Americas voting machines are unreliable and easy targets
GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump openly speculated that this election would be “rigged.” Last month, Russia decided to take an active role in our election. There’s no basis for questioning the results of a vote that’s still months away. But the interference and aspersions do merit a fresh look at the woeful state of our outdated, insecure electronic voting machines.
We’ve previously discussed the sad state of electronic voting machines in America, but it’s worth a closer look as we approach election day itself, and within the context of increased cyber-hostilities between the US and Russia. Besides, by now states have had plenty of warning since a damning report by the Brennan Center for Justice about our voting machine vulnerabilities came out last September. Surely matters must have improved since then.
Well, not exactly. In fact, not really at all.
Most people remember the vote-counting debacle of the 2000 election, the dangling chads that resulted in the Supreme Court breaking a Bush-Gore deadlock. What people may not remember is the resulting Help America Vote Act (HAVA), passed in 2002, which among other objectives worked to phase out the use of the punchcard voting systems that had caused millions of ballots to be tossed.
In many cases, those dated machines were replaced with electronic voting systems. The intentions were pure. The consequences were a technological train wreck.
“People weren’t thinking about voting system security or all the additional challenges that come with electronic voting systems,” says the Brennan Center’s Lawrence Norden. “Moving to electronic voting systems solved a lot of problems, but created a lot of new ones.”
The list of those problems is what you’d expect from any computer or, more specifically, any computer that’s a decade or older. Most of these machines are running Windows XP, for which Microsoft hasn’t released a security patch since April 2014. Though there’s no evidence of direct voting machine interference to date, researchers have demonstrated that many of them are susceptible to malware or, equally if not more alarming, a well-timed denial of service attack.
“When people think that people think about doing something major to impact our election results at the voting machine, they think they’d try to switch results,” says Norden, referring to potential software tampering. “But you can do a lot less than that and do a lot of damage… If you have machines not working, or working slowly, that could create lots of problems too, preventing people from voting at all.”
The extent of vulnerability isn’t just hypothetical; late last summer, Virginia decertified thousands of insecure WinVote machines. As one security researcher described it, “anyone within a half mile could have modified every vote, undetected” without “any technical expertise.” The vendor had gone out of business years prior.
The WinVote systems are an extreme case, but not an isolated one. Other voting machine models have potentially vulnerable wireless components; Virginia’s just the only one where a test proved how bad the situation was.
The worst part about the current state of voting machines is that they don’t even require outside interference to undo an election. “They’re all computers. They run on tens of thousands of lines of code,” says Norden. “It’s impossible to have a perfectly secure, perfectly reliable computer.”
That’s true, but in fairness, most computers aren’t quite this imperfect, either.
In the first video below, the Project Veritas journalist claims she is Jocelyn Benson, the Dean of Wayne State University Law School, but that she lost her ID. The “Poll Supervisor” is quick to reassure Mrs. Benson that as long as she signs the affidavit on the back of the ballot she is free to vote. When the journalist pushes back and insists that she feels an obligation to prove her identity the Poll Supervisor reassures her that “nobody can vote twice” because if the real Jocelyn Benson subsequently comes in she won’t be able to vote “because you already voted.” Perfect logic if we understand it correctly. So just to clarify, each registered voter only gets one ballot…great, this seems reasonable…but it doesn’t necessarily matter so much who casts that ballot…wait, what?
PV Journalist: “I feel like I should prove that I am who I am.”
Poll Supervisor: “Your word is your proof is right here.”
PV Journalist: “And that’s fine?”
Poll Supervisor: “Yup. Because if somebody else comes in and says that they’re you, they can’t because you already voted. So, you can’t vote twice, nobody can vote twice. So once you vote, I don’t care who you are.”
PV Journalist: “You guys are fine with me just voting.”
Poll Supervisor: “Yup I’m fine. You’re not the first one that’s left you ID at home.”
Each video has its own little twist but all are equally disturbing. In the second video, the polling person seems to know that the Project Veritas journalist isn’t who he claims to be but allows him to vote anyway.
its only the zombified sheep still think the land of the free has fair elections..they dont..just look at some of the numbers obama got in ohio in 2012..they can flip it to anyone they want..who do you think they want to win it this time?
“The worst part about the current state of voting machines is that they don’t even require outside interference to undo an election. “They’re all computers. They run on tens of thousands of lines of code,” says Norden. “It’s impossible to have a perfectly secure, perfectly reliable computer.”