Dis­trust in vot­ing sys­tem ahead of midterms

Pawtucket Times - - OPINION -

A poll re­leased Wed­nes­day sug­gests a strong ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans do not trust the na­tion’s vot­ing sys­tems.

With the midterm elec­tions days away, Amer­i­cans worry we still are vul­ner­a­ble to hack­ers, ac­cord­ing to the poll from The Uni­ver­sity of Chicago Har­ris School of Pub­lic Pol­icy and The Associated Press-NORC Cen­ter for Pub­lic Af­fairs Re­search.

The data sug­gests Democrats have grown in­creas­ingly con­cerned about elec­tion se­cu­rity while Repub­li­cans have grown more con­fi­dent. That’s roughly un­changed from con­cerns about elec­tion se­cu­rity held by Amer­i­cans just be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, ex­cept two years ago it was Repub­li­cans who were more con­cerned about the in­tegrity of the elec­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to the AP re­port, 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.

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.

Also on Wed­nes­day, lead­ing ex­perts in the field of elec­tion se­cu­rity re­leased a re­port out­lin­ing the se­ri­ous and un­ad­dressed threat to the in­tegrity of the na­tion’s elec­tions and democ­racy posed by the con­tin­ued use of on­line vot­ing in 32 states.

The re­port high­lights that at the very least, nearly 100,000 bal­lots were re­ported to have been cast on­line in the 2016 gen­eral elec­tion. The re­port, “Email and In­ter­net Vot­ing: The Over­looked Threat to Elec­tion Se­cu­rity,” ex­am­ines the threats faced by var­i­ous forms of on­line vot­ing, in­clud­ing blockchain in­ter­net vot­ing. Due to the ex­ten­sive vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, the re­port em­pha­sizes that on­line vot­ing must be dis­con­tin­ued com­pletely by 2020, and rec­om­mends short-term best prac­tices for vot­ers and elec­tion of­fi­cials in the 2018 elec­tion.

The re­port was jointly re­leased by ex­perts in the field of elec­tion se­cu­rity from the Na­tional Elec­tion De­fense Coali­tion, R Street In­sti­tute, As­so­ci­a­tion for Com­put­ing Ma­chin­ery, US Tech­nol­ogy Pol­icy Com­mit­tee and Com­mon Cause. Ex­perts in the pri­vate sec­tor, gov­ern­ment and mil­i­tary have stud­ied the fea­si­bil­ity of in­ter­net-based vot­ing for years and con­cluded that it is not se­cure and should be cur­tailed, the re­port finds. De­spite those con­clu­sions, and re­peated warn­ings from lead­ers of the U.S. in­tel­li­gence ap­pa­ra­tus of on­go­ing at­tacks on our na­tion’s elec­tion sys­tem by for­eign na­tions, vot­ers are al­ready cast­ing bal­lots on­line in the 2018 elec­tion.

Ob­vi­ously, the fear stems from news about for­eign at­tacks on our sys­tems.

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. The re­sult: 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.

Here in Vermont, Sec­re­tary of State Jim Con­dos and his elec­tion di­vi­sion have been work­ing dili­gently to look at safe­guards against such at­tacks. In re­cent months he has been push­ing cy­ber­se­cu­rity and voter reg­is­tra­tion.

“You should know that Vermont is con­sid­ered a na­tional leader as we pro­tect our elec­tions sys­tems from at­tacks by for­eign bad ac­tors to make sure that ev­ery vote is pro­tected and ac­counted for,” Con­dos wrote in a re­cent op-ed.

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.

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