Election-hack fears grow in U.S.

Poll: Dems worry more about at­tack on vot­ing ma­chines

Orlando Sentinel - - NATION & WORLD - 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 this week.

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 PressNORC 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.

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, with at least 4 in 10 say­ing they are ex­tremely or very con­cerned about each.

Among the big­gest con­cerns of cy­ber­se­cu­rity ex­perts is the use, in some states, of touchscreen vot­ing ma­chines that do not pro­duce a pa­per record. Other such ma­chines do al­low vot­ers to ver­ify their se­lec­tions and cre­ate a pa­per trail for a re­li­able au­dit of election re­sults.

A U.S. Se­nate re­port ear­lier this year urged states to re­place their pa­per­less ma­chines, which were used by roughly one of ev­ery five vot­ing ju­ris­dic­tions na­tion­wide in the 2016 election. Five states — Delaware, Ge­or­gia, Louisiana, New Jersey and South Carolina — are ex­pected to rely on elec­tronic ma­chines with­out pa­per re­ceipts dur­ing the up­com­ing midterm elec­tions. At least eight oth­ers will use those ma­chines in some coun­ties.

Jennifer Blomqvist, a 47-year-old ad­min­is­tra­tive as­sis­tant from De­catur, Ga., said she is con­cerned vot­ing sys­tems re­main vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers and she says she would sup­port a sys­tem in Ge­or­gia that pro­duced a pa­per record.

“As long as they are elec­tronic, any­body and ev­ery­body can go in and hack,” Blomqvist said, adding she still hopes all votes will be counted ac­cu­rately. “I want to trust the sys­tem, for as old as it is.”

The sur­vey also found lim­ited sup­port for on­line vot­ing (28 per­cent in fa­vor) and for the ex­clu­sive use of mail-in bal­lots (19 per­cent in fa­vor).

The UChicago Har­ris/ AP-NORC poll of 1,059 adults was con­ducted us­ing a sam­ple de­signed to be rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion. The mar­gin of sam­pling er­ror for all re­spon­dents is plus or mi­nus 4.3 per­cent­age points.

STEVE KARNOWSKI/AP

A new poll finds that a large ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans fear the na­tion’s vot­ing sys­tems might be vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers.

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