Malfunctioning Mississippi voting machines highlight the need for election security

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A video showing an electronic voting machine changing a vote in yesterday’s primary runoff in Mississippi has gone viral, sparking a renewed conversation about the growing need for election security.

In the video, which had been viewed more than 750,000 times by this morning, a man clearly presses the screen several times to select Bill Waller Jr., but the screen selects Tate Reeves instead.

“It is not letting me vote for who I want to vote for,” the man says.

While state election officials confirmed that three machines had malfunctioned in two counties yesterday, the Waller campaign told the Clarion Ledger that it had received reports of similar issues in at least seven other counties.

It’s unlikely nine malfunctioning voting machines would have changed the outcome of the race. Reeves ended the night with a lead of nearly 28,000 votes. Nonetheless, it does raise questions about whether Mississippi and other states are ready to handle a presidential race in November 2020.

Advocates of heightened election security have warned for years that the type of machines used in Mississippi are particularly vulnerable to hackers and malfunctions, according to the Washington Post, which reported on the Mississippi voting issues. Those machines do not provide paper backups for verification.

“We should replace antiquated equipment, and paperless equipment in particular, as soon as possible,” the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law said in an Aug. 13 report on election risks.

Former special counsel Robert S. Mueller’s investigation into Russian hacking found undeniable evidence that Russians had interfered with U.S. elections in 2016 and likely in many elections before and since.

“They’re doing it while we sit here, and they expect to do it in the next campaign,” Mueller said during his congressional testimony last month.

According to the Post:

In June, Election Systems & Software, one of the nation’s biggest voting machine vendors, pledged to stop selling paperless machines as primary voting devices and urged Congress to adopt new security measures, calling it “essential to the future of America.” Even President Trump has backed the idea, telling reporters in May that “going to good old-fashioned paper, in this modern age, is the best way to do it.”

A bipartisan bill from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), a Democratic presidential candidate, and Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) would have provided federal funding to help states phase out paperless machines, but that bill — along with most other election security measures — has effectively been blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).