Did Sean Hannity misquote me?

Mostly, I was quoted accurately, although the segment confuses a few different Dominion voting systems with each other. And vulnerabilities are not the same as rigged elections, especially when we have paper ballots in almost all the states.

On November 13, 2020, Fox News aired a segment by Sean Hannity, “A deep dive into the voting machines at center of controversy“, in which he pointed out problems with Dominion voting machines in Michigan and Georgia. He quoted from my 2018 Freedom-to-Tinker article Design flaw in Dominion ImageCast Evolution voting machine and from my 2018 testimony before the House Subcommitee on Information Technology.

The quotes are accurate, although slightly out of context. The Dominion systems in Michigan and Georgia are not the ImageCast Evolution that has that design flaw. My Congressional testimony is that all voting machines can be hacked, and that’s true. My testimony about replacing the software in 7 minutes with a screwdriver refers to an older Dominion voting machine, used in New Jersey (though not this year because of the pandemic), but not used in Michigan and Georgia. But it’s still true that, one way or another, the software in any voting machine can be (fraudulently) replaced — in any voting machine used in any of the 50 states.

Regarding Antrim County, Michigan: Dominion’s election-management software is badly designed: when uploading results from a voting machine to the central server, the software keeps track of votes by ballot position, with no check on candidate name. So if there’s a last-minute revision to the ballot design used in the voting machine, but the ballot-design file on the server is not updated, then votes for Trump may be mistakenly uploaded as votes for Biden. Dominion calls that “human error.” I call it, bad software design that fails to make consistency checks on its input. Fortunately, Antrim County has hand-marked paper ballots (counted by those Dominion optical-scan voting machines) that can be audited by hand, and other forms of paper trail, so Antrim County was able to correct its error and report accurate vote totals.

Mr. Hannity proposes a solution: “If we want to have as a country, election results with integrity, that the people of this country will have confidence in, we can easily and absolutely have a system forensically checked–and by the way, I’ll even argue, allowing both Republican and Democratic engineers to do the forensic check together.”

That’s a well-intentioned idea, but it does not really solve the problem. Yes, absolutely the source code and software of voting machines should be made public so that citizens of any party can examine it for design mistakes. But what happens if the voting machine is hacked after that examination?

The U.S. mostly uses paper ballots now, and that’s how we can trust the election results even though there are some computer vulnerabilities.

The best solution is to use paper ballots, marked by hand, counted by computers, and recountable by hand. Those computers might be hacked, but the ballots personally marked by the voters are the same pieces of paper that can be recounted by humans. That’s what Michigan does, along with more than 40 other states. That is the state-of-the-art most-secure-known way of conducting elections.

Georgia, on the other hand, uses touch-screen ballot-marking devices to mark the ballots, which are then counted by optical scanners and recountable by hand. If the optical scanners are hacked, then a recount will detect and correct the problem. But if the touch-screens are hacked, then (on a small fraction of the ballots) they can print the wrong vote on to the ballot. The recount can’t detect and correct that hack, because it can only see what’s printed on the ballots. Still, hacks and glitches in the election-management computers, in the optical scanners, and in other parts of the system have been detected and corrected by audits and examination of those paper ballots.

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Author: Andrew Appel