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Consultants: False claims on voting machines obscure actual flaws

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ATLANTA (AP) — The aftermath of the 2020 election put an intense highlight on voting machines as supporters of former President Donald Trump claimed victory was stolen from him. Whereas the theories had been unproven — and plenty of outlandish and blatantly false — election safety consultants say there are actual issues that should be addressed.

In Georgia, for instance, election safety skilled J. Alex Halderman says he’s recognized “a number of extreme safety flaws” within the state’s touchscreen voting machines, based on a sworn declaration in a court docket case.

Halderman instructed The Related Press in a cellphone interview that whereas he is seen no proof the vulnerabilities had been exploited to alter the end result of the 2020 election, “there stay severe dangers that policymakers and the general public want to concentrate on” that ought to be addressed instantly to guard future elections.

Trump loyalists — pushing the slogan “Cease the Steal” — held rallies, posted on social media and filed lawsuits in key states, usually with false claims about Dominion Voting Techniques voting machines. Nearly all the authorized challenges casting doubt on the end result of the election have been dismissed or withdrawn and plenty of claims of fraud debunked. State and federal election officers have mentioned there is not any proof of widespread fraud. And Dominion has fought again forcefully, submitting defamation lawsuits in opposition to high-profile Trump allies.

As an election safety researcher, it has been irritating to look at the proliferation of misinformation, mentioned Matt Blaze, a professor of laptop science and legislation at Georgetown College. For years, he mentioned, issues raised by election safety consultants had been dismissed as unimportant.

“Abruptly, individuals are going the opposite method, saying the existence of a flaw not solely is one thing that ought to be mounted, it means the election was truly stolen,” he mentioned. “That’s not true both.”

David Cross is an lawyer for plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit filed by proponents of hand-marked paper ballots. His purchasers’ issues about Georgia’s digital voting machines lengthy preceded the 2020 election, however he says they’re now grappling with find out how to expose vulnerabilities and advocate for adjustments with out fueling conspiracy theories.

It is also irritating, he mentioned, to look at the state “attempt to dismiss precise scientific, rigorous examination of the voting tools by simply saying we’re no completely different from the ‘Cease the Steal’ folks once we’re counting on essentially the most revered election integrity consultants within the nation.”

Halderman, a voting know-how specialist and director of the College of Michigan’s Heart for Pc Safety and Society, serves as an skilled witness within the lawsuit, which was filed by particular person voters and the Coalition for Good Governance.

In declarations submitted as a part of the case in federal court docket in Atlanta, Halderman wrote that he had recognized vulnerabilities that attackers might exploit to “set up malicious software program, both with non permanent bodily entry (corresponding to that of voters within the polling place) or remotely from election administration programs.” As soon as put in, he wrote, such malware “might alter voters’ votes whereas subverting all of the procedural protections practiced by the State.”

He detailed his findings in a report filed beneath seal final month as a part of the lawsuit, which challenges the election system Georgia purchased in 2019.

State officers have constantly argued that the Dominion machines have been totally vetted and that safety measures are in place to stop issues.

“In an ever-changing risk atmosphere, there are at all times new evolving threats to any form of election system,” Ari Schaffer, a spokesman for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, mentioned in an e-mail. “That’s the reason we’re vigilant to the challenges that come up to the integrity of our elections. We’re continuously in contact with federal and state safety companions to guard our elections and hold them safe and dependable.”

The state paid greater than $100 million for the brand new Dominion system, changing the outdated tools it had been utilizing since 2002. First used statewide throughout final 12 months’s main election, it contains touchscreen voting machines that produce paper ballots with barcodes tallied by scanners.

Halderman mentioned his 25,000-word report was the results of 12 weeks of intensive testing of Dominion tools from Fulton County. All voters in Georgia use these machines, and at the very least some voters in 11 different states additionally use the identical voting machines, based on information compiled by Verified Voting.

As a result of it was filed beneath seal, The Related Press hasn’t seen Halderman’s report or any specifics of the alleged vulnerabilities. It was additionally designated “attorneys’ eyes solely,” that means even the precise events to the lawsuit can’t see it.

For that cause, nobody within the secretary of state’s workplace has seen the report, however Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs mentioned, “We’re accustomed to these contentions. They don’t seem to be new and Halderman’s report is simply doable as a result of the choose gave him unrestricted entry to tools that he couldn’t in any other case get.”

Halderman, who has lengthy argued that the touchscreen machines are susceptible, mentioned the entry allowed him to establish for the primary time particular vulnerabilities and the methods they might be exploited. He believes the data ought to power the state and Dominion to deal with the problems.

“That’s simply commonplace safety apply,” he mentioned.

Halderman was tasked with evaluating the machines, not with searching for proof that potential vulnerabilities had been exploited in a previous election.

Throughout a convention name with the events final month, U.S. District Choose Amy Totenberg, who’s presiding over the case, mentioned she wasn’t able to unseal his report. However she did say she’s “involved sufficient concerning the data contained in it,” based on a transcript.

“I’ve seen how this will blow up,” she added. Totenberg’s previous opinions within the case, which had been essential of Georgia’s election system, have been cited by folks pushing conspiracy theories.

Due to its confidential designation, the report hasn’t been shared with Dominion. Halderman wrote that he’s been attempting since January, via the plaintiffs’ attorneys, to rearrange a gathering with Dominion however the firm has not agreed to fulfill.

“Regardless of continued defamatory assaults in opposition to our firm and its programs, Dominion has emerged from the 2020 election cycle with arguably the most-tested, most-scrutinized, and most-proven voting know-how in latest historical past. Our firm welcomes suggestions that’s supplied in good religion by researchers,” Dominion mentioned in a press release.

In response to Halderman’s report, the state filed a rebuttal declaration from one in every of its personal skilled witnesses, Juan Gilbert.

Gilbert, chair of the pc and data science and engineering division on the College of Florida, wrote that “any laptop will be hacked with sufficient entry and data of a decided malicious actor.” He added that whereas he believes digital ballot-marking gadgets will be improved upon, that “doesn’t imply I consider they’re so insufficiently safe as to be unconstitutional or in any other case impermissibly susceptible.”

Whereas Halderman says he has examined numerous strategies of hacking that he says are usually undetectable, Gilbert wrote, “I’m not conscious that Dr. Halderman has supplied tools marred by ‘un-detectable’ hacks to another unbiased researcher to check his principle that it’s, the truth is, un-detectable and never correctable.”

Halderman countered in a declaration filed with the court docket that the declaration from Gilbert does not dispute the existence of the vulnerabilities he detailed or the steps that might be taken to change particular person votes and election outcomes. Nothing in Gilbert’s declaration signifies that state officers perceive how severe the issues are or have taken any steps to deal with them, Halderman wrote.

He argued that state election officers “urgently want to interact with the findings in my report and handle the vulnerabilities it describes earlier than attackers exploit them.”

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