Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Reveal: How To (Really) Steal An Election

Allison McCartney
Thousands of California workers have been swept into medical-billing mills, prescribed unregulated medications and advised to undergo sometimes unneeded or high-risk surgery by doctors who were raking in bribes on the side.

With the presidential race in the homestretch, it seems like we hear talk about rigged elections and threats of cyberattacks just about every day.

So, how safe are our votes? Is it possible to steal an American election? Reveal looks at the technology we’ll be using to vote next month, and whether the trend toward internet voting makes our ballots more vulnerable.

But first, we take a look back: Few people remember the chaos and confusion of the 2000 election better than balloting officials in Broward County, Florida. We speak with two people who directed the vote recount there after voting machines failed, leaving behind a trail of dimpled, pregnant and hanging chads.

In the end, their new tally was ignored, when the U.S. Supreme Court halted the recount in Florida, and declared George W. Bush the winner over Al Gore. Could the election be thrown up in the air again? The voting officials we spoke to say yes.

Fast forward to today: Donald Trump has insisted for months that if he loses, it'll be because of "cheating."

So we go to Philadelphia and Northern California to see if cheating is even possible on the voting machines those areas use. Then, on to the web.

Most security experts agree that internet voting is a bad idea, and they’ve spent the past decade-and-a half writing damning reports, testifying at public meetings, and even hacking systems themselves to demonstrate the dangers. Yet 32 states have adopted the technology, including several swing states.

As Election Day approaches and Russia continues to demonstrate a willingness to meddle with American politics, there's reason to believe internet voting may be a target. '

While some places have made high-tech changes, others are using more old-school methods to make voting easier – like the U.S. postal service. Voting by mail is getting more and more popular because for most people, it’s more convenient.

But on the Navajo reservation in rural southern Utah, it’s creating some unique problems, and members of the tribe are suing their county to go back to the old system.

Reveal is a weekly radio program produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.For more, check out our website and subscribe to our podcast.

Julia B. Chan is the digital editor for Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.