Toyed with by white-hat hackers and targeted for scathing reviews from secretaries of state in California and Ohio, Direct Recording Electronic voting systems, or DREs, have startled Illinois voters by flashing the word “Republican” at the top of a ballot and forgotten what day it was in South Carolina. They were questioned in the disappearance of 12,000 votes in Bernalillo County, New Mexico, in 2002 and 18,000 votes in Sarasota County, Florida, in 2006.
“Antiquated, seriously flawed and vulnerable to failure, breach, contamination and attack,” U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg wrote of Georgia’s aging DRE system before ordering the state to replace it in 2019. . . .
New technology also has its share of criticism. Internet voting has been roundly panned by computer experts citing wide-open opportunities for hacking. Georgia’s replacement system for DREs had been rejected by Texas and is the subject of a court battle over accuracy. . . .
All election systems are for the most part black boxes: proprietary software and hardware jealously guarded by the handful of companies selling them. But state reviews and court cases opening up DRE systems of all makes and models for examination have for years flagged problems.
In New Jersey in 2008, Princeton computer scientist Andrew Appel and a five-member team got a rare look under the hood of an AVC Advantage DRE, part of a lawsuit alleging DREs could not reliably count votes. . . .
Among the findings: The system sometimes only seemed to record a vote. It sometimes did record a vote but seemed not to. It would take one screwdriver and seven minutes to insert a vote-stealing program. That kind of hack would probably be invisible, Appel concluded.
More than a decade later, Appel is still talking about DRE vulnerabilities. And although the New Jersey governor, citing COVID-19, has created a nearly all-mail election, 19 New Jersey counties still have their DRE equipment on hand for the next contest, according to state records.
Nationally, if the surge in absentee ballots has not decreased in-person voting, more than 14 million registered voters would be going Tuesday to polls that are equipped with DREs.
“The whole community of computer scientists is mystified why election officials will not listen to experts about technology but will listen to the vendors (selling and maintaining it),” said Duncan Buell, a professor of computer science and engineering at the University of South Carolina who examined that state’s system. . . .
“The real problem with DREs is that you cannot recover (vote results), even if you are lucky enough to detect that there is an error or it has been tampered with,” said Marian Schneider, former president of Verified Voting.
But now, you know, even mentioning these concerns makes you a “conspiracy theorist.”