-By Gerry Smith
October 22, 2012- For years, researchers have been aware of numerous security flaws in electronic voting machines. They've found ways to hack the machines to swap votes between candidates, reject ballots or accept 50,000 votes from a precinct with just 100 voters.
Yet on Nov. 6, millions of voters — including many in hotly contested swing states — will cast ballots on e-voting machines that researchers have found are vulnerable to hackers. What is more troubling, say some critics, is that election officials have no way to verify that votes are counted accurately because some states do not use e-voting machines that produce paper ballots.
After the "hanging chad" controversy of the 2000 election, Congress passed a federal law that gave states funding to replace their punch card and lever voting systems with electronic voting machines. But computer scientists have repeatedly demonstrated that a variety of electronic voting machines can be hacked — often quite easily.
"Every time they are studied, we find further problems," said J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan who researches voting machine security.
"It's simply a matter of reprogramming these machines to be dishonest," Halderman added. "That's what we found six years ago and it's still true today, and many of these machines are still in use."
In 2008, researchers at Princeton University found that it took seven minutes, using simple tools, to install a different computer program in a voting machine "that steals votes from one party's candidates, and gives them to another." That machine, the Sequoia Avantage, is still used in at least six states by 9 million voters, according to Roger Johnston, who heads the vulnerability assessment team at Argonne National Laboratory.