For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Aquene Freechild, afreechild@citizen.org, (202) 588-7752

Groups Offer to Deliver 50,000 Comments That Election Assistance Commission Staff Didn’t Allow Decision-Makers to See

Departing agency staff did not disclose majority of public comments on voting system guidelines.

WASHINGTON - A U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) committee—which is considering allowing the next generation of federally certified voting machines to be connected to the internet, an unsafe practice – should reconsider the issue because it hasn’t seen all relevant public comments, Public Citizen, Secure Elections Network and SMART Elections said in a letter sent today to the committee. The groups also offered to deliver more than 50,000 comments.

At its Sept. 19 and 20 meeting, the committee seemed to decide against a ban on wireless and internet connectivity in voting systems but didn’t take a formal vote. Committee members asked repeatedly to see a small group of the public comments, but the EAC executive director and counsel repeatedly denied that request. In fact, the committee was not allowed to see more than 50,000 comments from people across the country pushing to ensure that the guidelines call for no wireless or internet access in voting machines.

Instead, a staff member presented a couple of PowerPoint slides summarizing 2,800 comments—but not the comments themselves. The staffer didn’t tell the committee how many total comments were submitted and how many were submitted in favor or against a particular policy, with one exception: The committee was told that 93% of the comments supported “Data Protection (ban wireless); require hand-marked paper ballots.”

But comments submitted by at least 45,000 people were specifically focused on banning wireless separately from the legitimate call for hand-marked paper ballots. The EAC staff’s minimal reporting on what was in the public comments did not accurately reflect either the number or the detailed content of the comments that were submitted.

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That’s why today, the three groups submitted 1,465 unique comments gathered by a larger coalition and offered to provide all comments they had submitted to the EAC last June.

It is widely recognized that one of the best ways to protect machines from manipulation is to make sure they can’t connect to the internet. The committee has not yet made its final recommendations.

The EAC is responsible for approving the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG), which set the standards for most voting machines in use in the United States. The Technical Guidelines Development Committee (the committee in question) assists the EAC in developing the VVSG in collaboration with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The committee is composed of election officials, disability experts, technology experts and other key election stakeholders. The committee is finalizing a long overdue update to voting system guidelines.

Read the rest of the release here.

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