This column by Bruce Scheier raises a very good point about the November elections (boldface mine):
Even more important, we need to secure our election systems before autumn. If Putin’s government has already used a cyberattack to attempt to help Trump win, there’s no reason to believe he won’t do it again — especially now that Trump is inviting the “help.”
Over the years, more and more states have moved to electronic voting machines and have flirted with Internet voting. These systems are insecure and vulnerable to attack.
But while computer security experts like me have sounded the alarm for many years, states have largely ignored the threat, and the machine manufacturers have thrown up enough obfuscating babble that election officials are largely mollified.
We no longer have time for that. We must ignore the machine manufacturers’ spurious claims of security, create tiger teams to test the machines’ and systems’ resistance to attack, drastically increase their cyber-defenses and take them offline if we can’t guarantee their security online.
Longer term, we need to return to election systems that are secure from manipulation. This means voting machines with voter-verified paper audit trails, and no Internet voting. I know it’s slower and less convenient to stick to the old-fashioned way, but the security risks are simply too great.
I hate writing about this because it’s seems tin foil helmet-ey. But several statisticians have looked at the presidential results from 2008 and 2012, both between Democrats and Republicans, as well as among Republicans, and there are some really weird patterns that would be consistent with tampering. One Wichita State University researcher filed a suit to get Kansas, which uses electronic voting machines that also have a paper record, to release voting data to investigate this:
A Wichita State University mathematician sued the top Kansas election official Wednesday, seeking paper tapes from electronic voting machines in an effort to explain statistical anomalies favoring Republicans in counts coming from large precincts across the country…
Clarkson, a certified quality engineer with a Ph.D. in statistics, said she has analyzed election returns in Kansas and elsewhere over several elections that indicate “a statistically significant” pattern where the percentage of Republican votes increase the larger the size of the precinct.
While it is well-recognized that smaller, rural precincts tend to lean Republican, statisticians have been unable to explain the consistent pattern favoring Republicans that trends upward as the number of votes cast in a precinct or other voting unit goes up. In primaries, the favored candidate appears to always be the Republican establishment candidate, above a tea party challenger. And the upward trend for Republicans occurs once a voting unit reaches roughly 500 votes.
“This is not just an anomaly that occurred in one place,” Clarkson said. “It is a pattern that has occurred repeatedly in elections across the United States.”
The pattern could be voter fraud or a demographic trend that has not been picked up by extensive polling, she said.
“I do not know why this trend is there, but I know that the pattern is there and one way to establish that it is or is not election fraud is to go and do a physical audit of paper records of voting machines,” she said.
Clarkson wants the hard copies to check the error rate on electronic voting machines that were used in a voting station in Sedgwick County to establish a statistical model…
Clarkson became more interested in the issue after reading a paper written by statisticians Francois Choquette and James Johnson in 2012 of the Republican primary results showing strong statistical evidence of election manipulation in Iowa, New Hampshire, Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Clarkson said she couldn’t believe their findings, so she checked their math and found it was correct and checked their model selection and found it appropriate. Then she pulled additional data from other elections they hadn’t analyzed and found the same pattern.
First, we need as many paper trails as possible. Second, the Democrats, for once, can’t be caught with their pants down: they need to have legal teams ready to go to impound the machines (along with analysts who can examine the code).
Even if Clinton blows out Trump (not likely, but it could happen), Democrats should still investigate. It’s too important not to do so.