How vulnerable are Pennsylvania's electronic voting machines?

Pennsylvania voting system

Donald Trump is warning about the possibility of voter fraud -- and one city he’s pointed to is Philadelphia.

In a Philadelphia warehouse, almost 4,000 electronic voting machines are ready to be rolled out. But some cybersecurity experts warn the machines - which are used in most Pennsylvania counties - are vulnerable. 

“It’s a relatively lucrative target if you want to try and manipulate something,” said Ben Johsnon, a former NSA engineer now with cybersecurity group Carbon Black. “It’s really around creating doubt: doubt in democracy; doubt in the integrity of the election process.”

He said these direct recording electronic machines don’t have paper backups of each ballot cast, making a recount in a tight race difficult.

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Pennsylvania ballots for the 2016 election. CBS News

Donald Trump has singled out Philadelphia as being a hotbed for voter fraud.

“We have to make sure the people of Philadelphia are protected and that the vote counts are 100 percent,” Trump said in Wilkes-Barre. 

Johnson said he has confidence in the voter machines in Philadelphia.

But Republican elections commissioner Al Schmidt sees some issues with Pennsylvania’s voting procedures. He wrote a report on voting irregularities during the 2012 election. There have been dozens of cases but only 10 prosecutions.

How real is voter fraud and can the election actually be rigged?

“Voter fraud does occur, but that’s a completely different animal from vote rigging, right, or rampant voter fraud, which would involve hundreds of people stealing thousands of votes to change the outcome of a presidential election,” Schmidt says. 

Schmidt says even without a paper trail, the electronic machines are safe because they do keep a digital record of votes cast. And, he points out, the individual machines are not connected to the internet.

“Our voting system has more in common with household appliance than a laptop or anything like that,” Schmidt said. 

That means the machines themselves are not vulnerable to a cyberattack: With other aspects of the voting system online, Pennsylvania is one of about 40 states to seek cybersecurity assistance from the Department of Homeland Security.