Technically Speaking Commentary
By Perry Busby
For the past few months I have had the privilege of engaging voters and elected officials in conversations about voting, particularly the elevated warnings regarding foreign interference in our next presidential election.
Many agree that the reports from our national intelligence and security agencies and Special Counsel Robert Mueller have merit. However, others see it as partisan politics orchestrated by people who didn’t like the outcome of the 2016 election, and a tiny fraction who believe it’s just the latest government bamboozle to make citizens believe they have a choice in the matter.
While opinions varied, one fact became glaringly obvious. Most voters have no idea how elections are administered or how votes are tallied. What’s even more startling, many elected officials are equally clueless.
After the “hanging chad” fiasco from the Bush v. Gore 2000 election, Congress was under pressure to modernize election. In 2002, Congress provided $4 billion through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) to upgrade voting machines. Like most organizations at the time, Congress poured money into providing a technical solution to a problem that had yet to be defined.
Nearly twenty years later, computerized voting machines and tabulators have become commonplace, but problems have not only persisted, they have become more ominous. No longer is it an issue of deciphering whether a voter intended to punch a hole or not, voters are now concerned if computers are changing their votes or if vote tallies are being modified altogether.
There has been a growing call nationally, for a return of hand-marked paper ballots. While hand-marked paper ballots do not eliminate all risks, it does ensure the intentions of the voter.
Not to be outdone, voting machine vendors have convinced many state and federal officials that they have designed voting machines that are capable of producing an equivalent paper ballot. However, tests have shown these Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) are equally susceptible to changing a voter’s selection, and in the case of ES&S’s Express Vote XL hybrid, test have shown where it changed votes after the voter verified and submitted their vote.
ES&S has also introduced the ExpressVote XL, which replaces their older model by the same name. The ExpressVote XL allow voters to use a touchscreen to select their choices. But they also print out a slip of paper with the vote both displayed in plain text and embedded in a barcode that, in theory, would make it harder for hackers to silently manipulate the results. If any of you have ever been in a checkout line and had an item to display the wrong price, then you know barcodes cannot be trusted.
The best defense against hi-tech is no-tech.
On June 28th, the House of Representatives passed the Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (SAFE Act), a bill that protects voters against many of these technological vulnerabilities. The bill includes the following recommendations for all Federal elections, beginning in 2020:
Hand-marked paper ballots
Ban barcode voting
Ban hybrid voting
Ban remote access
Ban internet connectivity
Include risk limiting auditing
Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell announced he will not bring any measure aimed to update the US election system and voting machines, to the Senate floor for a vote, until after the 2020 election. Elections with unverifiable results is an attack on the core principles of our democracy and erodes the confidence of its citizenry. This is an issue that demands a fix. Please call your Senators and state and county elected officials and demand we pass the SAFE Act immediately.
As always stay tuned to the Westside Gazette for more information about your vote.