South Carolina voters are suing their state over its use of paperless voting machines amid worries that they are susceptible to hacking without detection.
The complaint filed Tuesday seeks a declaration from the court that South Carolina has violated the plaintiffs’ fundamental right to have their votes counted and prevent the state from continuing to use the machines it currently has in place. The lawsuit largely resembles one that is ongoing in Georgia.
With the midterm elections coming up in November, the lawsuit does not outline any short-term alternatives to using the state’s current machines. The plaintiffs in the Georgia lawsuit propose using provisional paper ballots that can be scanned with the machines the state uses for absentee ballots.
The plaintiffs are Frank Heindel, a commodities trader and election security advocate, and Phil Leventis, a former senator in the state legislature who opposed the the state’s adoption of the machines South Carolina currently uses.
South Carolina is one of five states that for years have exclusively used direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines. DREs do not produce a paper record in order for voters to verify that their selections are counted properly. Without such a paper trail, security experts warn that there’s no way to truly audit an election if hackers were to mess with the machines. Lawmakers have also been increasingly pressing for a departure from paperless machines.
The main defendant named in the lawsuit is Marci Andino, executive director of the South Carolina’s State Election Commission. Andino declined to comment on the suit, which she said she hadn’t seen yet. However, she said the commission is working toward securing funding from the state legislature to replace the voting machines.
“Until funding is obtained, we will continue to use our current voting system. However, what’s important is that we continue taking all reasonable measures to secure the state’s election infrastructure in preparation for the 2018 General Election and beyond,” Andino said by email. “We are continuing to work with our state, federal and private partners to meet these challenges and to harden our security posture.”
South Carolina is also getting about $6 million in federal funding that from a $380 million fund Congress designated earlier this year for election technology improvements. Andino said some of its share will go toward replacing machines, but that it won’t be enough to replace everything.
“In South Carolina, the capacity of the state’s election system to record and count votes reliably is deeply compromised by the state’s unnecessarily vulnerable voting system,” the lawsuit states.
According to Verified Voting, elections are administered throughout South Carolina using the iVotronic voting machine, made by ES&S. The lawsuit cites findings by security researchers that suggest the equipment can be hacked to change vote tallies on a wide scale.
“Because the iVotronic system is used statewide, its vulnerabilities impair the reliability of elections in every precinct and county. Those inherent vulnerabilities are exacerbated by the varying cybersecurity practices employed in each county. As a result, a hacker might cause largescale disruption by attacking one or more counties, potentially creating distrust and confusion that could affect the entire state,” the plaintiffs say.
The U.S. intelligence community concluded last year that Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered a campaign to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security warned that Russian hackers probed some aspect of 21 states’ election systems for vulnerabilities. The targets were mostly voter registration websites and officials have said there’s no evidence any vote totals were changed in the campaign.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs did not respond to requests for comment.
You can read the complaint below:
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