As Americans head to the midterms, let’s talk about voting machines

Americans head to the midterms

So, this looks set to be a contentious election. And in the background, all kinds of issues about how American votes are bubbling away. Why are so many congressional districts such a weird shape? Why are there two Senators from California (population: 40 million) and two from Wyoming (population 544,000)? Logically California should have 160 Senators, or Wyoming should have 0.025. And why are so many Americans struggling to vote?

Moving polling stations, together with voting laws that disenfranchise particular groups (you can guess which ones I’d imagine), aren’t helping there.

Once Americans do finally show up to vote though, they’re fine, right? There’s no funny business in the polling booth; we’re not there yet, anyway.

So yeah, about that. There’s been a big move in recent years towards using electronic voting machines, dating mainly from the Bush/Gore debacle. And they are just about the dumpster fire that you’d imagine, if you were imaging the most extreme combination of ill intent and basic incompetence possible, and if you had a very fertile imagination.

US voting machines are trivially easy to hack

By which I mean, security experts can do it in under 2 minutes with no tools. And so can kids. All modern voting machines have to be able to accept files from other computers, the only way to put the current ticket on the machine, and that makes them vastly vulnerable — even if they weren’t mostly running on the extravagantly obsolete and hackable Windows XP, which hasn’t been updated since 2014.

US voting machines don’t just contain candidates’ names

They also contain a ton of cheesy Chinese pop music.

Wait, what?

More bizarrely, voting machine manufacturer WinVote´s VoteActive device was found to contain pop music. The machine, which was running windows XP, could be hacked wirelessly in seconds, and had a music player and CD ripper program built in. It is believed this music stuff was left lying around in unused and unallocated space on the disk.

Right. That sounds totally safe and absolutely what we should bet the future of democracy on.

These flaws are known and have been for years. But nobody seems to wants to address them, even though if there ever are a large number of fraudulent votes in a US election this is how they will be cast: on Windows XP, by Russians, to a soundtrack of leftover Chinese synth-pop played on Windows Media Player.

US voting systems: Full of holes, loaded with pop music, and “hacked” by an 11-year-old,’ Iain Thomson, The Register

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