Person

Barbara Simons

Barbara Simons is a computer scientist who serves on the board of Verified Voting, a nonprofit that advocates against electronic voting. Simons is an outspoken supporter of paper ballots, serving on the Board of Advisors to the United States Election Assistance Commission. In addition to her work on election administration, Simons is affiliated with several left-of-center organizations, including Democracy Alliance and the League of Women Voters.

Education and Career

Simons attended the University of California, Berkeley where she completed a doctoral degree in computer science in 1981. [1] In 2005, Simons was named the Berkeley College of Engineering Distinguished Alumna. [2] Simons spent most of her career as a research staff member at IBM’s Almaden Research Center. [3] Simons holds several patents and received an IBM Research Division Award for her work on clock synchronization. [4] In 1994, Simons was selected as one of the “Top 100 Women in Computing” by Open Computing. [5]

Elections Activism

Simons turned to voting reform in 1999 when she served on then-President Bill Clinton’s Export Council Subcommittee on Encryption and National Workshop on Internet Voting. [6] Simons argued that internet voting was “very dangerous,” and following the push for internet voting after the 2000 presidential election, became an outspoken advocate against electronic voting machines, arguing that the United States should maintain a paper ballot system for elections to be secure. [7] Simons co-authored a report in 2004 to the Department of Defense which led to the cancellation of the department’s internet voting project (SERVE) due to concerns about vote security. [8] In 2008, Simons was appointed to the Board of Advisors to the United States Election Assistance Commission, where she continues to serve as a staff member. [9] [10]

In 2003, Simons joined the inaugural board of Verified Voting, a California-based nonprofit comprised of scientists which advocates for non-electronic voting. [11] During her time with Verified Voting, Simons co-authored Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count? in 2012 to critique American voting systems as insecure and unreliable. [12] [13]

Political Organizing

Simons is a long-time voting reform advocate, known for her opposition to electronic voting. Simons has argued for not only a universal paper ballot system, but also manual post-election ballot audits to check the accuracy of the computerized machines which count ballots. [14] Simons claims that voting machines may make mistakes, may have software problems, and may be hacked, arguing that manual counting of paper ballots is the safest way to vote. [15] Security concerns aside, Simons has argued that internet voting will not increase voter participation, and that firms are selling digital voting technology by misrepresenting its impact on participation. [16]

In 2016, following Hillary Clinton’s loss in the presidential election, a coalition of left-of-center activists and organizations pushed for a full audit and recount of votes in key battleground states, on the grounds that some votes may have been skewed by foreign hackers. [17]

Simons led the effort for the recount, alongside Democratic megadonor Amy Rao. [18] Rao and Simons organized the effort for the recount, with Simons arguing in a private call with Clinton presidential campaign chair John Podesta that a recount in key battleground states should be instituted, given the supposed susceptibility of widely-used voting machines to malfunctions, miscounts, and malware. [19] Simons dismissed the verification of the machines as accurate, claiming that the only companies which verify machine performance are those which profit from the use of the equipment. [20]

Podesta and the Clinton campaign rejected the effort for a recount because researchers could not prove that it would change the election results. [21] Simons’s effort to institute a recount created the coalition that eventually led to former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s filing of a failed suit in Pennsylvania federal court to allow computer scientists to inspect Pennsylvania’s voting machines. [22] [23]

Aside from organizing the effort for a recount, Simons herself contributed analysis to a report on potential election interference to be presented to congressional committee chairs and federal authorities. [24] Polling expert Nate Silver and several other election analysts dismissed the effort, claiming that swing state results in the 2016 presidential election presented no cause for concern regarding foreign manipulation of ballot totals. [25] Nonetheless, Simons has continued to argue that Russia attempted to influence the 2018 midterm election and will try to interfere with 2020 elections. [26]

Outside of her work in electoral reform, Simons is affiliated with several left-of-center organizations, including the League of Women Voters, a left-of-center advocacy group. [27] In 2009, Simons sat on the League of Women Voters Election Audits Task Force, authoring a thirty-page report on the necessity of post-election ballot auditing. [28] Seven years later, following the 2016 presidential election, the League of Women Voters used information presented in the report to argue that “voter suppression” may have played a role in Hillary Clinton’s defeat, providing a list of 13 states with voting regulations that may have “suppressed” the vote. [29]

Simons also sits on the board of Democracy Alliance, a coalition of donors designed to support left-of-center political causes and infrastructure organizing. [30] Democracy Alliance cites Simons as a “partner,” endorsing her work in promoting paper ballots and encouraging left-of-center supporters to support Verified Voting. [31]

Nonprofit Affiliations

Simons has worked with a number of philanthropic organizations. In 1978, she co-founded Women in Computer Science and Engineering (WiCSE), a national organization for women in computer science and engineering professions. [32]

Simons served as president of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) from 1998-200, in addition to founding and chairing the organization’s United States Public Policy Committee for ten years. [33] [34] As president of ACM, Simons oversaw over 100,000 educators, researchers, and professionals aimed at advancing the field of computer science and organizing special interest groups to respond to modern challenges in computer machinery. [35]

References

  1. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  2. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  3. “Barbara Simons Receives UC Berkeley Lifetime Achievement Award.” Association for

    Computing Machinery, September 14, 2005. https://techpolicy.acm.org/2005/09/barbara-simons-receives-uc-berkeley-life-achievement-award/. ^

  4. “Barbara Simons Receives UC Berkeley Lifetime Achievement Award.” Association for Computing Machinery, September 14, 2005. https://techpolicy.acm.org/2005/09/barbara-simons-receives-uc-berkeley-life-achievement-award/. ^
  5. “Barbara Simons Receives UC Berkeley Lifetime Achievement Award.” Association for Computing Machinery, September 14, 2005. https://techpolicy.acm.org/2005/09/barbara-simons-receives-uc-berkeley-life-achievement-award/. ^
  6. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  7. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  8. Simons, Barbara, and Douglas Jones. “Barbara Simons.” HuffPost. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.huffpost.com/author/barbara-simons. ^
  9. Simons, Barbara, and Douglas Jones. “Barbara Simons.” HuffPost. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.huffpost.com/author/barbara-simons. ^
  10. “Barbara Simons.” U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.eac.gov/about/staff-directory/barbara-simons. ^
  11. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  12. “Barbara Simons: Making Votes Count.” Berkeley Engineering, March 18, 2020. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/barbara-simons-making-votes-count/. ^
  13. Jones, Douglas W., and Barbara Simons. “Broken Ballots: Will Your Vote Count?” Amazon. CSLI Publications, 2012. https://www.amazon.com/Broken-Ballots-Center-Language-Information/dp/1575866366. ^
  14. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  15. Rasta, Anoushah. “Election Security Event Held at Googleplex in Mountain View.” NBC Bay Area. NBC Bay Area, March 6, 2019. https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/padilla-speaks-at-election-security-event-in-mountain-view/5643/. ^
  16. Lever, Rob. “In US, Smartphone Voting Stirs Interest – and Security Fears.” GMA News Online. GMA News Online, February 16, 2020. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/technology/726194/in-us-smartphone-voting-stirs-interest-and-security-fears/story/. ^
  17. Swaine, Jon. “Hillary Clinton Urged to Call for Election Vote Recount in Battleground States.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, November 23, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/23/hillary-clinton-election-vote-recount-michigan-pennsylvania-wisconsin. ^
  18. Friess, Steve. “Inside the Recount.” The New Republic, February 15, 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/140254/inside-story-trump-clinton-stein-presidential-election-recount. ^
  19. Friess, Steve. “Inside the Recount.” The New Republic, February 15, 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/140254/inside-story-trump-clinton-stein-presidential-election-recount. ^
  20. Friess, Steve. “Inside the Recount.” The New Republic, February 15, 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/140254/inside-story-trump-clinton-stein-presidential-election-recount. ^
  21. Friess, Steve. “Inside the Recount.” The New Republic, February 15, 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/140254/inside-story-trump-clinton-stein-presidential-election-recount. ^
  22. Friess, Steve. “Inside the Recount.” The New Republic, February 15, 2017. https://newrepublic.com/article/140254/inside-story-trump-clinton-stein-presidential-election-recount. ^
  23. Swaine, Jon. “Hillary Clinton Urged to Call for Election Vote Recount in Battleground States.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, November 23, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/23/hillary-clinton-election-vote-recount-michigan-pennsylvania-wisconsin. ^
  24. Swaine, Jon. “Hillary Clinton Urged to Call for Election Vote Recount in Battleground States.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, November 23, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/23/hillary-clinton-election-vote-recount-michigan-pennsylvania-wisconsin. ^
  25. Swaine, Jon. “Hillary Clinton Urged to Call for Election Vote Recount in Battleground States.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, November 23, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/23/hillary-clinton-election-vote-recount-michigan-pennsylvania-wisconsin. ^
  26. Finkle, Jim. “Hackers Scour Voting Machines for Election Bugs.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, July 29, 2017. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-conference-election-hacking/hackers-scour-voting-machines-for-election-bugs-idUSKBN1AD1BF. ^
  27. “Report on Election Audit.” Election Audits Task Force of the League of Women Voters of the United States. January 2009. https://www.verifiedvoting.org/downloads/Report_ElectionAudits.pdf ^
  28. “Report on Election Audit.” Election Audits Task Force of the League of Women Voters of the United States. January 2009. https://www.verifiedvoting.org/downloads/Report_ElectionAudits.pdf ^
  29. “The 2016 Presidential Election WAS Rigged.” League of Women Voters, November 23, 2016. https://www.lwv.org/newsroom/press-releases/2016-presidential-election-was-rigged. ^
  30. “Barbara Simons.” Democracy Alliance. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://democracyalliance.org/people/barbara-simons/. ^
  31. LaMarche, Gara. “Election Hacking Strikes at the Heart of Democracy.” Democracy Alliance, September 6, 2018. https://democracyalliance.org/from-the-president/election-hacking-strikes-at-the-heart-of-democracy/ ^
  32. “Q&A With Barbara Simons.” Berkeley Engineering, March 16, 2018. https://engineering.berkeley.edu/news/2018/03/qa-with-barbara-simons/. ^
  33. “ACM US Technology Policy Committee.” Association of Computing Machinery. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.acm.org/public-policy/ustpc. ^
  34. “Barbara Simons Receives UC Berkeley Lifetime Achievement Award.” Association for Computing Machinery, September 14, 2005. https://techpolicy.acm.org/2005/09/barbara-simons-receives-uc-berkeley-life-achievement-award/. ^
  35. “About the ACM Organization.” Association for Computing Machinery. Accessed March 23, 2020. https://www.acm.org/about-acm/about-the-acm-organization. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. Democracy Alliance Conferences (Other Group)
    Participant, Fall 2016; Fall 2017; Fall 2018; Fall 2019
  2. Democracy Alliance (DA) (Other Group)
    Board Member
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