Is this just a “conspiracy theory” or factual reporting?
That apparently rests on two things: who is saying it, and when they said it.
Just before the election when Trump was condemned by the media for holding rallies with thousands of people in attendance and Biden couldn’t fill a couple of dozen circles, the Media (D) went all-in on what are now considered “conspiracy theories.”
The Public Broadcasting Network (PBS) had a segment on PBS NewsHour on October 26, 2020, discussing Georgia’s new electronic voting and in the report, they highlighted some of the problems with the system.
First up, it’s complicated. PBS reports that the vote-tallying system is a “complex assortment of laptops, iPads, magnetic cards, touchscreens, printers, and scanners.”
Harri Hursti, a “white hat” hacker who helps find flaws in the system, said, “They have set up a complicated system, which is centralized, and doesn’t seem to have any safeguards.”
Well, that seems like a problem, no?
It works this way:
- iPads are used to check in voters. It tells if an absentee-by-mail ballot had been sent, whether somebody’s voted early, whether they have voted that absentee ballot, or whether they are still eligible to vote.
- If a voter is eligible, it activates a magnetic card that in turn activates a Ballot Marking Device (BMD) where voters use a touchscreen to make their selections and then print their ballot.
- The printed ballot includes the printed text with the selections and a QR code which is then fed into another machine and read by an optical scanner.
Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, says that going through this complicated electronic process is more accurate than pen and paper.
Here’s a transcript of Raffensperger’s explanation and a refutation:
Brad Raffensperger: The problem with pen and paper is, sometimes, you have your instructions on what you’re supposed to do, but you end up with spoiled ballots.
Sometimes, people will put an X here, but then they circle this one here, or they will make different marks on it. What did they really mean there?
Miles O’Brien: Still, elections officials tell us they seldom see a hand-marked ballot where they can’t determine voter intent. In 2019, Georgia bought the devices from a Canadian company called Dominion Voting systems.
They replaced paperless machines like these made by a now defunct company called Diebold Election Systems. A federal judge forced the state to scrap the discredited devices. Election security activist Marilyn Marks was part of the lawsuit that triggered the change. But, for her, ballot-marking devices, now used widely in 14 states, are not the ideal remedy.
Marilyn Marks: We need paper records that are marked by the voter, with the voter’s own hand, where we know that was recorded the way that the voter wanted it recorded.
Miles O’Brien: So, she and the other plaintiffs took aim at the new voting machines. The lawsuit came into sharp focus after their chaotic debut in the June primary.
The Poll Pads took as long as 30 hours to download the voter database, displayed the wrong races, and would randomly shut down. And the power-hungry ballot-marking devices blew circuit-breakers in numerous locations.
Poll workers, many of whom had no hands-on training because of the pandemic, were often befuddled by the new technology.
It seems that they fixed a problem that wasn’t there and created a whole new one.
J. Alex Halderman, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering, said that there are some potential problems with the QR codes.
J. Alex Halderman: By analyzing the structure of the Q.R. codes, I have been able to learn that there’s nothing that stops an attacker from just duplicating one, and the duplicate would count the same as the original bar code.
Miles O’Brien: And in late September, another concern came to light. During testing, election workers found half the names of the 21 candidates for Senate intermittently disappeared from screens during the review phase.
Dominion sent out a last-minute software patch.
J. Alex Halderman: I’m worried that the Georgia system is the technical equivalent to the 737 MAX. They have just made a last-minute software change that might well have unintended consequences and cause even more severe problems on Election Day.
The “white hat hacker” Hursti agrees.
Harri Hursti: You never want to rush something which is mission-critical, and this is mission-critical, into production without proper time for testing.
That’s really one of the ways bad actors are finding the vulnerabilities to exploit is looking for honest vulnerabilities and finding out if they can be weaponized, if they can be exploited.
But here’s the kicker…
Miles O’Brien: Alex Halderman and his team at Michigan conducted a mock election to see if voters are likely to catch mistakes on the printouts. Only 7 percent spotted a deliberately planted error. So, double-check your ballot before you scan.
A full transcript is available at PBS NewsHour.
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