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Notre Dame IT Officer: Vote Can Be Tampered With Easily

This story was written by Molly Madden, The Observer

If someone wanted to manipulate the presidential election in November it would be relatively easy due to the prevalence of technology in today's world, Notre Dame's Office of Information Technologies Officer Mike Chapple said at Tuesday's "Hacking the Vote" lecture in DeBartolo Hall.

Election hacking, or using technology to fraudulently affect the electoral process, has become an unfortunate reality in American politics, he said.

"The impact of technology on election is huge," Chapple said. "There are many ways that technology can possibly be used to manipulate the outcome of the election."

There are ways to hack the secret ballot, especially electronic ballots, Chapple said.

The most vulnerable method of electronic voting is the touch screen system, he said. In touch screen voting, the voter is given an anonymous Smartcard, which authorizes the holder one vote. The machine records the votes on a memory card and when the polls close, the memory cards are retrieved and the votes are tabulated.

"In this system, you let software run the election," Chapple said. "In many cases, no paper trail exists for these machines. Without a paper trail, a recount is impossible."

Chapple discussed a study that was done in 2003 in which the software of the Diebold AccuVote TS, a touch screen voting machine, was analyzed. He said the software of the machines that were being used to elect the next President of the United States had minimum security.

"Essentially, it could have less security than your laptop," Chapple said.

He said it is possible, even relatively easy in some cases, to take votes that were cast for one candidate and change them to another candidate.

"A poll worker with access to the storage media of that software could modify the ballot definition," Chapple said. "A voter would push the button to vote for John McCain but in reality the vote would be cast for Obama."

If an act such as this was ever suspected to be taking place, very little could be done about it due to the construction of the software, he said.

"What is most frightening," Chapple said, "is that we do not have any ability to prove that no one tampered with the results of the election if something like that were to happen."

Chapple cautioned voters to be aware of what method they are using to cast their votes on Election Day.

"Hacking the election is not only possible," Chapple stated, "but it has already happened."