January 2017

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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