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Jennifer Cohn @jennycohn1
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1. Thread. Contrary to popular belief, Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trails ("VVPATs") and/or COMPUTER marked ballots from Ballot Marking Devices ("electronic pencils") are NOT acceptable substitutes for #handmarked #paperballots counted on optical scanners (or by hand).
2. One hundred experts in the areas of computer science, statistics, and election audits have recommended that states conduct their elections with #paperballots (which can be counted on either optical scanners or by hand).… [letter from 100 experts]
3. #PaperBallots are important because they can be hand counted in a post-election recount or statistical audit and then compared to the electronic tally from the voting machine to determine whether hacking occurred.…
4. According to Verified Voting, however, the following states include at least some counties that instead conducted the 2016 election using Direct Recording Electronic (“DRE,” usually touchscreen) voting machines with or without VVPATs.
5. VVPATs are written summaries of voters' alleged selections, which are typed on a scroll of paper with small font behind clear plastic on the voting machine. Voters are supposed to use them to verify that they match the voters' intended selections.
6. Researchers at UC Berkeley have explained that VVPATs “can be fragile and cumbersome to audit.”…
7. In the 2006 primary election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, for example, “10% of VVPAT spools were destroyed, blank, illegible, or missing.”…, p. 1.
8. An “election official in NC reported that there were hundreds of [VVPAT] printer failures in that state during the 2006 election. He cited a study about the ... challenges of...manually counting ... votes recorded on unwieldy rolls of paper tape.”…
9. Moreover, a VVPAT “only becomes ‘voter verified’ if the voter knows –and takes the time– to check it.”…
10. This is problematic because a Las Vegas survey found that “fewer than 40 percent of voters actually checked the paper record of their vote before leaving the polling place.”…
11. Even if voters review the VVPATs, they r unlikely to catch errors.
12. A Rice University study of review screens (which are easier to review than VVPATs) showed that “over 60% of voters do not notice if their votes as shown on the review screen are different than how they were selected.…, pp. 2–3.
13. The Rice Univ. study of review screens (which are easier to review than VVPATs) showed that "Entire races can be added or removed from ballots and voter’s candidate selections can be flipped and the majority of users do not notice.”…, pp. 2–3.
14. Even if a voter finds a problem based on a review of the VVPAT, he or she is unlikely to do anything about it.
15. Professor Selker of MIT, who has studied VVPATs extensively, reports that, “In watching 500 voters casting ballots, I saw less than one in 10 people who, when they were told they had a problem with their ballot, were actually willing to take a new ballot and vote again.”
16. Here is a link for the document supporting post 15.…
17. It has also proven difficult to catch errors when reviewing VVPATs in a post-election recount or audit.
18. A study conducted by CalTech/MIT found that “[o]ut of 108 elections that contained errors, … no errors were reported in the VVPAT audit.”…
19. And a study by Rice University found that only 57.5% of participants’ counts using VVPATs provided the correct results.…
20. Thus, although paperless DREs are 100% unverifiable, DREs with VVPATs have proven not much better.
21. Meanwhile, there’s a new, equally concerning touchscreen device in town. “Ballot Devices” (“BMDs”) are a type of “electronic pencil” that generates a computer marked ballot.
22. Georgia is considering buying these electronic pencil BMD's not just for those who are unable to hand mark their ballots (e.g., due to disability or old age), but rather for all voters.
23. Los Angeles county, the largest county in the United States, is considering the same thing.
24. Computer marked ballots are alarmingly similar to VVPATs in that voters may never review the computer marked ballots for accuracy (and may be reluctant to start over if they find an error), so that after an election it is impossible to know if ANY ballot has been verified.
25. This is not a problem with #handmarked #paperballots, which in effect self-verify as the voter fills them out.
26. Using computer-marked ballots for voters who are able to hand mark their ballots wld also introduce a 2d layer of unnecessary & potentially glitchy electronics & vendors. (Computer-marked ballots from BMDs r counted on optical scanners, which r the 1st layer of electronics.)
27. For example, a BMD in California flipped 4 out of 12 of election integrity advocate Brad Friedman's selections.
28. The vendor of one of the most popular BMD's, ES&S, was also caught making changes to BMD’s without obtaining certification or permission.…
29. After MD used Ballot Marking Devices ("electronic pencils") in 2016, "all but one county opposed widespread use" bc "VOTERS TOOK FAR LONGER 2 VOTE USING THE BMD THAN 2 MARK A PAPER BALLOT BY HAND. This caused lines of people waiting 2 use the BMD"…
30. It would also be easier for someone to fake a large number of computer marked ballots than a large number of hand marked ballots.
31. Thus, even if BMD’s are an appropriate accommodation for those who are unable to hand mark their ballots, they should not be the primary system used for all voters.
32. Rather, if election integrity is the goal, the primary system should be hand marked paper ballots, with enough BMD’s or other assisted devices to service those who are unable to hand mark their ballots.
33. Please note that if you want hand marked ballots, you must be specific and not use the general phrases like “Voter Marked Ballots” or "voter verifiable paper audit trail," which can encompass not only #handmarked #paperballots, but also computer marked ballots from BMDs.
34. Please also note that some lawmakers used the disabled community as a reason to promote paperless DREs for all voters — including non-disabled voters — in the wake of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which allocated billions of dollars for new voting systems.
35. For example, 2 years before pleading guilty 2 corruption involving bribes from Jack Abramoff  (whose lobbying firm represented paperless DRE vendor Diebold Election Systems ) Rep. Bob Ney used the disabled community to defeat legislation that would have required a paper trail
36. Here are 2 sources for post 35.… … … …[letter from Ney re: his opposition to paper trails];… … [Rolling Stone article]
37. Georgia is an example of a state that is about to buy BMDs for both disabled and non-disabled voters — in addition to the optical scanners that it also plans to buy to read the computer marked ballots from the BMDs.…
38. The BMDs that Georgia plans to buy produce computer marked selections-only printouts that contain BAR CODES (which Kemp calls "paper ballots"). The bar codes cannot be read by humans, and it is the bar codes, not the selections-only summaries, that the optical scanners count.
39. Experts say “bar codes on ballots...could give hackers a chance to rewrite results in ways that could not be traceable...”…
40. Yet the Georgia legislature is about to pave the way for such bar-coded printouts (from ES&S ballot marking devices) via a bill, #SB403, pending in the house Rules Committee.
41. If Georgia enacts this law, it will be one of the first states--if not literally the first--to buy such hackable electronic pencils (BMDs) for use as the state's primary voting system.
42. This should alarm you, even if you don't live in Georgia. Georgia was also the voting machine vendors' launching pad for paperless voting machines back in 2002.
43. If the voting machine vendors manage to pass #SB403 in Georgia, despite the legislative involvement of several national election integrity groups, it will be well positioned to pass such laws in other states.
44. Alarmingly, two of those national election integrity groups, Verified Voting and Common Cause, have NOT clearly or directly opposed the concept of "BMDs for all" or bar-codes in ballots, choosing instead to oppose #SB403 on other grounds.
45. Here is the Common Cause press release. Although I appreciate the tenor and vigorous opposition to the bill's audit provision and procurement provision, it does not expressly criticize the notion of BMDs for all or bar-codes in ballots.…
46. This is no mere oversight. In the week before this press release came out, there were many discussions to which CC and VV were privy about the apparent reticence of those two groups to specifically & directly oppose the notion of BMDs for all and bar-codes in ballots.
47. Verified Voting's press release on #SB403 is similarly vague, stating in part that: “The citizens of Georgia should demand voting machines which provide them with a voter-marked paper ballot, marked by hand or with an accessible ballot marking device.."
48.The quoted language from the Verified Voting press release does not clearly criticize the notion of BMDs for all because, as Verified Voting certainly knows, the phrase "voter-marked paper ballot" can include either HAND marked or COMPUTER marked paper ballots.
49. Here is the link for the Verified Voting press release.…
50. For whatever reason, Common Cause and Verified Voting are choosing subtlety over clarity on what may well be the defining characteristic of America's voting system for the next 15 years. Again, I am quite certain the lack of clarity is deliberate.
51. This was discussed over and over in FB discussion groups to which CC and VV were privy. Yet neither group specified that it would be a bad idea for states to buy BMDs for widespread use, as opposed to limiting their use to those who are unable to hand mark their ballots.
52. Your guess is as good as mine as to why. The National Election Defense Council DID clearly state that widespread use of BMDs is a bad idea (although it focused primarily on the significant extra expense, making BMDs "for all" a vendor "boondoggle.").
53. In any event, we should all pay attention to the BMD situation in Georgia and elsewhere. As explained by @honlarryvaughn, “[t]hey joke with the press about $5,000 pencils (which is horrifying enough) but nobody points out the obvious: real pencils can’t be hacked.”
54. In sum, we need #handmarked #paperballots counted on optical scanners (or by hand at the precinct). Widespread use of Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) is a terrible idea. BMDs should be limited to those voters who are unable to hand mark their ballots (one BMD per polling place)
55. Here is my Medium article discussing VVPATs and BMDs.…
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