Our state’s voting machines are inherently flawed, and they cannot be trusted to accurately record or reflect the votes cast by the people of Pennsylvania. Whether it happens this month or not, the electronic voting systems in our state must undergo a full forensic evaluation by independent computer security experts. Without that evaluation and subsequent changes both in the machines and the procedures for using them, votes cast for our local, state and federal government will always be at risk for error or manipulation, and we can never be fully certain that the outcomes of our elections reflect the will of the voters. A number of years ago, I acquired two different electronic voting machines (known as DREs) from government surplus sales – the type used in Philadelphia County and the type used in Montgomery County – and, with Lehigh students, dismantled and examined them. In my assessment, none of the DREs used in Pennsylvania are capable of retaining a permanent physical record of each vote cast, which is required by the Pennsylvania Election Code. Many of the voting machines used in Pennsylvania, including those used in Philadelphia, create no permanent, physical record of each vote cast – in other words, these machines leave no paper trail. As anyone with a computer knows, data stored electronically is easily lost or corrupted. It would be comforting to think that voting machines are more sophisticated or secure than home or office computers, but in many ways, they are not. They are computers running software like all other computers running software, and they are vulnerable to the same kinds of problems as all of our other computers. Computer memory, including the memory that stores the votes in the voting machines used throughout the last election across Pennsylvania, can be written or rewritten with incorrect data as a result of software, hardware and human error, or as a result of intentional interference.
Voting machines can be tampered with in a number of ways that are virtually undetectable, even when the machines are not connected to the internet. Some of the ways in which voting machines can be compromised only require a screwdriver, a basic knowledge of computers and a few minutes alone with the machine. The memory cartridges used to program the ballot files for an election can likewise be a source of compromise. We cannot be sure that these machines reflect an accurate tally of votes, and we actually have reason to suspect that they might not.
Whether through interference or malfunction, it is completely possible that here, in Pennsylvania, a vote can be cast for one candidate but given to another, without the voter ever being aware of it or a physical record being created which could be later used during an authorized recount to undo the error. For these reasons, other states have banned or are phasing out the electronic voting systems used in Pennsylvania.
Full Article: The ticking time bomb in Pennsylvania’s election system.