Voting machines in one-fifth of Va. precincts found to have security issues

votinglinemd-election2010-westcott-1102-001_296RICHMOND, Va. (AP) – An investigation into voting irregularities during the November general election has raised serious security concerns about equipment used in about one-fifth of Virginia’s precincts, a new report says.

The report issued late Wednesday says the state Board of Elections should consider decertifying the WinVote touchscreen system and barring its use in future elections. The board is expected to conduct a public hearing on this and other options in the next few days.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe ordered the investigation in response to widespread voting glitches, including machines crashing or recording a vote for the wrong candidate. The Virginia Department of Elections hired a federally certified voting system test lab to assist in the investigation. The review is continuing, but the preliminary findings were serious enough to prompt the department it issue an interim report so steps can be taken to address the problems before the June 9 primary elections.

The WinVote machines are used in 29 localities, including nine that will hold primaries. The report says those nine localities could still properly administer the election if they are informed of WinVote decertification by April 14.

According to the report, the WinVote system’s wireless capability makes it susceptible to a security breach. An investigator who was given access to a WinVote machine that was not used in a Spotsylvania County precinct was able to use his smartphone to connect to the wireless network hosted by the machine, according to the report. At that same precinct, officials believe an election worker’s use of a smartphone to stream music on election day caused the WinVote machines to crash.

WinVote, certified by Virginia in 2003, is the only system in the state with wireless capability.

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