The Center for Democracy and Technology recently published a report, “No Simple Answers: A Primer on Ballot Marking Device Security”, by William T. Adler. Overall, it’s well-informed, clearly presents the problems as of 2022, and it’s definitely worth reading. After explaining the issues and controversies, the report presents recommendations, most of which make a lot of sense, and indeed the states should act upon them. But there’s one key recommendation in which Dr. Adler tries to provide a simple answer, and unfortunately his answer invokes a bit of magical thinking. This seriously compromises the conclusions of his report. By asking but not answering the question of “what should an election official do if there are reports of BMDs printing wrong votes?”, Dr. Adler avoids having to make the inevitable conclusion that BMDs-for-all-voters is a hopelessly flawed, insecurable method of voting. Because the answer to that question is, unfortunately, there’s nothing that election officials could usefully do in that case.
BMDs (ballot marking devices) are used now in several states and there is a serious problem with them (as the report explains): “a hacked BMD could corrupt voter selections systematically, such that a candidate favored by the hacker is more likely to win.” That is, if a state’s BMDs are hacked by someone who wants to change the result of an election, the BMDs can print ballots with votes on them different from what the voters indicated on the touchscreen. Because most voters won’t inspect the ballot paper carefully enough