Editorial, Bridgeport Part 1: What NOT to do

Remember the 1st law of holes: “When you are in a hole, stop digging!”

The election integrity story in Connecticut lately has been the Bridgeport Primary where Marilyn Moore won the primary for mayor in the polling places and Joe Ganim won the absentee votes by enough to win by a comfortable margin of 270 votes, with an absentee margin of 3 to 1. You can read our Recent News links on our home page for more of the details. Bridgeport is known for absentee problems and a high energy absentee operation, mostly by party insiders who in this case support Ganim the incumbent. Yet the extent of this year’s operation seems to be even greater than usual. Neither campaign is looking very professional at this point.

The questions are: 1) To what extent has this operation resulted in lots of illegal absentee ballots? 2) To what extent did illegal activities change the result? 3) Should there be a rerun of the primary? 4) What should/can be done to prevent this from happening again in Bridgeport or anywhere in Connecticut? 5) What should not be done – what would not help?

We will address what not to do today and what we could do, later in part 2.



Reminder, Cybersecurity will never be enough

States and the Federal Government are pumping millions into cybersecurity and new voting systems. That is all good, especially when the new systems are for Voter Marked Paper Ballots and Ballot Marking Devices for those with disabilities. Yet ultimately, it can provide a false sense of security. No matter how strong the cybersecurity and the quality of software, based on Turing’s Halting Problem, it is impossible to secure a computer system from errors and hacking. it is also impossible to secure systems from insiders and others with physical access.

Op-Ed: Election Security Isn’t That Hard

Op-Ed in Politico by two former secretaries of state, one D and one R:  Election Security Isn’t That Hard

First, we need to dispel one misconception. Many people (including many election officials) believe that if a voting system or scanner is never connected to the internet, it will always be safe. Alas, that’s not the case…

What this means is that while we must make our election infrastructure as secure as possible, we need to accept that it is essentially impossible to make those systems completely secure.

Overall, we agree as far as this op-ed goes. Yet, Risk Limiting Tabulation Audits alone are not sufficient. We need additional audits to check the rest of the process, “process audits” e.g. chain-of-custody/ballot security audits, check-in process audits (appropriate voters allowed or excluded from voting?), accuracy of the voter registration database and lists etc.  Like many officials the authors focus on cyber attack, yet we must also protect our systems from insider attack. Connecticut has a way to go to meet these standards. We do have voter marked paper ballots and air-gaped systems. Yet we have insufficient protection of those paper ballots and insufficient election audits.

Why ballot images fail as the record of an election

A new paper demonstrates how to steal an election by manipulating ballot images: Unclear Ballot: Automated Ballot Image Manipulation. In fact, it is a neat solution that changes the image before the CVR is created, in a way that would be hard to detect.

For the non-technical this may seem difficult, yet for those with the appropriate computer skills it is a straight-forward task. Then anyone with access to election computer systems could install the code maliciously, unknowingly, or under threat.

Verified Voting’s Policy on DREs and BMDs

This week Verified Voting released a Policy on DREs and BMDs. It is consistent with our  views.

But it’s not enough for a voting system to “check the box” on paper – to print paper records that voters may not even notice or examine. To be trustworthy, elections need to be based on voter-marked paper ballots. Whether these ballots are marked by hand or by device, for them to be considered voter-marked, voters should know what they say!

As they say: “We have had some long and sometimes difficult conversations about these topics, and we look forward to more.”

Presidential Assault on Military and Overseas Voters

Costs to mail ballots may skyrocket for civilians, military living overseas

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration’s trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections…

The deadline for his state and most others to send out absentee ballots for the fall elections, Dearing said, falls a few days before a Sept. 24-25…That makes it difficult to provide voters with guidance about how to return their ballots.

The bottom lines:

  • Election officials are approaching a deadline and have no idea what to tell Military and Overseas voters.
  • Maybe, there will be relatively easy options for Military voters, yet the Military has done a poor job of serving Military voters, especially in training Voting Assistance Officers in the current stable laws.
  • Overseas voters like expats, state department employees, military contractors, and corporate employees overseas, will be hit hardest, with the highest costs, highest hurdles, and likely the least information.

Working Paper: Social Media, Disinformation and Electoral Integrity

A new paper articulates the two distinct problems that threaten our elections Social Media, Disinformation and Electoral Integrity

Since the 2016 United States (U.S.) presidential election, the issue of social media and disinformation has gained increasing attention as a fundamental threat to the integrity of elections worldwide. Whether by domestic actors, such as candidates and campaigns, or through foreign influence campaigns, the ability of voters to make informed choices based on fair and balanced information has been significantly skewed. This working paper attempts to examine the challenges that this issue poses to electoral integrity and what responses election management bodies (EMBs) and international nongovernmental organizations (INGOs) such as the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) can take to attempt to mitigate the negative consequences. The solutions presented in this paper aim to assist key stakeholders to meet this emergent and mutable threat…

West Hartford scam playing out as we predicted

In today’s Courant: Ideanomics hasn’t sent formal ‘Fintech’ plan

When Ideanomics unveiled design plans for a $400 million tech hub at the former UConn campus on July 22, company representatives said they would submit formal plans to the town within the week.

On Thursday, West Hartford town planner Todd Dumais said Ideanomics still has not submitted any plans…

Initially, chairman Bruno Wu said that portions of Fintech Village would be open by September or October 2018.

But now, those initial goals have long passed , and CEO and president Alf Poor said in July that the company foresees a 2020 groundbreaking.

This is all in line with what we have been predicting all along.

Senate Intelligence Committee provides report on Russian Hacking

A highly redacted 67 page report: Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 Election. Volume I Russian Efforts Against Election Infrastructure  With Additional Views

The threat is real. Lack of investigation and exaggeration does not help make the case. The science is clear. Senator Wyden is correct. We need voter marked paper ballots, strong security for those ballots, with sufficient audits and recounts.

Common Sense: Justified Confidence

“I think the biggest issue facing us is trust in the elections,” said Denise Merrill, Connecticut’s secretary of the state. –  As Feds struggle, states create their own anti-election propaganda programs

Trust and confidence are important – Justified trust and justified confidence. – Luther Weeks, Facebook comment

As we have said before Connecticut is above average in election integrity and security for statewide elections, less so for local elections. Above average, is not saying much. Many states, including Connecticut, have a long way to go to achieve justified confidence. PR alone will not protect us from outsiders and insiders. Will not protect us form loss of confidence in democracy.