Virginia bans certain voting machines over hacking concerns

Concerned about potential hacking two months away from the state’s closely watched gubernatorial election, Virginia’s state Board of Elections voted Friday to replace any touchscreen voting machines before November’s elections for governor and two other statewide offices. The machines do not produce a paper trail, which the department described as an important security feature.

The Department of Elections officially recommends that the State Board of Elections decertify all Direct Recording Electronic (DRE or touchscreen) voting equipment.

As of today, the following 22 Virginia localities use DREs: Bath, Buchanan, Chesapeake, Colonial Heights, Culpeper, Cumberland, Emporia, Falls Church, Gloucester, Hopewell, Lee, Madison, Martinsville, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Rappahannock, Russell, Surry, Sussex, Tazewell, and Washington.

The localities must pick up the bill for new machines.

The state’s election board has approved a Department of Elections recommendation to make counties to replace these machines, Engadget reported on Saturday.

In India, allegations by some parties of large-scale tampering of electronic voting machines (EVMs) over the results of assembly elections to five states held in February-March and the Delhi civic polls led the Election Commission of India to host an EVM challenge in June to prove the reliability of the equipment. Furthermore, the deadline is of political significance because, on that date, the State of Virginia will be holding the governorship election and various other elections around the state.

The action represented one of the most concrete steps taken by a USA state to bolster the cyber security of election systems since the 2016 presidential race, when US intelligence agencies say Russian Federation waged a digital influence campaign to help President Donald Trump win.

“DefCon, an annual conference of hackers, promoted the “Voting Machine Hacking Village” at which multiple voting machines, mostly DREs, were made available”, it said. Security researchers at DEFCON this year were invited to hack voting machines, and they discovered security flaws in several models of touchscreen machines. “Multiple types of DREs, some of which are now in use in Virginia, were hacked according to public reports from DefCon”.

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