Electronic Privacy Information Center Files Lawsuit on Internet Voting Security Reports



On September 11, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a major beltway advocacy group, filed suit against the Department of Defense (DoD) for withholding records on security testing of electronic voting systems for use by overseas service members. EPIC has requested the security reports in July under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The suit alleges that the DoD had no intention of disclosing the test results as it had publicly promised to do to Congress nearly 2 years previously. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia had affirmed EPIC's status as news media for the purposes of access to information and fee waivers after they won a previous suit against the DoD in 2003.

The suit centers around security testing that was done on overseas ballot delivery and online voting systems, including equipment used in a 2010 pilot program built around a system called the Electronic Voting Support Wizard (EVSW) as part of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP). The EVSW was not successful because of payment disputes between the DoD and a key manufacturer Election Systems and Software (ES & S). Competing companies were not given access to ballot style (layout and content) information in time to implement competing systems. One of the companies, Scytl USA, had just entered the American market and was being run out of a private residence in Virginia. Scytl has since made major investments in the American market and built its practice around internet voting.

The results of the testing have never been released. The testing was announced in 2011 and was completed that year. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen requested the findings of study in August 2012. She was told in writing the results of the tests were not ready for publication more than a month later.

Congress also asked for the results of these tests in 2012. Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) requested the results in writing after a hearing. FVAP acting director Pamela Mitchell replied that the tests results would not be available for publication until December 2012 with the final reports released in the second quarter of 2013. Thus the integrity of the systems, which delivered electronic ballots to and from overseas military personnel, was not to be publicly discussed until after a Presidential Election. Despite a promise of release, either in December of 2012 or sometime in the Spring or Summer of 2013, the results have never been seen outside of the Department of Defense.

Pamela Mitchell may have been attempting to hide behind the supposed complexity of the testing. A comparison of the testing time, complexity, and results is available, however. In 2007, then Secretary of State of Ohio, Jennifer Brunner commissioned a study of all the electronic voting machines in use in the state. The study was called Project EVEREST and was commissioned on June 24, 2007, approved to move forward on September 24, 2007, completed including a report on December 7, 2007 and publicly released on December 14, of 2007. The complete text of the executive summary is available in .pdf format at the bottom of this article.

EPIC's lawsuit did not cite the EVEREST study. EPIC's suit does cite a National Academy of Sciences Report from 2006 on reviews of existing systems for electronic voting. EPIC also cited a statement published on September 10 by verifiedvoting.org on the dangers of internet voting signed by computer science professors at 21 major Universities including MIT, Stanford, Yale, Princeton and Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.

EPIC's attorney on the case was not available at press time. A statement on their website about the suit quoted a story by Politico.com. Politico had attempted to gain access to the 2011 reports and was also unsuccessful. Politico quoted the DoD as now claiming the reports were “pre-decisional” and would not be released until 2015. It appears as though Politico has had some access to the report as they know at least some of the tests that were performed and claimed, “while the testers were ultimately unable to change or decrypt votes, some critics say they just weren’t trying hard enough.” It is not clear what information Politico's unnamed critics had access to and what information they were denied.

There is a nation-wide push for internet voting and new products are becoming available with greater frequency. The one actual scientific test done by the government on any of these products has been shielded from both Congressional and public scrutiny. The results of these 2011 tests were deliberately hidden until after the 2012 election and now the DoD seeks to hold them again until after the Congressional mid-term elections.

The Free Press will attempt go gain relevant information on the quality and security of all voting equipment, and will publish our findings as soon as their veracity can be confirmed.

Date Originally Published: 
Monday, September 15, 2014
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