Wisconsin to recount US presidential election vote after hack concerns

Security experts have said that the voting machines could be hacked

The Wisconsin Elections Commission has decided to recount the votes in the state in the last U.S. presidential elections, after concerns were raised that the voting systems can be hacked.

The recount, which was requested by Jill Stein, candidate of the Green Party for the U.S. presidential election, and Rocky Roque De La Fuente, another candidate, is expected to begin late next week, the Elections Commission said.

“The Commission is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for President of the United States, as requested by these candidates,” administrator Michael Haas said in a statement Friday.

Citing the hack of the Democratic National Committee of the Democratic Party in the run-up to the election and reports of breaches of voter registration databases in at least two states, Stein in her petition for recount wrote that Wisconsin uses both the optical scan and direct-recording electronic types of electronic voting machines, which are both susceptible to compromise.

“For the last decade, computer scientists have warned about the vulnerabilities of these machines, including that they can be breached without detection and even after certain security measures are put in place,” Stein wrote.

She added that in Wisconsin there is evidence of voting irregularity suggesting potential tampering of the voting machines in the 2016 presidential elections, as well as an increase in the number of absentee voters, which could be attributed to a breach of the state’s voter database.

Stein asked for a hand count of all paper ballots in Wisconsin. The Elections Commission said it is working towards a deadline of Dec. 13 to compete the recount.

President-elect Donald Trump bagged the state’s 10 votes in the electoral college that selects the president by winning 1.4 million votes to 1.38 million votes bagged by rival Hillary Clinton. A group of voting security experts and election lawyers said earlier this week that Clinton should ask for a recount in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan as there were outstanding questions about the voting results in the close contests.

“The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence — paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states," wrote J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan, in a post on Medium.com. The deadline for asking for recounts was Friday in Wisconsin, Monday next week in Pennsylvania, and Wednesday in Michigan, he noted.

“Whether voting machines are connected to the Internet is irrelevant,” Halderman wrote in a submission in support of Stein. As demonstrated by him in the laboratory in just a few seconds, anyone can install vote-stealing malware on a voting machine that silently alters the electronic record of every vote, he added.

In the optical-scan method, votes entered on paper ballots are scanned electronically and counted, while in the DRE machines the votes are counted as people vote but a verifiable paper trail is also maintained, and only the paper record documents the vote in a way that can't be modified by malware or other cyberattacks, according to Halderman.

“We are standing up for an election system that we can trust; for voting systems that respect and encourage our vote, and make it possible for all of us to exercise our constitutional right to vote,” Stein said in a statement Friday. She launched a campaign to raise funds to meet the fees for the recounts in the three states.

Election integrity experts have independently identified Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin as states where "statistical anomalies" have raised concerns, according to the new campaign, which has clarified that the effort to recount votes in the three states is not intended to help Clinton and is unlikely to change the election outcome.

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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