Voters across New Jersey are going to polling places today to pick a new governor, select candidates for seats in the state Legislature, and to decide many contested county and municipal elections. But questions have been raised in recent weeks about whether the electronic machines that will be used to count the vote in many places in New Jersey are vulnerable to computer error or even hacking, and lawmakers are pushing for the machines to eventually be upgraded so there’s a “voter-verified” paper trail to back up each vote that is cast on Election Day. To be sure, there’s been no evidence of any widespread voting-machine failure or large-scale tampering leading up to today’s elections in New Jersey, and election officials say there have been no recorded cases of an electronic-voting machine having been hacked in New Jersey during any recent election. What’s more, the machines themselves are not attached to any network so hacking would have to occur in person rather than remotely. But a Princeton University computer-science professor opened the eyes of lawmakers by showing them during a recent hearing in Trenton how voting machines that are used in 18 of New Jersey’s 21 counties could theoretically be hacked manually by someone seeking to make sure an election turns out in a specific way.
… Most counties in New Jersey use a voting machine known as the AVC Advantage, which allows for the electronic recording of votes cast at the ballot box on Election Day. The widespread switch to the use of these machines occurred more than a decade ago, after the federal government allocated money through the Help America Vote Act to each state to help modernize elections at the local level.
But while many other states are now using electronic-voting machines that also produce a printout for every vote, money has not been made available by the federal government or the state to fund a similarin New Jersey. That means the tabulation of votes are primarily recorded only on the machines’ hard drives, and any recounts rely primarily on the electronic machines to print out results that were not tabulated through paper absentee or provisional ballots. There are some exceptions, including in Warren County, where a paper record is also produced for each vote that’s cast.