Nearly all of New Jersey’s 11,000 voting machines are vulnerable to election hacking that could change the outcome of elections across the state, but that is not the worst part of the nightmare scenario feared by security experts. Because the computer-drive voting machines are paperless, no one would know for certain if votes had been changed, the experts say. A USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey review found that election officials in all counties test the machines for a host of technical issues — do the voting machines turn on, do they correctly count test votes, for example — but there is no independent test that deems them hack-proof. The Network asked for simple proof that the machines were digitally secure: Did independent security experts certify the hardware and software as secure, much the same way a bank or business ensures its money transactions are protected from outsiders?
Only voting machines used in Warren County polling places provide the paper backup that those experts say is crucial to protecting the state’s elections. Union County is in the process of rolling out new paper-backed voting machines; Westfield will be the first town to use them on election day, Nov. 6.
“There is no way to detect fraud and we could have been using cheating voting machines in the last five elections without even knowing it,” said Andrew Appel, a Princeton University computer science professor who has been studying voting machine security since the 2000 presidential election, where the recount of Florida ballots revealed a slew of problems that led to national voting machine reforms.
“Almost all of the other states have realized paperless touchscreens are not a secure way to count the votes,” he said.
… Critics of New Jersey’s voting machines say almost any machine could be open to being manipulated. Their concern is with systems that allow no way for a human to double check. “What we are talking about is risks. It doesn’t mean it is actually going to happen. The problem with the machines is you can’t tell and there’s no way of recovering even if you could discover it,” said Marian Schneider, the director of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization whose mission is safeguarding elections in the digital age.