CT

What can we learn from a jurisdiction in NY that hand-counts every vote?

I recently attended a presentation by Columbia County, NY, Election Commissioner Vivian Martin on the post-election audit/recount performed after every election.  It should be of interest to every citizen concerned with trust in elections and every election official: “You Can’t Count Paper Ballots”  Want to bet?  

After every election (using optical scanners) they count every ballot a second time by hand.  What can we learn in Connecticut, “The Land of Steady Habits?

We are not necessarily convinced that we need to go as far as Columbia County.  Yet, Connecticut needs a much stronger, more comprehensive, transparent audit; we need a stronger more transparent chain-of-custody; a more uniform, higher quality recanvass.  There is no reason, other than “we have always done it this way”, for our current post-election schedule.  We could perform rigorous automatic recounts rather than recanvasses; we need more to declare and perform recounts/recanvasses. We could emulate other states and perform audits shortly after the election, delaying rigorous/adversarial recounts to later and providing weeks for their completion.

Surprising statements by Denise Merrill and Neil Jenkins

Denise Merrill, Secretary of the State and President of the National Association of Secretaries of State and Neil Jenkins from Homeland Security spoke on NPR on election integrity.  <listen>

We disagree with both their similar statements:

.”Because our system is highly decentralized there’s no way to disrupt the voting process in any large-scale meaningful way through cyber attacks because there’s no national system to attack,” [Merrill] said Tuesday at a hearing before the U.S. Election Assistance Commission on the impact of the critical infrastructure designation.

Jenkins was quoted as saying “having thousands of elections offices each with their own systems making hacking elections nearly impossible”

NPV Forum in Greenwich

Tuesday I participated in a forum/debate on the National Popular Vote Compact. Greenwich Time has a vary fair article on the event <read>

In one of the photos I am holding a 1118 page book that is free. Instead, I recommend two books that are shorter, that are worth reading, and worth much more than you will pay for them!

I also have some comments on the uniqueness of an event where individuals claim that Connecticut voters would appreciate more money in politics.

 

Controlling Voting Algorithms is Critical

A short op-ed in the Courant from Bloomberg View, by Cathy O’Neil describes the risks of artificial intelligence algorithms used  by the likes of Facebook and Google: Controlling A Pervasive Use Of Algorithms Critical 

We should have concerns with algorithms beyond Artificial Intelligence. The same concerns apply to any algorithm (computer code/manual process), such as voting machines.  We have no access to the code in our AccuVoteOS optical scanners. Yet we know from studies such as the California Top-To-Bottom-Review,  Hacking Democracy’s Hursti Hack, and studies by UConn that the system is vulnerable to attack.  We do not know and cannot know for sure if the software running on a particular AccuVoteOS and its memory card is correct and accurate.

Report: Presidential Election Audit: Suffers Two Blows to Credibility

Citizen Audit: Two Blows to Connecticut Election Audits
Leave Them Weaker, Less Credible

 

From the Press Release:

In spite of growing national concerns about election integrity, election credibility in Connecticut has suffered two devastating blows:

  • The Connecticut General Assembly cut post-election audits in half from 10% to 5% of voting districts, and failed to fix glaring weaknesses in the state’s audit law.
  • Shockingly, Connecticut has become the first state to replace verifiable hand-count audits with unverifiable electronic audits. Now the public can’t verify audit results.

“It need not be this way. Electronic audits can be manually verified without sacrificing efficiency,” said Luther Weeks, Executive Director of Connecticut Citizen Election Audit. “Because audits are conducted by the same officials responsible for conducting elections, audits must be transparent and publicly verifiable,” he said.

The Citizen Election Audit also found continuing problems with how municipalities conducted audits. “The Secretary’s Office should take the lead in ensuring that audits are complete, credible, and publicly verifiable,” Weeks said. “The public, candidates, and Secretary Merrill should expect local election officials to organize audits that produce accurate audit reports,” he said.

Testimony on Early Voting and Registrar’s Bills

Yesterday, we submitted testimony on a number of early voting bills and a bill likely submitted by the Registrars of Voters Association.

The primary reason to avoid expanded mail-in or no-excuse absentee voting is the opportunity for and documented record of absentee voting fraud. There are other reasons:

  • Contrary to a touted benefit – early voting DECREASES turnout…

And a bill likely submitted by the Registrars of Voters Association.

As an election official, I am sympathetic to the wish of Registrars to make their jobs simpler.  Yet, my sympathy ends when it results in barriers to participation in democracy for candidates and citizens.

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.

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

In response we wrote a follow-up letter to the GAE Committee.

Testimony on bill to improve election audits, transparency, and security

 

Yesterday, we testified in support of our bill to improve the post-election audits, audit transparency, and ballot security.

  • Common sense reforms to require all aspects of audits to be transparent and open to the public.
  • Common sense reforms to establish minimal standards for ballot security.
  • Electronically Assisted Manual Audits that are transparent and publicly verifiable, based on sound science.

Testimony on several bills, including the National Popular Vote Compact

Yesterday, we testified on several bills, submitting three packages of written testimony. Most of the bills were proposals for the National Popular Vote Compact. We half agree with those testifying for the Compact and half disagree. We would be in favor of a National Popular Vote with a sufficient Constitutional Amendment. We oppose the Compact. Its misfit with our presidential election laws portent chaos.

Don’t Kill the Election Assistance Commission

The new administration and state election officials have the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in their crosshairs.  It is not a watchdog agency.  The EAC is intended to help assist officials across the country share information and create voluntary standards for election systems. Many states look to and require Federal certification of election equipment.  In a stranglehold for years, the EAC was on life support until commissioners were finally appointed a couple of years back.  Efforts to update outdated standards, improve and streamline the certification process are close to fruition, yet may never be completed.

It is not just the Republicans.  It is the National Association of Secretaries of State, currently headed by Connecticut’s Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill. Good Grief! the EAC is intended to help them do their jobs.  Maybe they will change their stand this week, yet we doubt it.

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