On today's BradCast, we're experiencing a sense of deja vu from this very same fight the last time Congress allocated hundreds of millions for new electronic voting systems in the U.S. [Audio link to show is posted below.]
A serious "design flaw" in a previously certified computer voting system is finally acknowledged on Friday by New York State's top election official, after several different warnings on the matter were issued in recent months by computer security and voting systems experts at Princeton and Georgia Tech.
The vulnerability has resulted in Douglas Kellner, the co-chair of the NYS Board of Elections, calling for a reexamination of the ImageCast Evolution (ICE) computer Ballot Marking Device (BMD), which both prints ballot selection on a paper and then scans that ballot to record results after it, theoretically, has already been verified by the voter. "After you mark your ballot, after you review your ballot, the voting machine can print more votes on it!," [emphasis in original], Princeton's computer science professor Andrew Appel warned about the Dominion ImageCast Evolution system in October of last year.
Kellner cites that "ballot stuffing attack" vector first identified by Appel and then confirmed by Georgia Tech's former Dean of computing at Georgia Tech and director of its Information Security Center, professor RICHARD DEMILLO who joins us on today's show to explain the vulnerabilities. The very same design flaw appears to be present in systems currently in use or set for use before 2020 in parts of Kansas, Texas, Pennsylvania, Delaware and elsewhere, as jurisdictions scramble to spend federal dollars to "upgrade" their voting systems to new equipment in advance of the next, crucial Presidential election.
A similar system made by ES&S, currently being pushed for use across the entire state of Georgia by Republicans, vendors and elections officials, also appears to have the same flaw and even one that Appel describes as a disturbing "Permission to Cheat" feature (first observed by Election Integrity advocate Jenny Cohn in Kansas last September) that allows the machine to submit a ballot to the scanner without the voter ever verifying what the computer has printed on it. That, DeMillo explains today, allows ballots to be marked and printed by the computer and then scanned without any examination by the voter at all. Both "design flaws" make any post-election hand audit of those ballots "meaningless" [PDF] .
As Kellner explains in his letter to fellow Elections Board members in NY --- effectively decertifying the systems, for now, thanks to Dominion's failure to document these vulnerabilities before certification --- "If it was possible for the machine to add a voting mark to the ballot without verification by the voter, the audit is not meaningful because it cannot confirm that the ballot was counted in the manner intended by the voter."
"What they have is a single device that marks the ballot and scans the ballot. Just because of the way that they've designed this thing, there's a single path that the paper ballot travels --- under the print heads, and over scanning heads," DeMillo tells me. "What I think is a real issue is the design flaw that makes it possible to have the paper ballot printed out, verified by the reader, and then scanned, but in that scanning process, travel a second time undetected through the print heads. The voter could have chosen to vote for no one. But the machine could decide well, we really like the Democratic candidate for Public Service Commissioner, so we're just going to add that to every ten blank Public Service Commissioner choices that we see."
DeMillo breaks down what all of this means for New York and other states now using or set to use these systems, and how the vendor in question, Dominion, has responded [PDF] by attempting to marginalize the concerns and dismiss critics like DeMillo and Appel as "security maximalists."
DeMillo has been joining other cybersecurity experts in issuing similar warnings [PDF] to officials in his home-state of Georgia, where lawmakers are in the midst of rushing to approve at least $150 million for the purchase of similar devices from ES&S for use across the entire state before 2020 --- and not just for disabled voters who may require such a system to vote independently, but for all voters in the precincts. That, despite the systems appearing to have similar "design flaws" to those which have now served to effectively decertify the Dominion systems in NY.
All of this, of course, is of a piece with the warnings we've been loudly issuing for years at The BRAD BLOG and on The BradCast about the use of this type of unverifiable computer-marked "paper ballot" voting systems, rather than verifiable HAND-MARKED paper ballots.
Also on today's program: Donald Trump publishes his Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposal, including hundreds of billion in cuts to domestic programs such as Medicaid and Medicare (which he vowed, while a candidate in 2016, to protect), as well as to the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies. At the same time, the proposal includes record increases in defense spending and $8.6 billion more for his southern border wall (which Mexico is still not paying for). The result, if the aspirational proposal were to be adopted by Congress, would ensure annual budget deficits of at least $1 trillion over the next four years. That, on the heels of the Trump/GOP's $1.5 trillion tax cut for the wealthy and corporations which has ballooned the deficit and national debt to go with it.
And, finally today, after WA Governor Jay Inslee entered the Democratic President Primary last week race based largely on his decades of raising the alarm about climate change, we share a few recently unearthed clips from Inslee's fellow Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders warning about "the greenhouse effect" and the dangers of a warming climate as long ago as 1989 on C-SPAN and in 1987 with a class of middle-school children while then still serving as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont.
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)