. “We want people to understand in a visual way how something like this might happen. Although it is only a risk and not a certainty that something like this could occur, we need to be prepared and able to recover. These machines don’t allow us to do that. It’s time we prepare to monitor, detect, respond and recover from any potential attacks that undermine our democracy.”

Proposed election security panel for Netroots Nation 2018

Election security is the way we protect our elections from interference and allow voters to feel confident that their vote is being counted. Being able to trust election results is a cornerstone of democracy. 2016 was a harsh reminder of what can happen when we don’t have secure election systems- and demonstrates the need for us to act quickly. Luckily, we can all ensure the safety of our elections, by working with our local and state election officials to make sure all of our votes are counted.

The key takeaways are that the reforms (paper ballots and robust audits) are not only totally possible, but super important. Every major reform that has been passed at the state level has been lead by grassroots activists who knew how important it was to make sure our votes are counted. The progressive movement, in light of the interference in the 2016 election, has been calling on us to understand how to advocate for these campaigns.Election Security is often seen as a wonky, insider issue. Over the past year, the Secure Our Vote coalition has trained hundreds of local leaders to work with their election officials to demand better election machines and audits. The connection between these issues and passing a progressive agenda is clear, as only if we trust our votes will be counted if we have secure systems. We want to build upon that work to make the connections clear to the leading progressive activists.

Federal Funds for Election Security: Will They Cover the Costs of Voter Marked Paper Ballots?

Most significantly, the omnibus funding as allocated to the states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) will not be enough for some states to replace their insecure voting machines. Because paperless electronic voting systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, it is urgent that those systems be replaced as soon as possible, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) recommended earlier this week. Until this is done, it will be impossible to ensure that election results as reported by the voting system have not been corrupted by a cyberattack.

Download the Brennan Center/Verified Voting Full Report (PDF)

Under the terms of the omnibus spending bill voted on by the House, states will receive $380 million within months to start to strengthen the security of our nation’s election infrastructure. This near-term funding is the product of tireless work by members of both parties, and a critical acknowledgment from Congress that protecting our elections is a matter of national security. States can use the funding immediately to begin deploying paper ballots, post-election audits, and other essential cybersecurity improvements. However, the new funding is only a first step, as many in Congress have acknowledged, and further Congressional action will be necessary in order to ensure that future elections are secure.

Most significantly, the omnibus funding as allocated to the states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) will not be enough for some states to replace their insecure voting machines. Because paperless electronic voting systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, it is urgent that those systems be replaced as soon as possible, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) recommended earlier this week. Until this is done, it will be impossible to ensure that election results as reported by the voting system have not been corrupted by a cyberattack.

Thirteen states, including key swing states like Pennsylvania, continue to use paperless voting today. One of the main reasons is cost: cash-strapped states simply can’t afford to replace this aging equipment. Unfortunately, our analysis shows that under the new federal funding, five of the 13 states with paperless machines will receive less than 25 percent of the money they may need to replace them. Moreover, most states will also need to use some of the new funding to pay for improved auditing and other security measures, leaving even less for crucial technology upgrades.

Thirteen states, including key swing states like Pennsylvania, continue to use paperless voting today. One of the main reasons is cost: cash-strapped states simply can’t afford to replace this aging equipment. Unfortunately, our analysis shows that under the new federal funding, five of the 13 states with paperless machines will receive less than 25 percent of the money they may need to replace them. Moreover, most states will also need to use some of the new funding to pay for improved auditing and other security measures, leaving even less for crucial technology upgrades.

Download the Report (PDF)
Most significantly, the omnibus funding as allocated to the states under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) will not be enough for some states to replace their insecure voting machines. Because paperless electronic voting systems are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks, it is urgent that those systems be replaced as soon as possible, as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) recommended earlier this week. Until this is done, it will be impossible to ensure that election results as reported by the voting system have not been corrupted by a cyberattack.

Thirteen states, including key swing states like Pennsylvania, continue to use paperless voting today. One of the main reasons is cost: cash-strapped states simply can’t afford to replace this aging equipment. Unfortunately, our analysis shows that under the new federal funding, five of the 13 states with paperless machines will receive less than 25 percent of the money they may need to replace them. Moreover, most states will also need to use some of the new funding to pay for improved auditing and other security measures, leaving even less for crucial technology upgrades.

Download the Report (PDF)

Georgia: Election Integrity Experts Do Not Support the Current House Version of SB 403

Election Integrity experts are not happy with Senate Bill 403 because it leaves the door wide open for Georgia to select insecure systems rather than slamming that door shut in favor of secure and verifiable systems. SB 403 does not mandate a voter-marked paper ballot, marked either by hand or accessible ballot marking device that is counted by a ballot scanner. It allows that possibility, but it also allows for insecure voting machines that record, count and report the voter’s selections while purporting to offer a paper record to the voter. Not only is the door to insecure voting wide open, but the bill language could be read to require all voters to vote on an electronic ballot marking device. That outcome would be needlessly expensive for Georgia taxpayers but it would be more than a welcome outcome for voting system vendors who are anxious to sell as many machines as possible.

The other major flaw with SB 403 is its failure to ensure that the voter marked paper ballots are preserved and available for recounts and audits. It also fails to mandate that the human readable marks and texts on paper ballots control over any electronic reporting of voter choices. Even though Verified Voting and others tried to insert language in the bill that would require audits and recounts to be conducted using the human readable parts of the paper ballots, that language was stripped out of the bill in the House. Without a trustworthy record of the voters’ choices and without an audit process that is a meaningful check that the electronically recorded and reported results are accurate, SB 403 will perpetuate the cycle of unverifiable voting in Virginia.

“Georgia voters need a verifiable and secure voting system so that they can be confident election results are accurate. SB 403 does not guarantee that. The only people who are happy with SB 403 are voting system vendors who are salivating over the chance to sell many more machines than necessary.

Senate Intelligence Committee’s Recommendations Outline Urgent Need for Paper Ballots, Post-Election Audits

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) report recognizes that voter-verified paper ballots and post-election audits are the best way – given current technology – to ensure that an attack on our voting systems can be detected and the outcome verified.

As the Intelligence Committee hearing established again this morning, there was foreign interference during the 2016 election and a real possibility that similar acts to undermine faith in our democratic system will occur again. Security experts agree that safeguarding and protecting our election systems is important, and the Intelligence Committee report is another indication that Congress and state governments must urgently address the vulnerabilities in our election systems, both by mandating voter-verified paper records and audits as well as allocating resources to accomplish these goals.   

“Some states are already taking steps to safeguard their voting systems. Virginia made the move to decertify all of its voting machines last year, acknowledging that its voting machines were computerized and like all computers they are vulnerable, while Colorado became the first state to implement risk-limiting audits (RLAs) statewide. Other states are following suit, but states need resources to replace aging, insecure voting equipment and implement robust post-election audits.