New Jersey election officials are taking steps to replace the state’s outdated voting machines, which are vulnerable to hacking. But some experts say the state is making a new mistake in the process. Voters in New Jersey use some of the oldest, least secure voting machines in America. Ten years ago, Princeton professor Andrew Appel demonstrated the machines could be hacked. They also produce no paper backup, so Appel says, “You can’t really recount or audit. Whatever the computer says, whether it’s hacked or not, is what you have to rely on.” That may soon change. New Jersey election director Robert Giles says all 21 county election boards are on board with transitioning to new machines that produce voter-verified paper trails. Enter the ExpressVote XL, being used for the first time next week in Westfield, before being rolled out Union County-wide. County election officials let Kane In Your Corner test the equipment, which features a 32-inch touch screen.
The interface is familiar. Voters select candidates by pushing on touch-screen “buttons.” But there’s a significant difference. After making their selections, voters print out a paper ballot, which they can review for accuracy through a glass window, before casting their vote. The paper backup is then securely deposited in the machine for use in recounts or to audit machines for accuracy.
Union County election supervisor Nicole Dirado says unlike the current generation of machines, the new model is extremely secure. “The USB stick that is used to load the contests onto the machine has over 200-bit encryption” she says. “There’s two-part authentication required to even open the machine.”
You might think all of that would make longtime critics like Appel happy. Instead, he says “New Jersey has figured out a new way to get voting machines wrong”.