Reminder: Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) beyond redemption

A new article by Andrew Appel reminds us: Magical thinking about Ballot-Marking-Device contingency plans .

The Center for Democracy and Technology recently published a report, “No Simple Answers: A Primer on Ballot Marking Device Security”, by William T. Adler.   Overall, it’s well-informed, clearly presents the problems as of 2022, and it’s definitely worth reading.  After explaining the issues and controversies, the report presents recommendations, most of which make a lot of sense, and indeed the states should act upon them.  But there’s one key recommendation in which Dr. Adler tries to provide a simple answer, and unfortunately his answer invokes a bit of magical thinking…

This the magical thinking:  “election officials should have a contingency plan.”  The problem is, when you try to write down such a plan, there’s nothing that actually works!  .

Fortunately Connecticut uses Hand Marked Paper Ballots except that it allows the IVS BMD to serve those with disabilities.

What’s the matter with BMDs?

Free Speech for People recently held a forum on Ballot Marking Devices (BMD)’s: An Examination of the Use and Security of Ballot Marking Devices

I recommend watching at least the 1st panel and;
If you are considering purchasing BMDs for all voters then you owe it to your jurisdiction to watch the whole forum;
If you are a voter and your jurisdiction is considering such a purchase of BMDs, you should also watch the whole thing and let your legislators and election officials know what you think.

Our Editorial:

…How much better to purchase the minimum number of BMDs today, fund research, and replace them every five years or so with improved designs.

Block Chain Fantasy…Chained for good!

We told you so.  And now it is final, from the Hartford Courant: With $400M Fintech Village apparently dead, West Hartford Town Council prepares to move on; 

Aug 2019:  West Hartford Scam Playing Out As We Predicted 

Lessons we likely will NOT learn from Iowa

There is a lot of lessons that could be learned from Iowa. Yet we may not learn them. On the other hand we may learn other lessons. In no particular order:

  • Bernie and Pete both won…
  • Change anything in the rules, and the result is likely to have been different…
  • People tend to tout their favorite reform as a cure for any crisis….

The bottom line: Be careful what you ask for, the cure may be worse than the disease. Its complicated. Don’t let a crisis go to waste, but avoid knee-jerk solutions.

“‘It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

Beware: The Gospel of Internet Voting

LA Times article features the entrepreneur behind Internet voting pilots vs. Science: The vote-by-phone tech trend is scaring the life out of security experts <read>

With their playbook for pushing government boundaries as a guide, some Silicon Valley investors are nudging election officials toward an innovation that prominent coders and cryptographers warn is downright dangerous for democracy…
As seasoned disruptors of the status quo, tech pioneers have proven persuasive in selling the idea, even as the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine specifically warn against any such experiment…

Tusk is certain participation in elections would surge if the technology were widely permitted, even though studies in some of the few places around the world that have tried the method revealed no big turnout boost

Crusade, Gospel, Genie seem appropriate to describe entrepreneur Tusk. Its a blind disregard for evidence, science, and the scientists, including yours truly, warning of the risks of Internet voting

Book Review: Bad Blood, Fantasyland, (and Blockchains)

I recently read Bad Blood by John Carreyrou. I could not put it down. Not surprising since it has been on the NYTimes best seller list for months and its the only book I have noticed on Amazon with a full five star rating – with currently just over two-thousand reviews. But for me it was more than that.  It brought back memories of a good portion of my career in the eighties and nineties, along with my last fifteen years concerned with electronic voting.

All reminiscent of Kurt Andersen’s book: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History. To me, just like the California Gold Rush, minus the gold.

National Academy of Sciences study: Blockchain may make voting more vulnerable

While the General Assembly contemplates how Blockchain might solve some undefined problem in our voter registration system, we point to a National Academy of Sciences study Securing the Vote, Protecting American Democracy:

The blockchain abstraction, once implemented, provides added points of attack for malicious actors…Furthermore, blockchain protocols generally yield results that are a consensus of the miners/stakeholders. This consensus may not represent the consensus of the voting public. Miners/stakeholders with sufficient power might also cause confusion and uncertainty about the state of a blockchain by raising doubts about whether a consensus has been reached.

Four pieces of testimony on five bills, including Blockchain and RCV

On Wednesday the GAE Committee held testimony on another raft if bills.

The bills, and links to my testimony, in priority order: (Take a look at all the testimony <here>, best to look by bill number than date)

H.B.5417 A proposed study to use blockchain to solve some undefined problem in voter registration. I opposed, perhaps the only one in the room who is a computer scientist. In summary, if someone wants to sell you or asks you to invest in blockchain – Run. Run fast and keep your eye on your wallet and passwords! …

Three Experts on Blockchains

Do you need a public blockchain? The answer is almost certainly no. A blockchain probably doesn’t solve the security problems you think it solves. The security problems it solves are probably not the ones you have. …A false trust in blockchain can itself be a security risk. The inefficiencies, especially in scaling, are probably not worth it. I have looked at many blockchain applications, and all of them could achieve the same security properties without using a blockchain—of course, then they wouldn’t have the cool name.

Blockchain a technology with great claims, without documented success

Blockchain has been wildly mis-sold, but underneath it is a database with performance and scalability issues and a lot of baggage. Any claim made for blockchain could be made for databases, or simply publishing contractual or transactional data gathered in another form.