Monday, August 26, 2019

OMG, BMDs in GA and NC Too! WTF?

Damon Circosta,
new chair of the NC SBE

The Election Systems and Software (ESandS) balloting machinery that Damon Circosta declared last Friday is safe enough for him, and then voted to certify for use in North Carolina counties in 2020 -- those machines are also known in the industry as BMDs, "ballot-marking devices." After a voter touches his choices on a display screen, the machine produces a piece of paper with barcodes representing those choices along with a printed list of what those barcodes purport to mean -- the names of candidates.

The problem is that there's no way to verify that indeed the barcode actually matches the printed list.

In the Age of Trump, verification is all.

Chair of the SBOE Damon Circosta knows why he voted the way he voted. I don't. Apparently, he had ulterior motives that I don't fully understand -- something to do with what might happen in the General Assembly if certain vendors are denied their business interests in North Carolina. Maybe that's a legitimate concern. I don't know. But I've never thought it a compelling argument to worry about what other people might do if I do the right thing.

Here's where North Carolina is today following those votes last Friday: We're now in the same bad place as Georgia. On August 15, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Totenberg banned Georgia’s current untrustworthy touchscreen voting machines. You may recall the huge uproar following the close 2018 election for Georgia governor between Ga. Sec'ty of St. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. In Georgia, the Secretary of State runs the election machinery, maintains the voter rolls, and tallies the vote. Brian Kemp held onto that power until the day after last November's election, when he resigned the office. The voting in Georgia was done on very hackable touchscreen machines, the ones Judge Tottenberg ruled out on August 15, not that anyone has proven that hacking took place in the 2018 Georgia governor race. What did take place and was ultimately worse perhaps was the disenfranchisement of black voters: "3,000 people were wrongly flagged by the state as being ineligible to vote, and 53,000 voter registrations were delayed by Kemp's office without adequately notifying the applicants" (Wikipedia).

(The General Assembly of North Carolina had already passed legislation banning touchscreen machines that produce no paper record, making their use impossible in 2020. The ESandS BMD's, with their printed barcodes, are now certified as legit replacements.)

And guess what -- Judge Tottenberg's ruling came in Georgia coincidentally on the heels of the new Republican Secretary of State's announced intent to purchase BMDs for use in Georgia in 2020 (some or most from ESandS?). That decision is causing a very similar outcry down there among balloting watchdogs and experts. For example, Richard DeMillo (the Charlotte B. and Roger C. Warren Professor of Computing, former dean of the College of Computing and Director of the Center for Information Security Research at Georgia Tech and previously Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett-Packard) warned yesterday in the Atlanta Constitution:
History is poised to repeat itself. There is a growing consensus among experts that the BMDs slated to replace the current system have all the cyber vulnerabilities of the old system plus some appalling new wrinkles like forcing voters to cast bar-coded ballots that are unreadable by human beings. The lone cybersecurity expert on the governor’s own election security task force strongly urged the legislature to reject BMDs. Experts from the U.S. National Academy of Science (NAS), Verified Voting Foundation, the National Election Defense Coalition, Freedom Works, Common Cause, and many others, agreed and wrote letters urging rejection of BMDs. Conservative Republicans like national security expert Tony Shaffer joined Libertarians, Democrats, and Independents in condemning the use of BMDs.
Those same objections to BMDs were voiced quite clearly last Friday in North Carolina too, and Damon Circosta supposedly heard them quite clearly before he voted to ignore the warnings. He knows best why all that testimony meant exactly zero to him, and so far he has failed to tell us why.

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