By Miriam Raftery
November 4, 2019 (El Cajon) – Ray Lutz announced today that he will not run for the 53rd Congressional district seat being vacated by the retirement of Susan Davis, after earlier forming an exploratory committee for the race. Lutz, an engineer and founder of the Citizens Oversight watchdog group based in El Cajon, previously challenged Duncan Hunter in the 52nd Congressional district before redistricting shifted his residence into the 53rd.
Lutz has long been an activist on election integrity issues, including training the public to provide oversight of election audits. Now Lutz says he intends to focus on developing an auditing service to be available by the 2020 elections. It will allow election officials, candidates, and oversight groups to conduct a thorough and independent review of any election that uses paper ballots and equipment that creates ballot images.
The latest equipment from the leading three vendors, Election Systems & Software (ES&S), Dominion, and Hart, which together comprise more than 92% of election systems installed today, produce ballot images that can be thoroughly analyzed to make sure the official outcome of the election is consistent with the ballot images, according to Lutz.
"Although I appreciate the many supporters who have asked me to run for this seat, I believe my time will be better spent working to make the Election Auditing service -- AuditEngine.org -- a reality rather than pursue this seat,” he says. “I know I can be successful in creating the cloud-based auditing service to improve our confidence in elections nationwide, but winning the seat is not be a sure bet. With several eager candidates running for the seat, including Georgette Gomez and Sara Jacobs, it seems sage that the seat will be filled with a capable representative."
Lutz adds that he appreciates the fact that it would be likely that a woman would continue to occupy the seat, and that Jacobs and Gomez both had qualities that would be an asset. "I simply can't provide the gender diversity that we continue to need in Congress, and these candidates will do well to represent progressive values," says Lutz, who has not endorses a candidate at this time.
He announced creation of the Ballot-image auditing tool at the National Election Integrity Conference in Berkeley on October 6 and is providing a more lengthy presentation at the Earth Summit lecture at the San Diego Balboa Park Club, in the Santa Fe room, this evening at 7 p.m. Lutz will also host a short press conference about the candidacy decision at 6:45 p.m. at the same location.
"There is still a need to improve the security of the ballot images, and to provide easier access to the ballot image data," Lutz says in his statement sent to media today. "Many jurisdictions, such as Dane County, WI, routinely publish the ballot images on their web site. They are public records, but the legal framework in California needs some work to allow review of ballot images to become routine."
Lutz asserts that Ballot Image Audits, if conducted correctly, will result in lower overall risk than conducting manual-labor intensive Risk Limiting Audits.
Some inspection of paper will still be a prudent step to take, the election integrity activist believes. But he contends, “The benefit of using only Risk Limiting Audits (RLAs), which requires manual inspection of paper ballots to insure that the outcome of the election is correct, up to the risk limit, is generally over-stated. “ RLAs do not perform well with very tight margins, according to Lutz, and most implementations, such as in Colorado and as now proposed for California, do not consider very many contests.
“If you don't audit a contest, it could be hacked and we would never know,” Lutz points out. “In contrast, Ballot Image Audits can cover all contests, even small and inconsequential ones, with precision down to the single ballot, and it does not take any more effort if the contests are tight.”