Gregory J. Diaz: ‘Forensic audit’ in Nevada County is unnecessary
The California secretary of state and several counties, including Nevada County, are receiving a large number of calls and correspondence requesting “forensic audits” of elections. When someone calls for a forensic audit, they’re essentially asking for an independent third party to come into our election systems, review our logs, machines and source code, and physically dissect the equipment.
A forensic audit is not authorized under California law. It is an intrusive process that adds an unsecured, non-authorized entity into our election systems — compromising our entire chain of custody and risking the security of our elections. Any unauthorized access to the proprietary components, including hardware, firmware and software of voting system equipment is a violation of the contract terms with the voting system vendors.
If forensic audits were conducted, the county would be required to replace the existing election equipment: voting machines, computers, software, and related electronic equipment. We would have to purchase new voting equipment after every forensic audit. The current election system equipment cost Nevada County approximately $600,000 to obtain. We have two elections every two years, at least. In short, county taxpayers would have to spend at least $600,000 after every such audit, with costs rising all the time.
So, if not a forensic audit, then what?
Voters can be assured that, in fact, a forensic audit is not necessary. In California, there are laws and procedures already in place to ensure the security of our voting systems:
— All voting machines are tested and certified by the secretary of state using some of the strictest standards in the United States. This includes prohibiting any ability to connect to machines remotely or to connect machines to the internet.
— California uses an independent third party to conduct source code review and evaluation, hardware and software security penetration testing, and operational testing to validate system performance and functioning under normal and abnormal conditions. The independent third party must be a state-approved testing authority and must follow strict chain of custody requirements, including personnel requirements, that protect source codes from breaches. This process allows California officials to identify any vulnerabilities and prevent anything from happening to our elections in the first place.
— All ballots are cast on official paper. Counties use special water-marked paper to print ballots. The watermark is assigned by the secretary of state each election. Official ballot paper may only be provided by a vendor certified by the state of California. Mail and print vendors must also follow strict requirements ensuring the chain of custody and security of ballot paper.
— Post election, counties reconcile ballots with voter records to ensure one person, one vote. This is called the election canvass. Part of the canvass requires election officials to conduct a hand tally of 1% of ballots cast to ensure the results reflect the votes. The ballots are randomly selected for the tally, are hand counted and matched against the machine count. The election cannot be certified until the hand count and the machine count match 100%.
— Voters can see the proof for themselves. The entire election process is open to the public for observation. From vote centers and drop boxes to the vote count and post-election audit — any member of the public can observe.
My commitment to ensure the integrity of the election process remains my No. 1 priority. Our office staff is committed to providing the best possible service to you, the voters of Nevada County. Together, we ensure the election is fair, accurate and administered with the utmost integrity.
We take election fraud seriously. If you have evidence that election fraud occurred, tell us. Our office will examine the evidence and provide it to law enforcement.
Gregory J. Diaz is the Nevada County clerk-recorder/registrar of voters.
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