eBay Voting Machine Concept

A Voting Machine Was Sold For $1,200 on eBay – Should This be Prohibited?

Here at eSeller365, we don’t like to get into the politics of the day; there are plenty of other news outlets for that. But we thought this was an interesting story because it demonstrated the failure of numerous companies to flag this sale as a potential problem.

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Many eBay sellers make their living by going to garage sales, thrift stores, and flea markets to find bargains they can sell online.

This approach of thrifting for inventory has been around for many years, but recently, eBay and other marketplaces have used the term ‘recommerce’ to popularize the practice.

Recommerce also includes selling unwanted personal stuff from closets, but especially eBay is placing a renewed focus on sellers to list more “pre-loved” items on the marketplace.

The company’s research shows that younger people concerned about sustainability and the current economic climate are driving more shoppers to consider pre-owned products.

Ean Hutchison, an Ohio man from Miamisburg, reportedly found an interesting item at a Michigan Goodwill store while looking for pre-owned electronic items to sell online.

He came across a touch screen device marked by Goodwill as “AVALUE TECHNOLOGY Touch Panel SID-15V-Z37-B1R” with a slot for a keycard or credit card for $7.99 and purchased it.

Hutchinson said he knew what he was looking at. It was a piece of election hardware he believed may have been used in the state’s elections, not just a touch panel as Goodwill identified it.

“I wasn’t even aware that they were supposed to be sold, let alone donated to Goodwill,” he told CNN.

Hutchinson put the ballot marking machine on eBay with a starting bid of $250 and a Buy It Now price of $1,200.

Harri Hursti, an election equipment security expert, saw the eBay listing and immediately purchased it for $1,200.

Hursti is a co-founder of the Voting Machine Village, a hacking event featured during the annual DEF CON Hacking and Security Conference in Las Vegas.

Because of his interest in voting machines, he is always on the lookout for retired voting machines, which is why he found the listing on eBay so interesting because he believed the item offered for sale was a current model still being used in elections today.

Once Hursti received the item, he contacted the Michigan secretary of state’s office, which oversees elections in the state.

The secretary of state’s office confirmed this machine originated in one of its jurisdictions, and authorities have launched an investigation.

Goodwill and eBay Fail To Catch Voting Machine Sale

This story is remarkable because two major corporations failed to prevent this voting machine from being sold to the public, and there do not appear to be any restrictions on owning one. Yet, voting machines are part of the country’s most critical infrastructure.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) considers a “secure and resilient electoral process” a “vital national interest” and one of its highest priorities.

On some level, Goodwill staff receives thousands of donations every week, and this electronic item was identified by the staff as a touch panel from Avalue Technology, a manufacturer of industrial computer components.

The $7.99 price tag seems to suggest Goodwill thought they only had some industrial touch panel that may be of limited use to people, not some complete system or a voting machine.

The other question here is how eBay didn’t catch this item. Presumably, eBay has methods to identify on its marketplace items that are included n the company’s prohibited and restricted items list.

There is a section about electronic equipment that states, “Electronic items prohibited by government agencies, including cell phone, GPS radar, and other signal jamming devices.”

That policy is really about illegal equipment and it doesn’t appear there are any specific laws prohibiting anyone from owning one of these machines. There may be contractual or licensing issues, but that is typically a civil matter.

More surprisingly, it’s not the first time someone bought a voting machine on eBay.

According to a BBC report from 2020, a volunteer with Election Cyber Surge purchased a machine on eBay intending to identify security vulnerabilities. And the volunteer told the BBC she “was shocked to find that you could actually buy voting machines on eBay.”

Considering the priority DHS places on the country’s election infrastructure, should voting machines and related items even be available on eBay or any other marketplaces?

After this episode — and considering the current national discord about voting and voting machines — maybe eBay should think about putting them on the prohibited list. Or at least restrict the sale to clearly vintage models.

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