Maybe we should have seen this coming. In 2010, for instance, security researchers in D.C. held a test period in which they invited hackers to try and crack their electronic ballot system (which they spent a cool $300,000 developing). The result? Within 36 hours, the voting website was playing the Michigan fight song and write-in votes were being switched to names of various fictional robots and computers.
So how bad could 2012 be? The Atlantic’s Andrew Cohen details:
How about thousands upon thousands of votes instantly disappearing from the electronic count of one candidate, or being added to the count of another, with no paper trail left behind? How about electronic voting machines whose programs can be breached and hacked – patched for fraud, is the new term — from thousands of miles away? How about new voting technology controlled largely by corporations with strong partisan ties? Not only can it all happen in two weeks, there is a viable case to be made that it’s already happened — in both the decade before and the decade since Bush v. Gore.
And will the American public be able to verify that it doesn’t happen this time around? Via Slate:
Undoubtedly, voting machine companies, just like telecommunications companies, have legitimate secrets, and they have the right to protect those secrets against misappropriation. But the legitimate use of trade secrecy by voting machine companies also means that the public has no way to independently verify that the machines are working properly.
The public has been stripped of its ability to have independent, verifiable confidence that when a vote is made, it will be tabulated and recorded properly. Trade secret law means that we must trust the vendors when they say that their machines are free of error, bias, flaws and security loopholes. Trade secret law effectively means that independent researchers who want to test voting machines and assure that they are operating properly cannot do so without the permission of the vendor – or risk being found to have misappropriated the trade secrets themselves.