Election experts have long warned about the nation’s aging fleet of voting equipment. This week’s elections underscored just how badly upgrades are needed. Across the country, reports poured in Tuesday amid heavy voter turnout of equipment failing or malfunctioning, triggering frustration among voters and long lines at polling places. Scanners used to record ballots broke down in New York City. Voting machines stalled or stopped working in Detroit. Electronic poll books used to check in voters failed in Georgia. Machines failed to read ballots in Wake County, North Carolina, as officials blamed humidity and lengthy ballots. Those problems followed a busy early voting period that revealed other concerns, including machines that altered voters’ choices in Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.
Verified Voting in the News
Experts this week warned against entertaining the idea that blockchain could fix the voting system despite growing frustration with the long lines and malfunctioning machines that caused problems during the midterm election. “If you’re trying to convince Walmart it needs blockchains to track avocados or whatever, be our guest,” Arvind Narayanan, an associate professor of computer science at Princeton, tweeted. “But if you’re messing with critical infrastructure, you’ve crossed a line.” Blockchain is technology that uses computers to build a shared, secure and decentralized digital ledger. Blockchain is best known as the basis for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin but in recent years has attracted interest from a variety of industries that see a benefit in using the ideas behind blockchain.
California: California doesn’t need better voting machines — it needs better audits, experts say | The Peninsula Press
When voters in Alameda and Santa Clara County head to the polls on Nov. 6, about one percent will cast their ballots on electronic voting machines that have known security vulnerabilities. California has safeguards in place. In addition to requiring paper records for votes cast on electronic machines, California also manually audits one percent of all ballots cast, to make sure there’s no discrepancy in the numbers. Now, experts like David Dill, a computer science professor at Stanford and founder of Verified Voting, are saying that isn’t enough, and are pushing states like California to implement more rigorous auditing methods. “The problem of protecting machines is pretty unmanageable, even with the best and most modern hardware … so what you need to do is select a bunch of ballots at random and hand count them in order to make sure the electronic counts are accurate,” says Dill.
Americans voting in this year’s midterm elections face a range of obstacles, from long lines to concerns over voter suppression. Some US citizens are also dealing with more unexpected challenges around exercising their right to vote—for instance, the weather. Across Georgia, heavy rain is an added hurdle for voters, though it’s not altogether deterring them. And humidity—a far less visible weather issue—is having an even larger impact. North Carolina’s State Board of Election (SBOE) reports that some precincts in Wake County are having trouble feeding ballots through the voting machines. “Initial reports from county elections offices indicate this issue is caused by high humidity levels,” North Carolina’s SBOE said in a release. Why is a little extra water vapor in the air making such a big difference? Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist with the Washington, DC-based nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and an election technology and cybersecurity expert, explains that ballots are made of a thick stock paper, the specifics of which are determined by voting machine vendors. There are three main makers of voting machines in the US. Local election officials have to work with paper vendors to get paper supplies that will function correctly with the machines and have safety requirements such as watermarks.
After Russia’s misinformation campaign rattled the 2016 United States election season, scrutiny over this year’s midterms has been intense. And while foreign cybersecurity threats have so far been relatively muted, an unclassified government report obtained by The Boston Globe this week indicates more than 160 suspected election-related incidents since the beginning of August, ranging from suspicious login attempts to compromised municipal networks. Officials haven’t attributed most of it to an actor yet, but the situations include suspicious attempted logins on election systems like voter databases and municipal network compromises. Even in July, Microsoft said it had spotted four incidents of attempted campaign phishing. … The government won’t go it alone. Verified Voting, a group that promotes election system best practices, is part of the nonpartisan Election Protection coalition, which offers a hotline for voter information and issues. Verified Voting particularly specializes in fielding questions about technology issues related to voting. Some of those have already come up; in Texas and Georgia, outdated software and poor design features on paperless voting machines have caused a small but jarring number of incidents in which votes appear to be switched from a voter’s selection.
It’s been two years since international interference sabotaged the United States’ election security, and still the vulnerability of our voting infrastructure remains a major problem. This past May, during Tennessee’s primary election, the Knox County election website fell prey to a DDoS attack. And just days ago, Texas voters experienced “ominous irregularities” from voting machines. In the lead up to the midterm elections, Radware surveyed Facebook users on the safety of U.S. elections, and the results paint a gloomy picture. The overwhelming majority (93.4 percent) of respondents believe that our election system is vulnerable to targeting and hacking—and they’re correct. What’s more, respondents were unable to suggest long-term tenable solutions when asked how the U.S. can improve its election safety (which is understandable, given the complexity of the issue). It is alarmingly quick and easy to hack into U.S. voting systems; just ask the 11-year-old boy who earlier this year demonstrated how he could hack into a replica of the Florida state election website and change voting results in under 10 minutes.
It’s been 18 years and several thousand lifetimes since the contested Bush-Gore presidential elections of 2000. Yet “hanging chads” are still haunting us — but not in the way you might think. Since states began introducing electronic voting machines and other technology in the voting process, digitizing various aspects of voting has been a boon for democracy in many ways. Online voter registration has supercharged get-out-the-vote efforts. ID scanning at check-ins helps reduce lines. And, of course, ballots submitted digitally allow for near instantaneous returns. But on Tuesday, there were reports in states across the country that problems with electronic voting machines were causing massive delays. “There are about a dozen states in which problems have been reported, specifically with electronic voting systems,” said Marian Schneider, president of the elections integrity organization Verified Voting. “The problems we’re seeing are diffuse. They don’t seem to be systemic. But in the localities that they’re happening, they’re impactful.” … “Our election administration is woefully underfunded,” said Schneider. “When we have problems on election day, you can trace it right back to resources.”
As key midterm elections approach, U.S. authorities are taking measures to make sure the balloting is secure and free of foreign influence. For years, a number of polling places have gone more high-tech with electronic voting machines. Fears about vulnerabilities in the systems, however, are turning eyes to a strikingly low-tech option — paper ballots. The United States largely moved away from paper ballots after the 2004 Help America Vote Act replaced lever and punch-card voting machines with Direct Recording Electronic, or DRE, systems. The reform was a direct result of the notoriously contested 2000 presidential election, which triggered weeks of recounts and multiple complaints about paper ballots in Florida. … The committee said many of the electronic voting systems are now outdated, and recommended all states go back to paper ballots — or, at least mandate that electronic machines produce a paper hard copy that can be audited.
National: Complaints Allege Cruz, Kemp Benefitting from Faulty Voting Machines That Change Dem Ballots to GOP | Law & Crime
Early voters submitting ballots for hotly contested races in Texas and Georgia claim that their states’ paperless voting machines are changing their votes for Democratic candidates to Republican, or deleting them altogether. According to Politico, individuals, as well as civil rights groups, have filed complaints alleging that glitches are resulting in votes for Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) instead of his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. There have also been complaints that votes have gone to Georgia’s Republican candidate for governor, Brian Kemp, instead of his Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams. Voting technology experts have said that this is not the result of foul play, but outdated, faulty systems that don’t even leave a paper trail of what happened. Kemp, who is currently the Georgia Secretary of State, has resisted past calls for the state to change voting systems. His state has used the same system since 2002. Texas only uses electronic machines in some counties, but there have been reports of ballots that were intended to be “straight ticket” votes for one party were changed to the other party.
There is a voting machine in J. Alex Halderman’s office, not a particularly large one, just an oversize computer tablet set into a plastic frame balanced on tubular legs. But Halderman’s office isn’t especially large, either, so the machine takes up an inordinate, almost clumsy, amount of space. The machine is a Diebold AccuVote-TSX. In the jargon of election machinery, it is a DRE, which is short for direct recording electronic: Voters touch the screen to make their choices, which are then logged in the AccuVote’s memory. This is not exotic technology. DREs have been used in American elections for three decades, and the AccuVote and similar machines are being used in some 30 states this fall, when voters are determining, among other things, which party will control one or both houses of the United States Congress and whether there will be any reasonable checks on the current administration. Halderman got his AccuVote-TSX on eBay. It cost him $94.90 from a seller in North Canton, Ohio, who by last spring had sold at least 40 other used AccuVote-TSXs and had at least 10 more for sale (by the last week of October, he either had sold out or gone out of business, as his listing was gone). Because Halderman is a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, he programmed his AccuVote to tally a two-candidate election for “greatest university” between Michigan and, of course, Ohio State.