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Which Voting Machines Are Used and How They Are Compromised

by Staff Writer

The State of Wyoming recently purchased ES&S voting machines, a subsidiary of the McCarthy Group, based in Omaha, Nebraska. ES&S lays claim to 60% of the U.S. market for voting machines. Specific models purchased include the ExpressVote, designed for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the DS 200/450/850 optical scanner models, and the ElectionWare Air-Gapped Server. These expensive machines run on outdated operating systems and are vulnerable to hackers. Wyoming voters deserve better.

As soon as information is digitized, the data, or digitized information, must be stored, maintained and distributed via multiple security steps to ensure it is not lost, corrupted or miscommunicated. This is done electronically using software and hardware. For example, if an eligible voter registers to vote with a county clerk, his or her information is entered into a voter roll for that county. The passage of the Federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002 requires this information is stored in a computerized database.

These voter rolls are printed by the Secretary of State as a poll book and distributed to polling locations so that when voters ask for a ballot, they are as registered voters. In Wyoming, registered voters are not required to show ID at polling locations in order to be checked against the voter rolls. Since voter rolls are stored electronically, they are vulnerable to hacking. Recently, the Alaska Secretary of State experienced a hacking incident related to voter rolls. (https://www.cyberscoop.com/alaska-election-website-hacked-2016/) Requiring that voter ID matches voter registration rolls at the time of polling would mitigate this risk.

Once a voter is identified as registered, he or she is given a paper ballot. This is one way in which Wyoming excels in voter integrity. There exists in this paper ballot an audit trail independent of the voting machines. However, the input of the marked paper ballot into the voting machine, the trail of data from the voting machines to the local server along with that of the tabulated data from the local ES&S server to the Secretary of State's server, all come with data corruption and hacking risks.

The ES&S voting machines purchased by Wyoming appear to be antiquated technology and might not conform with the Election Assistance Commission guidelines. This equipment includes the DS200, DS 450 and DS850 optical scanners, the ExpressVote ADA-compliant voting machine and the ElectionWare Server for tabulation. The ElectionWare Server runs on the Windows 7 operating system.

Given that these are new machines, that Microsoft has stated it will no longer support Windows 7 as of January 14, 2020, and that Windows 7 has known security flaws, it is worth asking whether these machines can stay free of hacking and software corruption, and for how long they will be functional. Next, the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency created to monitor elections when HAVA was passed, submitted an open letter to ES&S requesting information as to the latter's plans to update or support Windows 7 when it is no longer supported by Microsoft.

The ES&S has yet to respond to the EAC's open letter or to Rep. Ron Wyden's (D. Oregon) assertions that the DS200s are equipped with modems, which violates EAC guidelines. The DS 200 machine is essentially a reconfigured computer; even so, these lower-end machines are shipped with modems, despite EAC mandates stating voting machines do not have modems because of the vulnerability to hackers therein. Should any of the jump drives become corrupted with malware through an inadvertent modem hookup on a single machine, this malware could easily infect all machines as well as other jump drives. As a result, the election results would not be credible without a physical recount of all paper ballots. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/elections/2020/03/09/dallas-county-election-recount-court-date-set-for-tuesday/

Rep. Wyden (D. Oregon) told Motherboard, Election Systems and Software that installing remote-access software and modems in election equipment "is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner."


As for other vulnerabilities, once the polling station is closed, the data is collected from voting machines and uploaded to a local ES&S-supplied server. The results are tabulated and sent along to the Wyoming Secretary of States' server. A crosscheck at the county level confirming the number of ballots matches the number of recorded votes is an excellent practice to ensure there are no more votes recorded than ballots submitted.

The process of moving the data from the optical scanners to the local ES&S server consists of using proprietary jump drives (or memory sticks) to collect raw data from the individual machines and physically moving the jump drives to the server, where the data is downloaded and tabulated. This process is carefully controlled to ensure all data is collected and entered only once. The paper ballots are securely retained in case of the need for an audit.

The ballot design is another important factor in the voting machine process. Ballots must conform to layouts, inks and marking that is easily read by the machines. The absence of this design process leads to errors and misreads. For example, Broward County in FL reported the following:

Democratic election lawyer Marc Elias told the Sun Sentinel he thinks the undervotes were due to voting machines not detecting genuine votes. "I am pretty confident what you are going to see are markings that were not picked up by the machines or a calibration issue that was not registering that part of the ballot," he said.

The vote gap might be due to Broward having put the Senate race below the instructions for filling out the ballot in the far left column, which violates established practices for ballot design, according to experts cited by the Sun Sentinel.


ES&S sells voting machines that promise integrity and efficiency. Unfortunately, their products do not always deliver as promised. While Wyoming already has a number of very strong processes in place to protect voter integrity, when the county clerks and Secretary of State rely on ES&S machines, they are putting the Wyoming vote results at risk. The gold standard is voter ID at the polls, paper ballots, optical scanners, and automatic risk-limiting audits i.e. manual counts prior to publishing election results. While this may seem tedious, Wyoming spends unnecessary millions on ES&S and this money could stay in state and facilitate fair, honest, efficient elections.

Secure the Vote
Clean Voter Rolls and Voter ID

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