Any sensible person knows that some people would, if they could, misprogram Wisconsin’s voting machines.
They also know that huge corporations with multi-million-dollar security budgets have been hacked … and that local election officials don’t have multi-million-dollar security budgets.
So when are Wisconsin’s election officials going to make sure they are able to detect and correct any miscounted vote totals?
Defenders of the current system (trust without verification) will tell you that Wisconsin’s decentralized elections administration eliminates the possibility that anyone can misprogram all the voting machines.
That’s poor reasoning on two levels.
First, an election thief doesn’t need to access every voting machine. One well-placed rogue employee in one voting-machine company could determine the outcome of any of Wisconsin’s notoriously close statewide elections by inserting malicious code into only one computer–for example, the computer in the office of the Milwaukee County Elections Commission. That one computer is used to prepare all the voting equipment in the county before each election.
Second, decentralization means that no one is in charge. Neither state nor federal officials have any authority–none–to oversee the security of the voting-machine software or systems once they’ve been sold to local election officials.
- Big companies like Microsoft and Cisco manufacture the operating systems and software used in voting-system components, like the communications system. Some components are manufactured overseas, even in China.
- Voting-machine companies like ES&S, Dominion, and ClearBallot manufacture the computers that read the ballots and count the votes in each polling place, and the computers in each county clerk’s office that are used to manage the polling-place equipment and compile results on Election Night. No public officials–federal, state, or local–oversee the companies’ security practices; they just trust.
- Employees in county clerks‘ offices and municipal clerks‘ offices set up the voting systems for each new election, and are responsible for keeping them secure during and between elections. But their simple pre-election voting-machine tests are designed only to catch problems that are not trying to hide. Any malicious software will be designed to miscount only on Election Day, and because Wisconsin’s officials trust the Election-Night vote totals, they don’t verify their accuracy. Any hacked election will go undetected.
If that rogue computer-maintenance guy does ever insert malicious software in that Milwaukee County computer, no one will notice, and the voting machines will spit out the results the election thieves want.
BUT: Election officials could ensure final election results are correct anyway.
Not the election-night results, which by state law must be reported so quickly that there is no time for anyone to verify their accuracy. But those are preliminary anyway.
What they could secure, if they chose to do it, are the final results.
No misprogrammed voting machines could ever decide the election outcome if local election officials would only:
- Purchase and use voting systems that rely on voter-marked paper ballots to record each voter’s selections; and
- Use those paper ballots to perform routine, hand-counted audits to confirm the winners before certifying the election.
That’s it. That is all that needs to be done to render Wisconsin elections completely immune from programming errors and from maliciously misprogrammed computers. National election experts recommend those audits. Other states do them. Any county board of canvass could decide right now, without any additional statutory authority, to add those audits to their routine canvass procedures. The audits could be completed within existing budgets and time limits.
Wisconsin Election Integrity (WEI) was a group of volunteer citizens formed in the Summer of 2012 and active until 2020, which was committed to ensuring that Wisconsin elections reflect the will of the people. Strictly nonpartisan, the group organized observations of pre-election voting machine tests, county canvass meetings, and post-election audits. They performed public, transparent verification of the voting machine output in Dane County after five elections. In 2017, when it became apparent that the Racine County Canvass had twice certified incorrect results in the 2016 presidential race–once right after the election and then again in the recount–we conducted a citizens’ hand-counted audit to determine the extent of the problem and call attention to the unreliable county canvass procedures (which were typical of those used in other counties.)
We funded our activities with our personal funds and conducted a few GoFundMe campaigns.
In 2020, however, nonpartisan civic discussion of election security became impossible. Few voters and even fewer elected officials were able to process any information or arguments that did not have a partisan motive or angle. Editors and reporters were frank in telling us “Unless you have a partisan angle, we’re not interested.” There is now no forum in which solid facts about elections administration can be presented and soberly discussed.
We hope that the information preserved on this website will be of use to others who, in the future, might be motivated to take up the work of securing Wisconsin’s election results, not in the interest of any political party, but with the genuine intent to make sure the voice of the People is accurately certified.