Tampering with Voting Machines Worrisome in Fall Elections

DENVER (AP) — Polling workers sent to clean out voting machines on the final day of voting in Colorado’s June primary found a worrying error message on their screens : “USB device modification detected”.

The machine used to electronically mark ballots was taken out of service and an investigation was launched. The message raised concerns that voters tried to tamper by inserting off-the-shelf thumb drives.

The incident sparked a debate among election officials and security experts that conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election may incite some voters to interfere with or attempt to sabotage election equipment. raised concerns about Even unsuccessful violations, like the one in the county south of Colorado Springs, could be a big deal in November’s general election. That leads to higher turnout, higher stakes, delays at polling stations, and the seeds of misinformation campaigns.

activist to promote false claims It took a trip across the country that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. story peddler The electronic voting machine is in operation. They specifically target equipment manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems, which has filed several defamation lawsuits.

“This is another example of how lies about the Dominion have harmed our company and undermined the credibility of US elections,” company spokeswoman Stephanie Wallstrom said in a statement to the Associated Press.

Despite no evidence of widespread fraud or manipulation in the 2020 election, the voting machine conspiracy has permeated a wide swath of Republican voters.many of them delayed county commission Across the country, people are ditching their voting machines in favor of hand-marking and hand-counting all ballots.

The incident in Pueblo County highlights the troubling reality that voters driven by conspiracy theories may attempt to tamper with voting machines.

Election technology expert Kevin Skoglund said:

Such vigilante attempts are hard to stop, but like Colorado County, election infrastructure in nations is well-positioned to detect them quickly, experts say. Not only are there multiple layers of defense involved, but the vast majority of countries now use handwritten paper ballots. , which means that the exact aggregation can be reached.

Perhaps more concerning is what happens while election officials investigate suspected attacks and work to verify the results. That’s when people can use the uncertainty to cast doubt on the outcome of the election.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said: “The bigger threat is not the machine itself, but an intrusion to the outside world.

False claims by Trump and his supporters that the 2020 presidential election was rigged Widely denied and discreditedWhen There is no evidence that fraud is prevalent Or manipulation demonstrated almost two years after the election. Dozens of judges, some appointed by Trump, lawsuit dismissed Filed after the election, but Trump’s own attorney general The Justice Department said it did not find any fraud that would change the outcome.

The lies about the 2020 election are security breach at several local election offices, including election offices in Mesa County, Colorado. Some state authorities have Authorities provide access To their voting system, to conspiracy theorists.

These concerns add to concerns about the physical security of machines. At polling stations, workers are trained to closely monitor equipment and flag anything suspicious.

Election officials also use locks and tamper-proof seals, so it becomes clear if someone has attempted to access the voting equipment. If someone tries to tamper with the machine, an alert will be triggered and the machine will be rendered inoperable. This is what happened to him in Colorado on June 28th.

Late in the afternoon, polling workers at the Pueblo County vote center heard noises coming from the voting booth. I was notified. Law enforcement and state election officials were quickly informed of the incident.

The cause of the error message is part of the security protocol that protects the voting machine.

Election administrators can take steps to prevent unauthorized devices from infecting voting equipment. The voting system maker can configure the system to recognize only proprietary devices such as his USB drive, or employ a system that only allows connections with devices containing pre-approved digital signatures. increase.

Attempting to insert an unauthorized USB device will result in an error message and the machine will not operate unless overridden by a user with administrator level access.

In the Pueblo County case, the tamper-evident seal on the voting machine appeared to be compromised. The case is under investigation and prosecutors are examining evidence.

This year, lawmakers in Colorado broadened the definition of tampering with election supplies and toughened the penalties for it. Previously a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 364 days in prison, it is now a felony with a maximum penalty of 3 years in prison.

Colorado Secretary of State Jenna Griswold said, “America’s election lies pose a security risk.” is.”

Since the 2016 election, when voting systems were designated as “critical infrastructure” along with banks, dams and nuclear power plants, federal officials have worked with state and local level officials to improve security defenses.

State and local election officials that have not yet done so are adding locks, video camera surveillance of equipment storage areas, and door access cards to limit who can enter secure areas. Security measures include limiting access to voting equipment to only those who need it, and ensuring sensitive systems are not connected to the Internet.

Kim Wyman, who leads election security efforts at the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said:

In Pueblo County, election officials are gearing up for all possible November general elections. Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz oversees the election as clerk and scorer for Pueblo County, which Trump narrowly won in 2016 but lost four years later.

Ortiz finds the efforts of those questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election to be a bit ironic. His office is inundated with requests for records, requests for recounts, and attempts to tamper with equipment.

“All they do is prove the integrity of our system,” says Ortiz.


Cassidy reported from Atlanta.


Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.


This article has been revised to update the name of the spokesperson for Dominion Voting Systems.