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Ballot Security
Martin Knight 5/4/2021 1:31 PM

Ballot Security



I have made no secret of what I think happened on Election Day 2020 and the days following; local Democrat election officials in a number of strategic counties in a number of strategic states, having total control of the counting process, and thus the means, motive(!) and opportunity, simply delivered tens of thousands of mass manufactured ballots to the counting room floor. We even watched them stagger and stutter-stop their counting in every one of these locales, to let the rest of the state finish their counts, which, of course, allowed them to find out the margins they needed to overcome. This is after kicking out Republican observers or rendering them incapable of actually observing the counting as specified by law.


In other words, what we saw this past November was simple old fashioned ballot stuffing aided by 21st Century technology. And all indications is that this was planned and coordinated at the national level. 


For the past few months, Republican state legislators have been passing bills to tighten up voting rules and procedures, which is fantastic. 


However, while placing limits on dropboxes, mail voting, ballot harvesting, etc. and ID requirements are great, there is still nothing stopping the Democrats from once again holding back until just about enough ballots to flip the results are "found" in their strongholds to flip the results. 


This is unless we can introduce some anti-fraud measures that severely limit, not just their procedural, but technical ability to cheat; e.g. adding votes to the system after Election Day. The point is that there is no reason why 21st Century technology, especially advances in Math, cryptology and computer processing power, cannot also be used to prevent and detect election fraud. 


The following are some ideas in that vein.


NOTE: If you know or have access to Conservative and/or Republican officials in your area, I humbly request that you please share this with them and let's work to get legislation passed to implement these anti-fraud measures as minimum standards for voting systems in as many states as possible. 


1. No Revealing of Results Until All Precincts Have Reported Completion; This is less a technical measure than a procedural one. This denies ballot cheats the key piece of intelligence that tells them the numbers they need to deliver to the counting room floors that may be under their control. It means the days of watching the returns come in precinct by precinct and having states "called" by the networks when less than 20% of the vote is tabulated are over. It also means no more King, Dane, Broward, Fulton, Philadelphia, Allegheny, Hennepin, DeKalb, Maricopa, Clark, Wayne, Durham, Palm Beach, etc. counties being the last to check in with inexplicable result flipping surges of votes for the Democrat candidate. Technical measures should be taken to prevent even local officials from knowing the count until a signal is sent to the counting machines from a central control station i.e. the Secretary of State's office, that all other locales have reported completion.


2. No More Closed/Proprietary Voting Systems; Whatever you may think about Dominion and other voting system manufacturers, there is something fundamentally wrong with a company having so much power over the franchise with no way of compelling any meaningful review of their product or its key components, or even auditing their performance, if they choose not to cooperate. So, in the interest of openness and transparency, all voting systems should be open source; with operating system and application source code and hardware schematics made publicly available, along with their checksums, executable sizes, etc. and machine physical descriptions such as unit weight, ports, dimensions, etc. so all concerned, candidates, voters, parties, can review, test and verify the voting systems both before and after the election. Any unexplained code or component that doesn't belong will be caught within hours by the Open Source community. 


3. Every Ballot Must Have A Unique Alphanumeric Identifier; In this case we're talking about serial numbers (i.e. Hexadecimal, Base 24) generated with encryption and secure hash functions that not only prevent the same ballot from being scanned through more than once, they also provide means of authentication that make it practically impossible for ballot cheats to introduce fake ballots into the system without being caught out immediately. A key part of this anti-fraud measure is that salt values and encryption passwords will be provided by designated officials from both parties. These, combined with location codes and serial numbers, would be used as parameters for cryptoraphic algorithms to generate unique random values as an ID for each ballot. This will apply to both in-person and mail ballots. The counting machines will naturally be programmed to decrypt and authenticate each ballot and automatically reject any ballot that fails authentication or has been counted before. 


4. Absentee/Mail Ballots Must Have Matching Envelopes; Naturally, absentee/mail ballots must be treated differently from in-person ballots. By definition, an absentee/mail ballot must come into contact with the mail system, which means being in an envelope, from which the ballot is separated to preserve the secrecy of the ballot. Ballot cheats exploit this; the fact that once a ballot is separated and mixed in with others, it cannot be matched back to its envelope. This makes it impossible to identify ballots from fictitious addresses and remove them from the count. Another tactic is to destroy envelopes, leaving the door open for absentee ballots that never saw the inside of an envelope (i.e. fake) to be delivered to the counting room floor with no way of being distinguished from authentic ballots. Usually, this means all ballots, fake and genuine, are presumed valid for fear of disenfranchising genuine voters. The unique ballot identifier provides a solution to this problem; each envelope will have a unique ID as well, matched to its ballot via a cryptographic one-way hashing algorithm. The result is that an absentee ballot will be invalidated if an envelope with its matching number has not also been scanned through. The secrecy of the ballot is maintained as the envelope ID cannot be used to derive the ballot ID. 


5. Ballots Must Have Anti-Counterfeit Security Features; Ballot manufacturers should be instructed to include authenticating elements such as watermarks, IR or UV visible markings, magnetic ink, or even the use of special blends of ink or paper which will uniquely identify the manufacturer and the locale each batch of ballots is printed for. These features should be detectable by the counting machines to validate ballots. This is no more than the technology already in use in currency authenticators, and I do not believe it is unreasonable to expect and demand that some of the measures in use to protect our money should also be used to protect our democracy. 


6. Random Race and Candidate Placement; Traditionally, statewide races occupy the top of the ballot, starting with the Presidential race, then Gubernatorial, Senatorial, and other statewide elected offices like Attorney General, Secretary of State, etc. What this means is that ballots in a typical county are identical at the top across the various municipalities, districts and neighborhoods even as they differ at the bottom. This uniformity at the top means it's the easiest thing to create a printing template for the up-ballot races and then run large numbers of ballots for the various locales within the county through printers and copiers to place the dots beside favored statewide and countywide candidates. The solution for this is to eliminate the "top of the ticket" and have races arranged randomly on the ballot i.e. the 1st race on my ballot could be the State Senate race, then Attorney General, then the race for the School Board, then President at position 4, City Council at 5, etc. while that of my neighbor in the same precinct could have the Mayor's race first, followed by the US House, then County Executive, then State House, and President at position 9. This makes templating extremely difficult even without also adding the random arrangement of candidates within each box. 


7. Human Versus Machine Pattern Detection; It is easy to tell if a human or machine filled a given spot on a piece of paper. Printers produce uniform patterns and apply ink with the same pressure, while humans simply cannot do the same. These characteristics are easily machine detectable, and can be programmed in as marks of authenticity, quite apart from the major differences in inks used by humans versus machines. All ballots should therefore have places where a human must fill, which will be validated by the counting machine. Absentee ballots should automatically meet this criterion. However, some in-person voting systems have the voter make their selections on a screen, after which a ballot with their choices marked is printed. In this scenario, similar to a captcha, there would also be a box which the voter would be required to shade in by hand similar to the role of signature to verify that the votes on the ballot accurately reflect their choices. 


8. Spectral Ink Analysis; The vote counting machines should take spectral (i.e. Raman, UV-Vis) chemical signature readings of the inks used to mark the ballots for any subsequent comparison and auditing purposes. This will also pick up the use of printers and copiers to mark ballots as the inks used in print/copier cartridges are very different from those used in pens and markers. Ink manufacturers make a conscious effort to ensure that the composition of their products are different from each other, and also different within their own product ranges by year, batch, factory, etc. This is so even when the inks are the same color, not to mention the fact that differences are often introduced by environmental factors when being made, stored or transported. So it's extremely unlikely that the Papermate pen I'm using in my home to mark my ballot and the Papermate my neighbor is using to mark hers will have the same chemical signature under spectroscopic examination. And if she's using a Bic or Sharpie, it's impossible. This will apply particularly to absentee ballots; it is extremely unlikely that dozens, much less hundreds of absentee ballots will somehow be marked by the same pen, or pens from the exact same batch by the exact same manufacturer. 


9. Counting Machines Should Visibly Mark All Processed Ballots; Counting machines should be designed to mark processed ballots, indicating whether the ballot was counted or rejected, and the reason for the latter. For example, an absentee ballot fed into the machine without a matching envelope having been scanned will be rejected with a code boldly printed in a given space indicating exactly that with the date and time (to the decisecond) it was scanned. So would a fake ballot rejected for not having a valid ID number, or lacking the required security features. Genuine ballots will similarly be marked as counted with the scan date and time. This provides another bar against attempts to rerun ballots as observers will be able to see that a ballot has already been processed. In addition it aids in the conduct of recounts and audits in the event of challenges by candidates after results are announced.


10. Dead-Man's Switch for Observers; In recent years, not just 2020, election officials in certain locales have made a habit of interfering with or simply stopping legitimate partisan observers from monitoring the vote counting process, even in defiance of state laws. The solution for this is to introduce a dead-man's switch on the counting machines in which observers are prompted to enter a secret passcode at random intervals. If the prompted observer does not enter the password within the allotted time, all counting stops and the tabulation since the last successful passcode entry is invalidated. 


11. Machine Logs and Audit Reports To Be Made Public After Announcement Of Results; This is a procedural measure in line with the overarching principle of openness and transparency. There are components that can leverage on existing infrastructure e.g. GPS to ensure timing data, for example, is not compromised. Any attempts to introduce fake ballots, rerun the same ballots, or run through absentee ballots without matching envelopes will also be captured as well as any failure by observers to enter their passcodes. Additional statistical information, such as the number of votes per precinct, when the counting started and stopped, number of ballots processed at each time, etc. would also be revealed. Likewise the presence of fraud indicators such as identical inks being detected on multiple mail ballots. This will be a welcome departure from the current situation where a company can simply refuse to provide the data and there is no way to verify the data if they do provide it. 


12. Scans of Ballots and Ballot Envelopes To Be Made Public; Given the unique ballot identifier, voters should have the ability to check and see the scan of their ballot, and whether it was accepted or rejected (and for what reason in the latter case) after the results are announced. This is another nod to openness and transparency without sacrificing the secrecy of the ballot. This, of course, means scanned images of the ballots must be uploaded from the machines in the days following the election, and that a voter recorded his or her ballot number before mailing it or depositing it in the ballot box. Scans of absentee ballot envelopes (postmarks included) should also be uploaded and made available to vote audit teams in the case of challenges by candidates on that basis. If fake addresses are discovered and verified as being fake, a candidate can request a court to order the system to rerun the count from the scanned ballots and disqualify those affected. 


13. All Logs, Registers and Other Election Documents To Be Scanned and Made Public Before Certification; One would assume that election officials at the every level should be submitting certain documents, i.e. poll books, ballot box chain of custody records and signing sheets, etc. in support of the certification of their results. It turns out that in many counties, e.g. Wayne County in Michigan, incomplete and unbalanced records are no bar to certifying the result of an election, and election officials can furthermore choose to deny access to these records to prevent challenging candidates from seeing them even after certification. This should no longer be allowed. In the interest of openness and transparency, every precinct or county should be required to scan and upload its election records, registers, poll books, etc. as prerequisites for certifying its results. 


14. 24 Hour Video Coverage of Counting Venue Until Certification; All vote counting venues must be physically inspected on video and checklist certified by selected partisan observers 24 hours before any counting begins. Following that, the venue would be under recorded, lighted, 24 hour zero-blindspot CCTV surveillance for the entire period until the counting is completed. Every counting machine must have a camera trained directly on its operating ends e.g. feeder trays, with its serial number visible so its logs can be matched against the recording. In addition, all workers on the counting room floor must wear bodycams at all times in addition to the CCTV systems. All recordings should be live, if possible, or made publicly available immediately after the count is completed and certified. Again, this is in line with the principles of openness and transparency.


Something to note is that not one of these measures adds any extra burden on the voter; a legitimate voter, just as before, simply goes to the polls, signs in and picks up a ballot, or receives it at his home, and then he goes through the ballot, marks his choices in the races he wants, and either drops it in the ballot box, or mails the ballot back in the provided envelope. The security measures simply do not require his attention unless he chooses to record his ballot number and check on the status of it later online.


Yet each of these measures will be denounced by the media and the Left (pardon the redundancy) as "voter suppression" and every "-ism" and "-phobia" imaginable. Quite apart from the predictable lies that the secret ballot would be compromised, or that voters will be forced to carry out complex mathematical operations to vote, truly crazy "woke" claims will be made to try and stop them from being implemented. 


The Associated Press will find some college professor to declare the random race arrangement rule as the literal equivalent of lynching. The New York Times will publish articles and opinion pieces claiming that unique ID numbers on ballots are transphobic and somehow will frighten LGBTXYZ individuals from the polling booth. The Washington Post will publish pieces that will attempt to tie the use of cryptographic hash functions to the Nazis, or claim that the use of the SHA3-384 hash function actually brings back slavery. The rule on all precincts and counties reporting their results simultaneously will be reported as sexist and somehow legalizing rape on CNN. 


That will only show we're on the right track.


Click here to see more great commentary by this author.

Martin Knight
Martin Knight According to the Belbin Team Inventory test, I'm a "Plant" and "Resource Investigator." In other words, I'm the guy who comes up with the weird ideas and figures out how we get them implemented. The other stuff is that I have a Masters in Computer Science, I work in telecoms (which takes me all over the world), I read a lot, and I've been a Conservative since I read my first Thomas Sowell column as a freshman. I am also Black, a Muslim, with African immigrant roots down one side ... and I really, really, really hate Identity Politics.

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