Virginia’s Board of Elections voted unanimously to decertify all of the state’s touchscreen voting machines, which are considered by cybersecurity experts to be vulnerable to manipulation by hackers.
The race is now on to replace the machines, which are used in 22 counties, before Virginia’s elections in November. Industry experts and and the state’s elections department have recommended that the touchscreen machines be replaced with ones that record votes on paper instead of only electronically, so the votes can be audited and verified.
“The Department of Elections believes that the risks presented by using this equipment in the November General Election are sufficiently significant to warrant immediate decertification to ensure the continued integrity of Virginia elections,” commissioner Edgardo Cortes wrote in a letter to the Board of Elections recommending the change.
Cortes cited the work of hackers at DEFCON, the annual hacking conference in Las Vegas, as influential in his recommendation. Security researchers at DEFCON this year were invited to hack voting machines, and they discovered security flaws in several models of touchscreen machines. The research prompted the Department of Elections to commission a security review of its touchscreen voting machines, Cortes wrote.
“Virginia’s move to decertify all of its paperless voting machines is a critical step toward securing its elections and acknowledging that post-2016, we’re living in a brave new world where election interference from hostile foreign attackers is no longer theoretical,” Barbara Simons, the president of the election security nonprofit Verified Voting, said in a statement. “We all need to step up our game to secure our elections and restore voter faith that their votes will be counted as cast.”
Touchscreen machines are still in use in several states, including New Jersey, Georgia, and Pennsylvania.