LANSING – Public Citizen has called on Election Systems and Software to stop selling some of its voting machines because they group said they are vulnerable to hacking but Department of State officials said the company’s machines used in Michigan are protected from those vulnerabilities.

The group said the versions of the ESS machines that have modems do not meet federal voting machine standards and leave elections open to hackers.

“ES&S has made American democracy even more vulnerable to a growing and unprecedented threat of hacking by entities both foreign and domestic,” Aquene Freechild, Democracy Is For People Campaign co-director, said in a statement announcing the call to pull the machines. “Instead of apologizing and addressing concerns from the intelligence community, Congress, election officials and concerned citizens, ES&S is selling voting machines with modems to connect them to the internet.”

Fred Woodhams, spokesperson for the Department of State, said the machines used in Michigan, even those with modems, do meet federal requirements and he said the machines themselves combined with practices for using them prevent infiltration.

“Modem hardware is disabled while polls are open and it is not an internet connection. Therefore, modem communications cannot occur before or during the voting process, or before unofficial results are generated on election night,” Mr. Woodhams said in a response to the Public Citizen release.

He said the modems, both wired and cellular, are only capable of initiating a connection and transmitting data, not receiving connections or new instructions. He said the machines automatically create a log and shut down if someone attempts to improperly connect to them.

The remote access Public Citizen mentioned in its statement was designed for setting machines for use by voters with disabilities and was not active during elections, Mr. Woodhams said, adding those machines are no longer in use in the state.

The group also slammed the company for the $249 charge for the modems, citing an invoice to Macomb County for voting machines the group said was from 2017. “Some counties buy hundreds of these machines at a time, and these charges are paid for by tax-payers,” the group said.

This story was published by Gongwer News Service.