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Home Tech News AT&T’s 3G shutdown catches blame for a major election headache in Michigan

AT&T’s 3G shutdown catches blame for a major election headache in Michigan

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

In a website alert, the Wayne County clerk’s office confirmed that 65 of Michigan’s 83 total counties “are no longer modeming unofficial election results.” Wayne County is where Detroit is located, and it’s the state’s biggest county by population with about 1.8 million residents. It’s unclear how many are due to county officials that did not upgrade their own modems, or if this is due to U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) guidelines advising against using modems. Elsewhere in Michigan, Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum told The Verge that to be cyber security conscious, “we have never modemed results. So this did not change our process in Ingham County.”

In section 14.2-E, the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG) 2.0 established in February 2021 advised against connecting 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 have to do with election results and ballot records.

“This has significantly delayed the reporting process,” the Tuesday night Wayne County alert read. “We do not have a definitive time of when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work throughout the evening and morning until this is achieved.”

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

After announcing its plans to end its 3G wireless network in 2019, the provider officially sunset the service this past February.

The office of Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson confirmed the widespread issue and said reporting delays “were expected” in a statement to WDIV ClickOnDetroit late Tuesday night. “Many Michigan counties are in the process of or have already phased out the use of modems to transmit election results from cities and townships to their county clerk’s office,” the statement said.

Election Results Update

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 decision in March 2022 to no longer support 3G modems, 65 out of 83 Counties in Michigan are no longer modeming unofficial election results. This has signficantly delayed the reporting process. We do not have a definitive time of when we will reach 100 percent reporting, but will continue to work throughout the evening and morning until this is achieved.

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