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Chain of Custody

Testimony to the Connecticut Cybersecurity Task Force – UPDATED

I testified in my capacity as Executive Director of the Connecticut Citizen Election Audit. I was the only member of the public providing testimony.

Why are post-election audits and paper ballots a critical component of protecting our elections?  “[D}data protection involves prevention, detection, and recovery”.  Cybersecurity and other measures protecting voting equipment and voting systems are primarily prevention measures and to a lesser degree detection measures. No matter how much effort we put into cybersecurity, software testing, and hardware maintenance there will always be a significant level of vulnerability.

Paper ballots, sufficient post-election audits, and recounts provide a primary means of detecting cyber, software, human, and hardware failures. They also provide a means of recovery. They provide for, so called, software independent verification of election results, resulting in justified public confidence.

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.

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.

We cannot trust computers, communications, or officials with elections

Recently two serious structural flaws in computer chips have been disclosed (they were discovered several months ago). So far, the understanding is that one will be difficult to fix and the other impossible, without a new computer architecture.  See:  The World Grapples with Critical Computer Flaws <read>

We cannot say it enough, “Ultimately, computers cannot be protected from fraud and error.” We also cannot trust officials to operate flawlessly. Fortunately, there are solutions.

Lots of Smoke in Broward County, after ballots destroyed

From Alternet via TruthOut: Was the Heated 2016 Democratic Primary Rigged for Debbie Wasserman Schultz?

“I see what I would call a high likelihood of massive incompetence. Either that or there is fraud. I don’t think you should see numbers this big in this many precincts.”

“This is really weird.” He continued that they ought to be reconciling the number of voters with ballots and if they’re not doing it, “they’re grossly negligent.” Jones served on the Election Assistance Commission’s Technical Guidelines Development Committee for four years, but said “I’ve never seen a county that looks like this.”

Just a step in the right direction: Merrill meets with Homeland Security

“Yesterday, along with representatives from the state’s information technology and public safety departments, I met with regional officials from the United States Department of Homeland Security to discuss how we can work together to ensure that Connecticut elections are safe from outside interference or manipulation. We had a productive meeting and I look forward to working together in the months and years to come to protect our elections, the bedrock of our democracy.” – Denise Merrill, Connecticut Secretary of the State

We applaud this step in the right direction.  Last year as leader of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Merrill opposed the designation of elections as critical infrastructure, leading in expressing the concern for a Federal take-over of elections. We were critical of that stand then and remain so.

In our opinion this is just a step. There are several aspects to election security/integrity that should be addressed,. This  step may assist in those that are under direct control of the of the the State, yet less so those under local control.

We respond to Secretary Merrill’s testimony opposing audit transparency bill

Last Monday we testified for S.B. 540, a bill that would increase audit transparency and public verifiability.

Later we noticed that Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill, submitted testimony opposing one provision of the bill and therefor recommending against the entire bill. Her testimony misinterpreted our bill, recommending against it based on something we did not ask for and was not part of the bill.

In response we wrote a follow-up letter to the GAE Committee.

Testimony on bill to improve election audits, transparency, and security

 

Yesterday, we testified in support of our bill to improve the post-election audits, audit transparency, and ballot security.

  • Common sense reforms to require all aspects of audits to be transparent and open to the public.
  • Common sense reforms to establish minimal standards for ballot security.
  • Electronically Assisted Manual Audits that are transparent and publicly verifiable, based on sound science.

Security Against Election Hacking

From Freedom to Tinker, Andrew Appel: Security against Election Hacking – Part 1: Software Independence <read>

We have heard a lot lately about the vulnerabilities of our elections to hacking.  Both cyberhacking and unsophisticated insider attacks. Andrew Appel describes some common sense approaches to detect and deter error and fraud in our elections, covering three major vulnerabilities:

  • Incorrect or unavailable poolbooks.
  • Voting machines
  • Accumulation of results across polling places and jurisdictions

Marks questions marks: Colorado democracy black and blue

“Where their is smoke there is fire”.  We say, “Where there is black and blue there is a victim” and “When it quacks like a cover up, suspicion is justified”.  In this case we have ballots filled-in in black and blue with cross-outs. We suspect Colorado democracy is the victim.

Once again, a blow to those who claim there  is no voting fraud.  A further justification of counting votes by scanner in public in polling places, limiting mail-in voting, and  limiting central scanning, while  arguing for requiring adversarial election officials in every operation.

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