Legacy voting machines ripe for tampering, breakdowns

Virginia considers decertifying touchscreen voting machines

The Virginia State Board of Elections is considering requiring all counties to get rid of touchscreen voting machines.

The move, reported by The Richmond Times-Dispatch, comes in the wake of this year's Defcon conference where hackers were able to penetrate multiple voting machines.

Eric Hodge, director of consulting at CyberScout, helped plan the event at Defcon and told GCN earlier this year that hackers made their way into the machine using a variety of methods.

There are currently 22 counties in Virginia that use touchscreen machines. The state already planned to phase out these machines before the 2020 election, but the board is considering moving up the requirement to have it in place before this November's election for governor, the Times-Dispatch reported.

Philip Stark, the associate dean of the Division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at University of California at Berkeley, told GCN that preventing all hacks against any computer system is impossible, so having a voting infrastructure that is auditable is the only way to ensure an accurate result.

Such audits are done using an optical scan system where voters fill out ballots on paper and a scanning system then creates a digital record of the vote. Most counties in Virginia have already transitioned to this kind of system, but other, more cash-strapped countries could struggle to meet the requirement by November.

Georgia, meanwhile, will be testing a new voting system in its November election. The state had transitioned fully to touch screen voting machines in 2002 and completely eliminated its papertrail, but now its going back to paper, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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