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Can election systems in Virginia be hacked?

FILE - "I Voted" stickers are displayed at a polling place.
Thomas Peipert
FILE - "I Voted" stickers are displayed at a polling place.

Can Virginia elections be hacked? The experts say not likely.

In movies and on TV, hackers seem to be able to get into almost any system. But in real life, things work a bit differently – especially with Virginia's election system.

"It's never connected to the internet. It can't be hacked from some foreign agent," explains former Virginia Elections Commissioner Chris Piper, who's now with an organization of former election officials known as the Elections Group.

"Our voting tabulation machines are literally just tabulating the votes," Piper says. "Then they spit out a piece of paper that that election officials that are a bipartisan team of election officials in the polling place or at the central counting facility are then tabulating those results from that piece of paper."

Pieces of paper will determine who wins the election, handled by human beings with a lot of oversight.

"While they're tallying those results that are printed off on the paper, there are typically observers from both parties watching over their shoulder to ensure that everything is proceeding as normal," explains Piper.

Virginia requires paper ballots, creating a trail of receipts that can be audited after the election to make sure the results are accurate.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.