The Election Science Institute just released a statement revealing that the memory cards that will be used to store votes on Election Day in Cuyahoga County, Ohio were stuck into ordinary laptop computers in September.
The release points to an online video shot by Cleveland-area filmmaker Jeffrey Kirkby, shows a group of election workers sitting at tables, each with a laptop computer. An official explains that these laptops were gathered from around the office, and some are the personal laptops of election workers. Each worker has a laptop and a stack of memory cards, and is inserting the memory cards one by one into the laptop.
Our e-voting study) showed that the memory cards used in Diebold touchscreen voting systems can carry computer viruses that can infect voting machines and steal votes on the infected machines.
The risk here is that one of the laptops is infected with malicious software that could infect a memory card that will eventually be inserted into a voting machine. Safe procedures call for memory cards to be inserted only into computers that are carefully secured and never connected to the Internet. Using ordinary laptop computers, borrowed from offices and homes, to process memory cards is dangerous.
Voting machine vendors and election officials often argue that rigorous procedures can compensate for the technical weaknesses of voting machines. Some jurisdictions implement such procedures well, but many do not. Talking about procedural controls is easy. Putting them into practice is much harder.