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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CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson754091487
Mobile38938798
Madison33898495
Tuscaloosa25297443
Montgomery23992567
Shelby23124239
Baldwin20652300
Lee15541165
Calhoun14301311
Morgan14145270
Etowah13665346
Marshall11967219
Houston10381278
Elmore10001200
Limestone9822147
Cullman9481188
St. Clair9435234
Lauderdale9223227
DeKalb8748181
Talladega8071171
Walker7100275
Jackson6762110
Autauga6734103
Blount6497135
Colbert6210130
Coffee5404112
Dale4766110
Russell429038
Franklin419982
Chilton4087109
Covington4056114
Tallapoosa3898146
Escambia388574
Dallas3531149
Chambers3503122
Clarke346560
Marion3066100
Pike305876
Lawrence295395
Winston272572
Bibb256459
Marengo248661
Geneva245875
Pickens233059
Barbour225255
Hale218775
Butler212566
Fayette209260
Henry187744
Cherokee182144
Randolph176941
Monroe172040
Washington164238
Macon154848
Clay149555
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146241
Lamar139334
Lowndes136553
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109128
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99328
Greene91034
Choctaw58724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 826371

Reported Deaths: 12022
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby921061576
Davidson86974919
Knox49179627
Hamilton43024480
Rutherford41648419
Williamson27085213
Sumner23020338
Montgomery18939223
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Bradley14398147
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Madison10672240
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Greene7683152
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Carter6404156
Bedford6378126
Gibson6370144
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Jefferson6032121
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Monroe566995
Warren550180
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Obion448296
Cocke441998
Cheatham439253
Rhea429575
Lincoln428463
Marshall408558
Campbell407562
Weakley400261
Giles392698
Henderson370075
Carroll356182
Macon355476
White352168
Hardin347566
Hardeman345663
Lauderdale313344
Henry310675
Marion307446
Scott303845
Claiborne303673
Overton295060
Wayne294034
Hickman278645
McNairy276054
DeKalb274353
Smith273038
Haywood267860
Grainger256248
Trousdale248322
Morgan244039
Fentress237246
Johnson228238
Chester209051
Bledsoe208911
Crockett200148
Polk197224
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Cannon188031
Union185134
Grundy176931
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Lake169626
Sequatchie165828
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Lewis155226
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