VULNERABLE VOTING SYSTEMS

America's electronic voting systems are aging, error-prone and vulnerable to hacking and internal manipulation that cannot be detected.
 


OVERVIEW

The right to vote in our republic is meaningless unless our votes are counted accurately and transparently. Yet American voting systems currently rate among the worst in the world for upholding the basic principles of democratic elections.

The 2002 Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funneled $3.9 billion to states to buy electronic voting systems from a handful of private companies whose electronic machines count votes using "proprietary" software that is legally off limits to public inspection, even by elections officials. 

These voting systems have been repeatedly proven vulnerable to manipulation, and prone to errors and malfunctions.

Quick Facts:

  • America's nearly 9000 voting jurisdictions in 50 states are a patchwork of local laws governing ballot process and machine auditing, with no uniform standards or basic principles for election integrity and transparency. 
  • Seventeen states use Touchscreen voting machines that provide no paper record at all.
  • Nearly all American ballots, including those cast in popular vote-by-mail systems, are now processed by these "black box" systems.
  • Where paper ballots are used with Optical Scanners, most states do not conduct meaningful audits, and many fail to uphold common-sense standards such as randomness (precincts or races are actually chosen weeks in advance) and public oversight.
  • Some so-called audits consist of having the same voting machines print internal results again, which is not technically an audit.
  • Electronic voter rolls are spreading nationwide, making voting lists equally vulnerable to hacking and manipulation.
  • Looming on the horizon is Internet voting, offering no transparency or security, and the greatest opportunity for fraud, voter intimidation, and foreign hacking of our elections.

Currently the burden of proof of stolen elections rests on the voter or candidate whose election was stolen. 

In the cases of suspicious results or rule violations, elections administrators, political parties, Secretaries of State, and Justice Department officials, often decline to take action.

Elections officials typically lack advanced technological expertise. Many are still unaware of how vulnerable these systems are to fraud. While most election officials are hard working, and care about protecting elections, electronic voting systems nevertheless open doors for corrupt insiders to manipulate our elections.

After decades of monitoring American elections, many integrity advocates support nothing less than a full and secure hand-count of paper ballots done at the precinct. However to date, there has been no political will to carry out a fully verified election, though it is done in many other countries.
 

EXTENSIVE FAILURES of E-Voting

Voting machines are owned and operated by private companies that use trade secrets and copyright law to keep their software off limits to public inspection. Nonetheless, hundreds of elections have been impacted by visible machine malfunctions, causing voters to be disenfranchised and even calling into question the election results.

Electronic voting machines have:

  • Forced states to hold new elections
  • Added and subtracted votes not cast by voters
  • Changed voters’ choices on the screen
  • Given voters the wrong ballot
  • Passed pre-election testing and failed on election day  
  • Reversed election outcomes
  • Broken down, causing long lines during elections

Many of these problems could be rectified through manual audits recounts, but direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines or Touchscreens, do not use voter-marked paper ballots. They instead record voter intent in electronic media (though they can be configured to simultaneously print a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, and to print election results after the polls close). If the electronic media are altered contrary to the voter's intent, it may never be discovered, or impossible to correct.

No pre-election tests can detect or prevent fraud through rigging the vote counting software. Meanwhile, 17 states use electronic voting systems with no paper ballot, making an audit of the voting results impossible. Current paper ballot auditing systems are insufficient and must be immediately improved. 

LEARN MORE: Meaningful Election Audits


Opportunities for Change

In 2002 the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 allocated $3.9 billion for states to "upgrade" their voting systems with poorly made, easily rigged electronic machines that have now begun to break down nationwide.

Failing machines are becoming a crisis for cash-poor communities who can't replace their aging systems.

This brings an opportunity to revisit the design and cost of voting systems, choosing  processes that uphold the requirements of democratic elections: transparency, accuracy, and public oversight.

Private, non-transparent e-voting systems are being banned in developed countries around the world, including Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

  • 2012: Ireland sends their e-voting machines to a recycling center. 
  • 2009: German High Court issues landmark decision against nontransparent electronic voting, supporting the “public nature” of elections.
  • 2008: Netherlands bans e-voting, preferring paper and pencil.