Reports

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

April Presidential Primary Audit – Does Not Make the Grade

Checks on State Voting Machines Do Not Make the Grade
Do Not Provide Confidence in Election System, Says Citizen Audit

From the Press Release:

Audits of the recent presidential primaries are so faulty that exact final vote tallies cannot be verified, says the non-partisan Connecticut Citizen Election Audit. Unless state and local election officials make changes, the same will be true for the November elections.

“State law requires audits to verify the accuracy of optical scanner voting machines as a check for errors and a deterrent to fraud. Local registrars gather officials to manually count paper ballots and compare their totals to the totals found by the scanners, explains Luther Weeks, Executive Director of Connecticut Citizen Election Audit.

Issues reported by the group were:

  • Incomplete or missing official reports of vote counts from town registrars;
  • The lack of action on the part of the Secretary of the State’s Office to check that all required reports are submitted and all submitted reports are completed fully;
  • Of 169 municipalities required to submit lists of polling places before the election, the Secretary of the State’s Office recorded only 68, with 101 missing;
  • Poor security procedures to prohibit ballot tampering;
  • Not following procedures intended to ensure “double checking” and “blind counting” rather than having scanner counts as targets while counting manually;

“The public, candidates, and the Secretary of the State should expect local election officials to organize proper audits and produce accurate, complete audit reports. The public and candidates should expect the Secretary of the State’s Office to take the lead in ensuring the audits are complete. Yet, due to a lack of attention to detail and follow-through the audits do not prove or disprove the accuracy of the reported primary results,” Weeks said.

<Press Release .pdf> <Full Report pdf> <Detail data/municipal reports>

Highly Recommended: Hacking Elections Is Easy!

From the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology: Hacking Elections Is Easy <read>. It is the most layperson accessible comprehensive overview of the problems we face protecting our elections that I have seen in a long time.  It is 23 pages yet very readable.  The main points are:

  • We face multiple risks our elections:  Registration systems, voting systems, reporting systems, and ballot security.
  • We face risks from multiple actors: Nations with interests in manipulating our elections, corporations, U.S. Government agencies, sophisticated hackers, and insiders at all levels.
  • For the unsophisticated, Hacking Is Easy.  There are simple insider attacks, simple cyber attacks, and kits on the Internet to compromise results or simply disrupt elections.
  • Most election officials are of high integrity.  Yet, blind trust in all officials, machines, and that hacking is difficult is perhaps our greatest risk.

Just a couple excerpts from the Introduction:

To hack an election, the adversary does not need to exploit a national network of election technology. By focusing on the machines in swing regions of swing states, an election can be hacked without drawing considerable notice. Voter machines, technically, are so riddled with vulnerabilities that even an upstart script kiddie could wreak havoc on a regional election, a hacktivist group could easily exploit a state election, an APT could effortlessly exploit a national election and any corrupt element with nothing more than the ability to describe the desired outcome could order layers of exploits on any of the multitude of deep web forums and marketplaces. Yes, hacking elections is easy…

Report: Secret Ballot At Risk

A new report from the Electronic Privacy Information Center, articulates some of the risks of losing the the Secret Ballot: Secret Ballot At Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy <Exec Summary> <Report>

We recommend reading the Executive Summary and at least the section of the report covering the history of and the need for the secret ballot, pages 4-9 and the section for your state, e.g. Connecticut pages 54-55.

Our only criticism is that the report does not cover the risks to the secret ballot and democracy posed by photos, most often seen in selfies of voters with the voted ballot taken in the voting booth.  Nor does it cover the risks  to the secret ballot posed by absentee voting.

Study Shows Connecticut Municipal Websites Do Not Serve Voters

Most fail to provide information voters need to register and vote
Citizens must be better served and municipalities could save money

From the press release:

April 6, 2016: The Connecticut Citizen Election Audit released a study evaluating election information provided to voters by Connecticut’s 169 municipalities. Information was collected by volunteer evaluators just prior to the 2015 November election.

Citizen Audit spokesperson Luther Weeks stated, “Many towns do not provide the information most sought by voters across Connecticut, such as ‘What is on the ballot?’ or ‘Where do I vote?’. Many failed to inform citizens of online registration, which could increase registration and cut municipal expenses.”

Municipal website findings include:

  • Only 33% answered “What is on the ballot?”
  • Only 56% answered “Where do I vote?”
  • Only 58% provided the date of the next election.
  • Only 28% provided registration deadlines.
  • 5 provided an incorrect election date.
  • 2 provided incorrect registration information.
  • 51% had no link to Online Registration. 28% had no link to Online Registration or to a Mail-In Registration form.
  • Only 17% posted results of their 2014 election.
  • Only 15% provided Voter ID information.

Weeks said, “The Secretary of the State’s web has much of this information, yet studies show that voters go first to their local web. Registration information is important for new voters, and all voters want the election date, ‘Who is on the ballot?’, ‘Where do I vote?’ and voter ID requirements.”

The report also includes recommendations to municipalities, the Secretary of the State, and a low-cost sample website for a whimsical town, http://NutmegtonCT.wordpress.com

<Press Release (.pdf)> <Full Report (.pdf)>

Citizen Audit Cites Flaws in Official Election Audits

Again accuracy declined and write-in votes handled incorrectly
November 2015 Post-Election Audit Report

From the Press Release:

The Connecticut Citizen Election Audit has released its report on its observation of the November 2015 official post-election audits. The audits, required by state law, are intended to verify the accuracy of elections at the municipal level.

Citizen Audit spokesperson Luther Weeks stated, After 9 years of official audits, voters should expect accuracy. Yet the audits have gone from poor to worse.”

The group’s observers found that official audit results do not inspire confidence because of continued:

  • Discrepancies between machine counts and hand counts of votes reported to the Secretary of the State by municipal registrars of voters.
  • Lack of investigation of such discrepancies, and the lack of standards for triggering investigations.
  • Lack of consistency, reliability, and transparency in the conduct of the audit.
  • Weaknesses in ballot chain-of-custody and security.

The group’s report noted:

  • 28% of official audits cited “Human Error” in counting ballots and votes. Registrars of voters should be expected to take the necessary effort to count accurately.
  • Significant decreases in audit integrity, and accuracy.
  • In three towns audits detected districts where officials fed write-in ballots through scanners a second time on election night.
  • If the group’s recommendations from last year had been mandated and followed, all write-in ballots would have been counted accurately.

“Problems discovered counting write-ins two years in a row shows the value of the official audits. But the report also reveals the decline in official attention to the audits, demonstrating that independent citizen observation and reporting are essential to election integrity.” Weeks emphasized.

<Press Release .pdf> <Full Report pdf>  <Detail data/municipal reports>

Brennan Center: Election Integrity: A Pro-Voter Agenda

Whenever we open a report with multiple recommendations we start from a skeptical point of view. We expect to agree with some proposals and disagree with others.  A new report from the Brennan Center for Justice is the exception.  We agree with every recommendation:
Election Integrity: A Pro-Voter Agenda

It starts with the right criteria, it has a great agenda, strong supporting arguments, and ends with an appropriate call to action

Book Review: Ballot Battles by Edward B. Foley

I have long been a fan of the  papers and other writings of Edward B. Foley of the Moritz College of Law.  He writes extensively on the issues associated with close elections, how they have been decided since the founding of the United States, and how the process might be improved. Last month his book on the subject, Ballot Battles:The History of Disputed Elections in the United States was released.

To me, it was a highly fascinating read that kept my interest through every page. It should be required reading for anyone interested in Election Integrity

“Who Could Have Imagined” System rigged to make tests look good.

Over the years, we an others have pointed out that voting systems cannot be tested to assure performance before an election.  Not the system itself before it is setup/programmed for a particular election.  Not a setup and programmed system either.  Not even if a system is completely secured and is somehow proven to run approved/certified software.

Here is some proof, not from a voting system – from a crime by an automaker.  In this case it only puts the environment and lives in danger, rather than Democracy.

Consensus Reached on Recommendations Toward the Future of Internet Voting

Consensus Reached on Recommendations Toward the Future of Internet Voting

USVoteFoundationThe U.S. Vote Foundation has released a report on the feasibility and requirements for Internet voting. This is the result of about eighteen months of work by computer scientists, security experts, and election officials.  The goal was to answer definitively once and for all if Internet voting was feasible today or in the future.

The short version is the Internet voting is not ready for prime time, not ready for democracy. Yet, it is possible in the future that a system may be developed which could provide safe Internet voting.  The paper lays out the requirements and testing criteria for such a system.

(Internet voting includes online voting, email voting, and fax voting).

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