John Merrill: Anyone who believes viral election hacking video ‘is not thinking very clearly’
After a video recently went viral on social media depicting American election equipment being easily hacked at this summer’s Def Con hacking conference, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told Yellowhammer News that it is “unconscionable” that anyone would give the video “any credence.”
At @defcon hacking conference and just learned how easy it is to physically gain admin access on a voting machine that is used in 18 states. Requires no tools and takes under 2 minutes. I’m concerned for our upcoming elections. pic.twitter.com/Kl9erBsrtl
— Rachel Tobac (@RachelTobac) August 12, 2018
Even though this particular type of voting equipment is not used in Alabama, Merrill was quick to point out the clear and overarching fallacy in the hacker’s panic-causing assertion.
“I don’t know that there’s a singular problem with the equipment that’s been challenged, because I can’t think of a single jurisdiction in the United States of America where a polling official would allow anybody that is not authorized to come into contact with the voting equipment and have unfettered access to that equipment at the level that would give them unbridled permission to compromise the integrity of the equipment,” Merrill said in a Yellowhammer News exclusive interview.
He continued, “Without question, I can’t think of any jurisdiction where that’d be allowed to occur. It certainly would not be allowed in the state of Alabama.”
Merrill slammed the video, which currently has approximately 2 million views, and people who are using it to stir up mass hysteria about election security.
“Anybody that watches a video – like the one that’s been circulating on social media – and believes that someone could walk in off the street into a room full of election equipment with unfettered access, manipulate it in a way without being questioned [by election officials], and then reprogram it in the way they want, is not thinking very clearly. Period,” Merrill emphasized.
He added, “It’s unconscionable that somebody would give that any credence. That’s no different than someone saying they could break in the Capitol – or the White House or the Pentagon – if they were given unfettered access.”
Merrill also assured Alabamians that the state’s election equipment is secure and that election officials continuously monitor the equipment on Election Day.
“All of our equipment is kept under lock and key,” Merrill outlined. “Before the election occurs, the equipment is set-up in each location where it’s required to be for the election to take place. There are security precautions that are entered in to. Our election officials guarantee the safety and security of the equipment so that when people’s votes are cast, we know that they’re cast for the candidate of their choice and are counted for the candidate of their choice.”
Alabama’s Secretary of State also explained that a lot goes into election integrity behind the scenes, with many different layers of security being in place.
“One of the things that we’ve been diligent about – and we remain diligent about – is that we work extraordinarily well with our public and private partners to ensure the safety and credibility and the integrity of the election process,” Merrill said. “We do that through our technology, as well as through our training to make sure that our people are prepared for any instance or circumstance introduced.”
He also wanted to correct common misconceptions about electronic voting equipment.
“The thing that I think our people have to remember – and we can’t stress this enough – is that none of our election equipment or technology is connected to the internet, so you’re not going to be able to violate the trust and confidence of the process through any kind of encryption that would result in the crippling of our system at the local site where you go to vote,” Merrill detailed.
He continued, “You’re not going to be able to infiltrate the system through the use of our electronic poll books … even though we are using wireless-based communication in some instances, we are not using communication that can be hacked in to or could have the result of being negatively impactful on our local, county, regional, state or federal elections.”
Merrill credited his office’s 24/7 accessibility and open lines with election workers on the ground as keys to Alabama’s success in securing elections.
“We make sure that they know who to call if there’s a concern introduced while they’re working,” Merrill explained. “And things have gone really well in the previous election cycles.”
Preparation is key for election security, and Merrill is confident that Alabama is prepared for the upcoming general election.
“We believe that [Alabama’s success] will continue on November 6,” Merrill stated. “Training has already begun in many counties.”
Merrill continued, giving a summary of the constant improvements that Alabama is making in voting processes.
“Some of the counties are going to have electronic poll books for the first time and we’re excited about that. We now have almost 30 counties that have possession of electronic poll books,” Merrill announced.
He concluded, “Our goal is to have 67 counties using electronic poll books by 2022. The technology that is in place is technology that will make the elections process more efficient and more effective for all of our constituents throughout the State of Alabama.”
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn