On today's BradCast, the release of a leaked NSA analysis of alleged cyberattacks on voter registration systems and attempted intrusions into the computers of local elections officials just before last year's Presidential election underscore, once again, just about every warning regarding U.S. electronic voting, computer tabulation and voter registration systems that we've been yelling about for some 15 years on both The BradCast and at The BRAD BLOG. [Audio link to full show follows below.]
Today, we break down the specific details found in the leaked NSA documents published by The Intercept on Monday, how they highlight a much broader problem with the U.S. electoral system, and what the answer, at long last, must ultimately be in response to concerns about manipulated election results, no matter who the alleged or attempted culprit. (In this case, the U.S. intelligence services blame Russian military intelligence, which they deny. Either way, as detailed on today's show, it doesn't actually matter!)
On a not-at-all unrelated note, we are then joined by Marilyn Marks of the Rocky Mountain Foundation to discuss her lawsuit, filed with members of Georgians for Verified Voting, demanding hand-counted paper ballots for all voters in the upcoming, highly contested U.S. House Special Election runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.
Marks, a former Republican mayoral candidate turned long-time Election Integrity expert, details some of the many concerns spelled out in her suit (Complaint here [PDF], TRO Motion here [PDF]) regarding the state of GA's 100% unverifiable Diebold touch-screen voting systems, and the known cyberhacks, e-pollbook thefts and computer tabulator failures that have already plagued the most expensive U.S. House race in history, where early voting is already underway in advance of the bellwether June 20 contest.
"There were so many things that have happened since March 1st," Marks explains, describing many of the problems that have already undermined this election. "As you've pointed out, these systems --- when you say they are 'unverifiable', what people need to understand by that, of course, is that there is no way to assure that the voter's intent is recorded. We know what the machines want to report. But there is no way to know what the voter intended to vote. We do know that with the evidence of a paper ballot. So, that is what we are telling the court, that this system has gone through so many problems. It was unverifiable to begin with. And now we have seen the instances of several problems, just in the last 60 days, that tell us there is no way that the Sec. of State and the county election officials should assume that the system is safe to vote on. They must presume the system is unsafe."
The plaintiffs request, she says, "is a simple one. And that is: let voters vote on paper ballots."
"The only practical answer is to go to paper ballots [and] hand count them," Marks tells me. "It would be very easy to do. We've had a professional estimate how long it would take --- less than an hour per precinct. It would actually be faster, cheaper, more efficient and far more transparent to vote on paper ballots in this simple election than it is to use the machines." Indeed, with just one contest on most of the ballots in this Special Election, hand-counting would amount to little more than separating ballots into two stacks, one for each candidate, and then counting each stack. It is what we have long described as "Democracy's Gold Standard."
Marks goes on to cite the concerns illustrated, once again, by yesterday's leaked NSA documents and argues: "You talk to any computer scientist, regardless of what party they are, you talk to any voting systems expert, I don't think you'll find a single expert, a single computer scientist who would say these machines even approach the point of being safe to vote on. And it has nothing to do with their politics."
"We must have transparent elections where the public can oversee the counting of the ballots. And in Georgia, there is no oversight. No one --- not the election official, not the public, not the campaign, not the candidate --- no one can figure out whether or not the ballots are counted right."
But does her lawsuit have a chance this late in the game, with early voting already under way? Tune in for her response to that and much more, including her thoughts on how GA's Sec. of State Brian Kemp, also a Republican, has responded so far to both Marks' complaint, and an earlier request, prior to the GA-06 primary, from dozens of the world's top computer security and electronic voting systems experts.
Yes, elections still matter. But, as computer security expert Bruce Schneier told The Intercept yesterday: "To the extent the elections are vulnerable to hacking, we risk the legitimacy of the voting process, even if there is no actual hacking at the time. It's not just that it has to be fair, it has to be demonstrably fair, so that the loser says, 'Yep, I lost fair and square.' If you can't do that, you're screwed."
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)