I'm no lawyer, but I'll try to answer with a specific context to this case.
What are some reasons the current voting system used in America is insecure and vulnerable to illegal cheating tactics?
Absentee By Mail
In this case, a voter can request a ballot by mail by submitting a request (on a standard form or a non-standard mailed request with the correct information and language) and signing it themselves. They instruct their county Board of Elections where to send the ballot. In a substantial number of cases, voters who won't be at their voting residence during the election will have it mailed to the location they expect to be. In North Carolina, it's legal for an organizer or volunteer to give the voter a form and information on how to go about requesting this ballot, and the voter does not have to have an "excuse" to vote early.
After the request is made, the ballot is mailed to the voter, and data is available on when that person was mailed a ballot. It's alleged that the person at the center of the investigation hired people to and participated in a form of "Ballot Harvesting", which is illegal in North Carolina. Allegedly the ballots were collected from the voter (in some cases unsealed) and the ballot was altered before being mailed or delivered back to the Board of Elections. Despite requiring two signatures and the signature of the voter, this left open the ability for a person to alter or vote another persons ballot as a kind of "middle man" attack before it was sent to the Board of Elections and processed.
In several cases in North Carolina, elections officials have not counted ballots that were legally cast. (See quote and source below for more information here)
At the moment, what is in place to help prevent those (people and processes) responsible for tallying voter ballets from cheating at this level?
The vote tabulation is done in NC by optical scan machines used to count paper ballots marked by the voter. However as outlined in an audit of the 2016 election provided by the North Carolina State Board of Elections
County election officials occasionally must enter election results by
hand directly into the vote tabulation software. This may occur, for
example, due to a media card failure. This audit can catch inadvertent
mistakes in transcribing numbers, as well as purposeful manipulation
of data. After the 2016 election, the NCSBE identified all manual
entries that occurred in November across the state. Data analysts then
reached out to the counties to identify the reasons for the manual
entries. NCSBE determined all manually entries were done for valid
purposes. In the future, manual entry audits will include an automated
process able to detect transcription errors in real time as results
are entered by hand. This change, still under development, will help
ensure the accuracy of manual entries made in future elections.
As noted in correspondence from the North Carolina State Board of Elections Executive Director to the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee, there are additionally threats posed by elections officials by not counting ballots that should have been counted
Vulnerabilities are not all external, however, and our agency’s
investigation into two cases of criminal misconduct by elections
officials in different counties (each has pleaded guilty) have
highlighted the need for stronger internal safeguards. In 2016, we
implemented integrity audits that have strengthened the accuracy and
integrity of the elections, both by detecting criminal violations and
by ensuring that every ballot cast by a qualified voter is counted by
the county board.
Proposed and Current Solutions
Centralized auditing and automated anomaly detection are prevalent counter measures currently being employed in North Carolina. In a memo to the members of the Election Assistance Commission, the NCSBE Executive Director writes:
Over the past two election cycles we have developed a post-election
audit program to identify any discrepancies that could affect an
election. As a result of the new known security concerns, we are
expanding and enhancing this audit program. We are in the process of
hiring two full-time senior business analysts to work on election
security and integrity audit initiatives.
She continues, highlighting the recent rise of cyber attacks her proposed strategies for combating those efforts:
We have learned over the past year the essential need for cybersecurity expertise. This expertise is foundational for improving
decision-making that impacts election technology. A Chief Information
Security Officer (CISO) will facilitate continual monitoring of our
systems for vulnerabilities and provide technical guidance to the 100
county boards of elections. Five-year budget, from federal grant
funds, is $1,018,067.
County boards of elections are undergoing security assessments. We will provide sub grants to county elections boards to address
identified security needs. Training is an essential component to any
election. Thousands of election workers are trained for each election
in North Carolina. Our goal is to expand the content of our programs
to include training on detecting, preventing and responding to cyber-
attacks. Five-year budget for county cybersecurity improvements, from
federal grant funds, is $1,500,000.
- We are also implementing a Cyber Advisory Panel, made up of nationally-recognized security experts, to provide us with ongoing
guidance in addressing security threats and staying current with best
practices. Five-year budget, from federal grant funds, is $750,000.
- We will implement security recommendations provided by federal, state and NGO partners. This is budgeted to use $222,032 of federal
grant funds and $64,000 of state matching funds.
Are there any solutions to any of the fraudulent vulnerabilities with the current system that have been brought up legislatively already?
The NCSBE Executive Director proposed a few legislative changes and Congressional Democrats have proposed a comprehensive package of election law changes that include strengthening and modernizing the Voting Rights Act