Three Michigan cities are testing a new process designed to provide strong statistical evidence that the election outcome is correct. The “risk-limiting audit” is a relatively new election security measure being tested across Michigan this week. It’s designed to detect irregularities that could influence reported election outcomes, including cyber-attacks and unintentional machine or human errors. The goal of the pilot will be to determine how risk-limiting audits could be rolled out statewide. Kalamazoo, Lansing and Rochester Hills will also pilot the procedure during the first week of December. “Our goal as election administrators is to foster confidence in the electoral process, the results of that process, and ultimately our democratic institutions,” said Kalamazoo City Clerk Scott Borling. “Michigan voters put their faith in us to conduct free and fair elections. The Risk-Limiting Audit provides another tool and opportunity to demonstrate their trust is well placed.”
Verified Voting in the News
Patrick McDaniel said elections in the United States have historically been fair and secure, but there are challenges. McDaniel is the Weiss Professor of Information and Communications Technology at Penn State and one of the organizers of the Symposium on Election Security, held Monday at the Penn Stater Conference Center. At a time when the integrity of elections is in the headlines, the conference drew experts and national leaders in election security. McDaniel said the more that can be done by the 2020 election, the better. That includes having voter-verified paper ballots used in all states.
On Monday, Dec. 3, Rochester Hills will conduct Michigan’s first pilot of a risk-limiting post-election audit. Risk-limiting audits provide a check on election results. The procedure is designed to detect irregularities that may include intentional cyber attacks or unintentional error that may change the reported election outcomes. “Michigan voters put their faith in us as election administrators to conduct free and fair elections,” said Rochester Hills Clerk Tina Barton. “This procedure will provide us with another opportunity to confirm their trust is well placed.” The pilot is one of three to be conducted the first week of December and part of the first multi-jurisdictional risk-limiting audit pilot in the country. Lansing and Kalamazoo will hold their pilots later in the week.
Australia: NSW government finally released ‘net vote system review, says everything’s just fine Including, wait for it, ‘security through obscurity’. No, really | The Register
Australia’s New South Wales Electoral Commission has given its electronic voting system a clean bill of health, dismissing hacking fears as “theoretical,” and accepting a PWC report saying the system to date was protected by “security through obscurity”. Reviews of election processes are routine, and in 2016, the NSW Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters kicked off the Wilkins report. It was completed in May of this year, but was only recently made public (PDF). NSW’s “iVote” system was used by nearly 300,000 citizens in the 2015 election, a week after Melbourne University crypto-boffins Dr Vanessa Teague and Dr Chris Culnane demonstrated a FREAK-bug-like “theoretical attack”.
Whitney Quesenbery knows a well-designed ballot when she sees it: lower-case letters, left-aligned text, a clean sans-serif font. Quesenbery has been assessing ballot design for nearly two decades. Los Angeles County’s is one of the best she has seen. “Look at those instructions,” she says, admiring the ballot’s simple wording and standout color. “They’re beautiful.” A co-founder of the Center for Civic Design, Quesenbery regularly advises election boards on best practices for their ballots. Some places, like Los Angeles, have incorporated the design principles espoused by the center. But, Quesenbery says, many other counties are stuck using ballots that look as if they came out of the last century. “There are still people voting on pre-2000 voting systems,” she says. “I do.”
National: Here’s Why Blockchain Voting Isn’t the Solution Voters Are Looking For | Strategic Tech Investor
Now that we’re past Election Day, a certain sort of “silly season” has begun. I’m talking about folks coming up with big ideas on how to fix our outdated voting system. And one of the big ideas out there is using blockchain for voting. Let’s stop that conversation – now. The other day, the Twitter cryptoverse blew up after Alex Tapscott, co-founder of the Blockchain Research Institute, had his op-ed on the matter published in The New York Times. In it, Tapscott presents his case for using a blockchain to carry out online voting. He apparently believes such a process would be much more decentralized and safe from hacking. The only downside, he claims, is a potential delay in the voting process. Let me just tell you straight up: This is a terribly ill-considered idea, for a variety of reasons.
Election experts have long warned about the nation’s aging fleet of voting equipment. This week’s elections underscored just how badly upgrades are needed. Across the country, reports poured in Tuesday amid heavy voter turnout of equipment failing or malfunctioning, triggering frustration among voters and long lines at polling places. Scanners used to record ballots broke down in New York City. Voting machines stalled or stopped working in Detroit. Electronic poll books used to check in voters failed in Georgia. Machines failed to read ballots in Wake County, North Carolina, as officials blamed humidity and lengthy ballots. Those problems followed a busy early voting period that revealed other concerns, including machines that altered voters’ choices in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
Experts this week warned against entertaining the idea that blockchain could fix the voting system despite growing frustration with the long lines and malfunctioning machines that caused problems during the midterm election. “If you’re trying to convince Walmart it needs blockchains to track avocados or whatever, be our guest,” Arvind Narayanan, an associate professor of computer science at Princeton, tweeted. “But if you’re messing with critical infrastructure, you’ve crossed a line.” Blockchain is technology that uses computers to build a shared, secure and decentralized digital ledger. Blockchain is best known as the basis for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin but in recent years has attracted interest from a variety of industries that see a benefit in using the ideas behind blockchain.
California: California doesn’t need better voting machines — it needs better audits, experts say | The Peninsula Press
When voters in Alameda and Santa Clara County head to the polls on Nov. 6, about one percent will cast their ballots on electronic voting machines that have known security vulnerabilities. California has safeguards in place. In addition to requiring paper records for votes cast on electronic machines, California also manually audits one percent of all ballots cast, to make sure there’s no discrepancy in the numbers. Now, experts like David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford and founder of Verified Voting, are saying that isn’t enough, and are pushing states like California to implement more rigorous auditing methods. “The problem of protecting machines is pretty unmanageable, even with the best and most modern hardware … so what you need to do is select a bunch of ballots at random and hand count them in order to make sure the electronic counts are accurate,” says Dill.
Americans voting in this year’s midterm elections face a range of obstacles, from long lines to concerns over voter suppression. Some US citizens are also dealing with more unexpected challenges around exercising their right to vote—for instance, the weather. Across Georgia, heavy rain is an added hurdle for voters, though it’s not altogether deterring them. And humidity—a far less visible weather issue—is having an even larger impact. North Carolina’s State Board of Election (SBOE) reports that some precincts in Wake County are having trouble feeding ballots through the voting machines. “Initial reports from county elections offices indicate this issue is caused by high humidity levels,” North Carolina’s SBOE said in a release. Why is a little extra water vapor in the air making such a big difference? Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist with the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and an election technology and cybersecurity expert, explains that ballots are made of a thick stock paper, the specifics of which are determined by voting machine vendors. There are three main makers of voting machines in the US. Local election officials have to work with paper vendors to get paper supplies that will function correctly with the machines and have safety requirements such as watermarks.