In Last Week Tonight, John Oliver focused on voting, a staple for American democracy and, among other things, "the only way to free Sean Spicer from Dancing with the Stars".
Before the Americans vote this Tuesday – yes, Oliver recalled, there are elections this Tuesday – it's worth asking: "How much do you trust the system that counts your votes?"
It is not unreasonable to have some questions about electoral security, Oliver continued. We now know that in 2016 Russian hackers targeted electoral systems in all 50 states. In this case, voter registration data was targeted; as for the machines, the officials promised that they are safe, but a Senate report on the 2016 elections the infrastructure found that some were "vulnerable to exploitation by a committed opponent".
Oliver offered a context: there is no electoral system in use in the United States. Some states use paper cards, others have a printable card, others still use fully electronic systems. Those electronic machines were introduced after the disputed 2000 presidential election, in which the race between George W Bush and Al Gore was reduced to 1,000 votes in a Florida cast that related to pressure voting.
This disaster led to the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which offered states $ 3.9 billion to help administer federal elections and purchase new voting equipment. It sounds great, Oliver said, but states ended up buying cars before they were ready, with questionable results. A 2004 Wired story reported that a car in Iowa had issued 4 million votes on the basis of only 300 votes, for example, and quality control tests by producers in the Philippines amounted to literally shaking the cars.
So there's the risk of hacking. Oliver showed a 2018 video in which Rachel Tobac, CEO of Socialproof Security, demonstrated how to hack a type of voting device used in at least 18 states in less than two minutes.
Oliver also pointed to a Finnish man who once discovered "one of the most serious security flaws ever discovered in a voting system" in US machines and alerted their producers, who released a patch to fix the problem in 2006. The state of Georgia, however, has never installed, and the Senate report noted that their machines had not been updated since at least 2005. "Essentially they had pressed the" remember me tomorrow "button on a security update critic for over a decade, "explained Oliver," means that Georgia's electoral systems operate at the same level of technical competence as Every Dad. "
The hacks would certainly be difficult to do in the individual booths without people noticing, but Oliver has noticed that there are many opportunities to access only the machines; a Princeton professor pledged to visit polling stations every election day to photograph cars left unattended. In other words, "now I showed you how to hack voting machines in less than two minutes and how to find unattended voting machines," Oliver said. "It's the kind of important educational work we do here at I Really Hope, Putin doesn't watch this show with John Oliver."
Oliver has also dismantled the claim made by many electoral officials that electronic machines, hackable like anything through the Internet, are not connected to the Internet. "Some machines that officials insist on saying they don't connect to the Internet actually connect to the Internet and even some machines that don't connect directly to the Internet are programmed with cards that have been programmed on computers that connect to the Internet," Oliver has explained. "So your voting machine is not connected to the Internet in the same way that Alexa doesn't record everything you say and send it directly to Jeff Bezos. He absolutely isn't doing it, except when he sometimes does it sometimes."
The truth is that every voting machine can be tampered with, continued Oliver, so the solution is to make the systems as safe as possible.
But according to the Brennan Center for Justice, 16 million Americans will vote on electronic voting machines in the 2020 elections that are known to malfunction, which is inherently difficult to track down. This predictability is "absolutely terrifying, because what we have to do here is obvious," Oliver said.
He underlined the legislation approved by the House, which would authorize over $ 600 million for states to purchase new machines required by law not to be connected to the Internet and provide a paper trail for mandatory audits. But the Senate plan offers less than half that amount without qualifications, "which is simply ridiculous," Oliver said. "We can solve this, and we must solve it. Because it is crucial for people to trust our voting machines, and we should have more confidence in our system for choosing our leaders than we do in what inexplicably causes Sean to fuck Spicer by cha-cha on national TV. "