Business & Tech

Hiawatha Bray | TechLab

Mass. seeks to calm jitters on voting hacks

Mass. Secretary of State William Galvin said the state’s ballot and voter registration systems are secure.
Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File
Mass. Secretary of State William Galvin said the state’s ballot and voter registration systems are secure.

For all the tension surrounding Tuesday’s presidential election, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin said voters should not worry that foreign governments or rogue cybercriminals can alter the results.

“This whole hysteria — and I regard it as hysteria — about elections being hacked could not occur,” Galvin said on Monday.

Massachusetts is one of a handful of US states that did not take the US Department of Homeland Security up on its offer to check its voting systems for possible security gaps. Instead, Galvin said, the state uses private firms to conduct such audits.

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“We’ve hired outside contractors regularly to test the system,” he said. “We’re very comfortable about that.

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“The federal offer we felt was not going to be helpful to us because it, first of all, came very late,” Galvin said. “We were still in the process of trying to get our registered voters who’d just registered into the system. We were also in the process of making sure we were prepared for early voting.”

Bringing in federal auditors at that stage would only have added hassles, he said.

Massachusetts uses paper ballots that are counted by electronic readers. These machines are not connected directly to the Internet, making it impossible for intruders to hack them from a remote location online.

In addition, the state’s voter registration rolls are stored on computers that are not connected to the Internet. Visitors to the the commonwealth’s election website can look up registration data, but the system merely allows users to view the data, not to modify it, Galvin said. That means it’s equally impossible for hackers to mess with registration data to create confusion when people check in at the polls Tuesday, he concluded.

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Finally, the rise of early voting has created an additional bulwark against possible tampering with voter registration data. Galvin said that over 1 million of the state’s 4.5 million registered voters have already cast ballots.

The registration data for these voters was reviewed when they cast early ballots, and no irregularities were discovered, so it’s virtually impossible that significant tampering has occurred.

“Because of early voting, we have been using this system for the last 10 days,” said Galvin. “So it’s not as if we’re going to wake up tomorrow morning and say, what have we got?”

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at hiawatha.bray@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeTechLab.