Guarding Presidential Election Vote Integrity Presents a Daunting Task
In light of alleged Russian attacks on U.S. election databases, security experts warn some states may have problems proving the integrity of their vote tally.
The U.S. election system will likely face a significant trial this year, thanks to a summer of startling revelations including nation-state-linked attacks targeting the Democratic National Committee and state voter databases, along with a statement of no-confidence by the Republican nominee. The result has been a slew of media stories positing how the election could be hacked. The ongoing cyber-attacks and raised doubts will put states' choice of voting technology under the microscope, with a focus on the security of voting systems and the ability to audit the results produced by those balloting systems, according to election security experts. Unfortunately, while all but five states now have at least some systems with a verifiable paper trail, more than half do not have meaningful post-election audits, according to Verified Voting, a group focused on improving election-system integrity and accuracy. "We would like to see post-election audits everywhere," Pamela Smith, director of the group, told eWEEK. "There is actual research showing that being able to conduct a robust audit in a public way brings confidence in the election. A voter-verifiable paper ballot is a tool to instill confidence that the election has come to true result."
The spotlight on election security and doubts from grandstanding candidates brings into focus a truth about elections: They are only as good as the citizens' confidence in them. In the end, it matters little whether there is a threat and more whether the election technology and systems can convince the vast majority of people that the election was fair and accurate, J. Alex Halderman, professor of computer science and engineering at University of Michigan and director of UM's Center for Computer Security and Society, told eWEEK.