Protecting the integrity of America’s elections is hardly a partisan issue. But the steps proposed to do so may be. While Kris Kobach and President Trump fret about potential voter fraud that is negligible, the attempts of Russian hackers to meddle with elections is a real threat.
Even if the entire country returns to paper ballots, hackers may try to break into databases that contain voters’ registrations.
That is what happened in California during the 2016 presidential primary. People who showed up to vote found their registrations had been changed; the central voter-registration database for the entire state had been breached. As Time magazine reports, “While inside, the hackers tried to alter and delete information in the voter rolls.”
The good news is, people were allowed to cast provisional ballots and the election results were not swayed. The bad news was released just last month, by a Department of Homeland Security official. Russian hackers targeted the election systems in 21 states, according to Jeanette Manfra, the department’s acting deputy undersecretary of cyber security. While she would not identify the 21 states, she said there was no evidence that any actual votes were manipulated.
The Obama administration was aware of the threat and made plans for the possibility of an election day cyber attack, but its motives were suspect. Now the Trump administration is looking at the need to protect our databases from hacking, and its motives are suspect. As the Time article notes, some states are more concerned about federal overreach than foreign meddling.
Meanwhile, Russia has been successful in raising our suspicions. Americans are losing faith that elections are honest. We shouldn’t.
Election security will always be of utmost importance. Measures to “secure” elections must never be hidden attempts to suppress voting.
We can take comfort in the fact that our elections are so widespread that hackers, to date at least, have found it impossible to affect the actual outcomes. We can do our part by making voting even more widespread. One of the most important things an individual can do to protect the integrity of our democracy is to be part of it. We need to encourage greater numbers to become informed, to register and to vote.