Courant Editorial: Don’t Overlook The Assumptions

In an editorial today, Protecting Poll Privacy, the Hartford Courant supports SB 444, “An Act Concerning Certain Revisions and Technical Changes to the Election Laws” <read editorial>

We support provisions of the latest versions of H.B. 444 and H.B 5888, “An Act Concerning Revisons To The Optical Scan Voting System”. Revised versions of both bills (not yet available online) passed the Government Administration and Elections Committee last week,

We agree with the overall thrust and purpose of the editorial, to support the encoding in statute of privacy measures in the polling place to protect secret ballot and voters’ confidence in privacy.

Where we disagree is with some of the assumptions of the ediorial which subtely reaffirm the Courant’s blind faith in the integrity of our optical scan systems. Recall a myth based editorial in September that said “So far, no one appears to have figured out how to tamper with the machines” completely ignoring research from around the country including our own University of Connecticut and a full court press to dismiss polls after the New Hampshire primary.

Specifically, amid the articulate support of privacy, the editorial states:

The optical-scan equipment is turning out to be one of the simplest and most dependable voting technologies available…

The machines worked fairly well during the last election cycle

While we support optical scan voting technology, without sufficient audits based on sufficient chain-of-custody we find it difficult to say for sure how the machines have been working for Connecticut. What is proven are vulnerabilities to error and fraud. The cure is eternal vigilance with safer systems for memory card programming, stronger chain-of-custody, followed by sufficient post-election audits.

Ironically, while we strongly support the secret ballot and voter privacy, voting machine privacy is another matter. The code for voting machines is proprietary and the coding of our memory cards is accomplished in secret by our voting machine vendor, LHS, in Massachusetts.

Voting by optical scan can be described as simple and dependable from the voters point of view. Yet, this can be an illusion, the underlying software and the procedures to prevent the erosion of democracy are not so simple.

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