July 27, 2007

Open Letter to CA Secretary of State Bowen

By Rebecca Mercuri

Dear Secretary of State Bowen,

At a cost of $1.8M, you now have various reports http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_vsr.htm that confirm that all of the State’s Hart, Diebold and Sequoia DRE and OpScan voting systems can be hacked in various ways. Potential hacks include the all-important ability to have a VVPAT print out one thing and the DRE total reflect something else (thus rendering the VVPAT useless) as well as the capability of detecting election mode (thus enabling the pre-election testing to appear correct, while the actual election has been compromised). All of these are types of hacks that many knowledgeable people (including myself) have been publicly saying for years could happen, and now you know that for sure they can. In addition, you know that “the security mechanisms provided for all systems analyzed were inadequate to ensure accuracy and integrity of the election results” and you also have learned that all of your State’s voting systems fail to meet the Federal accessibility requirements.

Unfortunately, the report also provides you with a fall-back position whereby these wretched election products can continue to be used — by claiming that many of the attack scenarios can be mitigated through better physical security, security training of staff, and contingency planning. Of course the report fails to really explain what those mitigations need to be, and it also omits mentioning that if the staff or the vendor happens to be corrupt and their contingency plan is to cover up their tracks, we now know for sure that fraud is certainly possible. So it’s probably not a good idea to throw more money at additional security mechanisms and training while everyone pretends that they’re conducting legitimate elections, since insiders will still have the upper hand. Anyway, all these extra controls really won’t help your disabled population vote independently and privately either.

Here’s a novel thought: why not just get rid of the junk the voting system vendors have sold your gullible counties over the past few years, demand a refund, and let your citizens vote on paper and do the counting themselves? Many disabled people can use inexpensive disposable ballot templates (that will also work just fine for those who cannot leave home or hospital, unlike the expensive DREs). And if you happen to scrape together another $1.8M (say from that vendor refund), I can help you assemble a team of world-class Ph.D.’s to validate that you can more than adequately ensure accuracy and integrity of election results with hand cast, hand counted, paper ballots. If you like, we can even add features to the paper ballots (similar to those used by your State lottery) that will make them and their contents far more secure than anything you have now. It’s an idea whose time has come.

Hope you’ll think about it, since this electronic stuff just isn’t going to cut the mustard, no matter how much additional cash you spread on top of it for security purposes. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions.

Rebecca Mercuri, Ph.D.

Authors Website: http://www.notablesoftware.com

Authors Bio: Rebecca Mercuri has been in the forefront of the voting integrity movement since 1989. She provides expert witness services for elections and other forensic computing matters.

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