State officials address voter identity hacking concerns

A recently-released report, shows Alabama is one of 35 states and Washington, D.C. that could have its election system hacked.

Posted: May 10, 2018 11:32 PM
Updated: May 11, 2018 8:32 PM

There is less than a month until the state primary elections in Alabama.

WAAY 31 found new evidence that your vote may not matter. A recently-released report, shows Alabama is one of 35 states and Washington, D.C. that could have its election system hacked.

We wanted to know what the state is doing to protect your civil rights.

Nichole Harris has been a registered voter in Morgan County since she was 18. Harris prides herself in being one of the 3,365,125 registered voters in the state. 

But, she does not vote.

"The reason I don't vote is because I don't feel like it counts. They sway votes to go to where they want it to go and put who they want to put in office anyway," said Harris.

The lack of confidence in the voting system is a big concern, especially to people such as Morgan County Probate Judge Greg Cain.
As the "Chief Elections Officer," his office proofreads and prints ballots, sets up election precincts, trains poll workers, and administers usernames and passwords for voter registration information.

He has a stern message for those doubting the voting system. "It's safe and secure. To get to where our voting machines are located, you have to have a swipe card. [We can] see how many times someone has swiped in and out of the building. We have video cameras there," said Judge Cain.

Those measures would prevent someone from physically altering votes, but what if someone wanted to virtually hack into the system?

Judge Cain said it would be difficult because none of the machines are on WiFi or connected to the Internet.

A report by researchers at Harvard University shows hackers are not waiting until after you cast a vote, they are now targeting voter registration websites. The report states a hacker could get some of your personal information: such as your driver's license number, address, date of birth, or social security number and and change your address, gender, party affiliation, or delete your information altogether. On election day, when you show up to vote your name could not be placed on the precinct's register. Researchers say this could be done on a larger scale, even affecting the outcome of an election.

Alabama is one of 35 states listed in this 89 page report, whose vulnerable to a voter identity theft attack. WAAY 31 asked the Secretary of State John Merrill what the state is doing to fix this problem.

"It's very interesting to me when academics come out with reports. These people sit in their ivory towers and say this is what's wrong. We remain diligent in ensuring the integrity and credibility of the process," said Merrill.

When asked what the state is doing to fix the issues, Merrill could not go into specifics. "I could tell you about specific things we are doing in Alabama to protect our system. If I did, one of the foreign or domestic actors would try to prevent us from doing things the way we need to do it," he said.

Aside from hacking into the system, the report states another way to steal your identity is through what's known as the Darknet or through data brokers. A hacker can spend $40 a month to compile a swipe of the magnetic strip on your driver's license and images of your license. The magnetic strip contains a number linked to official documents.

The report states a third way is through the government's voter lists. Voter lists contain the name, personal demographics, and voting history of each registered voter. Things you would need to access the system. But, Secretary Merrill insists this is not true. "Anybody within the sound of my voice that wanted to purchase the voter list, can do it for a penny a name. You will get a little information about me, but you won't get enough to change the voter file. The voter rolls are preserved and protected, so no one can corrupt that data."

The report states if your information is changed and you go to the wrong precinct, your provisional ballot will not count in Alabama.
Judge Cain says that is false. "Every provisional ballot always gets counted. Every election," he said. Cain says workers have seven days after Election day to get in contact with the voter to verify the information was changed. "If it checks out and everything is verified, your vote will count," said Judge Cain.

Cain thinks the report from Harvard is flawed, but admits there are places the state needs to improve. "Based on the hypotheticals used in the article, some of the things could happen. We have to figure out how to tighten that up so we don't have these hypotheticals become reality." Cain went on to say he thinks anytime you do something online and not face-to-face, there is a possibility of your information getting into the wrong hands.

Secretary Merrill says the study fails to include three things: examples where certain systems have failed, been corrupted or violated in Alabama. He insists the election system is safe and secure. He states the system is attacked multiple times a day, but has never been breached.

Hearing that, brings some relief to Harris. "If it's never been breached and they are completely true, that gives people a sense of confidence. That would keep people voting like they normally do," she said.

But, she still remains firm in her stance of not voting.

Secretary Merrill says Secretarys across the country had a classified meeting in Washington, D.C. in February to make sure voter hacking does not happen here.

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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 153016

Reported Deaths: 2633
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson22563372
Mobile14335314
Tuscaloosa10023133
Montgomery9759196
Madison904893
Shelby709960
Lee644966
Baldwin640569
Marshall428248
Calhoun412759
Etowah405749
Morgan396833
Houston364632
DeKalb319628
Elmore310752
St. Clair282142
Limestone270828
Walker268892
Talladega258435
Cullman227623
Lauderdale208740
Autauga201029
Jackson200915
Franklin199731
Colbert192228
Russell19053
Dallas185627
Blount184824
Chilton181731
Escambia171328
Coffee16669
Covington166029
Dale163451
Pike130512
Chambers130143
Tallapoosa128686
Clarke127117
Marion104729
Butler99840
Barbour9889
Marengo97221
Winston90413
Geneva8417
Pickens80517
Lawrence80031
Randolph79814
Bibb79114
Hale74529
Cherokee72214
Clay71912
Lowndes70127
Henry6376
Bullock63517
Monroe6319
Washington62212
Crenshaw59330
Perry5806
Wilcox55912
Conecuh55713
Fayette55312
Cleburne5287
Macon52820
Sumter46721
Lamar4565
Choctaw38712
Greene33916
Coosa1973
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 233569

Reported Deaths: 2952
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby34523553
Davidson29914326
Knox1193687
Hamilton11197103
Rutherford11090106
Williamson665649
Sumner5664107
Wilson443153
Putnam415653
Montgomery387251
Out of TN377535
Unassigned37264
Madison363079
Bradley343421
Sullivan324845
Sevier317321
Blount313932
Washington313244
Maury308135
Robertson249839
Hamblen233843
Tipton220622
Gibson205938
Dyer203726
Hardeman179532
Coffee177420
Trousdale17437
Obion164918
Bedford159620
Dickson157318
Fayette157022
Anderson156713
Greene156551
Wayne15657
Loudon155010
McMinn152232
Cumberland150124
Lawrence147918
Jefferson146619
Weakley144425
Carter142832
Monroe137027
Henderson136125
Warren135110
Hardin132219
Lauderdale131918
Macon126324
Franklin122816
Roane12017
Haywood119526
Overton113311
Johnson11067
Hawkins110524
White110214
Carroll109424
McNairy109126
Marshall10568
Rhea104916
Cheatham97311
Lake9703
Smith94713
Cocke92612
Bledsoe9244
Giles90134
Campbell8857
Fentress8618
Lincoln8142
Crockett78321
Henry74610
Hickman74413
Chester71314
Marion7089
DeKalb67716
Decatur62811
Grainger5394
Grundy5248
Claiborne5046
Union4992
Polk47413
Jackson4225
Humphreys4154
Morgan4116
Houston39215
Benton3919
Cannon3872
Clay37112
Unicoi3672
Lewis3522
Scott3324
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Stewart3117
Meigs2965
Pickett2495
Moore2452
Perry2081
Van Buren1911
Hancock1123

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