Among the questions that keep coming up: Could a hacker manipulate and falsify the digital vote count in our elections? The short answer, at least in Linn County, is no.
Why not? Because, as Deputy County Clerk Marcie Richie explained to me when I asked the other day, the county’s computerized vote-tallying system is not connected to the Internet. There’s no way to hack into it because there’s no way in.
So how are the local results transmitted to the state Elections Division for the statewide totals? Richie says she puts the local results on a thumb drive, which she then plugs into a computer for transfer to the state.
Linn County’s vote-tabulating setup is relatively new. The county used it for the first time in the primary in May of 2016. It cost $170,000, less than the $212,000 price tag of the system it replaced. The annual fee for maintenance and updates is $30,766. For the old system, it would have been more than $35,000 this year.
Last week I got a brief demonstration of some of the system’s capabilities when I wondered about the unusual shape, a vertical rectangle, of a computer screen. It’s shaped that way to it can display a complete ballot all at once.
Neatness is not universal when voters mark their ballots by filling in the little ovals. The tallying system allows election officials to review an individual ballot in detail to determine what a voter meant.
Ballots that leave a paper trail. Processed and counted with no link to the Internet. That’s why voters can have confidence in the accuracy of the results. (hh)