More On Hacking The Vote

And I don’t mean hack in that positive lifehacking sense.

I’ve written many times before about how, during the 2008 and 2012 elections, both in the general and Republican primary, there appears to be a pattern in multiple states, wherein one candidate does better in larger precincts (not counties, where that might be expected, but precincts). Every time I write about this, I hope someone comes up with a good explanation for this, but I’m starting to doubt that will happen.

All the kewl kidz are finally starting to worry about hacking of voting systems largely because they are worried the Russkies will hack the election (I’M IN UR ELECTIONZ STEALIN ALL UR VOTES!). But, if this Politico story is any indication, this has already happened (boldface mine):

In Fairfax County, Virginia, an investigation into a 2003 school board race found that a vote was subtracted for every 100 votes cast for one of the candidates on 10 machines. With margin sizes small enough to be noticed, local elections were vaulted into the forefront of these debates…

But the tipping point came in 2006, when a major congressional race between Vern Buchanan and Christine Jennings in Florida’s 13th District imploded over the vote counts in Sarasota County—where 18,000 votes from paperless machines essentially went missing (technically deemed an “undervote”) in a race decided by less than 400 votes….

The auditing techniques of most states aren’t sophisticated enough to detect a subtle attack—every 100th vote switched from Trump to Hillary Clinton, for instance. “The whole point of a Risk Limiting Audit is not to find the tally down to the last digit,” explains Wallach. “The problem you’re trying to figure out is if the error rate is big enough that I could change who won.”

And some asshole with a blog recently wrote this:

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).

Because this should scare the shit out of every single Democrat (boldface mine):

But most identified Pennsylvania as the greatest concern. There, according to Verified Voting 47 counties of 67 vote on digital voting machines without a written backup record if something were to go awry—a reality that is very much on the minds of state officials (legislation is working its way through the House to examine the issue of voting modernization.) In Pittsburgh and Philadelphia—two Democratic strongholds whose turnout typically decide the fate of the state’s outcome—around 900,000 voters will cast ballots entirely on paperless touchscreens DREs, if previous elections are any guide. Then, at least from the voters’ perspective, they will disappear into a sea of ones and zeroes.

Montgomery County, a crucial Democratic redoubt in the suburbs of Philadelphia—an area sometimes seen as having the potential to swing the entire state—is one such locality that uses a paperless electronic machine, and only one machine, for all 425 precincts: Appel’s Sequoia AVC Advantage.

With all the talk about how Trump is wrong about the elections being rigged–against him–I worry that we’re setting ourselves for a real problem in the other direction.

Just use optical scans and publicly announce precinct tallies at the precincts. This is too important not to get right.

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3 Responses to More On Hacking The Vote

  1. Felicis says:

    Vote by mail – like we do in Oregon. There’s a paper trail, and plenty of time for people to fill out their ballots which can be returned at the public library if you aren’t interested in spending money on a stamp.

  2. Net Denizen says:

    Of all the voting systems that have potential to be tampered with, electronic voting with no paper trail is the absolute worst, short of tin-pot dictator ballot stuffing methodologies.

  3. elkern says:

    Felicis – Voting by mail (or even worse – internet!) just feels wrong. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I think it’s important for PEOPLE to be voting in the same place, with other PEOPLE in their local communities. Humans are a social species. We belong in meatspace, together, doing things together, at least to remind us that we’re all human, even those “idiots who desperately need [Mike’s] assistance”!

    but to the point of Mike’s article – I totally agree: we all need to push for elimination of paperless ballots, fast. Maybe Trump’s blather about this can be used to create consensus across party lines?

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