The news of modernized voting machines coming online in Michigan for upcoming elections is a great thing for our state. There have been a lot of questions, concerns, and, frankly, inaccurate scare tactics thrown around about the integrity of our voting systems since the election. The situation in Michigan is mixed, but overall, our elections are secure and voters should have confidence that their voice is being heard when they cast their ballot.
We should always be striving to improve our election processes without using fear and voter suppression tactics. To that end, federal help should not be based on the groundless claims of the Trump Administration’s Election Integrity Commission, but designed to protect our system from far more likely threats.
Up until 2015, it was illegal to even attempt to hack a voting machine, but then the Library of Congress granted an exemption to permit good faith research to find security flaws in certain types of technology.
On that, hackers met last week, at the DEF CON Cyber Security Conference in Las Vegas to expose voting machines flaws. After a mere 90 minutes, they had gotten in.
Although the election equipment used for the DEF CON experiment was old, similar equipment was used in Ingham County’s May 2017 Election, and similar equipment continues to be used around Michigan and the United States.
I have been advocating for new election equipment in Michigan since 2012, and in light of these concerns, believe we should examine every part of the hacks from the conference and assess the potential threats to our elections.
In Michigan, our election equipment must be certified by the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) and the Department of State, which many other states do not require. The secretary of state, county and municipal clerks have been working to get new election equipment in Michigan for years, and now it is finally coming to fruition.
Michigan is unique and arguably more secure than other states, as our election process continues to be carried out with paper trails from the voter application to the ballot, and even the ballot stub. Although Michigan election officials do not know how an individual voter voted, we do know who votes during each election.
However, no one has unrestricted access to the election equipment on Election Day. The election equipment is never unattended, and the poll workers must have two people of opposite political parties to do anything with the machines or ballots.
Michigan also utilizes County Boards of Canvassers to certify the results of each and every election. These boards are made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats who are charged with checking vote totals, re-tabulating voted ballots to check validity, and making certain vote totals match.
Further, Michigan has the ability to conduct hand recounts, which many counties did after the November 2016 General Election. Ingham County was one of the first to complete the 2016 Presidential Recount resulting in the same outcome.
After nearly every election, Michigan county clerks conduct random voting precinct audits to make sure that all election procedures and protocols were followed.
So if Trump’s Election Integrity Commission (EIC) really wanted to protect elections in our country, it would look to create funding sources for the purposes of updating and further securing election technology. Determining best practices and election security is something the EAC, which until recently was facing total elimination, is already in a position to do.
As an election official, I stand behind my election results and know that the elections I run are safe and secure. I encourage others to learn more and get involved in elections by serving as an election worker or county canvasser.
Barb Byrum is Ingham County clerk.