Pamela Smith

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Texas: Harris County, Texas, Officials Won’t Say Whether Election Systems Were Targeted | Government Technology

Despite widespread alarm over the breadth of Russian cyber attacks on state and local election systems last year, including revelations of Dallas County being targeted, Harris County officials are refusing to say whether hackers similarly took aim at the nation’s third-largest county. Releasing information on whether Harris County election systems saw attacks from Russian hackers would threaten the county’s cyber security by emboldening hackers to further target local systems, county officials said this week.  The county’s argument was dismissed by experts, who said the secrecy is unnecessary, and could actually downplay the seriousness of the threat and the resources needed to combat it. “There’s this concept in security called ‘security through obscurity,’ sort of, if they don’t know about it they won’t come after it,” said Pamela Smith, a consultant at Verified Voting, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that promotes voting integrity. “But to really have robust security, you want people to be able to know that it’s there … I think what the public wants to know is that you’re aware of the threat and you’re taking steps to mitigate.”

Full Article: Harris County, Texas, Officials Won't Say Whether Election Systems Were Targeted.

Voting Blogs: Exit Interview: Verified Voting’s Pam Smith | electionlineWeekly

This interview with Pam Smith was posted electionlineWeekly. on July 6, 2017.

In recent weeks we’ve said good-bye to some leaders in the elections field and this week completes our unfortunate trifecta of departing “election geeks”. Pam Smith has stepped down as the president of Verified Voting. Smith joined Verified Voting in 2004, and served as its president for 10 years. She was an outspoken advocate for the nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that focuses on accuracy, transparency and verifiability of elections. If you had a question about election technology or audits, Smith was the go-to source. Good luck Pam. We will miss your willingness to go on the record and talk about voting technology.

You are leaving the field at an interesting time, to say the least, why now?

Why, is something going on? Just kidding. Actually, I hope I’m not leaving altogether. I started out as an advocate before I came to Verified Voting, and I’ll likely stay one. And as anyone knows who works in elections, once it’s in you, you can’t ever really let it go!

But your point is a good one. Enormous progress has been made in moving toward getting the tools in place that enable officials around the country to demonstrate the correctness of election outcomes.

The work isn’t done yet. But what’s different today from when I started is that on major networks, in op-ed columns, in legislatures and around the coffee table, there’s awareness that we need to take steps to ensure our election systems are reliable. People are saying it out loud. It feels like the effort has a full head of steam now, and that was always one of my goals.

Full Article: electionlineWeekly.

National: Hacking US Voting Machines Is Child’s Play | CleanTechnica

… J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan, and Ph.D. student Matt Bernhard have assembled a number of reasons that they say render US voting machines susceptible to outside interference that could affect the accuracy of their tallies. In 2002, after the chaotic presidential election two years before, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act. The legislation provided funding for several private electronic voting machine manufacturers, including Diebold. Voting machines today fall predominantly into two categories. Optical scanners can be small, like the ones used at local polls or huge, or like the ones used at central voting centers to read absentee ballots. Direct Recording Electronic machines are touch screen devices that may or may not have a printer attached that makes a hard copy of the votes cast so they can be verified. According to Verified Voting, more than 20% of the DREs in use in the United States lack printers, making it impossible to detect fraudulent activity. “These machines are just so poorly engineered, the only real way to secure them is to destroy them and start over,” says the University of Michigan’s Matt Bernhard. In fact, their operating systems are often based on obsolete platforms such as Windows 98 or Vista.

Full Article: Hacking US Voting Machines Is Child's Play | CleanTechnica.

National: Experts say Trump’s voter fraud commission is a solution in need of a problem | Sinclair Broadcast Group

On Thursday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order to create a new commission to investigate his claims of widespread voter fraud, reigniting the storm of skepticism that has surrounded his past allegations of election interference and rigging. … Fact-checkers, state election authorities and lawmakers from both political parties have largely dismissed Trump’s claims that of election fraud since November 8. Immediately after the announcement of the new commission, some suggested that the administration will be using taxpayer resources to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. Other critics suspect even more nefarious motives, suggesting that the panel’s leadership and its mission may actually be an effort to justify stricter voting laws that could suppress the vote.

Full Article: Experts say Trump's voter fraud commission is a solution in need of a problem | KBAK.

National: The Coming Voting Rights Battle: Access vs. Accountability | WhoWhatWhy

For many years, the voting integrity community has grappled with the question of how to accommodate voters with disabilities without making elections less secure. There might finally be a solution on the horizon. One-sixth of the American electorate — over 35 million eligible voters — is disabled. For many of them, simple tasks that many of us take for granted — say, putting pen to paper — is, at best, terribly inconvenient, and, at worst, impossible. This is why the disabled prefer direct-recording electronic voting machines (DREs), which advertise handicap-friendly features like touchscreens and audio-enabled ballots. But these machines often do not leave a paper trail, and are therefore considered less reliable by the voting-integrity community. This debate has created a rift among the advocates, forcing each side to think long and hard about how exactly to define a “fair election.” For many advocates, auditability — the degree to which an election outcome can be verified (audited) independent of the original vote-tabulating system — is the most important standard. According to this point of view, the only way to assure voters that elections have not been compromised (by incidental code hiccups or intentional tampering) is to create total system transparency — which means physical ballots and the paper trails they make possible. This is considered the ultimate safeguard against election tampering.

Full Article: The Coming Voting Rights Battle: Access vs. Accountability - WhoWhatWhy.

National: Election systems security under increasing scrutiny | GCN

Between outdated technology, Russian hacking threats, tight budgets, the president’s promises to investigate voter fraud and incomplete information about federal assistance for securing voting systems, local elections officials have their hands full. In Bexar County, Texas, which is saddled with the oldest elections technology in the state, officials scour eBay for Zip disks, the storage media the county’s system uses to help merge results.”I’d be dead in the water without our technical support people looking online to buy the pieces and parts to keep us going,” Jacque Callanen, the county’s elections administrator told the Associated Press. Similarly outdated systems are common across the country, but municipalities probably will not be able to foot the bill for new systems without help from their state legislatures, which are also strapped for cash.

Full Article: Election systems security under increasing scrutiny -- GCN.

Editorials: 3 Reforms for America’s Vulnerable Democracy in Light of the 2016 Election | Robert Schlesinger/US News

The end is near. All remaining political disputes – recounts, in this case – must be wrapped up by Tuesday, six days before Dec. 19 when the members of the Electoral College meet in their respective states and ratify Donald Trump’s election to the presidency. The last procedural twitches of controversy from the 2016 election, in other words, are drawing to their inevitable close. But the book closing on the 2016 elections is a good time to take stock and consider reforms that this year has made painfully clear the system needs. After all, this election has inarguably highlighted serious vulnerabilities in the political system that need to be remedied because they are not unique to this year. I’ve got three common-sense ideas on that score. The first two reforms we ought to undertake are interrelated and have to do with ensuring the security, and thus the legitimacy, of the vote, whether from error – manmade or mechanical – or malicious attacks.

Full Article: 3 Reforms for America's Vulnerable Democracy in Light of the 2016 Election | The Report: Opinion | US News.

National: Fears of hacked election ebb in quiet, watchful night | USA Today

Despite concerns about possible attempts to hack or otherwise tamper with the U.S. election, voting appears to have gone smoothly, with no attacks or intrusions. The Department of Homeland Security said it had no reports of election-related cyber breaches. …  “All the discussions this year about security gave states another measure of protection,” said Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for elections accuracy. That work also helped minimize the effects caused by breakdowns of voting machines or crashes of registration databases. In Smith’s experience, the resiliency of the voting system after something goes wrong is what keeps small problems small. For example in Colorado, the state’s electronic voter registration system went down for 29 minutes, from 2:47 p.m. to 3:16 p.m. local time, according to Secretary of State’s spokeswoman Lynn Bartels. Voting continued during the outage, though while the registration system was out, clerks were not be able to process mail-in ballots and in-person voters had to use provisional ballots. Once the system was back up and running normal voting resumed. “It’s very possible that things like what happened in Colorado could have been worse had there not been this emphasis on checking these systems. Instead of it being 29 minutes it could have been much longer,” Verified Voting’s Smith said.

Full Article: Fears of hacked election ebb in quiet, watchful night.

North Carolina: With broken voting machines, a North Carolina city is doing ‘everything by hand’ | Cleveland Plain Dealer

Technology to check in voters was not working working properly in Durham, North Carolina, this morning, forcing elections officials to handle check-in by hand. This is just one of a handful of areas with machines or technology breaking down, and problems have been reported in Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina, too, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University and the Verified Voting Foundation. At this early point, the problems should not interfere with the ability to get accurate vote counts, authorities said. “We have a high degree of confidence that the ballots will be able to be counted” by the end of the day, Verified Voting president Pamela Smith told cleveland.com during a conference call with reporters and a coalition of voting rights groups.

Full Article: With broken voting machines, a North Carolina city is doing 'everything by hand' | cleveland.com.

National: Here’s how hackers can wreak havoc on Election Day | Recode

Whatever the outcome Tuesday, there’s one thing that could very well happen: Accusations that the election has been rigged and the results falsified. This is extremely unlikely — voter fraud is more rare than being struck by lightning, according to the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. But the 2016 presidential race has been riddled with leaks perpetrated by hackers who wormed their way into servers to try to undermine the election. And though there’s little precedent, the truth is that interference by hackers tomorrow is totally possible. That doesn’t mean hackers are necessarily able to alter the election results, but they could sow fear and mayhem that lead to claims of rigging after Election Day. Here’s how. “Most voting systems are not designed to be connected to the internet for their operation, and because of that there’s no easy remote way in,” said Pamela Smith of VerifiedVoting.org, a nonpartisan group that promotes accuracy and transparency at the polls. Officials like to point out that this is a security feature. But, Smith says, that doesn’t rule out concern for an insider threat.

Full Article: Here’s how hackers can wreak havoc on Election Day - Recode.

National: Security vendor demonstrates hack of U.S. e-voting machine | Computerworld

A hacker armed with a $25 PCMCIA card can, within a few minutes, change the vote totals on an aging electronic voting machine that is now in limited use in 13 U.S. states, a cybersecurity vendor has demonstrated. The hack by security vendor Cylance — which released a video of it Friday — caught the attention of noted National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, but other critics of e-voting security dismissed the vulnerability as nothing new. The Cylance hack demonstrated a theoretical vulnerability described in research going back a decade, the company noted. The hack is “not surprising,” Pamela Smith, president of elections security advocacy group Verified Voting, said by email. “The timing of the release is a little odd.” … The Cylance demonstration was “not new and badly timed,” said Joe Kiniry, a security researcher and CEO at Free and Fair, an election technology developer. “This kind of attack has been demonstrated on almost all of the widely deployed machines used today.”

Full Article: Security vendor demonstrates hack of U.S. e-voting machine | Computerworld.

New Jersey: Could outdated voting machines leave New Jersey vulnerable to fraud? | News 12

When New Jersey voters go to the polls Tuesday, they’ll cast their votes on 20-year-old voting machines with no verifiable paper trail. Some voting rights advocates tell Kane In Your Corner that’s a combination that could leave the state powerless to conduct an effective audit if something goes wrong. “I think what’s really important is to prove not only to the winners that they won, but to the losers that they lost,” says Pamela Smith, president of the nonprofit group Verified Voting. The group favors optically scanned paper ballots, now used in several states, including New York. The ballots can be scanned by machines, but hand-inspected if questions arise. …  New Jersey election director Robert Giles, however, insists the state’s current voting machines, primarily comprised of AVC Advantage machines introduced in 1996, have proven to be reliable. “To this date, there’s been no evidence of the machines malfunctioning to the extent that there’s been an election questioned,” Giles says. Smith questions how the state can be so certain. Without paper copies to audit, she says “you can run the numbers again, but there’s no way to be sure the equipment is working correctly.”

National: ‘We don’t want voters to be terrified’: Officials seek to allay fears of a ‘rigged’ election | The Washington Post

In an election one side claims is “rigged” as the other was apparently targeted by Russian hackers and Wikileaks, voters may be concerned that some entity will alter the results on Nov. 8. It’s possible, according to some experts, although the likelihood of a significant attack on ballot boxes is exceedingly low. “Everything is hackable,” said Jeremy Epstein, a senior computer scientist at SRI International, a nonprofit California-based think tank. “Everything could have bugs in it.” Can you rig a U.S. presidential election? Experts say it’s basically impossible. On one hand, the U.S. election system is hard to sabotage. Anyone trying to swing the electoral college would have to meddle with voting machines in jurisdictions from Alaska to Maine — or at least about a dozen swing states. “You’d have to be pretty good at microtargeting,” said Jamil N. Jaffer, director of the Homeland and National Security Law Program at George Mason University. “To have an impact, you would have to know where it’s going to be close.” And different voting technology means different weaknesses. The District, Maryland and many counties in Virginia use paper ballots — a gold standard for election-watchers. These ballots are scanned and counted electronically, leaving behind a hard copy of each voter’s preferences. “It seems old-school, but if you have good security practices and a good ballot chain of custody . . . it’s more indelible than bits and bytes in the ether,” said Pamela Smith, president of the nonpartisan Verified Voting, a nonprofit that works for fair elections.

Full Article: ‘We don’t want voters to be terrified’: Officials seek to allay fears of a ‘rigged’ election | The Washington Post.

National: Cybersecurity Experts Discuss Hacking Election Technology | The Harvard Crimson

Panelists at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum discussed the vulnerability of U.S. election systems to cyber threats Thursday. … Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a non-partisan NGO that promotes the transparency and accuracy of elections, opened the forum with an overview of technology in U.S. elections. According to Smith, technology used in elections, such as voting machines or electronic paper ballot scanners, is vulnerable to hackers. … Smith also described two hacker breaches in the voter registration systems in Arizona and Illinois, which showed that the attacks were not limited to foreign countries. According to Smith, while a foreign power altering vote counts to the point of changing the winner remains improbable, the vote count could still be altered. “This is not so much theoretical at this point. This is happening,” Smith said.

Full Article: Cybersecurity Experts Discuss Hacking Election Technology | News | The Harvard Crimson.

National: We’re Not Ready for Online Voting | Gizmodo

As we move forward, online voting seems shimmeringly imminent, particularly because virtually everything we do, we already do online. But voting is far different than banking, shopping, and communicating. It’s trickier and more complex. However precariously, voting in the United States is hoisted up as an essential part of the political system. In theory, casting ballots gives ordinary citizens a means of control—change is always just one election away. It’s crucial for voters to believe that the mechanisms through which their views are delivered are legitimate, and if those mechanisms are tinkered with or updated, that trust should be preserved. As it stands, there are legitimate concerns involved with current and near-future voting technology. There’s still a long way to go, and with something as vital as voting, there is an infinitely small margin for error. … “You need physical security for your ballots,” Pamela Smith, Verified Voting’s president, says. “Let’s say you return a ballot by email. You’ll have a printed record, but it might not match, if something happened with it in transit.”

Full Article: We're Not Ready for Online Voting.

Illinois: Election officials work to protect your vote from high tech threats | WLS-TV

On Chicago’s South Side is a sprawling secure warehouse where election officials are testing every single piece of Chicago’s voting equipment to make sure it’s working right. “We know our reputation, we know what happened 50-60 years ago and we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Jim Allen, Chicago Board of Election Commissioners. But as voting technology changes new threats emerge. “You’re always concerned that hackers could try to target any part of your system but you try to take enough steps to mitigate the risk,” Allen said. Chicago’s answer to high-tech threats of hackers attempting to manipulate votes is actually a very old technology: paper. Each of the city’s electronic voting machines has a paper record so that voters can check their ballots before they’re cast and so that there’s a hard copy that can be examined in the case of a problem.

Full Article: Election officials work to protect your vote from high tech threats | abc7chicago.com.

North Carolina: Are there voting-fraud risks? Sure, but the chances of widespread rigging are low | News & Observer

Despite fears of Election Day mayhem, the 2016 presidential race is likely to be the most secure in years, according to experts. That’s because the way America casts and counts its vote is increasingly driven by newer and more reliable technology, they say. “I don’t think we’d be here if we did believe it was rigged,” Amy Muffo, a software development manager from Raleigh, North Carolina, said while waiting in line Thursday to vote early at the Optimist Community Center in suburban Raleigh. So why are others worried? Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has stoked concern with doomsday predictions of election chaos that experts warn are exaggerated. Although the Nov. 8 election is national, it is operated at the state and local level, under differing rules in all 50 states. Forty-one states are generally viewed by experts as relatively risk-free, because they deploy optical-scan technology that scans paper ballots or they have printouts of electronic ballots cast as a backup. It’s the remaining nine states that have generated concern and left room for the perception of manipulation. The vulnerabilities – and how serious they are – differ depending on the state and even the precinct.

Full Article: Presidential election rigging unlikely; Trump allegations overblown | News & Observer.

National: America’s Voting Machines Are a Disaster in the Making | New Republic

Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has issued dire warnings of foul play on Election Day. “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged,” he told supporters in Ohio. “I’m telling you, November 8, we’d better be careful,” he cautioned Fox News. “I hope the Republicans are watching closely, or it’s going to be taken away from us.” Trump’s remarks might seem like a cynical ploy to mobilize his base, or to set the stage for an aggrieved backlash should he lose to Hillary Clinton. In fact, however, the U.S. election system really is vulnerable—though not in the way Trump claims. In July and August, Russian intelligence services hacked voter registration systems in Illinois and Arizona. But as menacing as foreign agents meddling with U.S. databases may seem, the biggest threat to the sanctity of the vote is the voting machines themselves. Like so much of America’s crumbling infrastructure, the systems we rely on to tabulate our votes fairly and accurately are in dire need of an overhaul. In thousands of precincts, the outcome of the election rides on equipment that’s outdated, prone to errors, and difficult or impossible to repair.

Full Article: America’s Voting Machines Are a Disaster in the Making | New Republic.

National: ‘Rigging’ US election easier said than done, experts say | AFP

Republican candidate Donald Trump has made the insistent claim that the US presidential elections are being “rigged,” but experts say massive voter fraud is highly unlikely in a system as decentralized as the United States. “There are a lot of safeguards in place that would preclude that from happening, from federal laws to local and state laws as well,” said Jo-Renee Formicola, a political scientist at Seton Hall University. … Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a civic group that advocates for clean elections, says safeguards against fraud are greater now than they were in 2012 and 2014. Still, electronic voting machines could be a weak link. “That’s perhaps one area where we might be concerned about leaving these questions to little towns and cities that may not have the technical sophistications of the federal government, but it would then require hacking multiple places if you are trying to build up,” said Clopton.

Full Article: 'Rigging' US election easier said than done, experts say | Daily Mail Online.

Maryland: Is it rigged? Local officials assure Maryland’s voting system is secure | Frederick News Post

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has called the election process “rigged,” but Frederick County and Maryland officials assure voters the state’s new balloting system is secure. “Simply put, Maryland’s election systems are secure, have built-in redundancies, and have been subject to security testing,” the state board posted in the “Rumor Control” portion of its website. Across Maryland, voters who choose to vote on Election Day will mark their paper ballots by hand. Those paper ballots are fed into an optical scan machine that counts the votes and collects the paper ballots. A switch to paper ballots in Maryland has been underway since 2007, when legislation was passed requiring a verifiable paper record for every voter. The new ballots were unveiled this year after the state was able to fully fund the transition from touch screens of the past. Pamela Smith, president of the non-partisan, nonprofit organization Verified Voting, said Maryland’s decision to switch to paper ballots was a beneficial one.

Full Article: Is it rigged? Local officials assure Maryland's voting system is secure | Election 2016 | fredericknewspost.com.