On Secure Voting Systems

Post Syndicated from Bruce Schneier original https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2024/03/on-secure-voting-systems.html

Andrew Appel shepherded a public comment—signed by twenty election cybersecurity experts, including myself—on best practices for ballot marking devices and vote tabulation. It was written for the Pennsylvania legislature, but it’s general in nature.

From the executive summary:

We believe that no system is perfect, with each having trade-offs. Hand-marked and hand-counted ballots remove the uncertainty introduced by use of electronic machinery and the ability of bad actors to exploit electronic vulnerabilities to remotely alter the results. However, some portion of voters mistakenly mark paper ballots in a manner that will not be counted in the way the voter intended, or which even voids the ballot. Hand-counts delay timely reporting of results, and introduce the possibility for human error, bias, or misinterpretation.

Technology introduces the means of efficient tabulation, but also introduces a manifold increase in complexity and sophistication of the process. This places the understanding of the process beyond the average person’s understanding, which can foster distrust. It also opens the door to human or machine error, as well as exploitation by sophisticated and malicious actors.

Rather than assert that each component of the process can be made perfectly secure on its own, we believe the goal of each component of the elections process is to validate every other component.

Consequently, we believe that the hallmarks of a reliable and optimal election process are hand-marked paper ballots, which are optically scanned, separately and securely stored, and rigorously audited after the election but before certification. We recommend state legislators adopt policies consistent with these guiding principles, which are further developed below.