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Voting System Recommendations

   George Edwards

[April 2013--since what is written here and earlier as to the voting process (nothing newly written on registration) South Carolina has successfully implemented voter photo ID with DOJ approval. And a detailed article on the Most Recommended Voting System--Automated Fingerprint Verification as well as one specifying an Interim Voter Card Management System has been written and incorporated on this Web site. They supersede in specifics what is written earlier, although are believed--without detailed re-reading--to otherwise accord as to generalities].

 

If you wish to skip ahead to a particular topic, click the topic you desire in the following table.

General

Current South Carolina Practices

South Carolina Specific Recommendations

After word

 

General

The determination that a particular voter meets all the voting requirements is absolutely essential during registration before his name or any of his biometric data should be put into the registration data base. Extreme care must be taken that the potential voter indeed meets the registration requirements during the registration process or no amount of voter identification at the voting place will ensure that a voter does.

 

As discussed in the Voting System and Fraud Prevention Tradeoffs paper on this site, there are many existing databases, e.g. E-verify, which could be used to help verify that a voter meets registration requirements. There are biometric databases also, such as the fingerprint data associated with TWIC—Transportation Workers Identification Credential that is required for Coast Guard-credentialed merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck drivers, and others requiring unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and vessels regulated by MTSA (Maritime Transportation Security Act) that it might be possible to be made available. Fresh biometric data for a particular voter such as a thumbprint needs to be extremely carefully taken and the scanners maintained and periodically tested so that the resulting digitized photograph can be accurately compared with a potential voter at the voting place. Backups and duplicated reading efforts are always desirable.

 

At the voting place, a machine fingerprint identification system by itself is less error-prone than other methods, beyond possibly combining it with other machine biometric methods such as machine face and iris recognition. Regardless of the identification system used, provisions should be made for identifying and confirming provisional contested ballots. This is discussed under the appropriate section in the Voting System and Fraud Prevention Tradeoffs paper on this site.  

 

Fingerprinting in addition to arguably being the most accurate identification tool has great public acceptance because of its long-time crime-fighting use. However recording any individual biometric measurements in association with peoples’ names can be interpreted as an invasion of privacy—properly or not—and viewed as “Big Brother” at work. Although such is used and accepted in many circumstances, legislation requiring the taking of biometric data from the public at large in exchange for the right to vote can be expected to be extremely controversial—despite its extreme desirability as the arguably most accurate ant-voting-fraud measure. Especially in the short term, popular and political acceptance probably requires that it be combined with other methods such as passwords or human identification via photo-ids--even these should be accompanied with anti-counterfeiting methods such as may be possible with a credit card.

 

Cost is always a consideration although, in a representative democracy, little is more deserving of public funding than ensuring that votes are accurately counted only for those legally authorized to vote. The least costly voting system is the one currently in place—perhaps one with little screening of voters’ legal qualifications for registration, no requirement for photo identification at the polling place, a cursory check of signatures, if any at all, and inadequate cross-checking against such as duplicate voting throughout the voting system. More rigorous screening of voters’ legal qualifications for registration can be facilitated by automatically machine cross-checking registration applicants against existing or newly prepared data bases based on information that is available but must be gathered and organized into the data bases. Software programs or human training programs to do this screening as well as cross-checking against such as duplicate voting throughout the voting system cost

 

Simply requiring a photographic I.D. to vote costs nothing to legislate although including it on a registration card especially with provisions against counterfeiting does.

 

Providing photographs on a registration cards generally decreases the probability of error during a transaction (although not necessarily when combined in a biometric system). The question is whether the lessened error is worth the cost. A credit card type voting card costs, but credit cards may routinely include anti-counterfeiting measures.

 

Credit cards may have been used in establishing the acceptability of a customer (analogously registration in a voting system) even if not during an individual transaction (analogous to the voting itself) where a PIN number and answers to personal questions are used. If an individuals registered biometric data were included in the voter card, there would be no additional need or cost for a data base at the voting place nor potentially even Internet/intranet connectivity as discussed in the trade-offs.

 

Providing scanners, associated software and possibly added computer equipment and storage to read and write digitized fingerprint biometric data costs. Adding equipment and software to provide and accommodate further biometric data types costs even more. These dollar and time costs need to be traded off against the value of the increased anti-fraud protection provided by each addition to the system. It may prove desirable or only feasible to introduce each of these improvements only one at a time in the above order or perhaps not at all, in the case of adding other biometric measures than scanned voting place fingerprint comparison with those in the registration database 

 

The additional expense of adding such as  machine iris and/or face recognition may not be warranted by added error reduction--if such results. If one machine biometric measure would accept or reject a vote and another or others yield contrary results, a resulting “auction” could prove counter-productive.  The same could apply to human over-rides based on photographs, for instance, to allow votes otherwise rejected by the machine measures. They might please people and politicians but are more likely than not to increase errors, certainly if not marked for later review of such as fingerprints taken on the spot.

 

System procurement should seek competitive bids among credit card companies with their credit card expertise for credit card voter IDs or banks with their Internet/password expertise or those who have developed, tested and verified biometric systems, even biometric voting systems—if there are such. The key is to use tested and proven verified accurate and secure systems with already established free market companies.

 

The best system combination choice or details may change with time due to additional error rates and cost experience or knowledge, changing public and political acceptance, technical developments or advances in ways to defraud. One advantage of a Web site paper is that it can be a work-in-process that can be updated as further information or comments seem applicable. That was, and remains, the intent with this paper. Please e-mail any suggestions you may have to me (edwardsgeor@gmail.com) for potential inclusion and put GIAC in the subject line to help ensure that your e-mail does not get overlooked.

 

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Current South Carolina Practices

Disclaimer: I have no “inside” knowledge of the South Carolina voting system nor that of any other than observation as a voter and information available on the Web. Details may be considered confidential so that those seeking to defraud do not have access to information that could help them.

 

Currently [8/19/2010] in South Carolina [see http://brennan.3cdn.net/ff95b82b611e0bf2e8_o6m6b816u.pdf].:  42% of registrations are done by mail  50% by the DMV and “County elections officials generally review and enter information from voter registration forms [on which a registrant must attest  that he or she meets each and every named requirement to vote] in their jurisdictions directly into the statewide system. [Emphasis added.] . . . Forms received by the DMV are transmitted electronically to the appropriate county board on a nightly basis, and the paper backup copy is transmitted within 10 days. . . . South Carolina does not attempt to match information on voter registration forms with information in the motor vehicles or Social Security databases for voter registration purposes. [Emphasis added]. South Carolina will attempt to match information submitted on voter registration forms to check for duplicate entries in the existing registration database, and will attempt to check an applicant’s address against a street address file built from the county 911 and GIS (Geographic Information System) systems; if the address cannot be confirmed as valid, the application will be rejected.  . . . A driver’s license or state-issued non-driver’s photo identification card, or signed voter registration card [is required at the polls.] . . . If you are registering for the first time in this [Horry]  county, you must attach a copy of a current valid photo ID or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck or other government document that shows your name and address in this county. If you do not provide this identification information now, you will be required to provide this information when you vote. (Pursuant to the Help America Vote Act]** Social Security Number is required by the S.C. Code of Laws 7-5-170. This number is used for internal purposes only and eliminates multiple registrations by a single individual. Your Social Security Number is not released to any unauthorized individual.“

 

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South Carolina Specific Recommendations [April 2013--since what is written here and earlier as to the voting process (nothing newly written on registration) South Carolina has successfully implemented voter photo ID with DOJ approval. And a detailed article on the Most Recommended Voting System--Automated Fingerprint Verification as well as one specifying an Interim Voter Card Management System has been written and incorporated on this Web site. They supersede in specifics what is written earlier, although are believed--without detailed re-reading--to otherwise accord as to generalities].

Enhance registration database validity. Strongly consider reversing the policy against matching “information on voter registration forms with information in the motor vehicles or Social Security databases for voter registration purposes.” Strengthen registration data checks in general including extending the use of existing data bases including E-verify if not used already. Remember that registration is a major area used by organizations such as ACORN to defraud the voting system.

Enhance voter ID at the voting place.

  1. Immediately require photo ID at the voting place. [Update: the S.C. General Assembly has passed a requirement for photo ID although DOJ approval has not been received as of 6/11/11.] Because of the requirement to get justice department approval, the House should strongly consider immediate passage of the Senate version passed in the last session—considering the extreme ease of voting absentee and not in person for thirty days prior to the election, there should be no realistic concern with “early voting,” certainly for those previously allowed to vote absentee during that period. Tightening the rules for allowing absentee voting is highly desirable and might also make the House more agreeable to passing a joint bill if that tightening could get past the Department of Justice. If voting machines are available for in-person absentee voting for thirty days prior to an election and round the clock in some locations, there is no need to allow other absentee voting except for those absolutely unavailable or out of the state for that entire period.

  2. Thorough poll worker training and performance follow-through is essential. For instance, the existence of photo identification measures is useless unless poll workers use them. Honest and thorough poll workers are essential as is accurate recording in ink as to those voting [to inhibit possible later alterations]

  3. If implementing a biometric system is impossible in a timely fashion such as the fingerprint system currently used by the Transportation Workers Identification Credential that is required for Coast Guard-credentialed merchant mariners, port facility employees, long shore workers, truck drivers, and others requiring unescorted access to secure areas of maritime facilities and vessels regulated by MTSA (Maritime Transportation Security Act), strongly consider implementing a credit card system using at least the anti-counterfeiting methods credit card companies already have in place.

  4. Ultimately aim to install a biometric system with counterfeit protected voting cards being strictly a supplement for potentially allowing provisional ballots if  the biometric system rejected votes are challenged. (See the appropriate section in the Voting System and Fraud Prevention Tradeoffs paper on this site.)

  5. Possibly enhance security using the Clark County Nevada security techniques as an extreme model.

 

System procurement should seek competitive bids among credit card companies with their credit card expertise for credit card voter IDs or banks with their Internet/password expertise or those who have developed, tested and verified biometric systems, even biometric voting systems—if there are such. The key is to use tested and proven verified accurate and secure systems with already established free market companies.

 

As a generality, automate the at-the-voting-place, vote duplication checks and vote compilation to the greatest extent feasible using humans as backups only to the extent required for such as observation of proper machine usage without attempts to defraud, allowing provisional ballots when votes are  refused by the automated system, voting machine maintenance and security,  and hard copy re-counts if needed.

 

The best system combination choice or details may change with time due to additional error rates and cost experience or knowledge, changing public and political acceptance, technical developments or advances in ways to defraud. One advantage of a Web site paper is that it can be a work-in-process that can be updated as further information or comments seem applicable. That was, and remains, the intent with this paper as well as Voting System and Fraud Prevention Tradeoffs that is currently in the process of revision in accordance with varied notes. Please e-mail any suggestions you may have to me (georgehe@earthlink.net) for potential inclusion and put GIAC in the subject line to help ensure that your e-mail does not get overlooked.

 

After word:

This Voting System Recommendations paper was published before some of the revisions in the Voting System and Fraud Prevention paper on this Web site were published. The specific recommendations here, in some cases, represent a subset of those in that paper. For instance the trade-offs paper includes a Security section which is not detailed here, a report on Nevada voter fraud experience and some notes. The trade-offs paper overall is a more general treatment with comparisons and tradeoffs of various voting methods and systems other than those specifically recommended here. I recommend reading it--Voting System and Fraud Prevention Tradeoffs and Ensuring Valid Vote Counts..

 

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