WASHINGTON (AP) — Remember the term “hanging chads?”
Few could forget the weekslong hubbub over vote-counting in Florida in 2000
that led to a recount, a Supreme Court ruling and a national debate about
the veracity of the system by which voters cast their ballots.
But 12 years later, the voting system is still far from fail-proof,
according to a state-by-state report released Wednesday.
Almost half of states use voting systems for overseas and military voters
that could be susceptible to hackers, says the report by Rutgers Law School
and two good-governance groups: Common Cause Education Fund and the Verified
Voting Foundation. Dozens of states lack proper contingency plans, audit
procedures or voting machines that produce backup paper records in case
something goes wrong.
Colorado, Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina are
least prepared to catch problems and protect voter enfranchisement, the
study showed. Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin are in
the best shape.
Twenty-four states let overseas and military voters return their ballots
through electronic means — such as the Internet, email or fax — that could
fall victim to hackers or infringe on the right to a secret ballot. When the
District of Columbia experimented with an online voting system in 2010,
hackers broke in and changed votes to fictional characters.
“People understand cyber security threats,” said Susannah Goodman of Common
Cause. “They understand you don’t send an email with your Social Security
number as the subject line.”
And yet, Goodman said, states are asking people to send in emails with the
subject line “Here’s my ballot.”
In 16 states, at least some polling places are using electronic voting
machines — largely put in place to eliminate the hanging-chad issue of 2000
— that don’t produce a paper record as a backup. That means there’s no
independent way to verify the voter’s intention if the machine malfunctions
or a recount is necessary.
Dozens of other states lack proper contingency plans in case electronic
machines fail, or audit procedures to make sure ballots don’t disappear or
emerge out of thin air.
With Election Day less than four months out, there’s little states can do to
correct the problems before Nov. 6. But the report’s authors said many
states are already moving to ensure their voting systems have as little
vulnerability as possible.
No states are moving to buy new paperless voting systems, and many states
are replacing aging equipment with more verifiable systems. More states also
are making audits part of their standard postelection routine.
Read the report: