Serious Credibility Problems

This is a letter written by former California Deputy Secretary of State, Lowell Finley.


Honorable Members of the Board of Supervisors,

The Board of Supervisors should not adopt FILE NO. 141105, the “Resolution Supporting the Creation of Open Source Voting Systems – Studying New Models ·of Voting System Development.” The resolution’s overall objectives are worthy of support, but the California Association of Voting Officials, the organization to which the resolution would tie future voting system development efforts of the City and County of San Francisco, is not.

First, some brief background. I have specialized in political and election law since I became a lawyer in the 1980s. I am now in private practice. From 2007 through September, 2014, I served as California’s Deputy Secretary of State for Voting Systems Technology and Policy. Beginning in 2011, I also served as Chief Counsel to the Secretary of State.

I oversaw the testing of voting systems in California and participated extensively in the drafting of regulations that will establish comprehensive standards for California’s testing and certification of voting systems in the future. I also spent many hours working with the staff of Secretary of State-elect Padilla and the Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters on SB 360, the bill that established an official preference for open source voting system technology in this state.

The resolution before you pledges that the City and County of San Francisco will support the California Association of Voting Officials (CAVO), the principal goal of which is described as the development of a new voting system. This is an improvement over the first version of the resolution, under which San Francisco would have joined CAVO, but it continues to tie San Francisco to an organization with serious credibility problems. First, the organization’s name is seriously misleading. The name, California Association of Voting Officials, was adopted when the organization had only a single California elections official as a member. Even today, CAVO’s website shows that only two of the seven board members are elections officials in California counties. None of the eleven Advisory Board members are California elections
officials.

Second, CAVO’s website lists as its two “industry members” private voting system companies, one of which (SOE Software) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Spanish company Scytl. The primary focus of SOE Software and Follow My Vote, the other “industry member,” is the development and sale of voting systems in which ballots are cast over the Internet. Internet voting is widely viewed by computer security experts as vulnerable to tampering and privacy violations. There is no mention of Internet voting in the resolution, but red flags should go up concerning the longterm plans CAVO and its corporate sponsors may have for San Francisco.

Sincerely,
Lowell Finley

December 8, 2014

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