How Secure Are Local Elections–Even When Paper Ballots Are Used?


Buried within this “Democracy Now!” story of the leaked NSA document is the real and very scary problem with elections in this country. It’s very easy to hack elections at the local level. In this Democracy Now! segment, computer security expert Jake Williams tells us why.

“[A]s the vote totals come in, they’re totaled by county commissioners, who, really, at the end of the day, have very little cyber—very little, if any, cybersecurity training. There’s no real-time monitoring of these machines in any case that I’ve—that I’ve been involved in. And, you know, as we look at these small county governments, they simply don’t have the funding to fend off, you know, what ultimately are coordinated nation-state—coordinated nation-state attacks.”

“[U]p at the state level, it gets pretty difficult to start manipulating vote totals. But I said I would go down to the county governments—right?—the individuals who are certifying the individual vote totals. We saw some—before the election, we saw some demonstrations of how to hack voting machines. And people always note that these are air-gapped voting machines. But, of course, the reality is, they’re programmed from, in some cases, PCMCIA cards, these computer cards, that ultimately are programmed on a computer that is very likely, in every case, connected to the internet. And so, again, if you look at starting to work through us, you know, we would target these low-level machines. I said the second thing I’d target would be absentee ballots. I think that—and to do that, you know, I specifically mentioned I’d go after voter rolls.”

All this is very disturbing because what it appears to show is that even in the states where mail-in ballots are mandatory, those tabulations may be no more secure than those from voting machines, especially if the voter rolls have been hacked into and tampered with first. The only way county election officials could verify if all election results are accurate would be to review the voter rolls, compare that data with the actual paper ballots, and then compare that to the election data input into their computerized systems. That takes time and money, money the counties just don’t have. Money denied to them by deficit hawks from both parties at the state and federal levels.

So, the primary and most disturbing issue here is not the fact that yet another highly-classified document was leaked to the press, but that our federal government has possibly been engaging in a cover up to prevent the American people from knowing how easily our election process can be compromised, and that in all likelihood it’s been hacked into and compromised for years. And even more disturbing, it could have been hacked not just by the Russians, but by homegrown hackers employed by one or both of the two major political parties. There’s no proof to that, of course–yet.


7 thoughts on “How Secure Are Local Elections–Even When Paper Ballots Are Used?

  1. In Canada we only use paper ballots. There are up to nine people count and recount before a total is done. All ballots are taken to a central location within a city for recounting. Then polling station results are released to the media – one polling station at a time. Afterwards all the paper ballot are flown to Elections Canada headquarters. At this point ballots are linked to the voter by a number. This avoids one person from voting at more than one polling station. It may seem slow but in fact the results are quickly posted. One person from the major political parties are allowed to only watch as the paper ballots are counted by citizens who work for 1 or 2 days during the election. We never need to deal with a computer malfunction.

  2. farlefty says:

    Dennis, I just checked out your WordPress page. Do you post anything that you’ve written or do you just reblog other posts? I’d like to read stuff that you’ve personally written.

    • Yes I do write a lot of articles and reblog ones I enjoy. I am currently moving my domain away from WordPress over to Google so I am in a holding mode. The transfer should be complete in a few more days.

      • farlefty says:

        What program in Google and what about it do you like more than WordPress? I really don’t use Google much except for the Chrome browser so I’m interested in reading your response.

      • To put it simply WordPress is likely the most expensive place to write articles. WordPress charges almost $500.00 a year to get a few extra features. Do a simple search for hosting a domain and the offers are limitless for under $100.00 per year. Have you ever backed up this blog? The free “xml” backup only works on WordPress. To do a proper “one time” backup WordPress charges $250.00 when every other host includes it. That’s how the owners of WordPress became billionaires. The Registrar for WordPress domains has still has not released my domain a process that takes a few hours anywhere else. It’s almost 2 weeks since the changes were made. The in-action on their part is either vindictive or sloppy – likely both.

      • farlefty says:

        Dennis, I admit that I only use the free online WordPress website for my blog, which explains why I have so few readers. The blog is more or less a vanity piece for me whereas it appears it’s an online business for you. If I thought I could really make some change from my political punditry I’d pay WP or Google or whoever for the pro blog features. I used to write my blogs on MS Word and just copy/paste the text to WP. Now I just post them there and then link to them on Facebook.

        My primary focus is on novel writing anyway. I’m close to completing my first one and that’s where I’ll research how much to spend and where to spend it on marketing and self-publishing (if no publishing house or literary agent thinks it’s commercial enough.

      • farlefty says:

        I realize I’ll need to create a website for my book so I’m going to refer to your responses here as I figure out how and where I’m going to do it.

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