CT

Russians not the only threat to our elections

Many articles on the Congressional hearings on the “Russian” hacking or not hacking of our elections.  Brad Friedman and Mark Karlin come closet to my opinions:

Recent article by Mark Karlin referencing Brad Friedman:  Beyond the Russians, Electronic Voting Machines Are Vulnerable to Any Hackers  

Journalists and activists have been sounding the alarm about electronic voting machines and their proprietary software for years. The vulnerability of these machines to hacking has not been front and center for some time — primarily due to the failure of the corporate media and legislative bodies to take it seriously. That changed, to some extent, with the charges about Russian hacking from US intelligence agencies. However, the current emphasis is on the Russians allegedly attempting to influence the 2016 election, not on the flawed electronic voting machines that make hacking possible…

Meanwhile, our Secretary of the State continues to spread myths about the safety of voting systems not connected to the internet and “tamper-proof” seals that are at best “tamper-evident”. 

We add that paper ballots are insufficient.  They need protection from tampering.  We need sufficient audits and recounts.  Audits and recounts that are comprehensive and convincing.  Audits and recounts that are transparent and publicly verifiable.f

If [Connecticut] Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know?

NPR story by Pam Fessler:  If Voting Machines Were Hacked, Would Anyone Know?   Fessler quotes several experts and election officials including Connecticut Assistant Secretary of the State Peggy Reeves:

Still, Connecticut Election Director Peggy Reeves told a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel on Monday that many local election officials are ill-equipped to handle cybersecurity threats.

“Many of our towns actually have no local IT support,” she said. “Seriously, they don’t have an IT director in their town. They might have a consultant that they call on if they have an issue. So they look to us, but we’re a pretty small division.”

Reeves said the best protection against hackers is probably the fact that the nation’s voting system isso decentralized, with different processes and equipment used in thousands of different locations.

We certainly agree with that and the cybersecurity experts quoted.

A cut below the rest: National beacon or bad example?

Every year Connecticut’s Citizen Election Program is under assault.  This year is no different.

Here is the bottom line:  The Citizen’s Election Program is a drop in the bucket.  A small percentage of what we pay for the General Assembly and its staff;  A smaller percentage of the state budget; $10 million a year compared to billions in the budget.  Just one bad decision against the people can cost us several times that $10 million.

Read more from the In These Times article: Ten Years Ago, Connecticut Got Big Money Out of Its Elections. Now Democrats Are Gutting the Program

May Post-Municipal Election Audit Drawing

A few municipalities conduct elections in May rather than November. We joined Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates, Assistant Secretary Peggy Reeves, and SOTS Office Interns for the drawing. Sadly, due to last year’s reduction in the audit, only one district will be audited.

We strongly object to the official press release’s characterization of Connecticut’s Post-Election Audit as “Comprehensive”. A comprehensive audit would not exempt ballots from selection for audit, it would audit the totaling of votes, and include compliance audits of all aspects of the election such as checkin lists, voter roles, and ballot security.

National Popular Vote Compact fails 90 minute debate, sanity prevails for unknown reasons

It is rare that a bill is debated that has insufficient majority caucus support to pass.

 [Speaker] Aresimowicz said he’s heard from his constituents that they want the issue debated.“I’m saying let’s at least hear it out and have the discussion,” Aresimowicz said Thursday morning during a press conference in his office before the House debated the bill.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said he expects the vote to be close and it’s unclear what will happen.

Here, we disagree with both sides.  We do not buy the Republican arguments against nor the Democratic arguments for the bill.  We would support a sufficient Constitutional Amendment.  The Compact approach is dangerous making, a flawed system worse. It will lead to increased voter suppression and skulduggery.v

Denise Merrill mostly right on Trump voting witch hunt commission

 

Connecticut Secretary of the State Denise Merrill , said,“The rationale for this commission was articulated in a baseless tweet from the president that claimed millions of illegal votes were cast. The facts don’t lie. Voter fraud is extremely rare. Yet time and again, the specter of voter fraud has served as an excuse to disenfranchise tens of thousands of eligible voters. I hope that this investigation is not a fig leaf for voter suppression and intimidation. In Connecticut, we will protect every eligible person’s right to vote. I stand by our process and our elections officials.”

This reminds us of the Bush era witch hunt in the Justice Department for voter fraud.  Several attorneys were let go because they could not find or refused to continue hunting for all but non-existent fraud.

We do question Secretary Merrill’s statement that “In Connecticut, we will protect every eligible person’s right to vote. I stand by our process and our elections officials.”

Random drawing issues in the Nutmeg State

Connecticut is known as the “Nutmeg State” based on the legend of Yankee Peddlers selling wooden nutmegs to unsuspecting New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians.  True or not, there is little reason to trust anyone here when it comes to random drawings.  Recent history leaves us with little trust in officials and random drawings.

The Secretary of the State’s Office has improved the integrity of the post-election audit drawing, yet two problems remain.

How easy would it be to rig the next election? Very Easy

Article at Think Progress: How easy would it be to rig the next election? 

In the popular imagination, this is what election hacking looks like?—?dramatic, national-scale interference that manually rewrites tallies and hands the victory to the outlier. Certainly these attacks may occur. However, they’re only one of a variety of electoral hacks possible against the United States, at a time when hacking attacks are becoming more accessible to threat-actors and nation-state-sponsored attackers are growing more brazen. Yes, hackers may attempt to change the vote totals for American elections?—?but they can also de-register voters, delete critical data, trip up voting systems to cause long lines at polling stations, and otherwise cultivate deep distrust in the legitimacy of election results. If hackers wish to rig a national election, they can do it by changing only small numbers on a state level.

What can we learn from a jurisdiction in NY that hand-counts every vote?

I recently attended a presentation by Columbia County, NY, Election Commissioner Vivian Martin on the post-election audit/recount performed after every election.  It should be of interest to every citizen concerned with trust in elections and every election official: “You Can’t Count Paper Ballots”  Want to bet?  

After every election (using optical scanners) they count every ballot a second time by hand.  What can we learn in Connecticut, “The Land of Steady Habits?

We are not necessarily convinced that we need to go as far as Columbia County.  Yet, Connecticut needs a much stronger, more comprehensive, transparent audit; we need a stronger more transparent chain-of-custody; a more uniform, higher quality recanvass.  There is no reason, other than “we have always done it this way”, for our current post-election schedule.  We could perform rigorous automatic recounts rather than recanvasses; we need more to declare and perform recounts/recanvasses. We could emulate other states and perform audits shortly after the election, delaying rigorous/adversarial recounts to later and providing weeks for their completion.

Surprising statements by Denise Merrill and Neil Jenkins

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State and President of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Neil Jenkins from Homeland Security spoke on NPR on election integrity.  <listen>

We disagree with both their similar statements:

.”Because our system is highly decentralized there’s no way to disrupt the voting process in any large-scale meaningful way through cyber attacks because there’s no national system to attack,” [Merrill] said Tuesday at a hearing before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on the impact of the critical infrastructure designation.

Jenkins was quoted as saying “having thousands of elections offices each with their own systems making hacking elections nearly impossible”

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