Federal Agencies Working With States to Guard Voter Data Security

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-10-03 Print this article Print
Voter Data Security

This is not to suggest that voting in the United States can't be tampered with, because it can be. After all, there are precincts around the country that have graveyards filled with potential voters.

But those voting practices aren't part of a cyber-attack (perhaps a zombie attack?) and they don't indicate some kind of foreign interest attempting to tamper with the electoral process in the United States. Instead, those are just examples of garden-variety political fraud at state and local levels.

What's happening with the voter registration hacks is almost certainly a series of attempts at identity theft. Voter records are the sort of things that identity thieves like to steal, both because they contain the data necessary to engage in financial fraud and they can be used to verify data stolen from other places.

Trying to perform a cyber-attack on the actual voting process is probably impossible, at least on a nationwide basis. As Comey explained, "It's Mary and Fred putting a machine under the basketball hoop at the gym. Those things are not connected to the internet."

Those voting machines (in areas where they have machines), are also not connected to each other, and there's no central control over voting. This in turn means that the process of voting is so disorganized that no single attack could get more than a tiny fraction. This, in turn, is the answer that the election might be "rigged," because it can't be. It would require too much organization.

This is not to suggest, however, that election security is unnecessary. Voters need to know that the private information they supply to election officials is secure and protected, so that they're willing to register and vote.

Perhaps even more important is the need to protect the election results at every level. Voters need to know that the results aren't tampered with so that they can be assured that the election is legitimate. In addition, while tampering with votes at the precinct level on a national scale is unlikely, those votes are tabulated and the results stored somewhere, and that's a more likely target for cyber-tampering.

Even at the state level a cyber-attack is unlikely to succeed for long, if only because paper trails have made a comeback since the disputed election of 2000 and those votes can be counted again if necessary.

But another disputed election is unlikely to be anyone's preferred outcome in the United States and it would certainly shake the faith of the election in the minds of the electorate. Even though election officials can tally the results of any voter canvas, uncertainty about the accuracy of the final count is not good for the legitimacy of any government that depends on the votes of its citizens.


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