Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee congresswoman and a key person within the Trump transition team, spoke on the evening news and said that it was impossible for the Russians to hack the presidential election because the electronic voting machines are not connected to the Internet.
Unfortunately, she is just simply WRONG and very misinformed.
Russian agents, or an overactive American high school computer nerd, can hack e-voting machines even when those same e-voting machines are not connected to the Internet.
This document will point out how to hack the presidential election with our current e-voting system and more importantly, how to eliminate that threat.
One of the foundations of our Democratic Republic is fair and free elections and Americans must have 100% confidence in our elections process.
Unfortunately, our present electronic voting system is vulnerable to a marginally sophisticated hacker. This does not give me confidence in our vote.
I write this letter to Donald Trump, and to my fellow Americans, because I want our citizens to have confidence in our election process and not be worried that a foreign country, or an over-energetic middle schooler, could swing the next election or have already influenced past elections.
Electronic Voting Machines:
There are three general ways computers give incorrect answers:
Inadvertent Software Bugs
Malicious Hacked Code
For this paper I will ignore the first two items listed above and assume the hardware works as expected and the code designers coded with no bugs and with high ethics.
There is Good and Bad News:
The Good News is that it is VERY easy to defeat all three problems listed above, which would give us much higher confidence in our voting results
The Bad News is our voting system is insanely vulnerable, yet NO GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL that I spoke with in the past HAS LISTENED TO THESE WARNINGS!!!
One, of many, way to hack an election:
Each electronic voting machine gets its software from a base machine. To hack the election, the hacker infects the base machine with code that manipulates our voting results to the hacker's liking. Russian agents know how to pick door locks. They break into the room that has the base machine and then they upload the malicious code to the base machine.
The unknowing government elected official downloads the hacked software to all the other electronic voting machines.
The people vote on the electronic machines and the machines tally the votes. The malicious code modifies the people’s actual vote to the hacker’s desire.
After the election the malicious code deletes itself so there is no trace that the malicious code existed and we will have voting results as per the hacker’s preference.
Note: All this is done WITHOUT being connected to the Internet.
The Fix – The Good News:
This fix will solve the problem of manipulating votes from:
Malicious or buggy code installed from the electronic voting machine manufacture, and
Hackers installing malicious code, and
The simple fix has two parts:
Each electronic voting machine has a printed paper confirmation slip viable to the voter behind a protected plastic chute, and
The department of elections audits the paper printed confirmation slips at a minimum number of polling stations that reaches the confidence level desired
Per the paper printed confirmation slip, yes, this can be considered a Luddite answer, but it is the only answer that ensures our election results are e-hacked free.
Computers are excellent at counting numbers at amazing speeds, thus we can get our election results fast. The paper copy will ensure that our computer results accurately reflect how we Americans voted.
The voting process is the citizen votes on the electronic voting machine and a paper confirmation of their vote is printed and visible to the voter behind a protected plastic barrier. If the paper confirmation slip does not match how the citizen voted, the voter presses a button and the electronic and paper ballot is destroyed and the citizen votes again.
If the paper confirmation slip does match how the voter voted, the paper slides down a plastic chute and is placed into a locked box.
Before the vote, the department of elections decides the desired confidence level. That confidence level calculates the number of polling stations requiring a paper counted audit and the number of paper ballots within each polling station that requires a hand tallied count. Any first semester statistics student can calculate the number of polling stations and hand counted ballots within each polling station to fit the desired confidence level.
If you follow this electronic/paper process, now we have confidence that our vote was not hacked or calculated incorrectly. We use computers to speed up our results, and we know our voting system is sound and will repel malicious code, hardware failures, or buggy software.
Will the paper, printers, and auditing increase the cost of our elections? Yes. I say that the additional cost is negligible to ensure our confidence in our voting process. The manual counting cost is also minimized by counting the minimum required ballots and at minimum number of polling stations as dictated by the desired confidence level.
Congratulations America, we no longer need to worry about foreign or domestic hackers, compromised electronic voting machines, nor hardware failures and buggy software. We now have confidence that our vote is accurate, which is a foundation of our democratic republic of the United States of America.
Just another Silicon Valley Entrepreneur
Palo Alto, CA
Another Note: In 2004 I drove to Sacramento, California and spoke with the California Elections Division officials at the Secretary of State's office about the vulnerability of our e-voting process and how to easily solve this problem. It was my naïve belief that the officials in charge of our elections would be highly concerned when a computer scientist from Palo Alto explained how election results could be easily manipulated. At my presentation, a gift to those election officials charged with ensuring accurate voting results, I could see they were most concerned about when the clock on the wall would turn to 4:59PM and they cared less about the vulnerability of our electronic voting machines. When exiting that meeting I asked an election official when he would retire and he replied with the exact number of days until he would start collecting his pension.
My state’s elections officials were more concerned about when they could leave work for the day, and had dialed in when they could start collecting their pensions rather than being concerned about ensuring our votes are not hacked – a foundation of our Democratic Republic and the job they are being paid to do, and per their government pension we will pay them for the rest of their lives and their spouses lives too! A very sad realization for me.
A note about me: I am a Silicon Valley coder and start-up founder. At Stanford I studied Artificial Intelligence and computer hardware design at the graduate level and I have worked at Fortune 500 companies and founded multiple Start-Up companies at my kitchen table, some that crashed and burned and others that M&A’ed and IPO’ed. I have succeeded well beyond my wildest expectations, and now I am trying my best to give back to the greatest nation that has given me so much.