Activists Call for Banning Wireless Devices From U.S. Voting Systems
WASHINGTON, D.C. – By close of business today, more than 50,000 citizens from across the political spectrum will have called on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to help secure the vote by banning wireless devices and internet connectivity in voting equipment certified by the federal government.
The action is taking place as part of the official comment process on the new Voluntary Voting System Guidelines, which the EAC is charged with issuing. The guidelines influence the design and manufacture of voting machines that the public uses in federal elections. Although the federal guidelines are voluntary, many states require voting systems to adhere to them.
After the 2016 elections raised questions about the integrity of U.S. election systems, it often was stated that voting systems could not be remotely attacked because they are not connected to the internet. However, some voting systems include cellular modems to be used to communicate election results at the end of election night and other purposes. Public telecommunication networks communicate over the internet at points; the modems create an attack vector that hackers can exploit to compromise the voting system, install malicious software and tamper with election data in current or future elections.
Many states ban the use of wireless modems because of the grave security risk they pose, but several still use voting systems with wireless modems. Those states include Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Advocacy organizations – including Public Citizen, the National Election Defense Coalition, Common Cause and FreedomWorks – have alerted their members of the need for citizen comments supporting a ban on wireless modems and internet connectivity in the federal guidelines. More than 50,000 citizens responded and sent comments to the EAC on the subject.
“Our country is still waking up to the threat posed to our democracy by hacks and computer error. People are ready to push our government to secure the vote,” said Aquene Freechild, co-director of Public Citizen’s Democracy Is For People campaign. “The public support for banning wireless modems in federally certified voting machines is overwhelming. Tens of thousands of people took action during a holiday week to call on an agency they had never heard of before to fix this.”
“Banning wireless modems is a commonsense measure to ensure the integrity of our voting machines,” said Dan Savickas, federal affairs manager at FreedomWorks. “There is broad grassroots support for taking such a step to secure our electoral infrastructure. The process for submitting public comments is complicated enough without shifting the goalposts at the last minute. We hope the EAC will still hear what the grassroots in this country have to say and strengthen the integrity of our elections.”
“Citizens are acutely aware of the need to secure our election systems,” said Susannah Goodman, director of the Election Security Program at Common Cause. “They understood immediately that putting a wireless modem into our voting machines and vote tabulation systems greatly expanded the opportunities for sophisticated actors like North Korea or Russia to wreak havoc with the vote counts.”
“For too long voting system vendors have distorted the threat and muddied the issue of using wireless modems by claiming that they don’t expose systems to the internet, but that just isn’t the case,” said Susan Greenhalgh, policy director for the National Election Defense Coalition. “The American voters need the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to acknowledge and address this significant threat to election system security by banning wireless modems and internet connectivity in the federal guidelines.”