Pamela Smith

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Texas: How Secure Is Electronic Voting In Texas? | Houston Public Media

Joan Cunningham grew up in Canada and remembers watching people vote the old fashioned way: Fill out a paper ballot, drop it in a box. She understands electronic voting machines can be more efficient. “But my professional life was spent as an epidemiologist. I used, and still do, computers a lot for everything I do. And I have some practical insights into the things that can go wrong, data that can get corrupted or changed or lost,” Cunningham says. She wonders how vote recording errors and even fraud, can be prevented when such machines generate no paper records for backup. Pamela Smith says Cunningham’s concerns are legitimate. Smith is president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit, non-partisan group that examines the role of technology in elections. “People sometimes think software is infallible,” Smith says, “but in fact it’s programmed by humans, and humans are not infallible. So you can have errors in programming. There have been actual errors in programming in past elections that have been uncovered by doing audits and recounts.”

Full Article: How Secure Is Electronic Voting In Texas? | KERA News.

National: U.S. presidential election uses hodge-podge of voting technology | CBC

When Americans go the polls on Nov. 8, they’ll be casting votes using a wide array of technology, from touchscreens to pen and paper. In light of Donald Trump’s claims of election fraud — and with the memory of the disputed presidential election of 2000 still looming — that technology could be under more scrutiny than ever in this year’s presidential election. Here’s a look at the different ways Americans will make their choices:

Ballot scanning: Familiar to anyone who’s taken a standardized test, the scanning method requires voters to mark a specific area, such as filling in a bubble. The ballots are then tabulated by a scanner, using either optical equipment or digital scanning technology. Counting ballots with scanners is the most widely-used method of voting in the U.S., “and has been for a very long time,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a U.S. non-profit that advocates for accurate, transparent and verifiable elections. “Any electronic system can be tampered with,” says Smith. “But the benefit of having a scanner is that you maintain the ballot” for auditing later, if necessary.

Electronic systems: These ATM-like devices, known in election-industry parlance as “direct recording electronic” systems, enable voting by touchscreen, button or dial. The machines tabulate votes automatically, helping to speed up the voting process — unless technical difficulties strike. “If more than one [machine] breaks down, then you’re stuck with emergency paper ballots,” explains Smith. “Then you start running out.” The flexibility of  electronic systems can be useful in areas where voters speak multiple languages, and can also help disabled voters through the process. Still, not all direct recording electronic systems print paper receipts of the votes cast, creating a potential lack of accountability. 

Full Article: U.S. presidential election uses hodge-podge of voting technology - Technology & Science - CBC News.

National: Aging Voting Machines Cost Local, State Governments | Stateline

This year, as Americans select the next president, the entire U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the Senate, as well as an array of state and local officials, many voters will cast ballots on a generation of electronic voting machines that is nearing extinction. Most of the machines, adopted by local governments after “hanging chads” left the 2000 presidential election in the balance for weeks, are at least a decade old. And they create a perilous situation: an equipment breakdown on Election Day could mean long lines, potentially leaving some people unable to vote. But replacing the old machines with newer models is costly. The latest computerized machines typically cost between $2,500 and $3,000 each, and election boards should budget for one machine per 250 to 300 registered voters, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That high cost is just one reason the computerized machines, which record ballots via a touch-screen, push-button or dial mechanism, have been falling out of favor with cash-strapped local governments. Some elections officials and lawmakers also worry the machines could be hacked and lead to voter fraud.

Full Article: Aging Voting Machines Cost Local, State Governments.

National: Election Hackers Could Erase You | The Daily Beast

With 23 days until Election Day, state and local election officials, as well as the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, are on their highest-ever level of alert for hackers trying to meddle with the vote. But it’s not vote rigging or the takeover of electronic voting booths that has officials most concerned. … Rather, officials are more concerned by the discovery in recent weeks that hackers, including ones believed to be working for the Russian government, are trying to access voter registration files, perhaps to alter or delete them, inmore than 20 states. … This unprecedented focus on election security was prompted both by a suspected Russian campaign to hack emails and documents from U.S. political organizations, as well as the news that, last summer, election systems were compromised by hackers in Arizona and Illinois, where the perpetrators are believed to have absconded with files on 200,000 voters. “When you suddenly had two states with reports of registration breaches, regardless of the effect or the impact, which appear to have been minor, it gave everybody a sense that this isn’t necessarily theoretical anymore,” Pam Smith, the president of Verified Voting, a nonprofit group that advocates transparency and security in U.S. elections, told The Daily Beast.

Full Article: Election Hackers Could Erase You - The Daily Beast.

National: Despite Fears, This Election Could Be More Secure Than Ever | MIT Technology Review

Fear that hackers could exploit vulnerabilities in our voting systems could undermine voter confidence this November, especially if the vote ends up being close. The good news is that it is also helping fuel an important discussion about how the U.S. should secure its elections. Recent hacks on the Democratic National Committee, for which the White House has officially blamed Russia, along with reports that hackers have targeted online voter registration databases in more than 20 states, have made it clear that adversaries are inclined to disrupt the American political system using cybercrime. The attacks prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to begin assisting state and local election boards on cybersecurity matters. Congress has held multiple hearings to assess the national election system’s technical weaknesses and explore ways to account for them. And there have been countless media reports (including some from MIT Technology Review) cataloguing vulnerabilities like Internet-connected voting registration databases and absentee ballot-return systems, as well as electronic voting machines that don’t produce paper audit trails.

Full Article: Despite Fears, This Election Could Be More Secure Than Ever.

National: 5 ways to improve voting security in the US | PCWorld

With the U.S. presidential election just weeks away, questions about election security continue to dog the nation’s voting system. It’s too late for election officials to make major improvements, “and there are no resources,” said Joe Kiniry, a long-time election security researcher. However, officials can take several steps for upcoming elections, security experts say. “Nobody should ever imagine changing the voting technology used this close to a general election,” said Douglas Jones, a computer science professor at the University of Iowa. “The best time to buy new equipment would be in January after a general election, so you’ve got almost two years to learn how to use it.” … Some states conduct extensive pre-election tests of their voting equipment, but other tests are less comprehensive, said Pamela Smith, president of elections security advocacy group Verified Voting. Most jurisdictions conduct pre-election voting tests, but many “randomly select some machines” after ballot information, such as candidates’ names, is programmed in, Smith said. Testing all voting machines before an election would be more secure, she said.

Full Article: 5 ways to improve voting security in the US | PCWorld.

National: Officials Are Scrambling to Protect the Election From Hackers | WIRED

As the United States barrels toward November elections, officials are still looking for last-minute fixes to ensure that the patchwork of voting technology used around the country can fend off the increasingly troubling prospect of hacker attacks. And in the latest of those efforts, Georgia representative Hank Johnson is set to introduce two bills today designed to shore up that fragile system’s security. The Election Infrastructure and Security Promotion Act of 2016 would mandate that the Department of Homeland Security classify voting systems as critical infrastructure, and the Election Integrity Act would limit which voting machines states can buy and also create a plan for handling system failures. The bills reflect a growing debate about whether designating voting tech as critical infrastructure (like the public water supply, energy systems, transportation, communication grid, and the financial sector) would help to secure the U.S.’s highly decentralized voting setup. In the wake of the Democratic National Committee breach and increasingly brazen Russian cyberespionage attacks, concern is mounting about the potential for election hacking in the 2016 presidential race and beyond. Voting registries and election board websites have been compromised, security researchers have shown that electronic voting machines are vulnerable, and agencies like the FBI are on alert.

Full Article: Officials Are Scrambling to Protect the Election From Hackers | WIRED.

National: See How Likely It Is That Your Voting Booth Gets Hacked | TIME

In a world where we can program our refrigerators to order more milk or conjure images of distant galaxies with a few swipes on a smartphone, it’s significant that the best, most reliable technology available on Election Day 2016 is good, old-fashioned paper. “It seems counterintuitive, but paper is a technology that just happens to work really well for elections,” says Pamela Smith, the president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for accurate and transparent elections. “You can’t hack a piece of paper. Voters can mark it and see their vote, and then the ballots can be collected and double-checked.” … The real problem, said Lawrence Norden, the deputy director of the Brennan Center for Justice Democracy Program, lies with the nearly 40 million Americans who won’t be voting on paper, again based on 2012 figures. Those voters will instead be saddled with electronic voting machines (the yellow and red-colored counties on the map), many of which are more than a decade old, lack basic cybersecurity protections, and utilize hardware no more sophisticated than a stripped down, Bush-era laptop. In 42 states, electronic voting machines are more than a decade old, according to Norden’s research. (Many states still use such machines for voters who require special assistance.)

Full Article: See How Likely It Is That Your Voting Booth Gets Hacked | TIME.

National: Sowing Doubt Is Seen as Prime Danger in Hacking Voting System | The New York Times

Russian hackers would not be able to change the outcome of the United States presidential election, the nation’s most senior intelligence and law enforcement officials have assured Congress and the White House in recent weeks. But disrupting it, they acknowledge, would be far easier — causing doubts in battleground states, prompting challenges to results and creating enough chaos to make Florida’s hanging chads seem like a quaint problem from the analog age. By some measures, in fact, the disruption has already begun. And meddling around the edges of an election could sow doubts about the legitimacy of the results — especially in a year in which the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, has told his supporters that the only way he will lose is if the election is “rigged,” and while campaign officials for his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, have held a series of meetings about preparing for the possibility that the vote will be hacked. The White House has declined to name Russia publicly as the chief suspect in a series of recent hacks, and has worded its public warnings carefully. The greatest danger, Lisa O. Monaco, President Obama’s domestic security adviser, said on Wednesday, is from attempts to cause “concern or confusion” about the voting system.

Full Article: Sowing Doubt Is Seen as Prime Danger in Hacking Voting System - The New York Times.

National: Can your vote be hacked—after you cast it? | The Parallax

In early August, Donald Trump began expressing fear that the U.S. presidential election would be “rigged” against him. “I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest,” Trump told an audience in Columbus, Ohio. While much has been written about his remarks—as well as several others he made in the weeks following the Democratic National Convention—it remains an open question whether electronic databases storing votes can be hacked and manipulated. Voting has entered the digital era on two fronts. Electronic voting machines and, in some locations, Internet voting have introduced numerous opportunities for hackers to alter voting records. It is the security of massive spreadsheets recording the will of the people that concerns Richard Forno, a computer security expert who recently thrust himself into the national debate over the hackability of U.S. elections by publishing a column on the subject. “Everyone’s focusing on the edges of the network, the voting machines, but no one’s looking at the databases,” Forno, a career computer security expert and currently the director of the Graduate Cybersecurity Program at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, tells The Parallax.

Full Article: Can your vote be hacked—after you cast it? - The Parallax.

National: Can the vote really be hacked? Here’s what you need to know | CS Monitor

Recent cyberattacks on state voter databases and the Democratic National Committee are raising fresh concerns that hackers could manipulate the upcoming presidential election. … “When people hear how the Russians have infiltrated political parties or state election sites, they immediately jump to, ‘Oh, they can flip votes and change the result of an election,’ ” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. That’s much easier said than done, said Mr. Norden. State boards of elections and law enforcement officials are working to protect the vote, and election officials do have measures in place to safeguard elections. For instance, the Department of Homeland Security said it will monitor closely for suspected breaches on voting systems and work with election boards to bolster their security.  Still, according to Norden and other experts, more needs to be done. Here’s a closer look at potential problems at today’s ballot box and some solutions to harden the vote against hackers. 

Full Article: Can the vote really be hacked? Here's what you need to know - CSMonitor.com.

National: America can’t promise secure vote | McClatchy

Is it time to panic about Election Day? Not about the choices for president, but about whether the votes that millions of Americans will cast Nov. 8 will be secure. “My level of concern is pretty high,” said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan group created to develop guidelines following the disputed 2000 presidential election. Experts are warning that in a year of unending political drama, still more might be in store, from Russian hackers to obsolete voting machines prone to breakdowns, all with the potential for causing considerable political chaos. …  Computer security experts have long expressed concerns about the vulnerabilities of state voter registration rolls and the frailties of older voting machines. “Flipped votes, freezes, shutdowns, long lines and in the worst-case scenarios, lost votes and erroneous tallies,” is how a report last year, “America’s Voting Machines At Risk,” described the recurring problems of older machines. It was written by the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan public policy and legal research center at the New York University School of Law.

Full Article: The Lima News | America can’t promise secure vote.

National: Fear and hacking on the campaign trail: Will votes be secure? | McClatchy

Is it time to panic about Election Day? Not about the choices for president, but about whether the votes that millions of Americans will cast Nov. 8 will be secure. “My level of concern is pretty high,” said Thomas Hicks, chairman of the Election Assistance Commission, an independent, bipartisan group created to develop guidelines after the disputed 2000 presidential election. Experts are warning that in a year of unending political drama, still more might be in store, from Russian hackers to obsolete voting machines prone to breakdowns, all with the potential for causing considerable political chaos. … Nervousness over the apparatus by which the next president will be chosen seemed inevitable. Computer-security experts have long expressed concerns about the vulnerabilities of state voter-registration rolls and the frailties of older voting machines.

Full Article: Fear and hacking on the campaign trail: Will votes be secure? | The Seattle Times.

National: Security Experts Voice Fears About Election Result Accuracy, Integrity | eWeek

The U.S. election system will likely face a significant trial this year, thanks to a summer of startling revelations including nation-state-linked attacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and state voter databases, along with a statement of no-confidence by the Republican nominee. The result has been a slew of media stories positing how the election could be hacked. The ongoing cyber-attacks and raised doubts will put states’ choice of voting technology under the microscope, with a focus on the security of voting systems and the ability to audit the results produced by those balloting systems, according to election security experts. Unfortunately, while all but five states now have at least some systems with a verifiable paper trail, more than half do not have meaningful post-election audits, according to Verified Voting, a group focused on improving election-system integrity and accuracy. “We would like to see post-election audits everywhere,” Pamela Smith, director of the group, told eWEEK. “There is actual research showing that being able to conduct a robust audit in a public way brings confidence in the election. A voter-verifiable paper ballot is a tool to instill confidence that the election has come to true result.”

Full Article: Security Experts Voice Fears About Election Result Accuracy, Integrity.

National: Hackers hit Arizona, Illinois voter databases | USA Today

A suspected Russian hacker probed a voter registration database in Arizona and another unidentified attacker gained entry to one in Illinois this summer, election officials said, prompting the FBI to warn states their election boards should conduct vulnerability scans. The systems that count votes in elections were not compromised, officials said, and the hacks don’t appear to be politically motivated. Still, the breaches add to concerns such attacks could exploit the personal data of millions of voters for monetary or political gain. Those worries have been running high after July reports that the Democratic National Committee’s email system had been hacked, a breach U.S. intelligence officials believe was perpetrated by the Russian government. “We’re all very aware that it’s less than 80 days before an important election,” said Pamela Smith with Verified Voting, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that advocates for election transparency.

Full Article: Hackers hit Arizona, Illinois voter databases.

National: US election 2016: Why hackers could tip the result | The Independent

Reports this week of Russian intrusions into US election systems have startled many voters, but computer experts are not surprised. They have long warned that Americans vote in a way that’s so insecure that hackers could change the outcome of races at the local, state and even national level. Multibillion-dollar investments in better election technology after the troubled 2000 presidential election count prompted widespread abandonment of flawed paper-based systems, such as punch ballots. But the rush to embrace electronic voting technology – and leave old-fashioned paper tallies behind – created new sets of vulnerabilities that have taken years to fix. “There are computers used in all points of the election process, and they can all be hacked,” said Princeton computer scientist Andrew Appel, an expert in voting technologies. “So we should work at all points in that system to see how we make them trustworthy even if they do get hacked.”

Full Article: US election 2016: Why hackers could tip the result | The Independent.

National: Hacks of state voting systems reveal US vulnerabilities in 2016 | CS Monitor

Soon after the 2000 presidential elections went to a recount, Americans got acquainted with an exotic new vocabulary – hanging chads and butterfly ballots – and what lawmakers saw as a modern solution to the nightmare of punchcard voting systems: electronic voting machines. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, pouring nearly $3 billion into an effort to get states to adopt those machines. More than a decade and a half later, those same electronic machines are still around in many states. And the system arising from the 2002 congressional fix is now at the heart of growing concerns over the integrity of this year’s elections, with cybersecurity experts suggesting that it is an easy target for hackers. Federal authorities are beginning to get involved. But the best insurance for election integrity – a system that uses paper to back up electronic results – may require new federal funding. Not all of the country is on equally precarious footing. Partly because of bad experiences with glitches in electronic voting machines, some localities have been shifting in recent years toward paper-backed systems.

Full Article: Hacks of state voting systems reveal US vulnerabilities in 2016 - CSMonitor.com.

National: Analysis: Could hackers tip an American election? You bet | Chicago Tribune

Reports this week of Russian intrusions into U.S. election systems have startled many voters, but computer experts are not surprised. They have long warned that Americans vote in a way that’s so insecure that hackers could change the outcome of races at the local, state and even national level. Multibillion-dollar investments in better election technology after the troubled 2000 presidential election count prompted widespread abandonment of flawed paper-based systems, such as punch ballots. But the rush to embrace electronic voting technology – and leave old-fashioned paper tallies behind – created new sets of vulnerabilities that have taken years to fix. “There are computers used in all points of the election process, and they can all be hacked,” said Princeton computer scientist Andrew Appel, an expert in voting technologies. “So we should work at all points in that system to see how we make them trustworthy even if they do get hacked.”

Full Article: Analysis: Could hackers tip an American election? You bet - Chicago Tribune.

National: Voting Machines Are a Mess—But the Feds Have a (Kinda) Plan | WIRED

America’s voting machines are a patchwork of systems spread across thousands of districts, with widely varying degrees of accountability. It’s a mess. One that the Department of Homeland Security has finally committed to helping clean up. This week, DHS chief Jeh Johnson held a call with state election officials to outline, very roughly, the kind of assistance that DHS will provide to help prevent cyber attacks in this fall’s elections. For now, details are vague, and whatever DHS plans to do will need to happen quickly; election day may be November 8, but in some states, early voting starts in just six weeks. That’s not enough time to solve all of America’s voting machine issues. Fortunately, there’s still plenty DHS can accomplish—assuming the districts that need the most help realize it. The problems with America’s electronic voting machines are extensive, but also easily summarized: Many of them are old computers, and old computers are more vulnerable to disruptions both purposeful (malware) and benign (bugs).

Full Article: Voting Machines Are a Mess—But the Feds Have a (Kinda) Plan | WIRED.

National: These States Are At the Greatest Risk of Having Their Voting Process Hacked | MIT Technology Review

The recent cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee has raised the specter of an Internet-based assault on the democratic process in the U.S., and has led computer security experts to call on the federal government to do more to protect the voting process from hackers.Since national elections involve some 9,000 separate jurisdictions, and they use a variety of technologies, the problem at first appears to be hopelessly complex. But there is a simple way to manage the risk of cybercrime: keep voting off the Internet. … Congress passed a law in 2009 that made it mandatory for states to electronically deliver blank ballots to voters in the military and overseas. But it said nothing about the electronic return of completed ballots. The authors of the legislation “knew there were unsolved security issues,” says Pamela Smith, president of Verified Voting, a group that advocates for the accuracy and transparency of elections. But if the law had gone so far as to issue a blanket restriction on online voting, it may not have passed. Instead, the door remained open for more states to begin offering voters the option to return their completed ballots using the Internet.

Full Article: These States Are At the Greatest Risk of Having Their Voting Process Hacked.