ProPublica reported on the high costs and cash-strapped budgets facing state and local election officials struggling to replace flawed and aging voting equipment. “Today’s voting systems are not going to last 70 years, they’re going to last 10,” says U.S. Elections Assistance Commission Commissioner Matt Masterson. “Election officials are low on the totem pole, budget-wise,” says Masterson. “A lot of times it’s you or a new gazebo or improvements to the local golf course.”
Masterson was in the news this when it was announced that at the behest of Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan and the White House, he would be replaced at the end of his current term. The move was faced disappointment and criticism by many election officials and advocates. This is insanity,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, an election security expert who is the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “Matt is extremely capable and has been a champion of more secure and better elections the entire time he’s been on the EAC.”
Kim Zetter wrote an extensive article for the New York Times, which explores the routine claims that any voting software or equipment is invulnerable to hacking. As her article details, many critical election systems in the United States are poorly secured and protected against malicious attacks. The specific issue of voting machine modems is discussed in a post on the Freedom to Tinker blog by Andrew Appel.
With concern about election cybersecurity growing with every new turn in the investigation of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, there were several stories this week that highlighted the security vulnerabilities of internet voting. In an effort to improve the security of the state’s elections, the Alaska Division of Elections announced it will no longer a absentee voting through a web portal. Maryland faced criticism for their use of an online ballot marking system. In a Baltimore Sun article,George Washington University computer science professor Poorvi Vora warned that hackers could use the system to request multiple absentee ballots using multiple identities. And Switzerland’s plans to introduce e-voting nationwide were questioned by leading data protection experts who warned that current technology could not guarantee that ballots remain secret in votes and elections.
Voting system security has become a campaign issue in the Georgia gubernatorial race involving the current chief state election administrator. Ina disappointing development, a Tennessee Senate committee voted down a bill that would’ve required a paper receipt for all ballots cast in the state.
The Washington Post suggests that Sweden’s preemptive efforts to counter expected Russian election interference and cyber attacks could serve as a model for the US. “Russian espionage is still the biggest threat to Sweden,” the country’s head of counter-intelligence told an annual press briefing. “We see that Russia has an intention to influence individual issues that are of strategic importance. If these issues become central in the election campaign, we can expect attempts at Russian influence.”