Poll finds par­ti­san di­vide in con­cerns for se­cu­rity

The Mercury News - - News - By Christina A. Cassidy

AT­LANTA » With the midterm elec­tions less than a month away, a strong ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans are con­cerned the na­tion’s vot­ing sys­tems might be vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers, ac­cord­ing to a poll re­leased Wed­nes­day.

That is roughly un­changed from con­cerns about election se­cu­rity held by Amer­i­cans just be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial election, but with a twist. Two years ago, it was Repub­li­cans who were more con­cerned about the in­tegrity of the election. This year, it’s Democrats.

The sur­vey from The Univer­sity of Chicago Har­ris School of Pub­lic Pol­icy and The Associated Press NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search found that Democrats have grown in­creas­ingly con­cerned about election se­cu­rity while Repub­li­cans have grown more con­fi­dent. By 58 per­cent to 39 per­cent, Democrats are more likely than Repub­li­cans to say they are very con­cerned about hack­ers af­fect­ing U.S. election sys­tems. That rep­re­sents a flip from the re­sults of a sim­i­lar sur­vey taken in 2016.

The same par­ti­san di­vide ex­ists in the con­fi­dence Amer­i­cans hold in the ac­cu­racy of vote tal­lies for the up­com­ing midterm elec­tions. Repub­li­cans are more con­fi­dent, a re­ver­sal from 2016.

Nearly 8 in 10 Amer­i­cans are at least some­what con­cerned about po­ten­tial hack­ing, with 45 per­cent say­ing they are ex­tremely or very con­cerned. Just 22 per­cent have lit­tle or no con­fi­dence that votes will be counted ac­cu­rately. Those re­sults are sim­i­lar to a poll con­ducted in Septem­ber 2016.

“Peo­ple are right to be con­cerned,” said Lawrence Nor­den, a vot­ing sys­tem ex­pert with The Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice at New York Univer­sity School of Law. “The crit­i­cal thing I hope peo­ple un­der­stand is that there are lots of things that can be done to deal with cy­ber­at­tacks on our election in­fra­struc­ture, and there has been a lot done since 2016.”

Fed­eral, state and lo­cal election of­fi­cials have scram­bled over the past two years to shore up cy­ber­se­cu­rity de­fenses of election sys­tems, im­prove com­mu­ni­ca­tions about po­ten­tial cy­ber threats and re­as­sure the pub­lic that all steps are be­ing taken to pro­tect the vote. Congress has fun­neled $380 mil­lion to states to help cover the costs of adding cy­ber­se­cu­rity per­son­nel, con­duct train­ing and up­grade equip­ment.

Much of that is in re­sponse to the 2016 pres­i­den­tial election.

U.S. in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials say Rus­sian op­er­a­tives launched a mul­ti­pronged ef­fort to in­ter­fere with the 2016 election, in­clud­ing a so­phis­ti­cated so­cial me­dia cam­paign, the hack­ing of Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee emails and the elec­tronic scan­ning of state election net­works. Illi­nois’ voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem was breached, but au­thor­i­ties say no in­for­ma­tion was al­tered or deleted.

This year, the na­tion’s in­tel­li­gence agen­cies warned that Rus­sia and oth­ers re­main in­ter­ested in in­ter­fer­ing in U.S. elec­tions, but have em­pha­sized that they have de­tected no tar­get­ing of election sys­tems on the level seen ahead of the 2016 vote.

Nearly 80 per­cent of Amer­i­cans say they are at least some­what con­cerned about the hack­ing of voter reg­is­tra­tion sys­tems, vot­ing equip­ment and fi­nal election re­sults.

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