Republican Secretary of State candidate Ed Packard on Sunday announced his support for state legislation prohibiting the connection of electronic voting machines to the internet or cell phone networks.

Senate Bill 46 is sponsored by State Senator Clyde Chambliss (R-Prattville) and would put this prohibition in place.

Packard is a long-time employee of the Secretary of State’s elections office.

“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 incorporated devices used to connect to the Internet – whether through the use of 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.”

Packard was the Secretary of State’s representative on the Electronic Voting Committee when the committee made the decision to prohibit the use of devices that contained this technology. This prohibition was in place during the 2020 presidential election.

“We need a strong statement by the Alabama Legislature prohibiting the use of these technologies in our electronic voting devices,” Packard said. “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 the 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.

“Manipulation of vote totals can occur only if voting machines are vulnerable to hacking. However, for hacking to take place, someone, or some group of people, must have the knowledge of how to program our voting devices and they must have access to our voting machines, either through remote connectivity through the Internet by wired or wireless technologies or by having physical access to the voting machines while they are in storage.

Packard warned that Alabama’s voting machines could potentially be connected to the internet if the manufacturer of the voting devices installs Wi-Fi or ethernet equipment, or if the manufacturer installs the device necessary to connect to cell phone networks.

“All that is stopping the manufacturer from installing any of these voting devices is a policy decision by the Alabama Electronic Voting Committee,” Packard said. “While I do not have any reason to believe that the Committee would rescind that policy, it could [do so], at any time. Incorporating the ban on these connectivity devices into state law will make the ban stronger and would require action of the Alabama Legislature to rescind. Such a move would make any rescission of the policy much harder to achieve.”

SB46 was passed by the Alabama Senate on Thursday by a vote of 28 to zero.

The bill now is awaiting action in the Alabama House of Representatives, where it has been assigned to the House Constitution, Campaigns and Elections Committee. 

“We need to close the door on all of these technologies and similar technologies, whether known to us now or in the future so that Alabamians can have confidence in our electronic voting machines," said Packard.

The Republican Secretary of State field includes Wes Allen, Christian Horn, Ed Packard, and Jim Zeigler.

The Republican primary will be on May 24, 2022.

Tuesday will be day seven of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session.

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