The State Board of Elections voted unanimously on September 8 to decertify Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) machines for use in Virginia, effective immediately. As discussed in the last issue of County Connections, this decision was the result of a security review of the machines undertaken by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA), which was prompted by reports of the ease with which hackers were able to breach the security of certain DRE machines at a conference in Las Vegas earlier this year. In a memorandum to the State Board, the Department of Elections recommended that the machines be decertified; although the full results of VITA’s review are confidential, the Department’s memo quotes VITA’s analysis that “each device exhibited material risks to the integrity or availability of the election process.”
As a result of the State Board’s decision, DRE machines cannot be used to conduct the upcoming November election and new machines must be acquired as soon as possible in order to allow time for them to be delivered and staff and for election officers to be trained in their operation. Throughout the process of evaluating the DREs, VACo has expressed concern about the effect of a decertification decision on localities and the difficulty of purchasing new machines in the middle of the fiscal year; VACo reiterated these concerns in a letter to the State Board and in public comments at the September 8 meeting. As noted in communications to affected counties, voting machine vendors have offered a variety of incentives to localities, including flexible financing options and the ability to lease machines for the upcoming election.
VACo will continue to advocate for state assistance with the costs of election administration in the 2018 session.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle