Voting machine vendors and election officials have long insisted that no one can manipulate voting machines and ballots because tamper-evident seals used to secure them would prevent intruders from doing so without anyone noticing. But a security researcher in Michigan has shown in videos how he can defeat plastic security ties that counties across his state use to protect ballot bags, the cases that store voting machines and the ports that store the memory cards on optical-scan machines—electronic voting machines that record paper ballots scanned into them. He can do so without leaving evidence of tampering. If an intruder obtains physical access to the machines and this port, it’s possible to alter software in the machines using a rogue memory card—something that security researchers at Princeton University demonstrated in the past is possible. Matt Bernhard, a grad student at the University of Michigan and voting machine security expert, posted two videos online last week showing how he can open different types of plastic tamper-evident ties used in Michigan in just seconds, using a shim crafted from an aluminum Dr. Pepper can. By simply curling a small piece of the aluminum around a plastic zip tie and slipping it into the channel that encases the tie, he’s able to open the security device and re-close it, while leaving no marks or damage to indicate it was manipulated. He demonstrated the technique on smooth plastic ties as well as zip ties.
… Bernhard, who is an expert witness for election integrity activists in a lawsuit filed in Georgia to force officials to get rid of paperless voting machines used in that state, said the issue of security ties and seals came up in the lawsuit earlier this year when Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron told the court that his Georgia county relies on tamper-evident metal and plastic ties to seal voting machines and prevent anyone with physical access to the machines from subverting them while they sit in polling places days before an election.
“I’ve heard a lot of election officials claim that the voting machines are safe because they’re not connected to the internet and because they’re sealed with tamper-evident seals,” Bernhard said. “But the seals aren’t tamper-evident… I don’t think election officials have ever thought about how their seals could be tampered with without their knowing.”