Verified Voting Public Commentary

Tag Archive

Verified Voting Blog: Post Election Audits for New Hampshire

The following testimony was presented by Verified Voting President Pamela Smith to the New Hampshire House Election Law Committee on January 21, 2014.

No voting system is perfect. Nearly all elections in New Hampshire, as in most of the nation, are counted using electronic vote counting systems. Such systems have produced result-changing errors through problems with hardware, software and procedures. Error can also occur when compiling results. Even serious error can go undetected if results are not audited effectively.

In a municipal election in Palm Beach County, Florida in 2012 a “synchronization” problem with the election management software allotted votes to both the wrong candidate and the wrong contest; this was uncovered during a post-election audit. The results were officially changed after a public hand count of the votes.1 Particularly noteworthy about that example is the fact that Florida has one of the nation’s weakest audit provisions; even so, it enabled the discovery of this critical error. In another state, a software malfunction caused thousands of votes to be added to the total. A manual audit revealed the mistake and officials were able to correct the results and avoid a costly run-off election.2 In a Republican primary in Iowa, a manual check of the physical ballots revealed a programming error that was attributing votes to the wrong candidates. Thanks to the manual audit, the correct person was seated in office.3

Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Recommendations to the Presidential Commission on Election Administration

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration will meet again today in Denver, Colorado. The Webcast can be linked to via the Commission website. Verified Voting has submitted the following recommendations to the Commission.

I. Contingency Planning and Eliminating Long Lines

On Election Day, long lines were produced in many cases due to voting systems that malfunctioned in multiple locations across the country. As stated in a joint letter we signed sent to President Obama last November, “While insufficient voting equipment was not the only cause for long wait times, it no doubt contributed to the problems we saw on Election Day. The need to improve our voting systems is urgent. Much of the voting equipment in use today is nearing the end of its life cycle, making equipment attrition and obsolescence a serious and growing threat.”1

In our “Counting Votes 2012: A State By State Look At Election Preparedness” report2, about the 50 states’ preparedness for this major election cycle, we identified key areas of concern. We predicted many states could have problems due to:

• aging voting systems,
• dependence on machine interface for voting for the majority of voters, and
• thoroughness of policies and regulations for emergency back-up provisions in case polling place problems occur and lines start to form.

There were few surprises. As one of our technology expert recruits for the OurVoteLive (OVL) Election Protection hotline indicated:

What’s most interesting is that if you divide things into “easy to solve” and “hard to solve”, the “easy to solve” ones tend to be in places using optical scan [ballots], and the “hard to solve” in places using machines [DREs]. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony to the Maryland Board of Elections

On February 23, the Maryland State Board of Elections held meeting a proposed system for remote absentee voting was discussed. Verified Voting submitted testimony (see below) about the system, which includes the use of ballot marking wizard software. We maintain that such software — regardless of any other program it may be bundled or used with — meets the definition of  a voting system in Section 301 of the Help America Vote Act and should therefore undergo testing and certification before use. Further, such online ballot marking software contains potentially severe hazards. We raise these in the testimony provided to the SBE.

Thanks to passage of a law requiring voter-marked paper ballots, Maryland is in a slow transition to using a fully voter-verifiable system one day. However, another concern raised in the remarks we provided was the use of a bar code on the remotely printed voted ballot, from which a new version of the voted ballot would be printed once it is received by mail back at the elections office. This version printed from information encoded in the barcode design is the one that would be officially counted. This runs counter to the concept of voter-verifiable ballots. Verified Voting’s testimony follows after the fold. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Comments on Proposed Changes to Colorado Election Rule 43

On February 14, 2012, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler held a hearing on proposed changes to existing regulations governing county procedures for the security of ballots, voting equipment, and other election materials.  The public was invited to comment.  Verified Voting reviewed the proposed rules changes (which can be found here) and made the following comment, highlighting concerns about changes to chain procedures of custody of ballots and equipment. Submitted February 21, 2012

Thank you for this opportunity to comment upon proposed revisions to Colorado Election Rules governing county procedures for securing election equipment and materials. Verified Voting is a national nonpartisan organization working to safeguard elections in the digital age. We seek to promote the deployment of election systems and practices that vouchsafe the accessibility, reliability, and transparency of public elections. We believe that the proposed revision contains several positive changes, as well as some that cause concern, or call for more clarity. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Roadmap for Future California Elections

When it comes to elections, what does California do well? What could California do better? How have we led, and how have we perhaps lagged behind? These are questions that a diverse group of individuals and organizations asked themselves and one another over the course of three months, with an aim to envision the future of California’s elections. It turned out to be an extraordinary conversation and a process which could very well serve as a model for other states as well. One driving force in the process was the convening organization, the James Irvine Foundation, which has long worked on issues of importance to Californians. The participants included a diverse range of representatives with a concern for voters and not-yet voters, for elections and how they function, and for California’s democracy.

Download the Roadmap for Future California Elections (pdf)

The immediately tangible result of the convenings is the “Roadmap for the Future of California Elections,” which contains a common vision we all support in the form of a set of principles. Naturally we do not all find all of our own strategies and priorities in all of the subsequent recommendations, but a good many of us agreed with most of those as well, a remarkable achievement in light of the varied points of view represented.

Out of these recommendations come action steps, with participants signing on to continue the process and expand the conversation about this vision and what can be for California.

Verified Voting is pleased to be part of the process and looks forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas about the Roadmap and ways you envision a better future for California elections.

Verified Voting Blog: Best Practices for Voting Systems Supporting Military and Overseas Voters

Given the current focus on UOCAVA implementation, the NIST draft Information System Security Best Practices for UOCAVA-Supporting Systems (referred to here as the Draft) is a timely and important document. A summary of security standards and guidelines “deemed most applicable for jurisdictions using IT systems to support UOCAVA voting” is indeed necessary at a time when many states are moving forward with Internet based voting, too often with insufficient thought to the security implications of casting votes online. The Draft acknowledges the urgency of proper security:

“…security compromise could carry severe consequences for the integrity of the election, or the confidentiality of sensitive voter information. Failure to adequately address threats to these systems could prevent voters from casting ballots, expose individuals to identity fraud, or even compromise the results of an election.” 1

Unfortunately, the Draft falls short of providing the comprehensive analysis of security practices implied by the title. While the limitations and scope of topics are clearly laid out, the remaining gaps, particularly those related to online return of voted ballots, are too large and too important to ignore. Even with disclaimers, the Draft may encourage many in the target audience, the election officials and IT staff implementing UOCAVA voting 2, to believe that the controls outlined in the Draft are adequate to address all types of online voting, including return of voted ballots via Email. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Comments to EAC on Internet Voting Pilots

With many states already deploying a form of Internet voting, email return of voted ballots (see map), it is important that requirements for remote voting systems and the pilot programs that test them reflect the highest standards for security. On April 30, 2010, Verified Voting submitted comments to the EAC on proposed testing requirements for military and overseas voting pilot programs that use remote technologies such as Internet Voting. In a letter to the EAC, president Pam Smith said that the comments focused on “the broad outlines of the pilot program and core precepts to which we believe any pilots should adhere.” Sending voted ballots over the public Internet “is in a security class by itself,” the letter noted, and these ballots are vulnerable to attacks from a wide range of individuals, organizations, and even governments. “Voting systems for UOCAVA voters should not be held to a higher security standard than domestic absentee voting,” the letter said, “nor should UOCAVA voters be required to use a system that is less secure than those used by voters back home.” Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Comments on EAC Internet Pilot Requirements

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed UOCAVA Pilot Program Testing Requirements.  We appreciate the invitation for public input to such an important initiative.  In this letter we confine our comments to the broad outlines of the pilot program and core precepts to which we believe any pilots should adhere. The Verified Voting Foundation has benefited greatly from prominent experts whose professional work duties include achieving U.S. national security objectives within digital networks and computer communications.  This expertise leads us to set forth this core understanding:  Federal election security is a fundamental component of U.S. national security.  Applying this principle, we submit that election security should not be compromised for convenience or transmission speed. Internet voting (which for purposes of these comments we define as transmission of voted ballots over the public Internet) is in a security class by itself.  In comparing Internet transmission of voted ballots to paper absentee ballot voting, we agree with the oft-made point that voting systems for UOCAVA voters should not be held to a higher security standard than domestic absentee voting. Nor should UOCAVA voters be required to use a system that is less secure than those used by voters back home.

Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Letter to Tennessee State Senators

We respectfully urge you to vote No on House Bill 614, which seeks to delay implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act and fatally weaken its provision for manual post-election audits of electronic vote tallies. HB 614 is on the Senate’s calendar for Tuesday January 12, 2010. Rejection of the bill is warranted based on the determination of the Chancery Court regarding the TVCA and its requirements for federal certification of voting systems, and on the State’s still un-met need for verifiable ballots and hand-counted audits of electronic vote tallies.

In November 2009, the Chancery Court of Davidson County, after receiving information from voting technology experts, corrected the assumption that the TVCA required new voting systems to be certified by the United States Election Assistance Commission (the EAC) to the 2005 version of the Federal voluntary voting system guidelines. The Court issued a Conclusion of Law noting the TVCA allows voting systems to be certified by the EAC to either the 2002 voting system standards or the 2005 guidelines, and ordered the State Elections Division to proceed with implementation without delay. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Comments to FCC on Internet Voting

In the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act), Congress directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as part of its development of a National Broadband Plan, to include “a plan for the use of broadband infrastructure and services in advancing …civic participation.” On December 10, 2010 the Federal Communications Commission issued a request for public comments “…on how broadband can help to bring democratic processes—including elections, public hearings and town hall meetings—into the digital age…” Verified Voting, in submitted comments, answered the question – “With existing technology, is it possible to enable and ensure safe and secure voting online today?”, simply – “In a word, no.” As a recent report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) indicates, “…The security challenges associated with e-mail return of voted ballots are difficult to overcome using technology widely deployed today.” And “…Technology that is widely deployed today is not able to mitigate many of the threats to casting ballots via the web.

Despite the short window allowed for public comment, numerous organizations and individuals, including Verified Voting submitted comments. Much of Verified Voting’s commentary was informed by the “Computer Technologists’ Statement on Internet Voting”, published last year and signed by dozens of leading technology professionals and computer security experts. This post is the first in a series that will highlight the commentary submitted to the FCC on the issue of the role of the internet in the electoral process. In answer to the question “With existing technology, is it possible to enable and ensure safe and secure voting online today?”, Verified Voting responded, “in a word, no.”

Read More