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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 9/12/17

Presidential Advisory Commission on "Election Integrity" Second Meeting Today (9/12): Experts Refuting Deplorables

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Polling place procedures of the past
Polling place procedures of the past
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The Presidential Advisory Commission on "Election Integrity" [quotation marks mine] met today at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, St. Anselm College, at an all-day session from 10 a.m. through 4:30 p.m.

It was not my good fortune to be able to watch the entire event, which was broadcast live by the New Hampshire Union Leader. I glimpsed some minutes of the first two sessions at their overlap point and then got lucky to view the final session, testimony by world-class voting security and technology experts Harri Hursti, Andrew Appel, and Ronald L. Rivest.

Please keep in mind that technology is not my specialty in the field of EI. I nonetheless found riveting the testimonies and the questions from the all-white panel that included EI villains like vice-chair Kenneth Kobach, Hans von Spakovsky, and Kenneth Blackwell, former Ohio SoS/co-chair of the Republican committee to re-elect G. W. Bush in 2004. Chair Mike Pence was out of the radar in the portions I watched. I can't report whether he was there or not and very unjournalistically don't give a hoot. I didn't hear a peep out of him if he was.

The main takeaways from this panel, which lasted at least an hour, were the necessity for post-election auditing of paper ballots before certification of results, which means trashing DREs, which cast all votes to the infinity of cyberspace--used in only 10 states during Election 2016, according to one of those present, but the consequences may have been crucial. I won't take the time to narrow down on this vital issue at the moment. Only Georgia, Louisiana, Delaware, and New Jersey use DREs exclusively, but several others use them along with optical scanners [and occasional hand-counted paper ballots (HCPB)], and so it is difficult to ascertain how many electoral votes were involved in 2016.

Another takeaway was the fact that it takes a thief to catch a thief and that so many digital devices and auxiliaries we use every day are dangerously hackable.

The atmosphere was folksy and supportive the times I could tune in. The sanguine New Hampshire secretary of state, Bill Gardner, was a commanding and assertive presence up against the TRUMPeters, correcting Kobach on his allegation that those who registered to vote with out-of-state licenses in New Hampshire were not entitled to do so. The Granite State does not prohibit anyone who resides there as a college/university student (or in some other capacity) from voting, Gardner clarified. Such students trend Democratic, as throughout most of the country, so small wonder that this issue so preoccupied Kobach, whom the camera caught at least once, as I watched, disconcerted because KO'ed.

But my first contact was a demonstration by Gardner of the wooden ballots boxes used by those residents of his state who vote via HCPB (I believe 30 percent of voters). I took a screen shot I hope I can post with this article.

Those present chuckled at the demonstration of such relics. The entire state votes on paper, optical scanners being the dominant method. Von Spakovsky wanted to know how "spoiled" ballots were handled--those damaged by stray marks that can confuse the scanners or absence of checkmarks where boxes for them appear, and other such events. Gardner told him that each ballot was read with the intention of the voter prioritized where it was apparent, leaving few for the scrap heap the former DoJ official in the elections division of the civil rights section is fond of.

Von Spakovsky next wondered whether such perusals were done uniformly statewide--otherwise the Bush v Gore misinterpretation of the equal protection principle of the Fourteenth Amendment could kick in, invalidating recent, close election results in New Hampshire that seated two Democratic senators. Here is what prompted the Donald to claim that voters were bussed in from Massachusetts to abet the "wrong" outcome, which Von Spakovsky implied was in turn abetted by the acceptance of out-of-state driver's licenses as voter ID.

Then it was lunch time for those with an appetite.

When I next tuned in, von Spakovsky was touting provisional ballots, which are often uncounted, as the solution to lots of issues that eliminate voters from the voting rolls, mostly Democrats in the scenarios depicted before this comforting reassurance. That is, eliminating one-third of all votes from being counted, just a ballpark figure, solves everything, salves everything.

Thus ended this panel, before the best one convened. Andrew Appel, a New Hampshire native, began testimonies on the issues of secure voting, reliable counting, and voter privacy. He briefly reviewed the electoral situation in the nineteenth-century United States, where lots of fraud occurred because voters could bring their filled-in ballots from home and for many reasons could sneak in several copies. The introduction of the Australian ballot in 1890 put a stop to that, but substituted other problems that linger to this day: bad ballot design (recall the Florida 2000 "butterfly ballot") that could cause voters to select candidates they didn't want or else the "spoiled" ballots discussed above, inter alia.


Regarding the advocacy of HCPB to replace the hugely hackable electronic systems most of the country uses, Appel said that they are possible in Europe, where the parliamentary system allows for single-issue voting. In our Congressional system, this is not an option, given the variety of candidates and issues we vote for at least once a year, especially in large jurisdictions [though special elections may be a more hospitable venue for this method supported by a variety of groups in this country--ed.].

Appel's focus then shifted to the many reasons we need to eliminate DREs from the polls altogether. In a word, once again, they are infinitely hackable in a large number of ways. They can be programmed to perform flawlessly in testing mode and then corrupt the actual election results. Programs can be loaded into them at any time before election days--modifying them does not take much time and is easy. Even indirect, let alone direct connection to the Internet greatly facilitates hacking from as far away as . . . well, Russia for example [my example].

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Marta Steele is an author/editor/blogger who has been writing for since 2006. She is also author of the 2012 book "Grassroots, Geeks, Pros, and Pols: The Election Integrity Movement's Nonstop Battle to Win Back the People's Vote, (more...)

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