Author - Douglas W. Jones

Verified Voting Blog: Four ways to defend democracy and protect every voter’s ballot | Douglas W. Jones

This article was originally posted at phys.org.
As voters prepare to cast their ballots in the November midterm elections, it’s clear that U.S. voting is under electronic attack. Russian government hackers probed some states’ computer systems in the runup to the 2016 presidential election and are likely to do so again – as might hackers from other countries or nongovernmental groups interested in sowing discord in American politics.

Fortunately, there are ways to defend elections. Some of them will be new in some places, but these defenses are not particularly difficult nor expensive, especially when judged against the value of public confidence in democracy. I served on the Iowa board that examines voting machines from 1995 to 2004 and on the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the United States Election Assistance Commission from 2009 to 2012, and Barbara Simons and I coauthored the 2012 book “Broken Ballots.”

Election officials have an important role to play in protecting election integrity. Citizens, too, need to ensure their local voting processes are safe. There are two parts to any voting system: the computerized systems tracking voters’ registrations and the actual process of voting – from preparing ballots through results tallying and reporting. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Some modest proposals for voter signature verification

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz proposes that we use some kind of electronic scanning system to evaluate voter signatures. I have no idea how good signature comparison software is these days, but I do I know that my own signature isn’t very consistent. Would automatic signature matching software really work well enough to recognize that all of my signatures are mine while rejecting forgeries? I’m skeptical. If one person’s absentee ballot is incorrectly rejected because someone or some software thinks their signature does not match, that would seem to me to be a violation of that voter’s civil rights. If signature matching has a higher likelihood of failing for one group of people than for another, then signature verification can be said to systematically deny voting rights to that group. Read More

Verified Voting Blog: Problems come when using databases to disqualify voters

During their news conference Friday, Iowa’s Republican secretary of state, Matt Schultz, and Democratic attorney general, Tom Miller, presented evidence suggesting there are non-citizens who have registered to vote illegally and that some of these illegal registrants have voted. Clearly, further investigation is called for, and if indeed these people have voted, they should be prosecuted. I am worried, however, about the effort to run a database matching effort to ferret out and remove non-citizens from the voting rolls. The central problem here is that we have no requirement of registering to vote under the same name as we use for other purposes.

For a driver’s license, you present a birth certificate, so your name on the driver’s license will match your birth certificate. To register to vote, you can use your employer ID card and a phone bill. As it turns out, my voter registration is in the same name as my driver’s license. That’s because I used my license to register about 32 years ago. On the other hand, my employer’s ID card lists my name differently (just a middle initial). I could have registered to vote with that card, had I wanted to. There is no legal requirement that I use the same name everywhere, and in fact, I use a variety of names and nicknames:

  • Most people know me as Doug Jones.
  • Some know me as Douglas Jones.
  • To my employer, I’m Douglas W. Jones.
  • And on my driver’s license, I’m Douglas Warren Jones.

I’m not trying to confuse people. It’s just that, at various times, I’ve used different and obvious variations on my full name. Read More