Virginia (Again) Dumps Electronic Voting Devices Over Concerns About Election Interference

from the deja-vu-for-President! dept

It seems Virginia can't catch a break when it comes to voting. Trusting vendors to provide secure electronic voting devices just isn't paying off. Two years ago, Virginia pulled a bunch of voting machines after it was discovered they were leaky, insecure devices masquerading as something American voters could trust.

The security wasn't just bad in the way many machines are -- frailties that can only be sussed out by security researchers and talented criminals. No, they were bad in the way your grandparents' Google Box is: "secured" with passwords like "abcde" or "admin," along with accessible DOS prompts and multiple open ports.

Time moves on but the electronic portion of Virginia's electoral system does not.

Virginia’s election supervisors on Friday directed counties to ditch touchscreen voting machines before November’s elections, saying the devices posed unacceptable digital risks.


The decision forces Virginia counties to swiftly replace any touchscreen devices with machines that produce a paper trail, ensuring the state can audit its closely watched gubernatorial race this November between Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie.

With possible interference in last year's presidential election not even in the rearview mirror yet, Virginia's government is moving up the date of its planned obsolescence. As Politico notes, there's already a law on the books in Virginia phasing out use of touchscreen voting devices by 2020. This just moves that date forward three years, just in time for this year's elections.

It's not that electronic voting devices are inherently bad. It's just that they appear to be inherently flawed. Report after report shows multiple vulnerabilities in voting machines and yet, year after year, there appears to be little forward motion on the security side. This is baffling, considering learning from mistakes is one of those things even lab rats can do -- but it often seems to be almost impossible for voting device vendors. The flaws generally aren't the result of meticulously-targeted exploits by criminals, but rather the sorts of things that shouldn't go overlooked when vetting machines for use in the public sector.

The paperless office may be on the threshold but the (secure) paperless vote is continually several years away.

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Filed Under: dre, e-voting, elections, hacking, paper trail, virginia, voting machines

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Sep 2017 @ 8:12am

    Re: Re: What's Wrong With Scan Ballots?

    "There's really no difference between this and a purely electronic machine which prints out a copy of your receipt"

    It isn't the UI or the report that is the hard part. It is validation that is difficult.

    The way I would do it, is have each machine arranged in a horseshoe, and run a constant recording of a string cortet in the middle of all the voting machines. Each vote gets superimposed over a video frame, and then block chained. Validation is by watching the video. If there was tampering, the blockchain wouldn't validate, and the video wouldn't play back properly. Running the bare video next to the vote superimposed video would reveal any hanky panky.

    In this way, you could post the videos on a website, and everyone could verify by timestamp, their own votes indefinately after the fact. And if so inclined vote counting could be done by anyone who chose to take on the task.

    But there are probably other ways. Really there should be an X-prize for this or something. The state will never build a workable solution, or permit one to be built on contract. It is a group psychology thing. It can be done, but it can't be done by committee.

    So yet again the world will be saved by FOSS. Hold the cape and gold stars, and just bring beer and virtuous maidens.

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