The recent cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee has raised the specter of an Internet-based assault on the democratic process in the U.S., and has led computer security experts to call on the federal government to do more to protect the voting process from hackers.Since national elections involve some 9,000 separate jurisdictions, and they use a variety of technologies, the problem at first appears to be hopelessly complex.
On Tuesday, The Pew Charitable Trusts released the latest version of the Elections Performance Index (EPI), its effort to take ideas proposed by Heather Gerken in The Democracy Index and turn them into flesh and blood (or at least electrons). The website captures what happened during the 2014 midterm election, adding to existing measures from 2008, 2010, and 2012, as well. Having data from a series of elections makes it possible to examine the process of change across time.
The hanging chad from the 2000 Presidential election could be making a comeback—in virtual form. At the Black Hat USA 2016 hacking conference in Las Vegas that ended on Aug. 4, security firm Tripwire surveyed more than 220 information security professionals to determine whether they believed hackers could influence the outcome of the Presidential election.
Voting isn’t a game, of course, and we need to trust the machines that count our votes. Especially this year. Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, raised the possibility of “rigged” elections, and his former adviser Roger J. Stone Jr. has warned of a “blood bath” in such a case. A recent poll found that 34 percent of likely voters believed the general election would be rigged. It’s unclear what mechanism the Trump campaign envisions for this rigging.
Somebody — probably, though not certainly, Vladimir Putin’s intelligence apparatus — has hacked the Democratic Committee’s email servers and released some of what it found via the Wikileaks site. As Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith notes, this is something new: Although meddling in foreign elections is old stuff for intelligence agencies (including our own), this sort of email release is unprecedented.
Russia was behind the hacks into the Democratic National Committee’s computer network that led to the release of thousands of internal emails just before the party’s convention began, U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded. The FBI is investigating. WikiLeaks promises there is more data to come. The political nature of this cyberattack means that Democrats and Republicans are trying to spin this as much as possible. Even so, we have to accept that someone is attacking our nation’s computer systems in an apparent attempt to influence a presidential election.
As Hennepin County, Minn., prepares to implement its new electronic poll book system in August, one of election officials’ main concerns has been how to train poll workers. The workers are wonderful, says Hennepin County Elections Manager Ginny Gelms, but many are older and not very comfortable using technology. Those worries proved unfounded when the poll workers in a neighboring county’s pilot project said they would return only if they could use the electronic poll books again. “That was a real eye-opener for me,” Gelms says.
The goals of election observation are enhanced public confidence in the efficiency and integrity of the election process, and more efficient election operations.
Voting rights across the country are under attack, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden’s office. To combat that, Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley introduced a bill Thursday to expand Oregon’s vote-by-mail system nationwide. Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer is spearheading a related measure in the House. The bill – the Vote By Mail Act of 2016 – would require every state to provide registered voters the chance to vote by mail and send ballots and pre-paid envelopes out at least two weeks before an election.
During the 2012 American presidential election, 129 million people cast ballots, while 106 million eligible voters neglected to do so. That’s only a 54.9 percent conversion rate, not to mention the 51 million voters who weren’t registered. Meanwhile, in 2015, there were almost 172 million Americans making purchases online. Those are apples and oranges, admittedly, but the ease with which the shopping occurs only helps its proliferation. If the ultimate goal is maximizing the country’s voting turnout, shouldn’t we develop an Internet voting system?