Are ballots watermarked for election security?

SnopesAs with most conspiracy theories, there are myriad variations on this broad claim, each with its own purported evidence. These variations, both tedious and irrelevant, generally concern the type of watermark used, and the presence or absence of some sort of blockchain-based security. Going into each of these different claims is unnecessary, as all versions of the claim hold that the ruse was possible because the federal government controls the production of ballots. This is, emphatically, not the case.

In fact, this is left up to the states, each of which has its own regulations to follow. Practically speaking, most elections are administered at the county level, where they are run either by a board of electors, an election official or officials, or both. This means there are, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, more than more than 10,000 unique election administration jurisdictions in the U.S., each of which with their own balloting procedures. The large conspiracy alleged here would necessarily involve infiltrating thousands of different election boards or jurisdictions.

The federal government is not responsible for printing or auditing the ballots, either. In most cases, private companies contracted by those local election boards to do the printing.

This is another case of fact-checking the wrong claim in order to be able to put a great big red X mark for propaganda purposes.

The federal government does not need to control printing and auditing ballots directly to participate in election security. The federal government could easily issue regulations that set standards for printing ballots used in federal elections, and the private companies handling those tasks would be extremely likely to comply with those regulations when supplying ballots to states. States might not even be aware of these regulations, they would simply contract with their usual vendors and the vendors would provide the requested number of ballots to spec, and the spec would include the watermarks.

None of this is a claim that that actually took place. I have no knowledge of such a thing. However, Snopes asked the Department of Homeland Security about this, and DHS said:

SnopesWhile DHS and CISA assist states and localities with securing election infrastructure, DHS and CISA [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] do not design, print, or audit ballots. State and local election officials manage ballot design and printing, as well as the auditing of results.

Local election offices have security and detection measures in place that make it highly difficult to commit fraud through counterfeit ballots. While the specific measures vary, in accordance with state and local election laws and practices, ballot security measures can include signature matching, information checks, barcodes, watermarks, and precise paper weights.

So, in their own article claiming to fact check this idea as false, Snopes demonstrated that:

* DHS and CISA are federal agencies that assist states with election security
* Local election offices have security and detection measures in place, including watermarks

We have more information from the Washington Post, published October 30th, 2020 -- just days before the election.

Washington PostKrebs and other officials have managed to talk candidly about those threats largely by flying beneath Trump’s radar, focusing on the nitty-gritty of securing voting machines and other election technology... CISA has almost certainly helped the U.S. vote become more secure now than it was four years ago. It has sent staff to test the cybersecurity of election systems in hundreds of jurisdictions since 2016 and helped many states shift to more secure voting systems that include paper records for all votes and the capability to conduct rigorous post-election audits.

Working with states on auditable paper trails for ballots, check.

The only remaining question is whether there is a federal "sting operation" to catch voter fraud using ballot security measures. There may or may not be. (I doubt there is a formal "sting" operation; that's a colloquial term). But after the chaos of this election, when the recounts begin, might DHS and/or CISA step up and say "Um, guys, if those ballots are valid, they should all have a watermark like this, or an exact paper weighting of this value, or a barcode like this, according to the standards we set when they were printed..."?

I would expect that to happen.

It's not a sting operation because they're not inviting people ahead of time to commit fraud. And it doesn't have to be under federal control directly for the ballots to have a variety of security measures. But if the fraud happens, I would expect the appropriate federal agencies to get involved once the counting stops and the recounts or audits begin.

This entry was published Sat Nov 07 09:43:45 CST 2020 by TriggerFinger and last updated 2020-11-07 05:42:08.0. [Tweet]

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