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: 44375

Reported Deaths: 984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5221152
Montgomery4127103
Mobile4080134
Tuscaloosa228842
Marshall171110
Madison14307
Lee138437
Shelby128423
Morgan11025
Walker93924
Elmore92514
Franklin89514
Dallas8809
Baldwin8649
Etowah73913
DeKalb7195
Butler63328
Chambers62927
Autauga60712
Tallapoosa59169
Russell5520
Unassigned50323
Houston4964
Limestone4950
Lauderdale4906
Lowndes47221
Cullman4524
Pike4295
Colbert3956
St. Clair3822
Coffee3772
Bullock36910
Covington3587
Calhoun3545
Escambia3506
Barbour3492
Hale31121
Talladega3097
Marengo30211
Wilcox2918
Dale2880
Sumter28512
Clarke2746
Jackson2732
Winston2583
Chilton2462
Blount2351
Monroe2352
Pickens2356
Marion22413
Conecuh2097
Randolph2069
Choctaw19512
Macon1949
Bibb1901
Greene1868
Perry1771
Henry1343
Crenshaw1253
Washington1097
Lawrence1080
Cherokee977
Geneva800
Lamar771
Fayette701
Clay652
Coosa581
Cleburne361
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 51316

Reported Deaths: 645
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby11793200
Davidson11089122
Rutherford298735
Hamilton278135
Sumner161052
Trousdale14985
Williamson131315
Out of TN11857
Knox11717
Wilson94117
Putnam8837
Robertson83411
Sevier8043
Bradley7073
Lake6920
Tipton6455
Unassigned6351
Bledsoe6201
Bedford5705
Montgomery5547
Macon4654
Maury3543
Hardeman3434
Hamblen3404
Fayette3172
Madison2992
Loudon2871
Rhea2860
Dyer2511
McMinn23718
Cheatham2301
Blount2273
Dickson2090
Cumberland1814
Washington1650
Lawrence1636
Lauderdale1453
Anderson1422
Monroe1406
Jefferson1360
Gibson1291
Smith1201
Coffee1190
Sullivan1172
Obion1122
Hardin1087
Greene1032
Cocke940
Haywood922
Marshall911
Franklin873
Wayne860
Hickman800
Warren760
Marion734
McNairy730
White703
DeKalb670
Lincoln640
Weakley641
Grundy621
Overton621
Roane620
Giles601
Carter591
Hawkins572
Unicoi550
Campbell481
Carroll471
Henderson460
Claiborne450
Polk450
Henry440
Johnson440
Grainger420
Sequatchie420
Crockett383
Cannon370
Chester340
Perry340
Meigs320
Humphreys281
Jackson270
Morgan271
Stewart230
Decatur220
Fentress220
Union180
Clay170
Scott170
Houston150
Benton131
Moore120
Van Buren80
Hancock60
Lewis60
Pickett60

 

 

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