Creating Bi-Partisan Support to Protect U.S. Voting Systems from Cyber Threats and Electronic Voter Suppression
The National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC)
The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democratic Republic, yet that right is useless if our votes are lost, stolen, hacked or manipulated. The vulnerability of our current computerized voting systems to error and fraud threatens our security, violates voting rights, and undermines our systems of governance.
The National Election Defense Coalition (NEDC) is the only organization building an effective bipartisan movement to secure integrity and transparency, and protect the voting rights of all Americans.
Our voting systems have been increasingly computerized over the past few decades, replacing public manual ballot counting with computer Optical Scanners, and worse, with Touchscreen and Internet voting systems that provide no paper ballot or any means of verifying the “black box” results.
Oversight of our democracy now resides with a small group of for-profit voting systems vendors with a long history of partisan affiliations and unethical, at times criminal conduct. These companies lie and mislead about the safety of their products while they demand their “trade secret” vote counting software remains proprietary and off limits to public inspection.
Today, their aging systems are not only are running outdated programming lacking the most basic security protocols, they are also breaking down. Minority communities fighting voter suppression tactics are further disenfranchised by lack of resources to upgrade these systems, and suffer extremely long lines at the polls due to malfunctioning machines.
In 2016 American voters learned that malicious foreign intelligence agencies were trying to influence our elections by hacking into state and local electoral boards and even an electronic voting system vendor. Due to the proprietary software, we cannot know the extent to which our elections were in fact breached.
National security leaders have issued stark warnings that there is no sign these activities have abated and that we should expect greatly increased cyber-attacks aimed at disrupting or manipulating the 2020 elections.
Cyber security experts unanimously agree that we must immediately implement these critical reforms: eliminate all paperless electronic voting systems and replace them with verifiable paper ballot systems, and aggressively implement public post-election ballot audits before certification to verify the results.
Paper and public oversight never should have been eradicated from our elections. With paper, votes can always be recovered, and the will of the voters can be determined. Even if computer vote totals are changed by malicious coding or cyber-attacks, we can detect tampering and recover correct results by manually auditing and/or recounting the paper ballots.
These common sense, affordable reforms - which also uphold the bedrock principles of democracy - are being blocked by states rights members of Congress and there is still much resistance from state administrators. The cyber threat is also ignored by the Trump administration, which went so far as to eliminate the position of cybersecurity coordinator on the National Security Council in May 2018. In coordination with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the White House also stopped all progress on the Secure Elections Act, which the NEDC helped introduce and promoted.
To overcome such resistance, the NEDC has been building an effective bipartisan movement in Congress and in the States.
NEDC serves as a bridge between stakeholders, bringing liberals and conservatives to the table and coordinating strategy for reform. We have enrolled a broad bipartisan network of elections officials, computer scientists, cybersecurity experts and national security officials to educate Congress and build a viable path toward securing U.S. elections.
Our coalition has advanced key legislation in the last congressional session, and securing $380 million in initial funding for reform. Though this amount is far short of the funding necessary to secure all U.S. elections, it is a major first victory for our coalition, for bipartisanship, and for democracy.
NEDC is now working to secure federal resources for states in 2019 to replace all paperless Touchscreen voting systems before the 2020 elections with systems that rely upon a voter-verified paper ballot and post-election Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs).
This effort will be further supported with direct advocacy and technical support to shepherd the reforms through state legislatures and election administrations. We are working on the ground in key states and swing states that have highly vulnerable technology and poor or nonexistent auditing.
To achieve these goals, we will continue to:
· Advocate for federal policy that would provide funding for states, conditioned on adoption of best practices.
· Press for crucial reforms in key states in preparation for 2020 (see state breakdown below)
· Execute legal actions: Through strategic legal actions we will seek to expose misinformation from the voting systems vendors that is undermining and fostering resistance to election security reforms.
Our History: Building an Effective Bipartisan Coalition
Our coalition work began with the left-leaning NYU Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, and the Verified Voting Foundation, organizations that have traditionally worked on election integrity.
- In September of 2016, NEDC was a founding member of the Voting Rights Alliance and an active participant in the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation 45 Annual Legislative Conference. NEDC Board member, the Reverend Rodney Sadler, spoke at the conference on the nexus between voter suppression and the fact that old , insecure and broken down voting machines were often placed in communities of color.
- In 2015-2017 NEDC worked with Rev William Barber III, Leader of the Moral Mondays Movement, Barbara Arnwine of the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Reverend Rodney Sadler of the NC NAACP to educate the civil rights community protect voters from technology- related voter suppression.
- NEDC secured funding through our own funding sources and donated over $100,000 to Voting Rights organizations
In 2016-2017 we began to bring into our circle of advocates prominent conservative leaders that previously had not engaged on election security. This includes Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); the Libertarian organization FreedomWorks; the conservative London Center’s Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a national security expert and FOX News commentator; the R Street Institute; former Secretary of State of Kentucky, Trey Grayson, who served as President of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) and President of the Republican Association of Secretaries of State.
In 2017 we published a letter to Congress laying out a roadmap for reform, signed by over one hundred computer scientists and national security experts (this later became the basis for legislation both in the House and Senate).
Our coalition orchestrated a successful national campaign, which included organizing conferences, catalyzing the expert letter to Congress, and conducting congressional briefings. We placed leading election cyber security expert Prof. Alex Halderman to testify at the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Halderman also appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government.
In 2017 we were central to develop bipartisan support for the Secure Elections Act (SEA) which garnered seven Republican and seven Democratic Senators co-sponsors, including the Chairs and Ranking Members of important Senate Committees (Senate Intelligence, Armed Services, Rules, Finance).
In March of 2018, we supported congressional appropriation of $380 million dollars in emergency funding to all 50 states for upgrading and securing election systems.
We have since expanded our parallel state advocacy to ensure that States allocate federal and state funding towards audits and paper ballots, not toward the purchase of new voting systems still vulnerable to fraud.
Our 2018 year end report details these efforts.
Throughout this campaign, the NEDC and our coalition partners have produced a series of influential conservative op-eds published in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Washington Times, Wired, and other publications. Our mutual efforts generated unprecedented media coverage on elections security published in The New York Times, NBC, MSNBC, ABC, Fox News, NPR, The New Yorker, Boston Globe, The Hill, Politico, the New York Times, Boston Globe, McClatchy, and many other national and regional media.
Together, we have effectively brought the issue of election security into the national spotlight and provided key framing to help the public and elections officials understand a complex and nuanced topic.
During the 2019-2020 calendar years, it is critical that we get necessary federal funds (beyond the $380 million) to cash-strapped states to enable them to improve their election security. We will continue to support legislative solutions like the Secure Elections Act in the Senate and the Election Security Act in the House. However, legislation will be a heavy lift so we are also pursuing more nimble and resourceful options.
Since the new Congress was seated, we have launched our effort to push for additional federal funding to states tied to specific requirements, such as piloting audits and replacing paperless machines through the appropriations process.
NEDC’s Senior Legislative Advisor, Justin Zorn, is uniquely suited to lead this effort because of his previous experience working on Capitol Hill as a congressional aide responsible for appropriations. Justin is in active discussions with the relevant House Appropriations Subcommittee to draft language that will ensure funding will be properly spent. In support of this effort, Professor Halderman testified in February before the House Appropriations Subcommittee supporting more funding for election infrastructure.
Three federal agencies have significant influence on election system security: the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). NEDC will continue to monitor these agencies’ activities, engage in discussions, advocate for sound policy and participate in public forums.
The EAC is in the process of vetting and adopting a new set of Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). NEDC has been monitoring the work of the Technical Guidelines Development Committee (TGDC) which drafts the VVSG, and is an active member of the Cyber Security Working Group, which is involved in developing the testing requirements for the guidelines. NEDC also attends the EAC Standards Board meetings.
Pennsylvania still has many paperless voting machines that can’t be recounted or audited. Democratic Governor Wolf has made a commitment to replacing the machines but doing so requires funds authorized and appropriated by the Republican-held state legislature. Last year we coordinated a strategy tailored to the concerns of Pennsylvania’s House and Senate leadership and engaged NEDC senior advocate Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer to meet with Republican leadership, their staff, the Republican Caucus, and the Chairs of the relevant subcommittees to convince them that national security was at risk and they must prioritize the $150 million necessary. Col Shaffer has travelled to meet with state officials and legislators in PA on three occasions.
We will need to continue to educate the legislature to provide the funding. Follow through will be critical, and we need to act now. Decisions need to be made in the next few months to allocate funds to purchase new voting machines in time for the 2020 elections. After that, a law requiring risk -limiting post-election audits will need to be passed.
Georgia still uses paperless voting machines that can’t be audited or recounted. The legislature recently passed legislation to replace the current machines with voting machines that provide a ballot summary card that also cannot be properly audited. NEDC again served as a bridge working with Freedomworks and Lt. Col. Shaffer to vigorously oppose the legislation while coordinating our efforts with local groups on the Left including Fair Fight Action, Georgians for Verified Voting and the Coalition for Good Governance. Though we failed to amend the Legislation promotd by now Governopr Brian Kemp, we will continue to fight for paper ballots and audits with our Left/Right allies in Georgia as the state enters the procurement process.
The voting machines in Georgia are also being challenged in a lawsuit brought by members of Georgians for Verified Voting and Coalition for Good Governance. NEDC has also filed an Amicus brief in thois suit. We believe the lawsuit can also challenge the constitutionality of the BMDs and are supporting the plaintiffs in their action.
Our goal in Ohio for 2020 is to have the entire state conduct a risk-limiting post-election audit for the Presidential election at a minimum. Ohio has paper ballots and allows risk-limiting audits (but only Cuyahoga County conducts them). We will press the Ohio state election director and county officials for this largely administrative policy change. The Cuyahoga County Clerk has been a strong advocate and has spoken at two of our briefings to promote risk-limiting post-election audits on Capitol Hill. This work will require us to send technical experts to the state to advise county officials and administrators.
All paperless machines are scheduled to be replaced by 2020. However, Florida has a very weak audit law that is not capable of detecting or correcting a wrong election outcome and new legislation just introduced has auditing and security issues.. At the start of the 2019 session, we will work to change state law to allow the counties to start implementing risk-limiting audits on a pilot basis. This work will require a coordinated lobbying and administrative push by deploying our advocates on both the Left and the Right and generating a ground swell of support from the grassroots.
This past year, the League of Women Voters, an allied organization, successfully changed the law to require post-election audits prior to certification. The audits to be conducted are not risk-limiting audits, but the legislation is a step in the right direction. The Wisconsin State Election Board is very supportive of risk-limiting audits. To be ready for 2020, we will work with the State Board to encouraging pilot enabling legislation in 2019.
The 2016 U.S. Presidential election was decided by 10,000 votes, and there were many irregularities and machine failures in Wayne County. The Brennan Center reached out to the Secretary of State in Michigan and worked behind the scenes to explain risk-limiting post-election audits and to enroll the Secretary’s office. As a result, the Michigan Bureau of Elections and three City Clerks agreed to partner with coalition members and pilot risk-limiting audits in their counties after the November 2018 election. We hope to use the risk-limiting audit pilot to build support for a permanent requirement for such audits in Michigan with the goal of a statewide audit of the presidential race. Our partner Brennan Center is working with state officials on RLA pilots.
Most counties in Texas still deploy paperless machines. NEDC has been working with Protect Democracy, Professor Halderman, FreedomWorks and the London Center to support legislation that would move Texas to paper ballots and post-election audits. Lt. Col. Shaffer and Prof. Halderman have both traveled to Austin to meet with officials at the Secretary of State’s office and the legislature to discuss the vulnerabilities of Texas’ voting system and the national security threat it faces. We will continue to work with our partners to push for election security reform in Texas.
In New York we are fighting the New York City Board of Elections' executive directors' push to bypass State testing and certification in order to buy expensive, insecure touchscreen voting machines. We obtained the non-public letter which sought to circumvent the testing process and publicized it. The publicity prompted the chair of the New York City Council Oversight Committee to call for an investigation into the voting system contracting process. We are also working with state and county election officials, exploring opportunities trial more efficient and effective Risk-Limiting post election audits.
NEDC has identified a number of projects that include legal action that can expose vendors’ and elections administrators’ misinformation that is frustrating progress for election security reforms.
We have partnered with Free Speech for People and Indiana attorney William Groth to file a lawsuit to compel the Indiana Secretary of State to comply with public records law and turn over documents related to her communication with the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). As president of NASS, the Secretary made several inaccurate statements regarding voting system security which undermine the arguments for paper ballots and audits. Our suit seeks to expose who is behind the dangerous misinformation.
We have also engaged the Georgetown Law School Institute for Public Representation to develop a strategy for charging voting system vendors with false marketing claims regarding the security of voting systems. Currently we are in negotiation with at least one Attorney General to pursue these charges.
Because we closely follow the activities of the EAC’s voting system testing and certification program, we believe there are voting systems that have fatal flaws which warrant decertification. We will work with legal partners to pursue decertification if appropriate.
Grass Roots & Social Media Outreach:
The organizations in our coalition bring a strong digital reach to our campaign. Common Cause has a digital mailing list of 1.2 million activists. FreedomWorks has a 3 million strong membership mailing list Separately, our individual organizations will engage our memberships with unique messages suited to them.
Recently, FreedomWorks published a blog on election integrity and this video which promotes the Secure Elections Act, making the case to states-rights conservatives that the federal government does have a constitutional role to play in the nation’s common defense.
With sufficient resources, it is our goal to use a service like Swayable, a data science and media analytics platform that measures how video content changes people’s minds about key issues. With strategic demographic information and dial testing-like tools, we can test our social media videos to see how they move conservative and liberal audiences, which can help us in key state-level campaigns.
We will continue to provide basic educational materials, host forums, conduct briefings, testify as experts, and communicate with journalists in print, television, radio and social media outlets.
Provide testimony to state-level legislative committees and congressional committees
Both Congress and many state legislatures have ramped up their interest in election security and are holding committee hearings. In the last several months, staff from our coalition partners provided expert testimony in Georgia, Virginia, Florida, Rhode Island, New York and Colorado. We will continue to provide that expertise when solicited and through proactive outreach.
Place stories, opinion pieces and circulate editorial board memos
Election security is a headline issue these days, given the documented Russian cyber intrusions. We will continue to place stories outlining solutions and safeguards that must be implemented, and we will enlist cybersecurity experts and national security experts to provide commentary in publications across the political spectrum.
We will look to place stories in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Washington Times, the National Review, LA Times, Chicago Tribune Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, Vox, NPR, on network television news programs at the major networks such as CNN, FOX, CBS and ABC, and other less traditional media outlets such as CNET, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, Buzzfeed, Vice, The Verge and Mic.
We will place stories in statewide and local media outlets where we have targeted and tailored campaigns. We will recruit prominent state leaders to co-sign op-eds with national security experts and/or cybersecurity experts. We will circulate editorial board memos to national and state media, signed by the national security experts.
State legislative advocacy for audits and paper ballots
A large portion of our campaign work involves educating the media, public officials and legislators to change federal or state law. States targeted for legislative reform include PA, GA, WI, FL, MI, NC, TN and TX.
To accomplish some of these objectives of direct legislative advocacy and lobbying, we formed a 501c4 organization, the National Election Defense Institute (NEDI). The NEDI has already secured a $125,000 grant for lobbying activities.
NEDI launched a new web site that represents the work of our bipartisan coalition under the working name Bipartisan Alliance for Secure Elections (BASE). Www.USBASE.net, is being developed as a hub for grassroots development and lists all coalition organizations. It will post information, action and events to engage voters in advocating for election reform at the county, state, and federal levels.
June 1st 2019- May 30th 2020 BUDGET:
National and State Organizing and Advocacy
State Legislative Director $65,000
State Policy Coordinator $60,000
State Policy Advocacy $55,000
State Election Security Experts $40,000
National Policy Director $60,000
Federal Legislative Consultant $48,000
National Coalition Organizer $65,000
Conservative Coordinator $36,000
National Communications Director $60,000
Federal and State Conservative Validators
FreedomWorks Adam Brandon $50,000
Americans for Tax Reform, Grover Norquist $36,000
London Center, Col Shaffer $48,000
Civic Point , Trey Grayson $32,000
Office and Management
Utilities, Websites, Accounting-Bookkeeping $27,000
Travel Expenses $36,000