Harri Hursti may be the best-known hacker you’ve never heard of. Largely unknown to the voting public, the Finnish computer programmer gained national notoriety among elections officials in 2005 when he broke into voting equipment in Leon County – at the supervisor of elections’ invitation – just to show it could be done. Hursti has since gone on to examine voting systems for other states. His conclusion: “Some systems are better than others, but none is nearly good enough.” In fact, a decade’s worth of Florida vote counting has been tripped up by technology of all makes and models, despite a state certification process designed to guard against such problems. Nationally, studies of the secret code underpinning election software have uncovered an array of troubles.
The stakes are high. “These are fundamental constitutional rights,” said Candice Hoke, associate law professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and a founding director of the Center for Election Integrity. “It’s not a matter of ‘oh well, the technology didn’t work this time.’ The right to vote is not participation only; it also is the right to have the vote counted as cast.” Time and time again, that hasn’t happened.