The most secure form of voting technology remains the familiar, durable innovation known as paper, according to a report authored by a group of election experts, including two prominent scholars from MIT. The report, issued by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, is a response to the emerging threat of hackers targeting computerized voting systems, and it comes as concerns continue to be aired over the security of the U.S. midterm elections of 2018. The U.S. has a decentralized voting system, with roughly 9,000 political jurisdictions bearing some responsibility for administering elections. However, for all that variation, and while many questions are swirling around election security, the report identifies some main themes on the topic.
A federal judge ruled Monday that Georgia can continue using electronic voting machines in November’s election despite concerns they could be hacked. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg denied a request for an injunction that would have forced the state’s 6.8 million voters to switch to hand-marked paper ballots. Totenberg made her decision in an ongoing lawsuit from voters and election integrity organizations who say Georgia’s direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines are untrustworthy and insecure. Georgia is one of five states that relies entirely on electronic voting machines without a verifiable paper backup. Her 46-page order Monday said she was concerned about “voter frustration and disaffection from the voting process” if she had prohibited electronic voting machines just weeks before the election. “There is nothing like bureaucratic confusion and long lines to sour a citizen,” Totenberg wrote.
In my community, we vote by filling in circles on a paper sheet that goes into a scanner — we have a paper trail. Can such a process still be hacked? Yes, though paperless voting machines can more easily be hacked. Professors Ronald Rivest of MIT and J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan explained on Sept. 13 in a session at EmTech MIT on how hackers can alter elections. According to Rivest, about 80% of voting jurisdictions in the U.S. have some sort of paper trail in the event of voting-machine hacks. If, however, you vote in Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey, South Carolina, or Nevada, there is no way to hand-count the votes should the need arise; votes are electronically recorded. The map below reveals that many other states use a mixture of paper and paperless voting systems.
A federal judge ruled Monday that forcing Georgia to scrap its electronic voting machines in favor of paper ballots for the upcoming midterm elections is too risky, though she said she has grave concerns about the machines that experts have said are vulnerable to hacking. U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg’s ruling means the state won’t have to use paper ballots for this year’s midterm elections, including a high-profile gubernatorial contest between the state’s top elections official, Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and Democrat Stacey Abrams, a former state House minority leader who’s trying to become the country’s first black, female governor. Voting integrity advocates and Georgia voters sued state and county election officials, arguing the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and provide no way to confirm that votes have been recorded correctly because there’s no paper trail.
WJBF Atlanta Bureau Chief Ashley Bridges was in oral arguments as attorneys for Secretary Brian Kemp and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office fought back against a suit to immediately move to paper ballots due to the insecurity of Georgia’s election system. Federal Court proceedings do not allow recording devices, but here’s a rough log of Bridges’ “Reporter’s Notebook.” Areas that may be of particular interest, or that grew particularly heated. Attorneys referenced below for the Plaintiff’s filing the case are Cross, Macguire and Brown. \Attorneys for Kemp and the Secretary of State are former Governor Roy Barnes and his son-in-law John Salter. (A political twist that surprised many when Democrat Barnes took the case, instead of Georgia’s own attorney general) Totenberg is the judge.
Plaintiffs: Present a just-released National Academy of Sciences report claiming, “Every effort should be made to use human-readable paper ballots in the 2018 election.”
Salter for Secretary of State: Claimed Kemp believes that the election can be “safely and accurately” conducted and Plaintiffs want judge to “rule to make this elephant have wings and fly”
Totenberg: “The reality is times change and we’re in a rapidly changing time”
Logan Lamb, a cybersecurity sleuth, thought he was conducting an innocuous Google search to pull up information on Georgia’s centralized system for conducting elections. He was taken aback when the query turned up a file with a list of voters and then alarmed when a subsequent simple data pull retrieved the birth dates, drivers’ license numbers and partial Social Security numbers of more than 6 million voters, as well as county election supervisors’ passwords for use on Election Day. He also discovered the server had a software flaw that an attacker could exploit to take control of the machine. The unsecured server that Lamb exposed in August 2016 is part of an election system — the only one in the country that is centrally run and relies upon computerized touch-screen machines for its voters — that is now at the heart of a legal and political battle with national security implications. On one side are activists who have sued the state to switch to paper ballots in the November midterm elections to guard against the potential threat of Russian hacking or other foreign interference. On the other is Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who has declared the electronic system secure and contends that moving to paper ballots with less than two months to Election Day will spawn chaos and could undermine confidence among Georgia’s 6.8 million voters.
A federal judge who’s considering whether Georgia should have to switch from electronic voting machines to paper ballots for the November election called the situation “a catch-22.” Voting integrity groups and individuals sued state and county election officials, arguing that the touchscreen voting machines Georgia has used since 2002 are vulnerable to hacking and provide no way to confirm that votes have been recorded correctly because they don’t produce a paper trail. They’ve asked U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to order Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor, to implement the use of paper ballots for the Nov. 6 midterm elections.
A new national report from election and hacking experts is calling for states to make some changes before the 2020 presidential election. The report, which was written by a panel of experts on computer science and election administration, recommends states use paper ballots, whether they are counted by hand or machine, because they can’t be tampered with online and can be re-counted if necessary. It also recommends increasing state funding for election administration, including training for workers. Kevin Kennedy, the former director of Wisconsin’s elections agency, served on the committee that wrote the report. He noted Wisconsin already uses paper ballots, which were used in the 2016 presidential recount, but he believes the state hasn’t funneled enough money into training for election workers. “They’ve always been behind the eight ball on that,” Kennedy said. “They could always use more funding.”
National: New NASEM Report Suggests Blockchain And Online Voting Systems Are No-Go | BitCoinExchange
The United States National Academies of Sciences (NASEM) released a report which asserted that virtual voting systems ought to be shelved. The firm is supporting the use of paper ballots in the entire US electoral system by 2020. According to the report entailed in the 156 page document, NASEM insists that virtual systems of voting ought to be shelved until such a time that the system can be verified to be secure. Authors of the said report are of the view that making use of the blockchain as an irreversible ballot box may appear promising, however, the technology may not be in a position of addressing the essential issues of the electoral process. The report is in essence a conclusion of a study that lasted two years. The committee behind the research comprised of election scholars, cybersecurity experts, as well as social scientists. Over and above, the report campaigns for the use of human-readable paper ballots in the next US elections.
The security of Georgia’s touchscreen electronic voting machines will be under scrutiny in a federal courtroom Wednesday. A group of voters and election security advocates want a federal district court judge to order the state to not use the machines in this November’s election and replace them with paper ballots. “I will not cast my vote on those machines, as I have no confidence that those machines will accurately record, transmit, and county my vote,” said one of the plaintiffs, Donna Curling, in a court filing. Early voting in the state begins on Oct. 15 and election officials say a switch at this point would mean chaos, and potentially suppress turnout.