The Verified Voting Blog

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

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.

Verified Voting Opposes Georgia’s Current Voting Machine Legislation

Georgia voters need a secure voting system with voter-marked paper ballots and audits, but instead, Georgia’s electoral system is left insecure and unverifiable. The current version of Senate Bill 403, which recently passed the House Government Affairs Committee, has morphed into a sweetheart deal for a group of voting machine vendors. Georgia voters are simply demanding a verifiable secure election system …nothing more..

“If the intent of the Georgia legislature was to replace its current vulnerable and unverifiable voting systems with a verifiable paper-based system, SB 403 falls so far short of this goal that Verified Voting is compelled to oppose it based on its current language. The legislation does not provide voters with a secure and verifiable voting system based on paper ballots and meaningful audits; it instead sets a framework for needlessly expensive, electronic and insecure voting machines that could be subject to manipulation.

Pennsylvania Special Election Underscores Urgent Need for Voter-Verifiable Paper Systems to Check Computer-Generated Votes

Pennsylvania law does not mandate a recount in this race, although candidates can petition for a recount, a difficult and expensive process. In Pennsylvania, 83 percent of voters, including all the voters in the 18th Congressional District, cast their votes on electronic voting machines that record the choices directly onto computer memory. Because no paper record of the voters’ choices exist, there is no way to double check if those machines correctly captured voter intent. All races should be audited – whether they are close or not – but elections like this underscore the need to have processes in place to instill confidence in the results. While there is no indication that there is any need to question the results of yesterday’s election, a ‘recount’ of a paperless voting machine will not catch software bugs, election programming errors or vote rigging malware in the voting machines.

“Pennsylvania announced earlier this year that it would no longer purchase unverifiable direct recording electronic (DRE) systems, but the special election yesterday demonstrates exactly why there is an urgent need for physical paper ballots that can be used to check the computer-generated votes. Verified Voting advocates for a quality assurance process that uses statistical methods and random sampling to verify the accuracy of the results.

Pennsylvania Takes Critical Steps Toward Election Security by Purchasing Voter-Verifiable Paper Systems

Pennsylvania is taking a critical step towards safeguarding elections by replacing its aging voting systems and restoring voters’ faith that their votes will be counted as cast. The only way to address the risk of software problems is to require a physical paper ballot that can be used to check the computer-generated votes.

Since 2006, 83 percent of Pennsylvanians have voted on unverifiable direct recording electronic (DRE) systems. This directive begins to change that. As the Commonwealth moves forward with these steps to increase security, it also serves as an example for other states to do the same. But it shouldn’t stop there. Pennsylvania needs to continue this momentum by decertifying all its remaining DREs and only certify voting systems that include a paper record of voter’s choices.

We applaud Governor Wolf’s commitment to ensuring the integrity of Pennsylvania’s elections.  The administration’s move to safeguard Pennsylvania elections by requiring counties to purchase these new voting systems will allow jurisdictions to detect any problems with the election outcome and recover from them. This is exactly why security experts recommend that voting machines are resilient. Pennsylvania’s actions reflect the understanding that our election infrastructure must be secure.

It’s time to safeguard our elections | Marian K. Schneider

An oversight in York County, Pennsylvania on the eve of last November’s Election Day questioned the rightful winner of the election, but thankfully the potential damage stopped there. Still, the discovery of a technical error — one that allowed voters to cast multiple votes for a candidate in races with cross-filed candidates — risked the integrity of the election. This could’ve been easily preventable with paper ballots. Most Pennsylvania voters are using paperless electronic voting machines to cast their ballot. The problem is that these outdated machines — also known as direct recording electronic (DRE) systems —are unverifiable. DREs, or voting machines without paper ballot back-up, have been the source of controversy for years because of their inability to allow anyone to verify the results. Instilling confidence in election outcomes can only occur by replacing these systems with newer ones that provide a software independent record of voter intent and implementing statistically meaningful audits of those records.

Verified Voting Says Paper Ballots and Post-Election Audits Can Safeguard our Elections as State and Local Election Officials Discuss Election Security

“As officials look to address the risks our elections face today, it is essential that voter-verified paper ballots and post-election audits are recognized as the best way – given current technology – to ensure that an attack on our voting systems can be detected and the outcome verified. With midterm elections quickly approaching, it’s time we also prepare to monitor, detect, respond and recover from these potential attacks. The good news is that we can, and Congress has a bill that goes a long way in doing so.

“The bipartisan Secure Elections Act, introduced late last month by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Martin Heinrich, (D-NM), aims to provide states with the resources needed to implement these safeguards. 

Verified Voting Urges Congress to Pass the Secure Elections Act; Bipartisan Legislation Empowers States to Protect Themselves

The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, on the Secure Elections Act, which was introduced by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and co-sponsored by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC),Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sen, Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Martin Heinrich,(D-NM) on December 21, 2017.

“The Secure Elections Act addresses the new reality that our election infrastructure must be protected as matter of national security. At a time when our democracy needs increased protection, Congress should fast-track the newly introduced Secure Elections Act to provide resources for states to safeguard our voting systems and ensure election infrastructure is resilient.

“This bipartisan legislation establishes a structured grant program that creates incentives for states to adopt good cyber hygiene measures in accordance with guidelines developed by an advisory panel of experts. Coupling grants to the states with effective guidelines on spending will ensure the money is used well and moves toward strengthening our elections. In addition, the bill improves the exchange of information about security threats among the different levels of government to allow timely response and action.

Verified Voting Testimony before the Pennsylvania State Senate Senate State Government Committee: Voting System Technology and Security

The security of election infrastructure has taken on increased significance in the aftermath of the 2016 election cycle. During the 2016 election cycle, a nation-state conducted systematic, coordinated attacks on America’s election infrastructure, with the apparent aim of disrupting the election and undermining faith in America’s democratic institutions. Intelligence reports that have been published in 2017 demonstrate that state databases and third-party vendors not only were targeted for attack, but were breached.1 Regardless of the success of hacking attempts in 2016, the consensus among the intelligence community is that future attacks on American elections are inevitable.2 The inevitability of attacks is a key concept in cyber security, that is, it’s not whether a system will be attacked, but when.

The existence and national significance of this threat have escalated the priority of securing Pennsylvania’s elections infrastructure. Two primary areas that require immediate and sustained attention are 1) securing both the state and county networks, databases and data transmission infrastructure that touch elections; and 2) instilling confidence in election outcomes by replacing legacy voting systems with new systems that permit reliable recounts and audits.

During the time that I served the Commonwealth as Deputy Secretary for Elections and Administration and Special Advisor to the Governor on Election Policy, I worked with the Office of Administration-Office of Information Technology to protect the Commonwealth’s networks that touch elections and to implement procedures to recover from any potential attacks. These efforts complied with cyber security best practices to monitor, detect, respond and recover. OA-OIT’s experienced staff is continuing this effort, and along with the Department of State, they have engaged county CIOs and technology staff to coordinate similar efforts at the counties working through the Commonwealth’s relationship with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP). Assuming the administration receives support from the General Assembly, the Commonwealth is on the right track to taking the necessary steps to monitor, detect, respond and recover from cyber attacks.

Election Security Experts Raise Concern about the Integrity of Alabama’s U.S. Senate Election if a Recount is Needed

MEDIA CONTACT: Aurora Matthews 301-221-7984

Marian K. Schneider: “Alabama’s recount laws won’t do enough to protect voters’ votes.”

The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, on election integrity, and the need for manual recounts and audits. For additional media inquires, please contact aurora@newheightscommunications.com  

“All eyes might be on the candidates running for the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, but Alabama’s election practices and recount laws also deserve scrutiny. If the race goes to a recount following the election, Alabama’s recount laws won’t do enough to protect voters’ votes because it has no audit structure in place and relies on re-tabulation – where ballots that were tabulated by optical scanners are now re-tabulated by machine. If a recount occurs, it cannot be relied on to detect and correct a potential error in the computerized count unless it is done manually.