On Tuesday, Alabama Secretary of State candidate Ed Packard (R) called on the Alabama House of Representatives to pass legislation to forbid elections officials from installing modems or other devices that would make voting machines from accessing the internet.

Senate Bill 46 (SB46) is sponsored by state Sen. Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville).

SB46 would prohibit equipping electronic voting machines with technology that would permit remote connections to those ballot tabulators. The technologies banned by the bill include Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, near field communications, and any similar technologies known now or in the future.

Supporters of this legislation argue that remote connections to voting machines are a security risk that could permit hacking and manipulation of electronic ballot tabulators.

Packard claimed that under current law, there is no prohibition on voting machine companies including these technologies in their electronic voting machines.

“The Alabama Electronic Voting Committee voted several years ago to adopt a policy of not approving for use in Alabama any electronic voting machine that incorporate devices used to connect to the Internet – whether using Wi-Fi, ethernet cards, or cell phone networks,” Packard said. “However, despite the vote by that committee, state law does not prohibit the use of these technologies in our voting machines. The legislative session is drawing close to its end. We need a strong statement on prohibiting the use of these technologies in our electronic voting devices. And that statement can, and should be, made by the Alabama Legislature through the adoption of a state law that prohibits the use of these devices in our voting machines.

“Voting machines collect and tabulate the votes that reflect the public’s will in our elections. Therefore, our voting machines should be as secure as possible. Incorporating into state election law a prohibition on remote connectivity to and from our voting devices will help further secure our voting machines. Such action is a vital part of our efforts to ensure that Alabamians can have confidence in our election system. Fortunately, the Alabama Senate has already approved a version of this legislation. We need the Alabama House to give its approval in a floor vote and then send the bill back to the Alabama Senate so that its members can concur with the changes made by the House.”

Packard is retired from the Alabama Secretary of State’s office where he was a senior elections official.

“Hopefully, the Legislature will vote to pass this bill before the legislative session ends,” Packard said. “It would be a disservice to the people of Alabama for the Legislature to let this bill die when the session ends.”

SB46 was not addressed in the Alabama House of Representatives on Tuesday. It could be considered as soon as Wednesday.

Wes Allen, Christian Horn, Ed Packard, and Jim Zeigler are all running for the office of Alabama Secretary of State.

Incumbent Secretary of State John H. Merrill (R) is term-limited from running for a third consecutive term.

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