This week, the U.S. government confirmed that Russian hackers infiltrated voting systems in several states, having targeted 21 of them. While there is currently no evidence suggesting any votes were changed, a hostile foreign power did gain access to voter registration databases — the vital foundation of election integrity. After all, if you control who can and cannot vote, you control a democracy. America’s foolish experiment with digital voting processes must end. The Kremlin — or other hostile foreign actors — will certainly strike again. It’s time for good old-fashioned paper to make a comeback. Researchers at Princeton University have shown that they can pick the lock on voting machines in seven seconds. In minutes, they could have replaced the machine’s chip with a malicious one, ensuring that voters who voted for candidate A were recorded as having voted for candidate B. Thankfully, their demonstrations were just for research. But they could have been real.
All Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines are vulnerable to local (in-person) hacking. Some can also be hacked remotely, over the Internet. These vulnerabilities are particularly glaring for machines without a voter-verified paper audit trail, which enables voters to see their vote choice on a piece of paper and verify that their vote was recorded correctly.
DRE voting machines without any paper trail whatsoever are in use in 15 different states. About 1 in 5 voters cast a ballot without any sort of verified paper trail. Even if foul play were suspected, it would be virtually impossible to audit the tally, because the only recorded votes would be on the compromised machine itself.