REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL (RFP) #15-0078 VOTING SYSTEM
A RFP (request for proposal) for a new voting system for Sedgwick, Shawnee, Johnson and Wyandotte counties was issued last month.
Here are the three big requirements for a transparent voting process:
1 – Voter Marked Paper Ballots; DRE machines , such as our current ones, are unacceptable.
2 – Open Source software; Proprietary software is unacceptable.
3 – Post election audits conducted to verify results.
None of these requirements are mentioned in the RFP. Personally, I consider this a major problem.
Voter Marked Paper Ballots
Any voting system that does not require voter marked paper ballots should be considered unacceptable. This is not an unreasonable requirement. It is a requirement of many localities, including the entire state of New Mexico and Douglas County here in Kansas.
The DRE machines seem designed to make verification difficult to completely impossible. The audit I am looking to do in Sedgwick County will be difficult and expensive to accomplish and even with the paper trails, might not be able to detect rigging of individual machines.
Open Source software
All software must be open source. Proprietary software for voting machines is wrong. Not just bad – which it is – but morally wrong. I am personally of the opinions our legislature should outlaw it, but that seems unlikely. Proprietary software, particularly when paired with no auditing requirements, is an invitation to scoundrels that our voting system is ripe for exploitation.
Post Election audits
Post Election audits must be routine after every election. But they must be conducted by an independent auditor who is not receiving any renumeration from the contractor who is providing the voting system. The ability to audit the voting system should be part of the grading of responses to the RFP. With forethought, a system can be designed to facilitate taking random samples for comparison to the machine generated totals at a minimal cost.
There are many other details in the RFP that Ms. Lehman and her staff are correct to have included – i.e. appropriate facilities for disabled voters, logistics of moving machines in and out of various locations, etc. No doubt they have their preferences for those details and it’s not of much concern to me as long as the ballots are securely transported and protected. Although I’m not entirely comfortable with contracting out the transportation of ballots and machines, it’s not an easy task to run an election. Someone must be hired and instructed on how to do it properly. But the three requirements listed above are all necessary for our votes to be transparently counted. If any one is compromised, our election results are susceptible to undetectable tampering. As it is now.
The RFP released in October does not require any of these three. I don’t think precludes them either, but I would be surprised to see any proposals that meet the first two criteria I’ve laid out here. (The third one must be funded independently of this contract.)
Letter Writing Campaign
I’d like to start a letter campaign regarding this proposal to Sedgwick County, acting as the Lead Agent for this contract. Particularly, if you live in Johnson, Shawnee or Wyandotte County.
I am going to write and notify them of my concerns. If you share my concerns; please let the purchasing committee know. Contact information is:
Sandra L. Gritz, Chief Deputy Election Commissioner, Sedgwick County Election Office, 525 N. Main, #101, Wichita, KS 67203
Just let Sandra know you support my requirements and hope to see them included in the final selection of a new voting system. I’ve spoken with her and she’s promised to let Tabitha Lehman, Elections Commissioner, and the rest of the committee know of our concerns.