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Report questions security of voting machines in Southwest Virginia

Report questions security of voting machines in Southwest Virginia (Image 1) (Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved)

ROANOKE COUNTY (WSLS 10) - A preliminary report by the Virginia Department of Elections shows a security risk for touch screen voting machines still used by nine communities in Southwest Virginia.

The report found security problems with the WinVote machines wireless network.

Interference from a smartphone is blamed for shutting down several machines in Spotsylvania County during the November 2014 election. That problem, along with similar ones in Henrico County and Virginia Beach, led to Governor Terry McAuliffe calling for an investigation into the voting machines.

The preliminary results of the report "raise grave concerns about the security risks" associated with the machines.

"The integrity of the legislative process and the electoral process is extremely important to the citizens," said Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke). "I'm hoping we can get this taken care of and eventually get rid of all of the (touch screens) because of the problems they've had."

Nine communities in southwest and central Virginia use the WinVote machines. They are Appomattox, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Henry, Montgomery, Nelson and Roanoke counties, and Lynchburg.

The report calls for several changes including testing of voting equipment that's more than two years old, pre and post election reports by localities, and having a public hearing in the next seven to 10 days before a decision on changes is made.

"I still feel confident with our equipment," said Roanoke County Registrar Judy Stokes, where WinVote machines are used in all 32 precincts. "We maintain it, we test it before each election to make sure it's working properly. I feel confident about it."

Roanoke and Botetourt counties will be the only two local communities that will use the machines during the June primary election. Eventually, all touch screen voting machines in Virginia will be replaced. 

The General Assembly has mandated communities move to the optical scan voting machines by November 2016. That change was instituted to keep a paper trail.