Traditional paper ballots may be making a comeback, thanks to the slew of cybersecurity hacks hitting presidential candidates, the government and election databases.
The 2000 presidential contest between Republican nominee George W. Bush and Democratic nominee Al Gore was substantially affected by the judgement of election officials. They were forced to decide thousands of Florida votes by inspecting the perforations from incomplete punch card paper ballots.
More than a decade later, electronic state election systems are seeing problems of their own. Both Illinois and Arizona’s election databases were hacked by foreign cybercriminals in recent weeks, according to the FBI, which subsequently issued a warning to election officials across the country.
A University of Michigan professor showcased how easy it was to hack voting technology; he was able to infiltrate a voting system in Washington, D.C., from more than 500 miles away, according to Politico. The same professor, Alex Halderman, also demonstrated how easily someone could directly and physically manipulate a voting machine’s results with just a screwdriver and a few read-only memory (ROM) chips.
Nefarious hacks have become so prevalent, especially from foreign countries, that there are almost too many to keep track of. From the Democratic National Committee breaches to the takeover of several House Democrats’ websites, the government is a popular target for hackers.
Multiple states have fully automated and virtual voting systems, with no paper trail to back-up any potentially obfuscated, stolen or deleted data.
If hackers were able to compromise a state’s voting system, there may not be a way of detecting such an attack or its magnitude.
Georgia, for example, has a history of being fairly careless with voters’ personal data, and is one of five states that uses “Direct Recording Electronic Voting Machines” without “Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail Printers.” The Peach State could be a desirable target for hackers to disrupt the electoral process, because of its lack of a backup mechanism and since various recent polls show that the presidential race could be hotly contested.
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