Election security experts are watching a Wisconsin court case stemming from the 2016 presidential recount that could result in the first public conclusions on whether closely guarded ballot-counting machines were hacked or failed to perform. The key question at the heart of the case is whether former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein will be allowed to comment publicly on what her auditors find in a review of Wisconsin voting machines’ computer code. Stein’s request for a recount of the presidential election results in Wisconsin gives her the right to review the code under state law. All the parties involved must sign an agreement to keep propriety information confidential. The voting machines’ manufacturers argue that agreement should bar Stein’s group from making any conclusions or opinions about the machines’ performance public.
A Madison judge in December gave Stein’s experts permission to talk when the check has been completed. The audit hasn’t been scheduled yet with the court case still pending. The voting machines’ manufacturers have until Monday to appeal the ruling.
States including California and Colorado conduct pre-election audits of machines’ source code to certify them for use, but Stein’s group says no one has reviewed how the machines have performed during an election.
Three companies — Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Nebraska; Dominion Voting Systems of Denver; and Hart Intercivic of Austin, Texas — supply more than 90 percent of voting machines. The companies effectively run elections either directly or through subcontractors across much of the country. Despite their key role in the American democratic system, they face little federal regulation and closely guard their financial and operational secrets.