Verified Voting Blog: Letter to Florida Governor – VETO CS/HB 1005

 

Download the letter here

25 March 2020

Hon. Ron DeSantis

Governor, State of Florida

The Capitol

400 S. Monroe St.

Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

 

Dear Governor DeSantis,

 

RE:  VETO CS/HB 1005 – Voting Systems

 

Florida has had more than its share of election recount problems in the past. Please don’t expose the state to new problems on your watch. CS/HB 1005 is well-intentioned but exposes Florida to new risks of hacking, elections-failure and more embarrassment. It is neither a necessary nor a well conceived change to The Florida Election Code. Please veto the bill and give stakeholders a chance to revisit the issue and make better choices.

 

CS/HB 1005 seeks to take an uncertified “retabulation” technology, currently only authorized by DoS for non-binding post-certification audits and graduate the technology’s use to the big leagues – infamous Florida recounts.

 

This change has been heavily backed by Florida’s Supervisors of Elections, their association, the Florida Supervisors of Elections (FSE) and of course by the sole source vendor, Clear Ballot Group.

 

We appreciate the supervisors’ motivation: to speed up the manual recount process. As you experienced in your own election in 2018, Florida is prone to large, burdensome recounts. Florida  is the third most populous state and the biggest swing state with a very evenly balanced electorate – thus prone to close elections.

 

But this bill is not the solution, however much the supervisors would like it to be. It is dangerous.

 

The problems with this bill:

 

  • Paper ballots: This bill does not require that recounts look at the actual paper ballots – the legal ballots of record. Rather it relies on hackable retabulation and digital images.[1] Florida has paper ballots for a reason. They provide the security we’ve come to understand does not exist with digital data. Computer scientists, cryptographers, and cyber security experts all agree, elections should rely on the paper ballots. [2]

 

  • Threat to National Security: This bill increases risks to Florida’s election security and therefore also to national security in several ways.
    • The bill makes Florida elections more dependent on hackable digital tabulation without requiring that digital information first be confirmed by a scientific check against the paper.[3] (Sponsors added language saying the paper ballots would be “available” but they failed to require a proper, scientific check to the paper ballots. “Availability” of the paper ballots is of little value by itself.)  o The bill further outsources Florida elections to third party vendors over whom Florida has little or no control. We know such vendors have been hacked in the past and here we contemplate expanding our threat profile to third party vendors when we should be reducing it.[4] 
    • This change would erode public trust in our elections. After assuring the public for nearly a decade that we rely on paper ballots, now we say never mind that – we’ll rely on these images and more computers, feeding public distrust of elections which destabilizes our democracy in exactly the ways we know the Russians and other foreign adversaries are working to do.[5]

 

  • Proper certification: This technology has not obtained proper certification to be part of a voting system. And rather than the bill requiring that, it creates an exception for it, directing the Department of State to promulgate rules, to break its own existing rules.[6]

 

  • Unnecessary Haste: Since this bill does not go into effect until 2021, it will not apply to statewide elections until 2022. The effective date already allows for time to move in a more thoughtful way with such a major change to Florida elections. So it makes sense to veto this bill now, and send stakeholders back to craft better solutions to address both speed and security.

 

Florida needs stronger audit and recount procedures to secure our elections. Other states are innovating with efficient and highly effective audit provisions that can also speed up recounts. Florida should first bring stakeholders together to look at new ideas, conduct pilots of innovative improvements and ensure solutions are right for Florida. This doesn’t have to take an unreasonably long time, but it is an essential step to election security and efficiency that should not be skipped.

Governor DeSantis, we urge you to veto this bill, to first do no harm to Florida’s election security, and second to provide an opportunity for stakeholders to come together and make smarter decisions about election innovation for Florida. Much good can come from that more measured approach.

Much harm can come from this hasty leap to try to speed up Florida recounts, while opening up Florida to hacking, insecurity and embarrassment.

Thank you for your consideration and don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us if we can answer questions or be part of that more thoughtful approach to Florida’s elections innovation.

 

Very truly yours,

Dan McCrea, Florida Director, Verified Voting

Marian K. Schneider, President, Verified Voting

 

The following signatories add their names urging the Governor to veto the bill.

 

Institutional affiliations are provided only for the purpose of identification and do not imply institutional endorsement or approval of this letter.

 

Andrew W. Appel

Professor of Computer Science

Princeton University

 

Jeff Bleich

United States Ambassador to Australia (ret.)

 

Patti Brigham

President, League of Women Voters of Florida

 

Duncan Buell

NCR Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Dept. of Computer Science and E

University of South Carolina

 

Michelle Kanter Cohen

Senior Counsel

Fair Elections Center

 

Larry Diamond

Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution Senior Fellow, Center on Democracy, Development &

the Rule of Law Stanford University

 

Aleksander Essex

Associate professor of Software Engineering

Western University, Canada

 

Lowell Finley

Former California Deputy Secretary of State for

Voting Systems Technology and Policy

 

Michael J. Fischer

Professor of Computer Science

Yale University

 

Trey Grayson

Former Kentucky Secretary of State

 

Anjenys Gonzalez-Eilert

Florida Executive Director

Common Cause

 

Susannah Goodman

Common Cause

 

Alex Halderman

Professor of Computer Science & Engineering University of Michigan

 

Mark Halvorson

Founder, Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota

 

Candice Hoke

Founding Co-Director, Center for Cybersecurity &

Privacy Protection

 

Harri Hursti

Co-Founding Partner

Nordic Innovation Labs

 

David Jefferson

Computer Scientist, Lawrence Livermore National

Laboratory

 

Douglas W. Jones

Associate Professor of Computer Science

Past Chair, Iowa Board of Examiners for Voting

Machines and Electronic Voting Systems

Coauthor of Internet Voting in the United States

University of Iowa

 

Lou Katz

Commissioner, City of Oakland CA Privacy AdvisoryCommission

 

Joseph Kiniry

Principled CEO and Chief Scientist, Free & Fair

Principal Scientist, Galois

 

John L. McCarthy

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Computer

Scientist (retired)

 

Liza McClanahan

Common Cause

 

David Mussington

Director of the Center for Public Policy and Private

Enterprise

University of Maryland

 

Beverlye Colson Neal

Florida Director, National Congress of Black Women,

Inc.

 

Morris Pearl

Chairperson, Patriotic Millions

 

Alexa Raad

Member, Verified Voting Board of Advisors Alexa Raad, LLC.

 

Ronald L. Rivest

Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Co-inventor, RSA public key encryption algorithm

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT

 

Kira Romero-Craft

Managing Attorney

Latino Justice

 

Aviel D. Rubin

Professor, Computer Science

Technical Director, Information Security Institute

Johns Hopkins University

 

John E. Savage

An Wang Professor of Computer Science

Brown University

 

Bruce Schneier

Fellow, Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Fellow, Belfer Center, Kennedy School of Government

Harvard University

 

Kevin Shelley

Former California Secretary of State

 

Barbara Simons

Chair, Verified Voting Foundation

IBM Research (retired)

Member, Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election

Assistance Commission (EAC)

 

Kevin Skoglund

Chief Technologist, Citizens for Better Elections

 

Phillip Stark

Professor of Statistics and Associate Dean of

Mathematical and Physical Sciences

University of California, Berkeley

 

Rich Templin

Director of Politics and Public Policy, Florida AFL-CIO

 

Poorvi L. Vora

Professor of Computer Science

The George Washington University

 

Dan Wallach

Professor of Computer Science

Rice University

 

Luther Weeks

CTVotersCount and CT Citizen Election Audit

 

[1] See Bernhard, M., et al., “UnclearBallot: Automated Ballot Image Manipulation,” at 15 -16 (“image audits cannot be relied upon to verify that elections are free from computer-based interference. Indeed, the only currently known way to verify an election outcome is with direct examination of physical ballots.”) available at

https://mbernhard.com/papers/unclearballot.pdf ; See also Stark,P., et al., “Machine Retabulation is not Auditing ,“ (2013) (“Machine retabulation may happen to catch some errors, but it is not really an audit. Machine retabulation relies on the false assumption that two machines can’t both be wrong.”) available at  https://www.stat.berkeley.edu/~stark/Preprints/retabNotAudit13.pdf

[2] See Securing the Vote, Protecting American Democracy, National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine at 6-7, (“Elections should be conducted with human-readable paper ballots…. Recounts and audits should be conducted by human inspection of the human-readable portion of the paper ballots.”) available at (https://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=25120

 

[3] Id. at 9. “ States should mandate [a specific type of audit known as] a risk-limiting audits prior to the certification of election results.”

 

[4] Parks, Miles, “Florida Governor Says Russian Hackers Breached 2 Counties In 2016,” NPR, May 14, 2019, (“Russian hackers breached the systems of two county elections systems in Florida in 2016, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday”) available at https://www.npr.org/2019/05/14/723215498/florida-governor-says-russian-hackers-breached-two-florida-counties-in-2016 

 

[5] See “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” Intelligence Community Assessment, at ii, Jan. 6, 2017 (“Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process.”) available at https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

 

[6] See Florida Voting System Standards, at 2-3 2005) (“A voting system consists of a configuration of specific hardware and software components, procedures and expendable supplies; configured into a system which allows votes to be cast and tabulated. No single component of a voting system, such as a precinct tabulation device, meets the definition of a voting system. Sufficient components must be assembled to create a configuration, which will allow the system as a whole to meet all the requirements described for a voting system in this publication.”) available at http://dos.myflorida.com/media/693718/dsde101.pdf

 

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