Just last weekend, a long-running hackers convention in Las Vegas lined up a dozen U.S. electronic voting machines, many of which were obtained from government auctions and second-hand sources like eBay, and unleashed attendees on them. By the end of the weekend, all of the machines had been breached in one form or another. And while most of the equipment was somewhat out of date in terms of technology, a few of the models are still in use. DefCon 25 organizers said the exercise was about illustrating and helping address security vulnerabilities in the U.S. election system, a popular national conversation topic following allegations that are still under investigation of outside meddling in the 2016 election cycle. On Wednesday, another lineup of voting machines popped up at the Utah Capitol. This time, however, the event was aimed at giving members of the public an opportunity to audition some of the latest in voting technology as part of a state process to choose a new provider of voting equipment for county officials who operate Utah elections.
Utah Director of Elections Mark Thomas said the tryout was intended to gather input from real-world customers — aka, voters — to complement the vetting process underway by a committee that includes election officials, digital security experts and others. “I think it’s great that we have the equipment here,” Thomas said. “I want the vendors to have to answer tough questions coming directly from the voters that participate today.”
Visitors not only got a chance to give the machines a workout, but were also asked to complete a survey about their experience, with questions seeking ratings on each of the machine’s ease of use, user confidence in the equipment and, for people with disabilities, how the particular systems accommodated those with vision, hearing or mobility challenges.
Thomas said the process, which will winnow the five finalists down to a single selection, will likely be completed in the next couple of months and will provide Utah counties with both cost benefits and advantages from an economy-of-scale perspective.