www.VoteAllegheny.org

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        Contact:  Audrey Glickman

October 24, 2017                                                                                               [voter@VoteAllegheny.org]

 

 

PA SENATE BILL 563 GOES TO APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE:
HOW MUCH MUST WE APPROPRIATE TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE?

 

PITTSBURGH, PA. VoteAllegheny, a non-partisan election integrity organization, strongly encourages the Pennsylvania State Senate to vote down State Senate Bill 563 of 2017, which sits now in the Appropriations Committee. The appropriation for an impossible task could be huge and unaffordable; for the moment it is undefined.

Much as its predecessor bills of 2013 and 2015 did, this bill seeks to provide Internet voting to all military and overseas voters. Going further than the prior bills, this bill also seeks to define “Electronic Submission of a Paper Ballot” as “A vote cast and submitted through electronic means, including, but not limited to, e-mail and facsimile,” and a “Military-Overseas Ballot” as “An electronic submission of a paper ballot,” both definitions without meaning. Either a ballot consists of electrical impulses, bits and bytes, transmitted by unsecure means online, or it exists on paper prepared by the voter. There is no room to define something sent online as being “paper.”

Following the presentation of the prior two similar bills, public outcry was against the legislation and for paper ballots, not electronic. Redefining what “paper” is would be an insufficient response to what the public knows and understands – and what many other states have demonstrated by actions – concerning secure, recountable, auditable elections with necessarily private ballots.

Under SB 563, military and overseas personnel, including troops, base workers, ambassadors and embassy workers, NGO workers, teachers working abroad for a semester, students, and many others, would be offered somehow the ability to vote online. The bill orders up something, but is not specific. Given that experts in the field strongly aver that there is no way to provide this something in any form securely, this bill can only be dangerous, and tempting to hackers. Even fax transmission cannot be made secure. (We emphasize that email, and sometimes fax, goes through the Internet.)

Senator Stefano, sponsor of this bill, stated in his memo to colleagues that the bill would “require the Department of State to develop a secure online system...” The bill does not provide for such security, but having legislation demand security will not make it happen, because the security is impossible right now. Since the bill is now in the Appropriations Committee, we note that the cost of doing something impossible can be astronomical.

In Kentucky, county elections directors banded together to reject a similar bill, as they knew it could not be done safely. VoteAllegheny encourages Pennsylvanians, please, to urge our honorable senators to back away from SB 563.

When the previous bills, SB 976 of 2013 and SB 1052 of 2015 (nearly exactly the same), were introduced, we connected with many senators and their staffs personally, speaking strongly against it. They indicated understanding of the issues. We are dismayed that some of those same senators are now cosponsors of this bill. (We are, of course, heartened by those whose names are not on this bill.)

Ron Bandes, VoteAllegheny’s President, is professionally a Network Security Analyst. He works with election-integrity experts statewide and around the country, and they are virtually unanimous in opposition to Internet voting. We have several other computer experts active in our organization. Statewide, VotePA is similarly strongly opposed to this bill.

There are many reasons to stop this bill now. What has changed since 2015? Hacking is now more prevalent. Interference in elections is global, and this bill directly utilizes Internet provided by foreign countries or businesses within those countries. Moreover, very soon the Voting Systems Technology Committee of the Pennsylvania Joint State Government Commission will be issuing a report on voting systems recommendations, including security; why would we want a bill such as this to pass prior to that in-depth report?

This is not a gift to our soldiers in trenches. It is an open invitation to hackers to flood our county elections directors with unsubstantiatable votes. Of course, there is no method given and no funding provided for the county elections directors to somehow implement the impossible, only the mandate that they accomplish it by January 1, 2019. Overseas voters already have the ability to receive their ballots electronically, and they have an extended deadline for returning the ballot by mail. Use of the Internet for return of ballots is far too dangerous.

In Kentucky, county elections directors banded together to reject a similar bill, as they knew it could not be done safely. VoteAllegheny encourages Pennsylvanians, please, to urge our honorable senators to back away from SB 563.

We have hundreds and hundreds of bases and installations around the world – our citizens there are using either a private company’s internet or that of the country in which they are living or are stationed. We cannot guarantee the security of that Internet provider. We cannot guarantee the security of the computers they are using. We cannot guarantee the interface they are using, and we absolutely cannot guarantee that every county in Pennsylvania knows how to protect its computers from attack.

Would a foreign country want to intercept votes flowing through their Internet and re-cast them and possibly duplicate them over and over? Would a foreign country enjoy the access to our county election computers to do what happened between Russia and the Ukraine – a presumed purposeful service denial of voting systems?

Could domestic persons or groups breach the system as they did when Washington, D.C., attempted to roll out an Internet voting system, which ended their program before it began?

The answers, of course, are yes. This would be no favor to the military and overseas personnel.

In an era when cyber crimes are prevalent, when Equifax and various credit card systems are being hacked, when Volkswagens have rigged computers, this issue is definitely in the public’s eye.

We in VoteAllegheny take seriously both our mission and our responsibility – to monitor the integrity of our elections, to protect citizens from cyber crime in voting, and to inform our elected and appointed officials. More information is available on our site, www.VoteAllegheny.org. We offer any information our senators need in order to make educated decisions in these matters.

Overseas voters are entitled to cast votes which are private and not tampered with. Cybersecurity experts agree that current technology cannot provide confidential, tamper-proof voting via fax, e-mail, or the web – not now, and not in one year. SB 563, which demands the instant deployment of a vote-by-fax system, would expose overseas votes to disclosure and tampering, so it should not be passed. No changes should be made to voting systems – nor any other governmental systems – without a careful professional review by cybersecurity experts other than those with an interest in the voting systems. This bill does not even allow time for such a review.

Supporting SB 563 is not a wise choice. We implore our Senators please to stop entering dangerous legislation that we do not need.

This is of vital importance. We will be glad to explain, happy to educate. Again, the cost of doing something impossible can be astronomical. Please urge our state senators: do not pass SB 563.

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