Boardwalk “claw” machines. Laundry scales. Boiled linseed oil. All three are subject to more state regulation than voting machines in New Jersey. And with Tuesday’s election for governor — one of the first two statewide contests in the U.S. since last year’s presidential race — some voting-rights activists are expressing concern that New Jersey’s vote could be vulnerable. Despite consumer-protection laws that mandate testing of pharmacy scales, gas pumps, amusement park rides and hundreds of other types of equipment — and regulations governing everything from the size of peach baskets to the temperature at which commercial linseed oil must be boiled — the state has comparatively few regulations on voting machines. It does not require machines to leave a verifiable paper trail. Nor does it mandate audits of elections. New Jersey does limit the types of voting machines counties can choose from, but leaves it to counties to test the machines.
The state’s relatively hands-off approach is part of a tradition of local management of elections. But some voting-rights activists question whether it’s the right approach in an era of potential overseas threats to the integrity of voting in New Jersey and other states.
… Princeton University computer science Professor Andrew Appel, who has demonstrated how to hack a voting machine, said lawmakers took thoughtful measures in 2005 and 2007 to require paper ballots and audits of them, but a lack of funding meant neither law has been implemented.
Appel said he’s not convinced that New Jersey’s voting systems are adequately protected against tampering. “I’m quite concerned,” he said. “If it hasn’t happened yet, which we don’t know because we can’t audit the results, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”