Changing the Rules for Absentee Ballots

by Emilio Jaksetic

The Virginia State Board of Elections is proposing to disregard and nullify the statutory requirement that absentee ballots must be postmarked on or before the date of the election.  This proposed administrative action makes a mockery of Virginia election law and is an appalling assault on the rule of law.

The Virginia State Board of Elections is proposing a rule (1VAC20-70-20. “Material omissions from absentee ballots”) that includes the following provision:

F. The [absentee] ballot shall not be rendered invalid based on a missing or illegible postmark if the ballot is received by the general registrar’s office by noon on the third day after the election pursuant to § 24.2-709 of the Code of Virginia but the return envelope does not have a postmark, or the postmark is missing or illegible.”

On the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall page, the State Board of Elections posted an explanation of its proposed action, and has the nerve to state “The new subsection (F) clarifies that a missing postmark is an immaterial omission . . . .”

Clarification?  Nonsense. The proposed change is contrary to the plain language of the relevant Virginia Code provision.

Virginia Code § 24.2.-709 states, in relevant part, the following:

Any ballot returned to the office of the general registrar in any manner except as prescribed by law shall be void.”  (emphasis added)

“Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection A, any absentee ballot (i) returned to the general registrar after the close of the polls on any election day but before noon on the third day after the election and (ii) postmarked on or before the date of the election shall be counted pursuant to the procedures set forth in the chapter if the voter is found to be entitled to vote.”

(emphasis added)

The proposed rule is not a clarification of the Virginia Code provisions.  It brazenly disregards that (1) any ballot not complying with the Virginia statutory requirements is VOID; and (2) the postmark requirement for absentee ballots is unambiguous, mandatory and not discretionary.

The State Board of Elections has no authority to disregard or refuse to follow a provision of the Virginia Code.  The Board of Elections is not exempt from Virginia Constitution, Article I, Section 7 (“Laws should not be suspended.”) The proposed rule does not “clarify” the election statute, but brazenly seeks to suspend and vitiate the statutory requirement of a postmark through the pretext of administrative “clarification.”

The proposed rule also constitutes an impermissible usurpation of the General Assembly’s legislative powers, in violation of Virginia Constitution, Article III, Section 1 (“Departments to be distinct.  The legislative, executive, and judicial departments shall be separate and distinct, so that none exercise the powers properly belonging to the others . . . .”) A “clarification” that seeks to eliminate or vitiate a statutory requirement is a flagrant effort to rewrite or repeal that statutory requirement, a power that rests with the General Assembly.

Promulgation of the proposed rule also would violate the oath of office taken by the members of the State Board of Elections pursuant to Virginia Code § 49-1, which requires them to support the Virginia Constitution and “faithfully and impartially discharge” their duties.

Accepting absentee ballots lacking a postmark is an invitation to commit voter fraud. Any person wanting to submit late absentee ballots, invalid under Virginia law, could use the proposed rule to submit late absentee ballots in envelopes without any postmark.

There is no plausible reason to justify the propose rule as necessary to ensure Virginians  can participate in the election. Given the 45 days that Virginia voters have to cast their ballots  and the ease with which it is possible to submit an absentee ballot (with postmark) in a timely manner, it would be risible and an insult to law-abiding Virginians to suggest that the statutory postmark requirement should be disregarded in order to give Virginians an opportunity to vote.

Finally, if the State Board of Elections promulgates the proposed rule and gets away with it, the rule of law in Virginia will be replaced by the arbitrary fiats of administrative officials using “interpretations” and “clarifications” to disregard or nullify any statutory provision of Virginia law that they disagree with, dislike, or simply wish to avoid complying with.

Any Virginian who believes in the rule of law and the integrity of Virginia elections should oppose the State Board of Election’s proposed rule.  Contact the Virginia State Board of Elections online before the October 2, 2020 deadline for public comments.

Emilio Jaksetic, a retired lawyer, is a Republican in Fairfax County.

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61 responses to “Changing the Rules for Absentee Ballots

  1. Let the lawsuits commence!

  2. When the POTUS appoints someone to run the Post Office and both of them make noises about getting ballots delivered while the POTUS questions the legitimacy of mailed-in-ballots – what do you expect?

    seriously?

    • I expect the legislature to write the laws and the executive to enforce those laws. I do not expect bureaucrats to decide that they don’t like the laws and issue rules contradicting those laws.

  3. Let’s just say, Let’s go see the judge and support the rule of law. A smudged post mark may be debatable; a missing one should be a no brainer.
    I know of a letter that was mailed less than 20 miles from where I live on Monday. It’s Friday and it still has not arrived. We do have a postal problem and the solution for those who are going to use mail in ballots is to mail them early.

    • re: ” a missing one should be a no brainer.”

      how could a voter ensure that this would be done for his/her vote?

      If it is not done – is there anything the voter should have done to ensure it?

  4. Punctuality is one of the characteristics of “whiteness”; and as we have all recently learned, “whiteness” is evil and needs to be eradicated from our society. We MUST stop being so obsessed with “deadlines” and being “on time” if we ever expect to be successful “anti-racists”.

  5. It’s not that tough to fake a postmark.

  6. I receive mail every day without a visible postmark. As long as it is received on time is what matters. I should trust in the post office to stamp it???????? Are you kidding?

    • Exactly #2. On time. For absentee ballots that was election day. Now it is not, so in combination with this rule change, deciding votes can be cast AFTER election day. Non voters can be identified and handed a ballot to mail, or a mass of ballots can be pushed into a mail box. All the various changes must be viewed together. This would be less of a problem if ballots were cut off on election night.

      But when I wrote about the process over a month ago, I thought this had already been done. This change was already in place. Perhaps that Board of Elections had merely started the amendment process then…

      I hate it when Trump’s ravings are proven to be founded, but efforts to steal this election are right in front of us.

      The absentee ballot I received clearly required a witness. The other lawsuit will be people claiming they saw that, didn’t vote, and were deprived of their rights because they were not told the witness requirement was waived. A judge might be asked to suspend the results on that basis. They are making too many changes too late and it is like they WANT legal problems come Nov. 4….

  7. Something has to be done to prevent someone from paying a mail carrier (or otherwise arranging) to deliver a huge stack of freshly completed mail-in ballots to the registrar three days after the election, claiming they were all mailed on time but that none of them received a post-mark.

    There is no perfect way to prevent all election fraud, but rejecting mail-in ballots which 1) lack a postmark AND 2) are received after election day, is probably the best way to prevent the above scenario.

    • The absentee I cast did have this new tracking number. That is the positive development. With it, I can see its progress through USPS just like it was another box of masks from Amazon. Is that actually a requirement for an absentee to be counted? Could it be? In the cool of off season with all parties at the table, a good system could be devised. But this has been rushed and that engenders deep distrust.

      • Like I have been saying now for quite some time, since the spring and summer in Charlottesville, 2017, and since the pay to play money laundering for gambling rights as to the entire state – the current government regime in power in Virginia is a lawless kleptocracy, one that launders money and power in all sorts of ways, inflames race baiting, encourage rioting and intimidation for political advantage, and now erases some laws and reinvents other laws by fiat so as to steal votes.

        That said, the seeds of this corruption in Virginia were planted long ago, and have been plainly visible to me in Northern Virginia since at least the late 1990s, here I am talking about Dulles Airport, the Dulles Road, and the Million Dollar Bus Stop, and Governor McDonnell’s transportation plans and tactics, not to mention all the corrupt games played with the gross over zoning of Fairfax, the bogus traffic studies, and proffers, all of it ginned up to benefit the elite few at the cost and expense of everyone else.

  8. There does not seem to be a basis for the Dept. of Elections to declare that the omission of a postmark is not a material omission. The statute does define some omissions as not being material, such as not putting the date on the inner envelope. The background document accompanying the proposed rule change is about one sentence long, saying that the omission is not material. That is not helpful. I am not as suspicious as Steve; I don’t think they want legal problems, but they are certainly creating opportunities for such problems. Furthermore, there seems to be little point to it. Maybe in August, when this rule change was proposed, there was legitimate worry about people mailing in their absentee ballots close to the election and the Post Office somehow accumulating a stack of un-postmarked ballots. But, everyone should know by now not to trust the Post Office and either vote absentee by mail early or vote absentee in person.

    • Well, aside from the fact that the two parties involved, the voter and the BoE, have no control over the existence, or not, of the postmark.

      Act of god, apparently.

      • The USPS tracking number, if that is offered as a substitute for the postmark, might work nicely. Don’t stay up Nov. 3. Maybe December 3? January 3? The road to hell is paved with….(nah, I won’t give them the benefit of assuming good intentions.)

        • Well, Joe eased my angst. He simply pointed out that Trump’s authority ultimately rests in the hands of those he commands, and most of those who have worked for him as little as two/three months ago are endorsing Joe.

          He’ll need more than a plumber or two.

          Good point.

    • Wait a minute, when two parties enter into an agreement/contract based on the actions to be taken by a third party, that’s not legal in Virginia. It’s called a wager. So the BoE and the voter are betting on the post office?

  9. In Ffx Co we can drop off our mail-in ballots in the ballot boxes at the early voting locations.

    • That will be true in all localities.

      • Are these new procedures just temporary for COVID or will they likely continue in future elections?

        Looks to me that if voters are given a “window” to vote prior to a deadline to mail AND they also have the option of dropping off the ballot – that this could make voting easier for a lot of folks in the future.

  10. This craziness is all amid a backdrop of supreme ease to vote. Can anyone ever remember a time in Virginia history when it was so easy to vote? Polling stations are open throughout the Commonwealth. My wife and I voted at our local mall this afternoon. We will have more than SIX WEEKS to vote in virtually every municipality in the state. We can request and mail our ballots until election day. Then we’ll have election day itself, which has rarely been a problem in Virginia.

    If people can’t get to a polling place or get a damn ballot postmarked by election day, they don’t deserve to have their vote counted. I share the outrage of other commentators concerning the Board of Elections blatant violation of state code.

    • We should just let Democrats vote for life…I know my spouse would never vote for anyone else no matter what. That would save a lot of fossil fuel of we just assumed Democrats vote straight Democrat for the rest of their life. I am waiting for debates and things to learn more. Shocked my spouse and I agree on the gerrymander issue, I think.

  11. So far, 1,924 in person votes out of 53,543 registered voters in Fauquier County. The last time Fauquier voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate was 1964 when LBJ took Goldwater to the woodshed.

  12. Well, we can always adopt Rick Scoot’s Bill. Count window of 3 days starting Nov 3 at closing. No early or late counting.

  13. On the subject of ballots, the Republican Party of Virginia sent out the following press release yesterday:

    At least 1,400 voters who applied for absentee ballots received two ballots. “We knew the Democrats many last-minute changes to our election law would make our elections less secure, but no one could imagine voters receiving two ballots,” said Rich Anderson, Chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia.

    Over 400 voters in central Virginia – 300 in Richmond and 100 in Henrico – received two ballots. And in Fairfax County, where over 300,000 voters have already applied for absentee ballots, we already know of 1,000 voters who received two ballots.

    Democrats rushed through dramatic changes to the election at the last possible moment, Governor Northam signing a bill to dramatically change absentee voting only 60 days prior to a Presidential election. Our local election officials were forced to deal with setting up drop boxes for no reason other than to facilitate ballot harvesting by Democrats; making arrangements for pre-paid postage on all envelopes; and setting up a process for voters to cure errors in their absentee ballots. With all that additional work, it’s no wonder mistakes were made.

    Because Governor Northam’s Department of Elections IT systems won’t support proper label printing, local officials are left to their own devices to create and print labels. When printers jammed, additional labels were made. Because Northam’s Department, as usual, provided little or no guidance to local officials, there was no quality check in place.

    “I insist that the Department of Elections immediately provide guidance to ensure that no additional voters received two ballots,” said RPV Chairman Rich Anderson. “All it takes is a simple check of the number of voter applications being processed before printing labels; once the envelopes are labelled and ready to go, simply count the envelopes before taking them to the post office and make sure the number is the same.”

    The press release doesn’t say where the information came from, so I have no ability to evaluate it. However, if the facts can be verified, it looks like a serious problem.

  14. And then there’s this observation from a correspondent:

    I went to the tracking site and saw that the tracking STOPS when it is received at the registrar’s office. Call me a conspiracy theorist but couldn’t someone there open my “received” ballot where I voted for Trump and decide to shred my ballot and instead substitute a different ballot for Biden? Then the VBOE website would show that I, in fact, voted. Without a bar code on the ballot that identifies that ballot to you, how do you know if it is your ballot that gets scanned instead of shredded?

    One doesn’t need to be a conspiracy theorist to ask what happens to the mail-in ballots when they reach the registrar’s office. Do they go in a lockbox? Is there a documented chain of custody?

    • And is it also possible for someone at the registras office to feed the same ballot into the reader a bunch of times on recount – even without mail in ballots?

      The truth is there are a lot of ways this type of thing COULD CONCEIVABLY happen.

      But what makes it a conspiracy theory – is if someone thinks this is coordinated across multiple precincts and counties to favor one candidate.

      That’s what is conspiracy theory and yep there are folks who are basically equating possible wrong things by individuals as part of a massive conspiracy to do this in multiple locations to favor one candidate.

    • I naively thought thought that each party had a representative watching the chain of custody. Since I tend to vote 3rd party, I just assume those representatives take a smoke break when my ballot is opened

      • I’ve wondered about that also having worked in the precincts in the past – and folks may or may not know – Steve, who works at polls probably knows, that representative of the parties and I think independent candidates CAN be on-site. Last year, we had a GOP guy – with a cell phone – who was getting vote counts every half hour or so and submitting them via an App that was reporting to a central serve that the GOP was using to do their own actual vote counting as the voting was going on … and I believe they were also doing some exit vote counting and comparing….etc…

        Steve or others who have manned the polls can probably offer more perspective but I think it would be very, very difficult to have a coordinated group of corrupt election folks all working for one candidate… “irregularities”?, yes… they can happen… sometimes by individuals but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of an actual conpsiracy of multiple people working at the pools to boost votes for a candidate.

      • re: ” Every single voter has the ability to verify their own vote – most likely on public websites set up by election boards or local authorities. And anyone can use a verification program to check the final tallies.”

        Would like to learn more about the MS software… I thought that it was impossible (on purpose) to be able to tie a vote a a person and that’s one of the reasons that ballots are not serialized so they can detect double voting…with multiple valid or faked ballots.
        (unless they serialize them but do not tie the number to the voter when it gets sent ot).

        Most of the flaws in the election system have existed for quite some time including claims of ballot packing even when they were pure paper and not optical.

        There needs to be a continuous chain of custody of the ballots from polls to central site and 24/7 cameras , etc… no matter whether it is paper or electronic or hybrid – individual bad actors can muck things up. I’m still a heavy skeptic on a coordinated conspiracy.

        • Appears you have to be logged in to see my post about ElectionGuard. I must of triggered something or someone.

          Anyway, I suppose its possible due to the wonders of public-private key cryptography (more or less the same concept that lets you bank online securely, mint bitcoins and securely login to make comments on this blog. Also, the thing that both Parties! want to require an insecure backdoor be built into so they can track your activities.) I haven’t really studied the ElectionGuard protocol, so I can’t say for sure what it is doing. I figure this will die on the grapevine anyway

          Since Nancy is the mathematician, maybe he can offer a concise explanation. I’m sure there’s other online resources that explain it.

          • something funky going on with BR … not sure if others are having the same issues with “bad gateway”.

            On the MS App – and related – I have some limited familiarity with some of the technology and I have zero doubts that it can work but it is vulnerable to start-up issues like with Bidens app.

            And if they use cryptography – with a key – I think, maybe like you, that if we can do online banking securely … then why not vote by device ?

            We have some folks that fear making it easier to vote will favor those they disagree with. I think this is really unfounded and misguided – there are a lot of folks out there that may well vote Conservative or Independent if incentivized to do so. I just have not yet seen Conservatives actually with good-faith efforts go after asians, Hispanics, African Americans and people of color. Many of them seem to lean Conservative and with a connection between elected to actually represent them – they could win. Why the fear and loathing when there is opportunity? Caveat – yes you do have to represent them – not tell them what they should be doing…etc…

          • There you go again, tangentially changing the subject by asserting stereotypes

            As far as security of the system, I haven’t studied it. I suspect it works on the same principle of blockchain. Note that the description states its not possible to verify how you voted, only that your vote was not altered after you made it. Also, anyone can tally the votes.

            Therefore, I assume the data is hashed and cryptographically signed with your public key. All the public can do is see that a vote was counted. Only the person with the private key would know if that vote was theirs and not altered. There’s nothing “private” to leak. At least that’s my wildass guess and I’m sticking to it.

            In their irresponsible haste to data mine you contact data and compare it against the voter database, Biden’s campaign ineptly leaked the voter database to the public. Completely different.

          • re: ” There you go again, tangentially changing the subject by asserting stereotypes”

            gotta ask yourself why there is opposition to using technology to improve the process … why do some fear getting more and more voters and using technology to enable that?

            “In their irresponsible haste to data mine you contact data and compare it against the voter database, Biden’s campaign ineptly leaked the voter database to the public. Completely different”

            I agree with that but wonder where they got the data to start with if it was “private” ? Who gave them “private” data? Was it the election folks?

            Then to ask with respect to technology and trusting it. Do you think it’s possible to write a really bad program, even accidently, incompetently? Yep. Can happen and does.

            There is a software process known as IV&V. Don’t hear about it much but it’s a critical process – Independent verification and validation. In other words, the folks that write the code do not verify and validate – a totally independent 3rd party does. It’s actually an adversarial process. It’s done with software than can cause loss of life – but it could also be the high-bar for elections software.

            We live in an odd age where technology luddites drive vehicles that software critters… all the safety systems are… and many other parts are… use online banking…get their MRIs and other imaging that could easily maime you if they ran amok, but fear technology in voting? .. well no.. they fear more voters…

          • Open source code Larry…
            https://github.com/microsoft/electionguard
            … IV&V to your heart’s delight

            Where do you think they got the data? More interestingly, what do think the Doddering Democrats were doing with the data they mined from your contact list after installing their app?

          • Open source is a start but you need experts – a team of them that are experts in each part of the system.. I would not ever presume to know enough no matter how much I thought I knew. This is why you purposely have 3rd party experts to do that.

            On the Dems app. Pretty sure I’ve seen similar faux paus with the other party. They both collect data and mine – and apparently so do folks like wiki leaks… and others…

            I’ve been “online” for quite some time and truly, dozens of corporations from Home Depot to Experien to the Federal Govt have screwed up on data. I just don’t see it as a Dems-only thing… it’s inherent in the technology no different than bridge engineers that foul up or food manufcturers having bad ingredients.. It’s life…. when we start blaming Dems for adulterated food or medicine – as a party – we’re off the rails.

            When we call each other names like “sleepy” we are inviting more. We’ve got our fill of it in my view.

          • We might agree that Microsoft writes junk code, but I suspect they have had independent review of the code already. I’m sure you could look that up just as quickly as you could type one of your run-on comments of doubt.

            Its open source, so any expert or layman can review it. If there’s any will to keep pursuing it, no doubt there will be many code audits and given the importance of the integrity of this code it will be combed through and tested by all sorts relentlessly.

          • I don’t think MS writes junk code any more than Google or Oracle or the US Navy weapon system folks. I just know the realities.

            and you have to pay attention to EXATLY WHAT the two V’s mean in V and V.

            It’s way, way more than code. Those who think it’s the code – deliver catastrophic software apps.

            Oh…. and the run-on comments… geeze guy.. you want critiques of bog commenting? What’s that about?

            For the record, I have never pretended to do good grammar. A military brat, I missed out on some of that in moving between schools and when I started college – had to take standardized test and yup, sure enough my grammar was atrocious.! So you’re gonna take pot shots at that ? really?

            you might have an itch somewhere that needs scratching. no?

  15. The Doddering Democrat Contact Tracing App Leaks Sensitive Voter Database of Millions of Americans
    https://techcrunch.com/2020/09/14/biden-app-voter-files/

    subtitle: This wasn’t a democrat Party! press-release, so mainstream investigative Journalists insist this is fake news

  16. Microshaft has an interesting open-source, cryptographically secure project:
    https://news.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2020/03/27/what-is-electionguard/
    | ElectionGuard is a way of checking election results are accurate, and that votes have not been altered, suppressed or tampered with in any way. Individual voters can see that their vote has been accurately recorded, and their choice has been correctly added to the final tally. Anyone who wishes to monitor the election can check all votes have been correctly tallied to produce an accurate and fair result.

    • How can we trust it?

      The fundamental principle behind ElectionGuard is that it gives the power to check whether elections are valid to individuals. Every single voter has the ability to verify their own vote – most likely on public websites set up by election boards or local authorities. And anyone can use a verification program to check the final tallies.

      Nobody has to just take Microsoft’s word for it – or anyone else’s for that matter. ElectionGuard is a set of open source software components that can be accessed here. Anyone with the programming skills can create their own verification tool. In practice, this means every political party, candidate, news organization or pressure group can run their own checks and make their preferred program publicly available for others.

      Will anyone be able to see who I have voted for?

      No. The principle of secret ballots means that not only should each person’s vote be private, it must be private, so that votes cannot be bought, sold or coerced.

      ElectionGuard uses something called homomorphic encryption to ensure that nobody can tell how a person voted. In fact, even the voter cannot use the tracking code to prove to anyone else how they voted – they will only be able to prove that their vote wasn’t changed.

      It is also possible to add up encrypted data so that only the final tally can be decrypted. This means that people can check the final tallies without seeing any information about the individual votes.

    • So, I figure this will fail because:
      1) Republicans won’t understand the math, and therefore don’t trust it
      2) Printing any paper, let along two pages, is environmentally unacceptabe to the democrats

      Also, both parties want a back-door to anything us little people might want to encrypt. Say, our votes

    • yes… this is generated in real time as the ballot is generated?

      but I assume there is an app than can scan this and needs a key to pull up the data?

      And the vote info is kept on a centralized server?

      How do we ensure the ballot itself goes to the right person and is used by the original intended recipient?

  17. You know what they say about assuming things.

    As I understand it, you can verify from a remote device. I question if you’d be able to vote from anything other than secured hardware with a documented chain of custudy. But, IDK

    I’m sure you can find a white paper. You can download the code from Github (its open-source). Answer your own questions, then report back. I suspect others have already consider them and many more. Maybe you’ll find legit issues. I’d like to know if you do. Unless you have alterior motives for asking the questions rather than providing answers.

    Couple this with rank-choice voting, hopefully you agree.

    • I am not by any means someone who has the skill and knowledge to validate and verify code but I ask the types of questions that would need to be asked and answered on a challenge basis which needs to be done.

      I’m not afraid of the technology but it has to be done right and has to be V&Ved by an independent entity – and yes, could also be in addition a GOP and DEM expert – as well as independent – and really should be.

      But I’m also not afraid of registering more voters and getting higher and higher turn-outs – no matter where the chips fall because I fundamentally believe in the system the Founding Fathers set up.

      On Rank-choice we are simpatico – joined at the hip!

      and here’s all one needs to know about the Dems and GOP on this issue:

      Democrats, Republicans united against jungle primary, ranked choice ballot initiative

      https://mustreadalaska.com/democrats-republicans-united-against-jungle-primary-ranked-choice-ballot-initiative/

      This is how the GOP and the DEMs control the legislative process according to their PARTY principles – not voters.

      This is just about as bad as both parties agreeing on how to draw voting districts and we are told this is BETTER than one-party gerrymandering! In other words – it’s “better” when the two of them conspire together to deprive voters of representation.

  18. I suspect many of us on this blog are generally aligned on the topic of cronyism in the Democrat-Republican Party.

    Many people have ideas and questions; Not many people are willing to put in the effort to do something about it. Your questions might be legit (I’m not going to go back and re-read), but why not research the answer to your own questions? Why post questions, when I doubt you would take any answer posted here as fact. The answers are at your fingertips.

    Why ask if the the sun is up, when you can go outside to see for yourself?

  19. re: ” but why not research the answer to your own questions? Why post questions, when I doubt you would take any answer posted here as fact. The answers are at your fingertips.”

    Because unless you are the best in the world on those issues, it’s a self-aggradizing behavior of the arrogant. These are not simple issues that are going to be solved by someone who thinks they are “smart”. It will take a LOT of ‘smart” to really get it right – and even then, not without some hiccups.

    Anyone who has worked in IT for any length of time – who has their head screwed on right – know the realities and limitations of implementing new software and new systems.

    It can be done – and it is done – but not by those who think themselves as ‘smart’.

    Sorry, I’m a pragmatists. Been there, done that, know too many who thought too much of their own ability and dumped the system…then ran away.

    • Posting questions on a blog isn’t going to answer your questions either. You take the position that you can’t understand these things. How do you ever become satisfied with the answer provided, given your claim to not understand? You can’t objectively know, if you are unwilling to try to understand.

      Many experts are researching this very topic and this software. Since the project is manged by Microsoft, I suspect they do have a few experts working on it. Since the project is open-source, I suspect there are quite a few independent experts reviewing and contributing to it also. If you want answers, its likely right at your fingertips. Yet you keeping typing as if you were the first to ask this questions.

      You will never be satisfied until a person gives the answer you want to hear, so you can then rationalize how they are the expert.

      • I pose the questions that I think are important and await judgements from the folks who have the knowledge and skill to get them.

        I also ask the questions to see if that is the goal of the folks doing the verification and validation.

        You do this on those teams then you design test cases that would actually do those tests and deliver an answer.

        It matters to me who does the work and that it be truly independent and that there are others doing that same work – sort of like competitive V and V teams.

        It’s not the way most programmers and app developers think – the people that do this work are up several levels from the code writers and code readers, etc.. even up from software developers.

        For me, I want to see that higher level of expertise involved in checking the software.

        I don’t have to be skilled in the areas they are especially with respect to specific types of code, software and the platforms , I just have to understand the discipline that I’ve been schooled in – in doing proper V and V.

        The average person has no clue about this field. They don’t even know it exists and many software developers do not either but it’s the work that you must do for critical apps.

        You can insult all you want – it does not become you.

        • Why do you need to wait? Should these “experts” seek your questions and come to you with answers? Perhaps they’ve answered your questions, and you just need to look. This is not intended to be an insult, I don’t understand why you refuse to seek answers to your questions.

          There’s many ways to develop and audit code. I’m sure Microsoft is quite well versed in ISO9000 and a myrid other methods. Certainly, some form of code audit has or will be done if MS intends this project to be adopted. You can do your own research to find-out what has been done or planned to do. And if thats not good enough for you, the code is there for you to review yourself

          • I’m taking a wait and see attitude and I would like to see a recognizeable V and V effort because an app like that is going to be developed by a team and the software itself is going to sit on different plantforms with different OS levels.

            In order for all of them to write modules that communicate correctly with each other – there needs to be a design doc, a requirements doc and then a testing doc.

            This is how critical software should be developed but nowdays some of it – even by the “name” companies is not done to that level – and you read about it all the time.

            So I’m looking for those things as part of a process that convinces me that they are using the kind of process that critical software should be developed with.

            I don’t need to know the code. Neither does the entire I V and V team in order to be able to judge if the software is built as designed and functions as documented in the requirements doc. That team will have some folks will know the coding language and will independently review it, often to verify that it conforms to a style guide and to the specs for maintenance downstream after the original developers have moved on.

            There is way more to this – process wise – than just having “experts” look at GitHub source code.
            They’d also need the requirements and design doc to start with.

            That’s my view. I don’t think your questions are really on point.

          • You’re telling MS how to develop software? This software has already been thru a pilot test in actual elections. Here’s a follow-up article about the pilot test:
            https://news.microsoft.com/on-the-issues/2020/05/13/microsoft-electionguard-pilot-wisconsin/

            Layman’s overview:

            They guy who conceived this, along with his PHD thesis, in part, explaining why a 1st year comp sci programmer can write the apps to implement the verification:

            https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/research/wp-content/uploads/1987/01/thesis.pdf

            Code review

          • By comparison, here’s how the democrats do testing for voting software:
            https://www.fastcompany.com/90459953/the-iowa-caucuses-app-was-a-design-nightmare
            The app, developed by a company called Shadow, was available to officials to download only the night before the election. It hadn’t been tested or audited publicly beforehand. While Shadow may have conducted usability trials internally, it’s hard to know, given the opaque nature of the organization—which actually scrubbed its site of employee names as reports of trouble came in.

            By contrast, Microsoft is tackling the problem over the course of years with its electronic voting system ElectionGuard, testing publicly, sharing the code for anyone to see, and honing the approach to perhaps go mainstream for the 2024 presidential election.

    • Based on your logic, only “experts” are capable of knowing and the rest of us are incapable of learning anything

      • So I went back and did some more reading and all this software really does is assure the voter than his vote was not changed.

        And in order to do that – the software would have to have access to the database with the recorded votes on it. And the code is online for anyone to see? Is that a good idea if someone was trying to hack into the election database app and change it?

        I dunno.

        Do we have a problem with people’s votes being changed to start with?

        Maybe I don’t understand.. the concept?

  20. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I was talking to Sir Richard and Miss Grace down at the Frost Diner on Friday morning. Long time Fauquier residents and retired. They voted in person and early. They do not trust the absentee ballot or those drop boxes. One is Democrat the other is a Republican. Neither trust the system. They do like voting early. They have already pulled their lawn signs up.

  21. @Larry – You’re half-right or half-wrong

    ElectionGuard, as its currently being developed, is a verification layer, hence it name, that works in conjunction with whatever existing voting process is in place. Unfortunately, in its current implementation, it won’t work with mail in ballots 🙁

    The underlying math is homomorphic encryption. The gist of it is that the underlying data is encrypted, but its possible to do math (like adding votes) on the encrypted data without actually revealing the data itself. The half-wrong of your statement is actually what makes it right. The encrypted data is made public so it can be independently verified. As the math is better refined, it has the potential for a lot of other cool applications.

    It was borne out the Russian Election Hacking Conspiracy Theories. I guess Hanging Chads might one day be a thing again also: not so much intentional altering as much as disagreement. The big problem, IMHO, is social conservative types calling the math fuzzy black magic. There’s also the Quantum Computer Apocalypse.

    • geeze, I thought I was giving you the LAST word!

      Yes. This software was developed in 2019 or earler before all the uproar over absentee ballots…

      so the problem it was solvling is no longer the big focus.

      re: ” The encrypted data is made public so it can be independently verified”

      I thought I read (perhaps wrongly) that only the voter got the key and only he/she could verify. No?

      But beyond that – that software has to be embedded in other election software AND it requires voters to have computer or phone access to use the tool.

      I’m not opposed to it and I do believe that MS is using legitimate processes to develop and deploy it but so far I cannot ascertain if it is ISO compliant.

      In general, I LIKE encryption a lot and I think the MS product could be adapted to work for online voting – by phone or computer but it will take a while for people to trust the concept

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