I’ve been doing this intensive activism work for almost 15 months and every day I reach into my hope- and fear-filled brain for motivation. The New York Times waits at my door to supply me with a fresh new batch of outrage, and before I’ve filled my coffee cup for the second time, my brain is clicking on what action I can take.
But what happens when the biggest threat to our democracy, and our response to it, is not sexy enough to be in the news? That’s where we are.
Here’s the deal. Right now there are clear indicators that the November vote is completely vulnerable to hacking by Russians and other conservative interests. New Jersey is one of the five most hackable states in the nation and our current system is such that even if we are hacked, we don’t even have a check-back mechanism to know it.
Think about that. A simple software tweak and votes cast for your candidates could be tallied for their opponents … and there is no way to go back and audit or re-count the vote. If you think this is far-fetched, know that this happened in Cumberland County once and was only discovered by chance.
We are going to work like crazy to elect candidates that represent our progressive values. Before that happens, we need to work like crazy to protect and secure our votes.
There are a few remedies. One is a system called Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT). This method entails using an electronic device to cast votes and then printing a paper that the voter can view behind a glass, check for accuracy and push a button to verify that the votes on the paper are correct.
Here’s the rub: VVPAT can be hacked and issue a document that is difficult to see because the print is very small. Most election officials like it because it does not require much more work at the polls and it’s cheaper. But as is the case with most quick, cheap fixes, it’s not sufficient.
If we are going to fix this problem — really fix this problem — we need three things, and they will cost a lot of money: $36 million. Our current state budget is so deep in the hole that there is very little political will to allocate funds for securing the vote, a convenient reality for those who might benefit from hacking.
Here is what the experts suggest is needed in order for New Jersey to be unhackable:
Paper Ballots to be marked by voters.Optical scanners that will read the ballots and tally the votesBallot marking devices for voters with disabilities
Next Tuesday, Governor Phil Murphy will deliver his budget address. Before then, we need to send him the message that securing the vote is our top priority. Please call, fax, tweet, email and push him, New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way and New Jersey Treasurer Liz Muoio to allocate money in the 2018 budget. It is the ONLY way we are assured our vote will be secure in November.
Governor Phil Murphy
Call: (609) 292-6000
Tweet: @GovMurphy (Tweet Script: MAKE NJ VOTES SECURE! Put $36 million in your budget for paper ballot voting with optical scanners & non-tabulating ballot-marking device for voters with disabilities.)
Tahesha Way, NJ Secretary of State
Fax: (609) 292-7665
Tweet: @SecretaryWay (Tweet Script: HELP MAKE NJ VOTES SECURE. $36 million needed in 2018 budget for paper ballot voting with optical scanners & non-tabulating ballot-marking device for voters with disabilities.)
Liz Muoio, New Jersey Treasurer
Department of the Treasury P. O. Box 002 Trenton, NJ 08625-0002 609-292-6748