How Electronic Voting Machines Became Vulnerable To Hacking, Security Problems

In over half of the states in the U.S., the voting machines we rely on for election results are dangerously vulnerable to hackers.

Direct-recording electronic machines or DREs for short are how people in certain voting jurisdictions of 31 states vote. But, despite their ease and glossiness, transitioning to electronic voting machines might have been a huge mistake.

Before every election, DREs need to be programmed with a ballot. These ballots are made on a desktop computer. The information is then transferred from the computer to the voting machine using a removable memory card. Bad actors who want to alter the outcome of an election, can target the computer where the ballot is programmed, and send it a virus. This virus can then travel with the programmed ballot on the memory card from machine to machine potentially changing the voting results in an entire county.

New electronic voting machines are introducing new security issues, like barcodes and QR codes, but as much as there is a consensus that current and emerging voting systems are vulnerable to fraud, there is also a consensus among experts about best practices and attainable solutions.

The long-term solutions include exchanging DRE systems with digital scan machines. With these machines, voters fill out their candidate selections on a paper ballot and then feed it through the machine to record their votes. Digital scan machines are computerized and have many of the same vulnerabilities that DREs have. But with these machines, there is a paper ballot, marked by the voter.  So voting officials have the ability to do a robust post-election audit.

But most states are not conducting meaningful audits of their paper ballots - bypassing the single most effective way to ensure accurate results.

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