For the first time in a dozen years, states are looking at replacing their aging voting machines and related computer systems. But a survey of the early legislative debates surrounding this prospect suggests that some states are not heeding advice from federal officials, academics and other experts saying that ink-marked paper-ballot systems are the wisest foundation for the most secure and verifiable elections. This apparent dichotomy comes as states and the federal government have made an unprecedented effort to ramp up cyber-security precautions and training before 2018’s fall midterms, and as the voting machine industry is offering products that offer striking new options to make vote-counting more transparent and trustable. The open question is whether legislators and election officials are looking to embrace newer technology and verification protocols, or whether they are drawn to more opaque systems that they have grown familiar with—and which are commercially available. As always is the case with 3,069 counties running America’s elections, there is a range of inclinations on voting modernization.
“I think there is a real variety. It varies according to the state,” said Marian Schneider, president of the Verified Voting Foundation and former Deputy Secretary of Elections and Administration in Pennsylvania. “I think there’s a risk that [some] states are going in that direction [sticking with legacy technologies]. I will say that especially in states that have used paperless DREs [direct recording equipment—or touch-screen computers] since 2002 and 2004. There’s a comfort level there that they don’t want to give up.”
In April, Congress appropriated $380 million to help states with cyber-security efforts in response to Russian meddling in 2016. While most of those funds have gone to hardening the computer systems that comprise the voting process—from voter registration databases to programming systems for the latest election to vote tabulators—some states have set aside some funds toward replacing their voting machinery. Even though Congress’s action is the first since 2002 for voting infrastructure, the appropriation is far from enough for states to fully modernize.
Still, the funding has prompted a handful of states to begin discussing replacing their infrastructure, giving a preview of what’s likely to come after the November midterms. That’s because the voting machinery used by most states is at least a decade old, and has known security vulnerabilities and operational limitations—such as DRE’s inability to conduct recounts because there’s no backup record if computer memory cards err.
Full Article: Several States Purchasing Insecure Electronic Voting Systems.