Election Hacking

It appears that attempts at hacking the US presidential election are continuing. The news reports are sensational and need to be read carefully. What has been reported this week is that attempts were made to get into voter registration records – not the voting system itself.

ABC News claims that there is evidence that attempts were made on systems in twenty states, and four were successfully breached. FBI Director James Comey, testifying before Congress, said “This is very different than the vote system in the United States, which is very, very hard for someone to hack into because it’s so clunky and dispersed.”

A friend of mine was in charge of voting systems in Santa Fe County. She explained some of this to me. Voting and its mechanisms are left up to the states, which have a great many ways of dealing with it. Registration is the responsibility of counties in New Mexico – all 33 of them. There are 3,144 counties and county equivalents in the United States. BackupĀ files of the voting rolls are maintained.

Voting in New Mexico is by optical scanning of paper ballots. Again, the counties are in charge of the machines and tallying the results, which are then aggregated at the state level. Many checks are built into the system, starting with voters identifying themselves (by birth date and address), paper slips whose number must match the number of ballots, and hand-counting of selected precincts after it’s all over. Each machine would have to be hacked individually. I think I may have missed some of the double-checks.

Hacking into registration and scrambling the rolls could mess things up on election day. That may be the objective of the recent hacking attempts, or it could be to exacerbate the already exaggerated concerns about multiple voting by individuals. In New Mexico, returns are transmitted electronically, so there might be attempts to hack that, although those returns would be initially verified by phonecall.

The commonality of machines and procedures might allow lessons learned in one place to be applied in another. Fully electronic voting would be the most vulnerable to hacking, although it would be surprising (to me, anyhow) if there were no safeguards and checks applied to procedures.

As I noted, the US government is being open about this. What has been reported so far is a concern, but not alarming. There have beenĀ calls for President Barack Obama to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin about it, but that would inflate Putin’s importance, as he wants. It’s being dealt with at lower levels, as appropriate.

Photo credit. This is how we vote in New Mexico, although it doesn’t show the boxy machine that we put the ballot into, it acknowledges that it has counted the ballot, and then keeps the paper ballot under lock and key.


One comment

  1. The Blog Fodder · October 1, 2016

    Being an outsider looking in, I fail to comprehend what a state has to do with anything related to a federal election or how difficult it is to could a ballot by hand. Other countries manage it. Yes, America has 10X more people than Canada but you only need 10X more poling stations and 10X more people to count. How hard is that? It is the Republican owned and operated electronic voting machines that are the most open to fraud and there has been a great deal of research showing how easily it is done. Easily enough to throw Ohio to W back in 2004.
    Russia’s ability to hack various election databases etc may or may not allow them to help fix the election for Trump. if there is fixing to be done, I doubt the Republicans will need help. Their real intent, in my opinion is to position themselves to cast an extreme amount of doubt on the honesty of the election post election day. I maintain that all Hell will break loose in America after the election whether Trump wins or loses, but ESPECIALLY if he loses. If Russia can contribute to that, they certainly will.


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