RALEIGH (Dec. 28) – The Libertarian Party will conduct the first-ever independent review of the state’s election system software. State Chair Joseph Garcia invoked his authority under state law in a Dec. 21 letter to the State Board of Elections requesting to review and examine all source code for an electronic voting system made by vendor Election Systems & Software.
ES&S has systems in use in 93 North Carolina counties.
“This is not about litigating the 2020 election,” Garcia emphasized. “It’s about election system security. Cybersecurity experts worldwide have warned of the vulnerabilities and inconsistencies of electronic voting machines. Voter confidence in those systems has been steadily eroding. These systems must be evaluated independently and tested regularly,” he said.
Garcia appointed Dr. Duncan Buell, recently retired from the University of South Carolina Department of Computer Science and Engineering, as project lead for the code review team. Dr. Buell is also a former election official for Richland County, S.C.
“Software is hard to get right. Programmers often get too focused on the details of what they are doing,” Dr. Buell noted. “One way to ensure that things have not been overlooked is to have a source code review by other experts to ensure that the code does exactly — and only — what it is supposed to do.”
As chair of a recognized political party, Garcia is one of a handful of key stakeholders with the authority to conduct an independent security review and source code examination of the state's electronic voting systems. ( N.C.G.S.163-165.7(f)(9)). Under the law, he can also review the state’s evaluation reports of electronic voting systems currently under consideration for certification.
“Moving forward, we need elections that are transparent, trackable, robustly audited, and publicly verified,” said Lynn Berstein, founder of Transparent Elections NC, who is supporting the LPNC’s effort. “That begins with an independent security and source code review of the proprietary software counting our votes.”
Garcia understands the value of these independent reviews. He served as a New York City Police Department and detective for 20 years. His last seven years were in the computer crime squad, where he investigated computer-related crimes and conducted digital forensic investigations.
As a digital forensic examiner, Garcia was responsible for recovering, analyzing, and reporting digital evidence related to criminal investigations.
In 2019, NCSBE Executive Director Karen Brinson-Bell, administratively approved the ES&S voting system, circumventing the stringent security and source code reviews required by law.
The secretary of the state elections board, Dr. Stella Anderson, objected to the approval because of a letter she had received from Kevin Skoglund, chief technologist at Citizens for Better Elections, strongly advising against foregoing the N.C. Elections Systems Certification Program.
“The changes introduced by EVS 126.96.36.199 substantially alter the voting system,” Skoglund said in the letter. “The changes are not merely enhancements. They are major modifications. It is my opinion that it should be subject to full examination and testing and to review and approval by the State Board prior to use in North Carolina.”
Despite several experts’ warnings, the state elections board did not conduct an independent security and source code review.