Our Editorials

76 Bad ballots, followed by unfortunate decision for election integrity

Rep. Philip Young, D-Stratford, won re-election to a second term on Nov. 6, defeating Republican Jim Feehan by 13 votes in the 120th District. But Feehan says as many as 76 voters at Bunnell High School were given ballots for the 122nd District, which uses the same polling place.

Ruling from the bench, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis dismissed Feehan’s request for a new election, agreeing with the attorney general’s office that she had no jurisdiction to do so under the Connecticut Constitution, lawyers for Feehan and Young said.

“That power has been committed exclusively to the House of Representatives, and this Court therefore lacks jurisdiction to grant the relief that Feehan requests,” the attorney general’s office said in a brief filed Thursday.

 

Courant Editorial Misses the Mark on At Least Three of Five Points

On Sunday the Hartford Courant lead Editorial proposed fixes to its perceived problems with Connecticut’s election system: 5 Fixes For State’s Broken Election System. Note that all the statewide races were decided by 8:00am on Wednesday morning after the election.

To the Courant’s credit, for the second time in a row, they published a letter of mine criticizing an editorial.

Proposed Fixes Could Make Problems Worse

The editorial “Five Fixes for State’s Broken Election System” misses the mark on at least three of its five proposals

The front line of election security in Connecticut has about 169 weak points

Last week, West Haven paid a $2,000 ransom to hackers to unlock its computer systems. In a statement from the city, the ransom was characterized as a “one-time fee.” The word-choice here reveals an oversimplified view of the reality of ransomware, a cyberattack in which hackers lock data and demand payment.

First, West Haven was lucky to regain access to its systems after paying the ransom. Fewer than a quarter of ransomware victims actually get their files back after paying up. More often, hackers pocket the money and leave the data scrambled.

The notion of a “one-time fee” also fails to account for reputation damage and loss of trust. A city like West Haven — which is already navigating difficult financial straights — needs to rally community support. A blunder like this undermines the momentum it was building…

 

The most vulnerable state: Georgia

Electronic election suspicions in Georgia have been there since the dawn of century. Now with Secretary of State Brian Kemp running for Governor, a New Yorker article reviews the recent history of ongoing vulnerability, lack of investigation by the state, and cover-up.

Our Editorial

Has our democracy been stolen in Georgia? Will it continue to be stolen? This is not just a problem for Georgia voters. The Senators and Representatives from each state change the balance in Washington, the Electoral College votes from Georgia count toward who is our President, especially in close elections like 2000, 2004 and 2016. The fully justified suspicion alone undermines confidence in Democracy.

Instead of papering over suspicions, Georgia should be moving to paper ballots and sufficient post-election audits.

Election Vulnerability: What we can learn from Ed Snowden and the NSA.

Now I have your attention, we can discuss the NSA and Ed Snowden in a bit. Let’s start with an Editorial:

Protecting Against Russian Cyber Risks is Insufficient. The attention on Cybersecurity, election hacking and Russian interference is good. There are cyber risks and Russia is capable. We should improve our cybersecurity across the board, including elections. Every vote should be backed up by a, so called, voter verified paper ballot. Yet that is far from sufficient.

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.

No New York, Virginia is not like Florida 2000

From the New York Times: Virginia: Voting Mess Was Never Supposed to Happen After Bush v. Gore 

I don’t know where the impression was left that somehow we would not have close elections after 2000.  There are some analogies here but not everything is the same.

Editorial:

Close elections happen.  Each voter and each vote is critical to the result.  Every error by voters, by officials, by machines, and by fraud can change the result. When it is this close it truly is a crap-shoot, even when one candidate or the other wins by a hand-full of votes.  What is needed is a process that is of high-integrity, every step of the way, followed by a fair, per-established adjudication method.  In our opinion that is exactly what is happening in Virginia. A far cry from 2000 and Gore v Bush.

What’s the matter with Wisconsin (and almost every state?)

Recent Headlines:

Wisconsin: Walker makes it harder for candidates to get a recount in close races

Former Trump Advisor: Scott Walker Has ‘Rigged’ 5 Elections 

Editorial: What is wrong with this picture? 

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.

Registrars mess up, City (taxpayers) pay fines, eventually

“Justice delayed is justice denied.” What could be worse?  Perhaps “Justice delayed and fines transferred to the victims.”

In 2014 the Registrars in Hartford failed to provide check-off lists to polling places in time for voting to begin at 6:00am.   From the stories of the public and explanations from officials at the time, it seems pretty clear it was not a simple error or comedy of errors.

Editorial
The pollbook delay went beyond incompetence. These conclusions and fines should not take close to three years.  The well-compensated registrars should be paying the fines not the City.