US-based firm assures Comelec of credible, accurate voting system

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 15 2020 08:46 PM

US-based firm assures Comelec of credible, accurate voting system 1

MANILA - A US-based election solutions firm targeted by US President Donald Trump for alleged vote switching in the recently concluded US polls maintained its voting systems are credible and accurate, as the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) began Tuesday its consultation series for online voting for some 2-million overseas Filipino voters.

On the heels of the US Electoral College’s confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s win, Dominion Voting Systems, represented by its director for international business, Dallas Newby, and internet voting specialist/regional sales manager, Stephen Beamish, cleared the air by addressing the US polls controversy before starting their virtual presentation to the Comelec and local poll stakeholders. 

“The first thing I’d like to do is address some of the recent [reports] in media that some of you may have been exposed to or seen. We’re really disappointed that some baseless and unsubstantiated allegations detracted from the performance of what was the most secure elections in US history,” said Newby.

In a series of tweets, Trump accused Dominion of deleting around 2.7 million votes nationwide.

“This is BIG NEWS. Dominion Voting machines are a disaster all over the country. Changed the results of a landslide election. Can’t let this happen….” Trump tweeted Tuesday.

Newby countered the claim, as he stressed post-polls audit showed the accuracy of their systems. 

“The US has the strongest systems in the world for reconciliation, for recount, for audit. And we take great comfort from the fact that these processes are used and an important part of every election, and that they upheld the results and the accuracy of the systems that were used," he said.

“These events are really important because they do serve to remind us how fragile and important democracy is and the important roles that everyone who's assembled here, people out there, play in democracy. And we take great, great pride and comfort in the fact that all of the audits, all the reconciliations upheld the results that our systems produced,” he added.

“This is our business; we know it, and we know it well."

The Electoral College on Monday doused Trump’s campaign to reverse the results, as California delivered its 55 electoral votes to Biden, thereby putting him over the 270 electoral votes needed.

THE PUSH FOR ONLINE OAV

Dominion is one of four election solutions firms presenting their respective systems to the Philippine poll body, as the push to allow internet voting for overseas Filipinos gains traction anew.

The other firms that are scheduled to make presentations to the Comelec and poll stakeholders are Indra , Smartmatic, and Voatz.

Founded in 2003 and boasting a 2,500 clientele record across the world, Dominion first engaged in Philippine elections in 2010. It owns the source code for the automated election systems (AEV), which made use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

For Philippine online overseas absentee voting to be realized, Congress has to amend the Overseas Absentee Voting Act (RA 9189, amended by RA 10590) which only allows personal voting and registration in embassies, consulates, and foreign service stations, as well as voting and registration by mail.

Dominion said its voting systems have the following features:

  •  provide safeguards for voter identification and verification;
  •  a voter review feature that allows a voter to change his or her vote before finally casting it;
  •  comprehensive voters list and credentials, voter activity log, and reporting system; and, 
  •  a role-based administration management system that compartmentalizes access and authorization keys depending on a poll official or personnel’s role

“Right from the ground up, you build security throughout the process. And it's got to include the physical security, data security… It’s a multiple-layered approach on the security,” said Beamish, who conducted the run-through demonstration.

The system can also be customized depending on specifications provided for in the online OAV law that will be passed.

Beamish said their system can run even with a low bandwidth, which is ideal for Filipino seafarers at sea.

“Your polling place is wherever you are in the world. For as long as you have an access to internet, as long as you have access to your browser, you have access to your vote.”

 BIOMETRICS AND VOTER SECRECY

Dominion’s system does not provide a biometrics feature in its voter verification.

Newby and Beamish explained jurisdictions that have availed of their services do not include the feature to preserve voter secrecy.
 
“The system, as we use it in Canada and the United States, does not collect biometric data. So there’s no biometric voter verification built in to the system that we are demonstrating today. That’s because there’s no legal basis for the collection of biometric data in advance of voting in these jurisdictions," said Newby.

"If we were to work in the Philippines and this were a regulatory requirement, we would need to work with one of our partners in the biometrics area to do this," he added.

“We will be cautious about choosing to do this because the collection of biometric data and the collection of a vote implies that at some point, there may be an association between the biometrics and the vote — whether that’s an actual association or just a perceived association in the mind of the voter, that’s a function of technology, but it would need to be considered carefully.”

Newby admitted that under their system, there is no way to prevent someone else from voting in place of a particular voter for as long as the credentials entered are accurate.

He, however, stressed Dominion can restrict or limit use of IP address as part of security measures.

Comelec spokesman and Education and Information Department (EID) chief James Jimenez said the commission en banc has yet to decide whether to include biometrics.

“At this point, the Comelec still isn’t a hundred percent on what we will require. That’s precisely the purpose of this consultation, is to see what works and what might not work in the Philippine setting… But right now, it’s not something we can say for certain will be part of the wish list, if you will, of the Comelec for a system like this. But it’s certainly being considered,” Jimenez said.

Comelec Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) director Sonia Bea Lozada explained that the solutions provider will be mandated to meet certain specifications, which may include biometrics.

“Voter verification, that part, can actually be determined by our legislation. So what Dominion, or whoever provider will be providing the voting system, would actually conform to what is our legal requirement.”

Online OAV may be implemented as early as 2022 if Congress is able to pass a law not later than March 2021.

“Based on our internal timelines, if a law is passed first quarter of next year, we can have [online OAV] in 2022. But anything beyond that, we can have it in 2025,” the official said.

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