History of Concerns With Voting Systems

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator

In 2019, Democrats were strong advocates for election integrity. They did extensive investigations and attempted to pass measures to prevent election fraud.

On Nov. 7, 2019, Senator Ron Wyden sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense and Director of the National Security Agency asking for a cybersecurity audit of Voatz, a mobile voting system that was later used during the 2020 election. Three MIT researchers found vulnerabilities in Voatz that allow hackers to alter, stop, or expose a user’s vote.

On Dec. 6, 2019, four Democrats (Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Ron Wyden, and Mark Pocan) sent a letter to voting system companies. The letter provided real examples of voting machine problems. “…voters in South Carolina [were] reporting machines that switched their votes after they’d inputted them, scanners [were] rejecting paper ballots in Missouri, and busted machines [were] causing long lines in Indiana.” “… researchers recently uncovered previously undisclosed vulnerabilities in ‘nearly three dozen backend election systems in 10 states.’” The letter said, “These problems threaten the integrity of our elections and demonstrate the importance of election systems that are strong, durable, and not vulnerable to attack.”

The House of Representatives held a hearing on Jan. 9, 2020, on election security featuring the top three vendors of voting machines along with experts in the field. Both Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), raised concerns about the supply chain used by voting system manufacturers that may pose a security risk to the final product. It turned out that all three vendors use specific components that come from China. President and CEO of Dominion Voting Systems John Poulos said it would not be feasible to manufacture these components in the U.S.

Congresswoman Lofgren introduced a bill called “Securing America’s Federal Elections Act” (SAFE Act) to allocate federal funding for upgrading voting equipment. The bill mandates the use of voter-verified paper ballots printed on recycled paper manufactured in the U.S. It also requires the use of voting machines manufactured in the U.S. The SAFE Act passed the House in June 2019. Only one Republican voted in favor of it. Republicans opposing the bill said the measure “is designed to federally ‘take over’ elections from states.” It did not pass the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP. 

As an alternative, Congressman Davis, a Ranking Member of the Committee on House Administration, introduced the Election Security Assistance Act. The act requires the Director of National Intelligence and other agencies to develop a strategy for countering foreign threats. It also provides resources for states to upgrade their voting systems without requiring paper ballots. The Democrat-controlled House did not take any further action on this proposal.