The state’s voting machines are so vulnerable to tampering and error that it’s impossible to tell whether ballots are counted properly, a coalition of civil rights groups told an appellate panel Tuesday in a long-running case that has drawn national attention from computer security experts and voting officials. The three judges must decide whether to order the state to replace tens of thousands of electronic voting machines with newer technology designed to be more secure. The problem, advocates say, isn’t just theoretical: Voting machine irregularities caused a Superior Court judge to throw out a South Jersey election in 2011. Critics say it’s impossible to determine whether that was an isolated incident.
“The citizens of New Jersey are still voting on machines that can be tampered with and can lose votes,” argued Penny M. Venetis, co-director of the Rutgers University School of Law’s constitutional litigation clinic, who brought the suit eight years ago.
She argued that New Jersey’s voting machines are so insecure they violate residents’ constitutional rights, and she wants the courts to order the state to upgrade to technology that provides voters with a paper record of their ballots.
The state does a better job, Princeton University computer security expert Andrew Appel has said, of securing slot machines in Atlantic City — which are subjected to exhaustive hardware and software tests by the Division of Gaming before they ever hit the casino floor.