AP explains: Electoral systems reliable despite conspiracies


Former President Donald Trump and his allies have instigated a relentless campaign of attacks on voting machines since his defeat in the 2020 election. After almost two years no proof it turned out that voting machines were manipulated in order to steal the election or any widespread scam.

Conspiracy theories are spreading online and in forums across the country have nonetheless undermined public confidence in voting machines and election results while in the lead some counties to consider discarding equipment in favor of hand-marked and hand counted ballots.

During a busy primary school year, national elections were held this year. Although programming errors sometimes occur and devices can fail, no major problems have been reported. Voting equipment is tested before and after to identify problems, while post-election audits confirm that it was working properly.

The Associated Press explains how we got to this point, efforts to increase voting security, and the fallout from the false claims surrounding the 2020 presidential election.


The types of voting machines used in the United States vary by location. With in-person voting, most people fill out the ballots by hand, and those ballots are inserted into an electronic tab. In many cases, this happens at the polling station. Elsewhere, the ballots are collected in a secured box, with the rules of the CoC applying, and taken to a polling station for electronic tabulation.

In some locations, a specialized computer is used by voters to electronically mark their ballots. These ballots are printed, checked for accuracy by the voter, and then inserted into a tab at their voting location. A trial in Georgia challenges the use of these “ballot-marking” machines because they use barcodes to record votes.

Mail-in ballots are also counted by tabulators at a local polling station. A small number of jurisdictions, mostly small New England towns, do not use tabs and hand-count their ballots.


After this Hanging Chad mayhem In the 2000 election, Congress provided money for upgrades to the voting system. Many jurisdictions chose electronic voting machines to replace their punch card voting systems. But these machines produced no records on paper; Instead, all votes were cast and recorded electronically.

For years, election security experts have raised concerns about these “live recording” machines and the possibility of someone tampering with them. A safer method, they say, is a system that uses paper ballots and electronic tabulation, with post-election checks and tests to ensure the machines are faithfully recording voters’ decisions.

Over the past decade, state and local governments began replacing their paperless machines, a process that accelerated after the 2016 election and revelations about it Russia had scanned US electoral systems Search for vulnerabilities. Today are paperless machines only used in Louisiana and a small number of jurisdictions in Indiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, Tennessee and Texas, according to Verified Voting, a group that tracks voting technology in the United States


In the weeks following the 2020 election, Trump and his allies made numerous unsubstantiated claims about voting machines, including the fact that their software was developed abroad and designed to flip votes for desired candidates: “With the turn of a dial or a chip change, you can push a button for Trump and it goes to Biden.” Trump said in a Dec. 2 speech.

These claims largely focused on Dominion Voting Systems, one of the few companies to dominate the US voting technology market. In response, Dominion has filed a defamation lawsuit conservative media companies and Trump attorneys Sidney Powell and Rudy Giulianiwho said: “Lies and misinformation have severely damaged our company and reduced the credibility of the US election.”

But instead of dissolving Conspiracies about voting machines have only grown. Trump allies have traveled the country speaking at conferences and with community groups armed with algorithms and diagrams allegedly showing machines have been somehow tampered with.

Voting technology expert Kevin Skoglund said part of the challenge is that voting systems are complex. It’s understandable that some people are convinced that something shameful happened when it didn’t.

“If you’re a non-technical person, you might think when someone tells you that the machines are cheating on you because you don’t understand how the systems work,” Skoglund said.


Any software-powered device—a cell phone, a laptop, or a voting system—is vulnerable to hacking. That is why election experts are pushing for the replacement of paperless voting machines.

Experts say the US has taken steps to improve election security in recent years. This includes designating the US electoral systems in 2017 as “critical infrastructure” — on par with the nation’s banks, dams and nuclear power plants.

Congress has sent nearly $900 million in election security funds to states, which have been used to replace outdated voting systems, hire cybersecurity personnel, and bolster cybersecurity defenses.

“There is no such thing as an invulnerable system,” said Larry Norden, an election security expert at the Brennan Center for Justice. “That doesn’t mean we can’t do better. We should always look at how we can do better, but risks cannot be ruled out.”

False claims fuel doubt and security concerns

The false claims not only undermined public confidence in the elections. They also led to this security breach at some local voting offices in Colorado, Georgia and Michigan.

Shortly after the 2020 election, Trump allies intervened a programming error in a Michigan county and gained legal access to its voting system through the courts. However, a copy of the county’s election administration system was made available at an August 2021 event hosted by a Trump ally, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, according to attendees.

A copy of the system used was also released at this event Mesa County, Colorado. Recently, details of another alleged breach have surfaced – in Coffee County, Georgia in January 2021, as Trump allies looked for ways to overturn the outcome of the presidential election. And Michigan investigate authorities after voting equipment was exposed to unauthorized persons in a handful of counties.

These developments have raised concerns dubious poll workers Conspiracy sympathizers could use their access to voting equipment and knowledge to launch an attack from within. A election workers in Michigan was recently accused of inserting a personal USB stick into an electronic ballot book during the state primary Colorado authorities are investigating a case in which a voter is suspected of tampering with a voting machine earlier this year.

Jen Easterly, director of the Agency for Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security at the Department of Homeland Security, told reporters Monday that threats to election security have never been more complicated — citing misinformationthe insider threats and harassment of poll workers.


After the 2020 presidential election, a coalition of federal cybersecurity and election officials, as well as state election officials and representatives from voting machine manufacturers, issued a statement calling for it to do so the “safest in American history”.

The group said there was “no evidence that any electoral system had votes erased or lost, votes altered or compromised in any way”.

This was mainly due to the availability of paper records for an estimated 93% of all ballots cast and a system of post-election checks to test the accuracy of electronic tabs. In Georgia, the presidential election was counted three times — once entirely by hand — and each count confirmed President Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

“It doesn’t matter what happens in the machine,” said Norden of the Brennan Center. “We have a note that tells us whether the votes were recorded correctly.”


Frank Bajak, Associated Press Technology Writer in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.


For full coverage of the midterms, follow AP at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ap_politics


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