aside Argument In Favor Of Standardized Automatic Vote Audits

Image result for jill stein vote recount photo
Jill Stein

There seems to be a consensus brewing that a vote recount/ audit among the three states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as requested by the Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein which is her right, is not only a waste of time and money, but it is giving false hope to fellow voters that the 104,000- 107,000 ballots that the democratic presidential nominee lost by, could be overcome to advantage Hillary Clinton.

Then there is the added trauma as Americans watched in shock as the 2016 U.S. presidential election process became marred by Russian hacker intrusions that breached the internet systems of the Democratic National Committee, the U.S. state department; the democratic campaign manager’s website and the email account of a top staffer to Mrs. Clinton. It is no wonder that that many peoples are all too ready to believe that their actual votes have been hacked too. Now, these fears are being stoked by a team of computer voting security experts claiming that our voting system is vulnerable to manipulation and being hacked.Image result for jill stein vote recount photo

The above line of thinking does make sense until it is compared to an alternative point of view which is that a statistical audit of electronic voting results in key states as a routine safeguard, would be a cost effective and a sensible preventative measure to discourage the possibility of future hacking when folks know that discovery is a real possibility. The vote recount/ audit in the three states (MI, PA, WI) could provide relevant data needed for study by the voting computer experts. Thus, I am strongly supporting this recount/ audit.

Andy Greenberg presents a similar argument in his 11/23/16 post published by WIRED, “Hacked or Not, Audit This Election (And All Future Ones).” Here are excerpts:

“Dig into their argument, however, and it’s less alarmist than it might appear. If anything, it’s practical. There’s no evidence that the outcome of the presidential election was shifted by compromised voting machines. But a statistical audit of electronic voting results in key states as a routine safeguard—not just an emergency measure—would be a surprisingly simple way to ease serious, lingering doubts about America’s much-maligned electoral security. “Auditing ought to be a standard part of the election process,” says Ron Rivest, a cryptographer and computer science professor at MIT. “It ought to be a routine thing as much as a doctor washing his hands.”

Image result for jill stein vote recount photo

Election security experts still agree with Halderman’s (Uof Michigan computer expert) underlying argument: that auditing elections would help to settle dangerous, persistent uncertainty in a system potentially plagued by hackers. They’re not as taxing as a full recount. And, importantly, they shouldn’t solely be deployed as an emergency provision in contested elections, but rather a default part of the process. MIT’s (Professor Ronald) Rivest quotes his computer scientist colleague at George Washington University, Poorvi Vora: “Brush your teeth. Audit your elections.”Image result for jill stein vote recount photo

An Audit That Works

“While there’s no indication that polling places in the three states (WI, MI. PA) were hacked, it’s well established that electronic voting machines are vulnerable to malware that could corrupt votes. Many US voting machines today scan a paper ballot that the voter fills out by hand, and many electronic systems produce a paper record as well. In fact, (Professor J. Alex) Halderman notes, about 70 percent of Americans live in voting districts that leave a paper trail, a record that can be used to check voting machines’ digital results. But all too often, no one ever does, he writes. “No state is planning to actually check the paper in a way that would reliably detect that the computer-based outcome was wrong,” (Professor) Halderman says.”

“In fact, around half of all states already do perform some form of “audit” on their electronic voting results. But strangely, those so-called audits aren’t actually designed to stop hackers from installing their candidate of choice as president, says Pamela Smith, the president of the non-partisan group Verified Voting, which focuses on election security. (Pamela) Smith points out that in Wisconsin, for instance, audit rules require 100 voting places to have their votes checked for errors in any election. But that check is meant to identify reliability problems in the voting machines, not wholesale hacking.” Image result for jill stein vote recount photo

“Even if widespread errors were found, the audit wouldn’t be expanded to a larger sample of the machines. And ultimately the only recourse of the auditors, no matter how many erroneously counted ballots they find, is to suspend future purchases of voting machines from that equipment vendor. “It’s almost as if it’s designed to not find out if there’s anything wrong, or if there is, not do anything about it,” (Pamela) Smith says.”

“Performing a real, statistically valid audit of electronic voting results isn’t so hard, says MIT’s (Ronald) Rivest. Auditing the entire national election would require checking an estimated half a percent of paper ballots, he and University of Berkeley statistician Philip Stark have found. For states with close margin, like this election’s results in Wisconsin or Michigan, the audit would need a bigger random sample, but hardly a full recount. Rivest says that statisticians could perform an audit of just 2.3 percent of the ballots in Wisconsin, 11 percent of the ballots in Michigan, or just .7 percent of the ballots in Pennsylvania and determine if the results were correct with 95% certainty. (If they were found to be incorrect, Rivest notes, the audit would be expanded.)”Image result for jill stein vote recount photo

Paper Chase

“Of course, Rivest’s method assumes that paper ballots exist to be checked in an audit in the first place. In some states, including Pennsylvania, they don’t: Much of the Quaker State uses so-called direct record electronic (DRE) voting machines. Those machines have not only been found to be vulnerable in many cases to physical access hacks that can infect them with malware in just seven minutes, but they lack any actual paper ballot filled out by a voter. Auditing them may be possible, but would require more skilled and less certain computer forensics work.”

“Pennsylvania’s lack of a paper ballots likely mean no easy audit can call into question the result of this month’s election, even if anyone believed that the election had been effectively hacked. After all, Clinton would have had to win Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which went to Trump, as well as Michigan, whose votes are still being counted. But a quick, relatively cheap statistical audit could at the very least confirm Trump’s victory, putting to rest an uncertainty that weakens confidence in the federal government no matter who the president is.”

2 comments

  1. Gronda, as we have discussed, Americans need to know we had a fair and clean election. The man who cried the loudest ended up winning. And, he says the counts that gave Clinton the 2 million popular lead may have been problematic. So, by the President-elect’s take, a vote for me is a good vote, but a vote for someone else is cheating.

    I am not saying the outcome may be different, but the result was a surprise and sufficiently different than the expectations. It may all be due to the fact Stein’s candidacy robbed Clinton of more votes than Trump’s. Or, it may be due to James Comey changing the paradigm before the biggest weekend of early voting and people who voted later never saw that Comey said it was all OK a week later.

    But, we should check to make sure as we are about to witness at the very least, one of the most unusual presidencies we have ever had.

    Keith

    • Dear Keith,

      To me, it only makes sense to take advantage of this vote recount./ audit opportunity to uncover any shortcomings in the voting machinery, computer related systems and to set the stage for instituting an automatic audit based on statistical models for all elections to assure Americans that their votes are secure.

      Like you said, it was DT who raised all this hoopla, in the first place.

      Ciao, Gronda

Comments are closed.