CISA rolls out post-election audit tool for 2020

The software, Arlo, is an open source tool and election officials from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio and Georgia have all signed on thus far.

open source election technology
 

The Department of Homeland Security has announced a partnership with election nonprofit VotingWorks to pilot new open-source post-election auditing software in several states ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections.

The software, Arlo, was developed by VotingWorks as a free, open-source tool to help states conduct post-election audits to verify voting results. DHS said that election officials from Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Ohio and Georgia have already signed on to the pilot and that earlier iterations of Arlo have already been deployed by several states in off-year elections held this month.

"At a time when we know foreign actors are attempting to interfere and cast doubt on our democratic processes, it's incredibly important elections are secure, resilient, and transparent," Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs said in a statement. "For years, we have promoted the value of auditability in election security, it was a natural extension to support this open source auditing tool for use by election officials and vendors, alike."

DHS said that the software "supports numerous types of post-election audits across various types of voting machines, including all major vendors."

In an interview, VotingWorks founder Ben Adida said that Arlo is designed to facilitate various forms of risk-limiting audits (RLAs) on voting machines with voter-verified paper backups.

He said CISA helped fund the engineering development of Arlo to ensure it was free and open source. In addition to the software, his organization will be offering states low-cost hosting and support options as well as training on how to customize the software for their specific election process, though he said states would not have to use or purchase either.

"This is an optional service that states can choose to use or not," Adida said. "They can host it on their own, they can get somebody else to host it … it's up to them how they want to do it. We're one of the options that states can use if they want."

CISA hopes to add more states to the list of participants. Currently only Colorado conducts such RLAs statewide, while Rhode Island passed legislation mandating their use and underwent pilot testing for the practice this year. Adida said the goal was to exponentially increase the number of states conducting such audits by November 2020.

"My sense is that I think at least five or six will do full RLAs in November 2020, and I'm hopeful that if we gather the right resources and if things are able to move quickly, then we can get to maybe 10 or 12, so that's probably the range I would expect," he said.

The pilot would include audits for ballot-marking devices (BMDs), voting machines primarily designed to assist voters with disabilities but which have been criticized by some as being incompatible with true RLAs, the method widely viewed as the gold standard for verifying election results. Indeed, there is a fierce debate within the election community over the value or prudence of auditing such machines.

Academics Philip Stark, Richard DeMillo and Andrew Appel wrote in an April 2019 paper that while voters can express their intent by hand marking ballots or through computer systems like BMDs, "only the BMD is also subject to systematic error from computer hacking or bugs in the process of recording the vote on paper, after the voter has expressed it," they wrote.

"Risk-limiting audits of a trustworthy paper trail can check whether errors in tabulating the votes as recorded altered election outcomes, but there is no way to check whether errors in how BMDs record expressed votes altered election outcomes," the trio wrote. "The outcomes of elections conducted on current BMDs therefore cannot be confirmed by audits."

However, Adida and others in the election community such as Georgetown University professor Matt Blaze, take a less absolutist position on the matter. Blaze, who has himself argued that BMDs are not ideal choices for post-election audits, has argued they aren't the only or even most vulnerable part of the voting process, calling criticism that such audits aren't worthwhile "baffling and counterproductive."

"The fact that states are actively conducting trials of this essential safeguard is an unqualified positive thing," Blaze said on Twitter. "Leaning how to do RLAs properly and at scale requires exactly the kind of experience these trials provide. Don't let the perfect strangle the good here."

Note: When originally published, this article stated that Adida believes other forms of paper ballots suffer from similar weaknesses as Ballot Marking Devices in verifying voter intent. The discussion about voter intent was specific to barcodes and Adida was not stating that BMDs and handmarked paper ballots are equivalent.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.