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Voting Equipment Security

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Wisconsin Voting Equipment Security Protocol

Wisconsin state law and Election Commission administrative procedures outline a security protocol designed to ensure the integrity of Wisconsin elections.   All voting systems in use in Wisconsin have received federal certification.  These systems have also been tested and certified on the state level to ensure they are compatible with Wisconsin election law.

Initial Logic and Accuracy Testing of Voting Equipment Programming

All municipalities are encouraged to conduct logic and accuracy testing of their voting equipment programming after programming of the memory devices is completed.  This testing is designed to confirm the accuracy of the programming and ensure the equipment is correctly reading ballots and tabulating votes.  This testing is conducted before the public test of voting equipment is conducted, so that any programming errors can be remedied before Election Day.

Public Test of Voting Equipment 

All municipalities are required to conduct a public test of their voting equipment before each election.  This event is considered a public meeting and must be noticed at least 48 hours prior.  The public test must take place no earlier than 10 days prior to Election Day and the public is invited to attend and observe the testing process.

Programming is verified by feeding a set of pre-marked ballots, or test deck, into the machine and reviewing the results tape that is generated at the end of this process.  The test deck should include ballots with votes for all candidates and contests on the ballot.  It is recommended that the test deck used for the public test differ from the test deck used by the programmer so that errors in programming do not remain undetected.  Vote totals for each candidate in a contest should differ so that votes transposed between candidates in a contest can be detected.

The exercise ensures that paper ballots are able to be read by the optical scan voting equipment, all ballot contests are tabulating properly, voters are not allowed to exceed the maximum number of choices per contest, write-in votes are properly identified and that touchscreen voting equipment is programmed to capture voter intent.  An errorless count is required at the conclusion of the process and any anomalies identified in this testing must be remedied before the equipment can be approved by the clerk for use in the election.  Wis. Stats. - 5.84(1)

Post Public Test and Election Day Security Procedures

Following the public test, the voting equipment and all associated memory devices are required to be secured.  A chain-of-custody log is required to be maintained that documents any access to or transfer of each memory device.  These procedures are intended to protect against malicious breaches to electronic voting equipment components as well as provide transparency of justifiable access.

The memory device should remain in the machine and a tamper-evident seal should be used to secure the compartment that houses the memory device.  Each tamper-evident seal should contain a unique serial number and that number should be recorded on the Inspectors’ statement along with other voting equipment security-related information.  Verification of the serial numbers should take place before the polls open in the morning and after the close of polls.  It is also recommended that election workers verify this information at several other points on Election Day.

The purpose of these procedures is to ensure that the integrity of the memory device is not compromised after the conclusion of the public test up until votes are tabulated after the close of polls.  All incidents of access to the memory device must be documented on the Inspectors’ Statement and each memory device should remain secured after the election.

Voting equipment is not connected to the internet and any modeming capability is disabled until the polls close and the machine is in a post-election setting.

Post-Election Audit of Voting Equipment

Wisconsin statutes require a post-election audit of the performance of each voting system used in the state of Wisconsin. The audit is designed to assess how electronic voting systems performed on Election Day through a hand-count of electronically tallied ballots.  The audit is required following each General Election.

At least 100 reporting units are selected at random after each General Election to be audited.  A representative sample of reporting units that use each type of voting equipment are included in the selection process.  The highest office on the ballot is included in the recounted contests and three other statewide contests are drawn by lot.

During this process, two elections workers shall conduct an independent hand count of paper ballots and tally the results of the contests being recounted.  The individual tallies are compared to each other and any discrepancies are resolved before an agreed upon final hand-count tally total is determined.  If the hand counts differ from each other, the paper records/ballots must be recounted.  The final hand-count tally total is then compared to the Election Night results tally tape and discrepancies are noted.

The audit is considered a public meeting and proper notice shall be posted or published at least 48 hours in advance.  Each audit is required to be completed two weeks following the certification of the election by the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) and a report on the outcome is prepared by Commission staff.  Audit materials are submitted to the WEC for review and Commission staff may request that a vendor investigate and provide explanation for any unexplained differences between the voting equipment tally and the paper record tally.

Based upon the results of the audit, the WEC may, at its sole discretion, choose to re-test the voting system per WEC Chapter 7 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code.  The test is a condition of continuing approval of the voting system and is designed to ensure that voting systems approved for use in Wisconsin continue to adhere to the terms of their certification.