Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Watauga's Stella Anderson To the Rescue for Ballot Security

SBOE members Stella Anderson, far left,
and Jeff Carmon listen to presentation
by an officer of Election Systems & Software.
Photo Dan Kane, News and Observer
The State Board of Elections met last night for the purpose of certifying new voting equipment for all North Carolina polling places in 2020 and beyond. Instead, on a motion by Watauga County board member Stella Anderson, the decision was put off another 15 days until the SBOE can change its requirements to insist that vendors will guarantee that any touch-screen type machine also produces a paper ballot that a voter can read. (One of the big dogs in the election machine business, Election Systems and Software, offered a machine that produces a barcode. "I don't read barcode!" said Chris Telesca at a public hearing on Sunday night.)

Anderson's exact language in the motion that passed 3-2 (hattip Travis Fain):
"An electronically assisted ballot marking device or other ballot marking equipment shall produce human-readable marks on a paper ballot. The voter must be able to verify his or her intent as evidenced by the mark on the ballot. The mark shall be tabulated as the voter's selection."
In the speech Anderson made prior to her motion, she said, "I think I speak for all board members in saying voter trust and confidence in the security and integrity of any voting system we put in use in North Carolina is vital. Part of promoting that confidence requires that voters are able to verify their choices and know those choices are what will be tabulated."

Amen, Sister.

But here's where the wicket got sticky last night. Delaying the certification, the board automatically triggers a 15-day public comment period before any final vote can be taken. The board had already been through one delay while foreign ownership of any potentially certifiable voting machine was probed for unwanted influence. The Department of Homeland Security cleared the vendors of any foreign ownership. So Bob Cordle, the Democratic chair of the State Board of Elections, was antsy, and he didn't want to wait any more, cyber-security be damned. Neither did Republican member Ken Raymond of Winston-Salem.

Let's get it done, argued Cordle and Raymond.

Let's get it right, replied Anderson, joined by Jeff Carmon, the other Democrat. “This vote wasn’t taken lightly,” Carmon said. “Our state’s been in the news enough.”

Read more here: https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article233278201.html#storylink=cpy
In the end and coming as a surprise, Republican David Black voted with Anderson and Carmon.

Why is Bob Cordle so all-fired determined to certify equipment that nobody trusts? Nobody? Well, in truth, Cordle trusts it, and so does Raymond, and the companies wanting to make big bucks on the State Board's certification trust their own product (you bet!), but on what actual grounds (let alone reality) anyone is supposed to trust cyber equipment that can't be verified...  no thanks.
Every reporter is crediting Cary veteran poll worker Lynn Bernstein for arguing persuasively at Sunday's public hearing against machinery that produces barcodes. But the opposition to the barcode equipment on the board was already building before Sunday night. Because the actual final vote was supposed to have happened at the end of that public hearing on Sunday night, not last night. The delay came because on Sunday night, Republican Ken Raymond was missing. Cordle apparently knew that fellow Democrats Anderson and Carmon would vote no on rushing certification, leaving him with a probable tie if Republican David Black voted with him. So he delayed the final vote to last night when Raymond could be there. In the meantime, Republican David Black upended that applecart by voting with Anderson and Carmon. Whaddya know! A Republican that takes cyber threats seriously!
Meanwhile, one Democrat on the SBOE doesn't appear to care so much.

Bob Cordle's curious defense of electronic voting machines, particularly those made by Electronic Systems and Software (ESandS), goes back at least to the SBOE meeting on July 11th when Lynn Bernstein first raised issues with those machines. From reporting by Aditi Kharod:
“Remote-access software and modems on election equipment is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner,” said Bernstein, quoting a statement Sen. Wyden made to Motherboard. Bernstein argued that a company that had repeatedly lied about the nature of its machines and had only revealed the truth after being caught in its lies could not be trusted to help keep North Carolina’s elections safe.
“This begs the question: why is this board trusting ES&S’ word that these machines are secure and accurate?” asked Bernstein.
Bob Cordle, the chair of the SBE, pushed back against Bernstein’s arguments.
“In my experience… we had more problems with hand ballots than we did with any other ballots,” said Cordle. “There was more lying, cheating, and stealing going on… and also questions about… there were lots of questions about whether the oval was filled in, whether both ovals were filled in, so there are problems with hand ballots, too.”
“The research showed that 0.007% of ballots have stray marks,” said Bernstein. “That’s very, very few.”
“All I know is we saw a number of them,” said Cordle. “But I don’t wanna’ argue with you."

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