The good news is: there’s a clear national trend towards finally getting rid of “black box” paperless voting machines that make it practically impossible to verify the vote. However, many election protection advocates are concerned that the same handful of corporations that kept those paperless machines in use for years are now pushing replacements that don’t address critical principles of election integrity. There is growing controversy around the spread of “Ballot Marking Devices” (BMDs), which are machines that print a “paper ballot” after voters make their choices on a touchscreen or other interface. Even more controversial are “hybrid” machines that both mark the “paper ballots” and scan them - potentially without the voter even seeing their “paper ballot”. This is particularly troubling given that many states and other jurisdictions are rushing to purchase these machines as the backbone of their voting systems, making decisions that could impact important elections for years to come.Read more
Before the recount effort in Michigan was shut down by the courts, it was already uncovering major problems, particularly in communities of color like Detroit, where more than 80 vote scanners broke down on election day, and a whopping 60% of precincts were ruled ineligible for recounting due to problems with the initial count. Now, grassroots activists are hoping to get Detroit’s new Charter Revision Commission to improve election integrity and oversight of the voting process.
For details on the Detroit Charter Revision Commission and how Detroit residents can get involved, click here.Read more
This excellent article by Steven Rosenfeld gives an overview of why the threats to secure, accurate and just elections remain and are likely to produce “recount headaches" in many 2020 swing states. The roadblocks that prevented meaningful recounts in 2016 remain largely in place, with the exception of Pennsylvania's paper ballots required by the recount lawsuit settlement. So the fight for elections we can trust continues!Read more
In Wisconsin, we continue to prevail against legal maneuvering by the voting machine corporations attempting to block scrutiny of their software. We have also won court rulings that block their effort to impose a gag rule on us to prevent public disclosure of the results of our upcoming software investigation.
How can we trust our elections if critical software, controlled by private corporations, is shielded from scrutiny? For details on the legal battles in Wisconsin, keep reading.Read more
Court Rules for Stein Recount, Denying Attempt to Prevent Public Disclosure of Voting Machine Inspection
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE THURSDAY, JANUARY 10, 2019
Stein Recount 2016
Contact: Dave Schwab, firstname.lastname@example.org 518-610-2708
Today, former Green Party Presidential nominee Jill Stein announced another win in her push for election integrity in the 2016 recount follow up. She hailed a Wisconsin court ruling that denied a request by voting equipment corporations that would have barred any public disclosure of the findings of a groundbreaking examination of voting machine software that the Stein campaign will conduct. The voting machine corporations sought the gag rule in the wake of a Wisconsin Elections Commission decision allowing the Stein campaign to inspect this software and review its accuracy and reliability.
“This decision is a huge win for voters everywhere, and for the common-sense principle that the accuracy and reliability of our voting system is more important than shielding corporations from scrutiny,” said Dr. Stein. “As the Wisconsin Elections Commission ruled and the court affirmed, the law is unambiguously on our side. If the voting machine corporations had their way, we’d be prohibited from disclosing our findings under penalty of law, even if we discovered evidence of problems that could have changed the outcome of the election.”
“The only reason for voting machine corporations to push for a gag rule was to prevent us from revealing any problems with their machines, which would threaten their ability to keep profiting off our elections. It’s outrageous that we’ve had to go to court to argue that the integrity of our elections is more important than protecting corporations.”Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2018
Stein Recount 2016
Contact: Dave Schwab, email@example.com 518-610-2708
Historic PA recount settlement is a victory for voters everywhere - Jill Stein.
Today, Green Party 2016 Presidential nominee Jill Stein announced the formal settlement of her 2016 lawsuit against the state of Pennsylvania. The lawsuit called for an end to the use of paperless voting machines known to be vulnerable to hacking, tampering and error, and for the reform of unworkable recount procedures that prevent verification of the vote. The settlement guarantees that Pennsylvania will provide new voting systems using paper ballots by 2020, followed in 2022 by automatic robust audits after every election to confirm the accuracy of the vote before results are certified.
Stein declared, “This is a critical victory for everyone concerned with the integrity of our elections. We congratulate the state of Pennsylvania for raising the bar not only for Pennsylvanians, but for voters everywhere. By agreeing to end the use of paperless voting machines, Pennsylvania is not only safeguarding its citizens’ right to vote. By example, the agreement is also a big step towards the retirement of paperless voting machines that one in four voters across the nation are still required to use, despite their demonstrated vulnerability to hacking, tampering, and error. Automatic robust audits provide an essential safeguard by cross-checking paper ballots against machine totals using hand counts and the human eye to make sure every election is verified before the results are official. These two reforms are a first step to restoring confidence in our broken elections.”Read more
Hardly a week goes by without a new story about how vulnerable our elections are.
Reports from this year’s DEFCON hacking convention showed that an 11-year old needed just 10 minutes to hack the Florida Secretary of State’s website to change election results. Earlier, a report on the $380 million dollar Congressional allocation to replace insecure voting machines showed that 11 of 13 states that use paperless electronic voting machines still won’t have enough money to fully replace them. Meanwhile, the debate rages on about whether our elections infrastructure could have been compromised by hackers.
When we launched the 2016 recount with the support of over 161,000 people, we knew it wasn’t just a single election people were worried about, but the whole system. Over and over, we heard the concern that the computers and technology that were supposed to make our elections modern and reliable had instead made them more vulnerable to error and tampering than before.
So when the recount in Wisconsin made it possible to examine voting machine software, we jumped at the rare opportunity to look inside the voting machines to see if they deserve the immense trust we’re told to put in them.
Wisconsin law allows us to conduct a groundbreaking state-wide examination of the voting machine “source code” - a crucial piece of voting machine software that controls the actual counting and tallying of the votes. Incredibly, the source code for voting software has never before been examined in depth for evidence of tampering or errors that could compromise an election!
But when the voting machine corporations heard this, they immediately leapt into action to try to prevent any independent scrutiny of their technology. Although they’ve succeeded in dragging the process out for almost two years, the law is clear: we have the right to examine the software, and the Wisconsin Election Commission agrees.
So now the voting machine corporations - Elections Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Inc. - are trying another tactic. Since they can’t stop us from inspecting their machines, now they’re demanding that the Wisconsin Elections Commission impose a gag rule to prevent us and our computer experts from making any public statements about the examination, no matter what we find.
Think about that for a minute. That means that if the corporations get their way, even if we discover evidence of errors or tampering that could have changed the outcome of the election, we’ll be prohibited from telling anyone about it under penalty of law.
The law already prevents us from revealing their trade secrets. The only reason for them to push for this gag rule is to prevent us from revealing any problems with their voting machines, which would threaten their ability to keep profiting off our elections.
So there you have it: for the corporations that control the counting of our votes, their profits are more important than our democracy.
Fortunately, the Wisconsin Elections Commission agrees with us that the voting machine corporations’ proposed gag rule is illegitimate and an overreach, and said as much to the court in a legal brief filed in August.
We’re still in court arguing that the public has a right to know if there are any problems with the voting machines we use, and we expect to win.
That said, dealing with voting machine corporations has only reinforced our belief that elections should be controlled top to bottom by the public, with recountable paper ballots and open-source technology that is accurate and secure.
It’s outrageous that we even have to go to court to argue that our democracy is more important than corporate profits. What a commentary on the corporate hijack of the political establishment!
With the 2018 elections practically here, it’s more urgent than ever that we continue to demand elections we can trust, that are accurate, secure and just.
Stay tuned for the first-ever independent examination of voting machine source code, and thank you for being part of this critical movement for election protection and voting justice.
Since the recount first raised the call for elections we can trust, we have been fighting to safeguard our elections from multiple sources of interference. That includes everything from voter suppression schemes to the stranglehold of big money, biased election coverage, exclusionary debates and more.
Safeguarding our elections also requires protecting our computerized voting system from the threat of hacking - whether from foreign or domestic actors.
Now the media is finally picking up on this critical story. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism covered our ongoing fight to check the voting machines in a recent article about the vulnerability of Wisconsin’s election systems, which made national newspapers!
The article mentions several ways the recount has galvanized the movement for election protection and voting justice.
For example, a University of Wisconsin study of recount results estimated that at least 1 in 117 votes was miscounted - an unacceptably high error rate that could easily swing the outcome of a close election.
In some communities, the error rates were much higher, like the town of Hazelhurst where over half the voters nearly had their votes deleted by a poll worker’s error.
In a country where recounts, audits or any kind of checks on election results are rare, this information is valuable for election integrity advocates, who are already using lessons learned from the recount to push for critically needed reforms.
One such victory happened in September 2017, when the Wisconsin Election Commission decertified an entire line of voting machines for the first time ever after they were observed miscounting votes during the recount in Racine County.
The problems brought into the spotlight during the recount are even getting attention from Congress, which allocated $380 million earlier this year to improve the security of election systems across the country. A representative from Wisconsin has also introduced a bill that would require paper ballots and routine post-election audits across the country.
Meanwhile, we are continuing the fight to determine the security of voting machines and software.
Our legal team in Wisconsin is making steady progress toward a groundbreaking state-wide examination of the voting machine “source code” - a crucial piece of voting machine software that controls the actual counting and tallying of the votes.
The biggest remaining obstacle in our way is the voting machine corporations’ attempts to gag us from sharing our findings from the public, even if we find evidence of error or intentional interference.
The voting machine corporations are making the outrageous claim that their trade secrets are more important than the integrity of American democracy. We are challenging them in court to ensure that we can share the information we learn with the public.
With the 2018 elections approaching, it’s more urgent than ever that we continue to demand elections we can trust, that are accurate, secure and just.
Thank you for being part of this critical movement for election protection and voting justice.
From the start, the 2016 Presidential recount was not simply a call to retabulate the vote. It was a demand for elections we can trust, that are accurate, secure and just, and free from the scourge of Jim Crow. While there’s been progress since then towards greater cybersecurity, our votes remain vulnerable to a spectrum of cyber threats. But that’s not all. On multiple fronts, our right to vote itself is under attack, along with other basic rights at the foundation of our democracy, including our rights of protest, privacy, freedom of the press and more. With democracy increasingly under fire, trustworthy elections are more critical than ever. For all these reasons, the recount fight continues as a battle for election protection and voting justice, a fight being waged in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.
The past year and a half has seen both mounting threats and important progress, including notable successes in ongoing recount-related efforts. This includes the adoption of crucial reforms the recount helped shine a spotlight on, and hard-fought legal progress towards much-needed scrutiny of secret, privately-controlled voting software.
The announcement of the recount just before Thanksgiving 2016 unleashed a torrent of support for bringing integrity to our elections. Donations poured in over the holiday weekend, reaching over 7 million dollars in just over a week from 161,000 donors contributing an average of 45 dollars each. Just as quickly, thousands of volunteers came forward to assist as observers for re-tallying the vote.
The recount called for verifying the vote in three states with vulnerable voting machines and statistically unlikely results that begged for verification - including large deviations from exit polls and high numbers of ballots with blank presidential lines. While democracies around the world use recounts as a routine safeguard, the US recounts were fought tooth and nail by the Republican establishment and largely ignored by Democratic leadership.
In each state, the recount asked the question: “Do we have elections we can trust, that are accurate, secure and just?” The answer was a resounding “No.” In Michigan, political operatives leaned on partisan judges to stop the recount. In Pennsylvania, thousands of voters calling for a recount were thwarted by a bureaucratic nightmare of vague, obstructive rules requiring at least three voters in each of 9,000+ precincts to file notarized requests by undefined deadlines at unknown locations. And all this had to happen within mere days following the election. In Wisconsin, under-resourced communities of color - at highest risk for voting machine dysfunction - were denied a reliable hand recount, having their votes recounted instead by the very machines whose accuracy was in doubt. This adds to the burden of widely recognized forms of voter suppression targeting communities of color, including voter ID laws.
To remedy these ongoing problems, we continue to fight key legal battles that began early in the recount. In Wisconsin, we are in a protracted legal battle to examine a critical piece of voting software that controls the actual counting and tallying of votes, referred to as “source code.” Incredibly, despite years of warnings from experts about the vulnerability of voting machines, there has never been an in-depth examination of voting machine source code after an election. This examination, conducted by computer voting experts, would check for evidence of human error, intentional interference or tampering - whether by foreign powers, criminal networks, domestic partisans, or corporations that control the voting software.
Given the evidence of cyberattacks on multiple components of the voting system in 2016 - from voter registration files to private software companies - as well as the hacking that has become commonplace in virtually all sectors of society - from Equifax to the WannaCry attacks - the need for crosschecking the cybersecurity of our elections is paramount.
While the Wisconsin Elections Commission has acknowledged our legal right to examine voting software, the voting machine corporations are trying to prevent us from sharing any findings with the public. So as our computer experts prepare to get down to work, we are continuing the legal battle to ensure that we will not be gagged in reporting any important findings. The effort of the private voting software companies to shield this critical component of our elections from scrutiny underscores the need to put the infrastructure of our elections back into the public domain.
After the recount was thwarted in Pennsylvania, we brought litigation against the state for effectively violating its citizens’ Constitutional right to vote through a double whammy of dubious paperless voting machines and recount procedures that prevent verification of these uncertain votes. The suit also calls for an extensive ”forensic” examination of voting equipment and software in order to verify the accuracy of the vote.
On another legal front altogether, we’ve also had to defend the recount from false accusations surrounding the Russian interference investigations. The recount was cited by the Senate Intelligence Committee as a major reason for their investigation of my campaign - along with my appearance at a Moscow conference to advocate for diplomacy.
According to Chairman Richard Burr, "She [Jill Stein] was the one that actually initiated a recount campaign. Where'd that money come from? Millions of dollars…We want to look to see if there's any Russian connections to anything that happened in any campaigns." This is no small irony, given that the recount would have exposed interference by Russians - or any other intruder - in critical states had the recount been allowed to proceed. Unfortunately the Senate Intelligence Committee seemed to have responded to a set of politically-motivated smears in its decision to investigate my campaign. Pulitzer Prize-winning Glenn Greenwald described this kind of political targeting as “way beyond McCarthyism”. Failing to find anything in their investigation that could link the recount or the campaign to Russian interference, Burr and the Senate Intelligence Committee did not seek a follow-up interview.
Although the investigation was unwarranted, we used the press coverage of the investigation as an opportunity to give valuable exposure to the recount campaign’s crucial message on Russiagate – namely, that election integrity is the best defense against election interference from any source, foreign or domestic. Expanding on this theme, we leveraged the intense media interest in the Russia investigation to lift up an urgent call for a comprehensive defense against the many potential forms of election interference. Almost a year and a half after the recount campaign first raised the alarm for elections we can trust, Congress finally took a substantial step in the right direction in March 2018, voting to allocate $380 million toward improving election infrastructure and security.
In other recount developments, there has been important progress in each of the three recount states. This is thanks to public attention brought to problems exposed by the recount, as well as grassroots engagement by concerned citizens, and legal pressure from ongoing recount litigation. As Michigan Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said, "Jill Stein's recount showed mistakes and has led to improvements in our election process. Those things wouldn't have come out if the recount didn't happen." After the recount effort revealed the failure of Detroit’s voting machines, state officials announced that voting machines across the state would be replaced by the 2018 primaries.
Wisconsin soon followed suit, decertifying a voting machine discovered during the recount to have produced inaccurate vote counts, which was used in 136 municipalities, including all of Racine County. This marked the first time ever that Wisconsin officials decertified a voting machine, a little-noticed but remarkable admission that the officially reported 2016 election results had been distorted by voting machine errors.
In Pennsylvania, the pressure from our legal challenge to state election laws, combined with tireless grassroots organizing by election integrity advocates, has resulted in perhaps the biggest step forward yet. In April 2018, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State ordered all counties to replace their aging voting machines by the 2019 elections with voting systems that use paper ballots.This is a remarkable turnaround, considering that Pennsylvania state officials had previously claimed in response to our lawsuit that the state’s voting system was fine and needed no changes.
While important recount battles have been won, there have also been setbacks. Legislation in Michigan and Wisconsin will make it more difficult in the future to use recounts to verify the vote. These new laws aim to make checks on election integrity even rarer by allowing recounts only in elections decided by narrow margins, defying the reality that whether big or small, officially reported margins of victory can be tainted by error, interference or fraud.
Making recounts even more difficult to initiate can only hurt the cause of election integrity. And although the Congressional appropriation of $380 million to replace insecure voting machines is a step in the right direction, 11 of 13 states that use paperless voting machines will still not receive enough money to fully replace them, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice.
In addition, the integrity of our elections has been under assault for years, as votes are increasingly denied, degraded and otherwise interfered with, especially for communities of color.
The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision flung wide open the floodgates of big money that has been corrupting our elections for decades. The Shelby County decision of 2013 gutted key sections of the Voting Rights Act and worsened voter suppression already underway through tactics like voter ID laws, voter purges through Interstate Cross Check, cutbacks on early voting, elimination of same-day registration, and gerrymandering.
Voter choice in the United States has long been suppressed by a system that limits alternative parties and independent candidates through restricted ballot access, media blackouts, exclusion from debates, and first-past-the-post elections that encourage people to vote against what they fear, rather than for what they value.
The Democratic National Committee demonstrated another form of voter suppression in tilting its own party’s primaries, effectively disenfranchising millions of Bernie Sanders’ voters. Corporate media showed its ability to tip elections for its own benefit by giving Donald Trump billions in extra free airtime because he was “damn good” for network profits, to quote the CEO of CBS. The Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal unveiled the abuse of private data on a massive scale for the purpose of microtargeting vulnerable individuals for mass manipulation and military-style psyops.
For all these reasons, the recount campaign has called for a nonpartisan Emergency Commission on Election Protection & Voting Justice to oversee immediate and longer-term solutions to ensure a secure and just vote.
Such a Commission can advance many urgently-needed solutions. We must end voter suppression schemes and ensure the constitutional right to vote for everyone. We need a rapid transition to paper ballots, cybersecurity best practices, universal rigorous post-election audits, and routine post-election recounts as warranted.
To begin addressing the abuses of big data, privacy protections must be created for personal data and online communications. In the rush to guard against propaganda and fake news, however, we must ensure that the rights of free speech and political opposition - increasingly stifled in current social media and conventional press - are restored and protected.
We can break the stranglehold of big money on our elections by establishing public financing for political campaigns and free air time for ballot-qualified candidates, which would greatly reduce the cost of political campaigns. We can expand voter choice and end fear-based elections through Ranked Choice Voting, which liberates voters to vote for what they want, instead of against what they dislike. And we can ensure voters are informed about the greater range of choices that they are clamoring for - by creating a new presidential debate commission not controlled by the two establishment parties, like the current debate commission.
To effectively deal with foreign election interference, we must address the fact that the US is not only a victim of election interference, but a leading perpetrator of it as well, whether through nonviolent or violent means. Given our track record, it is simply unrealistic and unethical to expect other countries to respect the sovereignty of foreign elections unless we commit to doing so as well. Effectively ending election interference requires international diplomacy and treaties.
The Emergency Commission would provide consistent long-term public education, advocacy and watch-dogging that will be required to overcome resistance to the reforms required to achieve truly fair elections. Establishing this Commission is a critical first step to restoring Americans' confidence in our democracy with a voting system we can trust, that is accurate, secure and just.
WI Recount Litigation Update: Getting closer to a historic examination of voting machine software
As we reported in a previous update, we are continuing the work of the Wisconsin recount by fighting for a groundbreaking state-wide examination of the voting machine “source code” - a crucial piece of voting machine software that controls the actual counting and tallying of the votes.
Incredibly, the source code for voting software has never before been examined for evidence of tampering or errors that would compromise an election!
Since our last update, the Wisconsin Election Commission issued a decision acknowledging our right to examine the voting machine software.
However, the voting machine corporations - Elections Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Inc. - are trying to undermine the decision by insisting on rules that would gag us from sharing our findings with the public even if we find evidence of error, intentional interference or tampering by anyone - whether foreign powers, hackers, domestic partisans, or the corporations that control the voting software themselves.
It is unacceptable that the trade secrets of voting machine corporations have been considered more important than the integrity of American democracy, and we are challenging them in court to ensure that we can share the information we learn with the public.
The court has just set our initial court dates for July and August, and we expect oral arguments in September and a decision in October. Our computer experts are already preparing to conduct this historic and much-needed examination of voting machine software.
PA Recount Litigation Update: Big win for election integrity as PA moves to paper ballots
After the recount effort in Pennsylvania was stopped by a combination of politicized court decisions, prohibitively bureaucratic recount laws, and the virtual impossibility of recounting the paperless “black box” voting machines used by over 80% of the state, we brought litigation against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania challenging not only its recount procedures, but its entire system of election laws as unconstitutional.
Now this legal pressure, combined with the tireless efforts of grassroots election integrity advocates, is yielding amazing results. While the PA General Assembly continues to move slowly in enacting reform, the Commonwealth has taken major steps through administrative changes.
Recently, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of State ordered all counties to replace their aging voting machines by the 2019 elections with voting systems that use paper ballots. This turnaround is remarkable, considering that the state of Pennsylvania has been claiming in its response to our lawsuit that its voting system is fine and nothing needs to change. We must remain engaged to assure that only reliable voting equipment is certified for use in PA as quickly as possible.
Activists are working to ensure that counties purchase only systems that use hand-marked paper ballots, the gold standard for election integrity.
We are gratified to note that all three states affected by the recount - Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, representing 22 million eligible voters - have since ordered the replacement of faulty or unverifiable voting machines.
This is a major victory in the fight for election protection and voting justice, and a tribute to all who supported and fought for the recount and for elections we can trust
Thank you for all that you do to build the movement for real democracy!