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AT&T’s 3G shutdown causes big election headache in Michigan


Some Michigan counties can’t immediately report election results Tuesday night because of a confusing mix of vote reporting guidance and AT&T’s decision to retire its 3G networks last February.

On site notification, the Wayne County Clerk’s office confirmed that 65 of Michigan’s 83 total counties “no longer compile unofficial election results.” Wayne County is located in Detroit and is the state’s largest county by population, with approximately 1.8 million residents. It’s unclear how much is due to county officials not upgrading their own modems, or if that’s due to U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) guidelines that advise against using modems.

In section 14.2-E, the Guidelines for the voluntary voting system (VVSG) 2.0 established in February 2021 advised not to connect voting systems to the internet. The guidelines cited the risk of ransomware, the ability for attackers to view files within the system or modify files within it that relate to election results and voting records.

“This has significantly delayed the reporting process,” the Wayne County notice read Tuesday night. “We don’t have a firm timeline for when we’ll reach 100% reporting, but we’ll continue to work through the night and into the morning until that’s achieved.”

Early Wednesday morning, the Wayne County Clerk’s Office said WDIV reporter Grant Hermes that the plan was never to use the modems, which had not been updated to 4G LTE or 5G because the state no longer certifies the upgrades. At least in Wayne County, Hermes says the results are driven from the districts to the cities and town halls, manually read into a computer there, exported and sent to the county using secure FTP.

Elsewhere in Michigan, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said The lip that to be aware of cyber security, “we have never modeled results. So this has not changed our process in Ingham County.”

In a statement emailed to The lip early Wednesday morning, Tracy Wimmer, the director of media relations for the Secretary of State, explained the steps taken to introduce any possibility of interference and counter misinformation about the vote that focused on modem use. “Unofficial results from polling places are driven by election workers in vehicles in many counties that are phasing out the use of modems to transmit unofficial results…county needs – for example, all 65 Dominion systems no longer use modems.

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

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

Wayne County Clerk:

Election results update

Based on the recommendation of Voluntary Voting Systems Guideline 2.0 issued by the US Election Assistance Commission, combined with AT&T’s decision in March 2022 to no longer support 3G modems, 65 of the 83 counties in Michigan no longer compile unofficial results elections. This has significantly delayed the reporting process. We don’t have a firm timeline for when we’ll reach 100% reports, but we’ll continue to work through the night and morning until we do.

Michigan Secretary of State:

Polls have closed and unofficial results have been publicly posted throughout Michigan, and those unofficial results are being transmitted to county offices. Meanwhile, many absentee ballot counting committees continue to count the votes of half or more of the jurisdictions’ ballots, and the full unofficial results cannot be known until all absentee ballots have been counted. Unofficial results from polling places are driven by election workers in vehicles in many counties that are phasing out the use of modems to transmit unofficial results. This is done in accordance with guidelines issued by the US Election Assistance Commission in order to prevent any remote possibility of interference and to counter the misinformation that has been circulated about modem use. Counties are phasing out modems on different schedules due to their particular voting system configurations and 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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