Florida’s election issues in 2016, need to be categorized in two segments. In this article, I will discuss election problems in Florida indicating potential hacking of the voting systems It is my contention as well as that of many voting experts that voter registration hacking is equivalent to vote count hacking because a person can be kicked off the voter rolls and ineligible to vote for their party candidate. If their candidate does not win the primary, they must vote for another candidate. Therefore, voter registration hacking is serious and must be resolved as expeditiously as possible to ensure our vote counts.
I have already reported on the following states: Arizona, Alabama, Alaska, California, Colorado, & Connecticut. There could potentially be other explanations for some of the circumstances offered, however, information provided may indicate characteristics of hacking. When combined with other states, this evidence substantially increases the likelihood of systems vulnerability and election hacking throughout the country.
Florida’s Primary Election Problems
On March 15, 2016, Primary election day, Florida experienced various issues related to malfunctioning of their voter registration system. Reported issues were most prominent in Volusia, Duval, & Orange County, but to be clear, these systems are the primary responsibility of the state.
Voter Registration Issues
The Volusia County Elections Office fielded 500 calls related to people being unable to vote because they were unable to vote in the primary because their party affiliation had been marked as “No Party Affiliation” despite voters intending to pick a party. Similar issues were reported in Palm Beach County. The problems were blamed on either the DMV’s handling or transmission of voter information. What was the response? Florida has a 29 day waiting period of party change prior to the election in order for a person to be eligible to vote in that primary and therefore, many voters were disenfranchised.
A little before 7AM in Duval County there were reports of electronic poll books not working for the 199 precincts serving the area. Official notification to the public about the issues at 7:45 AM. These issues were attributed to a software error.
Poll workers are having to manually go through lists of registered voters at Duval polling sites. That’s why check-in is taking so long.
— Lisa Robbins (@LisaRobbinsTV) March 15, 2016
Today’s problems in Duval is why we should always have a paper ballot as verification.
— Jon McGowan (@JonMcGowanFL) March 15, 2016
26 technicians were sent to various locations throughout the county to assess and fix the issues, however, there was no reporting on the root cause of the software glitch. Although it was true that there were issues with the electronic poll books, this prevented some people from being able to vote as lines clogged up and people went home.
Computer glitch is w/ exporting voter info to electronic poll books, not w/ ballots themselves. So process of checking ppl in taking longer
— Shelby Danielsen (@NewsShelby) March 15, 2016
First Coast news reporter explained that the technical issues were fixed by changing out thumb drives, but again, no root cause of the issue had been identified.
48 precincts in Duval Co. have their electronic ID systems working again. It’s a matter of switching out one thumb drive for another @FCN2go
— Shelby Danielsen (@NewsShelby) March 15, 2016
Local reporter, Michael Yoshida, tweeted out a picture of the problem plaguing voters in the county:
— Michael Yoshida (@MichaelANjax) March 15, 2016
It appears from the picture, that the voter information was not present/available as loaded onto the machine. The problem here is that many of the machines had similar issues.
In Apopka there were “technical glitches” with the voting systems preventing people from being able to check in properly.
Additionally, there was reporting of transposed numbers on a printed spreadsheet related to ballot ordering.
Orange County Primary Election Problems
On primary election evening, local media reported problems with electronic voter registration poll books were not working properly. Orange County Election Supervisor Bill Cowles explained that there had been several issues with regard to electronic poll books not working properly, explaining that they had the situation under control. However, there had been additional issues with the voting systems as Cowles explained:
“You’ve got to have a Democratic ballot with the city candidates, a Republican ballot with the city candidates, and then you have to have a ballot with just city candidates only, for those who are not Democrat or not Republican… And so on some of these ballot orders, the numbers got transposed, so they had fewer of one style and more of another.”
Again, there was no official explanation for the mix-up. The problems were either resolved or avoided, but again, there was no official explanation as to the reason for problems with the electronic voter registration systems and ballots.
In Florida, voter registration issues tend to point to hacking. As I previously reported, Arizona voter registration systems had been compromised prior to the primary and it is highly likely it was the result of Russian hacking. The issue in Arizona is symptomatic of nationwide issues related to election systems, including voter registration systems.
FBI Contacts Florida Election Supervisors
On September 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey reported there had been multiple attempts to intrude upon the voter registration systems.
On September 30, 2016, state media reported that the FBI contacted numerous election officials related to attempted vote system hacking. One election supervisor reported in the Herald/Times the FBI found “a malicious act in a jurisdiction.” However, the problem was so extensive that despite such reporting, a conference was held with 67 Florida counties.
FBI holds emergency conference call with FL election supervisors after finding evidence of attempt to tamper with voting system
— Steve Bousquet (@stevebousquet) September 30, 2016
The Herald/Times also reported that election supervisors were unusually silent, citing confidentiality of the discussion:
Other county elections supervisors — normally open and willing to talk — are unusually tight-lipped. Several reached by the Herald/Times wouldn’t discuss the call or even confirm it happened.
“I just can’t get into it,” said Chris Chambless, Clay County elections supervisor and president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. “This is nothing that voters should be concerned about regarding security, either from the technical standpoint or registration standpoint.”
“I cannot confirm or deny that,” Pinellas County Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark said. “This is, as I understand it, a protected conversation and I was asked not to discuss it, so I shall not.”
Pasco County Elections Supervisor Brian Corley said: “Absolutely not. I can’t speak at all. This may be the first time I’ve ever said this but: No comment.”
As I reported previously, on October 12, 2016, the Sunshine State News reported that an election system contractor had been affected by a virus. The FBI and DHS were so concerned about the event that they held two conferences with 67 counties describing the attack and measures to repair the attack. Despite this report, the Secretary of State denied there was anything wrong with the system. What measures were taken to resolve the issue? Why was there such a denial?
Among countless other examples of election hacking issues, the Feds claimed Florida was also compromised by the Russians. The U.S. has claimed on numerous occasions that known Russian hackers were behind the compromise.
As I discussed previously, an attack on our voter registration systems is an attack on our vote count. We must take every possible care to ensure our voting system is secure. Florida’s primary election issues demonstrate that our election systems require more security. We can accomplish this through open source voting systems with multiple redundancies as well as voter registration security, which could include 2 factor authentication, email/mail/SMS confirmation of changes in voting information, and other safeguards to ensure voters are not kicked off the rolls as they were across the country in 2016.
Irrespective of final conclusions related to the Russian Hacking issue, we must take the appropriate steps to protect our democracy before it is too late.