Hardly a week goes by without a new story about how vulnerable our elections are.
Reports from this year’s DEFCON hacking convention showed that an 11-year old needed just 10 minutes to hack the Florida Secretary of State’s website to change election results. Earlier, a report on the $380 million dollar Congressional allocation to replace insecure voting machines showed that 11 of 13 states that use paperless electronic voting machines still won’t have enough money to fully replace them. Meanwhile, the debate rages on about whether our elections infrastructure could have been compromised by hackers.
When we launched the 2016 recount with the support of over 161,000 people, we knew it wasn’t just a single election people were worried about, but the whole system. Over and over, we heard the concern that the computers and technology that were supposed to make our elections modern and reliable had instead made them more vulnerable to error and tampering than before.
So when the recount in Wisconsin made it possible to examine voting machine software, we jumped at the rare opportunity to look inside the voting machines to see if they deserve the immense trust we’re told to put in them.
Wisconsin law allows us to conduct a groundbreaking state-wide examination of the voting machine “source code” - a crucial piece of voting machine software that controls the actual counting and tallying of the votes. Incredibly, the source code for voting software has never before been examined in depth for evidence of tampering or errors that could compromise an election!
But when the voting machine corporations heard this, they immediately leapt into action to try to prevent any independent scrutiny of their technology. Although they’ve succeeded in dragging the process out for almost two years, the law is clear: we have the right to examine the software, and the Wisconsin Election Commission agrees.
So now the voting machine corporations - Elections Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Inc. - are trying another tactic. Since they can’t stop us from inspecting their machines, now they’re demanding that the Wisconsin Elections Commission impose a gag rule to prevent us and our computer experts from making any public statements about the examination, no matter what we find.
Think about that for a minute. That means that if the corporations get their way, even if we discover evidence of errors or tampering that could have changed the outcome of the election, we’ll be prohibited from telling anyone about it under penalty of law.
The law already prevents us from revealing their trade secrets. The only reason for them to push for this gag rule is to prevent us from revealing any problems with their voting machines, which would threaten their ability to keep profiting off our elections.
So there you have it: for the corporations that control the counting of our votes, their profits are more important than our democracy.
Fortunately, the Wisconsin Elections Commission agrees with us that the voting machine corporations’ proposed gag rule is illegitimate and an overreach, and said as much to the court in a legal brief filed in August.
We’re still in court arguing that the public has a right to know if there are any problems with the voting machines we use, and we expect to win.
That said, dealing with voting machine corporations has only reinforced our belief that elections should be controlled top to bottom by the public, with recountable paper ballots and open-source technology that is accurate and secure.
It’s outrageous that we even have to go to court to argue that our democracy is more important than corporate profits. What a commentary on the corporate hijack of the political establishment!
With the 2018 elections practically here, it’s more urgent than ever that we continue to demand elections we can trust, that are accurate, secure and just.
Stay tuned for the first-ever independent examination of voting machine source code, and thank you for being part of this critical movement for election protection and voting justice.