Opinion: Utah voting machines left unattended in lobby -- even after authorities were notified


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Phil Windley saw an odd sight Tuesday in the lobby of the office building where he works in Lehi, Utah. He noticed nine voting machines loitering unattended on push carts.

Windley knew what they were and how sensitively they should have been handled and stored because he is a longtime IT professional, and for a few years was the chief information officer for former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt.


‘I believe these are voting machines sitting in the lobby, unprotected & unwatchef,’ Windley tweeted to his 2,500-plus followers, obviously so disturbed at his discovery that his message had a typo. He took a photo, posted it to his blog, and added it to his tweet.

Wednesday morning he saw that the machines had yet to be stored in a locked facility. ‘Voting machines are....

... still in the lobby. Overnight,’ he tweeted. Windley, an adjunct professor of computer science at BYU and chief technology officer at Kynetx, then took another photo, posted it on the Web, and called the clerk of Utah County, who seemed to shrug off any responsibility. ‘We just drop them off,’ Windley said the clerk told him. ‘The building is in charge of locking them up.’ The CTO tweeted the reply and added a #fail hashtag to the message as a commentary.

‘There are hundreds of locations that they go to, it’s not unexpected that this would happen,’ Utah elections director Mark Thomas told the Daily Herald, reminiscing about the time two years ago when voting machines were left unattended at the Utah state Capitol for days after an election.

The paper speculates that the lobby in question would be used as a polling place on Tuesday.

Utah County chief deputy clerk-auditor Scott Hogensen told the Herald that as soon as he heard of the unsecured machines he made sure they were stored properly and ensured that they will be replaced before the elections on Tuesday.

Hogensen added that there was no possibility of foul play, however, because ‘the memory cards that have the election information on them are not in the machines,’ he told the paper. ‘Everything is all sealed up so that election judges will be able to tell if there was tampering.’


Windley, who co-founded iMall with a partner in the late ‘90s and sold it to Excite for $450 million, isn’t so sure the lack of memory cards make unattended voting machines incapable of being tampered. ‘I disagree with Hogensen,’ he told The Times via e-mail. ‘There are many ways the machines could be compromised without the memory cards. Updating the firmware, for example or installing a card skimmer [that writes rather than reads].’

‘This isn’t a crime of opportunity, so hacking the machines in not something I’m worried about in this case,’ Windley added. ‘But if people knew that machine distribution is typically lax, they could target machines in transit.’

-- Tony Pierce