E-Voting in Fairfax Gets Ready to Rrrrumble!

Hey, Fairfax County! It’s Tuesday, February 10, and that means it’s the day of the big Virginia Democratic primary; which means that you’re going to once again be subjected to using the deeply flawed WINVote system to cast your ballots.

But don’t panic! Fairfax Electoral Board secretary Margaret K. Luca says that this time, everything’s going to go just fine:

“We are certainly prepared,” said Margaret K. Luca, secretary of the Electoral Board. “We did everything we could possibly think of” to get ready, she said.

Of course, we’d already established that Ms. Luca is a woman of severely limited imagination. So this doesn’t exactly put my concerns to rest.

The story cites a bunch of fixes that have been applied to the WINVote system to prevent another debacle like the one last November. But these fixes, while welcome (assuming they actually work, which remains to be seen), don’t address the most critical vulnerabilities of the WINVote system.

The most serious issue I see is that none of the “improvements” the Post cites as having been made since the last Fairfax County e-voting debacle and today include a change to the WINVote system’s reliance on 802.11b wireless security. This means that the system is still fundamentally insecure and open to manipulation in ways that wouldn’t be obvious to non-technical people. If someone can hack into the handshake between the WINVote terminals and their master vote counter and inject an extra vote for their man for every 100 or 1,000 cast, that’s a serious problem — but since it’s not the sort of problem that voters would notice and complain about, would Luca and the election board ever know?

Until they fix these basic, ground-level issues with the current crop of e-voting systems — insecure transmission of ballots, lack of auditability, and so forth — those systems will be dangerous to democracy. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be enough to stop morons like Luca from pushing ahead with them, no matter the risk.