Common Cause Lauds Virginia Decision to Retire Vulnerable Voting Machines Before November Elections

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  • Dale Eisman

The Virginia State Board of Elections voted this afternoon to retire voting machines that have been identified as vulnerable to manipulation and tampering and will shift to the use of paper ballots statewide before the November election. Common Cause and other groups had urged the board to retire the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, before the upcoming election because they do not produce a durable paper record of votes. Computer scientists have long advised that paper ballots should be used for voting because they are not digital and therefore cannot be altered by malware.

“Virginians deserve to know their ballot is safe and this decision will help safeguard the integrity of the coming election,” said Susannah Goodman, Director of Voting Integrity at Common Cause. “Security experts have long warned of the vulnerabilities of these machines and certainly the 2016 elections showed there are sophisticated and hostile players looking to exploit weaknesses in our election infrastructure. The board of elections voted today to help safeguard the ballots of tens of thousands of Virginians registered to vote in the 22 localities, including counties and independent cities, that would have used DRE machines in November.”

In a letter this morning to the State Board of Elections, Common Cause emphasized that the DRE voting machines in use in precincts across the state “have multiple security flaws that should render them obsolete.” The machines’ vulnerability “has always been unacceptable, but is even more untenable given recent national security threats to our election infrastructure,” the letter asserted. 

In a letter to the State Board of Elections Common Cause said the state should shift to machines that generate a durable voter verified paper record that can be used in recounts and audits. The lack of a paper record in the DRE machines “makes it impossible to conduct a post-election audit that will confirm that an election outcome is correct,” the letter added.

The General Assembly already has passed legislation phasing out the DRE machines by 2020. The elections board convened in Richmond this afternoon and voted to follow a Department of Elections staff recommendation that the state de-certify them immediately. In Virginia, local governments purchase voting equipment from a list of state approved vendors.

To read Common Cause’s letter to the elections board, click here.