More On Chain-Of-Custody

Last month we commented on reports of chain-of-custody problems in Haddam and on a Courant Editorial on the need for two people of opposing parties whenever ballots are accessed. The problem goes deeper.  We sent the following letter to the Courant in the interest of using the breach in Haddam as an educational opportunity.  I will post it here, since the time has passed for its potential publication (and the Courant will not publish letters previously published elsewhere) :

To the Editor,

The voters of Connecticut should be concerned with the chain-of-custody of ballots as stated in your editorial, “Only One Party Observed Haddam Vote Count” (Nov 23, 2009).  Ballots are required to precisely determine the outcome of close elections and to provide credibility to post-election audits.  This particular case is unique in that the breach became public and that it may be a violation of the law.

The law requires that ballots be sealed for fourteen days after an election.  Ironically, the post-election audits cannot begin until the fifteenth day after an election.  Audit observers have regularly reported violations of chain-of-custody procedures.  In Connecticut, election regulations and procedures cannot be enforced.

For voters to have confidence there must be no opportunity for compromise; it is critical that ballots be protected from clandestine access.   Ballots are usually sealed in bags or containers, however, more protection is needed.  Los Alamos scientists have reported that such a seal can be defeated and replaced with a counterfeit in a median of 43 seconds.   In Connecticut, ballots are often held in a room with single key access, with the key available to either registrar, frequently to any official in the Registrars’ Office.  The storage is often a room in town hall, the Registrars’ Office, or a hallway cabinet. In other states, ballots are held in vaults, with video surveillance, and uniformed guards

Clearly stronger chain-of-custody protections for our ballots are required.

Luther Weeks

References:

Coalition Citizen Election Audit Coalition reports showing chain-of-custody lapses:
http://www.CTElectionAudit.orgIn particular: http://www.ctelectionaudit.org/?page_id=74

Los Alamos scientists’ report: http://ctvoterscount.org/CTVCdata/TamperIndSeals.mht

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