FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
from the California Clean Money Campaign
Secretary Padilla refuses to comment for over 6 months on serious concerns of good government groups and election experts. Coalition of 81 groups and experts plus 23,000 voters now raise alarm ahead of election.
36 organizations and election security experts originally sounded the alarm to Sec. Padilla in a detailed letter on March 3rd after 3,000-plus voters demanded fixes. Sec. Padilla never responded to the letter.
"It's very disappointing that Secretary of State Padilla hasn’t even responded yet to the requests to fix the major election security flaws in LA County’s VSAP voting system that the coalition of good government organizations and election security experts sent him over six months ago," said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. "California should have the best election systems in the country. It would be an embarrassment — and a risk to our state — if Secretary Padilla were to approve the LA voting system without requiring that these dangerous problems be addressed."
The new coalition letter is signed by leading good government, election security, and activist groups including California Clean Money Campaign, Californians for Disability Rights, Courage California, Democracy for America, Equal Justice Society, Fight for the Future, Free Speech for People, 25 Indivisibles, Money Out Voters In, National Election Defense Coalition, Progressive Democrats of America, and Smart Elections along with election security experts like Dr. Philip Stark (UC Berkeley), Dr. Duncan Buell (Univ. of South Carolina), Dr. Richard DeMillo (Georgia Institute of Technology), and others.
"Indivisible members feel passionately about the integrity of our elections. Anybody who doesn’t do everything in their power to protect our voting machines from possible attackers is threatening our democracy," said Jennifer Tanner, founder of the Indivisible California Green Team. "That’s why 25 Indivisibles around the state join the broad coalition urging Secretary of State Padilla to require that the new LA County voting system’s security flaws be fixed before giving it final certification."
The coalition's expert analysis points out three major problems with the VSAP voting system:
1) VSAP uses unverifiable QR Codes to count votes, a method that Colorado correctly banned.
The new LA voting systems uses QR codes for tabulation. Although voters can easily verify the selections that the BMD prints on their ballot in their own language, they cannot easily verify the QR codes that the system also prints on their ballot and will actually use to tally their votes.
The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) shares the concern about QR codes, saying "Malicious or faulty production of a barcode may cause a vote capture device to present the voter with different ballot selections than what will be interpreted by the voting machine". Colorado’s Secretary of State has disallowed the use of similar QR codes because "QR codes could be among the next target of an attack and are potentially subject to manipulation."
2) To submit their ballot after they verify it, voters are required to insert it into a ballot marking device (BMD) that could be hacked.
VSAP's design has the major security flaw that the ballot passes under the printhead after the voter has cast it. This security flaw exists even though the printhead is normally lifted by VSAP software when the ballot is reinserted. The problem is that if the software is hacked it can direct the printhead to tamper with the ballot and the voter would never know.
"Many states, including California, are moving towards risk-limiting audits of paper ballots to check reported electoral outcomes," said UC Berkeley Professor Philip Stark, inventor of risk-limiting audits. "But VSAP undermines the ability of risk-limiting audits to catch and correct wrong outcomes. The BMD printout is a record of what BMDs did. It is not a trustworthy record of what voters did. Passing marked ballots under the printhead after voters' final opportunity to review, as VSAP BMDs do, is a basic security fail."
3) Voters aren't offered regular hand-marked paper ballots to use if they don't bring in their vote-by-mail ballot, unlike in every other county with vote centers in California.
Sec. Padilla has required that LA County give voters who ask the option to use absentee write-in paper ballots instead of using the electronic BMD but as the letter points out, this is "highly problematic because requiring voters to actually handwrite their selections — offices, candidates, ballot measure numbers, etc. — will slow voters down dramatically, induce errors that may disenfranchise voters, and make votes hard to read and count."
The coalition has begun a major campaign urging Sec. Padilla to act. Over 23,000 people from around California and the nation have already signed a petition generating official comments urging him to require the coalition's requested fixes before giving final certification to VSAP, and hundreds have called his office asking the same thing. 54 people — possibly a record — testified at the Secretary of State's August 31st hearing on VSAP certification to urge these security flaws be fixed, with no outside experts or members of the public commenting otherwise.
Resolving these dangers is especially important for voters of color, because LA County has more voters of color than any other county in the country.
"Los Angeles County has far more voters of color than any other county in the country, so it's especially important to minimize their risks of being disenfranchised by bad actors taking advantage of potential security flaws in the county’s new voting system," said Meher Dhaliwal, Civil Rights Program Manager of the Equal Justice Society. "That's why we urge Secretary of State Padilla to require solutions to the risks in LA County’s VSAP voting system identified by the election security experts in the coalition letter."
"According to experts, voters in the county with the most Latinx and other voters of color in the nation are at risk of having their votes, their voice, and their power stolen by attackers who could take advantage of blatant security flaws in LA County’s voting system." said Michele Sutter, Director of Money Out Voters In. "Those communities and every community deserve more from Secretary Padilla than his shameful silence."
The California Clean Money Campaign is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that has been dedicated to educating the public about the need to lessen the unfair influence of Big Money on election campaigns since 2001. For further information, visit www.CAclean.org.
PLEASE SIGN THE COALITION PETITION to ask Secretary of State Padilla to require that the voting system's security flaws be fixed — it's important to sign no matter where you live because after it's approved in LA it could be used as a model around the country!
The petition will send your message as an official comment to Secretary Padilla after giving you a draft you can edit.
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