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Commonwealth's Counties

State Investigates Security of Certain Voting Machines

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA) has undertaken a security review of several models of Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machines, an action that was sparked by media coverage of the “DEFCON” hackers’ conference this summer, which included a “Voting Village” demonstration during which hackers were able to breach the security of several commonly-used voting machines. Several of these models are currently in use in some counties and cities in Virginia. The results of VITA’s review may lead to a recommendation to the State Board of Elections to decertify some or all of these machines prior to the upcoming November general election.

Legislation enacted in 2016 imposed a deadline of July 1, 2020, for localities to phase out use of DREs; decertification this fall would accelerate the timeline for replacement considerably, as new machines would need to be procured in time for the November election. VACo has been in contact with staff at the Department of Elections as well as with Secretary of Administration Nancy Rodrigues to express concern about localities potentially being required to purchase new voting equipment in the middle of the fiscal year in the event of a decertification of the DREs. Staff have been advised that vendors are open to discussions with counties about flexible financing arrangements. VACo has encouraged the Administration to explore options for financial assistance for localities, either as state grant funds or low-interest loan options.

Secretary Rodrigues said, “The Administration recognizes that the timing of the potential decertification decision could be problematic for localities. As VITA completes its review, we are working with vendors to ensure that an adequate supply of machines will be available for purchase and that vendors are prepared to work with localities on financing.”

VACo has a longstanding position in its legislative program in support of state assistance with the costs of election administration and will continue to work on this issue with the Administration and the General Assembly in the 2018 session.

VACo Contact: Katie Boyle

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