Well, as detailed on today's BradCast, we've been trying, for a long time to get answers about the new, unverifiable touchscreen voting systems set to replace Los Angeles County's verifiable hand-marked paper ballot system for the first time in the 2020 Presidential elections. Disappointingly, however, the L.A. County Clerk/Registrar-Recorder Dean Logan, who had been very responsive and helpful in previous years, no longer answers simple questions about the new voting system called "Voting Solutions for All People" (VSAP), which he has been developing for more than a decade. That is very troubling, as we explain in detail today. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]
The new VSAP system is a touchscreen Ballot Marking Device or BMD, which prints out a computer-marked paper ballot summary of votes selected via the touchscreen, before using another computer, an optical-scanner, to read the non-human readable QR Code that is also printed on the ballot summary. The QR Codes are used to tally votes. While the QR Code (a type of barcode) cannot be verified for accuracy by voters, it is also impossible with such systems to know if any voter has even verified the human-readable portion of the ballot summary at all, much less correctly, after an election. Studies reveal that most do not verify computer-marked ballots at all, and that of the minority who do, most don't recall the details or selections on the ballot they voted just moments earlier. That's just one of the many reasons why most cybersecurity and voting systems experts warn against the use of such systems which are now proliferating --- and sometimes replacing verifiable hand-marked paper ballot systems --- in many states and counties across the country before 2020. (The list of states where counties or the entire state are moving to BMD systems include a number of key battleground states. Such systems are planned for use next year, or are already being used, in OH, WI, PA, TX, WV, KY, NY, NJ, KS, TN, IN, SC, NC and, yes, CA, unless the public prevents these plans.)
We have been trying to get simple answers from Logan about the VSAP project before voters are forced to use it next year in the nation's largest voting jurisdiction, but Logan has both repeatedly refused to answer many such questions and has declined repeated invitations to appear on the program, including today's. That, after he has joined us on a number of occasions over the years (the last time he joined us was in April 2013 to announce that the new system would be an unverifiable touchscreen system) and he used to be quite responsive to voter questions and concerns on Twitter and elsewhere.
Among the simple questions Logan refuses to answer of late:
Will voters at the polls in Los Angeles still be allowed to vote on hand-marked paper ballots as previously mandated by the CA Sec. of State? (The office of Democratic SoS Alex Padilla, a supporter of the new system in L.A., has also not yet responded to that question.);
Will there be paper backups of the new electronic pollbook systems used with VSAP at the new Voting Centers which will be replacing community precincts this year? (1,000 such Voting Centers will allow voters to vote from any of them, versus the 4,000 local precincts L.A. voters have used in the past);
Will independent cybersecurity and voting systems experts like Harri Hursti, who has hacked many voting machines over the past decade or more, be allowed to carry out security and penetration tests on the system before it's used in the 2020 Presidential election? (Hursti has agreed to do so, but Logan has not responded, at least publicly, to take him up on his generous offer);
Why does Los Angeles and the California Sec. of State characterize the new VSAP system as "open source", while refusing to disclose the so-called "open source" to the public and responding to public records request to review it (even from other elections officials!) by claiming the system's code is "propriety information", "trade secrets" and that disclosure would "reveal vulnerabilities to attack or would otherwise increase the potential for an attack on the public agency's information technology system"?
We would have preferred Logan joined us on air today to answer such questions, and many more from callers. However, as he declined, we were forced to do our best to answer them ourselves.
Moreover, it would also be helpful if corporate media bothered to cover any of these important issues to the public. The Los Angeles Times ran two stories on VSAP last week, one a fawning 1,900 feature article on Logan and his years-long development process for the system. Neither story by the Times' Matt Stiles --- including the one headlined "Ready for the voting overhaul in L.A. County? Here’s what you need to know" --- mentioned anything about the many security and verifiability concerns of the new system. Following my public complaints to that end over the past week, Stiles has told me he is considering a story on those concerns. I hope so! Voters need to corporate to step up to this stuff, even a tenth as much as they cover the horse race --- while ignoring the track conditions on which the horses will be running!
Arguably, as bad or worse, Washington Post has a page up on their website headlined "How Ballot-Marking Devices Work". There is no story or text on the WaPo page, remarkably enough, just an embedded version of a two-and-a-half minute promotional video for the VSAP project created by the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office. Seriously! Nonetheless, out of an abundance of fairness, we aired the full promotional video for the system on the program.
We take a deep (and often harrowing) dive into all of the above and much more --- along with listener calls, many of them furious, as they hear about this for the first time --- on today's BradCast...
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READER COMMENTS ON "L.A. Registrar Won't Answer Qs About County's New Unverifiable Touchscreen Vote Systems: 'BradCast' 8/26/2019" (12 Responses so far...)
COMMENT #1 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/26/2019 @ 11:29 pm PT...
Please pardon my bluntness here, Brad.
JMO, but . . .
Democrat Logan goes "Republican" in style, and refuses to answer questions about the new touch-screen voting system because his party INTENDS TO CHEAT in the next election, just like the GOP routinely does all over the country, and has for decades.
For the March, 2020 CA primary, I am going to monitor 2 or 3 Progressive Dems here in California----The kind of decisive and outspoken progressives that DNC-mainstream Dems hate (they fight them harder than they fight the GOP in many cases---I see this again and again).
Our corporate masters demand centrist Democrats serve instead of Progressives, in order to protect the neoliberal order and keep taxes on the rich LOW.
If several progressive California Dems end up, after having favorable polling numbers, still LOSING to centrist Dems in the March 2020 primary, I will be suspicious as hell, and so should everybody else.
I will see that as a red flag.
When you think about it,
electronic (or any other) manipulation to enable Dems to beat the GOP in California is not necessary (honestly, I would be against that too, as I know you would).
The only motivation I can think of is that these machines will be employed to defeat progressives and keep California from being a hotbed of progressive power in America, to please the Dems' corporat6e donor$.
When Democrats loudly and repeatedly tout Russia as being a scary factor in "meddling" with our elections, and yet they have no objection whatsoever to installing the kind of voting system that Russia (or any other skilled player) could violate, exploit and manipulate, the insincerity is just too intense
Those mainstream Dems are full of it, IMO.
BTW, I recall there were some apparent "red-shifts" in some of the primary elections in 2016 against Bernie, and in HC's favor (esp in the south).
Of course now, there is barely any vestige of published exit polls anywhere in America that mean anything (another cui bono for our ruling power elite).
All exit polls nowadays are distorted beyond restoration (back to raw data) when they are finally released to the public.
IMO, the ****GOP uses election-fraud against Dems**** (and according to Beth Clarkson, apparently their moderate wing as well, as in Kansas).
But the ****Democratic Party uses election fraud solely to defeat key members of their own Progressive wing****, in favor of pro-establishment, centrist Democrats.
IMO, touch-screen machines are now a key part of his effort.
Removing these machines in favor of hand-marked paper ballots will be as hard as removing one of those face-huggers from a victim in the "Alien" movies.
But we have to try.
But we have to face the distinct possibility that now the Democratic Party is ALSO being contaminated by the same election-manipulation-obsessed elements that has infected the GOP for decades (although I suspect the actual people doing the manipulations are probably deep-corporate in nature, and not Dem operatives specifically).
Democrat Logan goes "Republican" in style, and refuses to answer questions about the new touch-screen voting system because his party INTENDS TO CHEAT in the next election
To be fair, I have no evidence whatsoever that Logan (or the Dems) "intend to cheat" in the next election.
That said, the concerns you cite are exactly the reason why Logan (and the Dems and everyone else) should want transparent, verifiable systems. No matter how secure they may (or may not) be, doesn't actually matter if suspicious folks like yourself can't know that the results are accurate.
That is why using systems like the ones planned for L.A. (and counties in all of those other states I list in the article above) is insane and stupid --- even for people who are not interested in cheating.
COMMENT #3 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/27/2019 @ 12:22 am PT...
I totally respect your not sharing my opinion, Brad.
You are a REAL journalist, and need to avoid any sense of bias.
BTW, Rachel Maddow could use some lessons from you on how to be an actual journalist and reporter ---- She's apparently forgotten. Watching her show is getting more and more like watching a cable-news equivalent to online "clickbait").
back to the topic . . .
My opinions are strictly my own.
But dang, my perceptions just keep getting reinforced more and more as time goes on.
Apparently Dean Logan isn't worried in the slightest about the scary scary Russian Threat we hear so much about.
COMMENT #4 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/27/2019 @ 12:37 am PT...
COMMENT #5 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/27/2019 @ 2:15 am PT...
I just wrote a letter to Dean Logan (I left Brad's name out of it, for discreetness).
Here it is:
Dear Dean Logan:
I am a longtime Democratic voter and California resident.
I am very very very unhappy about the Democratic Party installing touch-screen voting machines
all over California.
Computer experts and other people who are knowledgeable on these matters such as Bev Harris,
Jonathan Simon, Mark Crispin Miller, Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Beth Clarkson, Greg Palast,
Marilyn Marks, and many others, have warned us about the vulnerability of these machines to hacking
or manipulation, whether by Russia, or anyone else.
Also, the voter has no way of knowing whether their vote counted or not, since there is no paper record.
This is unacceptable to the voters, no matter what you might think of it.
I heard you refused to let the machines be out to the test by experts on computer hacking, as was
demonstrated recently in Las Vegas, where a convention of hackers showed clearly that the machines
were subject to easy manipulation, often even by adolescent hackers!
This disconnect is very disturbing:
Democrats scream loudly on national TV about how RUSSIA meddled in our election. And yet,
now the Democrats want to install the kind of voting machines in California that are
the MOST VULNERABLE to electronic hacking by some outsider (like Russia, or ...?)/
Sorry, Mr Logan, but I have to deduce that you are doing a bad job at running elections,
as is the entire California Democratic Party, I'm afraid.
This is a confuing message --------
Afraid of hacking/meddling, but NOT REALLY afraid of hacking/meddling?
There is a credibility gap there, for sure.
The GOP loves rigged elections, IMO.
I thought the Democrats (MY party) were better than the corrupt GOP who have verifiably cheated
in several elections. I thought the Democrats were more honest.
Was I wrong?
COMMENT #6 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/27/2019 @ 2:18 am PT...
Oh, and the title of my letter to Dean Logan was:
Touch-screen voting machines are unverifiable and VERY hackable by RUSSIA!!!!
COMMENT #7 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/27/2019 @ 5:34 am PT...
Good eye Brad.
It is disconcerting when democratic counties go the way of the fog.
Especially when some of the presidential candidates (D) want to go to paper ballots.
COMMENT #8 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/27/2019 @ 12:27 pm PT...
COMMENT #9 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/28/2019 @ 10:27 am PT...
I love the Cialis music in the Los Angeles County "information" spot.
COMMENT #10 [Permalink] ...
said on 8/29/2019 @ 1:35 am PT...
RE: Larry Bergan
"I love the Cialis music in the
Los Angeles County "information" spot."
I think it's code for making something very, very "hard".
(i.e. Knowing if your vote will be counted.)
COMMENT #11 [Permalink] ...
sander b shipper
said on 9/9/2019 @ 3:48 pm PT...
I love your show, but I don't think you are 100% verified correct. The paper printed ballot wil show the voters choices in english.Then they will be tabulated by an optical scanner. Here there is room for errors if the qr code is wrong, hacked or mis read. Sampling the votes by humans will be the way to verify if the scanned result reflects the names on the balot.
Unfortunately, I am 100% correct here. But I don't blame you for being completely hoodwinked by the way L.A. is pimping the new system.
While voters will be able to try and verify their computer-marked ballot, studies show that a) most voters do not do so, b) of those who do, most do not notice when the computer has flipped or changed or failed to print their vote and c) the biggest problem, after an election it is 100% impossible to know if any verified their ballot, correctly or otherwise.
In other words, after the election, nobody can know if even one vote cast via these unverifiable systems actually reflects the will of any voter.
There are a number of other concerns about this new system (and the ones being implemented around the country in states like GA, PA, TX and elsewhere). For example, the L.A. System, according to a video recently published by the L.A. County Registrar's office, appears to show that the system could also change votes and QRCodes after the ballot has been supposedly verified by the voter.
For much more on all of these concerns, I'd urge you to read this recent paper from Andrew Appel (Princeton), Rich DeMillo (Georgia Tech) and Philip Stark (UC-Berkley, the man who developed the post-election Risk Limiting Audit protocol.)
Hope that helps. Happy to answer any other misconceptions you may have about these systems. And, again, I don't blame you. You have fallen for exactly the misinformation the County's proponents had hoped you would have.