May 24, 2022

Testimony to the Special Committee on Voter Confidence, Derry, NH

Honorable Members of the Special Committee on Voter Confidence:

My name is Barbara Glassman. I moved to Nashua from Pennsylvania in 2012. In 2005 I became the webmaster for a nonpartisan election integrity group trying to convince county commissioners to purchase optical scanners rather than paperless voting machines. We failed, but I’ve kept posting about election integrity, now on Facebook at Save Our Vote. [https://www.facebook.com/SaveOurVote


New Hampshire was one of the first states to adopt computerized voting with its purchase of the AccuVote in the early 1990s. Election security experts recognized the danger. Vote rigging had become much easier. All it would take is a few lines of code, riding on a memory card.


No one wanted to hear it. Neither major political party, nor the media, nor election administrators had any interest in casting doubt on the outcomes of elections. 


Security experts understood that the best defense against rigging or hacking is hand-counted audits of hand-marked paper ballots. Verified Voting has been saying that since 2004 [https://verifiedvoting.org/issues/]. The national League of Women Voters said it in 2009 [https://sites.google.com/a/leagueofwomenvoters.org/clearinghouse/rep/election-administration/lwvus-report-on-election-auditing]. In New Hampshire in 2009, the Electronic Ballot Counting Device Advisory Committee called for hand-counted audits, saying, “[T]his deserves the highest priority.” [formerly at http://sos.nh.gov/ballotcountdev.aspx; can supply] Secretary Gardner’s hand-picked experts – Andrew Appel, Harri Hursti, and Ron Rivest – testified to the need in 2017 in Manchester [at 2’3” in the afternoon session: https://youtu.be/XkPJbbKPJ_w?t=7391].


Despite New Hampshire’s long, proud history of meticulous manual recounts, Secretary Gardner resisted hand-counted audits. If he hadn’t, if he followed his own experts’ recommendations, this committee might not have been needed. A publicly observed hand-counted audit would have answered many of New Hampshire voters’ questions about the 2020 election, at least in our state.


Instead, Secretary Gardner turned to a new, high-speed scanner marketed for audits. It will scan the paper ballots and then audit the digital images. How will we even know that the images are accurate copies of the ballots? Only 5 out of every 10,000 ballots will be compared with their images to see if they match. 


Here's what Professors Andrew Appel and Philip Stark have to say about this: "These vendors claim that the images make RLAs [risk-limiting audits] easier to perform because fewer (or no) paper ballots need to be inspected. That is incorrect…. [T]his requires examining at least as many physical ballots as an audit” of the paper ballots alone. [P. 537, https://georgetownlawtechreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/4.2-p523-541-Appel-Stark.pdf] Which begs the question as to why it wouldn’t make more sense to just audit the paper ballots.

The convenience of letting a machine do the work of auditing with digital images is very seductive. It allows us to rationalize away the futility of trying to solve an inscrutable software problem by throwing more inscrutable software at it.

Suppose Secretary Gardner had proposed abandoning New Hampshire’s long tradition of hand recounts in favor of simply running the ballots through a new scanner. Pushback would have been immediate. How would we know which scanner was accurate without a hand recount? We can’t know. Yet that is what is offered in Senate Bill 366: machine-counted audits with a new scanner and grossly inadequate verification of ballot image accuracy.


BTW, pre- and post-election testing cannot detect every software problem. Computers know what day and time it is. Scanners can be programmed to perform well when tested and behave differently on election day. 

The VW cheating scandal is a perfect illustration. VW's software allowed their cars to pass emissions tests, only to pollute when not in testing mode. [See "What if Volkswagen made Voting Machines?" https://thevotingnews.com/what-if-vw-made-voting-machines/]

The GOP is the first major political party to recognize the fallibility of software and the need for audits. Unfortunately, a highly publicized audit in Arizona relied on inexperienced, partisan third parties that didn’t even have the confidence of some fellow Republicans. Sadly, many Democrats now view audits with suspicion and resistance. 

So if confidence in New Hampshire elections is to be restored, it will require reversing the trend toward secrecy and instead welcoming public oversight, starting with repeal of the ballot and ballot image exemptions from public records and passage of legislation that would allow moderators to do a verification count at the polls on election night, as in Senate Bill 79 [https://legiscan.com/NH/bill/SB79/2021], a measure that used to go unchallenged. Routine, mandatory audits would need to be hand-counted and publicly observed, delivering the same high standard of proof that New Hampshire recounts provide.

Designing an effective audit is a formidable task. It deserves more time and study than legislators alone can spare. I know a few New Hampshire voters who are interested in drafting a plan. I hope their voices will be heard.

Thank you for the opportunity to offer suggestions. It’s much appreciated.

Respectfully,

Barbara Glassman   

Nashua, NH 


Addendum

Verified Voting, the premier body of election experts, is unequivocal: "Audits require human examination of voter-marked paper ballots... Audits cannot rely on scanned images or machine interpretations of the ballots to accurately reflect voter intent.” [P. 7, https://verifiedvoting.org/publication/principles-and-best-practices-for-post-election-tabulation-audits/].