"What is the ultimate form of voter suppression? Not having your vote count."
Moderated by award-winning journalist and EI (election integrity) expert Lulu Friesdat, the well-known panelists included Rob Richie, president and CEO of Fair Vote; Ronnie Martin, Internal Communications Chair for the Atlanta Chapter of the ARCS Foundation; Bennie Smith, Shelby County [TN] Election Commissioner; Virginia Martin, Democratic Election Commissioner, Columbia County, New York; and Stephanie Singer, independent consultant for Verified Voting.
Richie, first to speak, said that all varieties of electronic voting machines currently in use are connected to the Internet-not only via predictable devices like modems but also because their assembly prior to use involves the Internet. So all are permeable and corruptible from the inside or outside.
The two varieties of machinery in use are DREs (direct-recording electronic systems), and optical scanners, consisting of lower technology but still, as computers, almost as permeable. Their advantage is the paper ballot filled in with pencil or pen that serves as a permanent record that can be hand-counted in the event of disputed totals-when they aren't destroyed or inaccessible because of government priorities, most likely corruption via suppressing recounts.
New on the scene to replace the infinitely hackable DREs is a system previously reserved for special-needs voters, ballot marking devices (BMDs), which consist of two or three components. They can cost up to three times the price that optical scanners command, $3,000 to $4,000. The latest and worst incarnation of these detestable devices is hybrid, in that it combines three devices in its $14,000 model. First you cast your vote on a touchscreen interface. The machine spits out a printed ballot recording your choices. A large majority of voters don't proofread (read: verify) their choices, so this constitutes a large gray area where the true choice of the voter may not be counted.
And so you insert your ballot into the next component of the machine, which prints up the ballot and assigns it a barcode supposedly recording your choices, but this is another area that can be hacked, the area that the machine actually counts. The machine may substitute its own preferences for yours. (for further information, visit SMARTelections.us ) The third component, a scanner, sucks in your ballot and then deposits it into a receptacle.
The simpler version of this hybrid consists of the same touchscreen interface and a printer, two separate components. The hybrids are the worst variety of BMDs, the ones that can vote for you, said Richie.
Both devices allow one user at a time. Compare this with the optical scanners, which allow any number of voters, at private stations, to write in their choices and then have them scanned into a receptacle, preventing the long lines that plague the system, especially in impoverished neighborhoods.
The Es&S ExpressVote ballot markers that will be used in Pennsylvania and Georgia operate on a Windows 7 platform, which Microsoft will stop servicing next January (2020). DREs operated on a Windows 100 basis often. Why? Certainly not toward a perfect system.
The hybrid ballot markers will be used in six swing states in 2020, with Florida buying the largest number of them.
A further fundamental flaw in this machinery is that if a voter does discover a flawed ballot, he/she cannot report the problem to a poll worker without revealing the candidates chosen, thus doing away with the secret ballot principle.
Moreover, the votes produced by this system cannot be audited.
The current gold standard of voting according to Richie is optical scanners combined with risk-limiting audits.
A pending lawsuit in Georgia, where in the 2018 gubernatorial election Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams lost by a small margin attributable to corruption, attacks a further glitch that eliminated votes for the powerful position of lieutenant governor and down-ballot from there, where many believe the true power resides. 127,000 votes went missing, only from electronic systems in African American neighborhoods, and not from absentee votes. The secretary of state, Brian Kemp, in charge of this election, was also the Republican candidate for governor who refused to recuse himself from taking charge of his own election.
Now the Peach Tree State has a longtime friendship with the vendor ES&S, a revolving-door relationship that trades off employees between the "factory" and the government. One such "alternater" became Kemp's chief of staff. The cost of the new machinery will be more than $150,000, according to Ronnie Martin.