The System’s Vulnerabilities Are Real, but Please, DO NOT STAY HOME
Americans have learned that Russians have been interfering in our elections for some time; and there have been indictments of of some for conspiracy to sow discord around our elections of 2016 and the midterms. We learned that some voting machines are vulnerable to be hacked, and that some legislators emails have already been hacked. With that in mind, we can't help but wonder if our midterm election will be hacked.
Last summer we learned that an 11 year old child hacked into a replica of a state election web and altered the voting totals there in less than ten minutes, and although officials have warned us that Russia is constantly engaged in disrupting the midterm elections, the Trump Administration has done little to protect American votes; so this leaves us wondering how important our votes actually are.
The news may seem bleak, but there are some quick fixes that will make sure that our votes are meaningful and simple, and both Democrats and Republicans agree on what they are.
One, provide a paper trail for every vote. Hackers work most effectively in the dark, so they love voting machines that produce no paper verification. Currently, five states — Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — run their elections entirely on paperless touch-screen machines. But all five states are considering a switch back to paper ballots in time for 2020. In this year’s midterms, 19 states and Washington, D.C., will use only paper ballots.
Two, audit the vote. The best way to do this is known as a risk-limiting audit, which means comparing the digital tally to a manual count of a randomized sample of paper ballots. This type of audit can identify voting tabulation errors resulting from either malicious attacks or software failures.
Three, give states more resources. After dragging its feet for years, Congress in March approved $380 million in grants to states for election security. A little more than a third of the money will be spent on enhancing cybersecurity. A little more than a quarter will go toward buying new voting equipment. The rest will be spent on improving voter-registration systems, running vote audits and communicating better with voters around election time.
That money is good, but it’s far from enough. And while the states are spending it in the right ways, Congress could help even more by passing the Secure Elections Act, a bipartisan bill that appeared headed toward passage until it got hung up over the summer.
What can voters do? For starters, take advantage of early voting if your state offers it. The sooner votes are in, the more time officials have to detect irregularities. “Every time someone votes early, they’re part of the fight against foreign interference,” said David Becker, who runs the Center for Election Innovation and Research.
Most important, don’t stay home because you believe that cyber attacks will rig the results of the election. “It’s true that these systems are vulnerable. It’s also true that you should vote on Election Day,” said Mr. Blaze, the voting-security expert. “The worst outcome would be if people conclude that there’s no point in voting.”
So voting remains the best way to make sure that we, as American citizens, get the government that we want to have.
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