The midterms are three months away. Here’s what we still can and must do to protect our votes!

By Jennifer Cohn
August 1, 2018

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With the midterms about three months away, we should all be alarmed by the failure of the U.S. government and individual states and counties to implement hand marked paper ballots and other meaningful election security measures. The good news is that there’s still time.

States and counties with touchscreen systems do not have to “upgrade” their equipment in order to allow all voters to use hand marked paper ballots — the “gold standard” of election integrity — in the midterms. Even most paperless states already have optical scanners to count paper absentee ballots. They can use the same scanners to count hand marked ballots for everyone.

We can also place observers at each polling place to take pictures of the “poll tapes,” which list the vote totals from each machine before sending them to the central tabulators. If there are discrepancies between the poll tapes and the official totals, this can provide the basis for election challenges, which Democrats have been much too timid about pursuing in past elections.

And we can educate all voters as to what they can and must do to protect their own individual votes and voter registrations, including the following tips, many of which were originally posted by The Brad Blog:

  • Requesting a paper ballot at their polling place, rather than voting on a touchscreen (even some touchscreen states and counties will provide paper ballots for hand marking on request),
  • Voting by mail/absentee if the only other option is to vote on a touchscreen,
  • Checking their registrations often,
  • Bringing to the polls a screenshot of their registration confirmation and their driver’s license and recent utility bill (the documents they would need to at least vote provisionally).
  • Calling 866-OUR-VOTE (The Election Protection Hotline) and alerting poll workers and other voters at the polls — as well as the public via social media — if a touchscreen flips their vote or they encounter other problems voting.

We can also pressure county election boards to confirm in writing that they will provide each polling place with (a) paper ballot backups in case the touchscreen voting machines and/or touchscreen barcode ballot markers fail, and (b) paper backup voter lists and provisional ballots totaling at least 20% of expected turnout in case electronic pollbooks fail.

Above all else, we can encourage Congress and the media to maintain a constant, bright, and uncomfortable spotlight on our less-than-forthcoming voting machine vendors and their many security lapses.

Election Systems & Software (“ES&S”) in particular has made recent headlines for its outrageously irresponsible decision to sell election-management systems (used to program each voting machine before each election) with remote access software and to “upgrade” its popular DS200 scanners to include cellular modems that IT experts say could facilitate a man-in-the-middle hack. ES&S is America’s largest vendor, accounting for about 44% of all U.S. election equipment.

Shining the “high beams” on ES&S and other vendors may itself deter shenanigans during the midterms. Legal inquiries into similarly disturbing vendor conduct preceded Obama’s historic victories in both:

  • 2008 [election eve deposition of the RNC’s IT “guru,” who in 2004 routed Ohio’s election night returns through a Republican owned hosting site in Tennessee] and
  • 2012 [election day lawsuit re: ES&S’s eleventh hour installation of uncertified software patches on tabulators in up to 39 Ohio counties].

Who can forget Karl Rove’s bizarre meltdown on Fox News the night of the 2012 election? Let’s do what we can do to ensure another Republican meltdown — and Democratic triumph— by protecting our votes in 2018!

Links to contact information for various action items.

Action item 1. Demand that Congress & the media pressure ES&S, Dominion, and other voting machine vendors re: their use of remote access software and cellular modems (emails, calls, social media posts, letters-to-the-editor, and postcards).

Phone call or postcard script (short):

Dear _________:

I’m concerned by the report in Motherboard that voting machine vendor ES&S (44% US election equipment) has admitted that it “installed remote-access software on election-management systems…,” but won’t identify where it did this. I’m also alarmed that ES&S has “upgraded” its DS200 scanners to include cellular modems.

Please investigate ES&S and other vendors, like Dominion Voting, who are believed to have installed remote access software. Thank you.



Email script (long):

Dear Senator:

I am concerned by the recent report in Motherboard that America’s largest voting machine vendor, ES&S (44% US election equipment), has admitted that it “installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years,” but won’t identify the states and counties where it did this. I am also alarmed that ES&S has “upgraded” its DS200 scanners — used in more than 20 states — to include cellular modems.

According to Motherboard, Congress has the power to subpoena testimony and documents if it opens an investigation. Please do this immediately as to ES&S and the two other vendors cited in the article — Hart and Dominion — who would not tell Motherboard if they too had installed remote access software in election equipment sold to states and counties.

As your constituent, I hope you will take this request seriously. Our democracy may depend on it.

Here is a link to the article about ES&S and its remote access software:

Here is a link to the article about ES&S and its cellular modems:

Here is a link to the recent Wharton report showing that ES&S accounts for about 44% of US election equipment (See Appendix A):



Action item 2. Demand that members of Congress support and pass the PAVE Act, requiring that states conduct Risk Limiting Audits in federal elections & give all voters the option to mark their ballots BY HAND (emails, calls, social media posts, letters-to-the-editor, and postcards). Proposed script:

Dear Senator:

It is critical that you pass Senator Ron Wyden’s PAVE Act, which requires that states give all voters the option to mark their ballots by hand and that they conduct Risk Limiting Audits for federal races.

Although the PAVE Act has a 2020 effective date, the hand marked ballot clause must be accelerated to 2018. This can be done bc even most paperless counties already have scanners (for absentees), which can be used to count paper ballots in the midterms.

Relying on Touchscreens is too risky bc voters will be unable to vote if there is a widespread failure and an insufficient number of paper backup ballots at the polls. Touchscreens also limit the number of people who can vote at once, causing long lines that disenfranchise voters.

The paper trails and summary cards from touchscreens are too abbreviated to be successfully verified or audited. And new touchscreens like the ExpressVote use unverifiable barcodes that, per IT experts, constitute a potential attack vector for hackers.

Our nation cannot withstand more poll-defying election outcomes that cannot realistically be confirmed with manual recounts or manual audits. The time for #handmarkedpaperballots is now. Waiting until after the midterms is unacceptable.



Action item 3. Demand HAND MARKED ballots from state election officials — and state/county election boards — that use touchscreens (emails, postcards, calls, social media posts, editorials, etc)

Action item 4. Petition for hand marked ballots directed to state and county election boards in key states that use touchscreens. Sample petition from Georgia:

[A few people are already working on this, but let me know if you would like to help]

Action item 5. Pressure state election officials and state and county election boards to implement proper election security protocols for voter registrations & electronic pollbooks (emails, calls, editorials, etc).

Link to proposed scripts:

Action item 6. Educate voters as to what they can do to protect their voter registration and vote against hacking and glitches (postcards, social media posts, editorials).

Action item 7. Educate voters and campaigns as to the need for poll observers (social media posts, letters-to-the-editor, and postcards). Proposed script:

Dear voter/candidate for elected office:

It is critically important to have poll observers at every single polling place on Election Day. Poll observers are needed not only to monitor problems that might occur during voting, but also to take pictures of the “poll tapes” (printouts listing the vote totals) when the polls close so that the poll tape totals can be compared against the official vote total. If they don’t match, this can be used in an election challenge.

Taking photos of the poll tapes is also important to ensure machines don’t mysteriously delete races from their totals, as happens on occasion.

Action item 8. Campaign to preserve the paper ballots and paper audit trails from the swing states in the 2016 election, which are scheduled for destruction in September. The truth matters, whatever it may be.

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Action item 9. Watch & record results on SOS or County websites thru the night. Take/save screenshots as you go, & include a timestamp in the filename when you do. Web results can change, sometimes in the wrong direction, thru the night. Your screenshots could save an election!

Action item 10. Demand that states and counties tell us whether they are using remote access or cellular modems and that, if the answer is “yes,” they remove them before the midterm elections! (twitter posts, emails, calls)

Action item 11. Demand that counties in Wisconsin and elsewhere conduct manual audits (emails, phone calls, sit ins, etc.)

Action item 12. Amplify existing lawsuits championing election integrity (social media, editorials, etc).

The Georgia paper ballot lawsuit.

The South Carolina paper ballot lawsuit.

Ballot image lawsuits when filed (see John Brakey & AuditAZ)

Action item 13. Support candidates for Secretary of State who promote hand marked paper ballots.

Action item 14. Counteract GOP propaganda that “no vote tallies were altered.”

In response to the new GOP talking point that “no vote tallies were altered” (or “there is no evidence vote tallies were altered”), assemble and amplify articles showing that nothing was done to determine whether vote tallies were altered or not.

Postcard gallery (in progress)

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Demand that counties conduct manual audits? Pressure the counties directly?

Identify candidates in hotly contested/high profile races and prepare a list with their phone numbers and email addresses.

Investigate status of ballot image access in key states (contact John Brakey)

Encourage candidates in advance to file election challenges if the outcome appears suspect.

Encourage candidates to demand chain of custody records.

Senator call list:

Senators: Twitter, fax, and phone.

US senator physical addresses and phone numbers:

US senators Twitter addresses

US senator email addresses:

Attorney and Election Integrity Advocate #ProtectOurVotes #PaperBallotsNow @jennycohn1

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