In the News – Prairie Village Post – In Kansas, ‘a voter cannot verify their vote was counted as it was cast’

In Kansas, ‘a voter cannot verify their vote was counted as it was cast’

Regardless of party affiliation, I believe it is vital to the health of our democracy for citizens to trust in our voting system, especially when the appearance of partisan bias might lead to a lack of confidence in the neutrality of election officials. We build trust by providing accurate, effective, and transparent audits.

In the News – Wichita Eagle – Wichita State statistician can’t have tapes to audit voting machines

Judge: Wichita State statistician can’t have tapes to audit voting machines

[Judge] Lahey told Rathbun that he “won the battle” because the case could go to trial on the question of whether to have a recount. But he “lost the war,” because Clarkson won’t get access to the ballot tapes even if she wins at trial.

2014 Wichita Election Results

Wichita 2014 Election Results
This is the final graph from my presentation at the Lawrence Symposium yesterday. My friend Eileen encouraged me to make a post about it as it’s one she feels quite illustrative of the reason for concern.

During the Q&A after my talk, I sorta kinda said I didn’t think the Governor legitimately won the popular vote in 2014. It occurred to me later that probably wasn’t a very ‘politically astute’ thing to say. I hope the Governor does not personal offense. Such thoughts didn’t occur to me at the time because I was talking about how I read the data shown in this chart. I get engrossed in the data analysis and don’t think about anything else.

This chart shows each of the four statewide races, Governor, Senator, Secretary of State, and Attorney General graphed in a cumulative summation analysis. In addition, the cumulative summation analysis of Wichita registered republican voters is provided to give a comparison.

In the cumulative summation models, as the models accumulates more data (think moving left to right across the graph) we expect it to converge to the average quickly and show decreasing differences randomly distributed around the mean. When we see a pattern of the model increasing or decreasing, it indicates that the sequencing of the summation is not random, but has a relationship with the share of the vote achieved.

In the graph above, the % registered republican voters shows a pattern that is not visually distinguishable from random. The four races all show a clearly non-random pattern with striking similarities. All show the pattern of increasing republican share of the vote with increasing votes cast.

These are not independent datasets. The four races all show a similar pattern because they are highly correlated. The pattern itself is the troubling thing.

Testimony regarding Kansas House Bill #2543

Kris Kobach introduced HB 2543 last month. He supports auditing our voting system! I am glad of the moral support although I did have some concerns about the actual law he submitted.

Letter to Legislators re Kobach Audit Proposal

I testified about those concerns at the Elections committee meeting in Topeka today. I want to write a more detailed description of the experience later, but I did want to post a notification of this activity today. Legislators on both sides are listening. Everyone agreed that audits are doable, although perhaps costly in 2016, and a good idea in order for voters to have confidence that their votes are all counted correctly.

I count this as progress. Sadly, I am amazing ignorant of all that is required for a bill to become law in the state of Kansas. Fortunately, I have supporters in the legislator. I was pleased to meet some of them today.

I even met Mr. Kobach today. He was quite nice, not seeming to mind at all that I’d just testified that he shouldn’t be trusted to generate the sample list, it should be part of the law that the sample is randomly generated. No one can be trusted to generate the sample list. That’s why it’s required that it be randomly generated. After the election. Because no one can leak information before it’s been generated.

Some people have been know to take offense at that implicit insinuation, but he showed no signs of feeling that way, understanding that it’s not personal. Setting up non-random samples is the easiest and most obvious way to degrade the audit process into an empty expensive rite devoid of value. Even if Mr. Kobach can be trusted not to deliberately bias samples in that manner, can his successor, or the next after that? Not to mention the effect of unconscious bias on sample selection methodologies?

What exactly does “Open Source” mean?

My understanding is that “Open Source” software is publicly available. That anyone interested can access the code.

This is no doubt a naive and fuzzy view of the concept, because Commissioner Jim Howell has responded as follows:

Please know, Henry Adkins equipment is based on an open source platform (linux) but all their software is proprietary. If the vendor represented their software as open source, then they were highly misleading. Their software for counting votes is exactly as proprietary as ES&S. If open source software were truly being used, then it could be argued that someone in Sedgwick County could potentially make changes to the software that could change the way the machines operate. I see this as a vulnerability as much as you and Ms. Clarkson see it as a preference. When the ability to change the software is totally out of our control, then we cannot be accused of making changes that might affect the outcome of the election and would also be difficult to defend or verify. Having this out of our control is a good thing in my opinion. Auditing the processes end-to-end (every election, randomly selected 1% of precincts) will give us confidence and assurance that everything is as it should be. Open source SW creates more questions and opens doors for distrust on the election systems. For the record, Sedgwick County does support HB2543 and we look forward to doing the audits as prescribed by law when this bill passes the legislative process.

If the vendor was misleading me and I fell for it, it wouldn’t be the first time. If I misunderstood the technical details and made a few false assumptions, it wouldn’t be the first time for that either. I’ve meant to go their website and check it out, but I’ve been rather busy at work this week and haven’t managed it yet. I’m just going to give my opinion without looking up definitions first and specifications first. It can be a very detail oriented task and it’s a bit late in the day for me to attempt it.

I disagree with Commissioner Howell that open source software implies that anyone can change it. Open source only allows people to see the code, check for backdoors, hardcoded passwords and other security breaches. It does not allow the software to be changed unless the evildoer also has physical or wireless access to the computing equipment. Access to the equipment is supposed to be rigorously controlled and without any wireless connections.

It’s arguable that open source grants more people the knowledge necessary to undermine the voting system if they can also get access. I find the additional transparency provided by open source software a worthwhile trade off for that increase in risk, but I can understand if others disagree on that point.

If the Henry Adkins software is actually proprietary, not open source, that fact would curb my enthusiasm for them quite a bit. I still consider their system superior to the ES&S for the other reasons I listed, but the difference is considerably less.

I want to give kudos to commissioner Howell for supporting routine audits of the electronic voting results. I think that’s great!