Testimony on three bills – FOI is an issue in elections too

Yesterday I testified on three elections bills before the Government Elections and Administration Committee (GAE). There was also testimony against another assault on Freedom Of Information (FOI). Very appropriate since access to information, transparency, public accountability, and serving the public played a role in  my testimony on each bill.

My prepared remarks <read>

Chairs and members of the Committee, my name is Luther Weeks, Executive Director of CTVotersCount  and a software technologist. Most of my career focused on developing software, evaluating software products, and recommending technology strategy for the Travelers, in its Computer Science Division. I also spent nine years developing and marketing software products in small companies, for use in large organizations.

Today I have submitted testimony on three bills.

I support H.B. 5480, yet would like to see two improvements to better serve the public. First, that the Secretary of the State’s instructions etc. be required to be posted to the Secretary’s web site in a timely manner. Second, that registrars provide an email address on their web site and/or the Secretary of the State’s web for communication with voters. This would be especially useful to military and overseas voters.

I oppose S.B. 348. It would make Connecticut the 1st state to effectively eliminate post-election audits. It is the same bill approved in committee last year. Please do not make that mistake again. I am working with the ROVAC to propose a bill that would strengthen the audits and provide almost the same savings. I believe we are close to agreement, yet, we have not reached agreement on of all the details.

I oppose H.B. 5492 as proposed, a demonstration of electronic audits. I have long been a strong proponent of machine assisted audits, in Connecticut and nationally. Unfortunately, as written, I am concerned that it might be an unsatisfactory and redundant project – theater, not integrity – possibly delaying or precluding effective use of such technology in Connecticut. Possibly leading to what some would call a “pretend audit”. My written testimony details my concerns and proposes alternatives.

Post-election audits are different than other audits for several reasons:

  • Unlike other audits they are not independent. They are conducted by the same officials who are responsible for conducting the elections, specify the election equipment, and select vendors to program them.
  • Unlike financial audits, such as bank audits or campaign finance audits, because of the secret vote, there are no independent records similar to bank statements which can be compared with other financial records of the entity being audited. Election audits must be compared against the paper ballots held by election officials.
  • Thus, audits and recounts must be conducted publicly and transparently, providing for public verification. Without that they cannot be trusted. Without that they cannot provide credibility for our elections, that is, credibility for our democracy. 

Thank you

S.B. 5480  AN ACT CONCERNING REGISTRARS OF VOTERS, THE AUTHORITY OF THE SECRETARY OF THE STATE AND THE STATE ELECTIONS ENFORCEMENT COMMISSION, AND THE POSTING OF REQUIREMENTS FOR VOTER IDENTIFICATION. <bill> <testimony>

For this bill concerns were for the central publication of  enforceable directives, rulings, and instructions.  And that registrars email address be made available to the public as they are for members of the General Assembly.

H.B.5492  AN ACT CONCERNING A DEMONSTRATION PROJECT FOR THE USE OF ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT FOR CONDUCTING AUDITS <bill> <testimony>

Public transparency is important for two reasons with this bill. First, it is a project that deserves public observation and comment, yet there is no requirement for public notice of the demonstration and a requirement for public input. Second, it involves an alternative to post-election audits, that themselves require transparency and public verification. This should be a criteria to be demonstrated and proven as part of the project.

S.B. 348  AN ACT CONCERNING POST-ELECTION AUDITS <bill> <testimony>

In addition to other problems which would effectively eliminate post-election audits, this bills electronic audit provision would replace black-box voting with black-box auditing transparency and public verifiability.

As we said in our testimony, it is possible to strengthen the audits and save registrars almost as much effort.

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