Security

Voting System Security

 

Election security is a major concern at all levels of government. The end goal of election security is to deliver a process that is not only safe and secure, but also fair, accurate and accessible. In California, at both the state and county level, there are a multitude of layered security protocols in place.

At the state level, the Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) is legally mandated to certify any voting system prior to its sale and use within California. As a result, the state has developed one of the most strenuous voting system testing and certification programs in the country. New voting systems applying for certification must undergo months of extensive testing which includes;

  • Examination and testing of system software;
  • Software source code review and evaluation;
  • Hardware and software security penetration testing;
  • Hardware testing under conditions simulating the intended storage, operation, transportation, and maintenance environments;
  • Inspection and evaluation of system documentation; and
  • Operational testing to validate system performance and functioning under normal and abnormal conditions.

SOS also requires all voting systems be capable of deployment with dual-installation architecture (“air gapping”). This process physically separates two installations and all associated devices, establishing an air gap. The separation of installations aids in protecting against the propagation of viruses.

In addition, SOS mandates voting system vendors, security consultants and county officials follow strict chain of custody requirements for voting system software and hardware throughout the testing and certification process. Upon certification of a system, the “trusted build” is held in a secure location and all distributed copies of the trusted build are hand delivered by SOS staff to the recipient county officials.

At the local level, California counties are required to abide by stringent sets of rules and regulations regarding implementation and use of a voting system. A few notable rules and regulations include; performance of logic and accuracy testing on voting systems prior to each election and ensuring specific procedures for programming, deployment and use of voting equipment during elections are met.

Additionally, pursuant to Elections Code section 19205, no part of a voting system shall be connected to the internet at any time. Nor shall any part of a voting system electronically receive or transmit election data through an exterior communication network of any type.

Ballots cast in California are primarily cast on paper ballots. Historically, it has been asserted that paper trails associated with paper ballots allow for prompt detection of possible intrusions into the voting process. Therefore, voting systems that are direct record electronic systems must have the ability to provide a voter verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) for audit, recount, and manual tally purposes. Further, as a safeguard to ensure votes were accurately read and tallied, county elections officials are required to conduct a manual tally of one percent of the precincts as part of the official canvass of election results.

You can find more information about the testing and certification process at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voting-systems/certification-and-approval/voting-system-approval/. You can also contact our Office of Voting Systems Technology Assessment at (916) 695-1680.