Submitted by Susan Greenhalgh
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Our great nation has the honorable distinction to be the oldest functioning democracy on this planet. Our democratic system is something with which we should all be proud, and we are. That single and fundamental element that creates our democratic system, our right to vote, is vigorously protected by the United States Constitution. The awesome responsibility to administer our elections, that point at which our democracy is transformed from theory to reality, has been entrusted to our state governments, and to you the New York State Board of Elections. This duty cannot and should not be taken lightly, but instead must be undertaken with supreme gravity and thoroughness that reflects the importance the task.
And this is an enormous task. Most of the people in this room are surely familiar with at least a portion of the administrative duties involved in running an election, and will certainly agree that they are massive. All areas of election organization are critical. We are well aware of the fact that the New York State BOE faces a gigantic workload in a difficult timetable. However, that cannot be justification for the Board to cut back on the integrity of any component of the election process, least of all on the thorough, complete and scrupulous testing and certification of our next voting system.
On November 22, 2005, the New York State Board of Elections sent out a letter stating “The Liberty Election Systems, a DRE voting machine which has never been submitted for certification in New York, has been delivered to us for certification testing. We are prepared to conduct preliminary testing – Phase 1 of this process – on December 7, 8, and 9 2005. This voting system as submitted, does not include a voter verifiable paper audit trail nor access for a sip/puff device, as required by statute, however, we can perform certain other functional tests, in anticipation of their required modifications.”
Even the most naïve computer user, like myself, expects that a test of a computer system will be absolutely meaningless if the system will later be modified. But for a better perspective, I contacted Dr. Avi Rubin, computer science professor at Johns Hopkins University and Technical Director of the Information Security Institute. Dr. Rubin is a noted expert on computer security and electronic voting machines, having been called to testify on Capitol Hill on the issue of computer security. Dr. Rubin commented as follows:
“In my opinion, it is a waste of time to start testing before the machine is final. Any and all tests that are performed now will have to be performed again anyhow for the full system to be certified.”
Citizens are rightly troubled and alarmed that the Board has performed tests that are invalid and completely meaningless to ascertain the reliability and dependability of a voting system that could be used in the second largest state in the U.S. We need the Board to enforce the highest standards for testing and certification possible. The Board cannot cut corners on this process; we cannot compromise the integrity of our democracy just so we can move things along more quickly.
The necessity of vigorous testing cannot be underestimated. The practice of approving a voting system after testing only a handful of machines under special circumstances has proven to be woefully inadequate. In California, the TSx electronic voting machine twice passed tests administered by an independent testing lab. However, not unlike the tests our NYS Board is conducting on the LibertyVote, these testing standards did not address the printers required for the audit trail. Fortunately for California, the Secretary of State called for a rigorous testing process that included a mock election, last July. In the mock election, the screens froze, the printers jammed and overall the TSx was found to have a 10% failure rate when employed in the same manner as a real election. Had this testing process not taken place, California would have had a 10% failure rate on Election Day.
Our NYS Board of Elections has the advantage of learning from the failures and successes of other states. We have hard evidence that cavalier and hasty testing will result in failure. Much of the testimony today has addressed the flaws in the testing processes outlined in the current regulations. We urge the Board to heed these concerns and create an unimpeachable set of testing standards that will ensure the citizens of New York an unassailable election system. Specifically the board must invalidate any test done on an incomplete system and amend the regulations to require all testing be performed only on complete systems. Additionally, many groups including The League of Women Voters has called on the Board to require a mock election and we support this recommendation.
We trust the board will recognize the importance of a thorough and trustworthy testing and certification process. The soundness of our democracy necessitates it.