OPEN LETTER: Westchester County Legislators Follow the Facts, Vote “No!”
By JULIE WEINER

Tribune Campaign Trail, Finance, Governance, Political Analysis, Politics, Westchester County, NY 4 Comments

Julie Weiner, MS

YONKERS, NY — August 4, 2020 — I hope you will each follow the facts and the science, and vote “NO!” on a voting machine, that if hacked, can prevent our elections from being audited by printing over ballots after they are cast with marks that look just like hand marks.

I hope you will follow the facts and the science, and recognize that our voting machines CAN be hacked – as can any computer with a USB port, stereo port, micro SD card reader, and tens thousands of lines of code with a predictable number of exploitable bugs, surrounded by fallible human beings.

See attached detailed paper, “Evidence Based Elections,” explaining why “It isn’t connected to the internet” is no protection against hackers.

The NSA’s computers were hacked. Cybersecurity measures are urgent and important. Nonetheless, it is unlikely that our local board of elections is better protected than major government intelligence agencies. Key components of election security include:

* Remaining vigilant by assuming hacks ARE taking place. Complacency – the belief that you are safe – is the enemy of security.

* Catching either hacks or computer errors after they occur by auditing: hand counting ballots and comparing the outcomes to the computer output.

It vastly increases the risk that we will be hacked and never know it if we purchase voting machines that, in the event of a hack, can invalidate our ballots so audits become meaningless. Please do not take this risk! Without accurate vote counts, citizens have no way to hold our government accountable to the people.

I hope you will do the arithmetic and respect the simple truth that we DO NOT NEED any new voting machines for Election Day. Onandaga County programmed their ICP ballot marking device to read 150 ballot styles for early voting. That took an hour of setup time, according to Democratic Commissioner Dustin Czarny (phone conversation July 27, 2010, for attribution), not the four or five hours predicted by Commissioner Lafayette. Allegany has 29 E.D.’s and successfully ran Early Voting for three parties’ primaries with no new voting machines. “There were no issues, no delayed startup times,” reported Deputy Commissioner Barbara Broughton. I urge you to investigate for yourself before you take this vote: how did New York counties that used only our familiar ICP’s for early voting manage to carry it off, with ballot-marking devices available to all voters who needed them all set up and ready to read all E.D.’s?

We have been told we will have at least 200 Westchester poll sites in November – so with 963 E.D.’s, our ICP’s will only have to read, on average, five ballot styles. Why are you even considering letting the Board of Elections throw away over 1420 certified, working voting machines that CAN read multiple ballots when Westchester has a $250 million budget deficit already? It is not true that parts are unavailable – Dominion is still selling the ICP’s to other venues.

This is Dominion’s most expensive machine. Westchester is a rich county. Dominion doesn’t care about your constituents.

You are supposed to. 

Chairman Boykin, I am sorry to say there were some serious factual errors in the letter you and several other legislators sent to your constituents attempting to justify this expense. I attach a copy of SmartElections’ fact-check.

I am also opposed to the purchase of KnowInk e-pollbooks because of the widely reported extremely long lines their failures caused in Los Angeles, Georgia and other locations. We already have enough e-pollbooks for Early Voting, and I question whether they will be necessary on Election Day if we have only five or six E.D.’s per polling site. As a frequent poll watcher, I have monitored elections at sites with that many E.D.’s, with a paper poll book present for each E.D. Now, under pandemic conditions, election inspectors using paper pollbooks would, of course, have to spread out the tables, chairs and voting machines more, and not hover over each other to inspect the poll books, but rather more carefully take turns. Perhaps plastic head-shields could also be provided for protection during inspector-voter interactions, and large boxes of new pens, similar to practices devised for petitioning at the beginning of the pandemic.

I urge you all to vote NO on tomorrow’s bond issues. The Dominion ICE, if hacked, will prevent valid audits. The whole purpose of audits is to catch hacks (or computer errors) after they occur. Paper ballots from which voter intent cannot be ascertained cannot be validly audited.

If you choose to impose the ICE on us, despite all the science against them, you might as well go back and buy the touchscreens New York avoided by choosing paper ballots. You will be imposing “faith-based” instead of evidence-based elections in Westchester County: voters and candidates will have no way of knowing whether the votes were accurately counted; you will be asking us to take it on faith.

I hope you will choose science. There is a place for faith in elections: democracies are supposed to place our faith in the ultimate wisdom of the majority of voters – not in the absurd illusion that our voting machines can’t be rigged or hacked, so we can toss valid audits to the wind!

Sincerely,

Julie Weiner, MS

Citizens for Voting Integrity New York

www.CitizensVotingNY.org

P.S. Dominion’s website, DominionVoting.com, has been offline since at least 3:22p.m. today, over nine hours. Not a ringing endorsement of our vendor’s internet-security chops. And that’s where you want to invest millions of taxpayer dollars?

# # # # #

pastedGraphic.png

Below is a letter that was sent to Westchester residents by their legislators justifying a plan to spend $6 million on new voting machines and electronic pollbooks. Many of the statements in the letter are factually incorrect.

We encourage you to read the comments in red, and then contact your legislator and urge them to vote “NO” on the 2 bonds for voting equipment. The meeting for the vote is Monday August 3rd at 10am.

# # #

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

There is nothing more important than making sure that voting in Westchester is safe, effective, efficient, and accurate, especially this fall when voter turnout is sure to be record-breaking.

Although the Board of Legislators (BOL) has no authority over how the Board of Elections (BOE) conducts elections, we have been examining ways to make voting better – including convening a Task Force to examine voter experiences, hearing committee testimony from voting rights advocates, and bringing our Election Commissioners before us.  Our Task Force will issue a report with recommendations next week.  In addition, the County Executive has offered a four-point plan for helping the BOE this fall.

VOTER ACCESS

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many challenges, including limiting the number of polling places and imposing social distancing requirements within polling places. We might not know the number of polling places, or election inspectors ready to be deployed, until very close to Election Day itself. (FALSE— the Election Law says that the BOE must communicate to each voter his/ her designated polling site by August 31. Consequently, they should be FINALIZING sites now and training inspectors NOW.  We need a sense of urgency at the BOE). We need to have the right combination of voting machines to maximize voter ease, convenience and efficiency in all plausible scenarios.

In the last few elections, our polling places have begun to use electronic pollbooks to replace the old paper books. These pollbooks are needed to ensure that the BOE does not count more than one ballot per voter; and they are more efficient than the big paper books, especially in a scenario with consolidated polling places. (The Westchester Board of Elections is consolidating polling locations in an extreme manner that does not support efficient and safe voting.  On Primary Day, Westchester opened only 62 out of 363 voting sites and testimony in public hearings indicates that voters who wanted to work as poll inspectors were rebuffed by the BOE.  It looks like the BOE is setting themselves up to fail again. In 5 hours of testimony on July 29 before the BOL, the BOE changed estimates frequently and made NO commitments regarding the number of polling sites that will be open on Election Day.) 

There are numerous security redundancies to bar against tampering, including the fact that the pollbooks are not hooked up to actual voting rolls; and that the actual paper registrations are still on file at the BOE. (It’s excellent that the Westchester BOE is taking security precautions. It does not mean that the machines can’t still be hacked. We know that voter registration databases and election systems around the country were successfully hacked in 2016. This year our elections will be tested as well. What makes the Dominion ICE machines worse than other voting systems is that the paper ballot can be changed by the machine after the voter casts their ballot.

Professor Philip Stark of UC Berkeley has said about the ICE and other hybrid voting machines, “No form of audit can confirm they functioned correctly.” That is why security experts are calling the Dominion ICE voting machine that Westchester County officials are about to purchase a “disaster.”

If there was ever an election that we needed to have absolute confidence in, it is this 2020 election.)

We have also begun using new voting machines. The BOE sent the BOL a request to purchase updated voting machines and electronic pollbooks.

Fewer polling sites means more election districts will be consolidated at various polling places.  So, voting machines must be able to scan different ballots efficiently.  There may be people voting in different New York State Senate, New York State Assembly, congressional and judicial races at the same polling place, and machines at those sites need to be able to handle the different ballots. (Our  current machines can handle 100 ballot ‘styles’,  per correspondence from the State Board of Elections received by the BOL on June 5, 2020. This is much more than the number of ballot styles required in this year’s election.)

In addition, people with disabilities will be voting and will need access to voting machines at the same time at the same polling sites. (We have plenty of current machines which are suitable for voters with disabilities. If a few need repair, our current machines are still for sale and are a fraction of the cost of the new ICE machines.)

Furthermore, machines used for early voting must be able to read every ballot face from every one of the County’s 942 Election Districts, so that Westchester voters can go into any polling site to vote, during the early voting period only.  (Voters in New York are supposed to be able to vote at any assigned location during Early Voting but the voting machines that Westchester currently has are able to do that. The BOE has already purchased over 160 ICE machines that can also accomplish this.) Machines used for early voting cannot be used on Election Day.

Our current voting machines are 10 to 12 years old.  New parts are often no longer available to keep them running.  Their ability to handle multiple ballots is limited and bootup and loading times can be very long when using them with multiple ballot faces.  Newer machines can much more easily and quickly handle multiple ballot faces.

(All FALSE  — The current machines are still available and still certified.  The BOL heard from the State BOE that the difference in programming time between the current machine and the ICE machine was minutes.  Programming for scanners for people with disabilities is longer – Onandaga County reported it took them an hour. However, that programming only needs to be done once for Early Voting and once for Election Day.

This technology gap is a problem for all of us when it comes to our shared goal of safe, efficient, effective and accurate elections.

EQUIPMENT FINANCING

The Board of Legislators has no control over which machines are purchased or used.

The New York State Board of Elections tests and certifies the machines, and State law gives County Election Commissioners the sole discretion to choose which of the State-certified machines to buy and use.

The County Legislature’s discretion over the funding of these purchases is limited.

Although we have the sole authority to issue bonds to finance those purchases, if we don’t issue those bonds, the County Board of Elections can go to the New York State Board of Elections for the money to buy the machines, and stick the County’s taxpayers with the bill. (FALSE — The SBOE can only require purchases where the County lacks NECESSARY equipment. Westchester County has plenty of ‘necessary’ equipment; there are currently 1420 machines in its warehouse.)

That could mean a multimillion dollar hit to the County’s operating budget at a time when we literally can least afford it, compared to bonding for the purchases.

We know we need to upgrade our election technology, and to do so before early voting begins in October, to give us the best chance to reduce problems despite pandemic conditions and make sure voting is accessible to all, regardless of any disability. (FALSE — Other NY counties are still successfully using the current machines without problems.)

These are the reasons why the Board of Legislators is considering authorizing bonds to pay for the BOE purchase of new equipment.

SECURITY CONCERNS

There have been understandable concerns about election security relating to the machines the Board of Elections is planning to buy – the Dominion ImageCast Evolution.

Last year, we raised our security concerns with the New York State Board of Elections.  In response, the State BOE reviewed the machines and reiterated its certification of them.

One concern relates to the susceptibility of the machine to electronic tampering.  It is important to note that the voting machines used to run County elections are never network connected, so they cannot be hacked remotely.  To alter a machine, would require physical access to it. (FALSE — Are you kidding? Read the Mueller report. The Russians hacked into networks remotely.) Legislators spent hours with Board of Elections technicians examining the physical, electronic and procedural failsafes that protect against anyone gaining access to the machines to alter them. Thirteen legislators toured the warehouse where the machines are stored, asked questions and received demonstrations by BOE technical staff.

Another concern relates to the ability of the machine to mark a ballot, a feature for voters with disabilities.  That process involves a blank ballot being inserted into the machine and the voter using a handheld or voice-controlled device to use the machine to mark the ballot.  The process has unique procedures, screen prompts and sounds that indicate marks have been made. (Voters with disabilities need ballot-marking devices. But security experts recommend that printers and scanners are in different machines – so that the voting machine cannot change the voter’s intent. The ICE machine has a serious design flaw so that if the machine is hacked, it can change your vote.)

The integrity of our elections is of paramount importance to everyone in Westchester County government.  So is voter access. Technology is always changing and future decisions will have to be made about different systems and methods as new technologies emerge and as we adapt to social changes.  In the face of changing technology and cybersecurity threats, the BOE will continue to review the best options for the conduct of elections within the parameters created by the State Board of Elections.  While the BOL has no control over how the BOE conducts elections, we need to make sure that voters aren’t hampered in their ability to vote by outdated technology and that taxpayers aren’t left with a bill we didn’t try to control. 

(TAXPAYER ALERT!  Bonds are a taxpayer debt and we will be paying the price for 10 years. All this at a time when the County is facing a $250 million deficit and thousands of families are suffering from unemployment, sickness, hunger and housing fragility.)

Please forward this e-news to family and friends who may be interested in this information.

Sincerely

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Multiple legislators sent this letter to their constituents. We want you to be aware of the many false statements, and false implications that it makes.

Please call your legislator today and tell them you want them to vote NO on the voting equipment bonds.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

On August 2nd Legislator Mary Jane Shimsky sent this additional response to a constituent. Once again, the messaging is full of inaccuracies, and misleading statements.

We have put our response in red.

  1.     Unless the Coronavirus disappears before October, our elections infrastructure will be operating under a similar set of rules, and similar practical considerations, as our primary did. That means that the number of polling places will likely be substantially lower than the pre-pandemic number of sites. For example, the Governor’s Executive Order for the primary barred places like firehouses, senior citizen centers, nursing homes and the like from being used as polling places. Then, other places may be officially closed due to the pandemic, and private entities may reverse their original decisions to use their properties for this purpose – all of which is much more likely to happen if the Coronoavirus second wave hits before then. We therefore need to build enough flexibility into our voting system to make sure it works for all contingencies.

Agreed. The ICE machines are hardly flexible. With the ICE, all voters, both those with disabilities and those without disabilities, need to access one machine. Especially if a voter with a disability needs more time for their session, a line can build up behind that voter, making the voter with a disability uncomfortable, and causing long delays. This is one reason that the disability community is not supporting the purchase of the ICE machines.

https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/5275a097-faa2-4d46-8f25-54b36ea675b1/8%20-Public%20Statement%20for%20ERC%20-%202018.09.pdf

2.     The proposed new machines work more quickly per voter than the old machines, which can be critical in a situation with last-minute consolidations. And given the age of the old machines (the vast majority were purchased in 2008), they are more prone to break down during Election Day (a 2018 Brennan Center report says that machines older than 10 years are more likely to break down), creating more potential for long lines. The longer the lines, the larger the number of voters who give up and get disenfranchised.

The Dominion ICE machines are not quicker. Please see our investigation where computer science professor Andrew Appel disputes that.

Additionally, the ICE machines are so expensive that it is hard to have multiple machines in a precinct. The county already has enough machines to have more than 3 scanners + a BMD in each of the planned polling locations. That will be far faster than 1 ICE machine, as you saw in the primary where having limited numbers of machines was a disaster.

3.     Both machines – the old and the new – are at least theoretically hackable. The new machines have both physical and electronic redundancies to prevent that from happening. They are not hooked up to the internet. BTW – the machine behaves differently, and with different noises, if it is marking a ballot vs. scanning a marked ballot.

This is ignoring the key security flaw in the ICE machines. Auditing experts say, “No form of audit can confirm they functioned correctly,” states auditing expert Professor Philip Stark, a statistician at the University of California, Berkeley. Professor Andrew Appel of Princeton calls the Dominion ICE voting machines a “disaster,” because the voting machine has the ability to change the votes on the paper ballot after the voter casts their ballot.

In the middle of a busy election, it is highly unlikely that your average poll worker is going to be listening for the different sounds of the voting machine.

4.     The poll books have been used since last year. They help move things along vs. the old paper books, and are critical in a situation where districts are consolidated. And they are not connected to the original voter rolls. Some of the advocates arguing against the voting machine purchase do not oppose the poll books.

But everyone involved in fighting the bonds is against the Dominion ICE. The legislators cannot in good conscience support it.

5.     The old “Plan B” machines for disabled voters are in desperate need of replacement. And again, some of the advocates arguing against this purchase recognize the need to buy a reduced number to cover this need.

I have no interest in buying anything not needed to help insure a well-run election this fall. The Board of Elections will not get everything it wants, but they will get something. We are currently working out the numbers for certain scenarios, to see what makes sense.

Voters with disabilities do not appreciate the term “Plan B” machines. It is the only plan for them.

The Westchester Board of Elections has already purchased 160 ICE machines. They have refused to provide information about exactly how many of the machines for voters with disabilities are in disrepair. Purchasing more of the current model of machine for voters with disabilities would be safer, cheaper, and help ensure that their votes are counted as cast. Voters with disabilities do not want to be the ones stuck voting on machines that no one has confidence in. It is very unfair to them and they are upset about it.

Here is a letter from a voter with a disability regarding this:

Dear Commissioner Colety,

Please do NOT purchase Dominion ImageCast Evolution (“Dominion ICE”) voting machines since security experts have emphatically stated that these voting machines are not reliable.  More specifically, security experts have stated that the way the Dominion ICE has been designed makes it very easy for someone to change a person’s vote after the voter casts a ballot without the voter’s knowledge of this override.  Further, the disability community has found that the Dominion ICE is slow and unreliable, as well as often breaks down while the voter is attempting to vote.

I want everyone’s vote to be counted accurately, and I don’t want us voters to be forced to vote on a “Hybrid” voting machine that is slow, breaks down, is overpriced, unreliable and NOT secure.  All voters in the great State of New York deserve more efficient, effective, durable, economic and secure Ballot Marking Devices and Voting Machines.

Thank you for making sure all New York State voters can vote privately, independently, securely and safely.

Kathleen Collins

Concerned NYS  Voter

# # # # #

 

pastedGraphic_1.png

Westchester County Board Legislators Contact Information below:

Jose Alvaredo

Nancy E.  Barr

Catherine Borgia

Benjamin Boykin

Terry Clemens

Kitley S. Covill

Margaret A Cunzio

Vedat Gashi

Christopher A. Johnson

Damon R. Maher

Catherine Parker

MaryJane Shimsky

Colin  Smith

David J. Tubiolo

Ruth Walter

Alfreda Williams

Lyndon  Williams

 

 

 

TribuneOPEN LETTER: Westchester County Legislators Follow the Facts, Vote “No!”
By JULIE WEINER

Comments 4

    1. I am unaware of her specialty in psychology. I am familiar of her involvement in issues concerning Yonkers for 21 years since I first came to Yonkers.She is astute, honest and thorough in all she engages. — Kindly, Hezi

      P.S.: I do not know to whom she may be related,

  1. All of the legislators are Democrats. The Democrats are in league with Russia and China. It’s Russia and China who hack election. The Democrats will not vote against their interests.

Leave a Reply

This comment will be displayed anonymously. Your name and email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.