Verified Voting Blog: Letter to Georgia Secretary of State regarding Verified Voting’s position and involvement with risk-limiting audit pilots

The following letter was sent to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on December 16, 2019. The letter addresses Verified Voting’s concerns following the November 2019 election in Georgia and provides clarity on Verified Voting’s position and involvement with risk-limiting audit pilots in the state.

Download the Letter (PDF)

Dear Secretary Raffensperger,

I am writing to address a few issues that have concerned us since the November election and so that you and your staff have clarity on Verified Voting’s position.

As an initial matter, Verified Voting did not recommend that Georgia purchase all ballot marking devices for all in-person voters. We made our position clear in a letter to the co-chairs of the SAFE Commission dated January 4, 2019 attached for your reference. Verified Voting stands by its position and notes that this continues to be our recommendation for jurisdictions who are deciding what system to purchase among commercially-available voting systems. The fact that Georgia did not follow our recommendation and purchased Dominion BMDs for all in- person voters does not change our position.

Since the summer of 2019, Verified Voting has been working with the staff of the Secretary of State to implement post-election risk-limiting audits. Mark Lindeman, Director of Science & Tech Policy at Verified Voting has been the primary contact for your staff and is a subject-matter expert on RLAs. Our work with you on the implementation phase in no way endorses Georgia’s decision to move forward with BMDs instead of our prior recommendation of both hand-marked paper ballots and ballot marking devices in the polling place.

A risk-limiting audit is a tabulation audit: it uses statistical methods to provide confidence that the paper ballots were correctly tabulated. It checks only the tabulation, namely whether a full hand-count of the cast paper ballots would reveal something different than the reported outcome. It does not check — among other things — that voters actually verified their paper ballots, or that the paper ballots being tabulated are exactly those paper ballots that should be tabulated. Nor does it check whether strong chain of custody procedures, proper ballot accounting or other processes necessary to create a trustworthy record were observed. To express or imply that doing an RLA pilot demonstrates the security of the system is simply not true.

That said, we believe that jurisdictions receive great value in auditing paper-based voting systems, from understanding logistics to being more familiar with the rhythms, requirements, and statistics involved with risk-limiting audits. The paper records can be audited, but whether any meaning can be attached to that audit depends on all the other components of an evidence-based election. Using all ballot-marking devices for all in-person voters elevates the security risk of tampering or programming error to unacceptable levels. While we recommend that all voters should be made aware of the importance of checking their paper ballots and should be actively encouraged to do so before casting, even those actions do not entirely mitigate the security risk posed by ballot-marking devices for in-person voters.

In light of the above re-iteration of our policy positions, we do not consent to any characterization of our work that goes beyond the policy positions we outline for you above. This includes any statements you or your counsel make in pending litigation. As I mentioned to Deputy Secretary Fuchs, Verified Voting, as an organization, does not wish to be involved in any pending litigation in Georgia nor does it consent to the state using our work to defend the suit.

I hope that you will share this letter with your counsel and your communications staff. If we have clear expectations moving forward, it is my hope that we can avoid any future misunderstandings.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions.

Very truly yours,

Marian K. Schneider, President
Verified Voting

cc: Deputy Secretary Jordan Fuchs (via email) ; Marci Rubensohn, Holland & Knight (via email)

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