Oct 26 2018

Experts Share Concerns About Security as Midterms Approach

In Congress, and at DHS and think tanks, keeping the Nov. 6 elections secure remains an issue to discuss.

The only way to move forward and secure election infrastructure is to move backwards, says Camille Fischer, a Frank Stanton Legal Fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“It’s not necessarily a technological way to fix what’s happening with election security,” she says. “Actually, what most experts are advocating for — paper ballots — is stepping back from the technology.

“When you create a large digital honeypot, it opens things up to attack, and it encourages bad actors to seek out that system to find vulnerabilities. But when you have paper ballots, you have an actual physical record that you can audit an election with.” 

The move away from paper ballots came after the 2000 presidential election, whose outcome was not final until six weeks after Election Day because of confusion and lawsuits over an automatic recount of Florida’s close presidential vote. 

The recount itself was complicated by voting machines that did not fully punch holes in all paper ballots and left “hanging chads,” making it hard to tell whether the voter had meant to make that vote or not.

Every state rushed toward electronic voting machines without the technology really being there for it to be secure, or people really testing them out,” Fischer says.

Today, she says, “these machines are running outdated software, most of them are over 10 years old, and a lot of the software on them is stuff that Microsoft doesn’t even support anymore.”

Several senators introduced a bill in June that would require paper ballots and special postelection audits to ensure that the vote would be tallied correctly, but there’s been little movement on it since, she says. 

Congress also made $380 million available this summer to states that want to strengthen election security, she adds, but the money may not have gotten to local election officials in time for this election.

“It all comes down to money in the end,” she says.

VIDEO: See what federal election experts are saying about voting security!

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Illustration by Lance Pettiford