Video: This U.S. Election Could Be the Most Secure Yet. Here’s Why.


Voting machines. Our democracy relies on them to precisely file each poll. You go to the polls, you forged your vote, your voice is heard. Proper? Not so quick. “Russian assaults.” “Russian hackers.” “Russian hackers tried to interrupt into U.S. election methods.” As a result of in 2016 — “The Russians managed to get us paranoid concerning the safety of our personal election methods.” However this 12 months, consultants are extra assured that — “I feel it’s protected to say that is probably the most safe election we’ve ever held in the US.” In 2016, Russians infiltrated our voting methods in each single state. “This was some of the profitable intelligence operations in fashionable historical past.” Now, there’s no proof Russians altered votes, however — “It’s as if a cat burglar acquired into your home, cased the joint, however didn’t take something.” And it raised the query — “May the Russians really have an effect on the vote?” However due to among the machines we had been utilizing, we didn’t know for certain. So in 2020, if there’s one other cyberattack, People wish to know that their vote was counted as they forged it. Like, say, with a — “Voter-verified paper path.” Sure, like that. A paper path. Seems a couple of folks tried to make this occur years in the past, however — “It’s a tough world on the market within the elections voting system enterprise.” To see why it took Russia’s hacking to enhance our voting know-how, we go to Texas. The Structure provides states energy to run their very own elections, and most states give counties the facility to decide on their very own voting machines. And nowhere is that this extra obvious than in — “Texas.” “Texas.” “Texas —” [mooing] “— is a microcosm of all of the completely different voting applied sciences used in all places within the U.S. Each completely different Texas county, completely different voting system, completely different procedures.” Dan Wallach is a pc scientist at Rice College in Houston, and he had really been warning concerning the vulnerabilities of our voting system lengthy earlier than 2016. “I’m nervous about evil software program within the machines flipping your vote in a approach that you just, the voter, can’t inform that the machine was evil.” He was most involved about direct recording digital voting machines, or DREs. “The one file of your vote is contained in the reminiscence of that machine. And that implies that if one thing tampers with that digital reminiscence, you don’t have any approach to return.” And but within the final presidential election, 28 % of registered voters used these machines. So how did some People get caught with these weak voting machines? Properly, to seek out out, we have to go all the best way again to 2000. The aught. Florida. It was Al Gore versus George Bush for president. “Oh my goodness. 2000. That was the election that all of us thought would by no means finish. “The presidential race is crackling like a hickory hearth right here. Couldn’t be a lot nearer.” A contested vote, a recount and all of it got here all the way down to the chads. These pesky fragments of paper leftover when a gap is punched in a card. Not all these chads had been completely punched by way of, although. “There was a dangling chad.” “It’s barely indifferent.” “Pregnant chad.” “Dimpled chad.” “Opening and shutting chad.” Through the recount, ballot employees had been left to find out voter intent, and all eyes had been on the chads. “By that point, all of us knew what a foul system punch-card voting was.” “Within the wake of the hanging chad points, Congress handed the Assist America Vote Act in 2002. The Assist America Vote Act allotted billions of {dollars} to assist states change antiquated voting machines.” And the states went procuring. Some purchased hand-marked paper ballots and optical scanners. And others purchased the machines that had nervous Dan probably the most. The very fashionable, paperless DREs. “If it had been as much as me as we speak, and if I had been promoting voting know-how, I’d not promote a paperless DRE system in good conscience. I don’t assume that it’s a accountable factor to do.” That is Eddie Perez. He used to promote these machines, however left the business to advocate for safer voting methods with a paper path. “I’d characterize the extent of federal regulation for voting know-how as comparatively skinny. There are a whole lot of merchandise which can be really extra extremely regulated than voting know-how. Even issues as mundane as ballpoint pens. Components fail, methods get previous, screens cease performing the best way they’re purported to. So a voter may contact one portion of the display to mark one candidate and the system interprets it as a selection for another person.” “It’s not letting me vote for who I wish to vote for.” “There’s loads of voting tools that’s nonetheless on the market whose design dates, most likely, all the best way again to 20 years in the past.” However with most of their federal cash spent, many Texas counties had been caught. “We saved our digital voting system for 18 years.” As Travis County Clerk, Dana DeBeauvoir is accountable for selecting the machines for voters in Austin. “The factor that was most necessary to our voters was to have a paper path. However not one of the voting system producers would construct a system with a paper path. And it was irritating.” And so she determined to construct one herself. “I used to be watching a video of a professor out of Rice College rake me over the coals.” “Such blatant safety flaws. I imply, simply actually unhealthy engineering.” “As a substitute of simply getting mad, I went to that particular person.” “My telephone rings and it’s Dana, and he or she says, ‘I need your assist.’” “And I stated to him, ‘Let’s you and I design a voting system collectively.’” “I’m like, critically? All proper. Can I invite my associates? We hacked up an inkjet printer and a bunch of different low-cost {hardware} mashed right into a customized metal field that we constructed, and we got here up with a extremely nice design.” They known as it S.T.A.R. Vote. “Laptop scientists like to make acronyms out of phrases. First we give you the acronym, then we attempt to discover the phrases that match.” “Safe.” “Clear.” “Auditable.” “Dependable.” “A mix of each digital and paper voting paper voting strategies.” “S.T.A.R. Vote.” A brand new digital voting machine with paper backup ballots that assist with verification and audit. An open-source system which makes it safer and cheaper for taxpayers. The top product, a more recent, safer voting machine. “What we had been really doing was a start-up enterprise. And I don’t assume we actually realized that on the outset.” Designing a machine is one factor. Discovering somebody to fabricate it’s one other. “The voting system business is a pair hundred million {dollars} a 12 months. That’s a teeny tiny market.” “It’s tough to get within the market, they usually don’t welcome anyone else coming in.” In a small market, there’s not a lot room for competitors. Simply three firms dominate the voting machine business. “These three main distributors are those which have carved out their house and made their dedication to it. And they also really wield a whole lot of energy in that business.” “That market doesn’t go away an entire lot of room for firms to do revolutionary design and growth.” “Voting know-how is solely very, very sluggish to vary.” “Present digital voting machines have little or no safety in-built. Please assist me and different elections directors who wish to do a greater job. What we’re designing is an digital voting system. We’re prepared to begin constructing S.T.A.R. Vote.” In 2016, Dana DeBeauvoir had reached the ultimate levels of the S.T.A.R. Vote design when reviews that … “The intelligence companies of a overseas energy intervened on a scale by no means seen earlier than.” … shook America’s confidence in its voting system. It appeared like the right second for brand new gamers like S.T.A.R. Vote, who’d spent years fascinated with learn how to get voters to belief their election outcomes. “Since we had carried out all of the design work for them, we thought one of many common producers would choose this up. Travis County put it out to bid. A lot of the huge producers submitted bids. Nonetheless, they submitted bids that had been extra alongside the strains of, purchase what we have already got.” She says the distributors rejected a key safety element of S.T.A.R. Vote. “Open-source software program.” Good for transparency, however having free supply code means firms can’t cost as a lot. “Open-source methods — at the least the best way this one was designed, and generally — are low-revenue software program tasks.” All of them handed. With the 2020 election across the nook, Dana nonetheless had all these getting old DREs, so she was — “Operating out of time. At that time, we realized that we had reached the tip of our potentialities with S.T.A.R. Vote. It was most likely the bottom time in my complete profession. We had the key recipe for pulling all people collectively, and we nonetheless hadn’t made it occur.” However greater modifications had been occurring nationally. After 2016, voting methods had been declared a part of the nation’s essential infrastructure — like dams and energy vegetation. This meant new federal scrutiny of how People forged their vote for the primary time since 2000. “And the voting machine producers started to get the message.” “Sure.” “They started to maneuver in direction of methods that had paper backup as a result of they acknowledged that the political strain was large.” In 2018, Congress gave the states extra money to fortify their methods and required a paper path for all newly bought voting machines. “Six months after we acquired the unhealthy information that nobody was going to construct S.T.A.R. Vote for us, we acquired a dramatic turnaround within the business for voting methods. They’d the truth is constructed a brand new voting system with digital help and a paper path. My thrill was a bit of bit tempered by the frustration of figuring out that they may have carried out it years earlier than.” And so Travis County joins battleground states like Pennsylvania and Georgia, and went procuring. Once more. “Some huge cash.” And paper is the rationale consultants are saying 2020 would be the most safe election we’ve ever held. It’s not simply concerning the voting machines. A larger variety of e-poll books — that are used to check-in voters on Election Day — will even have a paper backup system. “And that’s why the Division of Homeland Safety has spent a 12 months attempting to get cities and cities throughout America to print out these e-poll books to guarantee that they’d a number of backups of their registration methods.” A course of moved additional alongside by the pandemic. “You already know in an odd approach, the coronavirus disaster has helped us some in our election crises.” It’s pushed many states to shift to mail-in voting, which gives an computerized paper backup. In 2020, due to states shopping for new voting methods and the rise in vote-by-mail, an estimated 95 % of voters will use auditable paper ballots. That’s to not say the shift to paper has been problem-free. Some states purchased machines that produce a barcode for a paper poll, which makes it tougher for voters to confirm. “The paper that comes out of the machine — machine-marked paper — has a barcode on it that’s the official vote. No human can learn a barcode.” And in varied states, there have been printing errors on mail-in ballots. “There’s a distinct title on the poll that you just’re purported to ship in.” Nonetheless, in terms of hacking and widespread fraud, consultants agree that paper — by way of mail-in voting or with a voter verified paper path — is as protected because it will get. “Having a paper poll mailed to increasingly People means there’s a traceable approach for folks to vote. And a approach for election screens to audit in a while that these votes had been counted the best way they had been forged. And that they had been forged by folks eligible to vote.” The nation’s voting system is safer than it was 4 years in the past, however some counties didn’t make the transition and might be extra weak. “The one states with vital quantities of non-paper digital ballots are states like, truthfully, Texas.” Texas, a possible swing state for 2020, lags behind the remainder of the nation in election safety. Harris County, the third largest county within the nation, wasn’t capable of buy new machines and nonetheless has their DREs from 2006. And with the Texas Supreme Court docket refusing to develop absentee voting and by permitting just one drop field per county, it places additional strain on the machines to operate easily on Election Day. “A notion hack is a hack that’s simply sufficiently big to create the phantasm of a broad cyberattack. As a result of if they’ll manipulate some votes, registration methods, e-poll books, in just some locations, folks will assume that they did so in all places. That’s the fantastic thing about a notion hack. And 4 years later, The psychological import of what the Russians did could also be larger than something that they really hacked into, as a result of they’ve managed to shake the arrogance of American voters that their votes might be counted as they forged them.” That is Alex. And I’m Kassie. We produced this episode of “Pressured Election.” There’s so much happening this election, and we wish to make sure that we take a deep dive into the foremost points. Stick round for the following episodes. We’re going to cowl voting rights, voting know-how, disinformation and vote-by-mail.

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