Decision 2020

With 18th District special election looming, voting security under scrutiny

Lawmakers are sounding the alarm nationwide about the threat to election systems for the upcoming 2018 midterms, but the cry for change comes just days before a special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District.

“If I were a voter in Pennsylvania, I’d be very concerned,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat who represents Hawaii’s 2nd District.

Gabbard’s new bill would require states to either get rid of electronic voting machines like those used in western Pennsylvania and replace them with pen and paper, or at least have a verified paper backup in place before the 2018 midterm election. Gabbard’s legislation would also provide federal money to do that.


“Whether you’re protecting against hackers or those who are just questioning the outcomes of the election, you have a secure, auditable paper record of every single vote that’s cast,” said Gabbard.

President Trump agrees. On Tuesday at the White House, he encouraged a switch to paper. “One of the things we’re learning is it’s always good to be old-fashioned. It’s always good to have a paper backup of voting,” said President Trump.

Before the 2016 presidential election, WPXI’s partners in Washington, D.C., took a touchscreen electronic voting machine to Princeton University, where they showed our cameras just how easy it is to hack into the machine and re-program it to cheat in just minutes.

In 2017, Virginia took all its touchscreen machines out of service and replaced them with paper-based systems because of concerns about security.

The Pennsylvania Secretary of State’s office said Pennsylvania was the first state in the country to have the Department of Homeland Security assess its systems for cyber threats. That continues to happen, and to date, no significant vulnerabilities have been found.

The office did issue a directive in February that any voting system purchased in Pennsylvania moving forward must have a voter-verifiable paper ballot or paper record, but it doesn’t require that the current machines be placed out of service.