Concerns About Voting Machine Security In New Jersey Ahead Of Primaries

June 04, 2018 - 7:07 pm

TRENTON, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- Primary elections are coming Tuesday in New Jersey, but there are some concerns about voting machines in the state.

The concerns are such that in the wake of worries about Russian hacking, New Jersey could have to go back to paper ballots.

Nicholas Pugliese of The Record newspaper told WCBS 880’s Mack Rosenberg that New Jersey currently uses “direct electronic machines.”

“They don’t keep a paper ballot that can indicate voters’ preference in case there’s a need for a recount or a malfunction with the voting system,” he explained.

Nothing is known to have gone wrong with the direct electronic machines, and election officials say they have confidence in them – but experts say the fact that they do not use a paper trail is a concern.

For the Tuesday primary, New Jersey state officials do not have time to switch to a paper-based voting system on such short notice. Such a move might not happen until November or later, Pugliese said.

“But they are very focused on cybersecurity; trying to prevent, you know, breaches into the voter rolls or other systems that Russians are known to have targeted in the 2016 election, so they, from what I understand, are being proactive about that to prevent any doubt about the elections in tomorrow’s primaries,” Pugliese said.

Electronic voting machines are not allowed to be connected to the internet at any point in time, but some components of the machines could be vulnerable if they were ever connected to hackers, Pugliese said.

“There’s vote-counting cartridges – they sort of look like old video game consoles – that go into the back. And those are programmed using computers, either by election administrators or in some cases contractors. If those computers are at any point connected to a network, they are vulnerable to hackers,” he said. “Again, I’m not aware of this having happened at any point in New Jersey, but it’s being raised, you know, in this time of heightened awareness about election security that it’s a vulnerability that they think needs to be addressed.”