How Internet-Connected Voter Check-In Devices Can Create Election Chaos

from ars technica

A federal judge in Georgia has ordered election officials to print paper backups of voter data so that voting can proceed even if the digital system for checking in voters fails. This is a win for plaintiffs who have argued that flaws in Georgia’s electronic-poll-book (EPB) system hampered voting in the June primary and could do so again in November.

Over the last 20 years, a lot of discussion has revolved around the risk that electronic voting machines pose to the security and integrity of elections. But there has been less attention paid to electronic poll books—another digital system that can undermine election integrity if they malfunction.

Pollworkers use EPBs to verify a voter’s eligibility and then check the voter in. Malfunctions in these systems can slow down the voting process so much that some people give up voting altogether. By targeting precincts where most people vote for a particular candidate or party, a hacker could potentially swing a close election just by triggering malfunctions in electronic poll books. And while voting machines are supposed to be kept off the Internet, electronic poll books are often online throughout election day.

There’s no evidence that anyone has deliberately exploited this potential vulnerability in American elections, and maybe no one ever will. But at a minimum, electronic poll books make American elections more complex and brittle. It’s possible that, as with voting machines, the old paper system was actually a better choice.

More here.

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One Comment

  1. I never thought about how internet-connected Voter Check-In Devices could be used to interfere with elections. As a registered New Jersey Voter, I was aware that internet-connected voter check-in devices are used to verify voter eligibility in this state. I never thought about how, my state in addition to Georgia, could be in danger of election interference because of the usage of these devices. I actually thought that these internet-connected voter check-in devices could be used as a method to check if some one has already voted in a different voting precinct and that these devices would allow poll attendees to stop someone from voting twice. However, I failed to realize, that hackers could attack the Wi-Fi network which these internet-connected voter check-in devices are connected too, in order to slow down the voting process in districts which primarily vote for one particular political party. This would be a dangerously effective way to sabotage election results, and ultimately steal an election.

    Paper copies of poll-book data are a good back up for internet connected voter check-in devices, if the paper copies of the poll-book data are updated with information about who has already voted, and voting occurs on election day. My concerns about paper copies of poll-book data revolve around the fact that the most updated voter information may not be listed. If early in-person voting precincts use paper copies of poll-book data, then voters will not be held accountable for only voting once as early in-person voters can vote in any precinct. If electronic poll books are used, then all precincts will be aware of who already voted. So, in the case of early in person voting, I don’t believe that paper copies of poll-book data are a good idea, or will result in a fair election. Also, if paper copies of poll-book data are used on election day, the paper copies should be the most recent copy of poll-book data which include voters who used mail-in ballots, absentee ballots, and those who voted early in-person. In order for paper copies of poll-book data to be up to date, they would need to be printed out from an online database. Ultimately, I believe that paper copies of poll-book data should only be used as a backup in a worst-case scenario as I doubt that the paper copies of the poll-book data will be completely up to date. I believe that internet-connected voter check-in devices are a better alternative, even though they present an opportunity for disrupting election outcomes. If internet-connected voter check-in devices are encrypted and paper copies of the most recent poll-book data are present as a backup for a worst-case scenario, then I believe that this would provide the fairest possible outcome in an election. After all, there will always be election interference and election fraud happening in the background. As a country, we just need to try our best to minimize the effects of these negative external influences.

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