CTVotersCount Testimony To The GAE Committee

Update: 3/09/2009, comments on Secretary of The State’s Testimony <read>

Update: 2/24/2009, we provide Testimony Response & Clarification <read>

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The Government Administration and Elections Committee (GAE) held a public hearing on several elections bills on February 18, 2009.  CTVotersCount testified in favor of HB-6441 to improve the integrity of elections, while cautioning the committee about the voting integrity risks of several other bills.  The full testimony contains 17 pages of the most pertinent exhibits and references to additional supporting details <full testimony>

Update: Most of the testimony from yesterday is online <here>. Several citizens supported HR-6441 and the problems it addresses.  Others addressed concerns with the costs, effort, and details of the bill.  I am preparing a detailed response to some of the concerns raised including some suggested revised text for the bill.

Summary of my Testimony:

Chairs and members of the Committee, my name is Luther Weeks. I am the Executive Director of Connecticut Voters Count and the Connecticut Citizen Election Audit Coalition. Today I am representing Connecticut Voters Count. My testimony does not necessarily represent the views of the Coalition or its other members.

I am a Certified Moderator and have personally observed eighteen (18) post-election audits in municipalities across the state. I am also a retired computer scientist and software engineer involved in voting integrity since 2004.

I am here again to ask that you improve the election laws to provide real confidence to the voters of Connecticut. The primary issues needing your attention are the post-election audits, ballot chain-of-custody, and the reporting of election results.

Currently we have a weak chain-of-custody for ballots, dependent on unenforceable procedures that are often violated. We need stronger, enforceable protection for the ultimate record of our votes.

The election results posted on the Secretary of the State’s web site are inaccurate, difficult to check, and provide no confidence that critical results are correctly certified. These results are accumulated by an error prone three step process of transcription and addition, from polling place, to town hall, to the Secretary of the State’s Office. Advocates from across the state have found obvious errors almost everywhere they have looked.

Based on five public hearings last year and on the Coalition reports of four post-election audits, we continue to conclude that the audits as performed are inaccurate, unreliable, and ineffective. Fortunately, we can make the audits much more effective, without counting more ballots.

We remain committed to an Independent Audit Board, relieving the Secretary of the State, towns, and registrars of the audit work. However, in these fiscally challenging times we have also proposed text for HB-6441 which would make significant improvements without significant fiscal impact.

Even though most members of the GAE are lawyers, when the committee drafted campaign finance law, you sought the advice of The Brennan Center for Justice. As you consider the current audit laws and other bills before the committee effecting voting integrity and security, we encourage you to seek the best advice of legal experts, computer experts, security experts, and the experience of other states.

We don’t claim that our proposed text is perfect. One contributor is a lawyer. I am a computer expert. Yet, we turn to the collective work and experience of many others. Attached to my testimony are references endorsed by nationally recognized groups and individuals, used for drafting HB-6441. The Principles and Best Practices for Post-Election Audits created by a variety of experts, endorsed by the Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Verified Voting, the American Statistical Association, CTVotersCount, TrueVoteCT and others; and a similar document from the League of Women Voters, U.S.

We urge you to seek and follow the advice of recognized subject matter experts and the experience of other states as you consider improving our voting systems. What often is an attractive idea, also often has risky unintended consequences as well.

Summary
We want every citizen’s vote to be counted!
To be counted accurately!
And to be counted only once!

Thank you.

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