State elections officials held an open house earlier this month to demonstrate five election systems vying to replace the voting machines that have been chugging away for the past 13 years. Just a few days earlier, a group of hackers in Las Vegas took part in a demonstration of their own, designed to show how easily they could exploit the machines used around the country and potentially compromise our elections process. The results were alarming. The first voting machine was hacked within 90 minutes. By the end of the afternoon, all five had been compromised. One was reprogrammed to play Rick Astley’s 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The whole thing had been Rick Rolled. … Barbara Simons, president of Verified Voting, has been sounding the alarm about voting machine security — or lack thereof — for years. But even she was skeptical before the DefCon hacker exercise that the hackers would be able to compromise the machines. She was wrong. And the Russian interest in hacking election equipment makes her doubly concerned.
“What 2016 showed me is we are vulnerable and if we don’t fix our voting systems, who knows what might happen? North Korea, ISIS, the Mafia — I’m sure you don’t have the Mafia in Utah, but still,” she said.
The good news is that Utah has an opportunity, as it overhauls its voting machines, to get it right — or at least as right as it can.
The best option, Simons says, is to go old-school: paper ballots and optical scanners. Then, there needs to be a robust manual audit to verify that the results match the actual ballots that are cast.