CT

Poll Workers/Registrars challenges in CT and Nationally

A recent article in WhoWhatWhy outlines challenges across the country:  Big Lie Fallout: Experts Fear Threats Will Cause Poll Workers to Quit 

Election integrity experts are sounding the alarm that many election workers will leave their positions on the front lines of democracy unless they are protected from the types of threats and harassment that hundreds of them experienced after the 2020 election.

According to a 2022 survey from the Brennan Center for Justice, 1 in 5 local election officials are “very” or “somewhat unlikely” to continue serving through 2024. The survey stated that “politicians’ attacks on the system, stress, and retirement plans are the primary reasons they plan to leave their jobs.”

“There’s an air of menace that causes people to say, ‘Oh, the heck with this, I don’t want to do this anymore,’” said Elaine Kamarck, founding director of the Center for Effective Public Management at the Brookings Institute.

It may be different in Connecticut with perhaps worse results in too many towns:

We have not heard much about about open harassment, yet the job is getting ever tougher with massive amounts of FOI requests to some registrars and with town government,  in many cases, ignoring calls for more funding, hours and staffing for overworked officials. No wonder they are quitting. In those situations it is a wonder anyone knowledgeable would step up or step in to help.

We hear that between Nov 2021 and a couple of months ago over 40% of Connecticut Registrars of Voters have resigned! That’s a lot more than the 1 in 5 thinking about it in the Brennan Survey; that does not include those already not running again in Nov 2022; and experienced registrars are even more important to our elections that experienced poll workers. At least poll workers, by law, must be paid for every hour they serve.

 

Testimony on two election bills. One poorly written, the other needing more.

Yesterday I submitted testimony on two bills before the GAE (General Administration and Elections Committee. Unfortunately I was unable to testify in person. It was not for a lack of trying. I had submitted testimony and signed up for the hearing two days in advance, yet only one of my two testimonies was posted in time for the hearing and neither I nor the committee staff could get me the link to testify. Its happened before this year and last, yet only for this committee – in the past the staff was able to correct the problems. In one case not much was lost except to my reputation as the committee still called may name when I was supposed to testify.

S.B.472 Would change our existing 5% audit, adding risk-limiting audits. Unfortunately it is a highly flawed bill. I submitted the most detailed testimony, articulating its many flaws new and existing. Fortunately the testimony, so far, us unanimously against the current bill, with more on the way. Overall no harm done that I could not speak. It would seem that its is very unlikely to move forward this year.

H.J.114 The Constitutional Amendment to provide for no-excuse absentee voting. In this case, not being able to testify in person and my testimony not being up hurt. I am likely the only person speaking and submitting testimony asking that the bill remove another unfortunate restriction in the Constitution that will bite us along the way with absentee voting and/or ranked choice voting. Of course we can wait and learn our lesson the hard way.

Testimony: Suggest Correcting Two Serious Flaws in the Law.

 

Yesterday I testified on a technical elections bill that the General Assembly should go farther in two regards:

Transparency, Ballot Security, and Public Verifiability are the basis for justified confidence in our elections. So much more important now that many question the integrity of our elections.

As I testified in 2016 and 2015, existing law and a new law providing for interrupted counting lasting up to 48 hours have serious flaws:

  • First, the new law for interrupted counting did not provide any method for the public, candidates, or parties to be notified when counting was to resume.

Second, since the inception of optical scanners in 2007 the law has never recognized that ballots are cast in polling places. That portion of the law assumes, apparently, that we are still using lever machines.

It is long past time for Connecticut to begin a path toward full transparency, public verifiability, and protecting our paper ballots, upon which justified confidence in elections is based. <testimony>

Insiders are a great threat to elections

It is refreshing to see that main stream media is beginning to recognize the threat of insiders to elections.  I agree that election officials are by and large of high integrity, however just like other officials a few are not. Insiders can have access to a wide range of election equipment, ballots, and other data that create and verify election results. A recent Associated Press article by Christia A. Cassidy points that out:

In a handful of states, authorities are investigating whether local officials directed or aided in suspected security breaches at their own election offices. At least some have expressed doubt about the 2020 presidential election, and information gleaned from the breaches has surfaced in conspiracy theories pushed by allies of former President Donald Trump.

Insiders are not just election officials, other insiders include town hall employees in the mail room and network/computer staff, janitors with access to storage areas and election offices; They include post office workers and various vendor personal with access to networks or to repair election equipment. Here are some examples from Connecticut and elsewhere:

January 6 was practice. They are much better positioned to subvert the next election.

Bart Gellman article in the Atlantic: Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun
January 6 was practice. Donald Trump’s GOP is much better positioned to subvert the next election 

Its a long article, yet, unfortunately the most chilling projection yet of what is awaiting in 2024 and perhaps in 2022. I would emphasize Trump less that Gellman.  It can be as bad if he is not the candidate. Its not just the presidency at stake, its all levels of democracy and our democracy itself.

November 2021 Post-Election Audit Drawing

The drawing was held on Wednesday 11/16. 33 polling places and 2 central count absentee ballot locations were selected.

Connecticut RLA Working Group, 2nd Meeting

On Wednesday, the CT RLA (Risk Limiting Audit) Working Group held its second meeting and firmed up plans for the 2021 prototype audits. Below is a video of the meeting and an email I sent the Chair Gabe Rosenberg and the chief scientist from UConn, Alex Russell.

Watch here:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzakPMlj0LigvokDrkgiDVw/live

I have watched both meetings of the RLA Working Group and have several Suggestions and comments…

September 2021 Audit Drawing

This year’s drawing was different. Based on the law passed this year it finally included centrally counted absentee ballots, an item we have been requesting since 2008. We thank Secretary Merrill for initiating the change this year. Better late than never!

RLA Working Group holds its first meeting.

This spring there was a bill to initiate a Risk Limit Auditing Working Group. I testified in favor of the concept and suggested several changes to the bill. A similar bill was passed near the end of the session. Last week the group began its work. Here is a video of the meeting:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhH4JVYcaso

Here is the bill passed by the General Assembly: https://cga.ct.gov/2021/ACT/PA/PDF/2021PA-00002-R00SB-01202SS1-PA.PDF (The RLA section is on page 156.)

The meeting lasted about an hour, primarily consisting of an introduction to RLAs by Alexander Russell from UConn.  Assisted by Ben Fuller also from UConn.  Also in the group was Brian Macdonald, a statistician from Yale.

I am only familiar with the Chair Gabe Rosenburg, Alex Russel, and one of the registrars of voters in the group. There was no published agenda or list of members. The members were listed by the Chair at the beginning of the meeting. I could be wrong, yet as far as I know none of the members of the group have any experience observing or participating in RLAs. A far cry from RIs plan which included experienced experts from around the country and took much more time and effort that seems to be possible here…

Study: The Price of Voting (Machines) – Valuable, Timely, and Facinating

Last week, I moderated a discussion featuring the authors of The Price of Voting, a study of what jurisdictions actually pay for voting machines.

The study is a great contribution to jurisdictions, including states like Connecticut, that are considering evaluating voting machines.

Five quick conclusions that I find relevant to Connecticut:

  1. If you are not getting about a 20% discount, you are paying too much…