Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Voting Security Concerns in the United States

A fascinating study entitled "Democracy at Risk" by Carbon Black looks at how the American voting system is at risk and how it could impact voter turnout during the 2016 election cycle.

As we all remember, the contested 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore revealed the weaknesses how America conducts its federal elections.  While there has been no indications that the technology used in American elections has been tampered with, there are significant vulnerabilities as follows:

1.) the ease of which electronic voting machines can be manipulated to alter votes.

2.) the ability to compromise voter-registration databases.

3.) the prospect that voting systems can either be shut down, delayed or that voting can be restricted.

The recent hacking of the Democratic National Committee shows us just how vulnerable the American political system is to outside manipulation.  

Carbon Black conducted an online survey of American voters to better understand their concerns about the security of the nation's inventory of electronic voting machines and how this could impact voter turnout.  In case you wondered, about 25 percent of U.S. voters or 55 million voters in total will use electronic voting machines on November 8th, 2016.  The most vulnerable voting machines are the direct-recording electronic or DRE machines.  Interestingly, many of these machines are running operating systems that are significantly outdated; for example, some machines are still using Windows XP as their operating system, an operating system that has not had any security support from Microsoft since April 2014.  Here is a map showing states which still use DRE voting machines (coloured turquoise):

Now, let's look at how voters feel about the security vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines:

In total, 18 percent of voters are very concerned and 38 percent of voters are concerned that this year's election could be affected by hacking/cyber attacks.  In addition, 36 percent of voters feel that their voting information is insecure with only 12 percent of voters feeling that their voting information was very secure.  If these concerns translate into voter inaction, the one in five voters who stated that they would consider not voting in the 2016 election cycle because of their cyber-security concerns would result in more than 15 million voters not voting on Election Day. 

Currently, some states tether their electronic voting machines to a voter-verified paper audit trail or VVPAT, a system which allows voters to verify that their vote was cast correctly.  This provides an additional layer of security and allows for post-election audits of voting.  That said, only about half of states have what are termed "meaningful post-election audits".  

Let's close this posting by looking at which entities American voters feel pose the greatest risks to the security of the current voting system in order from greater risk to lowest risk:

1.) Insider threat from the United States - 28 percent

2.) Russia - 17 percent

3.) Election candidates - 15 percent

4.) North Korea - 14 percent

5.) China - 13 percent

6.) Iran - 9 percent

Isn't it interesting to see that a very substantial 43 percent of respondents felt that the greatest threat to the United States election system comes from within the United States?  This speaks volumes about American voters' trust in their own election system.  It's really no wonder that Donald Trump has appealed to millions of voters with his "rigged election" comment as shown here:

1 comment:

  1. There is already strong evidence that our elections have been hacked in a very big way. Simply google "Steven Spoonamore" the Republican IT security specialist who identified late night voting anomalies in Ohio in 2004 which handed democratic districts and the election to Bush. Examples 2 and 3 are the recent gubernatorial elections in both Kansas and Kentucky. Read more here: From the article at the link: "it is well-recognized that smaller, rural precincts tend to lean Republican, statisticians have been unable to explain the consistent pattern favoring Republicans that trends upward as the number of votes cast in a precinct or other voting unit goes up. In primaries, the favored candidate appears to always be the Republican establishment candidate, above a tea party challenger. And the upward trend for Republicans occurs once a voting unit reaches roughly 500 votes."

    So American voting concerns are quite legitimate because election fraud has, and likely will happen again.