Fairfield Panel: Rosy Views and Thorny Issues

While I was on vacation, the Fairfield Citizen News had a report covering the panel in Fairfield last week, with added information, apparently obtained from our web site, and an interview with the Secretary of the State. Overall it is a good article fairly covering what was said on the panel. The two hours flew by. I would have loved to have had more time to respond to questions and statements by both the other panelists and the audience. The entire article is well worth reading. Below are some of the statements in the article and my comments: <my opening statement> <Fairfield Citizen News Article>

Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz is in favor of the system. She explained Wednesday, “I firmly believe in Connecticut we have one of the strongest voting security laws in the country the Audit Bill It’s the toughest audit law in the country. After every election we put every precinct on a card and into the bingo box where 10 percent are chosen for public hand count.” She explained that 10 percent equaled 77 precincts in the state. “That’s a lot of ballots,” she said. “We shouldn’t take the machine’s word for it.”

On the measure of 10% we have the toughest audit law, but on other measures such as reliability, follow-up, transparency, and independence we have a law that is insufficient, unreliable and ineffective. See the 10 Myths.

Bysiewicz continued to give an overview of the entire process, including pre- and post-election memory card testing at UConn, as well as a public test before individual precincts voted. “It’s always possible someone could hack a memory card during the election. It’s unlikely, but we’re not taking anyone’s word for it. If tampering is found, there is a hand count of the ballots,” she said.

What the Secretary (or the quote) fails to mention is that the memory card tests are not conducted before and after each election, are not truly random, are not exhaustive, and did show a high level of problems. The point of the audits is to uncover problems – strong audits and follow-up are needed to uncover problems whether they be error or tampering. See the audit observation reports. The public tests are not well publicized and while useful are hardly sufficient to protect us from fraud.

Shvartsman, one of the state’s overseers of voting technology and security for electronic voting equipment, spoke after Mara Monday night. “I’m shocked at how insecure machines are nowadays,” he said. “On the surface it appears that paper is evil and a change to tough technology makes sense. Unfortunately, this is a superficial view because without paper ballots, it’s difficult to impossible to prove or confirm results.”

The professor continued to explain how Connecticut might be the only state where the memory cards in our voting machines are tested pre- and post-election. “We audit the memory cards to confirm they are properly programmed,” he said. “It’s dangerous to go with leading-edge technology with something as important as elections. It’s better not to rely on something that cannot be humanly observed.”

I certainly agree with Dr. Shvartsman’s concerns. The memory card tests are innovative and a credit to UConn. Once again, the State needs to have them performed on 100% of the cards before the election. The last primary saw only post-election testing of some cards. Here we are five months after that election without a report on the results (Which I understand from Dr. Shvartsman are no better than the earlier results). If we let registrars choose which cards to send in or find excuses not to send cards in then we cannot rely on the tests to detect errors and fraud.

While Weeks did not have a ready solution to solve all of the faults in the current system, he did have several suggestions on what can and should be done over the next couple of years. “First, an element of prevention Second, an element of detection and confidence Third, a solid chain-of-custody to make credible elections and audits possible.”

In conclusion, Weeks stated, “Voting integrity, like the Constitution, can start here in the Constitution State and spread to the nation.”

I do have solutions much more detailed than implied. Given the limited time of introductory remarks I covered the highlights of what needs to be accomplished. More details are in our current petition.

Kozik brought an end to the forum with a deliberate and honest opinion of the country’s voting system. “It’s not a fail-safe system,” he admitted, before going into a step-by-step explanation of the state’s procedures for election.

“Memory cards are sent to the districts in tamper-safe packaging,” he stated. “If the cards have been tampered with, we know, and they’ll be sent back for new ones. There are always three backup cards at every polling place.”

Unfortunately, I have no reason to believe that if any registrar finds a problem with the packaging that they will call the Secretary of the State’s Office. Even less confidence that the public would know. If the Coalition did not observe the audits I doubt we would know of the many violations of chain-of-custody by election officials. Finally, lets be clear these are not “tamper-safe packaging” – they are “tamper evident”. Which should be taken with a grain of salt.

Addendum: I neglected to mention that it is not true that “There are always three backup cards at every polling place”. This is true only in municipalities that have followed the Secretary of the State’s advice to buy four cards per polling place. In addition they need to be programmed for each election – in one recent case, only one card was programmed per polling place to save money, leaving no backups and election officials scrambling to count ballots on election day.

Jody Eisemann, the DTC member who helped organize the event, was not satisfied with the outcome. “People need to know the voting system has many, many flaws,” she said Wednesday. Eisemann believes audience members did not fully grasp how egregious a problem these flaws are. She also is concerned that not enough people are aware of the problems. “Even though we’re touting how great it is in Connecticut, [the system] is fraught with so many problems. They’re not letting people know how vulnerable the voting system is,” she said.

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One response to “Fairfield Panel: Rosy Views and Thorny Issues”

  1. The BRAD BLOG : 'Daily Voting News' For July 17, 2008

    […] CT: Fairfield Panel: Rosy Views and Thorny Issues http://www.ctvoterscount.org/?p=271 […]

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