AT&T’s 3G shutdown blamed for major Michigan election headache

Some Michigan counties are unable to immediately report Tuesday night’s election results due to a confusing mix of federal voting reporting guidelines and AT&T’s decision to retire its 3G networks last February.

In a website warning, the Wayne County office confirmed that 65 of Michigan’s total of 83 counties “are no longer moderating unofficial election results.” Wayne County is where Detroit is located, and it is the state’s largest county by population, with a population of approximately 1.8 million. It’s unclear how much is due to provincial officials failing to upgrade their own modems, or whether it’s due to U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) guidelines that discourage the use of modems.

In Section 14.2-E, the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0, drawn up in February 2021, advised against connecting voting systems to the Internet. The guidelines mentioned the risk of ransomware, the ability for attackers to view or modify files in the system related to election results and ballots.

“This has significantly slowed down the reporting process,” Wayne County’s warning read on Tuesday night. “We don’t have a definite time when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work through the evening and morning until this is achieved.”

Early Wednesday morning, Wayne County Clerk’s Office told WDIV reporter Grant Hermes that the plan was never to use the modems, which had not been updated for 4G LTE or 5G because the state no longer certifies upgrades. In Wayne County, Hermes reports, at least the results are sent from the county to city and town halls, manually read into a computer, exported, and sent to the county via secure FTP.

Elsewhere in Michigan, Ingham County Clerk told Barb Byrum: The edge that to be cybersecurity conscious, “we never moderated results. So this hasn’t changed our process in Ingham County.”

In a statement emailed to The edge Early Wednesday morning, Tracy Wimmer, the secretary of state’s media relations director, explained the steps being taken to address any possibility of interference and to counter misinformation about voting on the use of modems. “The unofficial results of polling stations are being driven by in-vehicle polling officers in the many provinces who are phasing out the use of modems to transmit unofficial results… Counties are phasing out modems on different schedules due to their specific voting system configurations and needs of the province — all For example, 65 Dominion systems no longer use modems.”

AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After announcing its plans to end its 3G wireless network in 2019, the carrier officially discontinued the service last February.

Wayne County Clerk:

Update election results

Based on the recommendation of the Voluntary Voting Systems Guideline 2.0 issued by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, coupled with AT&T’s March 2022 decision to no longer support 3G modems, 65 of Michigan’s 83 counties are no longer announcing unofficial election results. . This has slowed down the reporting process considerably. We don’t have a definite time when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work through the evening and morning until this is achieved.

Michigan Secretary of State:

Polling stations are closed and reveal unofficial results throughout Michigan and those unofficial results are passed on to county clerk offices. Meanwhile, many absentee ballot counting boards continue to count the votes of as many as half or more of jurisdictions’ ballots, and the full unofficial results may not be known until all absentee ballots have been counted. The unofficial results of polling stations are driven by in-vehicle poll workers in many provinces who are phasing out the use of modems to transmit unofficial results. This is done in accordance with the guidelines of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission to avoid any small possibility of interference and to counter misinformation disseminated about the use of modems. Provinces run modems on different schedules due to their specific voting system configurations and provincial needs – for example, all 65 Dominion systems no longer use modems.

Update August 2, 1:58 AM ET: Added additional information from the Wayne County Clerk, and a statement from the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office.

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