NJ Lawmakers Hold Hearing On Security Of Voting Machines

Oct 26, 2017

Princeton computer science professor Andrew Appel testifies at Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing

Many of the 11,000 voting machines in New Jersey are old and will soon have to be replaced. Amid concerns about hacking, state lawmakers are examining how to make sure new machines will be more secure.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker says while there’s no evidence of hacking, the machines are hackable.

Princeton computer science professor Andrew Appel say he could quickly break the security seals on a voting machine, replace the chip that records the results, and reseal it so the tampering would be undetectable.

“I was able to get a bunch of them and figure out what their weaknesses are. So if you have three or four seals on there it’ll take me ten minutes to get them off.”

Gary Olson is an election data specialist with the New Jersey Association of Election Officials. He says there’s a robust system to detect any tampering.

“I have tried with a heat gun and with a razor blade to try to get the seal off without indicating it any way that it had been tampered with. It is extremely difficult.”

Lawmakers are considering legislation that would require new voting machines to have a paper record of each vote cast that would be preserved for use in any audits of election results.

They haven’t determined whether the legislation would require all of the voting machines to be replaced by a certain date, be purchased when counties need replacements, or whether the state will provide the funding.

Internet voting might seem like a way to make it easier for more people to participate in elections, but professor Appel believes it would be a disaster.

“It would be so easy to hack. Not only in the server that you connect to that’s counting up the votes. But if your computer is hacked because some virus has gone around and taken over your machine, then it could interfere with the app that’s allowing you to vote, and you think you’re voting for these candidates but it’s transmitting completely different votes to the server.”