2013-04-23: (CA) Testimony by Tom Courbat opposing Internet voting bill

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Here is an example of carefully researched, professional, and articulate advocacy:

Testimony by Tom Courbat before the California Assembly Elections Committee opposing AB 19, an Internet voting bill.

My name is Tom Courbat. I am the former Finance Director for Riverside County, California and am a 100% disabled Army veteran. I have been monitoring elections for seven (7) years and was appointed by the Chairman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors as the only citizen representative to partake in a $350,000 study of the problems associated with the Riverside County Registrar of Voters office.

Riverside County was the first county in California to embrace electronic voting starting with the General Election in the year 2000. There was much hoopla and excitement generated by this bold move by the county to embark upon a brave new paperless voting system – a system that in fact provided no ability to authenticate the report of votes cast on these new machines. This system provided no ability to conduct a public recount – although the public and candidates were assured a “backup” system was in place in the event a recount was called for. In 2004, when the “backup” file was requested by a candidate in a close race for County Supervisor, it suddenly became impossible to provide such a file – it was deemed “proprietary” and thus the assurances of security and recount ability faded away.

When the case was taken to court, the judge ruled that unless the candidate could demonstrate that it was likely the result would be changed by a recount, he would not order the ROV to release the backup tape. And thus began what would become well over a decade of unverifiable electronic elections.

Granted, in 2006 a law was passed requiring each machine to produce a printout of the vote cast by the voter (called a Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail or VVPAT) to “verify” his/her vote, but testing revealed these printouts could easily be manipulated. After a thorough Top-to-Bottom Review in the summer of 2007 by top U.C. computer scientists under the auspices of the Secretary of State, the machines were declared essentially unreliable and were for the most part relegated to use by disabled voters.

Federal certification of voting systems has become nearly meaningless since some of the certification companies themselves were “decertified” for failure to follow their own quality control procedures. One company withdrew when advised they needed to comply with specific requirements. You should know that certification is “voluntary”, so no state is required to have a “certified” system if they choose not to. And one company, Sequoia, took their system to another testing lab when their system was flunked by the first testing lab.

The federal Election Assistance Commission (the EAC) has four Commissioner vacancies, which wouldn’t be all that bad, except that the commission only has FOUR commissioner positions. The entire commission has been vacant since 2011!

While the Secretary of State did a commendable job in identifying the myriad of flaws in the electronic voting systems in California, she has declared that she has essentially no enforcement authority. Thus if/when counties disregard the security requirements placed upon them by the SOS, there is no corrective action taken to ensure voters that the system they are using is reliable and secure and that the reported election results can be authenticated.

In essence, our election system is based on trust. If you believe that is the way to conduct business as important as elections, allow me to purchase your car you have for sale for $10,000. I will give you a stack of bills, and there will be a $100 bill on the top of the stack and a $100 bill on the bottom. You will then simply “trust” me when I tell you there are 98 additional $100 bills in the stack. You won’t need to count, because the transaction is based on “trust”. I will then take possession of your pink slip and your vehicle just as election companies take possession of our votes. We are told we may not review the various components of the vote counting system because it is “proprietary”. And as Josef Stalin commented, “Those who vote decide nothing; those who count the votes determine everything”!

Most of you may know that the majority of votes cast in America are now counted by foreign-owned companies. One of the few still owned by Americans is partially owned by Bain Capital. We as voters have little to no control over how our votes are counted.

And now we come to the concept of Internet voting. Well, maybe that is a euphemism. Actually, we are talking about Internet COUNTING. As we’ve learned in the decade since Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney created HAVA and dispersed $4 Billion to put in place an electronic voting system that has proven to be as vulnerable as a stack of $100 bills, there is not adequate security when votes become ones and zeros. They cannot be tracked, traced and authenticated. Our federal government has done nothing to shore up the security of our voting systems four private voting machine companies were given an open ticket to sell $4 Billion worth of insecure machines to our Election Officials.

The federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has had all four commissioner positions vacant since 2011. At the state level, the SOS has limited authority to enforce security requirements with the existing system. And now Mr. Ting wants to “pilot” Internet voting systems (remember – they are really “counting” systems) that provide NO ability to authenticate the vote or to conduct a recount, since there is nothing there but ether. Yet those at the receiving end will know very well how each and every one of us votes – in total violation of the right to privacy of our vote. And worse yet, none of us will have any way of knowing if/when the entire election is hacked by enemies, foreign or domestic.

And we embark on this “pilot” journey because California is the home of Silicon Valley, and surely we MUST somehow, some way, be able to make the Internet secure enough to entrust our votes – the currency of democracy – to this entity that the Pentagon cannot protect against? Initial efforts in Washington D.C. to implement Internet voting were a total disaster.

Please don’t waste our precious and limited resources with a rush to be the first – like we were with electronic voting. It is time to let others “pilot” this concept – it is far too dangerous to risk the already-compromised security of our precious votes.

Thank you for your time.

 

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