Can voting machines be rigged?

A short time ago I wrote a post supporting the notion that voting machines can be hacked.

I shared this post on the Armstrong and Getty Fan Page. A reader named Ryan Ronco commented on the post and listed many reasons that “fixing a voting machine” was unlikely (see the exchange in my footnote). His enumeration of voting safety protocols convinced me he was knowledgeable and it calmed my fears. I suspect that my conclusion that he is knowledgeable remains correct, but the video below indicates that sophisticated programers can subvert the safeguards employed by voting officials.

I hope Mr. Ronco is correct and that we can all relax. However, new doubts are creeping in.

And thanks to MB for sending this to me.

Roy Filly


Ryan Ronco Here’s a major problem with the “rigged election” theory shown in this video – in this voting system, ballots are still ultimately cast on paper, not electronically, so you always have the paper ballot to go back to if a recount is needed. California law requires an audit after the election where 1% of precinct ballots and 1% of all races must be hand counted at random to confirm the computer count, so outside manipulation would be very detectable when the votes cast on the ballots versus on the memory card are radically different. Plus the hacker had unfettered access to the memory card – I don’t know where you vote, but that doesn’t happen in my county.

Like · Reply · 2 · August 14 at 8:42am

Roy Filly Hope you are right. But frankly your hypothesis has some holes in it.

Like · Reply · August 14 at 1:56pm

Ryan Ronco Probably the holes are just areas where my brevity allows your doubt to creep in. If you have specific issues, perhaps I can fill in the blanks.

Like · Reply · August 14 at 3:49pm

Roy Filly Lock picks. Duplicate memory cards preprogrammed with all the time in the world. Helpful election “officials.” Bribery. Need more?

Like · Reply · August 14 at 5:12pm

Ryan Ronco Lock picks won’t work because of numbered, tamper-evident seals and locks protecting the memory card and the case covering the hardware and firmware. Duplicate memory cards won’t work either because each card has a unique serial number. All these serial numbers (both on the memory cards and on the seals and locks) are logged, recorded and checked as part of the election audit (and many times along the way). Helpful election officials and bribery can be a problem – that issue is not exclusive to this voting system hack video. However, elections offices (at least the good ones) have checks and balances in place to keep one person from having all the keys to the kingdom – restricted access to memory cards, programming occurs with two or more people at the same time under video surveillance, programmers don’t have access to the server that records the video or the audit logs, etc. And, again, there are those pesky seals and locks that have been logged – if they are broken (whether on purpose or because of an attempt to tamper), the paper ballots that were voted by the voters can be counted. Do you have more?

Like · Reply · August 14 at 6:11pm

Roy Filly Wow. Thanks. I’m impressed. I feel better now.

Like · Reply · August 14 at 6:13pm

Ryan Ronco You’re welcome! I’d hate for anyone to think that there’s no point in voting or that the whole thing is rigged.

Like · Reply · August 14 at 6:15pm


About Roy Filly

Please read my first blog in which I describe myself and my goals.
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5 Responses to Can voting machines be rigged?

  1. If machinations to acquire millions of dollars for a specific foundation can be made to appear legal even though such “deals” are deeply questionable, it seems to me that programming voting machines to achieve a predetermined result are within the purview and capability of unscrupulous and biased programmers or hackers. The prospects are disturbing. There is need for careful and repeatable oversight!!

  2. trailbee says:

    The new wrinkle is bleaching. If you can bleach something, you can change something. Considering how few people actually vote, I would like to see my vote mechanically shown to me being logged into the correct column, and even then it can be changed later. What a mess!

  3. Starchild says:

    My concern mostly involves corruption of insiders (elections officials), but also inadequate safeguards. Full election procedures should be made public in writing, and members of the public invited to poke holes in them by identifying potential opportunities for tampering/vote fraud. Also, the entire process should be videotaped and streamed live to the Internet, from when people vote, to transportation, custody, and tabulation of ballots.

    What I’ve seen locally in SF hasn’t given me a great deal of confidence. While I have no specific evidence of malfeasance, I haven’t heard enough detail from elections officials to give me confidence that the process is secure, and the bits I’ve seen in person have not increased my confidence level. A few years ago I served as an election observer for a campaign during a close recount. Only one observer per campaign was allowed in a large room full of people open provisional ballot envelopes and tabulating the results on computer. We weren’t even supposed to talk with the workers. Fortunately, one of them was willing to chat with me anyway. After a few minutes of literally looking over his shoulder as he explained what he was doing, I was confident that if he had tried to do something incorrectly as I watched, I would have spotted it. But meanwhile, the other 15-20 workers in the room who I wasn’t watching could have been doing anything whatsoever and I wouldn’t have had a clue. Thus my role as an “official observer” amounted to nothing more than window dressing.

    There was also an incident when I was observing another part of the process that I found troubling. A woman processing ballots was discarding one of them because Elections Department records showed the person had not voted in the past several elections, resulting in a postcard being sent to their address by the Elections Department. When this postcard allegedly came back undelivered by the Postal Service, the voter was dropped from the rolls. Therefore the worker simply treated the vote as invalid and tossed the ballot in the trash. I pointed out that the person could have been on extended travel, vacation, in jail, or whatever. The USPS could have erred in not correctly delivering the postcard.

    Or if the person in fact no longer lived there, had died, or whatever, it should still have been of concern to elections officials, because it showed that someone had attempted to fraudulently cast a ballot in their name, i.e. there should be a follow-up investigation. But both the worker and her superior seemed unconcerned by any of this, and confirmed it was department policy to simply throw the ballot out and take no further action.

    There have also been periodic disconcerting news items over the years, most notably the occasion when multiple pieces of wooden boxes used to store ballots were found floating in the San Francisco Bay and even out in the ocean past the Golden Gate Bridge. The official explanation if I recall correctly was that they had been washed off a pier where they were being stored, and that no actual ballots were lost, but even if true, this still indicated a troubling lapse in security.

    A couple years ago while on vacation in Spokane, Washington, I came upon a deposit box for ballots affixed to the side of a building on a mainly deserted city street, where voters could apparently leave completed ballots, secured by an ordinary padlock with no other apparent security or even a camera. It did not appear to be a setup that would have posed any great difficulty to someone determined to commit vote fraud who had basic lockpicking skills.

  4. trailbee says:

    Thank you. I live in California and feel even worse than before. 🙂

  5. Pingback: Even Democrats are worried about election cheating. | The Rugged Individualist

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