Since the recount first raised the call for elections we can trust, we have been fighting to safeguard our elections from multiple sources of interference. That includes everything from voter suppression schemes to the stranglehold of big money, biased election coverage, exclusionary debates and more.
Safeguarding our elections also requires protecting our computerized voting system from the threat of hacking - whether from foreign or domestic actors.
Now the media is finally picking up on this critical story. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism covered our ongoing fight to check the voting machines in a recent article about the vulnerability of Wisconsin’s election systems, which made national newspapers!
The article mentions several ways the recount has galvanized the movement for election protection and voting justice.
For example, a University of Wisconsin study of recount results estimated that at least 1 in 117 votes was miscounted - an unacceptably high error rate that could easily swing the outcome of a close election.
In some communities, the error rates were much higher, like the town of Hazelhurst where over half the voters nearly had their votes deleted by a poll worker’s error.
In a country where recounts, audits or any kind of checks on election results are rare, this information is valuable for election integrity advocates, who are already using lessons learned from the recount to push for critically needed reforms.
One such victory happened in September 2017, when the Wisconsin Election Commission decertified an entire line of voting machines for the first time ever after they were observed miscounting votes during the recount in Racine County.
The problems brought into the spotlight during the recount are even getting attention from Congress, which allocated $380 million earlier this year to improve the security of election systems across the country. A representative from Wisconsin has also introduced a bill that would require paper ballots and routine post-election audits across the country.
Meanwhile, we are continuing the fight to determine the security of voting machines and software.
Our legal team in Wisconsin is making steady progress toward 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.
The biggest remaining obstacle in our way is the voting machine corporations’ attempts to gag us from sharing our findings from the public, even if we find evidence of error or intentional interference.
The voting machine corporations are making the outrageous claim that their trade secrets are more important than the integrity of American democracy. We are challenging them in court to ensure that we can share the information we learn with the public.
With the 2018 elections approaching, it’s more urgent than ever that we continue to demand elections we can trust, that are accurate, secure and just.
Thank you for being part of this critical movement for election protection and voting justice.
Last month, when Congress authorized three hundred and eighty million dollars to help states protect their voting systems from hacking, it was a public acknowledgement that, seven months out from the midterm elections, those systems remain vulnerable to attack.
America’s voting systems are hackable in all kinds of ways. As a case in point, in 2016, the Election Assistance Commission, the bipartisan federal agency that certifies the integrity of voting machines, and that will now be tasked with administering Congress’s three hundred and eighty million dollars, was itself hacked. The stolen data—log-in credentials of E.A.C. staff members—were discovered, by chance, by employees of the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, whose computers one night happened upon an informal auction of the stolen passwords. “This guy—we randomly called him Rasputin—was in a high-profile forum in the darkest of the darkest of the darkest corner of the dark Web, where hackers and reverse engineers, ninety-nine per cent of them Russian, hang out,” Christopher Ahlberg, the C.E.O. of Recorded Future, told me. “There was someone from another country in the forum who implied he had a government background, and he wanted to get his hands on this stuff. That’s when we decided we would just buy it. So we did, and took it to the government”—the U.S. government—“and the sale ended up being thwarted.” (Ahlberg wouldn’t identify which government agency his company had turned the data over to. The E.A.C., in a statement, referred questions about “the investigation or information shared with the government by Recorded Future” to the F.B.I. The F.B.I., through a Justice Department spokesperson, declined to comment.)Read more
One Pennsylvania county official claims his voting machines are unhackable. Another admits hers are old, but the county can’t afford to buy new ones. A third says he’s waiting for the state to tell him which new voting machines are safest for Pennsylvania voters.
At a time of national concern over foreign interference in U.S. elections, 57 percent of the voters in Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia’s, are casting their ballots on machines that are outdated, hackable, and don’t provide a paper record of each vote to safeguard against fraud.
After Texas, Pennsylvania has the most registered voters using machines with no paper trail, according to Verified Voting, a nonpartisan group promoting trustworthy voting systems.
In February, Gov. Wolf and Secretary of State Robert Torres told counties that any voting machines they buy must be able to produce a paper record for each individual vote. The state didn’t include any funding to help counties purchase new equipment and hasn’t yet certified any models.Read more
New Technology Allows Election Officials to Verify Votes Like Never Before—Will It Be Widely Used in 2018?
Technology has bestowed a stunning twist of fate in the arcane world of counting how America votes.
A decade ago, activists railed against private companies who made the computer-driven “black boxes” that tabulated election results. That opacity, to protect their trade secrets, fueled sore losers and conspiracy theories and thwarted journalistic investigations of miscounts or tampering.
But today, the voting machine industry’s newest devices are producing digital images of individual paper ballots, accompanied by devices that mark the ballot or its image, and include audit systems that can trace disputed ballots back to their precincts—by using technology that’s akin to how banks allow smartphones to securely deposit checks.Read more
Imagine depending on a 12-year-old cellphone or a 15-year-old computer for your personal or business needs. No one would fault you for seeking to replace that outdated equipment with newer, technologically superior models.
Many counties in the commonwealth own voting systems that old or even older.
Fortunately, voting machines remain reliable longer than cellphones and laptops. Also, Pennsylvania employs a host of measures – such as comprehensive monitoring and network isolation – to maintain their security.
With the cooperation of law enforcement and cybersecurity partners, we know that our elections will be run in a safe, secure way this year. But as our voting machines approach the end of their usable life, we must think and plan ahead now.Read more
Gov. Tom Wolf wants Pennsylvania counties to replace and upgrade their voting machines before the 2020 election. Under the plan, counties would use machines that create a paper backup as an added layer of security and accountability.
While key details, including cost, financing and the specific machines counties can choose from still need to be worked out, here are important things to know about the process.
How would the new system work?
A growing national trend is a system in which each voter creates a paper ballot that is then scanned into a statewide collection system. Differences among systems involve when the ballots are printed, who scans them into the system and where the scanning takes place. Once scanned, the votes can be tallied quickly.
The state is reviewing voting machines and plans to release a list of approved devices by autumn. Counties can only buy voting machines on the list.Read more
A federal judge has found Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of courtfor disobeying a court order in a case testing that state's controversial proof-of-citizenship voting law.
U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson says Kobach violated her preliminary injunction to allow some potentially ineligible voters to remain eligible to cast a ballot, pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
The judge found that the Kansas secretary of state, who has crusaded against voter fraud, failed to update his office's website informing some new voter applicants that they were still eligible to vote. She also found that Kobach's office did not send postcards to such voters, who had not shown proof-of-citizenship documents when they registered, as the judge required.
Kobach is a Republican who had led President Trump's now-disbanded commission on voter fraud. He is currently running for governor of Kansas.Read more
AFTER MONTHS OF stalled progress in Congress, efforts to promote and fund nationwide election security improvements have finally gained some momentum this week. The Senate Intelligence Committee released its long-awaited election infrastructure defense recommendations. Senate leaders got behind a revised version of the Secure Elections Act. And late Thursday night, the Senate passed the omnibus spending bill, which includes $380 million for securing digital election systems. All the pieces are in place. The solutions are clear. All that's left is the doing.
But, of course, that turns out to be the hardest part. Experts say that while Congress did take meaningful action this week, it likely comes too late to play an extensive role in securing this year's midterm elections.Read more
Democracy, the very essence of the United States, is under attack, we’re told at least once a week. Not because Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker refuses to hold special elections — literally denying all citizens the right to vote — because he’s afraid Republicans will lose. Not because the Pennsylvania GOP is threatening to impeach judges for issuing a fair redistricting map. And not because racist Republican voter ID laws are an extension of the decades-long attack on the Voting Rights Act, including the mass disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated people.
All of those things are happening, of course, and have a direct and harmful impact on the right to vote and have one’s vote counted in the United States, especially if you’re likely to vote Democrat.
But to hear it from most media outlets, a Russian disinformation campaign waged through Facebook and Twitter is currently the primary threat to the essence of US democracy.Read more
What's the best way to safeguard elections from hackers? Good old-fashioned paper ballots, says Marian Schneider, President of Verified Voting. She talks with NPR's Scott Simon.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST: Remember hanging chads - harried poll workers staring at punched paper ballots trying to determine what a dangling chad or stray mark may have indicated how somebody wanted to cast their ballot in the presidential election of 2000? Punch-card ballots and paper got a bad rap in favor of smooth, sleek, instantaneous electronic voting systems that were supposed to remove doubt. With those advancements came bigger problems. The major fear is now hacking, and more voices now urge a return to paper ballots.
Marian Schneider is president of Verified Voting, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that's dedicated to verifiability in elections. She joins us from the studios of WHYY in Philadelphia. Thanks so much for being with us.
MARIAN SCHNEIDER: Thank you for having me.Read more