Experts Question California Ballot Marking Devices

A group of voting security researchers, alarmed by the recent disclosure of sensitive electoral system software by an ally of former President Trump, want California officials to conduct a nationwide post-election review Status of ballots cast in September 14 recall targeting Governor Gavin Newsom.

Their demand, made just days before in-person voting began in several counties, threatens to drag California into the tumultuous national debate over election security.

“Although the software versions are not identical to those used in California, the differences are relatively minor,” the group said in its letter Thursday to Secretary of State Shirley Weber. “The publication dramatically elevates threats to the reliability of California’s current recall election and to public confidence in the election. “

Researchers who wrote to Weber acknowledged California’s strong record on electoral security. But they argued that the public debate on Dominion products by Mike Lindell, chief executive of MyPillow and informal adviser to Trump, amounted to a serious breach of electoral system security.

Lindell hosted an event in South Dakota last month which he billed as a Voter Fraud Symposium where, according to reports, details of the Dominion’s systems were discussed. These systems, the voting researchers said in their letter to Weber, were similar enough to those used by some counties in California to cause concern.

“For years, the voting technology market has used the cloak of invisibility as a shield to protect its products from the threats that exploit weaknesses in computer systems every day,” said Richard DeMillo, president of Georgia Tech. School of Cybersecurity and Privacy. a written statement. “That shield never really existed but now it’s not even a fig leaf anymore.”

A spokesperson for Weber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The researchers want California officials to commit to a thorough post-election review of the recall results, a review that would likely involve checking the marks made on millions of ballots. But their greatest concern may lie in the possible vulnerabilities of the devices used to mark paper ballots on in-person voting sites – weaknesses, they say, were exposed by Lindell’s public event.

The devices in question are manufactured by Dominion Voting Systems and are expected to be used in 40 of the state’s 58 counties for the recall election. Dominion remains trapped in unproven fraud allegations made by Trump supporters during the presidential election last November. The company has filed lawsuits against charges brought by lawyers for the former president and repeated by conservative media organizations, including a lawsuit against Lindell.

“In raising our concerns about the Dominion software version, we are not accusing Dominion of wrongdoing,” the letter from eight election researchers said. “We also have no evidence that anyone is currently considering hacking the recall election.”

Instead, the researchers told Weber, they are urging action to ensure public confidence in the recall election results that will be released after the polls close on September 14. Academics did not ask Weber to ban Dominion ballot tagging devices, a move that would lead to widespread disruption in the planning of in-person voting.

The letter to Weber cites the work of Alex Halderman, a professor of computer science at the University of Michigan, who reported in federal court that a ballot tagging device made by Dominion had security flaws that “Would allow an ordinary voter to insert malware into a [ballot marking device] during a voting session, with little probability of detection.

This malware, Halderman noted in a court file last month relating to an election trial in Georgia, could then “spread undetected to other voting machines and potentially to the Central Election Management System (EMS). in the county “.

For nearly 15 years, California has required paper records of all votes cast in elections to ensure the safety and accuracy of voting machines. Ballot Marking Devices are intended to assist the voter with clear and consistent selections while allowing for the examination of a paper ballot before it is placed in a ballot box.

The warning comes amid a heated public debate over election security. A poll released by the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California on Wednesday found that while voters polled most likely said they trusted the state’s voting systems, there was a large trust gap between Democrats and Republicans. Forty-three percent of probable GOP voters polled said they had “very little” confidence in the state’s electoral systems.

More than 5 million voters have already voted, according to counts reported by election officials. In-person voting begins this weekend in some communities for Californians who did not want to vote remotely or for those who need help with their selections or registration status.


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