Can we trust security standards put in place 27 years ago? How about certifications from 15 years ago?

GA voting machines were certified in 2002 using government standards set in 1990. Really? Is that the best we can do? Is there any way those procedures could have predicted the threats we face in 2017? Not likely!!! #protectGAvote


80% of US election systems hacked by Russians. Why would we think Georgia’s system is magically immune from attack?

Georgia election officials are fond of claiming that our election systems have not been hacked.  Every day we find out how implausible that is.  If 80% of state election systems have been breached, is it believable that Georgia’s have not been breached (especially in light of the insecure systems we use)? Secretary of State Kemp either doesn’t know or he is being deliberately misleading. Either way it is not how to #protectGAvote

There’s a reason that GA election officials ignore the risks of the current system: they can’t help it

The brain is wired in ways that often lead decision-makers to act against their own interests. A 2015 article in Business Insider describes 20 cognitive biases that fool you into believing that you are behaving rationally when you are actually just responding to faulty wiring in your head:

…research suggests there are a number of cognitive stumbling blocks that affect your behavior, and they can prevent you from acting in your own best interests.

Brian Kemp may be acting on pure political opportunism, but it is also likely that he (and his followers) have hit one of these cognitive stumbling blocks. How can the Secretary of State ignore the overwhelming evidence that our election system is vulnerable?  It is the Ostrich Effect at work.

The ostrich effect bias is a tendency to ignore dangerous or negative information by ignoring it or burying one’s head in the sand. Sometimes we do this when we have already made up our mind about something. It may also be an indication we only want to consider the positive aspects of something.

How does it work?

The brain receives so much data at any given moment that it has to filter out some data in order to be able to attend and make meaning of incoming sensory information. When that occurs, we delete, distort, and generalize reality.

If we know the Ostrich effect is at work, maybe there is a way to support people to more rational approaches to election security and #protectGAvote. We should be asking Brian Kemp and his pals:

What about this information is hard for you to hear?
How does this information fit with what you already know?
How might ignoring this information affect our decision in the long run?
How might we include this information in a way that is productive to our thinking?

Citizens request assurance and Kemp responds that he has no idea if systems are safe

On May 10, 2017, eleven Georgia citizens sent a letter to Secretary of State Brian Kemp requesting his “prompt review of Georgia’s voting system under the provisions of Georgia Code  §21-2-379.2 to assess whether the current voting system can be ‘safely and accurately used’ in the June 20 Congressional District 6 election.”

The letter contained questions like this one:

Have the [well-known] security weaknesses…been mitigated to ensure that the machines can be used safely and accurately without realistic security attacks?…If so, please provide a description and date of the mitigation efforts.

Since Secretary Brian Kemp routinely pronounces that the Georgia election system is safe and accurate, the citizens who signed this letter simply wanted him to point to the basis for his assurances to the people of Georgia.

On June 5, 2017, the signers of this request received this response from the Secretary of State’s Office. According to Kemp’s office,

…the system that you seek to have reexamined has already been deployed statewide. Therefore, a reexamination of that system should be broad enough so that a significant confidence level may be had in the final report.  We estimate that such a review will cost $10,000 and take six months to complete.

In other words, the Secretary of State has no idea if the currently deployed systems are safe from the attacks that have been known for years and estimates that it will take six months to find out. #protectGAvote

Don’t be like me. There really are great white sharks lurking offshore.

There are sharks lurking offshore (in Russia, for example) who want to hack your votes. Like me, your elected leaders are quick to shout “No danger!” Help me #protectGAvote

Amity-jaws1My name is Larry Vaughn. This is my website.  You last saw me In 1975 in Amity, New York. I was the town’s mayor when a rogue police chief tried to frighten 4th of July tourists with talk of a great white shark lurking off the shallow waters. Needless to say, I was not pleased with the panic that ensued. “No danger!” I said. “Fun in the water!” Then the shark started gobbling people up. I now regret that I did not do more to protect the people who trusted me, and I want to make sure the same thing does not happen to the voters of Georgia. There are sharks lurking offshore (in Russia, for example) who want to hack your votes. Like me, your elected leaders are quick to shout “No danger!”  Help me #protectGAvote

There was a hearing last week on whether the June 20 run off should be held on paper ballots. Read about it here.