If these past few years have taught us anything, it is that our voting equipment, like our many flailing democratic institutions, is much less secure than we thought. Contrary to what election officials have led us to believe, all electronic tallies can be hacked through the internet because the election management system computers used to program voting machines, scanners, and ballot marking devices are themselves so connected.
Old Person Comment, here.
What occurs to me is that we had more secure, yet computerized, elections back when I first started to vote, in the late 70’s. The core document that the ballot was contested on was this little bugger, which in my view we have given up on too soon, if you like security:
Yeppers. Back then, almost all states used a voting machine that looked something like this:
… and you used to pull down those levers to vote for somebody. When you pulled that big lever to the left (pulling to the right closes the curtain behind you) it punched the card, which was then physically transported to the election authority and run through a reader, which tabulated the votes.
Now, I’m not suggesting we dust off those antiques. What I AM suggesting is that we go back to a machine (it can be be a computer, of course) which is non-networked, and when the person presses “DONE”, a physical ballot gets printed which is machine readable itself. Those ballots are tossed into a lockbox WHICH IS PICKED UP BY BRINKS (I am sick to hell of everyone ignoring the chain of custody issues which arise when partisan individuals are allowed to touch ballots, and if anyone says “there’s no evidence of fraud”, I’m going to barf on their shoes) and transported to the election center for tallying.
And, if you want to lighten the load on Brinks, you can network the voting machines IN THE PRECINCT ONLY to each other, and have them create a machine readable summary document along with a detailed report, again on paper.
The results generated by those voting machines and scanners at the precincts are then transferred via memory cards or USB sticks to county-based central tabulators, which aggregate and send the results to online reporting systems. Sometimes the same flash drive goes back and forth between the online system and the central tabulator, creating another opportunity for foreign or domestic hackers to attack vote tallies.
I cannot agree more that this is bonkers.
Moreover, voting machine vendor Election Systems & Software, LLC (“ES&S”), which accounts for 44 percent of US election equipment, has in the past few years sold scanners containing cellular modems to Florida and Wisconsin. As one Wisconsin election official acknowledged, these modems send results over the internet. According to computer science professor Andrew Appel (Princeton University), malevolent actors could erect fake cell towers to intercept vote tallies transmitted in this fashion.
This is akin to begging for a hack.
Despite these obvious vulnerabilities, courts preclude forensic analysis of voting equipment on the basis that the software and hardware is proprietary to the vendors.
Well, we might want to stop using them. The system I outlined above would not take a computer genius to whip up.
In addition, states typically require manual recounts only if the margin of victory is less than 1%. And twenty-six states do not require manual audits at all. According to IT experts, just three states (Colorado, New Mexico, and Rhode Island) conduct manual audits that are sufficiently robust to detect hacking.
Yep. I frequently point out to critics of Voter ID that say “there’s no evidence of fraud” that “How do we know? We don’t check!”