The VR Systems EViD (Electronic Voter iDentification) is an electronic poll book system used in place of printed paper poll books to check in voters, determine whether they have already received or voted a mail ballot, update voter information, and direct voters in the wrong location to their correct polling place. EViD electronic poll book software was developed in 2004 and can be run on a consumer off-the-shelf (COTS) laptop owned or rented by a jurisdiction. VR Systems’ also sells the EViD Compact, which is EViD software run on a COTS tablet housed in a plastic unit with an integrated barcode scanner, integrated thermal printer, and attached signature pad, as well as the EViD Edge, which is EViD software run on a COTS Windows tablet with an Intel Quad-Core Atom Processor, coupled with a barcode scanner and signature pad. The EViD Edge costs $1,555 per unit, exclusive of software and licensing.
The EViD electronic poll book software application can run in one of three modes:
- Early Voting: EViD is operating an early voting center;
- Voter Check-in Station: EViD is operating at a polling place on Election Day;
- Clerk Station: EViD is operating at a polling place on Election Day. Clerk’s Station performs all the functions of Voter Check-In Station, and additionally permits poll workers to research voters that the primary check-in station is unable to locate, as well as process address changes within or into the precinct in which the electronic poll book is located.
When opening the polling place, poll workers remove the EViD Edge or EViD Compact devices from their cases, or power on their laptops to run the EViD software program. The EViD Edge tablet is stored in a military-grade storage case along with the tablet case, cables, power adapters, tablet stand, barcode scanner, signature pad, and 3″ bluetooth thermal receipt printer. The EViD Compact is stored in a smaller case with its cords and attachable signature pad. Both units are equipped with a stylus for the voter to use on the attached signature pad.
If using the EViD Edge or EViD Compact, the poll worker powers on the system and the EViD software automatically launches. Poll workers log in to their devices and, after advancing to the home screen, see their initials, the software application (Early Voting, Voter Check-In Station, or Clerk Station), the polling place location, device battery life, and options for checking in voters.
If using the EViD Edge or EViD Compact, a poll worker can look up a voter by swiping the voter’s identity document barcode. The EViD software reads the voter’s ID barcode and automatically brings up the voter’s information, displaying whether or not the voter is eligible to vote in this election. To manually search for a voter, the poll worker selects either Search for Voter or No ID Provided from the home screen. The poll worker can search by the voter’s first and last name, birthdate (fastest search option), and driver license number. The program displays a list of voters with similar names, if applicable, or displays the voter information screen, with the voter’s full name, address, date of birth, precinct, and ballot style. The poll worker confirms that the voter’s information is correct and selects “Yes;” if the information does not match the voter, the poll worker selects “Wrong Voter” to search again.
The EViD program next requests the voter’s signature, which the voter either signs on the attached electronic signature pad, if using the EViD Compact or EViD laptop software. If the voter is being checked in on the EViD Edge, the poll worker flips the tablet like a seesaw toward the voter and the screen automatically adjusts to display the screen right side up to the voter. The voter uses the attached stylus to sign their signature, which can be cleared and remade, if needed. The poll worker accepts the voter’s signature and the program prompts the thermal printer to print a receipt.
EViD electronic poll book software holds voter registration data for all active and inactive voters in a jurisdiction. If a voter’s information is incorrect, a poll worker running the Clerk Station program can update a voter’s name or address, or move the voter into the precinct. If a voter is in the incorrect polling location, the poll worker can print directions to the voter’s correct polling place.
Hernando County, Florida Introduces the EViD Edge
VR Systems: EViD epollbook solution
Tenex Software Solutions, Inc. Response to State of Delaware RFP, 2018
Letter to the Technical Guidelines Development Committee from David S. Watson
VR Systems: EViD FAQ’s
Kim Zetter, Software vendor may have opened a gap for hackers in 2016 swing state, POLITICO (June 2019)
Karen Garloch, 8 Durham County precincts got extended voting – but not as much as the county wanted, The Charlotte Observer (November 2016)
Neena Satija, Federal investigators to examine equipment from 2016 N.C. election amid renewed fears of Russian hacking, The Washington Post (June 2019)
Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle, Ryan Grim, Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days before 2016 Election, The Intercept (June 2017)
Potential for Voters to be Checked-in More than Once
Each device equipped with EViD software receives its local database by way of a thumb drive. Updates are made between EViD software and a jurisdiction’s database through a store and forward mechanism. If communications go down, poll workers can still check in voters and voting history data is automatically transmitted to the jurisdiction’s central database when communications resume. Devices that are not communicating regularly are flagged for the jurisdiction. However, poll workers are not informed that communications are lost and voters would be unable to detect that communications are down. Thus, in the event of a denial of service attack or during a power outage that shuts down communication, voters could be allowed to vote more than once.
Synchronization Issues and Long Lines
In 2016 in Durham County, North Carolina, EViD electronic poll books at five precincts experienced crashing, incorrect messaging that told poll workers to ask voters for a photo ID (despite the voter ID law in North Carolina having been struck down), and erroneous indications that at least nine voters had already cast a ballot when they had not. Upon learning of this issue, the state ordered Durham County to switch to paper poll books; however, this created delays—one precinct reported that voting stopped for two hours—and some voters left without casting their ballots. Durham County’s board of elections unanimously asked the state for permission to extend voting by 90 minutes in all eight precincts; however, only two were allowed to stay open an hour longer than planned.
Russian Phishing and Hacking in 2016
In August 2016 VR Systems reported to the FBI that its employees were the target of a malicious email campaign that was believed to be linked to Russia. VR Systems stated that the so-called spearphishing attempt was unsuccessful. A year later, VR Systems commissioned a forensic investigation from Protus3, a cybersecurity firm, which stated that the company was not hacked and that it appeared that the problems were caused by user error. Although VR Systems warned customers about a malicious email campaign that might target them, it wasn’t until after this investigation that VR Systems customers learned of the attack on the company itself.
In June 2017, The Intercept published a leaked NSA document that revealed Russian hackers had sent malicious emails to employees of a voting technology company in August 2016 with the intent of hacking into their company email accounts. VR Systems was not named; however, the North Carolina State Board of Elections launched its own investigation, seizing 40 laptops from Durham County and suspending EViD’s certification in more than 20 North Carolina counties. During its investigations, the state discovered about another 2016 security issue: The day leading up to Election Day in 2016, Durham County was experiencing problems loading its voter data onto USB drives (“activators”), which were to be used with its EViD electronic poll books. To troubleshoot the problem, VR Systems connected remotely for several hours to a central computer in Durham County to communicate with and download the voter list from North Carolina’s State Board of Elections, potentially opening a gateway.
In June 2019, 18 months after a request from North Carolina, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would conduct a forensic analysis of the computers used in Durham County during the 2016 presidential election. The FBI added two Florida counties to Durham County as victims of 2016 breaches by Russian hackers.
VR Systems was founded in 1992. The small business started with a voter registration system, VoterFocus, and, in 2004 in response to devastation caused by Hurricane Charley in South Florida, VR Systems created the EViD electronic poll book designed to check in voters at central locations. In 2010, VR became a 100% employee owned company (ESOP).