Officials don’t get risks of election hacking

There is no panacea. As we have been saying all along, nothing can fully protect us from hacking, fraud, and errors.  Maximum election security means Prevention, Detection, and Recovery.  For vote totals that means that we need to protect our paper ballots and then exploit them with sufficient audits and recounts.

New Yorker: America Continues to Ignore the Risks of Election Hacking

How Could CT Spend New Federal Election Security Money?

Connecticut will have available somewhere around $5 million to spend on election security in the new “omnibus” appropriations bill. Woefully inadequate for states that should be replacing touch-screen voting with all paper ballots.  etc., for a state that already has paper ballots, a lot can be accomplished.

Denise Merrill is already thinking about how to spend it: CTMirror: Omnibus has millions to strengthen CT voting system against cyber attacks.

Secretary Merrill asked me for suggestions in a brief conversation a couple of weeks ago. At the time, off the top of my head, I suggested and we briefly discussed three things. After consideration I would suggest some more things. Security is not just cyber security and training officials. It also requires physical protection of ballots, physical protection of voting machines, and understanding the situation before determining the training needed.

NPV Compact – for the 7th or 8th time: It sounds good but has Unintended Consequences

On Monday we testified against the National Popular Vote Compact. We have been testifying against it since it was first proposed in Connecticut in 2007. There are two companion bills, you can link to them from our testimony. We have been saying pretty much the same things for the last several years. Each year we hone our testimony a bit and listen to new and predominant arguments from the proponents and make small adjustments.

As I have said many times, most of the democrats (and my friends) who support the Compact are wrong. And most of the Republicans opposed, are opposed for the wrong reason. Unlike the National “Experts” that fly in each year to testify, I provide complete testimony with facts that they have not successfully disputed since 2007.

Five pieces of testimony on six bills

On Thursday the GAE Committee held testimony on most election bills this year. (There was one last week and a couple more will be on Monday). For once, I was able to support more bills than I opposed!

Opposition and support by the Secretary of the State and Registrars was mixed. In addition to supporting and opposing various bills, I offered several suggestions for improvement. And one suggestion for radical improvement.

Do you have any examples of incorrectly decided elections, errors, and fraud etc.?

Last month as I prepared for the MLK Conversation, I wrote up a couple of Frequently Asked Questions, one asked about Conspiracy Theorists, which I addressed earlier, and then there was this one about actual evidence of incorrectly decided elections, error, and fraud.

Do you have any examples of incorrectly decided elections, errors, and fraud etc.?

In Connecticut there was a question incorrectly decided in New London. Because advocates closely reviewed election data it was obvious that officials counted 50 more voters than voters in one district’s absentee ballots(*).  They demanded a recount and the result was reversed.

The last I heard, the recently replaced municipal clerk in Stamford was under Federal investigation for Absentee Ballot errors. She was reported by the two Registrars…

Testimony on Well-Intended Bill That Would End Publicly Verifiable Elections

On Monday we testified against H.B.5173 An Act Protecting the Privacy of Voters

Note that this version of partially protecting some voters includes preventing open, transparent, and publicly verifiable elections by any and all voters, candidates, and parties.

Here is my testimony <read>. This is the summary:

The heart and soul of democracy is justified trust in elections. [This Bill]would be a death blow to the heart of public verifiability. [It] would preclude independent verification of the lists and electors recorded as voting; it would preclude officials from demonstrating to the public that our elections are on the up and up.

Like paper ballots, voter registration records need to be open, transparent, and publicly verifiable. (And recorded on paper.)

Do you need a blockchain? (Probably not!)

Blockchains are the latest technology to enter the mainstream.  A blockchain powers and makes BitCoin possible. Many are treating blockchains as the next big breakthrough in technology. There is even a Blockchain Caucus in Congress.

Do not get your hopes up or bet your retirement savings on blockchains, they are definitely not the next Internet or Hula Hoop.  Most importantly they will not transform elections or solve the challenges of online voting.

From IEEE Do You Need a Blockchain?

“I find myself debunking a blockchain voting effort about every few weeks,” says Josh Benaloh, the senior cryptographer at Microsoft Research. “It feels like a very good fit for voting, until you dig a couple millimeters below the surface.”

American Progress Report: State Election Security Readiness

American Progress Report: Election Security in All 50 States

The report gives every state grades based on some detailed criteria. Connecticut was graded ‘B’, which it shared with several other states as the highest grade awarded. Yet there are problems and limitations with such reports. We would give Connecticut lower grades in some areas, higher in others, and are uncomfortable with other grades.

The report is useful and provides directions for improvement in many areas in every state. Election officials, legislators, and voters should act to improve our voting systems and laws in the near term.  We would give the authors A+ for effort and the report a grade of B.

Citizen Audit Report: After 10 Years, Serious Flaws Continue

Citizens Audit Report:
After 10 years, 18 post-election audits, and 800 local audit counting sessions, serious flaws continue

From the Press Release:

Post-election vote audits of the November 2017 elections continue to fail to meet basic audit standards. They again undermine confidence in the accuracy of our elections, concludes the non-partisan Connecticut Citizen Election Audit.

Among the group’s concerns:

  • 41% of reports required to be submitted to the Secretary of the State by registrars were incomplete or were not submitted. The Secretary’s Office failed to follow up on those reports.
  • Weaknesses in ballot chain-of-custody and security.
  • Continued use of flawed electronic audit procedures that are not publicly verifiable.

On the bright side, developments related to the electronic audit point the way to improvement:

  • The Secretary of the State’s Office and UConn Voter Center solicited feedback on improving the electronic audits.
  • Write-in counting issues and failure to separate ballots as required were clearly identified by the electronic audit and observed by the Secretary of the State’s Office.

Luther Weeks, Executive Director of the Citizen Audit said, “We are frustrated with so little improvement after 18 statewide audits over 10 years. Citizens deserve better. Yet, if the Secretary of the State’s Office follows up on these problems and pursues publicly verifiable electronic audits, progress can be achieved in the near term.”

<Press Release .pdf> <Full Report pdf> <Detail data/municipal reports>

Are you a Conspiracy Theorist?

Last week as I prepared for the MLK Conversation, I wrote up a couple of Frequently Asked Questions, one asked about Conspiracy Theorists.

Are you a Conspiracy Theorist?

I think we all are.  We just don’t recognize that many of the things we believe are conspiracies.  Many were unproven allegations before we believed them…

Reading the Hartford Courant and the New York Times its amazing how many articles involve actual or alleged conspiracies.  I counted at least a score  in those two publications, just today. Take this as an exercise. Pick up your newspaper, online news site, or look at Facebook for a while and see how many you see that you believe are actual conspiracies, are possible, or are doubtful.  Here are some ideas to ponder…

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