Verified Voting Blog: Verified Voting Testimony before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee

Written Testimony of Verified President Marian K. Schneider before the Pennsylvania Senate State Government Committee Public Hearing on Senate Bill 1249 and Voting Machine Demonstration, September 25, 2018. Download as PDF.

Thank you Chairman Folmer, Minority Chair Williams, and members of the Committee for allowing Verified Voting to submit written testimony in connection with the Senate State Government Committee hearing. We write to address the security risks presented for Pennsylvania’s counties and the need to expeditiously replace aging and vulnerable electronic voting systems. We urge the Committee to recommend that the Commonwealth appropriate adequate funding to permit counties to replace their aging electronic voting systems as soon as possible.

Verified Voting is a national non-partisan, non-profit research and advocacy organization committed to safeguarding elections in the digital age. Founded by computer scientists, Verified Voting’s mission is to advocate for the responsible use of emerging technologies to ensure that Americans can be confident their votes will be cast as intended and counted as cast. We promote auditable, accessible and resilient voting for all eligible citizens. Our board of directors and board of advisors include some of the top computer scientists, cyber security experts and statisticians working in the election administration arena as well as former and current elections officials. Verified Voting has no financial interest in the type of equipment used. Our goal is for every jurisdiction in the United States to have secure and verifiable elections.

There are two basic kinds of electronic voting systems in use in Pennsylvania: Direct recording electronic (DRE) or optical scan systems. Both types of systems are computers, and both are prepared in similar ways. The primary difference is that an optical scan system incorporates a voter-marked paper ballot, marked either with a pen or pencil or with a ballot marking device and that ballot is retained for recounts or audits. Optical scan systems leverage the speed of the computer to report unofficial results quickly. The presence and availability of that paper ballot provides a trustworthy record of voter intent and allows jurisdictions to monitor their system for problems, detect any problems, (either hacking or error), respond to them and recover by, if necessary, hand counting the paper ballots. Seventeen counties in Pennsylvania already benefit from the security protection of paper ballots.

Texas: ‘Election drainage’: ACLU says Bexar County inaccurately translated ‘election runoff’ in online Spanish material | San Antonio Express News

Spanish-speaking voters in Bexar County looking for information online about the race to replace ex-Sen. Carlos Uresti were no doubt startled to find there was “election drainage” coming up instead of a runoff. That’s one of the bad translations created by Google Translate on the county’s elections site — it was still there Tuesday — prompting the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas to write a letter to Bexar officials, warning that the county could be in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act. Jacque Callanen, the Bexar County elections administrator, said all of the county’s departments use Google Translate online. The translation engine offers more than 100 language choices, from Albanian to Zulu and even Latin.

Wisconsin: 21,000 Milwaukee residents will get their voter registrations reinstated before the election | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

About 21,000 Milwaukee residents who were cut from the voter rolls last year will regain their voter registration before the Nov. 6 election. The state Elections Commission on Tuesday unanimously agreed to allow local clerks to reinstate the voter registration for thousands of people who were taken off the voter rolls last year. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said he planned to reinstate the registrations of about 21,000 people. The Milwaukee Elections Commission will work with the state agency on the issue. “These are people who never should have been dropped from the rolls in the first place,” Barrett said. 

Cameroon: Cameroon lurches toward election amid separatist conflict | Associated Press

John Nlom has five children and wants to keep them alive. When machete-wielding men attacked a nearby school this month in a suspected strike against the teaching of French, wounded students were rushed to hospitals while frightened parents decided to flee. Nlom and his family piled onto one of the dozens of buses now leaving daily from the capital of Cameroon’s Southwest Region, joining thousands of civilians escaping bloody fighting between the government and Anglophone separatists who vow to disrupt next month’s presidential elections.

Canada: Trudeau says Canada does redistricting better than we do. Is he right? | The Washington Post

Speaking Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an offhand swipe at the United States’ notoriously gerrymandered congressional districts. “Our electoral district boundaries are determined every year — every 10 years by fully independent commissions,” Trudeau said, referring to Canada’s 338 House of Commons districts. “So you get actual, you know, reasonable-looking electoral districts, and not some of the zigzags that you guys have.” Ouch. Here’s the thing, though: Trudeau has a point.

Japan: Claims of voter manipulation cast shadow over Okinawa poll | The Asahi Shimbun

Early voting in the governor race here is surging as rumors swirl online that employers are pressuring workers to vote for certain candidates and provide photographic evidence of their choices at the ballot box. Some Internet users have posted allegations of such interference, including pictures, prompting alarmed lawyers in Okinawa Prefecture to call on the prefectural election administration committee to impose a ban on taking photographs inside polling stations. “It is a grave situation violating freedom of voting and ballot secrecy,” one of the lawyers said.

Macedonia: Threat of New Cold War Looms Large in Balkan Vote | Bloomberg

Arguments over Brexit, the rise of nationalism and how to deal with Russia are consuming Europe, but there’s one dispute that’s been edging toward a resolution – and it’s in a region where there’s much at stake for the world order. The Republic of Macedonia will hold a referendum on Sept. 30 on changing the former Yugoslav state’s name to Republic of North Macedonia. The insertion of the geographical denominator is key to settling a 27-year-old row with Greece, which claims the country misappropriated the ancient kingdom of Macedonia in northern Greece. Polls show most people support the change. The Balkans is a theater of tug-of-war between the West and Russia and resolving the dispute would be a rare victory in a volatile region where nations still struggle to mend ties going back to the bloody conflicts of the 1990s. Greece has agreed to drop its objection to the Republic of Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO as part of an agreement struck in June.

Malaysia: Dump e-voting for manual system, urges Pahang PKR chief | New Straits Times

A manual voting system would be better for the PKR elections this time around, as the e-voting system which had been used in the abortive polling in Penang and Kedah appeared to have many weaknesses. State PKR chairman Datuk Fauzi Abdul Rahman said this was his personal opinion on the matter, adding that the e-voting system was perhaps better used for the future. He said it was brave of PKR to introduce the e-voting system, but it now appeared to not be so appropriate due to several obstacles, such as the slow Internet speeds in some areas.

Maldives: Abdulla Yameen concedes defeat in Maldives presidential election | Al Jazeera

Maldives’ President Abdulla Yameen has conceded defeat after a surprise election win for the opposition in a poll that was billed as a test for democracy in the troubled island nation. “The citizens of the Maldives had their say … and I accept that result,” Yameen said in a televised speech on Monday. The 59-year-old, who presided over a five-year crackdown on dissent, said he met with president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih at the president’s office in Male shortly before his speech. “I have congratulated him,” Yameen said.

Philippines: Marcos vs Robredo: Shading thresholds set aside in sorting out ballots | Rappler

The Supreme Court, as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), recently ruled to do away with the contentious shading thresholds as basis for segregating ballots in the protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr against Vice President Leni Robredo.

In a step that could fast-track the recount, justices of the tribunal unanimously agreed to refer to election returns (ERs) – the document reflecting totals from polling precincts – in determining how the votes would be credited to either candidates. “The Head Revisors are hereby directed to refer to the election returns to verity the total number of votes as read and counted by the Vote Counting Machines,” the 21-page resolution, promulgated on Tuesday, September 18, read. The resolution amends Rule 62 (Votes of the Parties) of the PET Revisor’s Guide, “effective immediately.” Its amended part now reads: “The segregation and classification of ballots shall be done by referring to the Election Return (ER) generated by the machine used in the elections.” Debate ends on 25% and 50% ballot shading thresholds: Marcos, who lost to Robredo by a narrow 263,473 votes in the 2016 vice presidential election, has identified 3 pilot provinces in his protest: Camarines Sur, Iloilo, and Negros Oriental – the first one being Robredo’s home province, where she won overwhelmingly.

Russia: In a first for Russia, Moscow agrees with locals that their election was rigged | CS Monitor

It is fairly common to hear public complaints that fraud is boosting pro-Kremlin candidates in Russian elections. But it is exceedingly rare to see Moscow authorities lend solid support to such complaints. That’s just what occurred in the far eastern province of Primorsky Krai, or Primorye, last week, after a “miraculous” last-minute voting surge in favor of the Kremlin-backed incumbent governor, Andrei Tarasenko, handed him a narrow victory over his Communist opponent, Andrei Ishchenko. The Communists, who say this sort of thing happens to them all the time in distant regions, took their usual course of staging some street protests and filing a lawsuit in the local court. Even they were surprised when the Central Electoral Commission in Moscow declared that the election was marred by violations and the results must be annulled. It’s the first time in post-Soviet history that a local election has been overturned.

Verified Voting in the News: Blockchain-enabled voting has started in West Virginia | StateScoop

est Virginia residents living overseas have started casting their ballots this November’s elections using a mobile app that runs on blockchain encryption, state officials announced Monday. The votes that have come in so far are the first general-election ballots in the state’s experiment with a new form of voting technology that has drawn scrutiny from election-security analysts. Overseas voters started using the app for the November elections starting last Friday. … But the prospect of casting votes with a mobile app has been roundly criticized by people who study election technology. Marian Schneider, the president of Verified Voting, told StateScoop last month that ballots submitted over the internet face the same threats as other online transactions. “All the problems with internet voting are present in the app West Virginia is using,” she said.

Pennsylvania: Panel urges aid for counties to buy new voting machines | The Times

A commission studying voting machine vulnerabilities in Pennsylvania released an interim report on Tuesday that recommends the state and federal governments help counties purchase more secure machines in time for elections in 2019. “The vast majority of Pennsylvania’s voting machines are vulnerable to electronic manipulation and have no paper backups to ensure the integrity of elections,” David Hickton, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, Policy and Security, and a former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh, said in a statement. Hickton and Grove City College President Paul McNulty assembled the Blue Ribbon Commission on Pennsylvania’s Election Security earlier this year to, according to the statement, “assess the cybersecurity of Pennsylvania’s election architecture, including voting machines and back-end systems, registration systems and resiliency and recovery in the instance of a cyberattack.”

National: Risk Limiting Audits (RLAs) Gain Traction With State & Local Election Officials In Advance Of 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections | Free & Fair

To guard against the multitude of election security threats ahead of the 2018 U.S. midterms, state and local jurisdictions are turning to Risk Limiting Audits (RLAs). Two of the more notable RLA initiatives – State of Colorado and Orange County, Ca. – leverage software developed by election technology startup Free & Fair. A Risk Limiting Audit is an evidence-based method that checks the integrity of election tabulation outcomes by comparing a random manual recount sampling of paper ballots to their corresponding digital versions. RLAs are better and more efficient than the random post-election audits used by jurisdictions today, because they generally require a smaller number of ballots to be audited but still provide a much higher statistical probability that the outcome is correct. In November 2017, Colorado completed the first U.S. statewide set of risk-limiting post-election audits in binding elections – with all 56 Colorado counties that had a November election passing. State of Colorado recently earned the Government Innovation Award for its pioneering use of RLAs in binding elections. Free & Fair, which offers transparent, cyber secure and verifiable election systems, developed the software tools for this first U.S. statewide implementation of RLAs beginning with the November 2017 general election.

National: It’s National Voter Registration Day: How to make your voice heard | ABC

At a time when our nation seems so polarized by politics, National Voter Registration Day is something we can all get behind, no matter who we’re voting for. Ahead of the midterm elections, “Good Morning America” is highlighting some ways you can make sure your voice is heard, and how some organizations are stepping up to show there is no excuse to not hit the polls this November. …  Stephanie Young, a spokesperson for the nonpartisan organization When We All Vote, which is co-chaired by former first lady Michelle Obama, told “GMA” that it is important to make voting a “collective” activity.

California: Taking A Page From UPS, State To Allow Voters To Track Mail-In Ballots | KPBS

A bill recently signed by Gov. Brown designates the California Secretary of State to come up with the tracking system that will be optional for counties, including San Diego, to use. San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu said infrastructure would need to be built to use the vote by mail tracking system locally. Vu said the county will consider it. Vu added that already voters can check online when their ballot was issued and received. This new tracking system would allow voters to get a text or email about their ballot. Notifications would come when ballots are sent in the mail and once they have been picked up and officially counted. The system must be in place by 2020, and the bill designates the secretary of state to create it.

Florida: State Supreme Court Asked To Block Amendments From Ballot That Allegedly Violate First Amendment | WLRN

Arguing that the measures would violate First Amendment rights, an attorney for two plaintiffs urged the Florida Supreme Court  to uphold a lower-court ruling that would block three proposed constitutional amendments from going before voters in November.  Attorney Joseph Little filed a 50-page brief last Friday after Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office last week requested that the Supreme Court allow the ballot measures to move forward. The Supreme Court has not said whether it will hold oral arguments in the case, which stems from ballot proposals approved this year by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

Missouri: Lawsuit from liberal group challenging voter ID law being heard in Jefferson City | Missourinet

Arguments in a lawsuit challenging Missouri’s voter ID law are being made at the Cole County Circuit Court in Jefferson City.  Hearings before Judge Richard Callahan began Monday morning. The complaint was brought on behalf of 71-one-year-old Mildred Gutierrez, a Lee’s Summit resident.  Gutierrez was required to sign a sworn statement under penalty of perjury because she did not have a valid photo ID in order to vote in the November 2017 election. Priorities USA, a national progressive organization that promotes voting rights, filed the lawsuit, claiming the law is unconstitutional and creates an undue burden for voters lacking the required identification.  The suit contends the sworn statement contains “confusing and threatening provisions that discourage qualified voters from attempting to exercise their right to vote without photo ID.”

Illinois: Fellow Democrats rap Jesse White for automatic voter registration holdup | Chicago Sun-Times

Three Democratic state representatives joined voting rights advocates Monday to criticize Secretary of State Jesse White for failing to implement automatic voter registration in time for the November election — but the critics and White disagreed on whether the matter will wind up in court. Rep. Robyn Gabel, D-Evanston, Rep. Theresa Mah, D-Chicago, and Rep. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago, led the news conference at the Thompson Center criticizing White, who is currently seeking his sixth term. White’s rollout of the program was initially planned for July, and would have been complete ahead of November’s general election. But after delays, it is now expected to be in place by mid-year 2019, according to White’s office.

North Dakota: Appeals court ruling a setback for Native Americans challenging voter ID law | Grand Forks Herald

A federal appeals court halted part of a lower court’s ruling in the long-running battle over North Dakota’s voter identification laws Monday, Sept. 24, citing the potential for fraud in the state’s elections. In a split decision representing a setback for Native Americans challenging the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit suspended a federal judge’s April ruling mandating that the state accept IDs and supplemental documentation with a current mailing address. The suspension, known as a stay, will be in effect while the court case moves forward. The appeals court noted North Dakota is the only state without voter registration and has a “legitimate interest in requiring identification and a showing of current residence to prevent voter fraud and to safeguard voter confidence.” It said the state would be “irreparably harmed” without a stay as requested by Secretary of State Al Jaeger, a Republican.

Puerto Rico: Presidential Vote Issue Takes Center Stage | Caribbean Business

Following a petition filed 12 years ago, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS) has finally agreed to hear the petition from former Gov. Pedro Rosselló and pro-statehood lawyer Gregorio Igartúa on Puerto Ricans’ inability to vote for U.S. presidential or congressional elections. However, the United States is objecting to the request, stating that while it is true Puerto Ricans do not vote in U.S. elections, it does not constitute a violation of the American Declaration of the Rights & Duties of Man, an international human rights declaration adopted in 1948. The commission, which meets only four times a year, holds its next meeting Oct. 5 in Boulder, Colo. Previously, in 2003, the IACHR ruled that the United States violated the declaration by denying Washington, D.C. the opportunity to participate in Congress.

West Virginia: Temporary justices dismiss petitions challenging Gov. Justice’s appointments to West Virginia Supreme Court | WV News

Five circuit court judges temporarily appointed to the state’s Supreme Court of Appeals dismissed two petitions Monday morning that challenged whether Gov. Jim Justice was allowed to appoint two prominent Republicans to fill vacancies on the court. The Governor appointed former House Speaker Tim Armstead and current U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins to temporarily fill two vacancies on the court. The two men are also running in the November general election to finish out the rest of those two terms. “What you have to do here today couldn’t be more important, even with the short deadline. Our state is in a constitutional crisis,” said Teresa Toriseva, counsel for one of the petitioners.

Cameroon: Thousands Flee in Cameroon as Separatists Battle for New Nation | The New York Times

Bullets flew constantly in her hometown. Her two young children haven’t attended school in two years. She abandoned the shop she owns after soldiers arrived and started shooting. One day she saw the corpses of seven of her neighbors. Now, Pamela Njoke, 38, is among the thousands of people fleeing the English-speaking areas of Cameroon, where separatists are battling to form a new nation and the population is bracing for a surge in violence before a presidential election next month. “People are dying everywhere,” said Ms. Njoke, who waited four hours recently amid a crush of people seeking space on a packed bus to take her and her children, ages 5 and 9, out of Bamenda, her hometown, to the safety of the capital, Yaoundé. “In short, it’s horrible,” she said.

Canada: ‘No regrets’: world’s biggest election loser runs for 96th time in Canada | The Guardian

The first time John Turmel ran in an election, it was 1979 and his primary aim was to legalise gambling. While his door-knocking efforts earned him just 193 votes, the race marked the start of an obsession that would eventually launch the Canadian into the record books for having contested, and lost, the highest number of elections in the world.  Some four decades on, Turmel has contested 95 elections, throwing his hat into the ring for jobs ranging from city councillor to MP. Often running as an independent, the number of votes he receives fluctuates wildly, from 11 to 4,500. Long-winded and prone to campaign ideas that fly in the face of science – such as describing climate change as a hoax – the perennial fringe candidate has racked up a string of bruising headlines over the years. “Super loser fails again,” read one article, while a recent radio appearance dubbed him “politics’ biggest loser”.

eSwatini: Elections were neither free nor fair – observer groups | The Citizen

Three official observer groups said eSwatini’s recent elections, although peaceful, were neither free nor fair. Political parties were banned from taking part in last Friday’s elections in the kingdom formerly known as Swaziland. Voters are only allowed to elect 59 members of the House of Assembly, while the king appoints a further 10. None of the 30 members of the eSwatini Senate are elected by the people, Swazimedia.blogspot reported on Tuesday. The king chooses the prime minister and government ministers as well as top public servants and judges, Swazimedia.blogspot reported further.

Macedonia: ‘Fake News’ Exports Now For Domestic Consumption | RFE/RL

In Macedonia’s shadowy “fake news” industry, it seems that what goes around comes around. As 1.8 million eligible voters in that Balkan state mull their options in a September 30 referendum on changing the country’s name to end a long dispute with Greece, the country that found itself accused of helping flood U.S. voters with bogus stories in the 2016 presidential election that brought Donald Trump to power is itself awash in a social-media influence campaign. “Boycott the referendum.” “Don’t destroy Macedonia.” “Zaev is a traitor.” Those are just some of the messages analysts say are circulating on fake social-media profiles in a bid by opponents of the “yes” vote encouraged by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev that could open the door to NATO and European Union membership.

Maldives: Opposition Declares Election Victory | New York Times

The Maldives, the isolated scattering of islands caught in a geopolitical struggle between China, India and the West, were thrust into more uncertainty Sunday when voters appeared to have ousted the country’s autocratic president. With votes still being tallied, local news organizations reported that Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, the opposition candidate, had beaten President Abdulla Yameen. Mr. Solih won 58 percent of the vote with about 97 percent of ballots counted, according to the independent news website Transparency Maldives, an election watchdog, said he had won “by a decisive margin.” As Mr. Solih declared victory and his supporters danced in the street, observers held their breath as they waited to see what Mr. Yameen would do next.

National: If There Is Meddling With The Midterms, Local Voting Officials May Be To Blame | Buzzfeed

The good news is that the thousands of county and municipal governments that administer elections across the US have a variety of effective cybersecurity programs available to them, free of charge. The bad news is that the vast majority don’t use any of them. In the complex debate about US election security, the focus tends to be on campaigns, parties, states, voting equipment manufacturers, and national trends. But the literal administration of elections, like the printing of ballots, coordinating poll workers, and organizing polling places, falls to more than 10,000 county clerks and local municipalities, according to the nonprofit organization Verified Voting. And those are the people the Department of Homeland Security would like to sign up for its cybersecurity program.

National: Thousands at risk from rightwing push to purge eligible voters from US rolls | The Guardian

In June last year, Luis, a resident of Virginia, was astonished to discover that his name and personal details, including home address, had been posted on the internet by a group known as the Public Interest Legal Foundation (Pilf). Luis’s data had been released by the group, along with hundreds of other names, as an appendix to Pilf’s two-part report called “Alien Invasion”. The front cover showed a UFO hovering ominously over a billboard on which the famous tourism slogan “Virginia is for lovers” had been photoshopped to read: “Virginia is for aliens”. In lurid language, Pilf claimed that it had uncovered proof that “large numbers of ineligible aliens are registering to vote and casting ballots”. It warned its readers: “Your vote is at risk. New alien voters are being added to the rolls month after month, and swift changes must be made to ensure that only Americans are choosing American leaders.” The only problem was that Luis, in common with dozens of other Virginians on the list posted by Pilf, was not in fact an “alien”. He was born in Los Angeles and has always enjoyed US citizenship, with full rights to vote since the age of 18. He also happens to be a federal employee of the US immigration service. Yet here he was, his name attached to a report in which Pilf claimed to have discovered more than 5,000 non-citizens in Virginia who had cast 7,474 votes – every one a criminal act amounting to a felony.

Editorials: A clarion call to restore protections of the Voting Rights Act | Los Angeles Times

Five years after the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has confirmed predictions that the ruling would hobble enforcement of that landmark law. In addition to prohibiting racial discrimination in voting nationwide, the Voting Rights Act requires states and localities with a history of discrimination —most of them in the South —to “pre-clear” changes in their election procedures with the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court. In its 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder, however, the court declared unconstitutional the formula Congress had established to determine which states would have to submit to pre-clearance, effectively shutting pre-clearance down.