Can we trust the machines that record our votes in local polling places? That’s the gist of the question that listener Ryan McIntyre submitted to Curious City. Like many people across the country, McIntyre is worried that election results could be manipulated by today’s electronic voting machines. Here’s how he phrased his question: “After watching the HBO documentary, ‘Hacking Democracy,’ I find using the electronic voting machines, usually by the corporation Diebold, very frivolous since they can so easily be tampered with. Entire elections can be manipulated, vote totals, everything. Before I make my vote I demand that I use the paper ballot. What is being done to eliminate these machines from use in the city of Chicago, a city known to be ravaged by dirty politics anyways? My question can include the entire state of Illinois, not just Chicago.” The simplest answer to McIntyre’s question is that elections officials in Chicago, suburban Cook County and other local jurisdictions are likely to stick with the machines they’re using now, at least for the foreseeable future. And for what it’s worth, Diebold, which is now called Premier Election Solutions, didn’t make any of the voting machines used anywhere in Illinois, according to a database maintained by The Verified Voting Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group based in California.
… All of these machines used in Chicago and suburban Cook County are manufactured by Sequoia Voting Systems, which is part of the Canadian company Dominion. The Verified Voting Foundation says Sequoia’s touch-screen voting machines have “significant security weaknesses.” The Verified Voting website points to a 2007 study that the University of California, Berkeley conducted for the California secretary of state. The study looked at two machines, the AVC Edge and Edge2 — which are similar to the Edge2Plus that’s used locally. The study found flaws in data integrity, cryptography, access control and software engineering. “The nature of these weaknesses raises serious questions as to whether the Sequoia software can be relied upon to protect the integrity of elections,” the Verified Voting website says.
… Smith contrasts Illinois with other states that don’t require a paper record. One of those states is Indiana. According to Verified Voting, only seven Indiana counties keep a paper record for every vote. Porter County uses a paper ballot, but Lake County uses electronic voting machines without any paper record. Smith says, “I’d feel much more confident in a close contest in Illinois that had to have a recount than in a close contest in Indiana or Virginia or Pennsylvania or Georgia or a number of other states where they either have some or all of their polling places are completely paperless. … Unless you have that full-scale evidence trail … things can go wrong.”