When state election officials ordered the immediate elimination of touch-screen voting machines in early September, the decision struck some localities as hasty. Now it looks as though it might have come just in the nick of time. The Board of Elections issued the order after hearing about vulnerabilities in the touch-screen systems. A demonstration at a tech conference this summer showed just how easy it is to hack into supposedly secure machines — by using a touch-screen machine from Virginia. Replacing the machines in the dozen or so localities, mostly small and rural, that still rely on them will strain their abilities. Board member Clara Bell Wheeler even expressed concern that the resulting confusion could disenfranchise some voters. But after hearing about technical vulnerabilities in a closed-door session, Wheeler agreed the switch was necessary. She called the briefing “enlightening.”
This past Friday voters around the state were enlightened, too. The Department of Homeland Security alerted 21 states that hackers targeted their voting systems in 2016. Virginia is among those 21.
… Now the task at hand is to ensure that new voting systems are up and running flawlessly before Election Day on Nov. 7 — and that voters in the affected localities are properly informed of how to cast ballots using the new technology. Otherwise confusion, discord, uncertainty, and voting irregularities would result. Those outcomes would amount to as much of a victory for hackers as actual vote manipulation.