Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Voting Machines Decertified Due to Security Issues

Win-Vote machine recently decertified over security vulnerabilities.

When the Virginia Board of Elections announced their decision to decertify all of the Win-Vote voting machines in the state, Montgomery County wasn’t caught flat-footed. According to Montgomery County Registrar Randall Wertz, although there have been no issues with the Win-Vote machines since they were first used in 2005, his office began phasing out the county’s 115 machines in 2012 in favor of a system that uses paper ballots and an optical scanner. Currently the Win-Vote machines are only needed to provide curbside service for disabled voters. After yesterday’s ruling by the State, the County will be forced to switch to a new method of providing curbside voting in order to remain ADA compliant.

The cost to the county of retiring these machines will still be significant, but not as bad as it will be for some of our neighbors. According to Wertz, the cost of replacing the machines still in use with an ADA compliant system known as the Unisyn OVI could be as high as $128,000. Thirty new machines will be needed at a cost of $4000 each, with additional costs related to needed accessories and supplies. Although this still represents a large expenditure for the County, it would have been much larger if all 115 of the decertified machines were still in use. Since there will be no June primary election the County will have until the November 3rd general election, but it will take time to acquire the machines and train all of the election officers on their use. 

“The Unisyn OVI machines are compatible with the Unisyn OVO machines we currently use,” Wertz explained. “Once a disabled person votes, it prints out a paper ballot that is then fed into the OVO scanner to record the vote”.

The decision to decertify the Win-Vote machines came despite a request by the Montgomery County Registrars office to allow the machines to continue in operation with the system’s Wi-Fi functions disabled. According to Wertz, the only security issues found involved the Wi-Fi functions that are only turned on after the polls close for vote consolidation purposes, and are not really necessary. “The machine can be modified to permanently disable the wireless functions,” he said. “The chip can be removed”.

The Registrar’s Office has requested a proposal from the manufacturer for the total cost of the new machines. The issue is expected to be taken up at the next regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors on April 27th.

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