VOTE, OR ELSE HACK­ERS WIN

ON US POL­I­TICS

The Gulf Today - - OPINION - BY JOHN FORTIER

Don’t let wor­ries about election se­cu­rity keep you from go­ing to the polls. The Amer­i­can vot­ing sys­tem is in a bet­ter place than it has ever been, and added lay­ers of pro­tec­tion en­sure that votes can be cast and prop­erly counted.

What are cit­i­zens to do when they hear the con­stant drum­beat of elec­tions un­der siege and the po­ten­tial that election results could be changed by ma­li­cious ac­tors? The an­swer: vote.

Sit­ting out the election does noth­ing to pro­mote election se­cu­rity. Voter turnout in midterm elec­tions typ­i­cally hov­ers around 40 perc ent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers, which is al­ready too low. Bet­ter in­for­ma­tion about the strength and re­siliency of the vot­ing sys­tem should re­as­sure wor­ried vot­ers.

Let’s re­mind our­selves what re­ally hap­pened in 2016, be­cause alarmist claims have swirled. Most im­por­tant to re­mem­ber is that there is no ev­i­dence any vot­ing systems were com­pro­mised or that votes cast were changed by out­side in­lu­ence.

Yes, for­eign ac­tors launched mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, and those are real con­cerns. But that wasn’t the fault of election ofi­cials. Their job is to run a hard­ened election ad­min­is­tra­tion sys­tem, not po­lice so­cial me­dia.

The ma­jor is­sue in 2016 was the threat to state voter reg­is­tra­tion systems – to data­bases of reg­is­tered vot­ers rather than vote casting or tab­u­la­tion systems.

Here’s what we know. More than 20 states saw voter reg­is­tra­tion data­bases scanned. Th­ese scans were akin to those made ev­ery day of many pub­lic and pri­vate data­bases con­nected to the in­ter­net.

In only a small num­ber of states were out­side ac­tors able to view and copy reg­is­tra­tion records. Even then, no out­side ac­tor changed any records in the reg­is­tra­tion database or com­pro­mised the sys­tem.

We need more se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures, but to move for­ward, we also need to be clear-eyed about the his­tory of election se­cu­rity. In 2016, no votes or reg­is­tra­tion records were al­tered.

Now that we have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the risks, con­stant vig­i­lance is re­quired to pro­tect election systems in the fu­ture. Government ad­min­is­tra­tors at ev­ery level and vot­ers them­selves are tak­ing con­crete steps to pro­tect the vote in Novem­ber.

First, state and lo­cal election ad­min­is­tra­tors and the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity have formed a strong work­ing re­la­tion­ship to mit­i­gate threats. The part­ner­ship be­tween lev­els of government got off to a rocky start after the fed­eral government de­clared election systems to be “crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture.” State and lo­cal election ad­min­is­tra­tors felt that DHS was not knowl­edge­able enough about how elec­tions are run, and ini­tial­in­ter­gov­ern­men­tal­com­mu­ni­ca­tions were heavy-handed.

That re­la­tion­ship to­day is the gold stan­dard for co­op­er­a­tion be­tween fed­eral, state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties. Shar­ing in­for­ma­tion about threats and new se­cu­rity tools is a key pil­lar of election sys­tem se­cu­rity in 2018 and be­yond.

Sec­ond, Congress has ap­pro­pri­ated $380 mil­lion to states to im­prove their election se­cu­rity. While it’s not enough money to com­pletely re­vamp election systems, it’s enough to make some ixes be­fore Election Day.

None of that changes the in­evitable: we will have to in­vest in our election se­cu­rity for the long haul. Both pa­per­based and elec­tronic vote casting and count­ing systems are ag­ing. New vot­ing systems are likely to be pa­per-based, with stronger se­cu­rity fea­tures. They will also be more us­able, re­li­able and func­tional.

Up­grad­ing our vot­ing hard­ware will take time and money; ven­dors will need one or two years to de­sign and build systems to higher new stan­dards. And lo­cal ju­ris­dic­tions will need at least a year to buy, test, and de­ploy them. It’s not go­ing to hap­pen overnight, and it won’t be cheap.

Mean­while, there’s room for im­prove­ment in the vote count­ing process. Some states have al­ready im­ple­mented the most rig­or­ous risk lim­it­ing au­dits, which help to en­sure that there were no glitches in the way that bal­lots were counted. And there are other ways states con­tinue to in­no­vate the count­ing and au­dit­ing of bal­lots that will go a long way to restor­ing voter conidence.

Vot­ers them­selves can do three things to en­sure their votes are prop­erly cast and counted.

Conirm your reg­is­tra­tion to­day. In many states, you can check your voter reg­is­tra­tion status through an on­line por­tal or by con­tact­ing a lo­cal election oficial.

If you have a prob­lem at the polling place, do not walk away. Re­quest a pro­vi­sional bal­lot and fol­low up with lo­cal ofi­cials to ind out what you need to do to have the bal­lot counted.

Re­view your bal­lot for ac­cu­racy and com­plete­ness after you have illed it out and be­fore casting it. But most of all, vote.

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