Testimony on several bills, including the National Popular Vote Compact

Yesterday, we testified on several bills, submitting three packages of written testimony. Most of the bills were proposals for the National Popular Vote Compact. We half agree with those testifying for the Compact and half disagree. We would be in favor of a National Popular Vote with a sufficient Constitutional Amendment. We oppose the Compact. Its misfit with our presidential election laws portent chaos.

Don’t Kill the Election Assistance Commission

The new administration and state election officials have the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in their crosshairs.  It is not a watchdog agency.  The EAC is intended to help assist officials across the country share information and create voluntary standards for election systems. Many states look to and require Federal certification of election equipment.  In a stranglehold for years, the EAC was on life support until commissioners were finally appointed a couple of years back.  Efforts to update outdated standards, improve and streamline the certification process are close to fruition, yet may never be completed.

It is not just the Republicans.  It is the National Association of Secretaries of State, currently headed by Connecticut’s Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill. Good Grief! the EAC is intended to help them do their jobs.  Maybe they will change their stand this week, yet we doubt it.

Journal Inquirer Editorial and Our Response

Journal Inquirer Editorial, Monday:  ARE ILLEGAL ALIENS VOTING IN CONNECTICUT?

Our letter sent yesterday:

I agree with the sentiment but not the details of your editorial…There is a better solution…The solution is routine, independent, and publicly verifiable audits of all aspects of election administration.  With such audits, we would not be in this situation…

Election News Roundup

Several instructive articles and events this week.

  • Last week, Secretary of the State and President of NASS (National Association of Secretaries of  State) held a press conference discussing Donald Trump’s allegations of 3 Million “Illegals” Voting.  Secretary Merrill Challenges President’s Reported Claims of Illegal Voting
  • Meanwhile, at least, Connecticut is no Kansas: The Kansas Model for Voter-Fraud Bluffing
  • Here an article I generally agree with from Forbes: What The Election Can Teach Us About Cybersecurity
  • Speaking of attacks on voter databases here is a story from this fall: Hackers hit Henry County voter database

Trick n Tweet: The Age of the Unsound Bite

I was going to write a post discussing the allegations of “widespread illegal immigrant voter fraud”. Yet, voter fraud is not the problem; Russian hacking is not the problem; Immigrants are not the problem; How many attended the inauguration is not the issue.

The problem is that, like Three Card Monte, the controversy takes our our attention off the real issues.

Evidence-Based Elections

We favor “Evidence Based Elections”.  We recently reread this 2012 paper by Phil Stark and David Wagner,  Evidence-Based Elections

It covers at a high level the requirements to provide the public and losing candidates the evidence necessary to convince that its very likely the candidate favored by the voters actually was declared the winner of an election (or determining, if possible, the winner).

Compared to all the states in the Union, Connecticut would rank slightly above average, yet far from approaching credible evidence-based elections. We have paper ballots, inadequate post-election audits, close-vote recanvasses, no compliance audits, and atrociously weak ballot security.  This is a case where a rating/ranking should be the result of multiplying the factors, rather than adding them:

Paper Ballots(1.0)  x  Post-Election Audits(0.3)  x  Self-Correcting(0.4)  x  Compliance(0) = 0

Secretary of the State Ignores Post-Election Audits as Key in Elections

What can we learn from the press release and calendar?

  • Elections Officials and the Secretary of the State’s Office work all year. In many towns the jobs are low pay and part time, yet the schedule is year-round and relentless.  There are only a few periods when officials can take turns taking vacations attending to personal matters, like medical procedures. Occasionally the job is viewed as cushy, partisan, and thankless.
  • The Secretary of the State apparently considers post-election audits as not important enough to be included in the schedule.

Will good help be available from Homeland Security, and will Connecticut ask for it?

The Department of Homeland Security has designated Election Infrastructure as Critical Infrastructure. We ask three questions.  We would like to see evaluations in Connecticut.

We emphasize thesee’ as secret evaluations would do little to provide the public assurance, and likely as not, would be available one way or another to those bent on using them to exploit weaknesses in the system.

Video: The Story of the Attempted Presidential Election Audit

Recount 2016: An Uninvited Security Audit of the U.S. Presidential Election

Also, I’m not sure that we at the University of Michigan could hack into all the paper ballots across multiple states sufficient to change the Presidential election. But I’m pretty sure my undergraduate security course could have changed the outcome of the Presidential election this year. It really is that bad, – Alex Halderman

Connecticut pre-election voting machine testing now less reliable

Over the the last few weeks, we have learned that in the November Election, registrars have substituted a less effective form of pre-election testing that is less likely to catch errors in ballots or election equipment. There are at least two problems

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