Tell WEC: What builds your voter confidence?
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism recently reported a disagreement on election security.
Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell told a reporter that future elections will be protected because the vote-counting equipment is not directly connected to the internet. If that fails, McDonell believes any hackers will make their work obvious by making extremely Democratic precincts vote Republican.
IT security experts gave the reporter a different story. They know the most likely form of cyber-theft does not involve the internet. So they said the only fully effective security measure is manually counted audits using the paper ballots, to detect and correct any problems before election results are declared final.
The Brennan Center Task Force on Voting System Security, consisting of national IT and election experts, determined the highest-risk threat: a single voting-machine company insider going rogue. The insider might act on his own or be bribed by a domestic billionaire or a foreign government. He could install remote-access software, as Wisconsin's major voting-machine supplier has admitted doing in other states. Or, he might insert malicious code in updates or during maintenance, as "white-hat" hackers have publicly demonstrated.
The rogue insider won't mess with the ballot counts, because he knows Wisconsin officials audit those. He'll alter only vote totals. He won't create astonishing upsets. He will simply make Republican precincts more Republican or Democratic ones more Democratic, and probably only in one or two of Wisconsin's largest counties.
To escape a recount, he will put the race outside Wisconsin's recount margin. He won't need to flip votes; he can just reduce one candidate's vote totals here and there. He will make the hack operate only on Election Day, not during pre-election testing.
Because Wisconsin officials seal the paper ballots on Election Night, the insider faces no risk of detection.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission has asked for public input on this issue, which will be discussed at their one remaining meeting before the November election, in September.
Email them at email@example.com, with a copy to your county clerk. Tell them either "I'm confident future election results need no auditing, so leave things the way they are." Or tell them, "This voter would be more confident if our county officials use our paper ballots to check accuracy before they certify any future election results." Please contact WEC today. They truly care about voter confidence, and they truly want to hear from you.
Karen McKim is coordinator for Wisconsin Election Integrity.