Voting Systems Face Hacking Threats As Election Nears

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News of foreign hackers, most likely from Russia, have accessed computerized voter registration databases in Illinois and tried to break into Arizona’s state electoral system early this year have put election officials on high alert.

The news has been compounded by fears that the same hackers were able to get into the Democratic National Committee computers and that there is an imminent sabotage of the upcoming November 8 elections, USA Today reports. The hacking of the DNC led to the resignation of its chairperson, US Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

According to the Washington Post, two more unidentified states are looking into suspicions that their databases have been hacked, as well.

Computer scientists and election experts agree that hacking the actual voting system in near-impossible. But should the worst happens, a backup system is expected to be in place. According to reports, however, voting systems in close to one-third of all US states don’t have the safeguard of a paper tally of individual votes.

Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and New Jersey depend primarily on paperless electronic voting machines. Nine more, including the swing states of Virginia and Pennsylvania, use paperless equipment in some counties.

A federal law passed in 2002 launched an era in electronic voting, which turned out to be a vast improvement on the process. However, many states made the decision to do away with paper altogether.

Most states now combine paperless technology and a paper trail, which lets voters check that their ballots are accurate before leaving the booth, keeping a record that can be verified later on. One kind of system uses paper ballots that are then fed into scanning machines, while another uses a touch screen monitor but keeps a printed copy. Paper trails have saved multiple local elections after machine failures.

Aside from hacking threats, digital voting systems face other problems. These include outdated systems based on 1990s technology, old voting machines in some states that are nearing their expiration, and a lack of funding in other states that hinders the purchase of new or additional equipment.

In the case of Illinois and Arizona, while some personal voter data was taken, both intrusions were found quickly, and there was nothing found that could compromise the nearing elections.

Georgia and Pennsylvania, on the other hand, announced that they would be relying on their own computer experts to verify the security of their systems, The Post and Courier states.

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