Technically Speaking Political Commentary
I don’t want nobody / To give me nothingOpen up the door / I’ll get it myself
— James Brown, I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (1969)
Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do; just when you think it can’t get any better, it does. That’s one way you could sum up, Critical U.S. Election Systems Have Been Left Online Despite Official Denials, the exclusive article by Kim Zetter, which appeared last week in Vice.com’s Motherboad.
The article is significant because it dispels a long-held lie told by voting machine vendors and parroted by unwitting election officials. For years, vendors and election officials have argued that vote tabulators could not be hacked because they aren’t connected to the internet.
Last week, a research team of security experts revealed they had discovered the backend of nearly 36 election systems in 10 states connected to the internet over the last year, including some in critical swing states. Election systems were detected in nine Wisconsin counties, four counties in Michigan, and seven in Florida.
Some of the systems have been connected for a year or more. The research team says some of the systems disappeared after the team notified an information-sharing group for election officials last year. As of last week, 19 of the systems, including one in Miami-Dade, are still connected to the internet.
All of the election systems researchers found were made by Election Systems & Software (ESS), the largest voting machine vendor in the U.S. The same ES&S that gave thousands to “Moscow Mitch” McConnell’s re-election campaign, in the form of contributions from two of their lobbyists.
Because we’re in this media-driven age where news outlets are clamoring to be the first to report, many counties have chosen this option, which gives the media an opportunity to report projected results.
The election systems by ES&S have a central unit that receives a record, and in some case a digital image, of your ballot, from each precinct via a wireless modem connection that has a secured connection to conceal the data transfer. The connection is only supposed to last long enough to test the connection and then transfer the data. However, researchers found these connections still open months, and in some cases a year later.
You think that it can’t get any worse. It does!
Researchers say while the average user wouldn’t know what to do if they accidentally accessed the firewall, a skilled hacker could have a field day manipulating the more critical backend systems, such as the election-reporting module that tabulates the unofficial and official votes, and the election management system that is used in some counties to program the voting machines before elections. A skilled hacker, foreign or domestic, could literally alter election results or subvert the management system through the use of malware.
This also exposes the lack of understanding on behalf of state and county officials, and the lack of skillset required to configure or maintain.
I share this story first and foremost because it is the duty of the African American press to inform, to be the Griot, the storyteller, the bearer of news.
My hope is that it will interest you to want to protect this sacred right you have. We see those in power haven’t the will or the damn to fix it, and it isn’t going to fix itself. That means it is up to us.
In the coming weeks I hope to share some helpful steps we should take prior to each election, as well as ways we can further participate to ensure integrity.
As always stay tuned to the Westside Gazette for more information about your vote.