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Monday, June 16, 2008

Lots of $MIllion$ "Procure-ity"; Where's the Election Security?

Election security - as in someone really knowing and showing how many blank ballots were originally in hands, and thus, need to be accounted for to the public as validly voted, soiled, or unused ballots; or that every vote that came in from the polls got counted accurately in the results, and the number of ballots that came in was the same as the number of voters' signatures for that precinct - no more, no less; or that every absentee or provisional vote that came in with voter identity attached, allows no way for any election worker to know how any of those identified voters voted.

It's tedious work, takes attention to detail and awareness, but is not rocket science.

And it canNOT, and must not be assumed by the public as occurring, because it is not.

Yet it is these unseen, assumed processes that create the "official election results" we just swallow, that tell us who our next president or attorney general or sheriff will be.

Some envelopes of soiled and defaced ballots, still laying open - with ballot stubs, VVPAT tapes for ADA access, black binders, etc... and trash on 3/26, after Euclid supply bag opening on 3/20.

As we look toward November '08, in the wake of Nov. '00 and Nov. '04, now with so many so vested in the election process and expected to cast a ballot, the oft-stated Stalin quote still stands true, which I paraphrase here: "It's not who votes that counts; what counts is who "counts" the votes and how they "count."

The urge and desire to steal, sway, or manipulate election results is as old as elections themselves. This November the bounty is huge - both for the "winners" and their gangs, and for all of our futures. The motivations to steal, sway, or manipulate these election results will thus grow proportionately, so election security must grow too.

The need to question and to watch the counting cannot be marginalized again into charges of "tin-foil-hat" conspiracy theories. Rather, the need to question and to watch the counting demonstrates incisive wisdom, and is our very civic duty.

For election security is not what we usually think of as security. Rather than security by obscurity with hidden vaults, drawn shades, and locked buildings
where "regular people" are not allowed, and with some special others, who always do the right thing inside- it can only come from transparency - letting everyone see everything; knowing that with many who have a diversity of interests, watching our election count, it's very hard for any one to act dishonestly. And it's not about trusting any machine with unknown "counting instructions" that can be hacked, programmed, or otherwise made to output a desired outcome as "our winners", with no one being the wiser about a wholesale steal.

Last December's EVEREST Report even said it. As the commercial investigators and academics tested and found critical insecurities and vulnerabilities in ALL the election equipment they tested, ( inherent problems that made it possible to use the machine to steal the election) they also knew they had to assume that EVERYONE is a potential election attacker (one with designs manipulating our election results.)

Here is one snippet from the presentation made from the Sec. of State college tour about the EVEREST Report, held at Case Western Reserve University on 2/21/08. Speaking is Dr. Patrick McDaniel lead scientist for EVEREST, and you'll also see Chris Nance, OH Assist. Sec. of State.

So in the midst of some posts about another millions of dollar procurement of critically security flawed election equipment, I post here just a few film clips from the March Primary to give you an idea of the security awareness level of the people and processes that will be handling that equipment.

The equipment sales people, in fact, (all deflect responsibility, and) say the security of their equipment is dependent on the processes and procedures of the people at the boards. (EVEREST determined that all the equipment vulnerabilities are "unmitigatable" by processes and procedures. ie that even when the boards are very aware and diligent, there still could be "attacks" on our election results that would never be found and/or could not be prevented.)

And certainly there is more to election security than just the vulnerable machines, both touch screens AND scanners of paper ballots, the latter of which are better, but certainly no panacea to a fair election.
Election systems are made up of people, processes and now, machines - that all need to be made secure - with transparency and an involved electorate.

Before the film clips, (which don't include the worst examples - yet to come) here are a few suggestions about helping to better assure that our November elections results are really OUR election results, not a vendor's, a government officials, a hacker's, or even a poll worker's.
  • 1. Become a poll worker, and help to make sure it's done correctly by everyone on your team.
  • 2. Become an Election Observer, per the law, ORC3505.21 and watch at the polls, and after at the BOE while they count.
    Unfortunately presently the arcane OH election laws which in many ways assume elections belong to two political parties, not the people, make it difficult for non-partisan citizenry watching. Also unfortunately despite the law and SoS Directive 08-29, allowing Observers the right to watch closely, this is often shunned by local boards. Rather than working as partners for everyone's good, some Observers are there to find lots wrong (help sway the election their way;) and often, respectful Observers end up treated by board staffs as potential criminals/obstructors at worst, or minor irritants to "their" board process, to be tolerated and basically ignored unless they can be used as free help to make them look better. (I'll post film of that too.)
    Getting the thunderingly moving election train done and making sure it looks spiffy seem culturally paramount inside boards. (There is not even an effective place for observers to take documentation and have it seriously considered and acted upon - not selectively covered up.) Our real election security gets overlooked and buried time and time again.
  • 3. Insist with the Secretary of State and legislators that non-partisan, election protection groups be allowed in the polls and in the boards as observers - groups not just relegated to lawyers and academics - but including lots of regular people who are interested and want to be involved in our fair elections.
  • 4. Insist with the Secretary of State and local boards that no matter what kind of (vulnerable) equipment the precincts are using, that at least the Presidential race be hand counted at the polls this coming November - with groups of trained volunteer counters and watchers and with results posted for everyone to see.
  • 5. Volunteer to be a trained election count watcher at your precinct.
  • 6. And urge the Secretary of State, local boards and legislators to do real audits of the November election, not skewed exercises called audits, so we can find systemic problems, and start learning the essentials that need to be changed and improved in the future.
  • 7. Get involved with elections beyond voting and walking away, and even beyond just working for your candidate or issue. It takes us all doing a little bit to protect all of our voices being fairly heard and heeded.

Here is just a bit film from the March '08 primary to begin to see "security awareness:
1. The ballots coming in election night. (You'll see that this one observer area was slightly expanded from the pre-election, 3/2 plan in the film below, but that it still took a semi-decent zoom lens to see anything of import:

2. The "security logs" that are supposed to show the blue "security seal" numbers that "secure" the machines and ballot boxes, and "show chains of custody" of ballots - that are supposed to be filled out by poll workers and are said to be be carefully reviewed by board staff. Here they are being reviewed by myself and another observer , Ray Rosenberger who offered to help - This was on 4/23/08, almost 1.5 months after the election - hardly complete, hardly security, and never reviewed.

3. Here you'll see the physical "security" of the warehouse itself.

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