Miller to make sure Nevada’s vote counts in 2008
Secretary of State Ross Miller talks about election security and the electronic voting machines being utilized in the upcoming elections.
A lot of people are afraid elections can be stolen using electronic voting machines. Is Nevada’s system secure?
I believe Nevada’s system is the most secure of any jurisdiction in the country. First of all, every county is outfitted with the same electronic voting machine and all of them are outfitted with voter verifiable paper trails. And we’ve got the most talented election administrators in the country with centralized security procedures in place to prevent the kind of vulnerabilities that the California study suggested exist.
What was California’s conclusion when officials there studied the different machines?
California found fault with all the machines including the Sequoia system Nevada uses. But it would be like they’d have to give them the keys to the system and leave them alone for the weekend. Nobody’s been able to demonstrate in a real world scenario that these machines are susceptible to hacking. With the security measures in place and poll workers trained to monitor the machines, it’s virtually impossible to hack into them and it would be traceable if someone was trying to manipulate the machines.
You said you’re putting some new security measures in place?
We’re going to review the California study and adopt some of those recommendations. But Nevada already has advantages over California. Nevada uses only Sequoia where California uses every vendor under the sun. The machines have to be recertified for every election so we’ll make the certification of the machines contingent on Sequoia making those changes.
We’re also going to centralize the training of poll workers to make sure it’s consistent throughout the state. We’re going to review the audit procedures to ensure the electronic tally matches the tally from the voter verified paper trail.
The programs will have what’s called a “Hash code” that enables us to tell whether anybody’s made any changes to the programming. It’s a series of letters and numbers assigned when the feds certify the software. It’s like an evidentiary tape. We record the codes and if someone changes the programming, it changes the code, so it lets you ensure that no one’s touched the programming.
For the vote cards, we’ll use a similar procedure. We maintain a direct chain of custody just like the evidence in a criminal case. From the time it leaves the clerk’s office to the time it comes back, we’ll know who’s touched it and when.
Is there some way concerned citizens can see how everything works election night?
The tabulation process is open and transparent. There are always observers at polling places and when the count is done from the major parties. We are currently proposing regulations that would allow anyone, not just representatives of the major political parties, to observe the process. Anybody can watch and not just the tabulation but the conduct of pre-testing and polling.
One of the things we’re exploring is whether we can put web-cameras in the tabulation room so people can watch on the Internet.
What other changes are you planning for the election process?
We’re going to set up a statewide command center. We had a pilot program for the municipal election in Las Vegas. There will be a hotline anyone can call to answer any questions about polling locations. We’ll have support staff if any counties, especially rural, are having problems. We’re already starting to coordinate with law enforcement around the state. If there are any allegations of tampering, fraud or intimidation at the polling place locations, we’ll be able to take appropriate action. We need to be ready because, with Nevada being an early caucus state, we’re going to see a lot more people being bused in from out of state.
We’re also tightening up the audit procedures. We conduct a post-election audit in which we compare 3 percent of the paper record against the electronic tally. If the results don’t match, we’re seeking regulations that would provide for an expedited resolution in the court system.
I don’t anticipate major problems with fraud, but I’m prepared for it. Tampering with elections is already a felony in this state although I think it should be a much stiffer potential penalty than a maximum of four years.