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 Blog: Verified Voting Urges Congress to Pass Comprehensive, Bipartisan Election Security Funding

With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, Verified Voting continues to urge Congress to pass comprehensive election security legislation and allocate adequate funding for state and local officials to make critical improvements to our country’s election infrastructure.

Congress is negotiating a spending package for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to allocate funding for states to make much-needed election security upgrades. The House approved a $600 million package in June, while late last week the Senate offered a $250 million amendment. The House and Senate will work to reconcile the final funding amount and spending parameters in a conference committee, and Verified Voting urges Congress to act quickly while crucial election security funding remains on the line. 

In a statement on the Senate’s version last week, Verified Voting President Marian K. Schneider said:

“The additional $250 million in election security funding today is promising, but more is needed to help states upgrade their systems and validate the 2020 election. This amount falls short of the $600 million that passed in the House, which is much closer to meeting the need for proper investment in election security. Congress has the obligation to protect the country from threats to national security and has the opportunity to act on this nonpartisan issue – after all, everyone votes on the same equipment. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Election Security Experts Urge Congress for Additional Funding;  Say $250 Million in Election Security Funding is Progress, but Not Enough

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Marian K. Schneider: “Despite the progress shown today, Congress still needs to vote on bipartisan, comprehensive election security legislation to protect and ensure trustworthy elections.” 

The following is a statement from Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) backing of an amendment that will provide another $250M to help states bolster election security on September 19, 2019. For additional media inquires, please contact aurora@newheightscommunications.com 

“The additional $250 million in election security funding today is promising, but more is needed to help states upgrade their systems and validate the 2020 election. This amount falls short of the $600 million that passed in the House, which is much closer to meeting the need for proper investment in election security. Congress has the obligation to protect the country from threats to national security and has the opportunity to act on this nonpartisan issue – after all, everyone votes on the same equipment.

“By making federal funds available, states will be able to replace aging, insecure voting equipment and implement modern security best practices, which include using voter-marked paper ballots and robust post-election audits. Despite the progress shown today, Congress still needs to vote on bipartisan, comprehensive election security legislation to protect and ensure trustworthy elections backed by adequate funds for state and local governments to implement such measures.”

Verified Voting Blog: Report on Rhode Island Risk Limiting Audit Pilot Implementation Study Released

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In October 2017, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed into law a groundbreaking election security measure. Now, state law requires Rhode Island election officials to conduct risk-limiting audits, the “gold standard” of post-election audits, beginning with the 2020 primary. A risk-limiting audit (“RLA”) is an innovative, efficient tool to test the accuracy of election outcomes. Instead of auditing a predetermined number of ballots, officials conducting an RLA audit enough ballots to find strong statistical evidence that outcomes are correct. The law, enacted in the aftermath of two critical events relating to the 2016 elections, stems from decades of advocacy aimed at increasing the efficiency, transparency, and verifiability of political contests in the state. Rhode Island is now the second state, joining trailblazing Colorado, to mandate use of this modern tool statewide.

Following the law’s enactment, a group of professionals with expertise in election security and election administration formed the Rhode Island Risk-Limiting Audit (“RIRLA”) Working Group. As its name suggests, the RIRLA Working Group was established to assess the conditions in Rhode Island to help the state as it prepares to implement the law. The RIRLA Working Group recommended – and Rhode Island officials agreed – that the state should conduct pilot RLAs in advance of the 2020 deadline. The Rhode Island Board of Elections chose January 2019 as the date for the pilots and, based on several factors, selected Bristol, Cranston, and Portsmouth, Rhode Island as participating municipalities.

Leading up to the pilots, the RIRLA Working Group had regular conference calls, meetings, and other correspondence to gain greater familiarity with Rhode Island’s election laws, practices, and voting equipment. In partnership with the state, the RIRLA Working Group set a goal to plan and develop a trio of pilot audits that would both meet the state’s needs and adhere to the Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Tabulation Audits. Ultimately, the RIRLA Working Group drafted three separate audit protocols, step-by-step instructions to guide those who would conduct the RLAs over the course of two days. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Praises the DNC for Action on Virtual Caucuses

Verified Voting commends the Democratic National Committee on its recommendation that the Iowa and Nevada state parties cease their plans to allow voters to participate in next year’s presidential primary caucuses by phone.  Citing cybersecurity threats, the DNC concluded “that currently, there is no tele-caucus system available that is sufficiently secure and reliable, given the magnitude and timing of the Iowa and Nevada caucuses this cycle.”

Sources indicate that the DNC, still wary from their data being compromised in the lead up to the 2016 election, took an essential step in protecting their methods for running their elections – they brought in an outside team of election security experts to evaluate the system. Verified Voting recognizes that laudable goals can make new technology attractive.

Voters with disabilities should have the opportunity to take part in caucuses. In geographically large districts, not everyone can afford the travel time to gather in a central location. However, as our experts have frequently noted, internet and phone voting offer no means of verifying that tabulations match voter intent. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting’s Policy on DREs and BMDs

Download VerifiedVoting’s Policy on Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines and Ballot Marking Devices

Today, Verified Voting published its policy statement on Direct Recording Electronic voting systems and Ballot Marking Devices. We published this statement because many jurisdictions either have replaced or are in the process of replacing older vulnerable systems.  In striking contrast to the last time states replaced voting systems after the passage of the Help America Vote Act in 2002, this time the consensus is that voting systems must have a paper record.

But it’s not enough for a voting system to “check the box” on paper – to print paper records that voters may not even notice or examine. To be trustworthy, elections need to be based on voter-marked paper ballots. Whether these ballots are marked by hand or by device, for them to be considered voter-marked, voters should know what they say!

For Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), that means the systems, and the procedures around them, should demonstrably support voter verification. They should ensure that voters deliberately and intentionally check their printed ballots carefully enough to detect, correct, and report any errors. It also means that pollworkers should be trained to follow specific protocols if BMDs are not recording voters’ intent accurately during voting. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Statement to House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Joint Investigations & Oversight and Research & Technology Subcommittee

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Chairwoman Sherrill, Ranking Member Norman, Chairwoman Stevens, Ranking Member Baird and committee members, thank you for the invitation to submit a written statement in connection with the Joint Investigations & Oversight and Research & Technology Subcommittee Hearing on “Election Security: Voting Technology Vulnerabilities.” Our statement will focus on 1) a brief overview of technologies in use for election administration; 2) describe some of the risks associated with those technologies as well as solutions for mitigating those risks; 3) review the role that NIST and other agencies have played in developing technologies for secure elections; and 4) suggest regulatory changes necessary to address advances in voting technology and the changing threat model facing our elections.

The scale and scope of threats to U.S. elections go far beyond what the current federal policy framework can address. Since the Help America Vote Act was passed, technology has advanced and the security threat landscape has also evolved. It’s time to re-think the regulatory framework to align it with the current environment. Your committee plays a crucial role in shaping our collective response. We urge the committee to take the steps necessary to enact mandatory security measures for all technology that touches election administration, to ensure that the foundation of our democracy is protected from ongoing threats. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Public Comments on VVSG 2.0 Principles and Guidelines

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Verified Voting is pleased to see the VVSG 2.0 principles and guidelines finally moving forward. We are enthusiastic about the VVSG 2.0 structure and, with some reservations, about the content of the principles and guidelines. Full implementation of the VVSG 2.0 will, in time, help bring about voting systems that set new standards for universal usability, security, and verifiability. All these properties – backed by sound procedures – are essential to enable officials to run resilient elections, and to reassure voters that their votes have been cast as intended and counted as cast.

We urge the EAC to allow the technical requirements and test assertions to be approved and revised without a vote of the commissioners. We agree with the TGDC, the NASED executive council, and others that for several reasons, these documents are best managed by technical staff, adhering to a well-defined process with broad consultation and opportunity for public comment.

Verification and the VVSG

Verified Voting especially welcomes Principle 9, which stipulates that a voting system “is auditable and enables evidence-based elections,” and the associated guidelines. No matter how otherwise usable and reliable a voting system may be, it is unacceptably dangerous if it cannot provide trustworthy, software-independent evidence that people’s votes have been accurately recorded and counted.

A voting system alone can “enable” evidence-based elections but cannot provide them. As Philip Stark and David Wagner wrote in their seminal paper, the basic equation is that “evidence = auditability + auditing.” A voting system with a voter-verifiable audit trail, such as a voter-marked paper ballot, provides auditability. Compliance audits to ensure that the audit trail is substantially complete and accurate, and risk-limiting tabulation audits of the audit trail, provide actual evidence that outcomes are correct. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony before the Allegheny County Pennsylvania Board of Elections

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Thank you, Chairman Baker and members of the Board, for allowing Verified Voting to submit written testimony in connection with the Public Meeting on the Purchase of Voting Systems. We hope to provide background on the security needs that counsel for the adoption of a new voting system with a verifiable and auditable paper ballot, and provide some high-level recommendations for consideration by the Board as it deliberates the purchase of new voting equipment for Allegheny County.

The Scope of the Problems with Election Security and Current Election Infrastructure

Election administration depends on computers at multiple points in the election process. Equipment for voting is but one part of a broad array of election technology infrastructure that supports the conduct of elections today. Some of that technology infrastructure includes voter registration databases, internet facing applications such as online voter registration and polling place lookup, network connections between state government and local jurisdictions, the computers that program the voting devices that record and count votes in addition to the voting devices themselves. Some jurisdictions also use electronic poll books to check voters in at polling sites and most states and localities report election night returns via a website.

To the extent that any of these can be compromised or manipulated, can contain errors, or can fail to operate correctly—or at all—this can potentially affect the vote. Election system security requires not only efforts to prevent breaches and malfunctions, but also fail-safes that address breaches or malfunctions that do occur and procedures to confirm the correctness of election outcomes. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Counting Votes: Paper Ballots and Audits in Congress, Crisis at the EAC?, Florida’s Mystery Counties

In her testimony at an election security hearing before the Committee on House Administration last week, Verified Voting President Marian Schneider joined advocates and election officials in calling on Congress to help states and local jurisdictions replace aging voting systems, conduct risk-limiting audits and enhance election infrastructure security. In order to prepare for 2020, Congress must provide “adequate financial investment in cyber security best practices, replacement equipment and post-election audit processes … immediately and continue at a sustainable level moving forward.”

Writing in Governing, Graham Vyse highlighted the significant bipartisan agreement between the two secretaries of state who testified, Jocelyn Benson (D-MI) and John Merrill (R-AL), on efforts needed to address emerging threats to election security. Significantly, the state election officials, along with all the witnesses, were unanimous in recommending the replacement of direct recording electronic voting machines with paper ballot voting systems and conducting post-election ballot audits.

Two days after the hearing, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the chairman of the Democracy Reform Task Forcereintroduced The Election Security Act. Aimed at reducing risks posed by cyberattacks by foreign entities or other actors against U.S. election systems, the bill would establish cybersecurity standards for voting system vendors and require states to use paper ballots during elections.

Last month legislation was introduced in both chambers intended to strengthen election security by providing government grants to assist states, as well as local and tribal governments, in developing and implementing plans to address cybersecurity threats or vulnerabilities. This week Verified Voting wrote an open letter to the bills’ sponsors supporting their efforts and encouraging them to add provisions specifically prohibiting these funds from being used for internet-based voting. The letter notes that “[c]ybersecurity experts agree that no current technology, including blockchain voting, can guarantee the secure, verifiable, and private return of voted ballots over the internet.”

The departure of Ryan Macias from his position as acting head of the Election Assistance Commission’s head of voting system testing and certification program reflects an agency in crisis, according to Politico’s Morning Cybersecurity. Macias’ departure may be related to an exchange at an EAC field hearing, when Chairwoman Christy McCormick repeatedly asked Macias why EAC commissioners didn’t have final approval over the details of federal voting system standards.
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Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony Before the House Administration Committee hearing on “Election Security”

Election administration depends on computers at multiple points in the election process. Equipment for voting is but one part of a broad array of election technology infrastructure that supports the conduct of elections today. Some of that technology infrastructure includes voter registration databases, internet facing applications such as online voter registration and polling place lookup, network connections between state government and local jurisdictions, the computers that program the voting devices that record and count votes in addition to the voting devices themselves. Some jurisdictions also use electronic poll books to check voters in at polling sites and most states and localities report election night returns via a website.  To the extent that any of these can be compromised or manipulated, can contain errors, or can fail to operate correctly—or at all—this can potentially affect the vote. Election system security requires not only efforts to prevent breaches and malfunctions, but also fail-safes that address breaches and malfunctions that do occur.  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 and recent investigations demonstrate that state databases and third-party vendors not only were targeted for attack, but were breached. 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: it’s not whether a system will be attacked, but when. Moreover, cyber security experts now agree that it is impossible to thwart all attacks on computer systems. Rather, best practice demands a multi-layered approach built around the concept of resiliency. Systems are resilient if owners can monitor, detect, respond and recover from either an intentional attack or a programming mistake or error. The capacity to recover from even a successful attack is integral to the security of U.S. elections.  Despite considerable progress in the last few years, much work must be done to secure our nation’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 older, vulnerable legacy voting systems with new systems that permit reliable recounts and post-election audits. Full Article: Written Testimony for U.S. House Committee on House Administration hearing on “Election Security.”.

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Letter in Support of Congressional Election Cybersecurity Legislation

This letter was sent to Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Michael McCaul (R-TX) on May 14, 2019. Download the PDF.

Thank you for introducing legislation aimed at increasing cybersecurity at the state and local levels of government. We recognize the need for this important legislation, which is aimed at hardening cyber resiliency efforts and preventing vulnerabilities from becoming nightmare realities. For the states that would respond to the proposed grants in H.R. 2130 and S.1065, and for the protection of the citizens who live in them, we applaud your support in the battle against cyberattacks.

At the same time that you are bolstering cybersecurity defenses, we encourage you to add provisions specifically prohibiting these funds from being used for internet-based voting. Cybersecurity experts agree that internet return of marked ballots lacks sufficient safeguards for security and privacy. We urge you to specifically name internet voting as a threat and prohibit the funding provided by your legislation from being used to support internet voting programs and pilots.

Cybersecurity experts agree that no current technology, including blockchain voting, can guarantee the secure, verifiable, and private return of voted ballots over the internet. Both because vote-rigging malware could already be present on the voter’s computer and because electronically returned ballots could be intercepted and changed or discarded en route, local elections officials would be unable to verify that the voter’s ballot accurately reflects the voter’s intent. Furthermore, even if the voter’s selections were to arrive intact, the voted ballot could be traceable back to the individual voter, violating voter privacy. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Counting Votes May 16 2019

In her testimony at an election security hearing before the Committee on House Administration last week, Verified Voting President Marian Schneider joined advocates and election officials in calling on Congress to help states and local jurisdictions replace aging voting systems, conduct risk-limiting audits and enhance election infrastructure security. In order to prepare for 2020, Congress must provide “adequate financial investment in cyber security best practices, replacement equipment and post-election audit processes … immediately and continue at a sustainable level moving forward.”

Writing in Governing, Graham Vyse highlighted the significant bipartisan agreement between the two secretaries of state who testified, Jocelyn Benson (D-MI)and John Merrill (R-AL) on efforts needed to address emerging threats to election security. Along with all the witnesses, the state election officials agreed that more federal funding for election security was needed. Significantly the witnesses were also unanimous in recommending the replacement of direct recording electronic voting machines with paper ballot voting system and conducting post-election ballot audits.

Two days after the hearing, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), House Administration Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the chairman of the Democracy Reform Task Force reintroduced The Election Security Act. Aimed at reducing risks posed by cyberattacks by foreign entities or other actors against U.S. election systems, the bill would establish cybersecurity standards for voting system vendors and require states to use paper ballots during elections.

The resignation of the Election Assistance Commission’s head of voting system testing and certification reflects an agency crisis according to Politico’s Morning Cybersecurity. Macias’ departure may be related to an exchange  at an EAC field hearing, when Commissioner Christy McCormick repeatedly asked Macias why EAC commissioners didn’t have final approval over the details of federal voting system standards. After Macias leaves on May 17, the EAC will have only one employee working full-time on assessing voting machines based on federal standards former Colorado voting security expert Jerome Lovato, who, according to an email obtained by CyberScoop, the EAC has appointed Lovato to replace Macias. The EAC’s internal announcement cited Lovato’s experience testing and piloting voting systems and his familiarity with risk-limiting audits. He previously worked for a decade as a voting systems specialist at the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has contacted VR Systems, the Florida voter-registration software maker that the FBI apparently believes Russia hacked, asking if “the company ever engaged a third party to conduct a forensic examination of its computer networks and systems since the hacking assertions first came to light after the 2016 election”. As Kim Zetter reports in Politico, VR Systems, insists it wasn’t hacked, referencing an analysis by FireEye to claim there was never an intrusion in VR System’s EVID servers or network. A separate FBI investigation indicated that malware was installed on the network of a vendor fitting VR Systems’ description.

After a briefing last Friday with the FBI and DHS, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, revealed that, according to the Müller investigation, election information in two Florida counties was accessed by Russian hackers in 2016. Due to a nondisclosure agreement, he said he was willing, but not allowed, to identify the counties. This had led inevitably to a chorus of denials from county election officials across the state. US Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) earlier this month clarified that while the Russians did not appear to have access to vote tallying systems, access to the statewide voter registration database could have allowed a hacker to modify voter information in any county.

Russian hacking aside, a respected former supervisor of elections observed that the state is in desperate need of upgrades to its election system. WJCT quotes longtime Leon County Supervisor Ion Sancho, who described Florida’s election infrastructure as, “frankly, not secure.” He observed that to him “it’s been clear to me that the election infrastructure, not only in Florida but in the country, is not secure”. He when on the say he doubts the FBI will ever disclose which Florida county was hacked, “because the FBI has a policy of not telling the truth relative to the disclosure of the methods and sources of how they find out information.” Sancho added his voice to those calling for paper ballots and “scientifically valid” methods to assure accurate tabulation.

Appealing a January dismissal by a Cobb County Superior Court judge, the Coalition for Good Governance asked the Georgia Supreme Court to reinstate a lawsuit contesting the election of Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. The suit alleges that an analysis, reveals an anomalous in the residual vote rate in the Lt. Governor’s race relative to previous elections and significantly other “down-ballot” contests. As AP reports, the “aberrant pattern” only appeared in votes reported cast on touchscreen voting machines, not those cast on paper absentee and provisional ballots, Brown wrote. The paper ballots followed the normal pattern.

In US News, Susan Milligan reported on evidence suggesting that voters (some more or less than others) have less faith in the integrity of the election process in 2018 than they had in 2016. Polling comparisons indicate a dramatic decline in voter confidence over past election cycles. Richard Blumenthal, one of the bipartisan authors of (bill number), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) warned of “… a real danger to such distrust in the integrity of our election system that has lasting damage.”

Michael Bitzer, a politics and history professor specializing in Southern politics highlighted that voters increasingly question the integrity not just of the candidates or the media but election process itself. Along with experts and advocates that have (talked about) election integrity and integrity for years, elected officials are now making charges of fraud or fixing and publicly questioning the fairness of elections.

Verified Voting Blog: Statement on Maryland HB706/SB919 Online Delivery and Marking of Absentee Ballots

To download the PDF click here.

Verified Voting supports Maryland House Bill 706 (Senate Bill 919) as an immediate, short-term mitigation to reduce risks inherent in Maryland’s current online absentee ballot system by limiting its use to only those who would otherwise be unable to vote. Going forward, substantial changes are necessary to provide Maryland’s voters with secure, reliable, accessible means of voting absentee.

Verified Voting supports the objective of helping voters to obtain their ballots and cast their votes, but any technology used for this purpose must be carefully evaluated. Regrettably, computer scientists and others have found that Maryland’s system has several grave shortcomings.

Because Maryland does not check signatures on returned absentee ballots, there is no way to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate ballots. Using information that is widely available, an attacker could readily request, electronically receive (at multiple fake email addresses), and cast any number of absentee ballots.1 Even if the attacker did not cast the ballots, any voters purported to have requested absentee ballots would be required to cast provisional ballots, creating chaos and suspicion and increasing the likelihood that the voter will be disenfranchised. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Statement on EAC Chair Christy McCormick

The following is a statement from Verified Voting’s president, Marian K. Schneider:

“Verified Voting congratulates Christy McCormick on her election as Chair of the Election Assistance Commission and her three priorities for her tenure: election preparedness, replacing aging voting equipment, and working towards improving accessibility for all voters including voters with disabilities, military and overseas voters and limited English proficient voters.

“With those laudable goals in mind, Verified Voting urges Christy McCormick and the EAC to ensure that the next generation of voting systems provide most voters the opportunity to mark their ballots by hand and support robust post-election tabulation audits. These post-election audits can protect the integrity of the election outcomes with the existing systems.Technology has evolved so that improved security, verifiability and accessibility are not mutually exclusive, but can give everyone, the candidates, voters, the press and the public assurance that our voting system is resilient against attack.”

Verified Voting Blog: No to Online Voting in Virginia | Electronic Frontier Foundation

This article originally appeared on Electronic Frontier Foundation’s website on February 4th, 2019

Experts agree: Internet voting would be an information security disaster. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth of Virginia is considering a pair of bills to experiment with online voting. Pilot programs will do nothing to contradict the years of unanimous empirical research showing that online voting is inherently vulnerable to a variety of threats from malicious hackers, including foreign nations.

EFF strongly opposes Virginia H.B. 2588 and S.J.R. 291, and all online voting. Instead, EFF recommends that absentee voting, like all voting, be conducted with paper records and risk-limiting audits, the current state-of-the art in election security.

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Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Recommends Hand-Marked Paper Ballots for Georgia to SAFE Commission

Verified Voting sent a letter to the Secure, Accessible, Fair Elections (SAFE) Commission on Friday, January 4 with their recommendations for a new voting system in Georgia. Read the letter below or download it here

Verified Voting submits the following statement endorsing hand-marked paper ballots that are scanned as the primary voting method for voters. Verified Voting respectfully requests that this statement be shared with the entire SAFE commission in advance of the next meeting scheduled for January 10, 2019.

Recommendation. In light of the pervasive security vulnerabilities of all electronic voting systems, including Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs), as well as the considerable cost of BMDs, Verified Voting Foundation endorses the use of hand-marked paper ballots as the best primary method for recording votes in public elections. BMDs do play an important role for some voters, including voters with disabilities, that prevent them from hand-marking paper ballots. However, the primary voting method for most voters should be hand-marked paper ballots.

Rationale. Hand-marked paper ballots offer better voter verification than can be achieved with a computerized interface. A paper ballot that is indelibly marked by hand and physically secured from the moment of casting is the most reliable record of voter intent. A hand-marked paper ballot is the only kind of record not vulnerable to software errors, configuration errors, or hacking. With hand-marked paper ballots, voters are responsible only for their own errors, while with a BMD, voters are responsible for catching and correcting errors or alterations made by the BMD. Consequently, well-designed hand-marked paper ballots combined with a risk-limiting post-election tabulation audit provide the gold standard for ensuring that reported election results accurately reflect the will of the people. Read More

Media Release: Election Security Experts Applaud City of Fairfax, VA and Orange County, CA for Leading in New Election Integrity Methods

New Reports from Verified Voting Show How Risk-Limiting Audits in California and Virginia Can Improve Election Security and Public Confidence

Robust post-election audits are changing the election security landscape and the City of Fairfax, Virginia and Orange County, California are leading the way. Risk-limiting audits (RLAs) of voter-marked paper ballots can promote election security and public confidence by providing rigorous statistical evidence that election outcomes match the ballots — and a means to detect and correct outcomes that don’t match. If the method is widely adopted it will bolster confidence in elections. In the months leading up to the midterms, the City of Fairfax and Orange County implemented pilot projects that, as documented in two new reports by the Verified Voting Foundation, with funding support from Microsoft, demonstrated the benefits of risk-limiting audits.

The “Pilot Risk-Limiting Audit” reports, released today at the MIT Election Audit Summit, detail how Orange County and the City of Fairfax conducted pilots — in June and August 2018, respectively — and how these pilots provide lessons for election officials and policymakers around the country. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Why voters should mark ballots by hand | Andrew Appel

Because voting machines contain computers that can be hacked to make them cheat, “Elections should be conducted with human-readable paper ballots. These may be marked by hand or by machine (using a ballot-marking device); they may be counted by hand or by machine (using an optical scanner).  Recounts and audits should be conducted by human inspection of the human-readable portion of the paper ballots.”

Ballot-marking devices (BMD) contain computers too, and those can also be hacked to make them cheat.  But the principle of voter verifiability is that when the BMD prints out a summary card of the voter’s choices, which the voter can hold in hand before depositing it for scanning and counting, then the voter has verified the printout that can later be recounted by human inspection.

But really?  As a practical matter, do voters verify their BMD-printed ballot cards, and are they even capable of it?  Until now, there hasn’t been much scientific research on that question.

A new study by Richard DeMillo, Robert Kadel, and Marilyn Marks now answers that question with hard evidence:

  1. In a real polling place, half the voters don’t inspect their ballot cards, and the other half inspect for an average of 3.9 seconds (for a ballot with 18 contests!).
  2. When asked, immediately after depositing their ballot, to review an unvoted copy of the ballot they just voted on, most won’t detect that the wrong contests are presented, or that some are missing.

This can be seen as a refutation of Ballot-Marking Devices as a concept.  Since we cannot trust a BMD to accurately mark the ballot (because it may be hacked), and we cannot trust the voter to accurately review the paper ballot (or even to review it at all), what we can most trust is an optical-scan ballot marked by the voter, with a pen.  Although optical-scan ballots aren’t perfect either, that’s the best option we have to ensure that the voter’s choices are accurately recorded on the paper that will be used in a recount or random audit. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: An unverifiability principle for voting machines | Andrew Appel

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on October 22, 2018.

In my last three articles I described the ES&S ExpressVote, the Dominion ImageCast Evolution, and the Dominion ImageCast X (in its DRE+VVPAT configuration).  There’s something they all have in common: they all violate a certain principle of voter verifiability.

  • Any voting machine whose physical hardware can print votes onto the ballot after the last time the voter sees the paper,  is not a voter verified paper ballot system, and is not acceptable.
  • The best way to implement this principle is to physically separate the ballot-marking device from the scanning-and-tabulating device.  The voter marks a paper ballot with a pen or BMD, then after inspecting the paper ballot, the voter inserts the ballot into an optical-scan vote counter that is not physically capable of printing votes onto the ballot.

The ExpressVote, IC-Evolution, and ICX all violate the principle in slightly different ways: The IC-Evolution one machine allows hand-marked paper ballots to be inserted (but then can make more marks), the ExpressVote in one configuration is a ballot-marking device (but after you verify that it marked your ballot, you insert it back into the same slot that can print more votes on the ballot), and IC-X configured as DRE+VVPAT can also print onto the ballot after the voter inspects it.  In fact, almost all DRE+VVPATs can do this:  after the voter inspects the ballot, print VOID on that ballot (hope the voter doesn’t notice), and then print a new one after the voter leaves the booth. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Continuous-roll VVPAT under glass: an idea whose time has passed | Andrew Appel

This article was originally posted at Freedom to Tinker on October 19, 2018.

States and counties should not adopt DRE+VVPAT voting machines such as the Dominion ImageCast X and the ES&S ExpressVote. Here’s why.

Touchscreen voting machines (direct-recording electronic, DRE) cannot be trusted to count votes, because (like any voting computer) a hacker may have installed fraudulent software that steals votes from one candidate and gives them to another. The best solution is to vote on hand-marked paper ballots, counted by optical scanners. Those opscan computers can be hacked too, of course, but we can recount or random-sample (“risk-limiting audit”) the paper ballots, by human inspection of the paper that the voter marked, to make sure.

Fifteen years ago in the early 2000s, we computer scientists proposed another solution: equip the touchscreen DREs with a “voter verified paper audit trail” (VVPAT). The voter would select candidates on a touchscreen, the DRE would print those choices on a cash-register tape under glass, the voter would inspect the paper to make sure the machine wasn’t cheating, the printed ballot would drop into a sealed ballot box, and the DRE would count the vote electronically. If the DRE had been hacked to cheat, it could report fraudulent vote totals for the candidates, but a recount of the paper VVPAT ballots in the ballot box would detect (and correct) the fraud.

By the year 2009, this idea was already considered obsolete. The problem is, no one has any confidence that the VVPAT is actually “voter verified,” for many reasons:

  1. The VVPAT is printed in small type on a narrow cash-register tape under glass, difficult for the voter to read.
  2. The voter is not well informed about the purpose of the VVPAT. (For example, in 2016 an instructional video from Buncombe County, NC showed how to use the machine; the VVPAT-under-glass was clearly visible at times, but the narrator didn’t even mention that it was there, let alone explain what it’s for and why it’s important for the voter to look at it.)
  3. It’s not clear to the voter, or to the pollworker, what to do if the VVPAT shows the wrong selections. Yes, the voter can alert the pollworker, the ballot will be voided, and the voter can start afresh. But think about the “threat model.”  Suppose the hacked/cheating DRE changes a vote, and prints the changed vote in the VVPAT. If the voter doesn’t notice, then the DRE has successfully stolen a vote, and this theft will survive the recount.  If the voter does notice, then the DRE is caught red-handed, except that nothing happens other than the voter tries again (and the DRE doesn’t cheat this time). You might think, if the wrong candidate is printed on the VVPAT then this is strong evidence that the machine is hacked, alarm bells should ring– but what if the voter misremembers what he entered in the touch screen?  There’s no way to know whose fault it is.
  4. Voters are not very good at correlating their VVPAT-in-tiny-type-under-glass to the selections they made on the touch screen. They can remember who they selected for president, but do they really remember the name of their selection for county commissioner? And yet, historically in American elections, it’s as often the local and legislative offices where ballot-box-counting (insider) fraud has occurred.
  5. “Continuous-roll” VVPATs, which don’t cut the tape into individual ballots, compromise the secrecy of the ballot.  Since any of the political-party-designated pollwatchers can see (and write down) what order people vote on the machine, and know the names of all the voters who announce themselves when signing in, they can (during a recount) correlate voters to ballots. (During a 2006 trial in the Superior Court of New Jersey, I was testifying about this issue; Judge Linda Feinberg saw this point immediately, she said it was obvious that continuous-roll VVPATs compromise the secret ballot and should not be acceptable under New Jersey law. )

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