We respond to Secretary Merrill’s testimony opposing audit transparency bill

Last Monday we testified for S.B. 540, a bill that would increase audit transparency and public verifiability.  The bill would:

  • Set common sense minimal standards for ballot security.
  • Set common sense prior public notice requirements for all aspects of the audits which should be transparent and publicly verifiable.
  • Based on sound science, make the recently implemented machine audits, manually verifiable, transparent, and publicly verifiable.

Our testimony <read>

Later we noticed that Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill, submitted testimony opposing one provision of the bill and therefor recommending against the entire bill. Her testimony <read>

Her testimony misinterpreted our bill, recommending against it based on something we did not ask for and was not part of the bill:

My main objection is that it potentially jeopardizes the sanctity of ballot secrecy. Some people do initial or sign a ballot if a mistake is made. In smaller towns, deducing identity from these details is actually possible.
Creating images of ballots that anyone can take home and study could result in people’s ballots being posted online, something that we are already contending with vis-à-vis the voter file.
She went on to suggest a solution similar to the one actually  proposed in the bill.
If there is public uncertainty about our new audit equipment or there is a desire to “audit the audit equipment”there areless intrusive ways to ensure accurate results such as a random sampling of ballots that can be compared to computerized result s while at the audit session. These types of simple solutions could be implemented at no cost and with much less intrusion to the sanctity of our voted ballots.
In response we wrote a follow-up letter to the GAE Committee.  Our letter <read>

The Secretary’s testimony incorrectly stated that the S.B. 540 requires the posting of ballot images online. In fact, S.B. 540 bill does not require the release of ballot images to the public and does not require the posting of ballot images online.

S.B. 540 requires the release of Cast Vote Records (CVRs) to the public present at a machine audit, with no requirement for online posting.  CVRs are not ballot images. They do not include stray marks by voters. They are data records, one record for each ballot that contains the digital interpretation of the votes on the ballot i.e. numbers indicating which bubbles on the ballot were filled in.  They are totaled to determine the votes for each candidate or question in the audit

In the paper included in my testimony, CVRs are described:

“In a machine-assisted audit, the retabulation system produces an interpretation of votes on each ballot (a Cast Vote Record, or CVR) that can be matched with that ballot. The CVRs are exported from the retabulation system. Observers verify that these exported CVRs produce the same electoral outcome(winners, etc.) as the voting system. Then observers compare a random sample of actual ballots against the corresponding CVRs.”

There is no law in Connecticut exempting CVRs from the Freedom of Information Act. A quick survey of election officials and advocates indicates that CVRs for entire elections or audits are regularly provided to requesters in the states of AZ, NY, CO and SC. In SC, they are published online.

In addition to correcting the her misinterpretation, we also pointed out our stand that voted ballots are, in fact, subject to Freedom Of Information requests in Connecticut.

PS: Although it is irrelevant to S.B. 540 we disagree with the Secretary’s interpretation that voted ballots or ballot images are exempt from Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (FOI).  We are not aware of an explicit exemption in Connecticut statutes. To our knowledge, FOI of ballots has never been tested before the FOI Commission or in court. We are aware of several states where allots and ballot images are subject to FOI.

 

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