The OSET Institute closely follows all developments in election technology infrastructure, because it’s essential to the defense of democracy. Lately, one topic that has garnered more public attention is the process by which state and local jurisdictions assess, select, and procure voting technology. High-profile voting system purchases in:
the State of Delaware;
the City of Philadelphia; and
the State of Georgia …
…are just three recent examples of technology acquisitions that have been closely watched by a variety of stakeholders, including government officials, election administrators, citizen advocacy groups, and cybersecurity experts. Needless to say, choosing a new voting system is an exercise that should maximize security and integrity, lower costs for taxpayers, and ensure that elections are Verifiable, Accurate, Secure and Transparent (the so-called “VAST” Mandate).
When we observe a technology acquisition process that appears to not fully support those principles of the VAST Mandate, of course we wonder why, and to dig a little deeper. Making wise choices when selecting the machinery of democracy is no small matter, and it depends on the availability of fair, objective, and comprehensive information to help ensure the public interest.
Case in point: The OSET Institute has recently noted (along with others) the extent to which the Georgia State Secretary’s Elections Division, in its march toward a new statewide voting system, appears to be driving toward a specific acquisition that defies the recommendations of the vast majority of election technology and security experts, election integrity professionals, and computer scientists.
The distinction between hand-marked paper ballot systems (with a select number of ballot marking devices (BMDs) for voters with disabilities), versus all-BMD voting systems has become central to the still-developing Georgia story. On February 26, 2019, the Georgia State Director of Elections took the unusual step of proactively posting on the Secretary’s official government web site the results of a claimed “comprehensive inquiry into the cost of implementing a hand-marked paper ballot system for the State of Georgia.”
As soon as the internal inquiry was publicized, many questions were raised about its methodology and conclusions. Furthermore, it did not compare the costs of a hand-marked paper ballot system to the cost of an all-BMD implementation. At that point, the OSET Institute decided to address that question, by providing a detailed analysis and total cost estimate for the State of Georgia to acquire and use a hand-marked paper ballot system versus an all-BMD system over a period of 10 years.
Several media have approached us about a potential story on this, but as of this evening, nothing has solidified, and we believe this information needs to get into the public’s hands now. So the Briefing, produced by our Global Director of Technology Development, Eddie Perez—someone who knows a thing or two about the commercial implementation of voting systems—is now publicly available on our Research page, or directly here.