America’s Votes: Still At Risk

After the 2000 and 2004 elections, voters and monitors nationwide reported problems with electronic voting machines.

These allegations of impropriety came amongst assurances by electronic voting machine manufacturers, such as Diebold, that the machines were fine (9/23/04):

But a Diebold spokesman insisted that the system is secure despite “incessant” criticism from organizations such as Black Box Voting…Even if the system could be hacked, he said, it could only be done by a person with “unfettered access to the system.”… “Quite honestly it’s somewhat insulting to elections officials and volunteers,” he said.

Diebold’s assurances weren’t true then and aren’t true now. A new GAO report finds significant problems with electronic voting machines:


While electronic voting systems hold promise for improving the election process, numerous entities have raised concerns about their security and reliability, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete voting system standards.

Some highlights from the report:

Weak Security System Controls: “Two reports documented how it might be possible to alter the ballot definition files on one model of DRE so that the votes shown on the touch screen for one candidate would actually be recorded and counted for a different candidate. In addition, one of these reports found that it was possible to gain full control of a regional vote tabulation computer””including the ability to modify the voting software””via a modem connection.”

Paper Trail Flaws: “If voting system mechanisms for protecting the paper audit trail were inadequate, an insider could associate voters with their individual paper ballots and votes, particularly if the system stored voter-verified ballots sequentially on a continuous roll of paper.”

Incorrect System Configuration: “For instance, a county in California presented some voters with an incorrect electronic ballot in the March 2004 primary. As a result, these voters were unable to vote on certain races.”

Poor Implementation of Security Procedures: “Reports from Maryland found that a regional vote tabulation computer was connected to the Internet, and that local officials had not updated it with several security patches, thus exposing the system to general security threats.”

Inadequate Security Management Programs: “[S]everal reports indicated that some state and local jurisdictions did not always have procedures in place to address problems with their electronic voting systems. For instance, one county in Pennsylvania reported that neither its election staff nor its technical division knew how to deal witih several problems that occurred on election day.”

Check out American Progress’s report with recommendations to reform our election system.