Post-Election Audits

34 Districts Selected for Audit at Wethersfield High School

This morning Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill selected 34 district for audit with the help of students at Wethersfield High School:

A Year After, Our Elections Aren’t Much More Secure

From Buzzfeed’s Cyber Security Correspondent, Kevin Collier:  A Year After Trump’s Victory, Our Elections Aren’t Much More Secure

But the focus on how Facebook and Twitter were used to sow division in the US electorate has diverted attention from one of the weakest spots in the system: … a simple cyberattack can be effective against weak infrastructure and unprepared IT workers. Whether that can be fixed by 2018 or even 2020 is an open question…

“We’re not doing very well,” Alex Halderman, a renowned election security expert, told BuzzFeed News. “Most of the problems that existed in 2016 are as bad or worse now, and in fact unless there is some action at a national policy level, I don’t expect things will change very much before the 2018 election.”

Signup TODAY! for the November 2017 Audit Observation

November Audit Signup Is Now Open <Signup>

The Purpose of the Citizen Audit is to increase integrity and confidence in elections, for the benefit of the voters of Connecticut. We provide independent audits, audit observations, and reports focusing on the integrity of elections and election administration. <More about the Citizen Audit>

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Volunteer one day as a Post-Election Audit Observer.

The Connecticut Citizen Election Audit coordinates volunteers, like you, to observe the state’s post-election audit of voting machines. Non-partisan volunteers go “behind the scenes” with a checklist of best practices and interview questions. They gather information which is compiled into reports submitted to the public, election officials, and the Legislature.

  • Who can volunteer? Anyone. You, for example!
  • Where? Throughout the State of Connecticut.
  • When? Generally within the 2nd to 3th weeks following an election.
  • How? <Learn More> <Sign Up>

Why Volunteer?
For good Government, to preserve our right to a free and accurate vote!

See the Results of Our Efforts In the Audit Reports Below:

Just a step in the right direction: Merrill meets with Homeland Security

“Yesterday, along with representatives from the state’s information technology and public safety departments, I met with regional officials from the United States Department of Homeland Security to discuss how we can work together to ensure that Connecticut elections are safe from outside interference or manipulation. We had a productive meeting and I look forward to working together in the months and years to come to protect our elections, the bedrock of our democracy.” – Denise Merrill, Connecticut Secretary of the State

We applaud this step in the right direction.  Last year as leader of the National Association of Secretaries of State, Merrill opposed the designation of elections as critical infrastructure, leading in expressing the concern for a Federal take-over of elections. We were critical of that stand then and remain so.

In our opinion this is just a step. There are several aspects to election security/integrity that should be addressed,. This  step may assist in those that are under direct control of the of the the State, yet less so those under local control.

Rhode Island poised to lead New England in Post-Election Audits

Press Release:  Rhode Island Takes Important Step to Secure Elections with Post-Election Audits – Adopts New Procedure to Check Election Results as Threats Increase

“Post-election audits are the best safeguard to making sure that votes are being counted as cast,” said Representative Edith Ajello (D-Providence), the House sponsor. “My community saw a simple administrative error almost turn into an incorrect election result,” added Senate sponsor, Senator James Sheehan (D-North Kingstown), “and this legislation will help assure voters that a system is in place to catch and correct future problems.”

The audits will begin as soon as September 2018. Rhode Island becomes the 32nd state to require post-election audits, and only the second state to require risk-limiting audits.

The United States should make ballots verifiable—or go back to paper.

Article in The Atlantic: The Case for Standardized and Secure Voting Technology 

It’s time to fix the voting process.

American voting systems have improved in recent years, but they collectively remain a giant mess. Voting is controlled by states, and typically administered by counties and local governments. Voting laws differ depending on where you are. Voting machines vary, too; there’s no standard system for the nation.

Accountability is a crapshoot. In some jurisdictions, voters use machines that create electronic tallies with no “paper trail”—that is, no tangible evidence whatsoever that the voter’s choices were honored. A “recount” in such places means asking the machine whether it was right the first time.

We need to fix all of this.

May Post-Municipal Election Audit Drawing

A few municipalities conduct elections in May rather than November. We joined Deputy Secretary of the State Scott Bates, Assistant Secretary Peggy Reeves, and SOTS Office Interns for the drawing. Sadly, due to last year’s reduction in the audit, only one district will be audited.

We strongly object to the official press release’s characterization of Connecticut’s Post-Election Audit as “Comprehensive”. A comprehensive audit would not exempt ballots from selection for audit, it would audit the totaling of votes, and include compliance audits of all aspects of the election such as checkin lists, voter roles, and ballot security.

Random drawing issues in the Nutmeg State

Connecticut is known as the “Nutmeg State” based on the legend of Yankee Peddlers selling wooden nutmegs to unsuspecting New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians.  True or not, there is little reason to trust anyone here when it comes to random drawings.  Recent history leaves us with little trust in officials and random drawings.

The Secretary of the State’s Office has improved the integrity of the post-election audit drawing, yet two problems remain.

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.

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.

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