Election Security

The genesis of The Election Security Strategic Team (ESST) was created when it was discovered by 17 of our intelligence agencies that the United States elections had been interfered with in 2016. It was also discovered at that time that Illinois was 1 of 21 states that was hacked and the only state whose voter registration clearinghouse was breached.

Free and fair elections are a central pillar of our democracy. Voting is a fundamental right of all Americans. If people lose faith in the integrity of their vote, they may not exercise their right to cast a ballot. We formed our group to fight for and restore this sacred right.

Please join us. All Americans should be confident that their votes will be cast and correctly counted when they go to the polls. Together we can make a difference.

Election Security: Audits must be conducted on hand-marked paper ballots

Fair and free elections are fundamental to our democracy. The gold standard for election security is hand-marked paper ballots with robust audits. Experts tell us that one of Illinois’s weakest links is inadequate audit processes. They recommend Risk-Limiting Audits (RLAs) for Illinois and all states especially the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Recently, Dr. Philip Stark, the creator of risk-limiting audits – a secure, transparent and reliable method to audit our votes – drummed up some controversy.

Dr. Stark had been a board member of Verified Voting, but recently stepped down due to Verified Voting’s support of RLA testing on Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs). BMDs are touch screen voting systems often with barcodes that provide a print-out of a voter’s selections in some versions. Suburban Cook County and Chicago will be implementing such BMDs for upcoming elections. Risk-limiting audits are designed to be conducted on hand-marked paper ballots to ensure a voter’s intent is secure.

We recommend, when possible, that voters vote on hand-marked paper ballots with assistive devices available for people with disabilities. Risk-limiting audits are the best way to audit the vote. Sidebar action step:  Voters must demand RLA legislation from their State Reps and State Senators to have an impact on upcoming elections.

Provided is Dr. Stark’s letter of resignation from the Verified Voting Board. I support Dr. Stark and his decision to stand by his convictions.

Read on for Dr. Stark’s letter:


CALL-TO-ACTION: Please email our Senators & your Congressional Rep about this event

Hello Democracy leaders,

Please take a minute to email or call your Senate and Congressional offices about this important event and tell them how critical it is for them to send a staffer to the Congressional Briefing.

We want to fill the room and make election integrity a top national security priority.

Find your Representative and Senators here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members

Thank you!  Details follow below:


Date and location: November 21st 10am in Senate Dirksen G-11.

Briefing will feature nationally recognized security and auditing experts including:

  • Dr. Andrew Appel – University of Princeton Professor of Computer Science
  • Dr. Stephanie Singer – Verified Voting Consultant and former Philadelphia Election Commissioner
  • Bennie Smith – Memphis Tennessee Election Commissioner and Computer Programmer

Panel will be moderated by Lulu Friesdat – Award-winning election security journalist and filmmaker

The panel will feature a demonstration of malware changing votes on an actual voting system, flipping the winner of the race in a matter of seconds. Panelists will cover current vulnerabilities in U.S. voting systems, available solutions, and the need for a rapid response to this crisis. Voters, including voters with disabilities, must know that their votes are counted accurately and securely.

Recommendations from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:

  • States should remain firmly in the lead on running elections, and the federal government should ensure they receive the necessary resources and information.
  • States should take urgent steps to replace outdated and vulnerable voting systems.
  • Paper ballots and optical scanners are the least vulnerable to cyber attack; at minimum, any [voting] machine purchased going forward should have a voter-verified paper trail and remove … any wireless networking capability.
  • Statistically sound audits may be the simplest and most direct way to ensure confidence in the integrity of the vote … Risk-limiting audits, or some similarly rigorous alternative, are the future of ensuring that votes cast are votes counted.
  • More funds may be needed, as the allocation under the HAVA formula did not prioritize replacing vulnerable electronic-only machines.
  • Dr. Halderman testified that replacing insecure paperless voting machines nationwide would cost $130 to $400 million dollars. Risk-limiting audits would cost less than $20 million a year.[1]
  • The Committee believes the benefit of having a provably accurate vote is worth the cost

Contact: SMART Elections Co-founder Lulu Friesdat

SMART Elections, a non-partisan project dedicated to “Elevating Election Reform to an Urgent National Priority” to hold a Congressional Briefing on Election Security.

Email: contact@smartelections.us | 917.543.2125

[1] In follow up email with SMART Elections Dr. Halderman estimated the cost of replacing all of the most vulnerable equipment at around $370 million dollars. Using the HAVA formula “to ensure each state receives at least 100% of its share” his estimate was 1.8 billion. That figure is close to the 2.153 billion dollars The Brennan Center says is needed for “basic security items.”

Rose Colacino
Election Integrity & Security
Voters’ Rights Lead
Indivisible Illinois
Phone: 773-343-9849
EM: rcolacino@indivisibleil.com

Secure Our Vote Pizza Party!

On September 17,  democracy advocates organized dozens of events, and made thousands of phone calls, calling on the Senate to fund election security. As a result, Senator Mitch McConnell reversed his previous stance and announced his support for $250 million for election security. Our activism worked!  While we appreciate that #MoscowMitch approved $250 million, it’s a small sum compared to the $600 million passed by the House to secure the vote.

We have just a few weeks left before the critical funding deadline on November 21, and election security experts are warning that many states and localities have election systems that are vulnerable to hacking and external actors.

On Nov. 13th, activists across the country will again organize nation-wide activities to urge #MoscowMitch and our Senators to pass $600 million in election security funding and to include accountability language to ensure the money is well-spent.

Join the Election Security Strategic Team (ESST) for a Secure Our Vote Pizza Party at Salerno’s in Oak Park. We will write postcards and letters, make calls and tweet at #MoscowMitch! Pizza is free, stamps will be provided, just bring your enthusiasm!

Wednesday, November 13
11:30AM – 1:30PM
Salerno’s Pizza of Oak Park
7128 Roosevelt Rd
Oak Park IL

If you can’t make it, please use this social media kit to support the Secure Our Vote day of action! bit.ly/SOV-DOA-SOCIAL-MEDIA-KIT

Facebook: facebook.com/events/972929259772207

EveryAction: secure.everyaction.com/L6Fc-g0f9Uu1xgrTT3o9NA2

#SecureOurVote #ElectionSecurity

Advice from Sen. Durbin on our next day of action to secure our vote, Nov. 13

The Election Security Strategy Team (ESST) met with Senator Durbin to discuss efforts to pass election security funding in the Senate – noting that the House has passed the SAFE and Appropriations Acts, allocating $600M for election security grants to states.

Senator Durbin commented that he was surprised that McConnell supported even $250K for that purpose. He allowed that the national day of action which we participated in last month, may have been a factor in that. Senator Durbin indicated that the appellation “Moscow Mitch” was likely also part of it as a motivating factor. He agreed that $250K is insufficient – Illinois may only get less than $1M of that, which will not go very far.

In our interest of promoting the most secure voting equipment, we proposed adding requirements (or at least guidelines) as to how the appropriations would be spent. We felt that this could be appreciated across the aisle as “accountability”. Senator Durbin immediately indicated that the GOP was not going to support any federal standards or guidelines on election equipment or processes.

The ESST team added its support to internet infrastructure security consulting (what we in Illinois term “Cyber Navigators”) and the Senator replied that this was his highest area of concern. While he understand the risk of “vote flipping” through hacking of polling place election equipment, he places a higher priority on the security of the back-end infrastructure. Perhaps this perspective strengthens the case for funding on back-end security.

When we asked for his advice on our focus and efforts, Senator Durbin indicated that McConnell was the correct focus and while physical organizing efforts such as our recent rally were useful, he highly recommended a concentrated effort through social media.

We offer Senator Durbin’s advice here as we support another day of action to secure our vote on November 13, 2019.

ACTION STEPS: Please use social media on this date to demand that #MoscowMitch #SecureOurVote. We also recommend phone calls to Mitch McConnell’s D.C. office on November 13. He can be reached at (202) 224-2541.

Written by Ed Spire and edited by Rose Colacino

How to Mitigate Election Tampering? Perform an Audit.

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report spelled out in detail a Russian led operation to interfere in the 2016 election, one so successful, experts warn, they’ll probably try again. In light of these revelations, how do we protect the integrity of our elections? How can we be sure the right candidate actually won?

Election security experts agree there is one essential step to confirm whether voting machines are recording and tallying votes correctly and it’s so simple it can be carried out with a pen and paper; it’s called a risk-limiting audit (RLA).

States that verify the accuracy of their vote tallies do so the “traditional” way. The auditors manually recount votes in a predetermined percentage of precincts. This tells officials whether a particular machine or group of machines is working, but it doesn’t actually answer the essential question: Did the declared winner actually win?

RLAs instead do the recount the math geek way. They hand-count a statistically meaningful sample of all votes to determine whether the original tally was correct. The required sample increases as the margin of victory narrows. These audits can be conducted publicly and can provide voters with confidence that a counting error or malicious attack did not change the outcome.

So why aren’t states auditing election results using RLAs. Money, of course.

“Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been blocking many election security bills, in part, because he dislikes federal interference. But some of this legislation contains incentives for switching to risk-limiting audits — not the sort of shove from the federal government that “Moscow Mitch” deplores, but a helping hand. He should let states take it to protect against Russia and other adversaries’ far less friendly reach.”

“A simple step every state could take to safeguard elections” https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/election-security-that-mitch-mcconnell-should-get-behind/2019/10/21/319eec70-f1d7-11e9-8693-f487e46784aa_story.html

Deluzio, Christopher “A Smart and Effective Way to Safeguard Elections” https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/analysis-opinion/smart-and-effective-way-safeguard-elections

Rep. Lauren Underwood Hosts Hearing on Illinois Election Security

Experts from the local, state and federal levels appeared before a special meeting of the House Committee on Homeland Security in Gurnee hosted by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood on the state of election security in Illinois

Underwood and U.S. Rep. Sean Casten asked the panel about voter suppression efforts. Casten said he viewed the hack of Illinois’ voter registration data in 2016 as more of an effort to frustrate voting at polling places than to alter any actual ballots and there is no evidence any Illinois ballots were altered as a result of the registration data breach. However, Matt Masterson, a senior cybersecurity adviser with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said all information points to the 2020 elections as a major target of “bad actors.”

To mitigate risks, experts said the country needs a $2.2 billion upgrade to “antiquated” voting systems. In Illinois, the cost would be about $175 million. After blocking election security legislation, like the SAFE Act, that mandates $600 million, Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell now backs legislation that will provide $250 million to help states protect the vote. However, McConnell is still facing criticism, as the $250 million in funding falls far short of the billions experts estimate states will need over the next 5 years in order to protect elections from security threats. Under McConnell’s plan, Illinois would receive approximately $1 million.

Steve Sandvoss, executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, promoted Illinois’ Cyber Navigator Program which provides technical support to local election authorities who typically don’t have the budget to support a dedicated IT staff to protect elections.

Additionally, Sandvoss said all election authorities should be proactive in combating the disinformation. To that end, he said Illinois will launch a public-relations campaign to counteract any disinformation on social media regarding Illinois’ elections.

Fuller, James “Experts say Illinois’ 2020 ballots will be safe but warn of ‘antiquated equipment,’ false information” https://www.dailyherald.com/news/20191015/experts-say-illinois-2020-ballots-will-be-safe-but-warn-of-antiquated-equipment-false-information

Hey Moscow Mitch, $250M For Election Security Is Not Enough

After months of blocking additional funding for election security measures, Senate Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell now backs legislation that will provide another $250 million to help states protect the vote. However, McConnell is still facing criticism, as the $250 million in funding falls far short of the billions experts estimate states will need between now and 2024 in order to protect elections from security threats.

The County Commissioner Association of Pennsylvania estimates the cost of voting machines statewide will be $125 million. Pennsylvania counties are under state orders to replace their voting machines, in light of the assessment by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Russian hackers tried to access Pennsylvania’s voter database ahead of the 2016 election (Illinois’ voter database was breached as well in 2016). Half of the new funds McConnell proposes could be spent on one small aspect of election security in just one state.

The bare minimum cost of securing the U.S. election system is $2.153 billion over the next 5 years, according to an estimate by the Brennan Center at NYU Law School. This isn’t just about buying new voting systems. You have to take into account maintenance, staffing costs, web and cyber security and other recurring expenses.

Moscow Mitch needs to stop politicizing election security and provide realistic funding to assure the public that their vote will be counted as cast.

Uchill, Joe “$250M for election security is a fraction of what’s needed” https://www.axios.com/250m-election-security-funding-fraction-needed-mcconnell-6b9437aa-0b2b-4dcd-a83a-047465d1d92b.html

Some Voting Machines Still Have Decade-Old Vulnerabilities

For the third straight year, elite hackers from around the world gathered at the Voting Village at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas to break down voting machines and analyze them for vulnerabilities. The mission of the Voting Village is to highlight vulnerabilities in election equipment used in the US and to serve as a resource for those who want to improve the state of election security. After spending a long weekend hacking into voting equipment they have released a report detailing vulnerabilities in machines still in use across the country.

The report found that voting machines used in dozens of state remain vulnerable to hacks and manipulations, warning that that without continued efforts to increase funding, upgrade technology, and adopt of voter-marked paper ballot systems, “we fear that the 2020 presidential elections will realize the worst fears only hinted at during the 2016 elections: insecure, attacked, and ultimately distrusted.”

When the Election Security Strategic Team met with Senator Durbin, he said the scenario that keeps him up at night would be a foreign attack on our elections to the point where we are unable to report the election results, throwing the decision-making process into turmoil.

While Senator “Moscow Mitch” McConnell has agreed to add $250 million for election security after having held up earlier legislation, Marian K. Schneider, president of Verified Voting, said McConnell’s support for the additional funding was better than nothing but she underscored how much more must be done. “This amount falls short of the $600 million that passed in the House, which is much closer to meeting the need for proper investment in election security,” she said.

Vicens, AJ “Researchers assembled over 100 voting machines. Hackers broke into every single one.” https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2019/09/defcon-2019-hacking-village/
Ewing, P. “McConnell, Decried As ‘Moscow Mitch,’ Approves Election Security Money” https://n.pr/2V4UGxr

How Indivisible Illinois helped secure our vote

On September 17, 2019, advocates from across the country in 40 locations and over 25 states gathered in solidarity to demand that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell secure our elections prior to the October 1st funding deadline. We held rallies and organized press conferences.

Our speakers in Chicago: Jaquie Algee from SEIU and Women’s March Chicago, Rose Colacino of Election Security Strategic Team, Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth, Co-coordinator Indivisible Illinois, Renato Mariotti–CNN Legal Analyst and Kim Savage, Co-president Illinois Democratic Women, spoke truth to power. We made signs to convey our message and articulate our demands. We stood in partnership with our elected officials which included staff from Senators Durbin and Duckworth’s offices as well as a representative from Congressman Mike Quigley’s office. Senator Duckworth showed her support by asking us to read her quote in support of the need for election security. Representatives from nearly a dozen Indivisible groups let their voices be heard. Students from UIC lent their support. We were bolstered by partners from Indivisible Illinois, Women’s March Chicago, SEIU, Illinois Democratic Women, Indivisible Illinois 9th District, NWSOFA Indivisible, Western Front Indivisible and the Election Security Strategic Team–Indivisible Illinois.

There have been numerous attempts to pass election security legislation for naught. We have called our representatives and we have written letters to the editor. Those efforts laid the way, but it was the concerted effort and the steady drumbeat of demands that seemed to move the needle. For far too long Mitch McConnell has been able to avoid the glare of attention and actively subvert our Democracy. The Day-of-Action which put the spotlight on his dereliction of duty to secure the sacred and fundamental right to vote is what finally broke through the armor and pretext of not securing our elections. The false narrative and commonly used dog whistle of states rights as an excuse not to fund

the defense of our elections against hostile foreign intervention finally broke away and the truth prevailed.

The concentrated call-to-action from across the nation finally received the attention of Mitch McConnell. Our simultaneous calls that crashed the phone lines to McConnell’s office and the constant barrage of social media references made a difference. We are the people that we have been waiting for. We demonstrated the force and the power of citizen activists.

We asked for over $600 million in election security funding but received $250 million. Is it enough? No! However, it is progress and better than where we have been. The moniker “Moscow Mitch” really hit a point of contention and a nerve with McConnell.

What’s next? We keep pushing. Once out of the Rules Committee, funding goes to the full Appropriations Committee then negotiations between the House and Senate begin. The funding right now is without restrictions for states which is unacceptable. We celebrate what we have accomplished, but we keep our eye on the ball and keep forging ahead! If we are loud enough, our voices will be heard once again!

An election security call to action!

Mueller Quote

How can Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keep denying that Vladimir Putin continues to try to subvert American democracy?

Former special counsel Robert Mueller made it very clear in his testimony:

The Russian government interfered in our election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” said former special counsel Robert Mueller. He further states, “Over the course of my career, I’ve seen a number of challenges to our democracy. The Russian government’s effort to interfere in our election is among the most serious. This deserves the attention of every American.

Election Day 2020 is approaching and we must demand that #MoscowMitch allow lawmakers to vote on the Senate version of the SAFE Act, which requires election systems to use voter-verified paper ballots, address vulnerabilities in voter registration databases and election night reporting websites, and provide $600 million for states to use on election security efforts.

On Tuesday, September 17th, activists are taking part in a nationwide day of action to demand that #MoscowMitch allow the Senate to vote on legislation to secure our elections. Join us at Federal Plaza at 12:00PM and #SecureOurVote

Facebook Link: facebook.com/events/429488054338487/
Action Network Link: actionnetwork.org/events/secure-our-vote-day-of-action-rally-chicago
Help with the 9/17 event: Contact Rose Colacino at rcolacino@indivisibleil.com
Join the election security team: Complete this form, forms.gle/iBscfUGaqLyx8tKKA

page 1 of 2
Get in touch!

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt